Campus round-up

May 3, 2012

Middlesex University

Two grand outcomes

A UK university project to tackle unemployment in the South African city of Port Elizabeth is celebrating its 2,000th participant to secure work or further training. The Middlesex University education partnership has a success rate of more than 80 per cent of those graduating from its workshops progressing into employment, accredited training or starting their own businesses. Middlesex economics lecturer Michael Brookes secured funding for the project from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills after studying the labour markets in South Africa and identifying the failings on both the demand and supply sides of those markets.

University of Birmingham

Have you ever wanted to...?

Members of the public will have the chance to win a day shadowing "inspirational" academics and seeing their research first-hand. Prizes in the University of Birmingham's Behind the Scenes competition include navigating an arboreal assault course with the School of Biosciences' Susannah Thorpe, who works with free-runners to explore the association between animal form, function and performance. Senior music lecturer Scott Wilson is offering one entrant the opportunity to improvise their own music with the Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research, a laptop ensemble that makes music using live computer coding.

University of Wolverhampton

Good place for a grapple

The Australian judo team is to set up a training camp for this summer's Olympics at a West Midlands institution. The team, which is expecting six competitors to qualify for the Games, will arrive in mid-July and stay in the student village at the University of Wolverhampton's Walsall Campus. Accompanied by two or three coaching staff, they will complete their final preparations for the competition at the campus' sports centre, one of only a few high-performance centres recognised by the British Judo Association in the UK. Mike Chamberlain, Wolverhampton's director of sport and a former British judo champion and international competitor, said the campus was the "perfect environment" for the team.

University of Dundee

Sonic screwdriver

Scientists have succeeded in levitating and spinning a rubber disc using an ultrasonic beam. Researchers at the University of Dundee used a beam shaped like a helix or vortex to cause the object to rotate. Mike MacDonald, of the Institute for Medical Science and Technology at Dundee, said that the technology could be applied to "non-invasive ultrasound surgery, targeted drug delivery and ultrasonic manipulation of cells". The results of the experiment have been published in the American Physical Society's journal Physical Review Letters.

University of Hertfordshire

Face up to reality

Individuals with the mental health problem body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) cannot accurately detect negative facial emotions but they have an ability to recognise famous faces when they are upside down. Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire found that, although most individuals would struggle to recognise an upside-down face, those with BDD focus on individual facial features rather than the whole face, which aids their ability to recognise inverted famous faces. The researchers are now looking at whether the super-recognition abilities of people with BDD may act as a marker for the disorder and whether this faculty exists in a milder form in the relatives of those with BDD.

Nottingham Trent University

Vital provisions

A university has launched a campaign to raise awareness in the food and drink industry of its "vast" training expertise. Nottingham Trent University's NTU Fusion campaign, centred around a dedicated website, aims to "showcase the outstanding facilities, services and professional training opportunities" available at its School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences. Fi Thompson, the school's business development officer, said: "Our food team are all ex-industry professionals and are really switched on to the needs of the industry, which is why we have such truly relevant products and services."

Leeds Metropolitan University

Final release

Two undergraduates have set up an independent online record label for their final-year project. Leeds Metropolitan University music technology students Kieran Edwards and Tom Howson have already signed several acts to their Voodoo Records UK label, including three featuring Leeds Met students. They have also secured the availability of their releases via download retailers such as iTunes. Mr Edwards said: "For our degree project we wanted to set up a music label, but rather than do it hypothetically we decided to do it for real. So far it's going really well and hopefully after we graduate we can make a go of it full-time."

Durham/Cardiff

Crack team

Fracking operations, which crack underground rock to release natural gas, should be at least 600m from aquifers containing drinking water to avoid the risk of contamination, a study has suggested. Researchers from Durham University, Cardiff University and the University of Tromso looked at thousands of artificially induced rock fractures and found no rogue fractures more than 600m from the injection source. The technique is being increasingly exploited in the US and test fracking has been carried out near Blackpool in the UK.

Imperial College London

Head start

A state-of-the-art £2 million carbon capture plant has been opened in West London. The four-storey plant at Imperial College London's South Kensington campus will be used to train more than 8,000 chemical engineering undergraduates during its predicted 25-year lifespan. The facility is described by the university as "the most sophisticated of its kind in an academic institution in the world" and will be used as a summer school for engineering students from around the world. Academics at Imperial will also use it as a laboratory to improve techniques to capture carbon dioxide emissions, and as a training centre for staff from the energy and chemical engineering sector.

East Anglia/Essex

Hit return

Investors may be able to predict market movements by looking at the frequency of Google keyword searches, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex analysed Google search frequency data for keywords related to 30 of the largest stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange - including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble and Exxon Mobil. The report, published in the Journal of Banking and Finance, shows a "strong association" between Google searches and stock return volatility and trading volume. The study also shows that it is not just the large news agencies, such as Reuters and Bloomberg, that have an effect on stock market activity. Online information and social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs, are increasingly affecting stock market activity.

University of Manchester

Closer encounters

An academic is among six leading science fiction writers who have called on the creative community to improve the scientific credibility of their output by working more closely with scientists. Geoff Ryman, a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Manchester and a science fiction writer, co-authored an open letter ahead of hosting a conference to discuss ways to guarantee the scientific credibility of fiction, film, television and the arts. Dr Ryman hopes the event will be a step towards creating a UK body similar to the Science & Entertainment Exchange in the US, which brings together scientists and writers.

London Metropolitan University

Business venture

A private business school has announced a new "large-scale" degree validation scheme with a London university. Under a new deal, London Metropolitan University will validate a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and professional programmes taught by the London School of Business and Finance at its UK campuses. Business courses will include financial and marketing management, entrepreneurship and luxury brand management. Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor at London Met, said the "large-scale initiative" would help to bring "quality education to the broadest possible group of students" and would include joint sponsorship of international students.

Goldsmiths, University of London

Digital combination

A cross-disciplinary centre combining expertise in computing, humanities and the social sciences has opened at a London university. Based in the computing department at Goldsmiths, University of London, the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies will support research and practical training programmes based on emerging digital industries. It will teach master's courses in digital journalism, digital sociology and social media design from September 2012.

Northern highlights

A new cross-disciplinary set of research projects will look at the climate, history and societies of the North, the regions around the Arctic that includes Scotland, the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as northern Russia, Canada and Alaska. Tim Ingold, of the department of anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, is coordinating four projects starting this year, which include studies of adaptation to climate change, the communication of emotions in northern cultures, and the rise of early medieval kingdoms in the North.

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