Campus round-up

July 21, 2011

University of Sheffield

Engineering expansion

Plans for a £20 million new engineering graduate school have been unveiled. The undertaking is the first stage in a major project to remodel and refurbish the University of Sheffield's engineering facilities and to create more teaching space. The school will house collaborative and interdisciplinary research groups, and will enable postgraduate provision in engineering to expand at the university. Subject to planning permission, construction will begin in November and should be complete by August 2013.

University of Leeds

Superworm to the rescue

Trapped earthquake victims could one day receive help from a giant robotic worm. The "worm-bot" has been designed by Jordan Boyle, an engineering research Fellow at the University of Leeds. Dr Boyle said his design was inspired by Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny nematode worm used as a model system by biologists. He said his design could be developed to enable it to move through irregular gaps and holes in buildings damaged by fire, explosions or earthquakes. With appropriate "skin", the worm-bot could also swim or crawl through snow or mud.

University of Nottingham

Keep cool, save energy

Scientists have developed a material that absorbs excess heat and could reduce a building's energy consumption by as much as 35 per cent. Researchers at the University of Nottingham's Chinese campus in Ningbo have invented a material that will absorb excess heat when the temperature rises above a certain level specified during the material's manufacture. Project leader Jo Darkwa, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies at Ningbo, said the material would not make air conditioners obsolete but could still significantly reduce a building's energy consumption.

City University London

Square deal for bandstand

The last remaining bandstand in a residential square in London has been refurbished by a university. The 1930s shelter in Northampton Square, Islington, has been officially reopened after its restoration was funded by City University London. The university's predecessor, the Northampton Institute, started as a community education centre in the square in 1896 before it became City University in 1966. Paul Curran, vice-chancellor of City, said: "We hope that the bandstand will be a symbol of the proud history that we share with this part of the borough of Islington."

University College London

Synthetic transplant success

A doctoral student has become the recipient of the world's first synthetic organ transplant. Geology student Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, 36, received an artificial windpipe in an operation in Sweden. It was created by scientists at University College London, led by Alex Seifalian, who used 3-D images to create a perfect copy of the Eritrean student's trachea and two main bronchi out of glass. This was then flown to Karolinska University Hospital and soaked in a solution of stem cells taken from the patient's bone marrow. Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini then performed the 12-hour transplant operation.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Shared success

The first cohort of public-sector leaders and managers to undertake a postgraduate qualification in shared services have been presented with their certificates by Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association. The six-month course was designed and delivered through a partnership between Canterbury Christ Church University and Shared Service Architects, a company that works to equip politicians and senior managers in the public sector with the skills to design shared-service projects.

Bath Spa University

'Masterplan' moves ahead

Planning permission has been granted for a major redevelopment of a university's main campus. Unanimous backing was given by a planning committee at Bath and North East Somerset Council for Bath Spa University's plans to redevelop its Newton Park campus by creating a new academic building and energy centre. The proposals are the first phase of a "masterplan" that also involves proposals for new residential accommodation for up to 600 additional students.

University of Bristol

Let there be light

A university teaching assistant with a business plan to introduce solar-powered lighting to rural communities in India has won an enterprise competition run by his institution. Avishek Banerjee, who works in the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Bristol, won a cheque for £12,750 and access to advice and office space at a local innovation centre to further his idea. The New Enterprise Competition - which has been described as Bristol's answer to Dragons' Den - presented proposals from students, staff and recent graduates for judging by industry experts. The total prize fund was £35,000.

Edge Hill University

PGCE for 'priority' subjects

A new programme for graduate teachers has been launched focusing on the "priority" subjects of mathematics, chemistry and physics. It is based on a partnership between the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University, already the country's largest supplier of secondary school teacher training, and a number of local schools, colleges and academies. Those who enrol on the Future Teachers scheme will receive a salary and their training will be delivered jointly by schools and the university, leading to a postgraduate certificate of education, with qualified teacher status.

University of Edinburgh

Familiarity breeds content

Researchers claim to have shed light on why it is easier to learn about things related to what we already know than it is to learn about the unfamiliar. The team at the University of Edinburgh, led by Richard Morris, professor of neuroscience, said that this was a paradox, as very different things are arguably more novel, yet adding to what we already know is much easier. The scientists found that building on existing knowledge activates a set of genes in the brain that do not respond as well to subjects about which we know very little.

Swansea University

A rotten way to create fuel

Analysis of the genetic sequence of dry-rot fungus could help researchers develop a new generation of biofuels. Dan Eastwood, who is based at Swansea University's college of science, is leading a team of 47 experts who have looked at how the fungus attacks wood. The research will inform the US Department of Energy Fungal Genomes Programme, which is looking into how fungi break down waste into sugars. "Sequencing this dry-rot fungus could have significant and wide-reaching implications. These might include novel ways of breaking down plant wastes for biofuels," said Dr Eastwood.

Queen Mary, University of London

Heart to heart

Therapies for heart-disease patients will be investigated at a £25-million research centre based at Queen Mary, University of London. The William Harvey Heart Centre will link with 120 GP surgeries in East London to recruit patients for clinical trials into new treatments for cardiovascular-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and stroke. The centre, which opened this month, is run in partnership with St Bartholomew's Hospital and the London Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit. It will provide the heart-disease research hub for the hospital's £312 million rebuild, which is due to be finished in 2014. Mark Caulfield, director of the William Harvey Research Institute, said the ethnically diverse east London community "suffer appalling rates of heart disease".

University of Birmingham

Exclusion zones

A majority of young people feel excluded from decisions about the provision of local services - even though many of them are keen to become more involved in delivery. These are some of the findings of a survey by the University of Birmingham's Policy Commission, which carried out interviews with 782 people aged between 11 and 21. Just 20 per cent of young people, the poll found, felt that they have enough of a say in which services are provided, with 61 per cent of respondents saying they wanted more input. This point of view was particularly marked among the 15-18 age group (68 per cent), those in higher education (69 per cent) and those from minority ethnic backgrounds (79 per cent).

University of Liverpool

Age cannot wither them

Native to the deserts of East Africa, the naked mole rat has a set of unique physical traits - a lack of pain sensation in its skin and a low metabolic rate - that allow it to live under-ground with a limited oxygen supply. Now scientists at the University of Liverpool, in partnership with the Genome Analysis Centre in Norwich, have sequenced its genome in a bid to understand its longevity and resistance to diseases of ageing. Cancer has never yet been detected in the mole rat, and studies have suggested that its cells possess anti-tumour capabilities that are not present in other rodents or in humans.

The sky's the limit

Medics serving in the Royal Air Force will be able to study for a higher education qualification from locations such as Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands and Cyprus, thanks to a new distance-learning scheme. Anglia Ruskin University will be rolling out two undergraduate degrees in health and social care, and management and leadership in health and social care, as well as a foundation degree course. As the undergraduate programme progresses, it is hoped that the RAF will go on to offer postgraduate qualifications.

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