Campus round-up

November 22, 2012

Royal Holloway, University of London

Suffer the migrant children

A film charting the plight of a young Afghan refugee deported from the UK has been submitted as evidence to a parliamentary human rights committee. Hamedullah: The Road Home, directed by Sue Clayton, lecturer in screenwriting at Royal Holloway, University of London, follows the story of Hamedullah Hassany, who fled from Afghanistan as a child. He lived in Kent until the day after his 18th birthday, when UK Border Agency officers detained him after a dawn raid. Ms Clayton hopes to change government policy by submitting the film to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Hywel Francis, MP for Aberavon, which has launched an inquiry into the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in the UK.

Goldsmiths, University of London

Keyboard shortcut

An enterprising student has created a smartphone application that allows users to turn any tabletop into a keyboard. The Vibrative Virtual Keyboard uses an iPhone's built-in accelerometer to read vibrations as fingers tap a surface to work out which key is being pressed. The software ana-lyses the strength and frequency of the tremor and is able to judge the location of each strike on a standard Qwerty keyboard. The system was created by Swiss designer Florian Kräutli, who is studying for a one-year MSc in cognitive computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. He said the app "aims to appease the frustration felt by smartphone users when faced with drafting lengthy emails or notes on a small onscreen keyboard".

Brunel University

Machines for living with

Computer science students have been given their own robot to train for a university competition. Around 200 first-year undergraduates at Brunel University have been handed a Finch robot to take home and experiment with throughout the year. Students will compete in a "Robot Olympics" during the spring term, with machines undertaking tasks such as navigating obstacle courses. Martin Shepperd, undergraduate programmes director at the School of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, said: "We hope that because they are fun to work with, they will arouse students' curiosity and help them to gain a better understanding of the subject area."

Plymouth University

Smack - a dangerous habit

Parents who smack or shout at their children could be placing them at greater risk of developing cancer, heart disease and asthma, research has suggested. Psychologists from Plymouth University have published research in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showing that the use of harsh punishment in childhood increases the risk of disease in later life. They say the link could be that such measures cause stress, and increased stress levels in childhood cause physiological changes. The study, involving 700 people in Saudi Arabia, found that those who had cancer were 1.7 times more likely to have been beaten as a child than members of a healthy sample.


Bloom with a molecular view

Researchers are asking the public to help unlock the secrets of magnetism at the molecular level by taking part in a project titled Feynman's Flowers. The scheme, launched by the London Centre for Nanotechnology, a joint venture between University College London and Imperial College London, will invite volunteers from across the world to analyse microscopic images of individual molecules with characteristic flower shapes. The project is named after physicist Richard Feynman, who in the 1950s speculated about what might happen if it were possible to manipulate matter at the atomic scale. The data will contribute to research that aims to learn more about the molecules' magnetic properties and how they could be useful for making nanoscale devices to manipulate or store information.

Keele University

Sources of inspiration

A Labour MP and historian is teaming up with a university to host a free national conference connecting academics with history teachers. Joined Up Teaching - backed by Keele University and Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central - is aimed at history teachers who want to develop their subject knowledge of the topics they teach at GCSE and A level. Among the presentations will be an introduction to the History Virtual Academy - an innovative way of connecting A-level students with university academics. The event takes place on 29 November.

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Anglia Ruskin University

Suicide watch

A European-wide research project aimed at reducing the rate of suicide among young people has been launched. Anglia Ruskin University has joined institutions in Sweden, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Spain to carry out a study aimed at developing an internet-based mental health promotion and suicide prevention programme for people aged 14 to 24. The Supreme project (Suicide Prevention by Internet and Media Based Mental Health Promotion) will also form the basis of European Union guidelines on the effects of online activity on young people's mental well-being.

Birmingham City University

Victory lap of luxury

A university thinktank has argued that the Midlands is the UK's second-best exporter thanks to local brand-led firms' skill in attracting overseas business. Idea Birmingham - Birmingham City University's business thinktank - makes the arguments in a report titled Looking for Growth: Sack the Economists, Hire a Designer. Beverley Nielsen, founder of Idea Birmingham and director of employer engagement at the university, said that companies such as Rolls-Royce and small to medium-sized businesses such as Brooks England are meeting the demands of consumers around the world for luxury products. She added: "Growth doesn't come from talking about economic models - it comes from supporting firms that innovate and design the products that people want to buy."

University of Nottingham

Spirit of self-reliance

A student has carried out pioneering research into the impact of the 1994 Rwandan genocide on Tutsi women. For her PhD in the department of French and francophone studies at the University of Nottingham, Caroline Williamson worked in Rwanda for a year with the Aegis Trust ensuring that English translations of witness testimonies were accurate before they became part of the Genocide Archive Rwanda. She went on to analyse some of the testimonies for her own research. "The women...lost husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. Often they were subjected to horrific sexual attacks. But these women often came through...with a raised sense of self-reliance," she said.

University of East Anglia

Parent trap

The government should rethink plans that would allow working parents to split maternity leave between them, a leading family expert has claimed. Margaret O'Brien, co-director of the Centre for Research on the Child and Family at the University of East Anglia, is backing a statement from the Fatherhood Institute that criticises the "bizarre" proposals because they make fathers' entitlements dependent on mothers' work status. Professor O'Brien said the changes would have no positive impact and would amount to "a de facto statement that a mother's child-rearing role is more important".

University of Bedfordshire

From the scans of babes

Doctors could soon be able to better identify newborn babies at risk of brain development problems, thanks to university research. A computerised system designed at the University of Bedfordshire can accurately estimate brain patterns from electroencephalogram (EEG) tests, which could help doctors to prevent long-term damage. Currently, EEGs of newborn babies are difficult to interpret, so less reliable ultrasound scanning is often used instead.

Wall of sound

Researchers are working on ways to create higher-quality 3D sound to match the rapid developments in visual technologies. Filippo Fazi, lecturer in engineering and the environment at the University of Southampton's Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, is involved in a collaboration between the BBC and South Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute to create "super surround sound". Trialled in a soundproofed room using sophisticated processing technology and 40 loudspeakers, the project aims to produce the illusion of being in a "virtual" acoustic environment. "Authentic 'surround sound' would bring movies or orchestras to life in your own home and transform your listening experience," said Dr Fazi.

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