Campus round-up

July 19, 2012

University of East Anglia

Just for lava

An academic and a comedian teamed up to demonstrate the power of volcanoes for a live BBC Two series. Jenni Barclay, reader in environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia, carried out experiments with comedian Ed Byrne using a variety of household items. The scholar's appearance on Volcano Live came a week after the launch of a £3 million UEA-led project researching better ways to monitor, predict and cope with volcanic eruptions in Latin America and the Caribbean. In her role, Dr Barclay focuses on improving public understanding of volcanic phenomena.

Plymouth University

Wave goodbye to thirst

A potentially revolutionary method of desalination is being developed by a student. Ross Cosgrove, who is studying for a master's in marine renewable energy at Plymouth University, has made scale models of a wave-energy converter, which he will test via computer simulations as well as in Plymouth's new Marine Building. The project will be one of the first to utilise the state-of-the-art wave tanks in the £19 million building, which is due to open in September. By adapting existing energy conversion technology to create fresh water, Mr Cosgrove hopes to change opinions about the importance of sustainable energy sources.

Anglia Ruskin University

Three stops to station destination

Three student accommodation buildings have been formally opened at Anglia Ruskin University. The buildings - which provide 511 en-suite bedrooms, 112 studios and 399 apartments - were designed by architects tp bennett. They form one component of an 800,000 sq ft development around Cambridge Station, which when completed will also include shops, restaurants, bars, a new public square and a refurbished station concourse.

Northumbria University

Catching on

A three-year project is to examine why diseases become "fashionable", arouse intense public interest and even become perversely attractive before rapidly disappearing. Academics from the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Northumbria University have been awarded more than £250,000 from the Leverhulme Trust to examine the phenomenon, specifically in the period between 1660 and 1832, which they will then compare and contrast with the present day. Clark Lawlor, reader in 18th-century and Romantic English literature, said: "From consumption and gout in the 18th century to 'thinspiration' websites praising anorexia, and Sars or swine flu more recently, diseases come and go - sometimes with alarming rapidity."

Aberdeen/Robert Gordon

Call the rural midwife

Researchers have been awarded nearly £400,000 to train midwives in rural Malawi. The money from the Scottish government will also enable scholars from the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University to gather evidence on the effectiveness of their methods. Tracy Humphrey, clinical professor of midwifery at Robert Gordon, said: "Most of the population of Malawi live in rural communities, but most of the women in these areas give birth without the support of a midwife, because most midwives prefer to work in urban hospitals."

Institute of Education

Patriotism a minority interest

Ethnic minorities living in the UK feel more British than their white counterparts, according to the largest study of race conducted in the UK. Researchers at the Institute of Education found that almost all minorities identify more strongly as British than the white majority, many of whom say they feel no association with "being British". People from Indian, black African, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern Muslim communities associated most closely with Britishness, according to the survey of more than 40,000 UK households.

University College London

Status: late, crowded, hot as hell

A crowd-sourcing app developed by academics could help to improve travel on London Underground. Researchers at University College London have created a mobile phone application, Tube Star, which aims to capture the experience of being on the Underground network as reported by passengers. Users of the Android app can also view the official Transport for London status of all Tube lines, as well as reports from fellow passengers. "By analysing user-generated data, we can predict people's journeys and give them information relevant to them in real time - this is a service for the people by the people," said Neal Lathia, honorary research associate in UCL's department of computer science, who developed the app.

University of Westminster

Salute the brave

Civil-rights activist Tommie Smith has spoken to students about his famous "black power" salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Dr Smith addressed an audience at the University of Westminster on 10 July at an event organised by Podium, which encourages partnerships between higher education and the Olympic movement. The 200m gold medallist and his teammate John Carlos were expelled from the games after each raised a clenched, black glove-covered fist during the medal ceremony. They were ostracised by the sporting Establishment for their protest over racism in the US, but the salute has become one of the most iconic Olympic images.

Durham University

Big Bang theorising

David Willetts has unveiled a £3.7 million supercomputer capable of simulating the evolution of the Universe. The computer, developed by the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, is one of the most powerful in the UK and will be dedicated to scientific research. During the visit to Durham, the universities and science minister also saw demonstrations of non-invasive optical technology at the Biophysical Sciences Institute and key research at the Durham Energy Institute.

University of Sheffield

Economic engine

A large centre to train workers in advanced manufacturing has been awarded planning permission. The 5,500 sq m facility at the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing will train 250 young apprentices a year - rising to 400 once the programme is fully under way - in sectors such as aerospace, energy and Formula One. Keith Ridgway, research director and founder of the AMRC, said: "The training centre is essential to our vision of bringing together research and world-class engineering...with real business challenges and issues in manufacture." The AMRC now has some 60 partner companies, including world leaders such as Rolls-Royce.

University of Nottingham

Up to 11: none more damaging?

Researchers are recruiting 2,000 older music fans to probe whether loud music really does damage your ears. The research will be carried out at the National Institute for Health Research's National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, based at the University of Nottingham. PhD student Robert Mackinnon, who will carry out the study, said: "While we are frequently cautioned about the risks of loud music in popular culture and mainstream media ... there simply isn't enough scientific evidence at present to convincingly confirm or dismiss the danger of music-induced hearing loss."

Manchester/Uclan

Partners go West

Two universities have signed a memorandum of understanding specifically designed to strengthen the quantity and quality of higher education research and education programmes in West Cumbria. The agreement between the University of Manchester and the University of Central Lancashire aims to develop research and teaching at the Westlakes Science and Technology Park. Uclan's Westlakes Campus is situated there, while Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute opened a research base - the Dalton Cumbrian Facility - at the location last year.

University of Southampton

We came, we saw, we scanned

University archaeologists and engineers are collaborating with the British Museum to examine buried Roman coins using the latest X-ray imaging technology. Originally designed to analyse engineering parts such as jet turbine blades, the scanning equipment at the University of Southampton's (mu)-VIS Computed Tomography Centre is being used to examine coins buried in three recovered artefacts. The centre's equipment can scan inside objects, rotating 360 degs while taking thousands of 2D images that are then used to build detailed 3D pictures. Thanks to the scanning, the coins can be examined in intricate detail without the need for excavation.

Portrait of leadership

All the vice-chancellors of a university have been immortalised in a painting to mark the institution's 50th anniversary. The seven heads of the University of Sussex are depicted in the piece, which has been hung in the institution's library. The portrait depicts (left to right): Sir Denys Wilkinson (seated), current vice-chancellor Michael Farthing, Baron Fulton of Falmer, Baron Briggs of Lewes, Sir Leslie Fielding, Alasdair Smith (seated) and Sir Gordon Conway. The painting was created and donated to Sussex by artist Stephen Farthing, the incumbent vice-chancellor's brother. All were present to attend the unveiling of the artwork on 4 July bar Lord Fulton, who died in 1986.

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