Campus round-up

September 29, 2011

Coventry University

Academy al fresco

A sustainable £32 million student services building has been opened, featuring natural ventilation and solar water heating. Coventry University officially opened The Hub on 20 September, providing a new home for the institution's students' union. The building houses a number of student services as well as a shop, a food court, a 700-capacity club, tiered seating, a performing arts space, an art gallery and a roof garden. Tracy Cullis, head of student services at Coventry, said the roof garden "will provide access to a green open space for studying or eating al fresco with fabulous views of this historic city".

University of Leeds

Ashes to ashes

The air pollution caused by a large volcanic eruption in southern Iceland could lead to many thousands of deaths across Europe. A team led by researchers from the University of Leeds has calculated that a discharge on the scale of the eight-month-long Laki eruption in 1783-84, which killed about a fifth of Iceland's population, would lead to the formation of a cloud of sulphate particles that could cause about 140,000 premature deaths from heart and lung disease within a year. An estimated 20,000 of the fatalities would occur in the UK.

Nottingham Trent University

Step away from the console

People who play a lot of computer games sometimes act in the real world as if they were still at the joystick, researchers have found. The team from Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm University interviewed 42 enthusiastic "gamers" between the ages of 15 and 21. Almost all of them reported experiencing one or more "game transfer" phenomena, such as automatically reaching for a search button when looking for someone in a crowd, or seeing energy boxes above people's heads. Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent, said the findings suggested that intensive gaming could lead to "negative psychological, emotional or behavioural consequences".

University of Salford

Peel back

Planning permission has been granted for the construction of student residences with more than 2,000 bedrooms that promise to regenerate a historic public space. The University of Salford said the move, part of a wider regeneration of its campus, would breathe fresh life into the Peel Park area of the city. Construction of the first phase will begin next year and will be completed in 2013. "The residences will also overlook Peel Park, which will draw more people to this historic public space and embed it much more firmly in the life of the community and the university," a Salford spokeswoman said.

University of Worcester

Boot camp's kick-start

A university has been selected as a National Disability Soccability School Hub, one of only 10 such sites in the country. The University of Worcester was chosen for the role by the English FA and the Youth Sports Trust, and its hub will give blind and visually impaired youngsters from around the region the chance to try football and learn new skills. David Mycock, sports coaching science lecturer at the institution and coach for the England and Great Britain blind football teams, said the centre would "identify, develop and progress visually impaired and blind student football players".

Imperial College London

Lose the fat, shake the disease?

Scientists have learned how to "disarm" HIV, in an important step towards a possible vaccine. Researchers at Imperial College London, working in partnership with Johns Hopkins University in the US, found a way to prevent HIV from damaging the immune system by removing cholesterol from the virus' membrane. This procedure stopped the body's primary immune system from overreacting, which weakens the next line of defence, known as the adaptive immune response.

Adriano Boasso, research Fellow at Imperial and leader of the research, said: "HIV is very sneaky. It evades the host's defences by triggering overblown responses that damage the immune system. It's like revving your car in first gear for too long. Eventually the engine blows out." Dr Boasso is now looking at whether the inactivated virus can be developed into an HIV vaccine.

Institute of Contemporary Music Performance

Two can play at that game

Physicist and television presenter Brian Cox is already more famous for his second career in academia than for his time as a member of 1990s pop group D:Ream. Now the group's lead singer is getting in on the act. Pete Cunnah, who wrote the band's biggest hit Things Can Only Get Better, is joining the teaching faculty of the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, a privately funded institution in London whose course offerings include three-year music degrees validated by the University of East London. In addition to his time as D:Ream's frontman, Mr Cunnah has also produced and written for artists including Duran Duran and Debbie Harry.

University of Glasgow

Bank of hope

The UK's first brain tumour tissue bank - known as "Charlotte's Bank of Hope" - is being launched with support from a Scottish university. Housed in Glasgow's Southern General Hospital and established with backing from the University of Glasgow, the tissue bank has also received funding from the charity brainstrust and will build on the work of volunteer Anita Smith, whose teenage daughter Charlotte died in 2008 from an aggressive tumour. The large number of samples should prove an essential repository of clinical information for scientific, academic and commercial researchers. "Everyone's brain tumour is different," said Anthony Chalmers, professor of clinical oncology at Glasgow. "The tissue bank is an important step on the way to understanding the challenges and possibilities of personalised medicine to treat individual cancers."

University of Chichester

Police squad cops in

Senior officials from the Vietnam Ministry of Public Security spent time learning about police and military leadership on a training programme run by a UK university. The group of 20 trainees, who were based at the University of Chichester's Bognor Regis campus for the duration of the course, comprised two major-generals, one senior lieutenant colonel, one commander, 15 colonels and one captain. During the course this summer, visits were arranged for the group to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Police Staff College at Bramshill in Hampshire, airside at Gatwick Airport and Chichester Police Station.

Bucks New University

Allied axis

A UK university will host a centre dedicated to supporting allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, paramedics and radiographers. The Allied Health Enterprise Development Centre at the Uxbridge campus of Bucks New University is the first of its kind in the UK and is intended to raise the profile of the contribution made by the professions to patients in health and social care. The centre will offer "bespoke" leadership and management courses, plus other services aimed at meeting the needs of local allied health staff.

Northumbria University

Smoke gets in your brain

It is an accepted fact that giving up smoking provides substantial health benefits for those who quit. But researchers at Northumbria University have now demonstrated that stubbing out the habit can also lead to significant improvements in memory. Academics from the university's Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group tested smokers, 18 ex-smokers and 24 people who had never smoked, asking them to recall predetermined tasks at specific locations during a campus tour. The results, published in this month's online edition of the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, show that current smokers remembered just 59 per cent of their tasks, while those who had never smoked managed 81 per cent, closely followed by those who used to smoke at 74 per cent. The researchers now plan to investigate the impact of "second-hand" smoke on health and memory.

Queen's University Belfast

Healers' hands-on experience

A medical school will give local community organisations a chance to take an active role in training Northern Ireland's future doctors. Although there have long been study opportunities in nearby hospitals, it is only over the past four years that students at Queen's University Belfast have been able to gain hands-on experience of healthcare issues such as economic development, childcare and rural residential care. This has been facilitated by placement programmes with groups including the Short Strand Community Centre and the Depaul Trust. Queen's is now seeking to extend the scheme by calling for additional organisations to offer trainee doctors a chance to enhance their life skills through practical experience.

Bubble and peak

A research institute is to be set up to investigate "bubble collapse theory". The International Institute for Cavitation Research will be based at City University London following a donation of £1.3 million from the Lloyd's Register Educational Trust. It will work in partnership with Loughborough University, as well as Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Cavitation is the formation and collapse of vapour bubbles in liquid, which can damage machines. Research done at the centre is expected to have applications in medicine, geology and chemical engineering. It will be led by Dinos Arcoumanis, deputy vice-chancellor of City.

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