Campus round-up

May 24, 2012

University of Strathclyde

Power cosmic

Satellites could one day gather solar power and beam it back to Earth via microwaves or lasers to supply remote areas of the planet with electricity, researchers hope. Last month, scientists from the University of Strathclyde used a rocket launched into space from the Arctic Circle to deploy a kind of "spinning web", which could form the basis of a solar satellite. The next stage will be to create reflectors that can concentrate sunlight on to solar arrays in space.

University of Bath

Smoking gun

As tobacco marketing becomes increasingly restricted in the UK, researchers are using Facebook to find out how companies are promoting themselves. The University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group has created a page on the social networking site to document packaging and marketing initiatives, such as capsule technology that releases different aromas, advanced "light" filters and super-slim cigarettes aimed at women. Researchers hope the page will encourage people to post photos or comments about tobacco marketing initiatives they have seen at festivals, nightclubs and online.

University of Leeds

Pain principle

Academics have discovered a previously unknown mechanism through which nerve cells signal pain that could have major implications for the development of new drugs. Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Nikita Gamper, senior lecturer in biological sciences at the University of Leeds, reveals a difference in the way that persistent pain, such as toothache, is transmitted and the pain that results from the increased sensitivity of nerves in injured or diseased tissue. "It's increasingly evident that current strategies for testing and validating new painkillers often do not take into account a possible difference in how pain signals are generated," notes Dr Gamper. "These findings challenge current approaches in drug development...and may offer new strategies."

University of Nottingham

Church service

A 15th-century illuminated manuscript has been returned to its original parish church in digital form. The Wollaton Antiphonal for years has been held in the University of Nottingham's department of manuscripts and special collections for safekeeping. Now, academics at the university have digitised the service book and installed a virtual copy of it at St Leonard's Church in Wollaton, Nottingham. The antiphonal was created for Sir Thomas Chaworth, then the richest man in Nottinghamshire, in around 1430. Visitors to the church will now be able to enjoy the book's lavish decoration, explore its symbolism and even listen to a recording of the original chants sung by the choir.

University of Salford

Full house

Energy minister Charles Hendry has seen how a university is helping the UK to meet its carbon emission targets and reduce fuel poverty by reconstructing a full-sized terraced house inside a climate-controlled lab. The minister visited the University of Salford's Energy House to present the first certificates of completion for an infrared thermography course being run as part of a major training collaboration with Envirolink, a low-carbon business support company. The visit marked the end of the first programmes of study, which are part of a new suite of courses for professionals working in the building and housing sectors.

University of Aberdeen

Catholic taste

A trove of papers relating to Scottish Catholicism, including letters from Mary, Queen of Scots, is to be moved to a new state-of-the-art university library. The University of Aberdeen facility will receive maps, papers, books and manuscripts, most of which are from the collections of Catholic families in Aberdeenshire and Moray. In addition, the university will become the custodian of the library of St Mary's College, Blairs, which includes around ,000 books and pamphlets from before 1801. Catholicism was outlawed north of the border in 1560 after the Scottish Reformation.

Imperial College London

Mining for talent

Engineers of the future may benefit from Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto's decision to fund undergraduate scholarships in the UK. Under the agreement, Imperial College London will join the company's Global Education Partnerships Programme. In addition, Rio Tinto will sponsor a five-year teaching fellowship in geology and field trips in the subject for first-year students. Through the scholarships, which are available for 12 students and include work experience and mentoring as well as funding, the company hopes to encourage young people from a wide range of backgrounds to consider careers in the field.

University of Worcester

Cult of youth

Female newsreaders are being recruited as "eye candy" by broadcasters, according to researchers at the University of Worcester. A study by academics at the institution suggests that women are selected for the job on the basis of their physical attractiveness and that older women are either forced out or put under pressure to appear more youthful, with some going as far as having cosmetic procedures. Interviews and questionnaires were conducted with senior broadcast journalists - including presenters, editors and producers - along with viewers. The researchers, Claire Wolfe, senior lecturer in journalism, and Barbara Mitra, senior lecturer in media and cultural studies, say in their report that the phenomenon is "part of the wider patriarchal power structures that dominate our society, as well as media organisations".

University of Edinburgh

Nature, not nurture

The influence of genes on personality traits such as self-control, sociability and decision-making may be much greater than previously thought, according to a study. Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh questioned more than 800 sets of twins in the US to see how they perceive themselves and others. Identical twins, whose DNA is the same, are twice as likely to share traits as non-identical twins. The researchers found that the influence of genetics is strongest on people's sense of self-control.

University College London

Social network

As the social sciences integrate with other fields of research, one university has come up with a way to keep its sociologists in the loop. University College London, which has no dedicated department for the subject, has created the UCL Sociology Network to bring together staff and students from across the university. Organisers hope the network will encourage wide discussion of teaching and research, but also give sociology a new prominence. The first guest lecture to be given under the aegis of the network will be on sociology and climate change by Baron Giddens of Southgate, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics.

University of Southampton

Bang goes the diet

Scientists have discovered a previously unrecognised volcanic process similar to one that is used in chocolate manufacturing. The researchers at the University of Southampton looked at how a process called "fluidised spray granulation" can occur during kimberlite eruptions to produce well-rounded particles containing fragments from the Earth's mantle, most notably diamonds. Their work suggests that the process is similar to the gas injection and spraying process used to form smooth coatings on confectionery. Kimberlite volcanoes are the primary source of diamonds and are formed by gas-rich magma from mantle depths of more than 150km.

University of Cambridge

Enterprise allowance

The University of Cambridge is launching an investment scheme to help support start-up companies with which it has a connection. The fund aims to enable individuals to invest in new companies while benefiting from generous tax incentives. Cambridge is the first university to launch such a fund under the government's Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which was announced in the 2012 Budget. In addition to providing individual income tax relief of 50 per cent of the amount invested, any profits on shares held for three years under the scheme are free from capital gains tax. The Cambridge fund - which will also make use of the Enterprise Investment Scheme - will be managed by London-based investment firm Parkwalk Advisors, with investment advice provided by Cambridge Enterprise, which is responsible for commercialisation arrangements for the university.

The saucer diaries

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if a flying saucer piloted by Che Guevara crashed into the grounds of a Cheshire mansion? Wonder no more, for Dinu Li, lecturer in photography at the University of Chester, has created an artwork portraying such a scenario as part of the Tatton Park Biennial 2012. Inspired by the B-movies of 1950s Cold War America, his exhibit, titled Vex, represents a solo-piloted metal spaceship that appears to have crash-landed outside the Tatton Park house. The photography lecturer said: "Inside the ship, visitors will find a series of video messages - perhaps at first glance a distress signal - in which multiple dimensions of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, who has been the ship's pilot, extol the virtues of space flight, gardening and dub music as the new and most effective revolutionary forces at work in the world today."

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