Campus round-up

July 7, 2011

Kingston University

Penny for your cause

Design students have turned their talents to developing a new way of donating to charity. The scheme designed by Helen Parry and Stuart Kench at Kingston University, called Donate at the Gate, allows London commuters to choose whether to use their Oyster card to pay for travel at normal gates at a Tube or railway station or to use multicoloured barriers that deduct an extra penny, which would go to their selected charity. Ms Parry said: "If just 10 per cent of Tube users donated through the gate, it could raise around £1.2 million each year." They are now seeking development funding for the idea.

University of York

Learn from a master

The archive of one of the country's foremost contemporary dramatists, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, is to be made accessible to the public. The collection, which contains thousands of items including stage sketches, manuscripts and correspondence, will become part of the Samuel Storey Writing and Performance Collection. It will form a major teaching resource at the University of York's department of theatre, film and television. The materials will also be made available online. Mike Cordner, Ken Dixon professor of drama, said: "We are enormously proud that York is to be the repository for this extraordinary collection."

University of Edinburgh

Scotch myths

An Arts and Humanities Research Council grant has helped bring to light lost folktales of a Hebridean Atlantis, charms and curses and a giant named Finn McCool. The notebooks of folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912), whose writing has been compared to that of the Brothers Grimm, have been catalogued at the University of Edinburgh and made available online as part of a decade-long project. Researchers spent two years deciphering his notoriously bad handwriting, transcribing everything from legends of magical water horses to an account of the last sighting of a Great Auk, which St Kilda islanders beat to death in the belief that it was possessed by a demon.

University of Warwick

Rare flare

Astronomers have shown that the flash from one of the biggest bangs ever recorded comes from a massive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy. A passing star appears to have been ripped apart, creating a powerful beam of energy that crossed the 3.8 billion light years to Earth. High-energy X-rays and gamma rays persisted at an extremely bright level for weeks after the event, with bright flares arising when more of the star fell into the black hole. Nial Tanvir, a member of the international research team led by the University of Warwick, said: "It is rare for stars to get very close to the black hole in the centre of galaxies, but when they do, they will always come off second best."

Imperial College London

Double trouble

A study by an international team of researchers has found that 350 million adults have diabetes worldwide, far more than was previously believed. The project, involving academics at Imperial College London and the Harvard School of Public Health, found that the number of adults with the condition rose from 153 million to 347 million between 1980 and 2008. Of this increase, 70 per cent was attributed to population growth and ageing, with 30 per cent due to higher prevalence. The previous estimate for the number of diabetics worldwide was 285 million in 2009.

London School of Economics

Home support

The case for investment in affordable housing in London is outlined in a report carried out by a university on behalf of a group of housing associations. The study by the London School of Economics for the group G15 concludes: that affordable housing built in the capital will be used more intensively than elsewhere; that such investment supports the broader economy; and that London has a greater need for subsidised housing than the rest of the country. Boris Johnson, mayor of London, said: "There is indisputable evidence that the wider UK economy benefits most when investment goes into the capital's housing stock."

Newcastle University

As if it weren't bad enough

Some antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV can cause premature ageing, according to new research. A study at Newcastle University found that drugs commonly used in Africa and elsewhere to combat the disease can damage the DNA in the mitochondria that serve as cells' "batteries". The findings may help to explain why younger people with HIV who are being treated with antiretroviral drugs occasionally show advanced signs of frailty and age-associated illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. Patrick Chinnery of Newcastle's Institute of Genetic Medicine said: "DNA in our mitochondria gets copied throughout our lifetimes and, as we age, naturally accumulates errors. We believe these HIV drugs accelerate the rate at which these errors build up."

Bucks New University

Healthy discussion

A new research centre is to focus on communication challenges in the health sector. The Centre for Health Communication Research and Excellence at Bucks New University will work with public and private health organisations, and will be based at the institution's High Wycombe campus. John Underwood, its inaugural director, said: "Effective communication is never more important than in times of great change and the NHS is currently facing greater change than at any time since its creation."

University of Reading

Symptoms that can't be ignored

Veterinary experts in the UK are working with their counterparts in Zimbabwe to educate farmers about the prevention and control of a debilitating disease. Brucellosis, which infects domestic livestock including cattle and is transferable to humans, is not fatal but can cause severe fever with malaise, fatigue, depression and chronic arthritis. Infection can spread via unpasteurised milk or assisting with calving. The team from the Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics Research Unit at the University of Reading are working with their colleagues in the African country to educate local livestock handlers, who are frequently unaware of the dangers.

Sheffield Hallam University

Just like the real thing

International students who are unable to attend open days can now experience a university from the comfort of their home, thanks to a "virtual exhibition". The website launched by Sheffield Hallam University includes a 360-degree tour of the accommodation and facilities on offer, a welcome video from the university's deputy vice-chancellor Cliff Allan, and other information for would-be students. There is also a "student zone" where web chats can take place, and links to the Sheffield Hallam students' union and sports teams. The site received about 2,000 visits in the first week after its launch.

King's College London

Warning signs

Scientists have suggested that there is a link between domestic violence during pregnancy and childhood behavioural problems. The study at King's College London, which involved 13,617 women, looked at the long-term impact of antenatal domestic violence on child behaviour. It found that mothers who experienced violence during pregnancy were more likely to have difficult children. Louise Howard, professor of women's mental health, said: "This strong link between antenatal and postnatal violence should help health workers identify future problems."

Queen's University Belfast

Mutual benefits

Business experts from a British university are to lead a UK-China economic growth initiative. The delegates from Queen's University Belfast will front a major national project to enhance wealth and job creation opportunities between the UK and south-west China. A team from Queen's Management School travelled to China last month to build on existing academic links between the university and Chongqing city - the designated site of the country's new economic area. Academics will investigate ways to develop and enhance the sustainability of opportunities for wealth creation.

UCL/Southampton/Manchester/Wales Trinity St David

Digging a Channel

A team of archaeologists are returning to Jersey to begin a second phase of excavation across the island. Researchers from University College London and the universities of Southampton, Manchester and Wales Trinity St David will investigate a 14,000-year-old hunting camp and a buried Ice Age coastline, as well as map ancient landscapes off Jersey's coast. They have also developed new ways of looking at stone tools discovered in Jersey in the 1970s.

University of Worcester

Star turn

A top European basketball coach has been appointed guest lecturer on an MSc in European basketball coaching science taught in Lithuania and awarded by a UK university. The University of Worcester, which partners with the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education on the degree, will offer students the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of renowned Spanish-born coach Alejandro Vaquera. Mick Donovan, head of the Institute of Sport and Exercise Science at Worcester, said: "It shows our commitment to provide our MSc students with the opportunity to learn from some of the most experienced lecturers and coaches in European basketball."

Getting in a flap

Pigeons use more energy when flying in a flock than when flying alone. That is the conclusion of research conducted at the Royal Veterinary College, which used global positioning system sensors mounted on the backs of 18 pigeons to monitor their flight. The study found that the birds have to flap their wings much faster when flying near other pigeons. It was also discovered that when in a flock, they engage in banked turns that have the effect of doubling their bodyweight because of the G-force, thereby significantly increasing the amount of energy needed to fly. James Usherwood, who led the research, said: "The higher wing-beat frequency we observed could minimise collisions and increase manoeuvrability."

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