Campus round-up

September 6, 2012

University of Bath

Time out for good measure

The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby have recruited a team of three academics to evaluate a new method of examining injured players for concussion during matches. Keith Stokes, Grant Trewartha and PhD student Matt Cross from the University of Bath's department for health will be weighing the effectiveness of a standardised procedure in which injured players are temporarily substituted so that they can safely be assessed for longer periods during match play. Simon Kemp, head of sports medicine at the RFU, said: "The independent evaluation will allow us to assess the effectiveness of the trial and the sensitivity and specificity of the assessment tool."

University of Cambridge

Worse case, but why?

Scientists have attempted to uncover why some tsunamis, such as the one that hit Japan after the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011, are so much larger than expected. Dan McKenzie and James Jackson, researchers at the University of Cambridge's department of earth sciences, have developed a model to explain the unprecedented damage caused by a number of tsunamis. Writing in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, they describe how, in the case of the 2011 tsunami, a collapse of soft material on the seabed resulted in a greater movement of water than would have been caused by the earthquake alone.

Coventry University

Street-level enterprise

A social enterprise charity led by an English university has been working with Big Issue sellers in South Africa, helping them to develop new skills and enter the business world. Using a cafe in Bellville, Cape Town as a base, the Technical and Business Education Initiative in South Africa (Tabeisa), led by Coventry University, created an enterprise training programme for the magazine vendors, teaching catering skills and giving support to those interested in starting up a company. Tabeisa received funding from Comic Relief for the project, which aims to help vendors reintegrate into mainstream society.

University of Wolverhampton

Mapping routes to rehabilitation

Representatives of an organisation that supports victims of conflict around the world have completed a specially devised training programme. Five experts from the US-based Clear Path International, which provides rehabilitation and support to survivors of landmines, studied the course, titled Project and Programme Thinking Skills, at the University of Wolverhampton's Telford Campus. Delivered by the university's Centre for International Development and Training and focused on working with the UK's Department for International Development and the European Union, the tailor-made programme included sessions on bidding for DFID and EU grants and contracts.

University of Dundee

Teams work on better teamwork

Two departments in a Scottish university have teamed up to improve the quality of child protection in the community. The University of Dundee's School of Education, Social Work and Community Education and its Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification have begun working together to explore the possibilities of interdisciplinary collaboration for those undertaking child death reviews. The partnership has received £18,000 in funding from the Scottish Universities Insight Institute to host a series of events exploring how such partnerships can enhance the review process.

Imperial College London/UCL

Brain-powered fists of fury

Distinctive brain features in martial arts experts may explain the mystery behind the famous "one-inch punch" popularised by kung fu legend Bruce Lee. It is not fully understood how fighters can generate so much power in such a short distance (usually 1-6in), but research by a team of scientists from Imperial College London and University College London has indicated that brain development may play a significant role. A test of 12 karate experts against 12 martial arts novices found that the more experienced group punched harder across a distance of 5cm, or approximately 2in. The difference is attributable mainly to technique, suggest the researchers in a paper published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, but black-belt fighters also show significant differences in the cerebellum and primary motor cortex, the parts of the brain that control movement.

University of East Anglia

First-world well, third-world ills

Children drinking from around half of the UK's private water supplies are five times more likely to contract stomach infections than those drinking other water, research has found. A study by scientists at the University of East Anglia, published in journal PLoS One, shows that children under 10 who drink from contaminated water supplies are suffering around five bouts of sickness or diarrhoea a year. This figure is similar to the rates of infection among children in the developing world. Paul Hunter, clinical professor at UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "As well as children being more at risk, they also suffer the most from an episode of diarrhoea - with greater rates of hospitalisation and higher mortality rates."

University of Bedfordshire

Care home truths

Diabetes treatment for care home residents could be improved thanks to a drive launched with an academic's help. The Care Home Diabetes Audit, led by Alan Sinclair, professor of medicine at the University of Bedfordshire, is to examine current diabetes procedure and practice in care homes across England, where per cent of residents are diabetic. The survey seeks to identify quality standards that could be picked up by the Care Quality Commission. Professor Sinclair said the primary purposes of the audit were to highlight areas needing support and "gain better insight into the difficulties of providing enhanced care".

Royal Holloway, University of London

Lofty achievements

A PhD student helped to choreograph the aerial displays at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics. Tina Carter, a doctoral candidate in the department of drama and theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, trained the acrobat performers for the multi-million-pound spectacle at the Olympic Stadium on 29 August. The opening ceremony, titled Enlightenment, featured deaf and disabled artists, local children and performers newly trained in circus skills. Ms Carter, a practising aerialist whose doctoral research focuses on the subject, said: "We have had only four months from start to finish, so it has been very intense."

University College London

Disease casts long shadow

One in three children hit by meningitis will suffer long-term, often hidden, after-effects, research has suggested. The study, led by Russell Viner, professor of adolescent health at University College London's Institute of Child Health, indicates that sufferers of the meningococcal group B disease (MenB), the most common type of bacterial meningitis in the UK, are significantly more likely to experience mental health problems - with one in five suffering anxiety or behavioural disorders. Those who survive the disease are also five times more likely to have speech problems or hearing impairment.

University of Aberdeen

Too turned on to turn-ons

Researchers have discovered a genetic "switch" that could explain why some people are more susceptible to conditions including obesity and addiction. Scientists from the University of Aberdeen's Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics looked at the gene CNR1. It produces what are known as cannabinoid receptors, which activate parts of the brain involved in memory, mood, appetite and pain. It was found that a mutation of the gene increases its function and boosts activity in these parts of the brain, as well as in the hippocampus, which is affected in psychosis.

University of Edinburgh

They like to think with pen and ink

First-year students are reluctant to use computers to write examination answers, preferring pen and paper, a survey carried out at a Scottish university has suggested. The exam techniques of 200 first-year undergraduates in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh were studied by researchers, who found that just 8 per cent availed themselves of the opportunity to use a computer in exams, even after being given the chance to practise on the machines beforehand. Those who used a computer tended to produce longer answers and edited their responses more than those who used pen and paper.

Two cultures collide

Doctoral students are hoping to bring their research to a new audience by translating it into street art. Ten PhD and EngD students from the University of Bristol joined the See No Evil urban art festival last month, spray-painting interpretations of their research live in front of visitors to the city. Artists included Blake Kendrick, whose piece Organised Thought: Chaos to Clarity is intended to represent how systems techniques and the scientific method bring order to chaos while still allowing space for creativity and inspiration. Additional artwork produced by the students included ReTinA by David Wilby, Natasha Watson's The Start of Greener Buildings and Richard Craig's Hidden Threats, the last of which aims to give a sense of the malicious agents operating within the internet. The doctoral students' work was overseen by Bristol-based street artist Dan Petley, who is also known as "Old Master".

1. Organised Thought: Chaos to Clarity

2. ReTinA

3. The Start of Greener Buildings

4. Hidden Threats

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