Campus round-up

October 18, 2012

Nottingham Trent University

Franklin my dear, we give a damn

Fertility specialist and television presenter Lord Winston has opened a multimillion-pound science facility named in honour of Rosalind Franklin, the British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who played a vital (if at the time largely unacknowledged) role in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. The building at Nottingham Trent University's Clifton Campus, opened on 15 October, will house chemistry and bioscience teaching laboratories that can cater for up to 200 students simultaneously, and also accommodate research by the School of Science and Technology, including the emerging field of "nanomedicine". Nottingham Trent hopes that shared space within the Rosalind Franklin Building will facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration.

Bucks New University

Restoration work

Students are getting a foot in the door to the world of work thanks to a company created specifically for alumni. Bucks Conservation, launched by Bucks New University on 8 October, aims to provide support for graduates through commercial conservation and restoration work under the guidance of university staff. Commissions previously carried out by the institution include work for prestigious clients such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Trust and Lord Rothschild. Selected graduates will be employed by the company for 12 to 18 months, allowing them to develop their conservation skills and expertise while sharpening their business acumen.

University of Essex

Do the Roma rights thing

A scholarship aimed at protecting and promoting the Roma community's human rights has accepted its first student. Angel Ivanov, a Roma student from Bulgaria, arrived at the University of Essex after winning the Human Rights Centre's 30th anniversary scholarship for Roma students. The scholarship is designed to equip recipients with the knowledge and skills necessary to represent the Roma people within decision-making bodies. A second Roma student, Ciprian Ionita, has also accepted a place at the university thanks to assistance from the Human Rights Centre. Rainer Schulze, the centre's director, said: "Even though many Roma people no longer travel, accessing mainstream education remains a significant problem, and they still face much prejudice and discrimination across Europe."

University of East Anglia

Classical economics

Could ancient Greek thinkers such as Plato and Pythagoras help economists solve their country's modern-day problems? This is one of the questions being asked in a public lecture series at the University of East Anglia, where experts will consider whether philosophy can help economists understand the global financial crisis that has unfolded over the past five years. Organiser Rupert Read, reader at UEA's School of Philosophy, said: "We will look at whether the current situation will be resolved by a return to 'business as usual' - or if a whole new philosophy of economics is on the point of emerging." The series runs until 6 December.

University of Bedfordshire

More force? We'll hardly feel it

"Mucking around" with laws about how much force people can use to defend their homes will in reality change little, a legal academic has claimed. Jon Silverman, professor of media and criminal law at the University of Bedfordshire, made the comments after ministers announced that the law on self-defence is to be updated. Currently under the law, homeowners can use "reasonable force" to defend themselves in their homes; the change would mean that they could use "disproportionate" force in exceptional circumstances. "Mucking around with the wording of the law is not going to make much difference," said Professor Silverman. "It is very difficult to outline the difference between reasonable and disproportionate force in these cases."

London School of Economics

Double doc goodies

A university is to double the number of its doctoral scholarships. The London School of Economics will provide 59 fully funded PhD awards for entrants from 2013. It means that most of the LSE's doctoral candidates will be fully funded either by the institution or via external sources such as research councils. Studentships worth £18,000 a year for four years will be awarded on the basis of academic achievement and research potential, and are open to candidates of all nationalities and in all subject areas. "Our PhD programme can only be further strengthened with these generous scholarships, which will enable us to support the most academically promising candidates," said Craig Calhoun, the LSE's director.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Cellist's swansong

A former music school director gave an impromptu cello recital at his retirement party. Derek Aviss, who is stepping down as executive director of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, took to the stage at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel in Greenwich to perform Song of the Birds by Pablo Casals, backed by a cello ensemble made up of his former students. Professor Aviss, a former professional cellist, performed the piece from memory with no preparation beforehand. Tributes were paid to his professional achievements, including his role in relocating the institution's previous incarnation - the Trinity College of Music - to its current site in Greenwich.

Bangor University

Nary a dry eye in the house

A link between dehydration and dry eye syndrome has been established. Researchers at Bangor University's School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences proved the link using a small-scale trial on older hospital patients suffering from the condition, where they found that good hydration eased the ailment. Neil Walsh, a professor at the school, said he was "surprised" by the lack of research hitherto published on the link. Prescription treatments such as eye drops cost the NHS in England £32 million a year, the university said.

Coventry University

Healthy harvest

Vegetable gardens are good for people and for communities, according to researchers. A programme run by a charity specialising in organic growing was evaluated by researchers at Coventry University's Centre for Agroecology and Food Security and its Centre for Sustainable Regeneration. The Garden Organic charity recruited, trained and supported more than 400 volunteers to become master gardeners, who then worked with their local communities to encourage more people to grow food. The Coventry research found evidence of behavioural change, as the majority of volunteers and households grew more food and a greater range of produce after joining the programme.

University of Warwick

Partners' great chemistry

The fields of chemistry and materials/polymer science are the focus of the first joint research roles forged under a pioneering Anglo-Australian partnership. The Monash University and the University of Warwick Alliance will appoint six professors: each will be based primarily at one of the institutions but will spend significant time at the other. The appointments are part of a plan to invest at least £2 million in the creation of at least 10 joint senior academic posts. Andrew Coats, academic vice-president and director of the alliance, said that in the areas of green chemistry, polymers and materials science, "together we will be able to achieve more than would be possible alone".

University of Dundee

Passage to India and employment

Twenty recent graduates will be offered six-month work placements in India to give them a greater understanding of the Asian giant's rapidly growing economy. The University of Dundee will select recently qualified graduates from across the UK and enrol them on its Global Internship Graduate Certificate (India) programme. The initiative is being run with Sannam S4, a firm that helps foreign companies enter the Indian market, and is part- funded by the British Council. Pete Downes, Dundee's vice-chancellor, said that the experience would help boost the graduates' employment prospects when they returned to the UK.

University of Brighton

Quilling fields a prickly subject

A university has joined with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to try to discover why hedgehog numbers in the UK are declining. Students from the University of Brighton will study the movements of 32 radio-tagged hedgehogs in an effort to find out where the creatures live over the winter and their survival rates. Estimates suggest that the number of hedgehogs in the UK has fallen from about 30 million in the 1950s to just over 1 million today. Dawn Scott, the university's head of biology and biomedical sciences, said the exact causes of the decline were as yet unknown, but the possibilities include changes in land use, pesticides reducing insect food sources and road kills.

Vision thing

Scientists studying a species of crow famed for its intelligence believe they have discovered why the birds are able to use "tools" such as twigs and leaves with such accuracy. Research into New Caledonian crows - a species native to an island in the southwest Pacific - carried out by academics at the University of Birmingham suggests that the answer lies in their vision rather than their purportedly superior intelligence. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, show that the birds' wide binocular field of vision and straight bills enable them to use tools with a high degree of accuracy and to find food hidden in otherwise inaccessible places.

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