Wicked switch of the West
Researchers have discovered a DNA "switch" that turns on certain genes in cells that may show that Europeans are more predisposed to binge on fatty food and alcohol than Asians. A team at the University of Aberdeen led by Alasdair MacKenzie, a reader at the Institute of Medical Sciences, said that if the switch was turned on too strongly, people were likely to crave such food and drink. A weaker mutant version of the switch was found in 30 per cent of Asians but just 16 per cent of Europeans, the research found.
Out of this worldview
A conference has looked into the fascination with popular British fantasy, horror and science fiction television. The Alien Nation event last week, organised by the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Northumbria University, explored how shows such as Dr Who forced audiences to confront potential future disasters. "Fantasy shows highlight the extraordinary and in so doing, provide a way of working through current anxieties about potential scenarios such as a nuclear holocaust," said James Leggott, a senior lecturer in film and TV at Northumbria.
A mature zoology student has revealed a proliferation of non-native, predatory shrimps in Cardiff Bay. After leaving her job as an IT engineer, Caroline Rees discovered the abundance of the Dikerogammarus villosus shrimp, which originates in the Black and Caspian seas, while researching another species at Cardiff University. As a result, the Environment Agency Wales has reviewed its control methods to help contain the breed.
A British university has signed up to a partnership with a prestigious US institution as it prepares to open a base at a major new centre for the media industry. The memorandum of understanding between the University of Salford and Carnegie Mellon University comes ahead of the opening of Salford's base at MediaCityUK. The two institutions will work together on projects in digital, media and creative subjects. About 1,500 students will work at MediaCityUK alongside institutions such as the BBC and ITV. Martin Hall, Salford's vice-chancellor, said the facility "is about creating links, not just in the North West and the UK but internationally, and Carnegie Mellon fits with our objectives perfectly".
Chinese students coming to study at a UK university will hit the ground running thanks to a new intensive language course taken in advance of their arrival. The University of Wolverhampton has organised classes - led by staff from its Centre for Language and Communication Training - for 46 students at its Chinese partner institutions, Shenzhen Polytechnic and Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics. Daphne Laing, head of the centre, said it would help Chinese students to "improve their skills and find out about life at Wolverhampton".
A university and a private partner have launched plans for a £32 million international study centre. INTO University Partnerships has submitted plans to the local authority for a site adjacent to Glasgow Caledonian University and hopes to open the facility in early 2014. Pamela Gillies, Glasgow Caledonian's vice-chancellor, said: "This proposal represents a significant investment in the city and strongly supports the university's internationalisation agenda."
City University London
A load of hot air
Scientists have unveiled a machine that converts "hot air" into electricity. Using research conducted at City University London, start-up company Heliex Power has created a device to harness "wet steam" generated by industrial and geothermal sources, which has too low a temperature and pressure to power traditional turbines. With applications in the oil, gas and chemical industries, research indicates that the wet steam power generated in Europe and North America alone could match that generated by wind turbines globally. Ian Smith, director of the Centre for Positive Displacement Compressors at City, said: "We've been developing the technology behind Heliex for the past 20 years, so it's incredibly rewarding to see our work form the basis of a venture that has the ability to revolutionise the energy sector."
A university has installed an eel trap on its riverside campus to monitor dwindling stocks. Student volunteers will check the trap at Kingston University's Knights Park site for European eels (Anguilla anguilla), measure their length and then release them. Results will feed into a project by the Zoological Society of London, which has collected data from 11 devices on Thames tributaries since 2005. The European eel spawns in the Sargasso Sea, but numbers reaching the UK have been falling since the 1980s.
Rights man for the job
A university professor has been appointed chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Michael O'Flaherty, professor of applied human rights and co-director of the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham, will lead the watchdog for the next five years. The commission advises the Northern Ireland Executive and is responsible for protecting and promoting human rights throughout the Province. Professor O'Flaherty will be based in Belfast but will maintain his association with the university.
Here's one I prepared earlier
One of the regional development agencies that will close following the withdrawal of government funding is to transfer all the material it has produced to a university. The East Midlands Development Agency, which will close next March, is setting up a "knowledge bank" within Nottingham Trent University's institutional repository. The bank will contain a series of "legacy handbooks" that summarise the lessons the agency has learned since it was established in 1999, which it hopes will be of use to policymakers and delivery bodies.
A work of art by a university student is featuring on billboards across London as part of an advertising campaign for tourism. The "caged mannequin" piece, by a student from the University for the Creative Arts campus at Rochester, was spotted by a photographer who was looking for inspiration for the Visit Kent campaign. Saskia Dixie, who made the artwork during a year-long foundation diploma in art and design, said it felt "amazing" to be part of the advertising push.
Family businesses are thriving despite some of the toughest economic times in living memory, according to research carried out with help from a university. The 2011 National Family Business Report - produced by the University of the West of England and law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards - shows that more than half of family businesses feel they have increased both market share and profitability in recent times. Of the 233 family businesses that responded to the survey, more than half are also unconcerned about raising money or the availability of funds at a time when other businesses appear to be struggling.
Southampton Solent University
Students are to get the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of helping to produce audio-visual material from one of the most successful new festivals. Southampton Solent University, which already supports festival production at Glastonbury, will provide students for stage production, live video feeds and a daily newspaper at Bestival, which is held on the Isle of Wight in September. Bestival founder, DJ Rob da Bank, said the partnership was a "natural fit" after supporting the university's work by providing work placements for students at the past two festivals.
No one should spend more than four hours a month in a cave or mine where radon levels are unknown, researchers have concluded. The advice from the University of Northampton's Radon Research Team follows the discovery of high levels of the element in abandoned mines in Cumbria. The team's leader, Paul Phillips, said that up to 2,000 people in the UK die every year of cancers caused by the radioactive gas. "In the UK, about 4,000 people regularly go down caves and into abandoned mines, and there is a very serious health risk if radiation levels are high enough," he said.