Campus round-up

May 10, 2012

University of St Andrews

Satisfaction guaranteed

Scottish teenagers are more satisfied with life than many of their counterparts across Europe, according to a study into health inequalities. Jo Inchley, assistant director of the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at the University of St Andrews and a researcher on the World Health Organisation study, said that the 11- to 15-year-olds studied "are generally a sociable bunch and not at all isolated". However, Scottish 15-year-old girls were found to be drinking and having unprotected sex more than the European average.

Newcastle University

Underground connection

Cannabis farmers are stealing about £200 million worth of electricity a year to grow the class B drug indoors, according to a cybercrime expert. Phil Butler, co-director of Newcastle University's Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security, said that the farmers were often "digging down underground outside the premises and hooking into the main supply". One way to find such power "thieves" is to monitor unexpected spikes in demand to identify areas where energy is being siphoned off, Mr Butler advised.

East London/Westminster

Good hydration

Students who bring water into examinations may improve their grades, an academic study has suggested. Researchers from the University of East London and the University of Westminster looked at the behaviour of 447 undergraduates across three cohorts to see what impact drinking water and other types of beverage had on academic achievement. Those who brought water into exams did better than those who did not (once the sample was controlled for ability). The lead author of the study, Chris Pawson, senior lecturer in psychology at UEL, said drinking water may either help the brain to function or alleviate anxiety.

University of Greenwich

Sky Blues thinking

The manager of Manchester City Football Club, Roberto Mancini, has praised the contribution of a sports scientist to his team's success. Niall Clark, senior lecturer in football coaching science at the University of Greenwich, has just completed three years as City's sports science consultant, where he oversaw every player's fitness programme. Dr Clark worked closely with Mr Mancini, who is hoping to lead his team to its first top-flight championship for 44 years. "The work Niall did was invaluable, especially in pre-season where [he] helped plan and structure our training," Mr Mancini said. "Football is always moving forward, and Niall kept us up to date with the latest technology."

University of Wolverhampton

Reform agenda

Senior civil servants from Bangladesh are visiting a UK university for a training programme aimed at delivering domestic reform. The 20 civil servants are taking part in a six-week professional development programme at the University of Wolverhampton's Telford Campus. The initiative, funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Bangladesh government, aims to equip the participants with experience and knowledge to deliver Civil Service reforms at home. These include improving the working conditions of female handloom weavers and community health provision in rural areas of Bangladesh.

University of Liverpool

No fling, this is a long-term thing

A UK university and an Asian institution have teamed up to launch a dual PhD programme in Hong Kong featuring scholarships in areas such as aeronautical engineering and energy storage. The partnership between the University of Liverpool and National Tsing Hua University will offer 10 doctoral scholarships in medicine and engineering that will enable students to spend at least 12 months at each institution. The agreement is designed to establish a long-term research relationship between the partners.

University of Warwick

Cell provision

A medical school's £6 million Mechanochemical Cell Biology Building has been unveiled by Royal Society president and Nobel prizewinner Sir Paul Nurse. The Warwick Medical School facility provides a customised environment for research into cell biology. Sir Paul said the research conducted at the University of Warwick had a "clear purpose" to improve people's well-being. "Disease and infection have their roots in the altered functioning of cells or the way they interact in the body," he said.

Bath/Exeter

Mighty atom

Physicists are hoping nanoscale experiments will teach them more about the properties of the so-called "wonder material" graphene. The Centre for Graphene Science, based at the University of Bath and set up in collaboration with the University of Exeter, will be able to make prototypes of devices based on the single-atom-thick material, which is 40 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity 10 times more effectively than silicon. The research will focus on a scanning-probe microscope, nicknamed the "nano-factory", which like a tiny stencil will be used to spray patterns on to graphene, building up new devices and exploring the material's qualities.

University of Southampton

More positive postnatal picture

Giving birth in South Sudan may become safer thanks to a training programme designed by academics and midwives in the UK. On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund, the University of Southampton has designed an in-service programme to standardise training for South Sudan's 2,500 unregistered midwives. The newly formed nation has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world (2,054 women per 100,000 live births). The curriculum, developed to be taught to people with limited literacy skills via pedagogic methods such as picture cards and colour codes, will be delivered across the country by the new government's Ministry of Health.

Oxford/Aberdeen

Postcard from the edge

Historians have unearthed a postcard that sheds light on the thoughts of a -year-old Adolf Hitler during the First World War. Researchers at the universities of Oxford and Aberdeen said that the missive, sent to a fellow soldier while Hitler recovered from an injury in 1916, shows the future Nazi leader itching to get back to the front line and may add to the theory that his regiment became his surrogate family. The postcard is one of 45,000 stories, objects and letters from the era sourced from family history roadshows across Europe. Inspired by the success of Oxford's Great War Archive in 2008, the Europeana project plans to showcase the stories in advance of the 100th anniversary of the conflict's outbreak in 2014.

University of Manchester

Turing fest

The world's biggest computer science conference is to be held this summer to celebrate the centenary of the birth of computer pioneer, mathematician and wartime codebreaker Alan Turing. The University of Manchester, where Turing worked after the Second World War, will host three days of lectures and panel discussions on the history of computer science and artificial intelligence. Among the 17 lecturers signed up for the event are Vinton Cerf, Google's vice-president and chief internet evangelist, and prominent mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose. The conference will also feature two public lectures on Turing's legacy.

University of Sheffield

Evolutionary engines still running

Humans are continuing to evolve despite the demographic, cultural and technological changes seen since the Agricultural Revolution, a study suggests. An international team led by Virpi Lummaa, Royal Society university research fellow at the University of Sheffield, analysed church records of about 6,000 Finnish people born between 1760 and 1849 to determine whether modern shifts had undermined natural and sexual selection. Dr Lummaa said: "It is a common misunderstanding that evolution took place a long time ago, [but] we have shown significant selection has been taking place in very recent populations, and likely still occurs."

Anglia Ruskin University

Enterprise's continuing voyage

Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to secure up to £35,000 in start-up funding from a university for their bright business ideas. Now in its second year, the Enterprise Fellowship Scheme, run by Anglia Ruskin University's Centre for Enterprise Development and Research, is open to anyone in the county with a business idea in need of backing. The initiative is sponsored by a private benefactor and supported by Anglia Ruskin's Lord Ashcroft International Business School. Recipients of last year's cash include an online service bringing together investors and installers of green energy projects, and a firm specialising in nutritional supplements.

Quiver runs through it

A high-tech "vibrating suit" that helps to monitor athletes' movements in a bid to improve their performance has been used to showcase how universities are helping to boost Great Britain's Olympic medal chances. MotivePro - the result of research at Birmingham City University - was one of a handful of projects from across the sector to be highlighted at a parliamentary reception held during Universities Week, which ran from 30 April to 7 May. The suit - which offers users feedback about their body position to help them refine their displays - has recently been tested by rising star and Olympic hopeful Mimi Cesar, the UK's third-ranking rhythmic gymnast.

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