Campus round-up

May 19, 2011

University of Manchester

Shared remedies

Two pharmaceutical companies have teamed up with a university for collaborative research into inflammatory diseases. The University of Manchester, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca will each invest an initial £5 million over three years in the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research, which will house researchers from both industry and the academy. Menelas Pangalos, executive vice-president for innovative medicines at AstraZeneca, described the move as "groundbreaking". "It is indicative of a new era of pre-competitive sharing within the pharmaceutical sector and with academic scientists," he said.

University of Greenwich

Play date

A Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation has been launched with a wide-ranging conference featuring presentations on card games, toy soldiers and adventure playgrounds. The event held last week at the University of Greenwich also examined "the politics of play", the Royal Family's campaign for playing fields and the role of the Olympics in encouraging girls' participation in sport. The centre, based in the School of Education, aims to promote the study of play as a multidisciplinary subject while also building partnerships with practitioners.

City University London

Hands-on online

Students on a master's course in electronic publishing joined forces with The Jewish Chronicle on a three-month project to help redesign its website. The postgraduate students at City University London worked with the publication's staff to develop initial concepts, digital prototypes and demonstration sites. They offered input on everything from the layout to a social networking site designed to help the Jewish community plan weddings. The assignment culminated in presentations to the editorial and web development team. Neil Thurman, senior lecturer in electronic publishing at City, said the process had given students "an insight into the challenges that face online media outlets today - how to attract and engage with more visitors and generate revenue in new ways".

Newman University College, Birmingham

Good intentions

Catholic colleges in the UK and Hong Kong have announced plans for a partnership. Newman University College, Birmingham, has signed a memorandum of intent with Caritas Hong Kong - which has two colleges in the city - offering the potential for shared research and the development of exchange or dual-award degrees. Peter Lutzeier, Newman principal, said: "If our graduates are truly to become leaders in their fields after graduation, it's crucial they develop an understanding of the world beyond their own doorstep."

Kingston University

Sitting targeted

From the thrones sat upon by the royal families of ancient Egypt to the sofas favoured by members of television's The Royle Family, the chair has always shaped and reflected society. Yet, according to Anne Massey, professor of design history at Kingston University, no one has written "a biography of the chair" that looks at everything from "the humblest seat in an NHS waiting room to the thrones of kings". This gap has now been filled by Professor Massey with her book Chair, published by Reaktion Books, ranging from Barcelona, Sussex and Windsor chairs to Egg, Sushi, Tulip and Thinking Man's chairs. It also explores the role of the chair in films, plays and TV programmes such as Big Brother, Frasier and Mastermind.

University of East Anglia

Pacific specifics

A three-year research project to be launched this month will explore Fijian art and the controversial history of British-Fijian relations. The study will reassess material collected since the early 19th century by missionaries, travellers and colonial officers now held in British museums and abroad. Researchers at the University of East Anglia intend to study the little-known collections and archives in order to shed light on the relationship between Britain and Fiji from the pre-colonial period to the present day. The project is funded by a grant of £645,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and will also involve researchers based in Fiji, the US and France.

University of Birmingham

On the road

Senior academics are visiting five cities in India to develop research links, while meeting alumni and potential students. The University of Birmingham's India Road Show, which it said was part of its "ever-deepening relationship with India", will visit Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and New Delhi. Peter Byers, deputy pro vice-chancellor for teaching, learning and quality, said the intention of the visit was to "share insight on the research that we have done in areas such as combating obesity and urban resilience with leading institutions in India".

Anglia Ruskin University

Highly dangerous

Scientists have found evidence that a recreational drug billed as the "new Ecstasy" can cause serious liver and kidney damage. Some young people are believed to be taking benzylpiperazine unwittingly as it tends to come in a form that is almost indistinguishable from Ecstasy, the popular party drug. Mike Cole, a professor in the department of life sciences at Anglia Ruskin University, said the market for and abuse of designer drugs has increased in recent years. Last week, the European Union's drugs agency Europol warned that in the past year alone it had identified 41 new psychoactive substances, many of them imitating the effects of Ecstasy.

Bangor University

Winning smiles

Welsh academics have calculated the value of a smile - just over a third of a penny. Researchers at Bangor University demonstrated the effect that "social information" such as a smile can have on decision-making by examining responses to two types of smile. The experiment involved students playing a game against an opponent whose smile was either genuine or polite. They were also told how high or low their chance of winning money was in each case and were allowed to choose their opponent. "We expected them to prefer genuinely smiling opponents only when the odds of winning were equal. The fact that they chose opponents who were less likely to pay out was a big surprise," said Danielle Shore, who took part in the study.

Harper Adams University College

Chinese connections

A UK farming college has signed agreements that pave the way for collaboration with four Chinese agricultural institutions. Harper Adams University College will link up with the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Henan Agricultural University, Huazhong Agricultural University and the Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University. David Llewellyn, principal of Harper Adams, signed the deal on a visit to Beijing, when it was also announced that the Shropshire college is developing a master's degree in engineering with JCB, to provide staff for the construction equipment company in China.

University of Aberdeen

Energy efficiency

A donation worth more than £900,000 is allowing Scottish students to understand more about petroleum engineering. Petroleum Experts, a petroleum engineering company, has granted the University of Aberdeen a free licence to use new software designed to improve the efficiency of oil and gas fields. The tool, known as the Integrated Production Modelling suite, processes information about physics, geology, engineering and fluid thermodynamics to model the production of oil and gas from wells to surface pipelines. ChangHong Gao, lecturer in petroleum engineering at Aberdeen, said the donation would help students to gain the necessary skills for a career in the oil and gas industry.

Durham University

Overwhelmed by numbers

The larger the number of victims in a major humanitarian disaster, the more likely the public are to be indifferent to their distress, an academic has claimed. Speaking at Durham University last week, Paul Slovic, an expert on judgement and risk, argued that research proves that people will "throw personal safety to the wind" to rescue an individual, but when the number of victims escalates they cannot relate to their plight. Professor Slovic, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, made the argument in a free public lecture in which he called for changes to international law to help motivate international intervention at times of crisis without relying on "dry statistics" to make the case for action. "My work demonstrates that data about mass murder or genocide, no matter how large the numbers, fail to convey the true meaning of such atrocities," he said.

University of Leicester

Medical advancement

Plans have been unveiled for a new £30 million medical teaching building. The facility at the University of Leicester will house teaching rooms and computer laboratories and aims to be one of the most energy-efficient buildings of its kind. The construction will be funded by loans and reserves, as well as by funding from the NHS. The project is part of the university's planned £200 million of capital investment over the next five years. Subject to planning approval, the university hopes the building will be ready for the start of the 2013-14 academic year.

Tickety-poo

Scientists have identified a chemical that attracts ticks to hedgehogs. The spiny mammals are on the protected species list in the UK and can be severely weakened by the parasites. Researchers from the University of Hull studied more than 200 wild hedgehogs over a 10-year period. Their research, published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology, reveals that the animals are significantly less likely to carry ticks when they are healthy because the faeces of sick hedgehogs contain much higher amounts of a chemical, indole, to which ticks are attracted.

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