Campus round-up

January 19, 2012

University of Exeter

Alliance of science

A university has formalised an alliance with a centre for applied marine science by signing a five-year agreement with the institution. The arrangement between the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science and the University of Exeter will enhance existing collaboration including lecturing opportunities, student placements and joint research projects. Over the past few years, the two institutions have worked together in several areas including joint teaching on Exeter MSc courses, student participation on scientific marine cruises, and collaborative projects on ocean acidification, aquatic toxicology and marine organism diseases.

Arts University College Bournemouth

Little red dresses

An exhibition of Chinese clothing, images and objects uses fashion to illustrate the transformation the country has undergone. Fashion Revolution in China, being held at the Arts University College Bournemouth, uses clothing from three distinct eras to reflect the changes that have taken place economically, socially and politically. Anthony Bednall, head of the School of Design, who curated the exhibition, archived the material during his 10-year stay in Beijing. He said the garments showed how tradition and culture were as "firmly rooted in the Chinese fashion world as innovation and change".

St George's, University of London

Pill poppers' predicament

Taking an aspirin a day does not offer health benefits unless patients are at risk from heart disease, new research suggests. Many doctors recommend the drug because it thins the blood and reduces the risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. But scientists at St George's, University of London found that people without a history of heart disease who took aspirin regularly could be endangering their health. Researchers analysed nine clinical trials and found that an aspirin a day lowered the risk of heart disease by 10 per cent, but increased the risk of serious internal bleeding by 30 per cent.

University of Sussex

When yuppies ruled the world

The experiences of ordinary Britons in the 1980s will form the basis of a new online teaching resource being created by a university. Material from the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex will be selected and digitised for the "Observing the 1980s" project and then placed online for use by students, school pupils and researchers. The project, funded by an award of almost £100,000 from the sector's IT body Jisc, draws on recordings from the British Library's sound archive collection of interviews given by members of the public at the time.

University of East Anglia

A Canterbury tale

An academic has undertaken an ambitious journey through history starting at Canterbury Cathedral in around 1100 and concluding in 15th-century East Anglia as part of a public lecture series. Sandy Heslop, professor of visual arts in the School of World Art Studies and Museology at the University of East Anglia, gave a talk titled "Medieval art, politics and people" to begin the Inaugural Lectures 2012 at the institution. Further talks from newly appointed professors in the coming months will look at an array of topics, including "What's in a number?" and "Understanding irrigation using metaphors and games: parodies, parrots or portals?"

University of Leeds

Coping with a mid-lane crisis

Pensioners' tendency to sit mid-lane is a natural adaptation to keep safe behind the wheel, scientists say. Ageing causes the body to respond more slowly and movements to become less precise. To see how this might affect performance on the road, researchers from the Institute of Psychological Sciences at the University of Leeds compared healthy adults aged between 18 and 40 with a group of over-60s. Whether asked to trace wiggly lines or to steer along virtual winding roads in a driving simulator, older participants adopted the same "middle-of-the-road" strategy. Younger people were more likely to cut corners. It is hoped that the findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, may suggest ways of helping patients to recover lost motor skills, for example after a stroke.

University College London

Painful truths

A million people in the UK are living with long-term pain that could be prevented or significantly better treated, it has been claimed. The study, led by David Taylor, professor of pharmaceutical and public health policy at University College London's School of Pharmacy, found that some 10 million people in the UK suffer chronic pain but GPs often fail to give a correct diagnosis. More investment is also required to improve pharmacy services in the community and increase awareness of painful conditions, concluded the research conducted with the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association. Professor Taylor said: "Pain-related disorders cost this country in excess of £10 billion a year, over and above the personal costs involved. More investment in specialist services is needed."

University of Aberdeen

Animal instincts

Modern social networks such as Twitter and Facebook mimic the way that animals communicate in the wild, according to research into animals' social conventions. David Lusseau, lecturer in marine populations in the University of Aberdeen's School of Biological Sciences, was due to give a talk on 18 January titled "Did animals invent Twitter?" in which he claimed that the internet allows humans to "share information with one another in the way that animals across the kingdom have always communicated, the only difference being that we can do it on a global level. In many ways the evolution of social media is converging with the evolution of the way animals use social information."

University of Nottingham

A different 'buzz' in space

Magnetically levitated flies can offer important clues to the future of life in space, it has been claimed. By using a powerful superconducting magnet, scientists from the University of Nottingham have subjected fruit flies to a force just large enough to eliminate the effects of gravity, so that they levitate with no support (an effect first demonstrated by Nobel prizewinning physicist Andre Geim and colleagues when they used the same technique to levitate a live frog). Such simulated weightlessness causes the flies to walk faster - an effect that has also been observed during similar experiments on the International Space Station - although it is still not clear precisely why. Understanding such phenomena in humans and other animals would be essential in addressing the challenges of any plans to establish permanent bases on other planets.

University of Edinburgh

Shedding light on the dark

Dark matter across the Universe has been mapped on the largest scale ever by analysing how the substance bends light from distant galaxies. The work was led by researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and British Columbia, who analysed images of about 10 million galaxies using pictures accumulated over five years by a 340-megapixel camera. Catherine Heymans, a lecturer at the Institute for Astronomy at Edinburgh, said the research meant mankind was "a step closer to understanding this material and its relationship with the galaxies in our Universe".

Derby/Nottingham Trent

What are they playing at?

The fear that people can become addicted to computer games has been borne out by research. A team from the University of Derby and Nottingham Trent University studied some 1,400 keen gamers in 31 countries. Each was asked how often and for how long they played games, as well as about factors such as employment status. They also responded to questions such as "Have you become angry when you have been unable to play?" and "Do you play games to forget about real life?", which form part of a "game addiction scale". The results, published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, showed 44 per cent of gamers with signs of addiction and 3.6 per cent classified as truly addicted.

University of St Andrews

Appearances can be detected

There are at least half as many planets in the galaxy as there are stars, a survey of the cosmos has suggested. Researchers at the University of St Andrews sampled six years' worth of data that detect planets from the effects they have on the light of their stars. Martin Dominik, a Royal Society university research fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said that "so far we have detected only a tiny fraction of the planets out there. We expect that hundreds of billions exist in the Milky Way alone."

Igneous is bliss

The volatility of volcanoes in places such as Mexico, Ecuador and the West Indies is to be studied in a collaborative research project funded by the European Commission. The project, which has been awarded funding of almost EUR3.5 million (£2.9 million), will combine research into the causes and effects of volcanic unrest with "uncertainty assessment" and probabilistic forecasting to improve the way decisions are made before and during eruptions. The aim will be to produce global strategies for the monitoring of volcanic activity and data interpretation to make predictions of eruptions more accurate. Those involved in the research include scientists at the Interface Analysis Centre and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol.

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