Places of power
An international research project investigating centres of world influence is to be led by an English university that has been awarded EUR8 million (£6.8 million) in funding. The University of Warwick's Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation has won the grant from the European Commission to lead a team investigating "Europe in a multi-polar world". The project will consider how the continent fits into a world with a growing number of major players, in light of the growing influence of Asian nations. Warwick will work with other institutions including the Free University of Brussels, the University of Amsterdam, United Nations University in Bruges, Central European University in Budapest and Copenhagen Business School.
It's all going swimmingly
A leisure centre by the architects that designed the London Olympic 2012 Aquatic Centre is set to begin construction. De Montfort University's board of governors has approved the £8 million project, which includes a swimming pool, gym, sports hall and multi-purpose studios. Planning permission has already been granted for a site in Leicester city centre, and the building is expected to open in July 2012. Dominic Shellard, De Montfort's vice-chancellor, said: "Despite the difficult challenges that the sector is facing, we are committed to investing in the university's facilities, to offer the best to our students and to make a positive difference to the community."
Courses for sources
CSI: Norwich could be on our screens one day with the launch of the world's first course in forensic archaeometry and provenancing studies. The University of East Anglia has introduced the master's course, which will train students to trace the geographical origin of a vast array of materials including human remains and cultural and archaeological artefacts. The interdisciplinary course will be delivered by the university's schools of chemistry, environmental sciences, medicine, biological studies, world art studies and museology. Practical skills will be taught in UEA's isotope and "ancient DNA" laboratories and at a new field site dedicated to research on the decomposition of mammal remains and excavation techniques.
A muscular minder
Researchers are investigating the problem of muscle fatigue. A wireless device called the iSense has been devised by a team at the University of Essex that is capable of predicting and detecting the status of muscles during training and can be adapted to any sport. The device monitors muscles through the tiny electrical signals they produce when contracting. The research will benefit not only sportsmen and women, but also the elderly and disabled, who can often suffer muscle fatigue as a result of sitting in the same position for too long.
Hungry for answers
A Scottish university is to coordinate an international study into the causes of hunger. The €9 million (£7.7 million) European Union-funded study will bring food and obesity experts from across Europe to the University of Aberdeen's Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health. The study aims to increase understanding about how food, the brain and gut interact to create hunger or satiety. Researchers hope their findings will help to inform the food industry about how food could be formulated to tackle obesity as well as under-nutrition in the elderly and sick.
East to West
An institute of education at an English university has been selected by Chinese authorities to host a programme that hopes to improve China's standard of teaching. Fourteen teachers of maths, science, technology and languages from China are taking part in the six-month development project at the University of Reading, where they will receive presentations from academic staff as well as spending time in local schools. A spokesman for the institution said Reading was the only UK university to be selected for the programme by the Chinese Ministry of Education and the China Scholarship Council.
Engineers are attempting to drill 2,000m under Newcastle in search of renewable energy. The project, being carried out by a team at Newcastle University with help from colleagues at Durham University, aims to harness geothermal heat by pumping out water at a temperature of about 80 degC. The team are drilling under the former Scottish & Newcastle Breweries and hope that the boreholes will prove capable of supplying an everlasting source of low-carbon energy hot enough to heat any domestic or commercial central heating system. The £900,000 project is being funded by the Newcastle Science City Partnership and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It is led by Paul Younger, director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.
Spinning a yarn
Academics are helping to tell the story of Indian vinyl records in London in the 1960s and 1970s. Southall, in the London Borough of Ealing, was one of the first places in the UK where South Asians could find and listen to Indian records of different genres in public. An exhibition, For the Record, captures the sounds and atmosphere of the time, combining film, photography and music. It has been produced as part of a joint project between the Methods Lab at Goldsmiths, University of London, and London's Gunnersbury Park Museum. It runs at The Studio Gallery in Ealing until 12 March.
School of Oriental and African Studies
A university has become the first in the world to boast an endowed professorship in Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest living religions. A £1 million donation to the School of Oriental and African Studies from the Zoroastrian Professorship Fund, a charitable foundation, will secure a long-term endowment for the Zartoshty professorship in Zoroastrianism in the department of the study of religions. Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, and was founded by the prophet Zoroaster in what is now Iran about 3,500 years ago. Once one of the most powerful religions in the world, it is now one of the smallest. Paul Webley, director of Soas, said: "London is home to the oldest Zoroastrian diaspora community outside India and Iran...We are delighted to strengthen our relationship with the Zoroastrian community and our long-term commitment to the study and research of this fascinating and influential religion."
It's safe to talk
Fears that mobile phone use increases the risk of brain cancer have been dismissed. A team of scientists from the universities of Manchester and Edinburgh, and Drexel University in Philadelphia, studied trends in diagnoses of brain cancers in England between 1998 and 2007, when the use of mobile phones was rising sharply. They detected no statistically significant changes in the incidence of brain cancers during that period and concluded that a causal link between radio-frequency exposure from mobile phones was unlikely and that public health measures to address exposure were unnecessary.
Do low fees mean low wages?
The University and College Union is seeking clarification about an institution's plans after it revealed that it would not charge the maximum allowed tuition fee of £9,000 in 2012. Liverpool Hope University made the announcement last week, saying that it was "not fair to transfer all of government debt to graduate debt". However, the university - where the union claims that 100 jobs are at risk - did not say what fee level it was likely to charge. The UCU said it understood the desire to keep university education affordable, but warned that "trying to cut other universities on price and quality will backfire".
It takes some beating
Diagnosis of high blood pressure could improve with the invention of a more accurate way to measure pressure. Traditional measurements taken on the arm do not always reflect the pressure in the large arteries close to the heart and brain, where high pressure can cause problems such as strokes and heart attacks. Scientists from the University of Leicester and Singapore-based medical device company HealthSTATS International have invented a wristwatch-like device that is able to measure that pressure based on a computerised extrapolation from the pulse.
Signed, seated, delivered
A historic chair bearing the signature of a nephew of a former British prime minister has been restored by university lecturers who are now hoping to find out more about its past. The 5ft high wooden chair, which displays a plaque signed by Major Coningsby Disraeli, the nephew of Benjamin Disraeli, was restored and upholstered by Gregory Cupitt-Jones, a visiting furniture lecturer at Bucks New University. It is believed that the high-backed chair was given to the university in the late 1980s - possibly from a clear-out of a local magistrates' court - but then spent several years languishing in workshops before Mr Cupitt-Jones took on the challenge.
Award-winning pictures of homeless people by a photographer and university lecturer will go on display in London next month to mark the 20th anniversary of The Big Issue magazine. The pictures by Paul Wenham-Clarke, senior associate lecturer at the Arts University College at Bournemouth, are being shown at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square as part of celebrations for the landmark anniversary. The exhibition, Hard Times, features portraits of Big Issue vendors and has already received one of the photography world's highest accolades - a Gold Award from the Association of Photographers.