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UK University News

News from all over the UK

RGU to host the ‘LGBTI People of the Commonwealth’ exhibition
1 August 2014 09:19

Robert Gordon University (RGU) will host the ‘LGBTI People of the Commonwealth’ exhibition next week as part of its global tour.

Lord Baker witnesses work starting on new £9.5m UTC
1 August 2014 07:52

The Rt Hon Lord Baker (Baker Dearing Trust) has witnessed the start of work to build the new University of Hull-backed £9.5m Humber University Technical College (UTC) – the first of its kind in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Staff Survey actions latest update
1 August 2014 06:39

Deborah Griffin gives a roundup of changes across the University in response to what you said

Technology firm supports Marketing students
1 August 2014 06:35

Aston University partners with Pinewood Technologies to strengthen its Business Marketing and Relationship Management module.

Life-changing ideas win Google Impact Challenge
1 August 2014 06:20

Two projects involving Oxford University technology are winners of the 2014 Google Impact Challenge, and will each receive £500,000.

Five new professors appointed at Greenwich
1 August 2014 05:30

Five senior academics have been promoted to the position of Professor at the university.

Jazmin scoops silver as she jumps for joy
1 August 2014 05:28

University of Bristol student Jazmin Sawyers was jumping for joy yesterday as she took silver in the women’s long-jump at the Commonwealth Games 2014.

Aston hosts symposium on healthy ageing
1 August 2014 05:05

The dramatically ageing global population and its associated factors were discussed at an international symposium held at Aston University.

Chemists develop MRI technique for peeking inside battery-like devices
1 August 2014 04:55

The work, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications, focuses on electric double-layer capacitors (EDLCs), a type of so-called supercapacitor. These are excellent options for powering systems where fast charging and power delivery are crucial, such as in regenerative braking (for use in trains and buses), camera flashes, and in backup computer memory.

“The MRI method really allows us to look inside a functioning electrical storage device and locate molecular events that are responsible for its functioning,” explains Dr Alexej Jerschow, of NYU’s Department of Chemistry, one of the paper’s senior authors.

“The approach allows us to explore electrolyte concentration gradients and the movement of ions within the electrode and electrolyte, both ultimately a cause of poor rate performance in batteries and supercapacitors,” adds co-author Professor Clare Grey of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry.

The other authors included Andrew Ilott, a post-doctoral researcher in NYU’s Department of Chemistry, and Nicole Trease, a post-doctoral researcher at Stony Brook University.

Capacitors are designed to store electric charge, but their storage capabilities are limited. In recent years, advances have been made to address this shortcoming. Among these has been the creation of supercapacitors, which can store more electrical charge than their predecessors. This is due to an electrical double layer formed at the electrolyte-electrode interface—the process by which energy is stored—which serves to more effectively trap energy than can standard capacitors.

However, the exact nature of this charge process in supercapacitors remains a subject of debate. Previous research has attempted to understand this process through the synthesis of new electrode materials, simulations of the charging process, and by spectroscopy—rather than by direct imaging of a complete functioning device.

In the Nature Communications work, Jerschow, Grey, and their co-authors explored a novel approach to understanding how these devices function: the use of MRI technology, which serves as a looking glass into supercapacitors’ energy storage activity.

This method has a precedent from the same research team. In work published by Nature Materials in 2012, the NYU-Cambridge team developed a method, based on MRI, to look inside a battery without damaging it. Their technique provided a method for helping to improve battery performance and safety by serving as a diagnostic of its internal workings.

In the supercapacitor work, the researchers found that MRI could pinpoint the location and estimate the amount of both positively and negatively charged electrolyte ions--data that are crucial to understanding the energy storage mechanism.

The technique has the potential to analyze functioning devices at different states of charge, and thus to provide information on the microscopic processes which are ultimately responsible for the storage and power capacity of a device.

With this non-invasive method, the researchers say, one could rapidly test the properties of different capacitor materials and thus elucidate their effectiveness in enhancing device performance. They add that techniques could also be useful in assessing factors that affect the longevity of the devices, or the conditioning or “breaking-in” of devices during first use.

The team next plans to investigate how different ions interact with other molecules in the electrolyte mixture, which may be a key to enhanced performance.

The work was supported by the Northeastern Center for Chemical Energy Storage, the US Department of Energy (DESC0001294), and NYSTAR.

Press release courtesy of New York University.

A team of chemists from the University of Cambridge and New York University has developed a method for examining the inner workings of battery-like devices called supercapacitors, which can be charged up extremely quickly and can deliver high electrical power. Their technique, based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), establishes a means for monitoring and potentially enhancing and the performance of such devices.

The approach allows us to explore electrolyte concentration gradients and the movement of ions within the electrode and electrolyte, both ultimately a cause of poor rate performance in batteries and supercapacitors
Clare Grey

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New study to improve leg ulcer treatment
1 August 2014 04:55

Queen of the Desert’s tapestries travel to Newcastle University
1 August 2014 03:48

She was a trailblazer, a spy, diplomat and archaeologist from the North East who travelled extensively across her beloved Arabia and helped to create a king.

Mathematicians analyse new 'racetrack memory' computer device
1 August 2014 03:32

Competition to create the smallest, lightest and cheapest laptop on the market is motivating the ongoing search for a better computer-memory device then the current, conventional 2D hard-disk technology. Mathematicians from the University of Bristol have been analysing the potential of one such initiative: the 'racetrack memory' device, proposed by researchers at IBM.

Reform of AS-levels was based on ‘shaky’ evidence
1 August 2014 03:17

The Government’s justification for its decision to reform AS-levels was based on flawed data analysis, according to University of Bristol academics who have shown that one in five students could have their chances to fulfil their potential on a degree course damaged.

‘A sunlit picture of hell’: Sassoon’s war diaries go online for first time
1 August 2014 02:35

Cambridge University Library is home to the world’s foremost collection of Sassoon material, and has digitised 23 of Sassoon’s journals and two of his wartime poetry notebooks. They are now available to all at the Cambridge Digital Library (http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/), where they sit alongside the papers of Isaac Newton and other priceless treasures of the Library’s collections.

Until now, much of the archive has remained beyond the reach of both researchers and the public because of the documents’ poor physical condition. The only person to have had unrestricted access to Sassoon’s journals and notebooks to date was official biographer Max Egremont.

The digitisation of the Sassoon material, which includes draft copies of his ‘Soldier’s Declaration’ as well as poetry, prose and sketches, fulfils an objective formulated during the Library’s £1.25m fundraising campaign to purchase the Sassoon Archive in 2009. The campaign, spearheaded by Egremont, was also supported by Sir Andrew Motion, Michael Morpurgo and Sebastian Faulks.

Cambridge University Librarian Anne Jarvis said: “The war diaries Sassoon kept on the Western Front and in Palestine are of the greatest significance, both nationally and internationally, and we are honoured to be able to make them available to everyone, anywhere in the world, on the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

“From his ‘Soldier’s Declaration’ to his eyewitness accounts of the first day of the battle on the Somme, the Sassoon archive is a collection of towering importance, not just to historians, but to anyone seeking to understand the horror, bravery and futility of the First World War as experienced by those on the front lines and in the trenches.”

The digitisations make available online for the first time 23 of Sassoon’s journals from the years 1915-27 and 1931-32, as well as two poetry notebooks from 1916-18 containing rough drafts and fair copies of some of his best-known war poems. Sassoon wrote in a small and legible hand, frequently using his notebooks from both ends. The images of them are both powerful and evocative, showing mud from the trenches and spilled wax, presumably as he sat writing in his dug-out by candlelight.

The journals give a fascinating insight into daily life in the trenches. Sassoon described the first day of the Somme as a ‘sunlit picture of hell’ and the diaries also record the moment he was shot by a sniper at the Battle of Arras, as well as a psychological profile of ‘the soul of an officer’. The poems include previously unpublished material along with early drafts of some of his best-known works including an early version of ‘The Dug-Out’ with an additional, excised verse.

Sassoon’s journals represent much more than a simple diary record. The notebooks were small enough to be carried in the pocket of his army tunic, and he used them to draft poetry, make pencil or ink sketches, list members of his battalion and their fates, make notes on military briefings, and draw diagrams of the trenches.

“The great array of activities, difficulties and dangers that faced him as a serving officer, and the recurring inspiration of his creative responses to his conditions, are represented in the range of uses to which he put these notebooks,” said Cambridge University Library’s John Wells. “Unlike edited, printed transcriptions, the digitisations allow the viewer to form a sense of the physical documents, and to appreciate their unique nature as historical artefacts.”

The Sassoon collection joins other collections being delivered through the Cambridge Digital Library, which aims to make the Library’s great collections openly available to the world. The Digital Library was launched in 2011 and made possible through a generous donation from the Polonsky Foundation.



Siegfried Sassoon’s First World War diaries – some bearing traces of mud from the Somme – are among 4,100 pages from his personal archive being made freely available online from today, almost 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany.

From his ‘Soldier’s Declaration’ to his eyewitness accounts of the first day of the battle on the Somme, the Sassoon archive is a collection of towering importance.
Anne Jarvis
The Soul of an Officer, a sketch from one of Siegfried Sassoon’s journals. 1916

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Race for 10,000 recruits to detect early signs of lung cancer
1 August 2014 02:00

With the 10K track race taking place today, the University of Glasgow is embarking on its own, alternative, race.

Harmful drinkers would be affected 200 times more than low risk drinkers if a Minimum Unit Price was introduced
31 July 2014 23:00

A new study of liver patients by the University of Southampton shows that a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) policy for alcohol is exquisitely targeted towards the heaviest drinkers with cirrhosis.

GCHQ certifies Surrey’s cyber security stars of the future
31 July 2014 17:00

The University of Surrey’s MSc in Information Security has been recognised with a GCHQ certification. The new course, offered by the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security through the Department of Computing, was chosen for delivering high-standard and industry-relevant cyber security research and education, from internationally recognised cyber security academics.    

Celebrating Scots pioneering spirit with arctic explorer
31 July 2014 08:16

The University of Aberdeen will celebrate the pioneering spirit of Scots in the first wave of emigration to Canada with a day of family fun and a talk by a leading arctic explorer.

Aston shortlisted twice at environmental awards
31 July 2014 05:16

Aston University's commitment to sustainability has been rewarded with two nominations at the Green Gown Awards 2014.

Aston University celebrates graduate success
31 July 2014 05:15

Aston University held its graduation ceremonies in the grand surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall between 21 to 25 July.

California students get a taste of CSI Glasgow
31 July 2014 05:08

Students from California State University Long Beach (CSULB) have arrived at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) for the third annual summer programme in comparative forensic sciences.

Carbon capture research receives major funding boost
31 July 2014 03:58

Engineers at the University of Hull have secured more than £1.27m to lead a new cutting-edge research programme that aims to significantly advance current carbon capture technology.

Corresponding with Conflict at the Theatre Collection
31 July 2014 03:31

As part of this year’s First World War centenary commemorations, a new exhibition which aims to breathe new life into archival material dating from the 1914-1918 period and encourage fresh encounters with it, opens this Friday at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection.

Industry needs to be alert to allergens, says University chef
31 July 2014 03:27

Almost half of food service operators are still unaware of the new EU on allergens due to come into force on 13th December this year - and even ...

Communities urged to explore coal’s wildlife legacy
31 July 2014 03:05

Scientists based in the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York are inviting communities in the Barnsley and Doncaster areas to join in special free events to find out about wildlife re-colonising local former colliery sites.

Drug-resistant malaria has spread across Southeast Asia
31 July 2014 02:56

Resistance to the world's most effective anti-malarial drug, artemisinin, is now widespread across mainland Southeast Asia, seriously threatening global malaria control and elimination, according to a study led by Oxford University researchers based in Thailand.

Art for education: African schoolchildren inform York environmental project
31 July 2014 02:40

Environmentalists from the University of York, a partner in the CHIESA (Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa) project, are to showcase winning entries from an East African school art competition that was used to celebrate International Mountain Day.

Shrinking dinosaurs evolved into flying birds
30 July 2014 23:00

A new study involving scientists from the University of Southampton has revealed how massive, meat-eating, ground-dwelling dinosaurs evolved into agile flying birds: they just kept shrinking and shrinking, for over 50 million years.

University Race Series announced
30 July 2014 22:05

Derbyshire based charity, Sporting Futures, have teamed up with the University of Derby to organise and deliver running events throughout the ...

Manchester scientists head to tropical rainforests for climate study
30 July 2014 09:41

Scientists from The University of Manchester have teamed up with colleagues in Brazil to venture into the Amazonian rainforest to take part in a pioneering study of the gases emitted by trees which could help us better predict climate change.

Bristol student leaps into final at Commonwealth Games
30 July 2014 09:34

University of Bristol law student, Jazmin Sawyers, will compete in the final of the women’s long-jump at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow tomorrow night [Thursday 31 July].

Students urged to plan ahead to snap up final few places through Clearing as A-level results day nears
30 July 2014 09:32

Kingston University admissions staff are urging aspiring undergraduates to start planning now to ensure they are perfectly prepared whatever news A-level results day may bring on 14 August.

Medical libraries go online for all
30 July 2014 09:09

The University of Leeds is joining forces with one of the world’s major resources for the study of medical history as part of a project to create a comprehensive online resource.

Dementia study will provide blueprint
30 July 2014 06:56

The most comprehensive report yet into dementia care in the North East has been published by the Northern Rock Foundation, with help from Newcastle University academics.

Aberdeen researcher to examine trust within minority communities
30 July 2014 03:35

A University of Aberdeen researcher has received funding to study the ways that trust is formed and lost in minority communities impacted by high levels of digital and social exclusion.

Sheree battles adversity to take on University's online Psychology course
30 July 2014 03:32

A University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL) student has talked of how she has battled adversity to give herself a real chance of a rewarding ...

Twin approach to recovery of metals from mine waste
30 July 2014 02:31

Scientists from the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at the University of York are to work with colleagues in Cape Town to help the recovery of valuable metals from mine wastes in South Africa.

Degree will provide solid foundations
29 July 2014 18:00

The skills void that has hampered house building in recent years will be addressed by a new degree course from Anglia Ruskin University.

SOAS scholar presents research on Israel’s relations with the world powers
29 July 2014 16:00

Professor Colin Shindler, Pears Senior Research Fellow in Israel Studies at SOAS, University of London has edited and provided an introduction to a new book that explores Israel’s diplomatic alliances beyond the Middle East.

SOAS scholar to advise UN on social development
29 July 2014 16:00

The expertise of Guy Standing, Professor of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London will be drawn upon to advise the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

SOAS receives Indonesian Embassy funding to enhance Indonesian film and literature collections
29 July 2014 16:00

SOAS, University of London has received a welcome donation from the Education Section of the Indonesian Embassy in London to enhance SOAS’ outstanding collection of Indonesian film and literature in the Library.

Urbanisation of rural Africa associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
29 July 2014 12:00

Urban Uganda

Over 530 million people live in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases tend to be much lower than in urban areas. However, many of these areas are becoming increasingly urbanised, with people living within larger populations in more built-up environments, with better access to education, health facilities and utilities, for example.

In an attempt to better understand the impact that urbanisation is having on communities, a  team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, and Deakin University in Australia analysed data from 7,340 people aged 13 years and above across 25 villages in Uganda. Each individual was allocated an ‘urbanicity score’ and this was compared to their lifestyle risk factors, such as alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, body mass index (BMI) and physical activity. The results are published today in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Dr Manjinder Sandhu from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, joint senior author of the study, says: “Over half a billion people live in rural areas across sub-Saharan Africa. We need to understand how the health of these populations will change as the areas develop and become more urbanised to enable countries to plan future healthcare programmes and develop interventions to reduce this risk.”

The researchers found that levels of urbanicity varied markedly across the villages, ranging from those without educational facilities or electricity in households, to villages with a public telephone and a dispensary. However, despite the features of urbanisation being relatively modest, living in more urban villages was associated with increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors such as physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable consumption, heavy drinking and high body mass index, even after controlling for other factors such as socioeconomic status.

Johanna Riha, first author and a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, says: “Development in rural areas will provide people with much needed access to education, healthcare and improved sanitation, with very positive health benefits. But it could be a double-edged sword and come at a cost of a greater incidence of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.”

Professor Janet Seeley, joint senior author from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, adds: “Even a small increase in a person’s level of urbanicity appears to be associated with poorer lifestyle choices that raise their risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. As better infrastructure, education and healthcare systems are being developed, we should look for ways to use them to provide an opportunity to design and deliver interventions to help reduce the risk of these diseases.”

The study was supported in part by the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research.

The increasing urbanisation of rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to an explosion in incidences of heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study carried out in Uganda which found that even small changes towards more urban lifestyles was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Development in rural areas will provide people with much needed access to education, healthcare and improved sanitation... But it could come at a cost of a greater incidence of heart disease and diabetes
Johanna Riha

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Microscopic rowing – without a cox
29 July 2014 06:00

Many different types of cell, including sperm, bacteria and algae, propel themselves using whip-like appendages known as flagella. These protrusions, about one-hundredth of a millimetre long, function like tiny oars, helping cells move through fluid. Similar, shorter structures called cilia are found on the surfaces of many cells, where they perform roles such as moving liquids over the cell.

Flagella and cilia are remarkably versatile: they transport mucus and expel pathogens from our airways, they establish the left-right asymmetry in developing vertebrate embryos, and transport human eggs through the Fallopian tube. Each cilium or flagellum beats to its own characteristic rhythm, but wherever large groups of these biological paddles are found, they tend to row in sync, as though led by a cox.

Exactly what causes these microscopic rowers to move together is something of a mystery. Experiments in the 1940s demonstrated that the flagella of bull sperm tend to synchronise when they swim close to one another, connected only through the fluid surrounding them. However, the precise mechanism through which groups of cilia and flagella lock into sync with one another is not entirely clear.

A long-standing hypothesis is that movement of the fluid due to the beating flagella could be the reason they move in unison. While previous experimental findings were consistent with mathematical theories describing the fluid motion, these experiments could not exclude other mechanisms for achieving synchronisation, such as chemical signalling or physical connections between flagella.

Now, using a newly devised experimental procedure, researchers from the University of Cambridge have been able to disentangle the various mechanisms, and show that the fluid motion created by two beating flagella is sufficient by itself to cause them to row in sync. The findings are published today (29 July) in the journal eLife.

The team, based in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, included Dr Douglas Brumley (now at MIT), PhD student Kirsty Wan, Dr Marco Polin (now at the University of Warwick), and Professor Raymond E. Goldstein.

The group used high-speed imaging and microscopy to observe the flagella of two physically separated cells of a species of green alga called Volvox carteri. Holding the cells on micromanipulators of the kind used in in vitro fertilisation, they were able to vary systematically the spacing between the cells in the fluid. At wide separations, the two flagella beat at different rates, with rhythms governed by their distinct intrinsic frequencies.

However, the team found that when brought close enough together, the two flagella could lock together into the same rhythm for thousands of beats at a time. In a striking compromise between their natural frequencies, the two flagella each produce flows that are sufficient for the pair to synchronise their motions.

Additionally, by analysing the time series of beating, the team could determine the strength of the interaction between the flagella, which was found to agree with basic fluid dynamical calculations.

“This research was the culmination of many years of work in this area, and we are very excited to see how a quantitative approach to a problem in biology can answer fundamental questions,” said Dr Polin.

In separate work led by Drs Brumley and Polin, the group has been investigating the dynamics of thousands of interacting Volvox flagella that produce coherent patterns like Mexican waves in a stadium, which are also apparently driven by hydrodynamic interactions between the filaments.

At the same time, Wan has been investigating the noisy beating of algal flagella, and has discovered that they exhibit beat-to-beat fluctuations that are qualitatively similar to the fluctuations in human heart beats. “Taken together,” says Goldstein, “these results indicate the remarkable way in which green algae can serve as model organisms for fluid dynamical problems that relate to human health and disease. In this particular case, the coordination of flagella plays vital roles in phenomena ranging from embryo development to respiratory physiology, and thus the search for the mechanisms underlying synchronisation can yield insights on many fronts.”

This work was supported by the European Research Council, the EPSRC, and the Wellcome Trust.

New research shows that the whip-like appendages on many types of cells are able to synchronise their movements solely through interactions with the fluid that surrounds them.

The search for the mechanisms underlying synchronisation can yield insights on many fronts
Raymond Goldstein
Overlaid waveforms of the flagellar beating of two somatic cells of Volvox carteri held on separate glass micropipettes.

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GCU research leads to compensation scheme for Irish women
29 July 2014 04:47

The work of a Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) historian has helped persuade the Irish government to introduce a €34 million compensation scheme for women who suffered trauma through the use of a now discredited surgical procedure.

Kidney transplant drug halves the early risk of organ rejection
29 July 2014 04:26

Oxford University scientists have shown that a drug given at the time of a kidney transplant operation halves the risk of early rejection of the organ. The drug, called alemtuzumab, also allows a less toxic regimen of anti-rejection drugs to be used after the operation.

Aberdeen student to follow Far East adventure
29 July 2014 03:05

A University of Aberdeen student will travel to the Japanese city of Nagasaki after winning a prestigious scholarship to undertake a research trip.

Facial features are the key to first impressions
28 July 2014 12:50

A new study by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York shows that it is possible to accurately predict first impressions using measurements of physical features in everyday images of faces, such as those found on social media.

Scissoring the lipids
28 July 2014 09:50

A new strategy which enables molecules to be disconnected essentially anywhere, even remote from functionality, is described by researchers from the University of Bristol in Nature Chemistry today. The method is now being developed to explore the possibility of creating a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine.

Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks
28 July 2014 09:33

Graphene could enable new kind of photonics-based chemical sensors and photo-detectors, University of Manchester researchers have shown.

GCU researchers input into UK Hepatitis C report on World Hepatitis Day
28 July 2014 08:08

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have worked in association with Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland, and other national agencies to publish this year’s UK Hepatitis C Report today, on World Hepatitis Day (28 July 2014).

INTO GCU ranks top in INTO centres survey
28 July 2014 07:31

INTO GCU has been rated the UK’s top INTO centre for student satisfaction, alongside Queen’s University Belfast, The University of East Anglia and the University of East Anglia London.

Vet School academic receives AVMF/Winn Feline Foundation Award
28 July 2014 05:59

This week the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) will recognise the University of Bristol feline medicine specialist Professor Timothy Gruffydd-Jones with the 2014 AVMF/Winn Feline Foundation Award at its 2014 meeting.

Girls enjoy an engineering experience
28 July 2014 05:14

Last week, 97 girls aged 12- to 14-years-old from across the UK benefited from a unique hands-on learning experience at the University of Bristol. Financially supported by the ERA Foundation and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, this three-day residential programme [21-23 July] was organised by The Smallpeice Trust to provide students with the opportunity to learn about engineering through a series of presentations and practical workshops.

“Green Fingers” Horticultural Activity Day at Winter Garden
28 July 2014 04:35

A horticultural activity for budding gardeners and members of the local community is to be held at the University of Greenwich’s Avery Hill Winter Garden on Saturday 2 August from noon to 4pm.

Power of the arts in changing lives highlighted in report
28 July 2014 04:34

The work of arts and cultural organisations is life-enhancing and delivers positive effects on people's health and wellbeing and on the strength of their communities, a new report reveals.

Drugs used to treat lung disease work with the body clock
28 July 2014 04:32

Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered why medication to treat asthma and pneumonia can become ineffective.

Nursing exchange gives students international perspective
28 July 2014 03:54

Robert Gordon University (RGU) welcomes American students as part of a new nursing exchange programme.

Building ‘invisible’ materials with light
28 July 2014 03:00

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction, such as invisibility cloaks and cloaking devices.

Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few billionths of a metre across can be used to control the way that light flies through them, and works on large chunks all at once. Details are published today (28 July) in the journal Nature Communications.

The key to any sort of ‘invisibility’ effect lies in the way light interacts with a material. When light hits a surface, it is either absorbed or reflected, which is what enables us to see objects. However, by engineering materials at the nanoscale, it is possible to produce ‘metamaterials’: materials which can control the way in which light interacts with them. Light reflected by a metamaterial is refracted in the ‘wrong’ way, potentially rendering objects invisible, or making them appear as something else.

Metamaterials have a wide range of potential applications, including sensing and improving military stealth technology. However, before cloaking devices can become reality on a larger scale, researchers must determine how to make the right materials at the nanoscale, and using light is now shown to be an enormous help in such nano-construction.

The technique developed by the Cambridge team involves using unfocused laser light as billions of needles, stitching gold nanoparticles together into long strings, directly in water for the first time. These strings can then be stacked into layers one on top of the other, similar to Lego bricks. The method makes it possible to produce materials in much higher quantities than can be made through current techniques.

In order to make the strings, the researchers first used barrel-shaped molecules called cucurbiturils (CBs). The CBs act like miniature spacers, enabling a very high degree of control over the spacing between the nanoparticles, locking them in place.

In order to connect them electrically, the researchers needed to build a bridge between the nanoparticles. Conventional welding techniques would not be effective, as they cause the particles to melt. “It’s about finding a way to control that bridge between the nanoparticles,” said Dr Ventsislav Valev of the University’s Cavendish Laboratory, one of the authors of the paper. “Joining a few nanoparticles together is fine, but scaling that up is challenging.”

The key to controlling the bridges lies in the cucurbiturils: the precise spacing between the nanoparticles allows much more control over the process. When the laser is focused on the strings of particles in their CB scaffolds, it produces plasmons: ripples of electrons at the surfaces of conducting metals. These skipping electrons concentrate the light energy on atoms at the surface and join them to form bridges between the nanoparticles. Using ultrafast lasers results in billions of these bridges forming in rapid succession, threading the nanoparticles into long strings, which can be monitored in real time.

“We have controlled the dimensions in a way that hasn’t been possible before,” said Dr Valev, who worked with researchers from the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, and the Donostia International Physics Center in Spain on the project. “This level of control opens up a wide range of potential practical applications.”

A new technique which uses light like a needle to thread long chains of particles could help bring sci-fi concepts such as cloaking devices one step closer to reality.

This level of control opens up a wide range of potential practical applications
Ventsislav Valev
An efficient route to manufacturing nanomaterials with light through plasmon-induced laser-threading of gold nanoparticle strings

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Honour for long-serving music therapist
27 July 2014 18:00

An academic from Anglia Ruskin University has become the first ever recipient of the World Federation of Music Therapy's Clinical Impact Award.

CCLPS Chair, Dr. Karima Laachir and PhD Candidate Nathanael Mannone will attend "Asia and ...
25 July 2014 16:00

CCLPS Chair, Dr. Karima Laachir and PhD Candidate Nathanael Mannone will attend the Consortium for Asian and Africa Studies’ (CAAS) fifth annual symposium titled, “Asia and Africa Across Disciplinary and National Lines” to be held 3-4 October, 2014 at Columbia University.

New Kingston University Business and Law Dean to strengthen emphasis on international education
25 July 2014 09:56

Kingston University's newly-appointed Dean of Business and Law plans to focus on developing the international dimensions of the Faculty.

GCU engineering students are UK’s best at Global Challenge
25 July 2014 09:51

A team from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) finished as top UK university at the finals of the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) Global Student Challenge in Hong Kong.

Online information most cost-effective means of increasing MMR uptake, research finds
25 July 2014 09:05

Giving parents access to a website containing information about the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is the most cost-effective way of increasing its uptake, University of Leeds research has shown.

A close run thing for York academic
25 July 2014 06:18

A University of York academic has narrowly missed out on the Royal Historical Society’s prestigious Whitfield Prize with his book on the history of rationing in World War Two.

Scientists throw light on the mechanism of plants’ ticking clock
25 July 2014 05:16

Scientists from the University of York are part of an international team of researchers who have made a significant step in discovering the genetic mechanisms that plants use to fight for light.

University rowers represent Scotland in Home International Regatta
25 July 2014 04:16

University of Aberdeen rowing sports bursars Jamie Steel and Ian Walker will represent Scotland in this weekend's 2014 Home International Regatta.

Tweeting Traffic: Commonwealth Games basis for transport Twitter study
25 July 2014 03:45

Social media's role in managing transport and congestion during the Commonwealth Games will be monitored and examined by experts from the University of Aberdeen.

University's new partnership will boost life science businesses in the North
25 July 2014 03:13

The University of Leeds and Bionow have agreed a formal collaboration to support the UK life science sector in the North.

Falcons swoop in for Newcastle University student
25 July 2014 03:01

Newcastle University rugby star Will Witty has been signed by the North-East’s leading rugby team.

Graça Machel to preside over SOAS Graduation Ceremonies
24 July 2014 16:00

World-renowned humanitarian Graça Machel will address the graduation ceremonies of SOAS, University of London next week in her role as SOAS President.

8.2% of our DNA is ‘functional’
24 July 2014 10:38

Only 8.2% of human DNA is likely to be doing something important – is 'functional' – say Oxford University researchers. 

Robert Gordon University strengthens links with Nigeria
24 July 2014 09:49

Robert Gordon University (RGU) has strengthened its links with Nigeria and signed a partnership agreement with Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), in Zaria.

Final countdown to completion of new building
24 July 2014 08:04

The university marked the start of the final fit-out of its new Stockwell Street library and academic building this week with a commemorative event inside the shell of the state-of-the-art structure.

Meet the six Dark Blues going for Commonwealth gold
24 July 2014 06:59

The Commonwealth Games begins today and six Oxford University athletes, past and present, are preparing to compete.

Developing careers in gaming
24 July 2014 06:46

Four students from Newcastle University have joined Reflections, a Ubisoft studio, for internships during which they will help develop several highly anticipated video games.

Highest-precision measurement of water in planet outside the solar system
24 July 2014 06:00

A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapour in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun – and have come up nearly dry.

The three planets, HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away, and are all gas giants known as ‘hot Jupiters.’ These worlds are so hot, with temperatures between 900 to 2200 degrees Celsius, that they are ideal candidates for detecting water vapour in their atmospheres. 

However, the three planets have only one-tenth to one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet formation theories. The best water measurement, for the planet HD 209458b, was between 4 and 24 parts per million. The results raise new questions about how exoplanets form and highlight the challenges in searching for water on Earth-like exoplanets in the future. The findings are published today (24 July) in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Our water measurement in one of the planets, HD 209458b, is the highest-precision measurement of any chemical compound in a planet outside the solar system, and we can now say with much greater certainty than ever before that we’ve found water in an exoplanet,” said Dr Nikku Madhusudhan of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, who led the research. “However, the low water abundance we are finding is quite astonishing.”

Dr Madhusudhan and his collaborators used near-infrared spectra of the planetary atmospheres observed with the Hubble Space Telescope as the planets were passing in front of their parent stars as viewed from Earth. Absorption features from water vapour in the planetary atmosphere are superimposed on the small amount of starlight that passes through the planetary atmosphere before reaching the telescope. The planetary spectrum is obtained by determining the variation in the stellar spectrum caused due to the planetary atmosphere and is then used to estimate the amount of water vapour in the planetary atmosphere using sophisticated computer models and statistical techniques.

Madhusudhan said that the findings present a major challenge to exoplanet theory. “It basically opens a whole can of worms in planet formation. We expected these planets to have lots of water in their atmospheres. We have to revisit planet formation and migration models of giant planets, especially hot Jupiters, to investigate how they’re formed.”

The currently accepted theory on how giant planets in our solar system formed is known as core accretion, in which a planet is formed around the young star in a protoplanetary disc made primarily of hydrogen, helium, and particles of ices and dust composed of other chemical elements. The dust particles stick to each other, eventually forming larger and larger grains. The gravitational forces of the disc draw in these grains and larger planetesimals until a solid core forms. This core then leads to runaway accretion of both planetesimals and gas to eventually form a giant planet.

This theory predicts that the proportions of the different elements in the planet are enhanced relative to those in their star, especially oxygen, which is supposed to be the most enhanced. Once a giant planet forms, its atmospheric oxygen is expected to be largely in the form of water. Therefore, the very low levels of water vapour found by this research raise a number of questions about the chemical ingredients that lead to planet formation.

“There are so many things we still don’t understand about exoplanets – this opens up a new chapter in understanding how planets and solar systems form,” said Dr Drake Deming of the University of Maryland, who led one of the precursor studies and is a co-author in the present study. “These findings highlight the need for high-precision spectroscopy – additional observations from the Hubble Space Telescope and the next-generation telescopes currently in development will make this task easier.”

The new discovery also highlights some major challenges in the search for the exoplanet ‘holy grail’ – an exoplanet with a climate similar to Earth, a key characteristic of which is the presence of liquid water.

“These very hot planets with large atmospheres orbit some of our nearest stars, making them the best possible candidates for measuring water levels, and yet the levels we found were much lower than expected,” said Dr Madhusudhan. “These results show just how challenging it could be to detect water on Earth-like exoplanets in our search for potential life elsewhere.” Instruments on future telescopes searching for biosignatures may need to be designed with a higher sensitivity to account for the possibility of planets being significantly drier than predicted.

The researchers also considered the possibility that clouds may be responsible for obscuring parts of the atmospheres, thereby leading to the low observed water levels. However, such an explanation requires heavy cloud particles to be suspended too high in the atmosphere to be physically plausible for all the planets in the study.

Other authors of the paper are Dr Nicolas Crouzet of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto, and Dr Peter McCullough of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University.

The work was supported by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc.

The discovery of water vapour in the atmospheres of three exoplanets includes the most precise measurement of any chemical in a planet outside the solar system, and has major implications for planet formation and the search for water on Earth-like habitable exoplanets in future.

These results show just how challenging it could be to detect water on Earth-like exoplanets in our search for potential life elsewhere
Nikku Madhusudhan
Illustration of a 'hot Jupiter' orbiting a sun-like star

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York awarded Mellon funding for digitisation of Archbishops’ Registers
24 July 2014 05:03

The University of York has been awarded a $299,000 grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the digitisation of one of the most important collections of historical materials to survive in England today.

Honorary awards for Steve Backley and Lord Rees
24 July 2014 04:14

Steve Backley OBE, the world record-breaking athlete, and Lord Rees of Ludlow, the distinguished cosmologist and astrophysicist, are being honoured by the University of Greenwich today (Thursday 24 July).

Bespoke print company founded by students
24 July 2014 03:55

A bespoke print and design company which provides a specially tailored service has been set-up by two Aston University students.

Western Indian Ocean communities play vital role in conservation
24 July 2014 02:38

An international team of researchers led by the University of York has carried out the first assessment of community-led marine conservation in the Western Indian Ocean.

International panel in major sporting events welcomed to GCU
24 July 2014 02:34

To coincide with the launch of the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this week, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) welcomed an international panel of experts in major sporting events.

Mystery message found in First World War kilt
23 July 2014 23:00

A University of Southampton academic is hoping to trace the descendants of a seamstress or garment packer who left a note hidden in the folds of a kilt destined for a soldier heading to the Front in the First World War.

University spinout signs licensing deal with major semiconductor foundry
23 July 2014 19:18

A University spinout company which has developed technology to tackle the increasing challenges of silicon chip development has signed a multimillion dollar deal with a major semiconductor foundry.

Raising the aspirations of young people
23 July 2014 18:01

Sending Newcastle University students into schools to raise the aspirations of young people has been highlighted as an example of good practice by the national organisation responsible for promoting fair access to higher education.

Drawings and journals from the discovery of Tutankhamun on show for the first time
23 July 2014 17:00

Documents from Oxford University's Griffith Institute which shed light on the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb have gone on display to the public, many for the first time in their history.

Age of puberty in girls influenced by which parent their genes are inherited from
23 July 2014 11:00

Race to puberty

The findings come from an international study of more than 180,000 women involving scientists from 166 institutions worldwide, including the University of Cambridge. The researchers identified 123 genetic variations that were associated with the timing of when girls experienced their first menstrual cycle by analysing the DNA of 182,416 women of European descent from 57 studies. Six of these variants were found to be clustered within imprinted regions of the genome.

Lead author Dr John Perry at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge says: “Normally, our inherited physical characteristics reflect a roughly average combination of our parents’ genomes, but imprinted genes place unequal weight on the influence of either the mother’s or the father’s genes. Our findings imply that in a family, one parent may more profoundly affect puberty timing in their daughters than the other parent.”

The activity of imprinted genes differs depending on which parent the gene is inherited from – some genes are only active when inherited from the mother, others are only active when inherited from the father. Both types of imprinted genes were identified as determining puberty timing in girls, indicating a possible biological conflict between the parents over their child’s rate of development. Further evidence for the parental imbalance in inheritance patterns was obtained by analysing the association between these imprinted genes and timing of puberty in a study of over 35,000 women in Iceland, for whom detailed information on their family trees were available.

This is the first time that it has been shown that imprinted genes can control rate of development after birth.

Dr Perry says: “We knew that some imprinted genes control antenatal growth and development – but there is increasing interest in the possibility that imprinted genes may also control childhood maturation and later life outcomes, including disease risks.”

Senior author and paediatrician Dr Ken Ong at the MRC Epidemiology Unit says: “There is a remarkably wide diversity in puberty timing – some girls start at age 8 and others at 13. While lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity do play a role, our findings reveal a wide and complex network of genetic factors. We are studying these factors to understand how early puberty in girls is linked to higher risks of developing diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer in later life – and to hopefully one day break this link.”

Dr Anna Murray, a co-author from the University of Exeter Medical School, adds: “We found that there are hundreds of genes involved in puberty timing, including 29 involved in the production and functioning of hormones, which has increased our knowledge of the biological processes that are involved, in both girls and boys.”

The study was supported in the UK by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

The age at which girls reach sexual maturity is influenced by ‘imprinted’ genes, a small sub-set of genes whose activity differs depending on which parent passes on that gene, according to new research published today in the journal Nature.

In a family, one parent may more profoundly affect puberty timing in their daughters than the other parent
John Perry
Race to puberty (cropped)

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Christ Church celebrating 25 years of providing training for healthcare professionals and opens special Physic Garden
23 July 2014 10:27

Canterbury Christ Church University is celebrating the 25th anniversary of educating Allied Health Professions aligned with the formal opening of the University's Physic Garden.

Honorary Graduate Judith Weir appointed Master of the Queen's Music
23 July 2014 10:05

British composer Judith Weir CBE, an honorary graduate of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), has been appointed the first female Master of the Queen’s Music.

Student volunteers make Tramlines a hit
23 July 2014 09:15

GCU engineering students compete to be tomorrow’s leaders
23 July 2014 08:12

A team from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has travelled to Hong Kong to compete in the finals of the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) Global Student Challenge over the next two days (24-25 July).

Academics lead walk to commemorate 30th anniversary of Lindow Man
23 July 2014 05:24

Three members of The University of Manchester's staff are working with Transition Wilmslow to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man - the best preserved bog body to be found in Britain.

Pacific Island nations unveil Glasgow 2014 flag bearers at GCU
23 July 2014 04:05

Pacific Island nations announced their flag bearers for the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) last night (Tuesday, July 22).

University of Glasgow teams up with BBC to launch World War One MOOC
23 July 2014 03:54

The University of Glasgow is one of four UK Universities that will partner BBC in delivering a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) on World War One.

Mitochondrial plans move forward
23 July 2014 03:22

Plans to legalise the use of new techniques, developed by Newcastle University, to prevent mothers passing on serious mitochondrial diseases to their children, are to proceed, the Government has announced.

High profile figures to receive honorary degrees at Graduation 2014
23 July 2014 01:47

The University will recognise a wide range of high-profile figures with honorary degrees at Graduation this week. The ceremonies, which take place at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 July, will honour the work of key figures from the fields of theatre, hospitality, education, business and travel and tourism.

Each of the University’s eight schools confer honorary degrees to recognise business success, contributions to civic and cultural life and long-term support for the University's work.

Rising temperatures hinder Indian wheat production
22 July 2014 23:00

Geographers at the University of Southampton have found a link between increasing average temperatures in India and a reduction in wheat production.

Double glory for Derby in national student accommodation survey
22 July 2014 20:58

Accommodation services at the University of Derby have scooped two awards and been shortlisted for a third, in a survey of thousands of students ...

Collingwood Collection coup for Cardiff
22 July 2014 18:00

University to home unique archive materials worth more than £2M

SOAS celebrates Felix scholars with Oxford and Reading
22 July 2014 16:00

Recipients of the prestigious Felix Scholarship from SOAS, University of London, University of Oxford and University of Reading joined SOAS scholars and staff for the annual Felix Scholars’ Reception at the SOAS Brunei Gallery last month.

Illusions on display at pop-up lab
22 July 2014 09:18

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