March 05, 2011

Warwick Week – Water efficient seeds, training doctors in Malawi, and why family meals are essential

New path to water efficient seeds discovered

Research by University of Warwick's School of Life Sciences has opened up a new path to produce water efficient seeds that will be a significant tool to help create drought resistance, and ensure global food security. The research team, led by Dr Lorenzo Frigerio, looked at two proteins that are members of the large family of "Major Intrinsic Proteins", or MIPs, which are widespread among living organisms and are known to act as water channels governing water uptake.

The researchers focussed much of their attention on an understudied group of intrinsic proteins known as "Tonoplast Intrinsic Proteins" or TIPs. The University of Warwick's research team work not only resulted in the most complete plant TIP expression map produced to date - it also threw up a major surprise in that they found that TIP not only had a role to play in water management in seed maturation and germination - in fact they found that it probably plays the crucial water management role.

Dr Frigerio said:

We are now on the right path to build a real understanding of how water uptake is regulated in seed development and germination. That understanding will help researchers produce seeds to meet the challenges of Global climate change, and food security through improved  drought resistance and increased water use efficiency.

Find out more at PhysOrg >>

£12 million to help local SMEs design products that even targets customers' emotional experience

A new £12 million programme has just be announced to help Midlands SMEs access some the world's leading product and service design Technology. The new International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI) at WMG at the University of Warwick, is jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the University of Warwick in a funding partnership brought together by the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM).

The institute will bring into one place some of the world's leading product and service technologies including:  multi functional polymers that enable advanced electronics and functionality to be embedded in three dimensional plastic moulded components, and digital design tools that will allow the creation of virtual products that can shared with production partners. However the very latest digital design tools that will be available to SMEs the new institute  will go one step further than most in that they will also be designed deliver the best emotional experience for consumers.

WMG Director Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya said:

Today even the most low tech of products benefit enormously from the latest design technology in creating them and fitting them for the marketplace. The best product design technology will ensure that even the sound, feel and look of a product is perfected and even tailored to the customer's desires. This new International Institute for Product and Service Innovation will allow Midlands SME to find the technology they need to deliver that customer expectation.

Find out more in the press release >>

€2.6 million research project to prevent mothers and babies dying in Malawi

Warwick Medical School has just begun a €2.6 million three year research and training programme to train Malawian clinical officers in a bid to reduce the country's high death rate for pregnant mothers and babies. Their aim is to train 50 clinical officers as advanced leaders who will then be expected to teach and cascade to others what they have learnt.

In a country with a population of just over 14 million, only 40 doctors complete their training each year and there is a chronic shortage of skilled obstetricians. By training up the existing network of non-physician clinicians - who would be described as somewhere between midwives and obstetricians in this country - Warwick doctors are sharing their expertise to ensure they are taught the extra skills to deal with the 15 per cent of pregnancies which end up in difficult births and improve the care for mothers and newborns to increase their chances of survival.

Dr Paul O'Hare, Reader in Medicine from the University of Warwick Medical School, said:

There are probably more Malawian doctors in Manchester, than there are in the whole of Malawi. Whilst it's difficult to stem the numbers of qualified doctors leaving Africa for better pay and work conditions elsewhere, what we can practically do is ensure that the existing clinical officers and midwives are provided with the a higher level of clinical training and education. This means, for example, not only teaching them to improve their surgical skills such as C-Sections, but to be more aware that the aftercare treatment can have a profound effect on survival rates.

Find out more in the press release >>

Family meals are the key to happiness

A study conducted by academics from the universities of Warwick, Essex, Oxford and Surrey suggests that eating a family meal at least three times a week will strengthen bonds between parents and children, and prevent family breakdowns.

Other findings included that married couples are most likely to happy with their relationships, yet the longer a couple stays together, the more dissatisfied they are likely to become with each other.

The findings are among the first results to emerge from Understanding Society, a £50 million, government-funded study following the lives of 100,000 people in 40,000 households across the country.

Find out more in the Daily Telegraph >>

February 18, 2011

Warwick Prize for Writing, why staying up too late damages your health, and superbug investigations

Warwick Prize for Writing shortlist

The shortlist has been announced for the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing. The six books selected cover a range of topics and modes of writing, all of them relating to this year's theme of colour.

The books selected are:

  • The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam
  • Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage by Peter Forbes
  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
  • The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences by Peter D McDonald
  • What Color is the Sacred by Michael Taussig
  • White Egrets by Derek Walcott

The shortlist is now subject to a judging panel, chaired by former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen. Other judges include Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift, Editorial Director of Chatto & Windus (part of Random House) Jenny Uglow, author and poet Erica Wagner and writer, cultural critic, public speaker and broadcaster Baroness Lola Young.

The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced at an awards ceremony at The Royal Festival Hall in London on Tuesday 22 March 2011. The winning author will also be given the opportunity to take up a short placement at the University.

Find out more in the press release >>

Lack of sleep increases risk of heart attacks

Experts at the University Warwick have discovered that those who stay up longer are at greater risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke than those who get a full night's sleep.

Professor Francesco Cappuccio from Warwick Medical School said:

If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke. The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking timebomb for our health so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions. The whole work-life balance struggle is causing too many of us to trade in precious sleeping time.

Co-researcher Dr Michelle Miller added: 

Chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body which also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

Read more in Marie Claire >>

Researchers investigate superbug attacks

A superbug that contributed to the deaths of about 80 patients in Shropshire, has become dominant across the West Midlands. The strain E.coli ESBL has gradually built up resistance to the one group of antibiotics that were originally effective against it. At the University of Warwick Department of Biosciences, scientists now believe that there is growing evidence that these resistant strains can spread through the environment. The research team believe that unlike normal E.coli , the multi-resistant organism can survive for longer outside the gut.

For example, Dr Will Gaze, Senior Research Fellow, said he had found far higher concentrations of multi-resistant E.coli downstream of sewerage outlets. Professor Liz Wellington added that low levels of antibiotics were getting into the environment; with antibiotics around, the bacteria's ability to swap DNA with other bacteria could speed up the ability to gain resistance. It can also create new, more dangerous bacteria.

Read more in the BBC news >>

Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert appointed global non-executive director for Ernst and Young

Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert has been appointed as a global non-executive director for Ernst & Young, the professional services giant. The Chancellor, CBI director-general until January, spent 35 years at the Financial Times, where he was editor from 1991 until 2001, sat on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee from 2003 to 2006 and has been the University of Warwick's chancellor since 2008.

Read more in the Sunday Times >>

Dr Manu Vatish wins national award

Dr Manu Vatish beat off stiff competition from across the country to win a prestigious award and grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, a national award recognising his care for pregnant women.

It will allow him to spend time in the Bronx area of New York and Harvard Medical School studying the effects of obesity and how best to manage it during pregnancy and labour. Dr Vatish – an Oxford graduate and Warwick Medical School associate professor – works as a consultant obstetrician at University Hospital, where he oversaw 37-stone Henley Green mum Leanne Salt’s pregnancy when she became the heaviest woman ever to give birth to triplets in August 2008.

He said:

It is a great honour to have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which will allow us to continue to deliver maternity care for our patients to the highest standards and maintain excellence in patient focused reproductive research at Warwick Medical School.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>

February 11, 2011

Warwick week – Weight loss, postgraduate collaboration, hybrid vehicles and flu pandemics

Why men lose weight quicker than women

When you're about to start dieting, it may seem like good sense to work together with the person you live with. However, this may only cause more trouble, as men appear to lose weight much faster than women. Huge differences in hormones, body shape and fat percentage all make it harder for women to lose weight.

Dr Philip McTernan is associate professor in diabetes and metabolism at the University of Warwick:

The male hormone testosterone and the female hormone oestrogen shape our fat distribution at puberty and continue to during our lifetime. Women tend towards a pear shape, with fat around the hips, while men store fat more centrally around their belly from where excess weight is more easily lost. On top of that, ­oestrogen encourages fat storage, while men have more muscle mass so higher metabolisms which burn ­calories quicker. Women also have a higher proportion of fat compared to men — around 20-30 per cent against just 9­-18 per cent - which their body will strive to preserve. This difference can be understood in evolutionary terms. Men were hunter-­gatherers while women reproduced. For reproduction, there needed to be sufficient fat reserves for any unborn child in the womb to survive the harsh life prehistoric women endured, with periods of little food. Times have changed but our genes have not.

Read more in the Daily Mail >>

Collaboration in English Language Training

As postgraduate students, it is often easy to miss that some of the best knowledge and experience in your area of study can come from the people you pass in your department everyday. PhD students can offer specialist knowledge and skills to MA colleagues, but Dr Richard Smith, Centre for Applied Linguistics, argues that tutors need to actively encourage this 'cross-fertilisation. Dr Smith co-authored a directory of ELT research undertaken at UK institutions published in 2009 by the British Council and is now finalising an updated version, which is due to be released in April:

The involvement of PhD students is going to help them with that transition into becoming researchers. MA students might be participants as interviewees in a PhD student's research. That often happens at a pilot or preliminary research stage, to improve the researcher's interviewing skills before they go into the field. Sometimes MA students are from the country that the researcher is targeting and they can help with translation or with recording interviews. This kind of involvement gives MA students a better understanding of what research is all about. Because the postgraduate community at UK universities is very international, MA students can encounter PhD students who are from their countries and this can create an additional bond. PhD students are often bringing back to departments knowledge that we - the staff who are British - don't have. That current contact with ELT around the world, that we as course teachers may not have, brings in an added dimension of knowledge and experience.

Read more in The Guardian >>

WMG has opened a new facility to develop engines for hybrid vehicles

A unique £2.28m facility has opened at WMG that will be of vital importance to companies developing engines for hybrid vehicles. The unique Vehicle Engine Facility (VEF) is the UK’s only purpose built hybrid powertrain testing facility for the automotive sector that is not owned and operated by an individual automotive company. The VEF facility will give businesses access to the state-of-the-art equipment and research support. The new facility will use two dynamometers with the advanced “Texcel ” control system plus a Robot Driver to allow the testing of various hybrid powertrain designs. The two dynamometers are installed in parallel and can test electric motor,s gasoline, diesel, ethanol and Bio-fuels based internal combustion engines. The VEF will test transmission and powertrain systems, whilst simulating the powertrain components that are not available for test. These tests provide strategies for evaluating the optimisation of the  vehicle’s powertrain and how it will operate in the real world. 

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, Director of WMG at the University of Warwick said:

We are delighted to be able to bring the Midlands a facility that will enable the British based manufacturing companies to engage in low carbon engineering, which will be vital in helping manufacturing companies improve products and compete on the world stage in low carbon technologies.

Dr Ralf Speth, CEO Jaguar Land Rover added:

This new facility further strengthens WMG's applied research credentials and we look forward to benefitting from the work undertaken there, especially in the incredibly complex area of significantly reducing vehicle emissions. There is also real potential for further advances in knowledge coming from supplier involvement which in turn generates additional research and results.

Read More in the Birmingham Post >>

Schools should see wide-spread closures during flu outbreaks

Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that closing just a few schools to contain flu outbreaks does little to relieve the pressure on hospitals. Using information from the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic and the recent seasonal flu outbreak, the researchers found that intensive care units would not see any major benefit unless at least half of all English schools closed their doors. But they say although this would be very effective at stopping the spread it would also be costly, disruptive and could even prevent some parents, who work for the NHS, from fighting an epidemic effectively.

Dr Thomas House, Research Fellow at the Warwick Mathematics Institute, said:

In the worst cases short duration, localised closures cannot fully prevent some hospitals exceeding capacity.This means when facing the threat of a severe pandemic a co-ordinated and possibly extended period of school closures may be necessary. Our work supports the decision not to close schools as a control measure during the swine flu pandemic. If a pandemic is serious enough to require school closures, then they need to be well timed and large scale to have much effect.

Read More in the Coventry Telegraph >>

February 07, 2011

A world after capitalism, how to lose weight, and the world's first HDR video system

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Director of WMG Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya was presented with the award for Lifetime Contribution to Midlands' Business in a ceremony on Friday 28 January 2011. Professor Lord Bhattacharyya established WMG in 1980 in order to reinvigorate UK manufacturing through the application of cutting edge research and effective knowledge transfer. The group started small, but by working collaboratively with industrial partners, WMG has grown into a global force in a wide range of fields, from automotive research to innovations in healthcare.

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya has published extensively in the field of manufacturing and is advisor to many companies, governments and organisations around the world. He has been honoured many times. He was honoured with a CBE in 1997, awarded a knighthood in 2003 for services to higher education and industry and was elevated to the Lords in 2004.

Professor Nigel Thrift, Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick added:

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya has been a pioneer of partnership between manufacturing and University research and teaching. Many jobs have been created, and the boundaries of scientific knowledge have been pushed back, by the strength of his advocacy of such partnerships and his effectiveness in actually delivering such partnerships. His leadership in this field has benefited our region and continues to have a global impact.

Read more on the University of Warwick website >>

Greed is not good: so has the economy come full circle?

In 1995, Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky published a book called The World After Communism. Now he wonders whether there will be a world after capitalism. This question comes from his feeling that western civilisation is increasingly unsatisfying, saddled with a system of incentives that are essential for accumulating wealth, but that undermine our capacity to enjoy it. Capitalism may be close to exhausting its potential to create a better life - at least in the world's rich countries.

Yet what happens to such a system when scarcity has been turned to plenty? Does it just go on producing more of the same, stimulating jaded appetites with new gadgets, thrills and excitements? How much longer can this continue? Do we spend the next century wallowing in triviality?

Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky argues that:

The dishonouring of greed is likely only in those countries whose citizens already have more than they need. And even there, many people still have less than they need. The evidence suggests that economies would be more stable and citizens happier if wealth and income were more evenly distributed. The economic justification for large income inequalities - the need to stimulate people to be more productive - collapses when growth ceases to be so important. Perhaps socialism was not an alternative to capitalism, but its heir. It will inherit the earth not by dispossessing the rich of their property, but by providing motives and incentives for behaviour that are unconnected with the further accumulation of wealth.

Read more in The National >>

New technology offers higher dynamic range to capture dimly lit shots

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed the world’s first complete High Dynamic Range (HDR) video system, from video capture to image display, that will help a range of users including: surveillance camera operators, surgeons using video to conduct or record surgery, and camera crews following a football being kicked from sunshine into shadow. The research team, led by Professor Alan Chalmers, have developed what they are calling “the world’s first complete high dynamic range (HDR) video system".

The system also requires a special HDR display, which is made up of a combination of an LED and LCD panel. A surgery team at Heartlands Hospital, in Birmingham, UK, has tested the HDR system to assist and document surgery procedures.

Professor Chalmers said:

The natural world presents us with a wide range of colors and intensities. In addition, a scene may be constantly changing with, for example, significant differences in lighting levels going from outside to inside, or simply as the sun goes behind some clouds. A human eye can cope with those rapid changes and variety, but a traditional camera is only capable of capturing a limited range of lighting in any scene. The actual range it can cope with depends on the exposure and f-stop setting of the camera. Anything outside that limited range is either under- or overexposed.

Read more in the Broadcast Engineering magazine >>

Speeding up your metabolism is key to slimness

When trying to lose weight, a slow metabolism is often blamed when the pounds refuse to shift, despite continuous dieting. Similarly, we look with envy at the person with a 'fast metabolism', who seems to gorge on snacks but remains slim. To be exact, metabolism ­actually encompasses a vast array of processes vital to keep us alive. Converting food and drink into energy is just one of these. ­Others involve things such as absorbing nutrients into cells. The key to losing weight is raising your Basic Metabolic Rate, thereby burning more calories each day.

Victor Zammit, professor of metabolic chemistry at the University of Warwick, explains how this may be achieved by simply turning off the central heating:

Brown adipose tissue was ­previously not thought to be present in adults. Now, we think that about 30 per cent of adult humans have it.The fat looks brown because, unlike white fat, it has a lot of mitochondria — little boilers in cells that burn energy and generate heat. In a new-born baby these cells keep them warm — the brain switches on the brown adipose in cold ambient temperatures. The lucky one in three of us with brown fat can activate it simply with exposure to the cold. In future, techniques might be developed to switch our white fat tissue to brown fat tissue.

Read more in the Daily Mail >>

Five NRIs named for Padma Shri

Five NRIs and people of Indian origin and three foreigners are among 84 people named for the Padma Shri honours Tuesday. Renowned legal scholar Upendra Baxi who teaches at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, been chosen for the honour in public and legal affairs category. Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan. It is awarded by the Government of India.

Read more in the Prokerala News >>

January 24, 2011

Warwick Week – Xbox robot, automotive future in Turkey, and why men don't look after their health

University of Warwick engineering students use Xbox to aid award winning rescue robot

Engineering students at the University of Warwick are building an innovative rescue robot which uses the Xbox Kinect to help navigate the machine - in a bid to retain the European RoboCup Rescue Championship title which was won by a team of Warwick students last year. They are currently trialling the XBox Kinect to see if they can use it to provide a method of real time visual communication and 3D mapping, which will ultimately aid in the navigation of the autonomous robot to give the team an edge over the competition.

The team is being backed by WMG academic, Dr Emma Rushforth, who believes the project will give the students an excellent opportunity showcase their skills. She said:

As well as giving each team member experience in solving real engineering problems, the project offers them the chance to acquire unparalleled expertise in mobile robot design which, in future, companies will need to have.

Read more in the press release and the Official Xbox Magazine >>

Lord Bhattacharyya looks towards Turkey

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick Manufacturing Group, advised that the Midlands automotive sector needs to see Turkey as the next big sales opportunity, saying that the country could become the next 'powerhouse' economy. There are only around a hundred vehicles per thousand people in Turkey and in neighbouring countries, the number is lower still, though people are getting wealthier.

Developing durable, low fuel consumption vehicles will be crucial to meeting consumer needs, he argues:

That's why Turkey is now focused on improving R&D. Facilities that employ at least 50 technicians get around half of their investment costs Those program costs required beyond the development phase to introduce into operational use a new capability; to procure initial, additional, or replacement equipment for operational forces; or to provide for major modifications of an existing capability. This is a major opportunity for British business. We have world-leading innovation in automotive to offer. If we offer partnership with Turkish institutions now, we will reap rewards when expanding businesses look to the UK for support. If we spurn this chance, others will seek to take that place.

Read more in the Birmingham Mail >>

Prestigious US honour for Head of Dentistry

Edward Lynch, Head of Warwick Dentistry, part of Warwick Medical School, has been honoured with accredited membership of the prestigious American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA). Fewer than 200 educators, innovators and practitioners worldwide have received this distinguished accredited membership since ASDA was established in 1976, when it became the first aesthetic dental association in the world. To mark his membership, Edward was asked to give the prestigious keynote address at the annual ASDA congress in San Antonio, Texas. He was also voted by his peers in April 2010 as this year’s most influential person in UK dentistry.

Dr Lynch explained: 

I’m delighted to receive the honour of this prestigious accreditation and hope that it allows us to continue to raise awareness about the excellent and innovative dental education and research we provide in Warwick Dentistry at Warwick Medical School. We are building a team of world class academics in Warwick Dentistry and we aim to be a world-leading postgraduate unit, internationally renowned for our high quality and relevance of our education programmes and for the excellence and significance of our research.

Read more in the press release >>

Wave power could contain fusion plasma

Scientists may have found a way to channel the flux and fury of a nuclear fusion plasma into a means to help sustain the electric current needed to contain that very same fusion plasma. Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion Space and Astrophysics and the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy used large scale computer simulations to confirm a longstanding prediction by U.S. researchers that high energy alpha particles born in fusion reactions will be key to generating fusion power in the next planned generation of tokamaks. This work was only possible using the recently commissioned large scale computing facilities at the University of Warwick supported by EPSRC, in particular for theoretical work supporting fusion energy generation.

University of Warwick researcher Professor Sandra Chapman said:

These large scale computer simulations capture the plasma dynamics in unprecedented detail and have opened up an exciting new area.

Read more in Scientific Computing >>

Do men fail to look after their own health?

In Coventry the biggest influence on your life expectancy is not the colour of your skin or even where you live and work. The Telegraph recently revealed how men living in inner city Coventry are unlikely to reach retirement age. In Foleshill, men living in this inner city district have the lowest average life expectancy in the whole of Coventry – just 64 years-old.

Alan Dolan, associate professor in men’s health at the University of Warwick, argues that society is partly to blame for men failing to take of their own health.

The way we see men has a very important impact on they way they behave and on their health. We want men to be independent, resilient, reliant and physically and emotionally strong. It starts in childhood, we tell them ‘big boys don’t cry’, ‘be a man my son’ or ‘don’t be a wimp’ – it’s all quite macho. The way men demonstrate that masculinity is associated with health risks... Also, men don’t tend to talk about their health. Can you imagine a group of men sat around discussing testicular self-awareness or cancer? But that’s not to say men don’t understand their health. Men are often unwillingly exposed to health hazards and danger at work. They are less likely to refuse to do jobs that may well damage their health, they don’t feel able to. Men can’t live outside their gender and they can’t choose to become more like women.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>

January 14, 2011

Warwick Week – Russia in 2011, philosophy and fairness, and a new training centre

A special Jewish conference was held here over Christmas

Limmud is an innovative educational organisation in the British-Jewish community. Its flagship event is a six day residential Conference, which for the 4th year running was held at the University. The event attracts a number of high profile presenters each year, who present a wide variety of sessions on a range of topics of Jewish interest. In order to allow participants to observe Shabbat (the Sabbath), when work is forbidden, a temporary linked fence (an Eruv), a ceremonial boundary which allows those inside the Eruv to enjoy Shabbat within the laws of their religion, encircled Rootes and the accommodation blocks. Videos of seminars on topics such as 'A History of the Jewish World in 30 Objects' and 'Israel and the Media: An Insiders Account' are now viewable online.

Read more about the Limmud Conference >>

The Arts Centre has been given £1 million

More than £1 million of lottery money has been given to Warwick Arts Centre. The grant, from Arts Council England, is part of a programme designed to make arts organisations more resilient and help them develop long term business plans. In total Warwick Arts Centre, based at the Warwick University campus in Coventry, has been given £1,365,000.

The Arts Centre’s Director, Alan Rivett, said:

We were pleased to be invited to bid for this award. Lottery funding will help steer the organisation towards a healthy future.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>

Russia in 2010: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Where will Russia go in 2011? Professor Mark Harrison, Department of Economics, looks back at four stories from 2010 suggesting that for every step Russia takes towards democracy and away from Soviet totalitarianism, the absence of the rule of law takes it two steps back again.

In his blog, Prof Harrison said:

These four stories suggest where Russia is moving: towards a state with increased discretionary power to intervene as it chooses to control prices and direct resources, subsidize favoured interests, control deviance, and lock up or kill inconvenient people. By the standards of Russia’s Soviet past it is definitely one step forward. This one step is hugely important. Russia is no longer a totalitarian state of mass mobilization and thought police. But, compared with the “normal” society that Russians deserve, and that Russia's friends wish for, it is two steps back again.

Read more in Prof Mark Harrison's blog >>

Philosophy is vital in understanding fairness

Dr Angie Hobbs, the UK’s first Senior Fellow in the Understanding of Philosophy, argues that knowledge of her subject is vital to understanding the debate around the fairness of government policies.

Dr Hobbs said:

In the history of philosophy there’s a wide range of possible answers to a lot of the big questions about how we should live as individuals and as societies, and the fewer students who study philosophy, the fewer people who are going to be out there who know about this range of possible answers and rework and adapt them for current problems and future problems. So without philosophy students we are going to be reducing the number of tools in our toolbox to tackle questions like ‘What’s money for?’, ‘What is fairness?’, ‘How does fairness relate to equality?’

Watch Dr Angie Hobb's on The Guardian's website >>

New £10 million Warwick Centre in High Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing

WMG at the University of Warwick has been awarded one of five new Industrial Doctorate Centres announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). EPSRC are funding five new Industrial Doctorate Centres to address fundamental engineering challenges in advanced manufacturing engineering. The WMG centre will focus on High Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing. The new Centres will train Engineering Doctorate (EngD) students. These four-year postgraduate awards are intended for the UK’s leading researchers pursuing a career in industry. It provides postgraduate engineers with an intensive, broad-based research programme incorporating a taught component relevant to the needs of, and undertaken in partnership with, industry. WMG Director Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya  said :

Our vision is to produce a new generation of manufacturing leaders with the high-level know-how and research experience essential to compete in a global manufacturing environment defined by high impact and low carbon. They will be adept at working in multidisciplinary teams and exceptionally well networked internationally, and with demonstrable entrepreneurial flair. The WMG based Centre will address industrially challenging issues that enable companies to develop and implement effective low-environmental impact technology and policies that also benefit the ‘bottom line’.

Read more in the press release >>

January 07, 2011

Warwick Week – New Year's Resolutions, Fitness to Drive, and a 1800 Degree Furnace

Three New Year’s Honours for Warwick

Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert has been knighted as part of the Queen's New Year's Honours. This honour comes in recognition of his services to business as Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Three further honours were given to Emeritus Professor John Benington, Warwick Business School, awarded a CBE for public service, Rehana Richens, a student with the School of Health and Social Studies, awarded a OBE for her services to midwifery and nursing, and Sir Alec Reed, an Honorary Professor of Warwick Business School who has also been knighted for his services to business and charity.

Read more on the University of Warwick news page >>

Why we don’t keep New Year’s resolutions

It is possible that fewer people than ever will have made New Year’s resolutions last weekend. More than 80 per cent of us have ditched the tradition after failing to keep resolutions in previous years, a poll found. According to Professor Martin Skinner, Department of Pyschology, the decline could be due to the type of resolutions people make. He said:

I think many people aspire to the unlikely or impossible, and pick resolutions that are about levels of self-control and self-denial which are difficult to attain. When they don’t see the results they want, and which they have probably failed in the past to achieve, they tend to give up again.

Read more in the Daily Express and New Kerala >> 

Why do we continue to Keep Calm And Carry On?

Many people like to decorate their homes, mugs, even their clothes, with catchy slogans. In 2005, a couple discovered the original copy of the previously unfamiliar WW2 poster encouraging civilians to ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’. After displaying it in their book shop, they were met with hundreds of requests from customers who wanted a copy. Popularity peaked last year, as "Keep Calm And Carry On" became the slogan for all-things recession-related. Other posters boast the slogans ‘Rise And Shine’, ‘All You Need Is Love’, and even ‘Keep Calm And Eat A Cupcake’. Professor Martin Skinner, Department of Psychology, explains that buying into anything which carries a vibe of vintage or retro about it, is part of a self-conscious way of dealing with times of difficulty:

There's a tendency, and therefore maybe a trend, to be ironically stoic about the current economic downturn, because irony is the attitude of the times among a broad section of society. Something like the 'Keep Calm' poster is a way of quoting another simple, more straightforward and committed time – but it's done in a way that is gently mocking that time, and gently mocking ourselves.

Read more in the Independent >>

Rising number of people unfit to drive

A study conducted at the University of Warwick suggests that doctors, nurses and other health professionals are failing to stop people driving when they are a danger to themselves and other road users. The problem is growing because of the ageing population. The research team surveyed medical schools, health workers and drivers with medical conditions and used a range of research techniques including deployment of an actor pretending to be unfit to drive. Researchers found 69 of the 140 drivers surveyed should have been advised to stop driving for at least a period of time, but only 23 had received such advice. Dr Carol Hawley said there was confusion among health workers over who was responsible for telling drivers they should stay off the road after an episode such as a stroke, an operation or a bout of severe depression.

The typical response we found was, 'Yes, we know it's important, we know somebody should be doing it, but we don't think it should be us'. Leaving the onus on motorists to own up to a serious condition, and turn themselves in to the DVLA, is a recipe for inaction: if you are going to lose your licence, you aren't going to do it, are you?

Read more in the Guardian >>

1800oC furnace beats snow

Snow may be hampering Christmas deliveries but it has failed to stop the delivery of University Warwick’s Professor Phil Mawby’s Christmas present - a special furnace that can reach 1800 degrees centigrade.

The weather outside may be frightful, but this furnace will raise temperatures in Professor Mawby’s lab to a blistering 1800oC, 500oC higher than traditional silicon furnaces. It will be used to make Power Semiconductor devices in Silicon Carbide, a material which is revolutionizing electrical energy management.

Taking delivery of the new furnace this week, Professor Mawby said:

We are delighted to have this new furnace; it will allow us to really push the boundaries of what we know about silicon carbide and how it functions under such intense temperatures. This will allow us as a university to make great strides in developing the material for use in energy management and hopefully find a means of using the material to run electrical energy in a much more efficient manner.

Silicon Carbide is the next-generation semiconducting material. It is very similar to silicon but a much smaller piece of the material can perform the same functionality, meaning space and weight are saved, and less heat is lost.

Read more in the press release >>

December 10, 2010

Warwick Week – Wikileaks, Medieval Economics and the Diamond Planet

The dangers of Wikileaks

Website WikiLeaks has been the focus of heated debate after publishing details of private government information, mainly from the USA, sparking accusations of terrorism and arguments over freedom of speech. These came to a head this week with the arrest of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

Professor Richard Aldrich, PAIS, said that Wikileaks had the potential to help militants find soft targets:

Essentially what it says to terrorists is at the moment you are attacking highly defended targets of relatively low value, what you could be doing is attacking high value targets that are relatively weakly defended. So it’s the overall message which has the potential to change the pattern of a number of terrorists groups around the world.

Read more in National Post >>

Medieval economics

Research led by economists at the University of Warwick shows that Medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world's poorest nations today.

University of Warwick economist Professor Stephen Broadberry, who led the research, said:

Our work sheds new light on England's economic past, revealing that per capita incomes in medieval England were substantially higher than the "bare bones subsistence" levels experienced by people living in poor countries in our modern world. The majority of the British population in medieval times could afford to consume what we call a "respectability basket" of consumer goods that allowed for occasional luxuries.

Read more in the Daily Mail >>

Astronomer helps find diamond planet

A University of Warwick astronomer has played a vital role in finding the first carbon-rich planet orbiting a star 1,200 light years away, which could be home to large rocks of carbon – such as diamond or graphite. The planet was found last year by the WASP project, the UK's leading team of planet discoverers. Now, astronomers led by Nikku Madhusudhan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have observed WASP-12b with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and found that its atmosphere is dominated by molecules containing carbon.

WASP team member Dr Pete Wheatley, from the University of Warwick’s physic department, said:

The UKs WASP project, funded by the STFC research council, is finding many planets that are prime targets for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. It's fascinating to find a planet with so much carbon, and to imagine what other sorts of planet are out there.

Read the press release for more information >>

Creation of the Yvonne Carter Award

An award has been jointly instituted by the RCGP, through its Scientific Foundation Board, and the Society for Academic Primary Care in commemoration of Professor Yvonne Carter CBE. The Yvonne Carter Award for Outstanding Young Researcher is intended support the international development of promising researchers in primary care. Yvonne Carter was an outstanding and inspirational leader who had a remarkable impact on academic general practice.

Read more on the Royal College of General Practioners' website >>

December 03, 2010

Warwick Week – Finger Lengths and Cancer, Weather Predictions for A&E, and Writing Prize Longlist

Finger lengths point to prostate cancer risk

Men who have long index fingers are at lower risk of prostate cancer, a new study published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found. The study led by The University of Warwick and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger were one third less likely to develop the disease than men with the opposite finger length pattern. Joint senior author and visiting academic at WMS, Professor Ken Muir, says: 

Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb which can have an effect decades later. As our research continues, we will be able to look at a further range of factors that may be involved in the make-up of the disease.

Read more in the press release >>

How the weather affects injury rates

Taking the temperature outside A&E could give staff an accurate way to predict number of injuries and who will suffer them. Researchers at the University of Warwick found that even 5C falls or rises could make a difference to injury rates. The arrival of snow and ice led to an eight per cent rise, as the number of slips, trips and car accidents rose. However, the study found other increases linked to the heat of the summer, often viewed as a slightly calmer period in emergency departments.

Read more on the BBC’s website >>

Longlist for the Warwick Prize for Writing announced

The Warwick Prize for Writing, a unique prize launched in 2009, has announced a longlist which includes anthropologists and chemists challenging novelists and poets for the coveted prize of £50,000. The theme for the 2011 prize is ‘Colour’. The eleven longlisted titles comprise six non-fiction, three fiction and two poetry books. From ancient Rome and apartheid South Africa to the aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone and the cultural history of London, the entries highlight the prize’s diversity and international scope. Nominees include a 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature winner (Derek Walcott), a Samuel Johnson Prize runner-up (Aminatta Forna) and a winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Iain Sinclair). Professor Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said:

I’m delighted to see that the international appeal of this literary award has spanned three continents this year resulting in a diverse and intriguing selection of books. This creates a rather challenging but thoroughly enjoyable task and I’m very pleased to be part of the judging process.

Read more in the press release and see the full longlist >>

Professor Wyn Grant receives lifetime achievement award

The University of Warwick’s Professor Wyn Grant was awarded the Political Studies Association (PSA) Diamond Jubilee Lifetime Achievement Award on Tuesday night. The award is the most prestigious honour that the PSA can confer and is just reward for Professor Grant’s 40 years of outstanding scholarship and professional service. He is a researcher in numerous fields, with particular emphasis on interest groups, relations between governments and business, economic policy and globalisation. He is an acknowledged expert on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, and in recent years has collaborated extensively with researchers in the field of biological science.

Read more in the press release >>

Warwick coach heads to Padel Tennis World Championship

The University of Warwick’s head tennis coach Matt Thomas is heading to Mexico to represent the United Kingdom at the Padel Tennis World Championships. The sport, which originated in South America, combines elements of tennis and squash usually in a doubles format. Matt Thomas explained:

Padel has grown rapidly around the world with 11 million people playing the game today. Many tennis and squash players play padel, as the game is a combination of both sports and the the squad currently consists of players that have played at a professional level and at Wimbledon. Padel is played by many professional tennis players around the world, including Andy Murray, as it develops tennis skills such as net play and feel and it is an enjoyable game.

Read more on the BBC’s website >>

November 26, 2010

Warwick Week – Queen Camilla, Saving our Sprouts and NATO's History Lessons

Queen Camilla

During an interview with the American broadcaster NBC that was shown on Friday night, Prince Charles suggested that the Duchess of Cornwall “could be” Queen Camilla when he becomes king, becoming Britain’s first queen consort since the late Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1937. But will she? Dr Sarah Richardson, Department of History, looks at some incidents of historical precedence:

There is no constitutional reason why the Duchess of Cornwall shouldn’t be crowned queen. There is no law that says a divorcée is excluded and, of course, Charles was himself divorced from Diana. Ever since Henry VIII got divorced, constitutionalists have tended to shy away from worrying about the issue of divorce. It all boils down to whether something is acceptable in the prevailing public opinion of the day. For example, Edward VIII did not have to abdicate for a constitutional reason, he abdicated because Wallis Simpson was considered unsuitable by the government.

Read the article in the Daily Telegraph >>

Saving sprouts from deadly cigar burns

Brassicas like brussels sprouts, cabbages and broccoli are all susceptible to the turnip mosaic virus, commonly referred to by gardeners as ‘cigar burns’ because of the black spots it leaves on prize vegetables. The Government-funded Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have invested more than £13 million into helping scientists discover new breeds of plants that are resistant to disease.

One of the most successful projects so far is led by Dr John Walsh, Department of Life Sciences:

TuMV causes really nasty-looking black necrotic spots on the plants it infects - ‘a pox on your’ vegetables! This can cause significant yield losses and often leaves an entire crop unfit for marketing. At best, a field of badly affected brussels sprouts provide some animal fodder, but these vegetables would not be appealing to most shoppers. The virus is particularly difficult to control because it is transmitted so rapidly to plants by insect vectors like greenfly.

Read the full article in the Daily Telegraph >>
Listen to John Walsh speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Material World (1:35) >>

Warwick Arts Centre's tribute to wealthy benefactor

Warwick Arts Centre’s new studio has been named the Helen Martin Studio after the wealthy Kenilworth woman who donated the equivalent of £28 million to the university. Helen Martin, of Spring Lane, Kenilworth, loved classical music and regularly attended classical concerts in at the arts centre’s Butterworth Hall.

She was a major benefactor of the university and from its earliest days established a trust fund that in today’s money would be worth £28 million. She insisted on being anonymous during her lifetime and was referred to by the university simply as ‘The anonymous benefactor.’

University of Warwick Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift said:

Helen Martin’s name and her support for Warwick is now well known but despite her generosity being behind many of university buildings none of them bear her name. Now we will put that right by naming this fine new studio created as the final part of the recent £8 million redevelopment of Warwick Arts Centre.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>

History lessons to inform NATO exit strategies

As politicians and military strategists try to negotiate the NATO withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, academics are looking at what history can tell us about how exits have been managed in the past. A research team from Oxford and Warwick Universities will examine two centuries of British imperialism, from the late eighteen century to the 1990s, in a wide-ranging study that focuses on the alliances and deals that the British brokered in conquering and controlling their empire.

The three-year research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will culminate in a conference in 2013 at which policymakers and academics will assess whether we can learn lessons from past experience. 

Dr Daniel Branch, from the Department of History at the University of Warwick, said:

National myths don’t help us understand how empires worked and the fate of those who backed the losing side in anti-colonial rebellions. It is discomforting for some now to consider that as many Americans opposed the revolution there as supported it in the eighteenth century. The same is true for Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s.

Read the press release by Oxford University >>

Warwick academics awarded research grants from the Leverhulme Trust

A clutch of young academics from the University of Warwick have been awarded research grants from the Leverhulme Trust. Philip Leverhulme Prizes are awarded to outstanding scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, and where the expectation is that their greatest achievement is yet to come.

Dr Giorgio Riello, of the University’s History department, has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize – one of only 25 young academics in the country to be handed the honour. A further eight academics have been granted Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships – more than ten percent of the national awardees.

University of Warwick’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Mark Smith said:

The University of Warwick’s research has long been established in the top ten of UK universities and these nine prestigious awards are testament to the quality of our young staff at the start of their academic careers. Such colleagues are essential to maintain and enhance Warwick’s research reputation in the future. Warwick is one of the top ten research universities in the UK and these nine awards to some of our young academics show the next generation are ready to keep us in the top ten.

Read the press release to learn more >>

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