Campus round-up

November 1, 2012

Imperial College London

From a tickle to a stream

The number of children admitted to hospital for throat infections has soared because of changes to out-of-hours care from family doctors, a report has revealed. Scientists at Imperial College London found that the number of under-18s admitted for acute throat infections, such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis, leapt by 76 per cent in just over a decade - up to 22,071 in 2010 from 12,283 in 1999. The study was prompted by concerns that falling numbers of tonsillectomies had led to the rise in admissions, but researchers suggest that the increase is probably explained by a large number of short hospital stays for children who would previously have been treated by a GP. Elizabeth Koshy, NIHR clinical research fellow at the School of Public Health at Imperial, said policymakers needed to "urgently address the issue of healthcare avoid potentially unnecessary hospital admissions for relatively minor infections".

University of Bristol

An appeal, for justice's sake

A campaign by postgraduate law students to secure an appeal in a 30-year-old criminal case has won the 2012 Pro Bono Award from the Bristol Law Society. As part of the University of Bristol's Innocence Project - an extracurricular pro bono legal clinic - Mark Allum and Ryan Jendoubi re-examined evidence in the case of William "Wullie" Beck, who was arrested in 1981 for the armed robbery of a post office van and served six years in prison. The students made two submissions to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, pointing to the "flimsy nature" of the eyewitness identification and serious errors in the way the judge directed the jury. The case has now been referred back to the High Court of Justiciary after the commission agreed that the conviction may be unsafe.

University of Cambridge/Surrey

A shout-out from outer space

Members of the public are being invited to submit videos of themselves screaming so that a student society can load them on to a smartphone that will be shot into space. Cambridge University Spaceflight will upload videos of people screaming into a specially developed smartphone app, housed on a Google Android phone that will be part of the payload on a nanosatellite built by a team from Surrey Satellite Technology and the University of Surrey's Space Centre. From orbit, the phone will relay to Earth pictures of the videos playing against the view from its in-built camera, along with a sound file that may or may not contain the screams captured in the vacuum of space. The project was inspired by the tagline from the film Alien: "In space no one can hear you scream." Screams must be submitted before the end of 4 November.

Nottingham Trent University

Meditate to rehabilitate

The effects of meditation on violent criminals are to be examined. Researchers from Nottingham Trent University will test how "meditation awareness training" affects reoffending rates, as well as anger levels, impulsivity, drug use, mood and self-harming. The eight-week training course will incorporate traditional Buddhist techniques aimed at cultivating generosity, ethical awareness, patience and compassion. Doctoral research psychologist Edo Shonin, a Buddhist monk and a member of Nottingham Trent's Psychological Wellbeing and Mental Health Research Unit, said: "We are hoping to show that, when properly executed, meditation can be an enriching and life-changing experience."

University of Wolverhampton

Read some good news about jobs

A university and a newspaper have joined forces to secure £1.4 million from the government to enable regional businesses to expand. The University of Wolverhampton and long-standing partner the Express & Star won the funding from the government's Regional Growth Fund. The Express & Star Green Shoots Fund will help to invest in 50 small to medium-sized enterprises in the Black Country to create at least 75 jobs. Businesses from key sectors such as advanced manufacturing will be able to bid for funding when the scheme is officially launched early next year. Ian Oakes, pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at Wolverhampton, said: "The Black Country is striving to reinvigorate itself after many years of industrial decline, and the university is central to driving growth through innovation and graduate skills."

University of East Anglia

You'll huff and you'll puff...

Modern building standards will leave a legacy of poor health and high bills, it has been claimed. A report by the University of East Anglia's Adapt Low Carbon Group found that energy bills for new homes are likely to be higher than anticipated and that occupant health may suffer from poor indoor air quality. Stating that building standards could leave the UK unable to meet climate change targets, it calls for radical changes in construction practice. Bruce Tofield, author of the report, Delivering a Low Energy Building, said: "There is huge concern everywhere about the lack of investment in housing and the housing shortage. But this report highlights another housing crisis that is less visible...but could be equally damaging over time."

University of Manchester

Beethoven gives voice once more

A newly discovered piece of music composed by Beethoven has been given its modern premiere. The work, composed in 1820, was unearthed by Beethoven expert Barry Cooper, a professor in the University of Manchester's Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama. It was performed at the centre by an ensemble of music students. Professor Cooper said that the two minute-long organ harmonisation of the Gregorian hymn chant Pange Lingua does not sound like typical Beethoven. "If I hadn't seen it in his own handwriting, complete with corrections, I wouldn't have believed it was by him," he said.

University of Bedfordshire

Fight cancer with a mouse

Computer experts developing methods to give cancer patients more control over their care have received £1 million in research grants from the European Commission. The money, awarded to the University of Bedfordshire's Centre for Computer Graphics and Visualisation, will support two Europe-wide projects that are due to start in early 2013. The first aims to help optimise the treatment of several cancers by allowing specialists to run complex virtual experiments using data that are specific to individuals. The second project hopes to produce a new form of health record that will make information more portable and afford patients greater control over their treatment.

London School of Economics

A new broom sweeps in more

A recently appointed university chief has announced plans to invest £15 million in hiring more staff over the next five years. Craig Calhoun, who took over as director of the London School of Economics in September, has said that he wants to appoint 20 additional academics who are or will soon be "world leaders" in their fields. "Our only precondition is excellence; other than that, we are open to scholars from any of the disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields currently studied at LSE," said Professor Calhoun, who has also set up a strategic review of the institution and its direction over the next decade.

University of Sheffield

Simon says... remember this?

A university has launched a website chronicling the history of children's games, songs and nursery rhymes. The University of Sheffield's Childhoods and Play project, funded by the British Academy, aims to develop an interactive online archive that will eventually contain information contributed by more than 20,000 young people. It will also incorporate the full archive of observations and sound recordings made by renowned folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, whose works include The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes.

Lancaster University

Get stuffed, Stuxnet

A centre dedicated to security and protection science has opened, focusing on areas such as cybersecurity, social unrest and technology. Security Lancaster, based at Lancaster University, was opened by Baroness Neville-Jones, former minister for security and counter-terrorism. Lancaster's multidisciplinary approach to the field of cybersecurity has led to its being named an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and GCHQ. Lady Neville-Jones said: "I very much welcome the emphasis here on doing research rich in intellectual content and relevant to the practical needs of society."

Experience the past with those who lived it

Two key episodes in the recent history of Essex are being brought back to life at "oral history events" taking place later this month. The University of Essex events will look back at the East Coast floods of 1953 and the establishment of the Marconi factory in Chelmsford. At the first, two survivors of the floods on the night of 31 January 1953 will share their memories, and members of the audience will be invited to discuss what happened to them and their families. At the second, held to commemorate the centenary of Guglielmo Marconi's opening of the world's first purpose-built radio factory in Chelmsford, former employees will be invited to tell their story.

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