Campus round-up

January 12, 2012

Imperial College London

Positive aid to sugar control

Weight-loss surgery is not a cure for type 2 diabetes, but it can improve blood-sugar control, a study has found. Previous studies have claimed that up to 80 per cent of non-insulin-dependent diabetics have been cured by gastric bypass surgery, but researchers at Imperial College London found that only 41 per cent of patients achieved remission. "Using the new (stricter) criteria, we don't get such eye-catching figures as some that have been quoted in recent years," said Carel le Roux, who led the study. "But it's clear that weight-loss surgery, particularly gastric bypass, has a significant beneficial effect on glucose control."

University of Ulster

Sense and sensibility

A new master's programme has been launched to train students to understand a condition that causes people to over- or under-respond to sensory inputs. The MSc in sensory integration at the University of Ulster, which is thought to be the only one of its kind in Europe, will try to understand Sensory Processing Disorder. The disorder, which could affect up to a fifth of children in some way, is linked to autism and attention deficit problems and can cause anxiety, clumsiness or behavioural issues.

University of Strathclyde

Descartes is child's play

Thinking about philosophy may help schoolchildren develop a sense of citizenship. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde presented more than 130 primary and secondary schoolchildren with a picture, a piece of writing or music and led them through structured questions about the material. Claire Cassidy, a lecturer in education, said that she and her colleagues found that the children "were able to debate and discuss reasoned argument without conflict and often continued their discussions after their sessions had finished".

University of Manchester

Inspiring achievement

A student has completed her degree five years after she was almost killed in a car crash. Lauren Thompson spent a month in a coma and a year in a wheelchair following the 2006 accident, which occurred at the beginning of the third year of her degree in criminology at the University of Manchester. Although she still tires quickly as a result of her injuries, with specialist support from the university's School of Law she resumed her studies in 2010 and has now graduated with a 2:1. She walked unaided for the first time to pick up her degree.

University of Liverpool

Fruitful alliance

A university set up by a Chinese and a British institution has been given the title of "Most Influential Sino-Foreign Higher Education Institution in China". The award was presented to Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University at the Fourth China Education Annual Gala. Youmin Xi, executive president of the university and a pro vice-chancellor at the University of Liverpool, said the award "symbolises the quickly growing popularity and reputation of the institution".

University of St Andrews

Fish and chicks

Seabirds begin to produce fewer chicks when the level of fish they can eat dips below one-third of the recorded maximum amount of fish available, researchers say. An international team of scientists, including a number based at the University of St Andrews, found that the rule of thumb "one-third for the birds" applied in colonies in the Arctic, Antarctic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The success of 14 species at producing chicks was measured over periods from 15 to 47 years. The research was published in the journal Science in December.

University of York

Ride halts for 'piggy-back' viruses

New treatments for viruses including HIV, hepatitis C and dengue fever could be on the horizon following the discovery of the structure of an enzyme that the viruses "hijack" in order to replicate. An international team of scientists led by the universities of York and Melbourne determined the structure of endomannosidase using synchrotron technology. Gideon Davies, a professor in York's department of chemistry, said the discovery also revealed how the enzyme is hijacked by viruses. "If we understand [this], we can develop inhibitors that block the pathway they require, opening the door to drug developments," he said.

University of Westminster

Top drawer

An art student has won a prestigious prize for the best political cartoon of 2011. Ben Jennings, an undergraduate studying illustration at the University of Westminster, landed the Political Cartoon Society award ahead of professional cartoonists including Steve Bell and Martin Rowson. The 21-year-old was given the prize for a cartoon published in The Guardian in August, which depicted Mu'ammer Gadaffi's face as a giant oilfield. Mr Jennings was presented the award by the former chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling. On his blog, he says he is "gobsmacked" to have won.

University of Sheffield

Good day sunshine

The UK was 10 per cent sunnier in 2011 than in 2010, academics have found. Researchers from the University of Sheffield's department of physics and astronomy conducted the analysis, based on Met Office data, as part of a project to examine the efficiency of domestic solar panels at different UK locations. They found that Portsmouth was the UK's sunniest place in 2011, while Loch Maree in northwest Scotland was the dullest. They have produced maps comparing the 2011 figures with averages since 2002, and believe that the data indicate that the amount of sunlight in the UK is increasing year on year - except in Scotland.

University for the Creative Arts

Model behaviour

Schoolchildren have learned about architecture and urban design through a series of workshops held by the University for the Creative Arts. About 150 pupils from schools in Surrey were set the task of "re-imagining" a street in the town of Farnham during December. The children displayed their ideas on scale models and created new concepts - from street fairs to pedestrian crossings - to show how they would improve the environment to make it safer and more appealing to the public.

University of Kent

Shiny new high-tech labs

A school of physical sciences has officially reopened its teaching wing after a £2.5 million refurbishment. The new-look facilities in the Ingram Building on the University of Kent's Canterbury campus include four state-of-the-art laboratories, one of which is dedicated to forensic analysis. The wing also features new equipment such as computers, wireless internet access and a data projection system for clearer display of experiment results. The labs were opened by the university's vice-chancellor, Dame Julia Goodfellow.

University of East Anglia

Alumni reap awards

A university has celebrated a double win for graduates from its prestigious creative writing programme in the annual Costa Book Awards. The University of East Anglia counts the 2011 winners of both the Best Novel prize and the First Novel award among its alumni, while a third graduate was shortlisted for the Children's Book prize. Andrew Miller won Best Novel with Pure - the story of a young engineer set in pre-revolutionary Paris, former paediatric nurse Christie Watson won First Novel for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, and Martyn Bedford was shortlisted for the Children's Book award with Flip. All had studied on the university's renowned MA in creative writing programme, which has just marked its 40th anniversary.

University of Bristol

South Korean research link

A new partnership between a UK university and a higher education institution in South Korea is aiming to be at the forefront of research into tackling neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The collaboration between the University of Bristol and Chonnam National University hopes to speed up the translation of research into treatment for patients, subsequently helping to tackle some of the global problems linked to an ageing society. Delegates from Chonnam visited Bristol last year to formally launch the Bristol Chonnam Frontier Lab, which has secured £2 million worth of funding from the Chonnam National University Hospital for at least 10 years.

Birmingham City University

Rock'n'roll recognition

A student who battled adversity in her degree has been recognised with an award that recalls Birmingham's heavy metal heritage. Helen Crothall, a Birmingham City University student, was given the Ozzy Osbourne Development Award, which recognises the student who has made the most progress during the BA Media and Communications (Music Industries) course. Ms Crothall gained good marks despite a family bereavement and being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome during her studies. Mr Osbourne, who went to school in nearby Perry Barr, said it was "great to support Birmingham and the future of the music industry".

Chaos theory

A mathematical tool that could help prevent crowd disasters has been developed by a doctoral student. The computer program is the creation of Peter Harding, a PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University, who used maths to predict crushes in crowds. The model could be used by architects and event planners to run "what if" scenarios for the emergency evacuation of people from stadiums and other busy public spaces. "Crushes happen with depressing regularity," said Martyn Amos, reader in novel computation and supervisor of Mr Harding's research. "Hillsborough, the Love Parade in Germany and every year at the hajj in Saudi Arabia - it happens again and again. We know that as a crush begins to form, the movement of crowds becomes much more turbulent or chaotic. By detecting this turbulence, we're able to automatically detect the onset of crush in simulations."

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