Campus round-up

September 20, 2012

University of Bath

To beat diabetes, sprint

Couch potatoes are being sought to take part in research into Type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Bath have shown that performing a couple of short, intense cycle sprints three times a week could be enough to prevent and possibly treat the illness, which occurs when reduced insulin function allows blood sugar levels to build up to dangerously high levels. PhD researcher Richard Metcalfe, leading the study, is looking for volunteers who currently do not exercise regularly to come to the university and take part in three, 10-minute exercise sessions a week for six weeks. The researchers want to see if the breaking-down of muscle sugar stores during exercise will improve volunteers' insulin function.

University of Nottingham

Virtuous cycle

Twelve university staff members have completed a two-week, 1,100-mile cycle ride to raise money to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds access higher education. The University of Nottingham's Life Cycle team has raised more than £230,000 towards the Nottingham Potential campaign. Vice-chancellor David Greenaway, who was part of a similar venture last year, said the ride from Cape Wrath in northern Scotland to Dover would "make a huge impact on increasing awareness and funds for educationally disadvantaged young people". He added: "We want to ensure that financial concerns do not limit the ambition of those with the ability to achieve academic excellence."

University of York

It's more than youth and money

Traditional gender differences in criteria for selecting sexual partners may not be genetically hard-wired, research suggests. Scientists have typically believed that men's need for fertile partners and women's need for partners able to invest resources in their children led to an evolved preference for young women and wealthy men, respectively. But two psychologists from the University of York, Marcel Zentner and Klaudia Mitura, found that the gender differences in preference reduce as sexual equality in society increases. The finding is based on a questionnaire completed by over 12,000 people from more than 30 countries.

University of Bedfordshire

Cultural similarities

An art and design master's student is one of the first UK artists to hold a solo exhibition in Iraq since the outbreak of war in 2003. University of Bedfordshire student Ben Hodson exhibited his work at the Ismail Khayat Gallery in Sulaymaniyah, with the aim of proving that Iraqis and Britons have more in common than might initially seem apparent. Hundreds of people visited the exhibition, which consisted of photo montages depicting everyday scenes from Luton and portraits of people living in the town. His work will now tour Bedfordshire.

University of Warwick

Gifted unwrapped

Postgraduate researchers will investigate the issue of education for "gifted and talented" pupils. The University of Warwick and the International Gateway for Gifted Youth (Iggy) are investing more than £30,000 in two postgraduate scholarships to examine the current educational opportunities for gifted children. Adam Boddison, academic principal at Iggy, said: "We want to get to grips with how gifted education is currently being practised, and want our two researchers to suggest ways that Iggy can further improve it."

Aston University

Engineering a solution

A university technical college that is being sponsored by a higher education institution has welcomed its first students. The £16.5 million Aston University Engineering Academy will allow 600 students aged 14 to 19 to specialise in engineering and science, together with the core subjects of English, mathematics, languages and business. Julia King, Aston vice-chancellor, said: "Aston University is working alongside the Engineering Academy, and key employers are developing and delivering a curriculum capable of playing a key role in addressing the manufacturing and engineering technical skills gap in both the West Midlands region and the UK as whole."

University of Worcester

Not to be sneezed at

A university's scientists have contributed to a Health Protection Agency report on climate change. The document explores the risks to public health from the global phenomenon and includes research into the "effects of aeroallergens on human health under climate change", carried out by Roy Kennedy and Matt Smith of the University of Worcester's National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit. They conclude that allergy sufferers could expect to see longer pollen seasons, starting earlier in the year, with more rapid symptom development due to an increased potency of aeroallergens associated with pollen and fungal spores.

Queen Mary, University of London

Heading for a knockout

Most professional English football teams do not comply with international guidelines on dealing with concussion, research suggests. The Consensus in Sport guidelines, first developed in 2001 and advocated by football's world governing body Fifa, state that all players must undergo cognitive assessment and be thoroughly tested for concussive symptoms before the season starts. But research by Jo Price, a master's student at the Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, found that one in four professional clubs said that they had not heard of the guidelines, "potentially putting their players at risk", she said. Almost half the teams that replied to Dr Price's survey did not follow guidelines, which state that a player must not play for at least six days after suffering concussion.

Goldsmiths, University of London

Variations on a theme

An electro-pop musician has teamed up with academics to create a format for his debut album that means listeners will never hear the same music twice. Gwilym Gold and his producer Lexx developed a smartphone and tablet application called Bronze with researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London. The format manipulates and changes musical elements of songs on the album, Tender Metal, allowing them to mutate every time they are played. Mick Grierson, lecturer in Goldsmith's department of computing, said the new format meant each track "will be subtly different each time, while still retaining the quality and balance of the original mix". The Bronze app, and therefore Gold's album, is currently only available for Apple formats such as the iPhone and the iPad. There are no plans to release a "definitive" version of the work as a CD or a download.

University of Oxford

Calling all stargazers

An international team of astronomers is asking the public to help classify hundreds of thousands of recently observed galaxies. The group behind Galaxy Zoo - co-founded by University of Oxford academics - has launched a new version of its website, which allows people to classify the galaxies they see as spiral or elliptical, alongside quirkier shapes such as letters of the alphabet or animals. According to Chris Lintott, the project's principal investigator from Oxford, humans are better than computers at such pattern recognition tasks. More than 250,000 people have taken part in the project since 2007, sorting through more than 1 million images. The new images added to the site come from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey based in New Mexico and Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope.

Plymouth University

Concrete jungle track

Some of the nation's top mountain bikers will be heading to a university later this month for a race with a twist. Plymouth University will host the annual Urban Downhill Charity Cycle Event on 29 September, which includes riding down flights of stairs and outdoor obstacles across the university's campus. Organiser and Plymouth graduate Jon Catney said the race was a way to get hardened mountain bikers to mix with "new kids on the block" and was one of the most popular races of the year.

University of East Anglia

More reasons to have sex?

The activation of diverse sets of genes during sex can alter fertility, immunity, libido, eating and sleep patterns in females, a university study has found. Researchers at the University of East Anglia studied how female fruit flies respond to mating and discovered that a single protein in semen generates a wide range of responses in many of their genes. The findings could be akin to responses in other animals (including humans) where semen is released inside the female's body during sex, the researchers claim. The paper was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

Graphic information

A manga-style comic created by an academic is helping medical staff to treat patients suffering from bleeding. Ian Roberts, professor of epidemiology and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, devised a storyline to highlight research into the life-saving benefits of tranexamic acid, which reduces blood clot breakdown. It was turned into a Japanese-style comic strip by professional artist Emma Vieceli and colourist Paul Duffield, who set the scene in a busy emergency department as staff rush to treat people following two explosions. Amid the drama, doctors call for a dose of the drug to stop a patient from bleeding to death. The cartoon follows a study by Professor Roberts and international collaborators on almost 20,000 patients into the effectiveness of the clotting drug.

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