All entries for February 2011

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 >>

February 2011

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