Campus round-up

September 22, 2011

University of East Anglia

Liquid hunches are not enough

Dehydration is a severe problem for the elderly, causing confusion and falls and making hospital admission more likely, yet it is not always easy to identify the warning signs. Researchers at the University of East Anglia are now working with care homes to develop a simple non-invasive test to signal when older people need to take on liquids. One option to be considered is a simple "squeeze test", checking how quickly the flesh springs back after patients' hands are lightly squeezed.

University of Bradford

Green takes gold

An institution's hopes that its new "student village" would achieve the highest score awarded under the BREEAM evaluation system for sustainability in construction have been realised. The Green, a £40 million development at the University of Bradford, scored 95.05 per cent, the highest score among the more than 1 million buildings assessed worldwide since 1990. It will accommodate 1,026 students in town houses and flats. The Green's features include low heat loss, a combined heat and power plant, sustainable materials, rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing, plus rooftop solar panels to heat water.

University of Edinburgh

Healthy delusions of grandeur

Research has found that overconfidence often delivers better results than realism, meaning that believing we can easily meet challenges is actually good for us. A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh and the University of California, San Diego mathematically modelled the effect of overconfident, accurate and underconfident strategies over generations. It found that overconfidence frequently brings rewards in sport, business and even war, which could lead to optimism being favoured by natural selection.

University of Dundee

Unaccustomed to your face

The face of a medieval Archbishop of Canterbury who was beheaded by rebels during the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 has been reconstructed using his partially mummified skull. The work at the University of Dundee involved taking Simon of Sudbury's skull to West Suffolk Hospital for computerised tomography scans in order to create a series of 3D bronze-resin casts of his face. Dundee's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification has in the past reconstructed the faces of German composer J.S. Bach and Cleopatra's half-sister Arsinoe.


Trip down memory lane

Researchers are to explore the changing significance of memory in medieval and modern England and Wales after winning a EUR1.2 million (£1.05 million) grant from the European Research Council. Howard Williams, professor of archaeology at the University of Chester, will be the project's archaeologist, joining a team of academics led by Philip Schwyzer, head of English at the University of Exeter. The project, titled "The Past in its Place: Histories of Memory in English and Welsh Locales", aims to delve into archaeological, historical and literary perspectives of memory by exploring churches, ancient monuments and distinctive local landscapes.

Queen Mary, University of London

Microparticles bearing gifts

A common chemotherapy drug has been successfully delivered to cancer cells via tiny microparticles. The technique, which researchers at Queen Mary, University of London have likened to the Trojan Horse, draws on understanding of how the immune system works. Particles around a hundredth of the diameter of a human hair are coated with a special protein called CD95, which triggers cancer cells into ingesting them. Delivered in this way, the drugs have been shown to reduce ovarian cancer tumours in animals 65 times more effectively than the standard method. The approach is now being developed for clinical use.

Coventry University

Vision on

A poster campaign for a university will use "augmented-reality" technology, a first for the sector. Coventry University has teamed up with technology firm Aurasma for the campaign. Users will be able to point their smartphones or tablet computers at Coventry logos and posters around the UK and see the images on the screen come to life with interactive information, animated overlays and videos about the university. Aurasma is the world's first visual browser and uses images to trigger internet searches instead of keywords.

Birmingham City University

One-stop health teaching

A £2 million teaching wing has opened at a university's health faculty. Birmingham City University unveiled the Seacole West wing at its City South campus in Edgbaston. The university will now be able to teach all its health-related courses on one site. The facilities include a simulated home environment for visual-rehabilitation students to learn how to help those with limited or complete blindness, and a specialist resource room fitted with a two-way mirror to allow trainee speech and language therapists to review and develop effective communication skills.

University of Aberdeen

Food for thought

Experts have gathered to discuss how to tackle the problem of food security in the 21st century. Hosted by the University of Aberdeen's Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, the conference, held on 14 September, considered how Scotland's expertise in life sciences could be used to best effect. Peter Morgan, director of the institute, said the event had been designed to break the enormous topic into "bite-sized research questions and then identify those that are a priority to be answered".

University of Essex

States of decay

People who fear their twice- yearly trip to the dentist may be heartened by new plans to "radicalise" dental check-up appointments. Calling the current system "an enigma", a collaborative project between academics at the University of Essex and NHS South East Essex has looked at the feasibility of selecting appropriate check-up intervals for patients based on their risk of developing problems. The project required dentists to take account of patients' susceptibility to tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer. They were then placed in an appropriate risk category with a check-up interval of between three months and two years.

University of Bedfordshire

Bamboo certain

The old joke about the importance of grammatical accuracy when writing about a panda that eats shoots and leaves has been put in a scientific context by research explaining why the bear eats only bamboo. James Crabbe, dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies and Science at the University of Bedfordshire, has published the paper with colleagues from Fudan University in the journal PloS One. The study found that dopamine metabolism genes have a key role to play in determining panda food choices.

University for the Creative Arts

Stitched together

An exhibition of miniature works by textile artists from the UK and Japan has been organised to mark 15 years of collaboration through one university. Lesley Millar, professor of textile culture at the University for the Creative Arts, is curating Bite-Size, which features 51 artists from the UK and Japan who have taken part in various exchange projects over the years. Professor Millar said that the exhibition offered an opportunity to "celebrate what can be achieved when peer groups from two countries come together in a vibrant spirit of collaboration and exchange". It will run at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in London from 31 October to 14 December before travelling to Japan.

Royal Holloway

Keep watching the waters!

Scientists from a consortium of UK research institutes led by Royal Holloway, University of London and the Natural History Museum are asking the public to help record sightings of the Chinese mitten crab. They aim to better understand the full extent of the crustacean invasion and the threat the species poses to UK rivers and waterways. The crabs spend a number of years in the upper reaches of the River Thames but have to return to the estuary to breed and release their larvae. When the juveniles migrate back up the Thames they can cause significant damage to river banks and fishing gear as well as affecting native wildlife and fisheries.

University of Bath

Take with a pinch of salt

Researchers have called for more regulation of smartphone applications that claim to help people manage pain after they found 85 per cent were created without input from the medical community. The academics at the University of Bath's Centre for Pain Research looked at 111 apps from the official online stores of five major smartphone platforms. Headaches and migraines were the most commonly targeted types of pain, with back pain the second most frequent. The research found that there were nearly 6,000 downloadable apps for health-related issues without a regulatory body evaluating and approving their release.

50 not out

More than 2,500 students, staff and alumni kicked off a year of celebrations to mark a university's 50th anniversary. Events held from 9 to 11 September at the University of Sussex campus included a firework display, the first screening of a special documentary about the institution and a football match between Sussex and Brighton and Hove Albion FC. One of the institution's founding fathers, Lord Briggs - who was the first dean of history at Sussex and its second vice-chancellor - unveiled a bronze bust of himself at the celebrations, which will continue throughout the academic year.

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