Campus round-up

August 9, 2012

Nottingham Trent University

Hive minds

A colony of 10,000 honeybees has been established on a university's city campus in the hope of boosting urban biodiversity and helping to arrest the insect's decline. A hive has been established on the roof of Nottingham Trent University's Newton Building, and it is hoped that the colony's numbers could eventually rise to 60,000. The university - which hopes to begin producing its own honey by the end of the summer - has also set up a "bee cam" so that online viewers can see inside the hive. Nottingham Trent now hosts bees on all three of its campuses.

University of Leicester

Sugar not so sweet

People of South Asian origin have naturally higher blood sugar levels than white Europeans, researchers have found. The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Leicester, could help to explain why South Asians are more prone than Europeans to type 2 diabetes. It found that people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan origin have higher blood sugar levels - which increases the risk of diabetes - independent of other risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and smoking. The study involved nearly 4,700 Europeans and nearly 1,400 South Asians.

University of Lincoln

Benefits of cooperation

A university and its local cooperative society have unveiled plans to open a £14 million science and innovation park. The University of Lincoln will move its School of Life Sciences to the 10-acre site at the heart of Lincoln, which is owned by Lincolnshire Co-operative. It will also establish a new School of Pharmacy there, in the hope of attracting pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to the site. Lincoln's vice-chancellor, Mary Stuart, said: "This is a tremendously exciting step for the university as we strengthen and grow our science provision, and one that will bring massive benefits to the city in terms of employment and inward investment."

University of Birmingham

Gold metallists

Researchers have developed a method to visualise gold on the nanoscale. Scientists at the University of Birmingham used a special probe beam to make an image of 20 atoms of gold bound together to make a cluster. The research, published in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Nanoscale, revealed the atomic arrangement 10 years after physicists first theorised its existence. Clusters of metal atoms are used in catalysis in various industries including oil refining, the food industry, fine chemicals, perfumery and pharmaceuticals, as well as in fuel cells for clean power systems for cars.

Birkbeck, University of London

Chuckle mothers

Scientists are trying to understand why babies laugh. Researchers at Birkbeck, University of London, are calling on parents of children under two years old to send them examples of what makes their babies chuckle. They believe the findings will shed light on the social and emotional development of infants. Caspar Addyman, who is leading the study, said: "Studying when and why babies laugh will provide a good insight into what they understand about the world at different ages." To take part in the survey, go to

Imperial College London

How the west was won

A university has been given planning permission to build a second major campus. Plans for Imperial College London to build the new 7.5-acre technology campus on the site of the BBC's former Wood Lane studios were approved by Hammersmith and Fulham Council on 25 July. The Imperial West campus will include a 35-storey tower block despite objections from local residents. The site will create 3,200 new jobs, provide new postgraduate and research facilities, and create a new public space the size of Soho Square in central London, the university said. Project director John Anderson said: "The redevelopment will improve the urban environment, visual appearance and access to a site that has been closed to the public for many decades."

Swansea University

Enter the dragon

A scholar of Welsh writers has won a British Academy fellowship that will enable him to edit the works of a 15th-century poet. Cynfael Lake, a senior lecturer based at the Academi Hywel Teifi, a Welsh language centre at Swansea University, will study the poems of Hywel Dafi, who is the only major Welsh 15th-century poet whose work remains to be edited. Dafiwrote mostly in tribute to gentry families in Breconshire with whom he shared common descent.

Edinburgh/St Andrews

Ease the disease

Scientists from the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh have found a potential solution to the severe side-effects caused by drugs used to treat diseases such as African sleeping sickness, which kills about 30,000 people every year according to World Health Organisation figures. The team studied the class of drugs known as 5-nitrofurans and have proposed an alternative drug combination that could be more effective - as well as easier on the patient. Current treatments have changed little in 60 years, and unpleasant side-effects often mean patients have to stop taking them.

Northumbria University

Open for business

Half a million pounds has been awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to support a university's work with employers. Northumbria University will use the money to help it continue to deliver education to people already in employment. In addition, Northumbria will develop degree programmes with employers, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises, and create a graduate internship scheme. Lucy Winskell, pro vice-chancellor for region, engagement and partnerships, said: "This award is further testament to the fact that we are indeed open for business."



Two institutions have won awards recognising their contributions to the online referencing site Wikipedia. The Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Bristol came first and second, respectively, in the Educational Institution of the Year category at the inaugural UK Wikimedian of the Year 2012 awards. Wikimedia UK, a charity that supports Wikipedia, said the universities' efforts had "gone above and beyond the call of duty to help bring open knowledge to all". The Oxford institute has set up a research project to look at how new users from under-represented populations can be encouraged to become involved with the site, while Bristol has hired a paid intern to explore ways to improve staff and student interaction with Wikipedia.

University of Exeter

Shark-infested waters

The number of basking sharks in British waters may be on the rise, research has shown. An analysis of public sightings of the species, carried out by academics at the University of Exeter, suggests that measures to protect the world's second-largest fish, introduced towards the end of the 20th century, may be paying off. Basking sharks - slow-moving filter feeders - were commercially hunted in the 20th century for food and shark liver oil before gaining protection in UK law in 1998. The work, carried out with the Marine Conservation Society, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Wave Action, also studied the fish's habitats and behaviours; it was published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Plymouth University

Global resources

Academic material from one UK university has been downloaded more than 1 million times over two years through the iTunes U site. Podcasts, lectures, course details and research reports from Plymouth University have been accessed by members of the public all over the world through the site. Plymouth's biggest audiences are from the US and the UK, along with China, India, Australia and Russia, with an average 35,000 views and 17,000 downloads each week. Computing and network security are the most popular topics for downloads, but the institution said it plans to build on the available material in business, mathematics and the arts.

University of Liverpool

Redbricks and mortars

Celebrations marked the 120th anniversary of the building that inspired the term "redbrick university". Honorary graduates, staff and friends of the University of Liverpool marked 120 years of the Victoria Building with a film screening at a dinner at St George's Hall as part of this year's graduation celebrations. The film, produced by the university's corporate communications team, explored the building's history, the people who have passed through its doors and what it means to Liverpool today. Opened on 13 December 1892, the Victoria Building, designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse, made Liverpool the original redbrick university - a term that became synonymous with the late 19th-century civic universities.

First Lady talks tactics

Michelle Obama gave US athletes a pre-Olympics pep talk at a London university. The First Lady met members of Team USA at the University of East London's new £21 million SportsDock facility on the day of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games. During her visit to the Docklands campus, Ms Obama said that the Olympics had inspired her father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, to retain his athletic spirit, just as they had millions of people across the world. Ending her speech on a lighter note, she told the athletes: "Try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit and look around you ... but also win, right?"

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