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Celebrating Research in British Universities

Ben Marks
Ben Marks

Ben is YouthSight's founder and CEO. He's a well-renowned personality in the market research industry and has great connections with the MRS and HEPI.

Gary Yeo is an undergraduate student of Economics at University College London. He has just finished his second year of studies and is currently interning at YouthSight.

During the course of my work at YouthSight I’ve had the opportunity to peruse back-issues of the Times Higher Education and chanced upon the Campus Round-Upsection, which features the latest in research and news of universities across the UK. What blew me away was the depth and breadth of research being undertaken at British universities right now; so many game-changing opportunities.   Inspired, I decided to further explore some recent achievements – so many of which go unnoticed or is overlooked. Here are just a selection of the achievements I found in the past few months alone:

  • Researchers at the University of East Anglia have identified a population of stem cells known as tanycytes that are capable of generating new appetite-regulating neurons in the brains of rodents.  Translation of this discovery could eventually offer a permanent solution to obesity.
  • A doctoral student at University of Nottingham has developed a mobile phone app that may help change lives in parts of Africa by giving people the power to instantly report problems with sanitation using SMS, web forms, email or social media. It is already in operation in Uganda and Tanzania.
  • Researchers at Imperial College London have found that the mortality rate for patients having elective surgery was 44% higher for operations on a Friday than on a Monday. The findings suggest that there could be differences in quality of care over the weekend.
  • A study by University of Warwick found that companies should avoid hiring charismatic chief executives because their powers of persuasion mean that there is no resistance if they take the firm in the wrong direction. ‘Intelligent conservatism’ in leaders was a better trait in the long run.
  • Research at University of Bath found that adults with epilepsy were more likely to have higher traits of autism and Asperger’s syndrome. This suggests that epileptic seizures disrupt the neurological operation that affects social functioning in the brain, and that results in the same traits seen in autism. The finding could lead to improved treatment for people with epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders.
  • Researchers from the University of St Andrews, in collaboration with the Institute of Scientific Instruments of the Czech Republic, have created a real life ‘tractor beam’ for the first time, which allows a beam of light to attract objects. This could lead to more efficient medical testing, such as in the examination of blood samples.
  • Researchers at the University of Leicester have discovered evidence of agriculture in the Xincun region 5,000 years ago, pre-dating the arrival of domesticated rice. Evidence has emerged of difference species of starch producing palms, which would have been ground and dried as flour and eaten.
  • Researchers at UCL are developing an avatar system that enables people with schizophrenia to control the voice of their hallucinations. Early trials suggest that it is far more successful than current pharmaceutical therapy.
  • Pilot schemes designed by a professor at SOAS has found that the usage of unconditional cash grants to supplement public social services in rural villages in India has led to significant improvements in nutrition and health, school attendance and performance, and a variety of other metrics. This could have potentially far-reaching implications on the provision of aid in India.
  • A project by the University of Bath aims to develop novel self-healing concrete that contains bacterial within microcapsules, which will germinate when water enters cracks, plugging them before the steel reinforcement within gets corroded. This could vastly increase the life of concrete structures, reducing the greenhouse impact caused by cement production.
  • Researchers from Newcastle University have found that bees that feed on caffeine-laced nectar, which occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers, had improved memory and were better able to remember a flower’s scent. This could help find ways to better protect the farming industry and countryside.
  • Scientists at University of Oxford have managed to create materials with several of the properties of living tissue using a custom built 3d printer. This approach avoids some of the problems associated with other approaches to creating artificial stem cells because they are entirely synthetic and have no genome and do not replicate.
  • A simple lab-based skin test has been developed by researchers at Newcastle University that uses real human skin and immune cells to show any adverse reaction to new drugs, cosmetics and household chemicals. This could offer a reliable alternative for animal testing of cosmetics.
  • Researchers at the University of Essex working with NASA on a project to control a virtual spacecraft by thought alone have found that combining the brain power of two people provides more accurate steering than flying solo. They have been using brain-computer interface technology to develop control commands for applications such as virtual reality and hands-free control.
  • Analysis of a Martian meteorite by the University of Glasgow has discovered the first evidence of water dissolving the surface of Mars. Researchers used a scanning electron microscope to examine the surface of the 10 million-year-old rock and discovered tiny depressions that had been created by water dissolving certain minerals within the rock. The research concludes that the rock had been exposed to water for a few months.
  • Eminate, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Nottingham, has secured a patent in the USA for the salt reduction product SODA-LO®Salt Microspheres. Its usage allows food manufacturers to reduce salt levels by 25%-50% without affecting the taste. Other salt compounds or substitutes are often associated with having a bitter or metallic aftertaste.
  • Physicists at the University of Glasgow have found a way to make sophisticated 3D images without using conventional digital cameras. By using single-pixel detectors, they were able to construct a system that was able to capture information from a wider spectrum of wavelengths at a relatively low cost. This technology could have a wide variety of practical applications, from detecting gas leaks to tumours.
  • Researchers at University College London and the University of Oxford have found that just a few days of non-harmful brain stimulation and brain training can improve people’s ability to manipulate numbers for up to 6 months. This could potentially help people exceed their cognitive potential in math, and might be of particular help to those suffering from neurodegenerative illness, stroke, or learning difficulties.