Campus round-up

September 15, 2011

University of Ulster

Golden opportunity

Northern Ireland has been selected as the location for a Confucius Institute. Designed to foster academic, cultural, economic and social ties between China and the region, it will be based in Coleraine and operate across the University of Ulster's campuses. The institute will teach Chinese languages and culture and is one of 322 in more than 50 countries. Richard Barnett, vice-chancellor, said that Confucius Institutes were a "vital cog in the relationships China builds with the countries in which they operate".

University of Cambridge

Frozen assets

The snowshoes, knife and boots that belonged to Roald Amundsen as he led the first team to reach the South Pole are among objects on display at a university museum. The exhibition at the Polar Museum, part of the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, is the UK's first show to focus solely on the life of the Norwegian explorer. Amundsen is best remembered as the person who reached the South Pole before Captain Robert Falcon Scott's British team. The exhibition will seek to explain what made him one of greatest polar explorers of all time.

University of Nottingham

It's no fun on your own anyway

A new form of resistance to fungal disease has been discovered in oilseed rape, which could cut the use of expensive and potentially damaging fungicides. Scientists from the University of Nottingham, seed company KWS and Rothamsted Research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, found a new form of resistance to a leaf spot fungus. They discovered a protein inside the plant that stops the pathogen reproducing asexually during the growing season.

Sheffield/Sheffield Hallam

Man's little helpers

Two universities have joined forces to push the boundaries of robotics. The Sheffield Centre for Robotics will pool expertise from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University in engineering, psychology, computer science and robotics to develop robots with flexible bodies and human-like sensory and learning capabilities. Tony Prescott, centre director, said: "We don't want robots to replace humans, but to perform complementary functions by undertaking dirty or dangerous jobs, such as going into burning buildings, decommissioning nuclear power sites or tending crops."

University of Hull

This is a job for Lab Man!

Introducing young people to science is the aim of a series of university-produced comics. Mark Lorch, from the department of chemistry at the University of Hull, has worked with students on illustrations of experiments that can be done at home, and has created a website for the cartoons (www.sci-toons.co.uk). Dr Lorch said: "You can do interesting experiments with bits that are lying around your house and although they are fun it's also teaching some very complex ideas." The comic book was launched this week at the British Science Festival 2011 in Bradford.

Queen Mary, University of London

It's fun to learn

Building a Lego Universe, discovering the computer wizardry behind magic tricks, and tracking emotions on Twitter will be some of the fun ways for the public to learn about academic investigations. Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London will host demonstrations of their work at the Mile End and Whitechapel campuses on 23 September from 3pm to 8.30pm. Among the attractions is a 20,000-piece Lego model demonstrating how the Universe was formed, and visitors can try out sports tests undertaken by Olympic athletes. "It is an ideal opportunity to explore the university, try out state-of-the-art technology, take part in fascinating experiments, and attempt to out-smart academics," said Evelyn Welch, vice-principal for research and international affairs.

Edge Hill University

Final preparations

An academic's visit to Uganda aimed to help develop education for health workers looking after terminally ill patients. As part of a three-year initiative, Barbara Jack, head of research and scholarship and director of the Evidence-based Practice Research Centre at Edge Hill University, visited the country to provide face-to-face teaching. Professor Jack said: "In much of Africa, many with terminal illnesses are likely to die in severe pain. Therefore, training health professionals in the principles of palliative care is essential. This project will play a pivotal role in developing better palliative care in Africa."

University of East Anglia

Invisible writing

Neglected writers and the evolution of writing and publishing will be discussed at a conference at the University of East Anglia on 16 September. Out of Print: The Evolution of 20th-century Writing aims to bring together academics, postgraduates, publishers and the public to examine the variety of ways that writing comes to be out of print. It will address aspects such as why some writers are neglected, what is at stake during the movement from the printed page to other media, the implications of print on demand and, with the dawn of the Kindle, the outlook for printed media.

Kingston University

Thanks half a million

One of Asia's leading business tycoons has donated £500,000 to establish a professorship at a UK university. Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, managing director of Malaysian building and utilities giant YTL Corporation, is sponsoring the new post of professor of enterprise and technology management at Kingston University, where he studied civil engineering in the 1970s. "My engineering degree equipped me to take on my father's company after graduation and trained me to think out of the box in growing YTL to become what it is today," he said. Tan Sri Francis, who is a committed Christian, added: "This gift is a way of expressing my gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ."

Liverpool John Moores University

All together now

A university's plans to bring its faculties together in Liverpool city centre are taking shape. Liverpool John Moores University has bought the former Royal Mail Centre on Copperas Hill, as part of a 10-year campus development plan. The Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure will move to join the rest of the university within the city centre. Professor Michael Brown, the university's vice-chancellor, said: "This strategic investment will provide for the future success of the university."

University of Chichester

Star qualities

Sports science researchers put Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid footballer, through his paces in order to try to find out what makes him one of the best players in the world. The University of Chichester academics flew out to Spain and spent five hours performing tests on the Portuguese international, assessing his sprinting, free-kick taking techniques and other attributes. One of the tests, which were carried out for a Sky Sports documentary, Ronaldo: Tested to the Limit, involved the star kicking a football as hard as he could through a series of panes of glass in order to measure his maximum kick speed.

University of the West of Scotland

Grim statistics

New research suggests that the policies of the post-1979 Conservative UK government could be responsible for Scotland's unexplained high mortality rate. A study carried out by the University of the West of Scotland's School of Social Sciences and NHS Health Scotland argues that the mortality gap with similarly deprived northern English cities such as Liverpool and Manchester could be explained by Scotland's heavier dependence on social housing and industrial employment. The feelings of disempowerment created by the rule of a Conservative government that had little support north of the border are also thought to be a causative factor.

University of Manchester

Resonating memory

Two pieces of music written by an academic have been staged in a transatlantic public concert to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The specially written works by Kevin Malone, head of composition at the University of Manchester, were played at a concert he devised, held at the Imperial War Museum North in Greater Manchester and Wake Forest University in North Carolina, linked by live audio-video transmission. Dr Malone said: "As an American in Manchester I feel that this tragedy resonated with me more than any other event since I moved to England in the 1980s."

Harper Adams University College

Waste not, want not

A Shropshire food and agriculture college's drive for environmental sustainability has earned it two award nominations. Harper Adams University College is nominated for Best Use of Biofuel/Biogas and the Renewable Electricity Facility Award at the Renewable Energy Infrastructure Awards. The institution has developed an anaerobic digestion plant that converts food and farm waste into heat and power, with the help of BiogenGreenfinch, which supplied the plant, and the Revolving Green Fund, which provided the funding. A total of £3.7 million has been invested in the system.

Circuit training

A robot athlete has brought world championship gold to Britain and won recognition for a university's robotics research. Plymouth University's bipedal robot "Ferdinand" won the sprint challenge and also secured a world-record victory in the marathon at the Federation of International Robot-soccer Association (FIRA) Robo World Cup in Taiwan. It beat competitors from 17 other nations. The robot uses a webcam to navigate and has a wardrobe of clothes created by design students at the university. Phil Culverhouse, of Plymouth's Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems, said: "We now have the fastest robot, in its class, in the world, and that is a testament to the academics and students who have been involved with this project over the past four years."

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