Campus round-up

April 21, 2011

Newcastle University

Babies of obese at more risk

Women who are obese during early pregnancy are at increased risk of their baby dying, according to researchers. Scientists at Newcastle University studied 40,932 pregnancies involving deliveries of a single baby between 2003 and 2005. They found that women who were clinically obese in early pregnancy had nearly double the risk of the baby dying in the womb or up to one year after birth compared with women of recommended weight. Among obese women there were nearly eight more deaths per 1,000 births than for their slimmer counterparts. Ruth Bell, clinical senior lecturer at Newcastle's Institute of Health and Society, said women should not try to lose weight during pregnancy but should achieve a healthy weight before conceiving a child.

University of Salford

Floods be dammed

Water companies have been advised to use the UK's network of reservoirs to prevent flooding. The civil engineering group at the University of Salford surveyed hundreds of sites in Scotland and Greater Manchester, and suggested that, for little or no extra cost, a capacity of millions of gallons could be added to absorb high water levels. The researchers discovered that there is little need to operate reservoirs at full capacity during the wettest months, which would create space for heavy rainfall run-off to be stored.

Queen's University Belfast

Open door to debate

Academics and students in Northern Ireland are to ask Assembly election candidates how their parties will protect jobs and investment in higher education. The Election Doorstep Challenge, launched by Queen's University Belfast, encourages staff and students to quiz candidates as they campaign door to door before the 5 May election. Tony Gallagher, Queen's pro vice-chancellor, said: "The Northern Ireland Assembly recently passed a budget in which £68 million was cut from higher education ... (Our) questions have been incorporated onto a pocket-sized card, which also includes details of the potential consequences of a 30 per cent cut in the higher education budget."

Nottingham Trent University

Making merrie

Students have created a new Robin Hood exhibition in Nottingham. Graduates at Nottingham Trent University were given the opportunity as part of their MA course in museum and heritage management, following criticism of the city's existing Robin Hood exhibition by an industry watchdog. The students have incorporated the existing display's most popular elements and added a range of features, such as magnetic words with which visitors can create medieval ballads. Geraldina O'Neill, one of the participants, said: "We wanted to avoid a text-heavy exhibition so we've created something that is more engaging and interactive."

De Montfort University

Eastern promise

A vice-chancellor has travelled to Japan to try to boost his institution's links with the country. Dominic Shellard, head of De Montfort University, met senior staff from a number of Japanese universities with the aim of developing collaborations, particularly around De Montfort's strengths in art, design and the creative industries. He said his visit was part of efforts by the university to become "truly international". "I am keen to present De Montfort as a prime destination for Japanese students, and explore ways we can collaborate with Japanese colleagues on the exchange of knowledge and ideas," Professor Shellard said.

University of Manchester

Spin doctors' success

A team led by Nobel laureate Andre Geim has made a breakthrough that could give a boost to the emerging electronics field of spintronics. Professor Geim, from the University of Manchester's Condensed Matter Physics Group, shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of a new kind of carbon called graphene. His research group has now succeeded in using an electric current to magnetise the material, opening up a range of potential uses in spintronics. "The holy grail of spintronics is the conversion of electricity into magnetism or vice versa: we offer a new mechanism thanks to the unique properties of graphene," said Professor Geim.

University of Oxford

Painting a not-so-still life

A university has established what is believed to be the world's first academic fellowship to capture the link between sport and art. The Legacy Fellowship, a collaboration between the University of Oxford's Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University Sport and Modern Art Oxford, will install an artist in the city to reflect on the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The fellowship will comprise a 12-month residency at the university's Iffley Road sports complex, an official pre-Games training camp. The athletics stadium on the site was where Roger Bannister became the first person to run a sub-four-minute mile in 1954.

University of Winchester

Play time

The latest play to be performed by university students and prisoners as part of a special theatre project has been staged at an English jail. Soul Traders, a new production commissioned for inmates at HMP Winchester and students from the University of Winchester, is based on the Faust legend. It tells the story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil for wealth, power and knowledge and is the eighth production staged by Winchester's award-winning Playing for Time Theatre Company since it was founded in 2003.

University of Chichester

Tales in a single tome to treasure

A professor has persuaded a publisher to issue a new volume of fairy tales by Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson. Bill Gray, professor of literary history at the University of Chichester, has convinced Edinburgh University Press to publish the stories, penned while the author was living in Samoa. They were intended to be released in a single volume before his death, but Stevenson was thwarted by his literary agent and publisher at the time, who disregarded his wishes. Instead, the stories appeared with other material and in a form contrary to his explicit instructions.

School of Oriental and African Studies

Strengthening Israeli studies

A specialist higher education institution is to strengthen its expertise in Israel studies through the creation of a lectureship and senior research fellowship as well as the development of a European Association of Israel Studies. The School of Oriental and African Studies has the world's largest concentration of academic staff specialising in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and was also the first British institution to appoint a professor of Israel studies. It has received an investment of £485,000 over the next four years from the Pears Foundation, which supports similar posts at the universities of Oxford and Manchester.

University of Birmingham

African agency assessed

There have long been calls for "African solutions to African problems". Despite criticisms of responses to the recent crises in Libya and Ivory Coast, speakers at a seminar on "African agency in peace, conflict and intervention" at the University of Birmingham this month described the huge progress that has been made over the past 15 years. Experts explored examples such as Uganda's role in peacekeeping in Somalia and the operations of the Economic Community of West African States in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The seminar formed part of a series on "African agency in international politics", organised by Sophie Harman, senior lecturer in international politics at City University London, in collaboration with the British International Studies Association's Africa Group and the Economic and Social Research Council.

University of London

Shakespeare search engine

A leading Shakespearean scholar has used free computer software to pinpoint new texts that he believes ought to be attributed to Shakespeare. Sir Brian Vickers, senior research Fellow at the University of London's Institute of English Studies, has long been a world-acknowledged expert on the Shakespeare canon. He already demonstrated that an anonymously published play, The Reign of King Edward III (1596), was co-authored by Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd. He has now drawn on Pl@giarism, a plagiarisation detection program developed by Maastricht University, to argue that five passages added to the 1602 edition of Kyd's ever-popular play The Spanish Tragedy were also written by Shakespeare.

University of Warwick

Revved up research links

A car manufacturer is to expand its partnership with a university offshoot. WMG at the University of Warwick will see a 40 per cent increase in the number of engineers from Tata Motors' European Technical Centre working at the campus, taking them to 340 by 2013. Tim Leverton, head of advanced and product engineering at Tata Motors Ltd, said the move "represents a further demonstration of Tata's long-term commitment to build and develop research and development facilities here in the UK".

Birmingham City University

Grant for the gallery

A university-founded art gallery has won £375,000 from Arts Council England over the next four years. Eastside Projects, an "artist-run space", works in partnership with Birmingham City University and has become known as a centre for experimental art since it was set up by the university's School of Art three years ago. One of the aims of the project is to help Birmingham-based artists and local arts graduates develop and thrive within the city.

University of Ulster

Special summer job

Academics in Belfast have been appointed as official researchers for this summer's Special Olympics. The University of Ulster has been appointed as one of three official research centres for the 2011 games, which take place from 25 June to 4 July in Athens. Ulster's centre will focus on issues such as the impact of team sports on the social inclusion of athletes. The other institutions to have been appointed are the universities of Illinois, and Boston, Massachusetts. The new centre at Ulster opened last week at the Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute on its Jordanstown campus.

A long wait

The bones of an executed 18-year-old, which were kept at the University of Bristol with the hangman's rope around the neck, were finally laid to rest last week. John Horwood was hanged in 1821 after being convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend, who he hit on the head with a stone. After the hanging, the body was handed to surgeon Richard Smith who carried out a public dissection. He then removed the skin, and used it to bind a book about the incident. Horwood's skeleton was later passed to the Bristol Royal Infirmary, then the university. The remains were buried on 13 April, exactly 190 years after Horwood was hanged above the gates of New Bristol Gaol.

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