Campus round-up

November 29, 2012

University of Bedfordshire

Touch of the Irish

A course equipping undergraduates studying physical education with the skills needed to become qualified Gaelic football and hurling instructors has been launched to boost the prevalence of Irish sport in the UK. The University of Bedfordshire has signed an agreement with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to train all final-year PE students in Gaelic sports each year. The initiative will "bring Irish sports to thousands of children across Britain", the university said. Ciara O'Brien, the GAA's community development administrator, said: "This is a really encouraging sign that Irish sports will stay alive in Britain. It will also help us to take Gaelic games to schools that have never even played them before."

Anglia Ruskin University

Bottle lacking

The dangers associated with the spontaneous rupture of hot water bottles have been revealed. Researchers at the St Andrews Anglia Ruskin Research Unit, a partnership between Anglia Ruskin University and the St Andrews Centre for Plastic Surgery and Burns, part of the Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, examined the case notes of 50 patients with burns resulting from hot water bottle use between January 2004 and February 2012. They found that exactly half the injuries were the result of hot water bottles bursting. In eight of the cases there was some degree of patient misuse (such as stepping on the bottle) but in the remain-ing 17 examples there was no clear evidence of this, with the bottles appearing to have burst spontaneously. The mean time taken for the burns to heal was 25 days. In the most serious cases, two children required skin grafts.

Queen Mary/Edinburgh

Branch security

Millions of birch trees could be saved from disease thanks to the genetic code of the species being sequenced. Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Edinburgh mapped the genome of a dwarf birch, which comprises 450 million letters, to understand genetic traits such as resistance to disease. There are about 60 species of birch worldwide, but the UK's indigenous examples are believed to be highly susceptible to an American pest, the bronze birch borer beetle, which is likely to devastate forests if it becomes established in this country. Birches are also an essential part of the circumpolar boreal forest that rings the northern hemisphere, which is the world's largest land-based ecosystem.

University College London

Just don't mention Newsnight

University staff will share offices with the BBC as part of a digital media research partnership. Around 80 researchers from University College London and the corporation will be housed in offices in Euston Square, where they will seek to advance broadcasting- and internet-related technology. The four-year tie-up will also offer a number of internships for students and graduates, plus a staff exchange programme. "Applying our expertise in cutting-edge computing to create new 'digital experiences' is an excellent example of [how] university research can have a real impact on people's lives," said Anthony Finkelstein, dean of UCL's Faculty of Engineering Sciences.

University of Leicester

Shocking crime-fighting spin-off

A fingerprinting technique developed by a British academic has been commercialised in the US. John Bond, senior lecturer in forensic sciences at the University of Leicester, found that it was possible to reveal fingerprints on metal such as a bullet casing, even after they had been rubbed off, by subjecting the material to high voltages. The technique, developed while Dr Bond worked for Northamptonshire Police, was voted one of the top 50 inventions of 2008 by Time magazine. It has now been incorporated into a commercially available machine, Cartridge Electrostatic Recovery and Analysis (Cera).

University of Sheffield

Sibling rivalry for sexual resources

Having older siblings has increased children's chances of surviving to adulthood historically, but same-sex ones have decreased their chances of marrying and having children, a study has found. Researchers from the University of Sheffield reached the conclusions after examining the church records of about 20,000 Finnish people born between 1750 and 1900. They found that having an older sibling raised a boy's chances of surviving to the age of 15 from 68 per cent to 75 per cent. However, the average number of children people had was inversely proportional to their number of same-sex siblings. Virpi Lummaa, the leader of the project, said that this was probably because they had to compete for the same partners.

Imperial College London

Scholarly support

A university plans to fund 50 new PhD scholarships for research in science, engineering, medicine and business. Imperial College London is recruiting worldwide for the positions, which come with fully funded fees and stipends of £20,000 a year. The PhDs are partly funded by Imperial alumni, together with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Applications opened on 21 November and candidates must agree research projects with college supervisors before submission.

Birmingham City University

Gang busting for girls

The impact of gangs on young women is being explored by a theatre and workshop programme. Students from the Birmingham School of Acting (BSA), part of Birmingham City University, are performing a hard-hitting 45-minute show to female Year 10 students from schools across Birmingham for free throughout November and December. The theatrical piece, titled She, devised in collaboration with the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership and Birmingham and Solihull Women's Aid, considers the exploitation and violence endured by three girls as a result of their relationships with gangs. Performances will be followed by discussions.

University of Exeter

Life of magpie

A smartphone application is asking the public to note every time they see a magpie in order to help scientists evaluate the species' effects on the quality of human life. The University of Exeter is hoping users will help to build a national database of sightings of the distinctive black-and-white birds, including how much time they spend in different habitats. The project is part of wider research to assess how much value people place on having birds in their gardens. Richard Inger, postdoctoral research fellow at Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute, said he hoped to see the project extend beyond birdwatchers, with as many people as possible "taking up the challenge to salute a magpie digitally". Details: www.magpiemapper.co.uk.

University of Salford

Fonts of creativity

The UK's first repository to showcase creative typefaces designed by students has been launched. The Salford Type Foundry (STF) has been developed by University of Salford graphic design students, with the help of lecturer Tim Isherwood, to promote their work to the creative industries and beyond. Plans for the STF include opening it up to students from other universities and offering downloadable typefaces free of charge.

Ulster/Aberdeen/Dundee/St Andrews

Sinking feeling

Sea defences could destroy the fragile ecosystem of Scotland's Western Isles, according to researchers. Andrew Cooper, professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster, has published research in the journal Geology with colleagues from the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews, which suggests that the beaches of the Uists and Benbecula are "barrier islands" similar to those found off the US East Coast. The barriers survive by rolling landwards as sea levels rise. Rather than being lost offshore, sand is conserved and pushed towards the land, raising the surface of the islands. However, sea defences could stop the barriers' natural tendency to roll landwards, ultimately destroying the coastal environment.

Bath/Durham/Newcastle/Sheffield

Cosmic carbon capture

University geoscientists, particle physicists and engineers have been awarded nearly £650,000 from the government, alongside matched funding from industry, to investigate whether cosmic rays could be used in the fight against climate change. The researchers from the universities of Bath, Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield aim to use muons - sub-atomic particles from cosmic rays - to measure the efficacy of underground storage sites for carbon dioxide. The scientists believe they can map the CO2 in deposits by counting how many muons pass through potential storage sites.

Plumbing for Byzantium

An exhibition in Istanbul displays the results of a 20-year quest to map the vast water supply system that once served the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Waters for a Capital uses photographs and computer graphics to show how researchers - led by Jim Crow, professor of classical archaeology at the University of Edinburgh - have been able to document this infrastructure for the first time. Although the spectacular remains are among the most extensive of their kind, they remain largely unknown since most are hidden below the modern city. Highlights include one of the world's most impressive Roman aqueducts, 30m high and almost 140m in length. Tunnels up to 200km in length have also been identified. The exhibition opened this month at Koc University's Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations.




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