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University of Dundee news

The latest study and research news from the University of Dundee

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

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May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

UK first for Dundee dental students

Dental students at the University of Dundee have become the first in the UK to be trained to carry out surgical dental treatment on specially embalmed bodies.

The Thiel method of embalming which has been adopted by the University leaves cadavers with more lifelike properties than those embalmed in the standard way.

Bodies are donated for the purposes of teaching, training and research, and arrangements for dental students to be able to be trained using the bodies were made though the University’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification.

Now a pilot project has been successfully carried out with third-year students in the School of Dentistry, ahead of the bodies being more widely used for dentistry teaching.

‘The Thiel bodies give us an excellent and very lifelike way of
training dentists before they have live patients,’ said Dr Christine Hanson, Associate Specialist lecturing in Oral Surgery at Dundee, who led the pilot project.

‘It is extremely difficult to give dental students an opportunity to practise in a way that gives them a realistic experience. Using simulators or mannequins, or even animal heads, does not offer the same experience and does not let them develop the kind of transferable skills that working on a body can.

‘Using live patients for training also presents significant problems. What the Thiel bodies allow us to do, because they are so flexible, is give students the sort of direct experience that is of huge value to them as developing dentists.

‘It is a fantastic opportunity for our students. We hope to explore a range of procedures, including the placing of dental implants, and I am convinced this will give them the sort of hands-on experience that we have never been able to offer before.’

Professor Sue Black and colleagues in the internationally renowned Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) at the University – who featured in the BBC television series History Cold Case – have
been at the forefront of adopting the Thiel method of embalming in Dundee.

‘The Thiel method gives surgeons, dentists, students and medical researchers a more realistic method of testing techniques, practising procedures and developing new equipment and approaches,’ said Professor Black. ‘We are the first university in the UK to exclusively use Thiel embalming and it is an area where, working together with other colleagues in the University, we can make real breakthroughs and change the face of scientific, medical and dental research and training.

‘As well as this very exciting opportunity for the dentists, we have been working with colleagues in the University’s Institute for Academic Anaesthesia who have found particular benefits in using the bodies to examine the effects of anaesthetics administered with the aid of ultrasound imaging.’

The University has launched a major fundraising campaign to build a new morgue to support the Thiel method. The Million For A Morgue campaign aims to raise £1m towards the cost of the project, with the University having already committed another £1m.

The fundraising campaign has attracted the support of leading crime writers including Val McDermid, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs.

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GSK and the University of Dundee announce new collaboration to develop treatment for Huntington’s disease

The University of Dundee and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have entered into a joint research project to tackle Huntington’s disease, an inherited brain disorder.

The project looks to build on the findings of Professor Susann Schweiger, of the University of Dundee, who has discovered a mechanism that controls production of the disease-causing protein involved in Huntington’s Disease.

‘If we can inhibit this process then we may prevent the build up of this toxic protein in the brain and hopefully provide a treatment for Huntington’s Disease’ said Professor Schweiger.

The £1million-plus research project will be led by Professor Schweiger and her research team, along with Dr Ros Langston and Professor Jeremy Lambert from the Division of Neuroscience, located within the new Medical Research Institute at the University of Dundee, and by Dr David Gray from the University’s Drug Discovery Unit. The project brings together expertise in molecular genetics, behaviour, brain physiology and drug development in an exciting synergistic collaboration with researchers at GSK.

Professor Jeremy Lambert said: ‘This is a truly interdisciplinary effort and one which we are uniquely placed to tackle in Dundee. It is extremely heartening to see GSK, a global pharmaceutical company, focusing on an ‘orphan disease’ like Huntington’s. Their involvement greatly increases the chance of developing a treatment for this devastating disease.’

Huntington’s Disease is a devastating condition with symptoms typically beginning between 30 to 50 years of age. Patients may suffer from memory problems, anxiety and depression but all will eventually develop severe movement problems, leaving them unable to walk and care for themselves. There is currently no cure and patients die within 10–15 years of onset.

The disease is caused by a single gene defect. Anyone with a parent who has Huntington’s Disease has a 50% chance of inheriting this fatal disease.

However, as Huntington’s Disease is relatively rare, only affecting around 1 in 5,000 of the population, it is classed an ‘orphan disease’ and consequently has not been seriously ‘targeted’ by the pharmaceutical industry, until this breakthrough collaboration.

Cath Stanley, Chief Executive of the Huntington’s Disease Association, commented: ‘This is an exciting step forward which will offer much needed hope to families affected by Huntington’s disease.’

The University and GSK are already engaged in a similar collaboration examining another orphan disease, Recessive Dystrophic Epidermylosis Bullosa, a rare disease of the skin and mucosal linings which results in highly painful, debilitating and lifelong skin blistering and puts patients at great risk of infection and of developing certain skin cancers. Again, there are currently no effective medicines to treat this disease.

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‘Portrait’ of people with dementia wins researcher award

A computing researcher, who recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Dundee, has been awarded £10,000 to promote software she developed to help improve the care of people with dementia.

Dr Gemma Webster completed her PhD study in September having spent the previous three years working on the ‘Portrait’ project, which saw her develop software to act as a communications bridge between carers and people with dementia.

She was one of three winners of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) ‘Telling Tales of Engagement’ competition which rewarded academics from across the country able to demonstrate the significant impact of their digital economy research.

The £10,000 prize will help her raise awareness of Portrait with the aim of significantly increasing the number of care facilities using the software to improve the relationship between carer and patient.

Portrait consists of interactive multimedia presentations that contain brief biographical and personal information relevant to a particular person with dementia. This helps busy care staff working with that individual to learn about his or her past in a relatively short time, and enables them to improve the quality of care they deliver.

The multimedia biography is immediately accessible to staff through a touchscreen terminal, and Portrait consists of different topics of information about the person with dementia: Timeline – my life events; Family Tree – my family; and Things to Know – please note.

Dr Webster said that it can be very difficult for staff to get to know the individuals with dementia because they often experience communication difficulties.

‘Yet, without exception all of these individuals have had lives full of incident and relationships, jobs, hobbies, awards, and interesting experiences,’ she said. ‘Establishing some form of communication between carers and people with dementia can have vital implications for their health and well-being.

‘Learning about a person’s past may help the care giver by providing interesting and important information from which to stimulate discussion and communication. This information can be difficult to obtain through patient records or discussions with family especially when the health or medical situation often takes priority, and that’s where Portrait comes in.’

The digital economy has been highlighted as a key area of RCUK investment that can demonstrate impact across society and the economy, and defines impact as embracing the diverse ways that research-related skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations.

The ‘Telling Tales of Engagement’ competition aimed to capture the wider, non-academic impact of the research and to help researchers to tell their story in interesting and engaging ways to a wider audience.

Dr Webster, who received both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Dundee and who has recently taken up a postdoctoral position at Lancaster University, said the funding would hopefully lead to more care and nursing homes using Portrait.

‘The most important thing now is to raise awareness and get more care homes and families involved in the project. We will look at how best to go about this, but we know the key is to get as many people involved as possible.

‘It’s really good to have won this award and to have the chance to promote and publicise the project more widely. I think it’s very important to encourage care givers to get to know the person they are working with rather than just seeing them through the label of dementia or in terms of the physical needs they have. This prize will help us to get that message across.’

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Partnership reaches important milestone in discovery of new drugs for malaria

Scientists at the University of Dundee are making rapid progress towards a potential new treatment for malaria. Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) initiated a project in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) around 18 months ago and has already identified a compound that is curative in a mouse model of malaria at very low doses, when given orally.

Professor Ian Gilbert one of the leaders of the research effort said: ‘This is tremendously exciting and amazing progress. We have discovered an entirely new class of compound that holds a great deal of antimalarial promise.’

The project started after the biology team at the DDU screened one of their collections of compounds against the malaria parasite. The results of this screen gave rise to a number of suitable chemical start points. Over the course of 18 months, two of these compound series have been modified and refined through cycles of compound design, chemical synthesis and biological testing to the point where they show excellent activity in a mouse model of malaria.

‘MMV is pleased to be working with the dedicated team at the University of Dundee,’ said Tim Wells, Chief Scientific Officer at MMV. ‘Malaria control and elimination continues to face numerous challenges, not least of which is the threat of emerging resistance to the current effective treatment – artemisinin. In preparation for this eventuality MMV and partners are researching over 50 projects in the largest-ever pipeline of antimalarial medicines. DDU scientists have given us more compounds to work on that we hope to take through the research process. If successful, this class of compounds could well become a new source of much-needed alternatives to artemisinin, one day.’

The research has now been focused on one of the compound series, which fulfils all of MMV’s criteria for an ‘early lead’, and has now entered the phase of drug discovery called ‘lead optimisation’. In this phase, the DDU team works to further improve the properties of the compounds to the point where they can select a candidate drug. Following further studies the candidate would then be ready to enter clinical trials. Based on current progress, the scientists hope to have selected a candidate within one year.

Dr Kevin Read, another leader of the DDU team said: ‘Malaria is a debilitating, often fatal parasitic disease that kills around one million people each year, mostly children under the age of five, living in sub-Saharan Africa. Our compounds give hope that safe, affordable, new medicines to fight malaria will be ready to replace current drug treatments that are becoming ineffective due to the spread of drug resistance.’

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Future bright for Dundee’s Leverhulme prize winners

Two researchers in the School of Engineering, Physics and Mathematics at the University of Dundee have been named among the winners of this year’s Philip Leverhulme Prizes, awarded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Dr David Pontin, Lecturer in Mathematics, and Dr Maria Ana Cataluna, Royal Academy of Engineering/EPSRC Research Fellow & Lecturer, each receive £70,000 to fund activity around their research.

The 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.

The Prizes commemorate the contribution to the work of the Trust made by Philip Leverhulme, the Third Viscount Leverhulme and grandson of the Founder.

The broad fields of research covered by this year’s awards were:

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Geography
  • Modern European Languages and Literature
  • Performing and Visual Arts

Dr David PontinDr Pontin’s research examines the behaviour of magnetic fields, which play a crucial role in the dynamics of plasma on all scales, from galaxies to the Sun, the Earth’s magnetosphere and laboratory nuclear fusion devices.

‘My work is based around modelling the behaviour of these magnetic fields, which typically have a highly complex three-dimensional structure,’ said Dr Pontin. ‘One particular focus is on understanding “magnetic reconnection” – the process which allows a magnetic field to change its structure, often accompanied by an explosive release of energy. Studying this underlying physical mechanism of energy release can help us understand a wide variety of phenomena, such as solar flares, the formation of stars, magnetospheric substorms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and disruptions that halt the production of energy in nuclear fusion machines.

‘One research topic that this award will help me pursue is the
evolution of the magnetic field in the Sun’s atmosphere (or “corona”). One of the greatest puzzles in solar physics is how the corona is heated to temperatures of millions of degrees, while the solar surface temperature is only a few thousand degrees. One key aim of my research will be to understand under what conditions explosive energy release can occur, and the details of how this may heat the coronal plasma.’

Dr Maria Ana CatalunaDr Cataluna is engaged in the research and development of a new generation of miniature and versatile ultrafast lasers.

‘Instead of emitting light in a continuous manner, an ultrafast laser generates incredibly short bursts of light. Ultrafast lasers have important applications in medicine, micromachining, optical communications, spectroscopy, and other applications which require extremely high optical peak powers or extremely short time scales. For example, ultrafast lasers have shown a tremendous potential for non-invasive imaging techniques which can probe into live cells or tissues, without disrupting their biological activity. However, most of the currently available ultrafast lasers are bulky, costly and complex, which inhibits the widespread uptake of these non-invasive diagnostics.’

‘This award will be really helpful in accelerating the development of these miniature lasers and maximise their far-reaching impact in a number of imaging and sensing applications, particularly in the biomedical sciences,’ said Dr Cataluna.

Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of The Leverhulme Trust, said: ‘The standard of the nominated candidates was encouragingly high, and the eventual recipients of Prizes were judged by the panel to be truly outstanding in their fields, with records of proven achievement, as well as telling promise for the future.’

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Researchers identify skin cancer genes

The genes which contribute to the most frequently occurring life threatening form of skin cancer have been identified for the first time by a research collaboration between the University of Dundee and scientists at Harvard and University of California, San Francisco.

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is the most frequently occurring life threatening skin cancer. Unlike other common skin cancers, such as Melanoma and Basal Cell Carcinoma, the genes which are frequently mutated in cSCC have, until now, been unknown.

Now the researchers at Dundee, Harvard and UCSF have identified two highly related genes which are mutated in three quarters of all cSCC cases. The gene mutations are also active in a significant proportion of SCC cases in the lungs.

The identified genes are known as ‘NOTCH’ and the mutations are thought to inhibit normal barrier development, important processes in both the skin and lung.

Details of the research have been published in the journal PNAS USA (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

‘These gene mutations are a common factor in a form of skin cancer which is both common and life threatening,’ said Professor Irene Leigh, who led the Dundee end of the collaboration.

‘By identifying these mutations, our group at Dundee, working with international partners, hopes to exploit the process of skin development to which these genes contribute to develop new cancer therapies capable of targeting skin and similar cancers such as lung SCC.’

Professor Leigh is an internationally renowned expert in skin biology and disease. She is also a Vice-Principal of the University of Dundee and Head of the College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing.

The research was carried out with Dr Andrew South and Dr Charlotte Proby in Professor Leigh’s laboratory at Dundee, together with colleagues at Harvard and UCSF.

The research at Dundee has been supported by Cancer Research UK and the European Research Commission.

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Life Sciences students to receive prizes

Life Sciences students from the University of Dundee who have achieved excellence in their academic studies will have their success marked at a prize-giving ceremony.

A total of 62 students will be congratulated for their hard work and determination and be presented with prizes at the College of Life Sciences Student Awards event on 11 November. This annual event celebrates the achievements of outstanding students from the last academic year.

Leading the way, with six awards is 21-year-old Egle Gaurilcikaite. Egle, originally from Lithuania, has just entered her third year of the Biomedical Sciences degree and won an Armistead Bursary and the Ede & Ravenscroft Prize along with four awards for achievements in individual modules.

The other top prize winner is 22-year-old Hanna Juchniewicz from Poland. She has just entered the final year of her Sports Biomedical degree and won a total of five prizes including an Armitstead Bursary, the Roger Booth Prize and three module awards.

Professor David Coates, Dean of Learning & Teaching congratulated all prize-winners on their achievements.

‘This is an important evening for the College of Life Sciences because it is vital that we celebrate the successes of our students. Seeing these high-achieving students receiving their award will, I’m sure, act as an inspiration to their peers by showing them what is possible.

‘Every year it is a humbling experience to be involved in this event. It is a pleasure to help teach such able and committed students. These young people represent all our futures, and we are justly proud of them.’

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Blood pressure drugs may offer benefits in valvular heart disease

Drugs used to treat blood pressure could offer benefits to patients with a leaking heart valve, new research at the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside has revealed.

Aortic regurgitation is the term given to a condition where the main valve between the heart and the rest of the body leaks. Patients are often asymptomatic but when the leak becomes significant the heart can struggle and patients may experience breathlessness.

The mainstay of treatment is surgery to replace the valve. For patients who have no symptoms and whose hearts appear to be coping with the leak it had not been known whether offering other treatments such as drugs called ACE Inhibitors or angiotensin blockers, commonly used to treat blood pressure, may offer benefit, or indeed may delay the need for an operation.

Chim Lang, Professor of Cardiology at the University of Dundee, and his team studied the records of Tayside patients with aortic regurgitation who have undergone heart scans over the last 20 years in Tayside.

‘From looking back at records for these individuals, we have shown that patients taking drugs that block the renin angiotensin system like ACE Inhibitors and angiotensin blockers had significantly lower rates of all-cause death and hospitalisations,’ said Professor Lang.

‘We observed that patients with aortic regurgitation who were taking these medications had a better outcome. This observation, however, needs to be confirmed by prospective clinical trials.’

Details of the research are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The research team utilised the unique resources of the Health
Informatics Centre at the University of Dundee to link anonymous data on patients having heart scans to prescription records, hospital admission and test data as well as data from the general registry office.

The study was kindly funded by the charity TENOVUS.

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Principal to lead delegation to India

Professor Pete Downes, Principal of the University of Dundee, will lead a delegation travelling to India to increase research collaboration, academic exchanges and recruitment.

University representatives will visit a number of major Indian cities to establish or build on existing relationships with leading institutions and organisations across the country while Professor Downes will undertake a number of high-profile engagements in Bangalore and Delhi.

He will travel to Bangalore on Tuesday, 8 November to visit Alliance University and RV College of Engineering – two of the top universities for business and engineering in India.

Professor Downes will sign a new agreement with Alliance to develop joint research programmes and courses in accounting, finance, economics, international business and engineering, and complete a similar deal relating to computing and engineering with RV College of Engineering.

The Principal will also visit the Bangalore headquarters of Wipro, a major Indian IT services company that employs more than 120,000 people worldwide, and the Indian division of NCR. Both companies are partners of the University’s School of Computing.

The following day will see Professor Downes fly to Delhi to take part in a Scottish universities alumni event together with heads of other Scottish universities, senior diplomats from the UK’s High Commission in India, and the Scottish Education Minister, Michael Russell MSP.

On Saturday, 12 November, he will give an invited speech on cultivating research at the prestigious Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Education Summit as a part of a mission organised by the Scottish Government.

Professor Downes said that it was essential for the University to build closer collaborations with emerging markets such as India.

‘By doing this, the University can act as Dundee’s gateway to the world,’ he said. ‘Increased ties will lead to more students flowing between Scotland and India, research collaborations and academic exchanges. In the longer-term, these partnerships could act as a springboard for commercial links in high-growth sectors including business, engineering, life-sciences, animation and design.’

Whilst Professor Downes attends the events in Delhi and Bangalore, other members of Dundee staff will be visiting the cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Cochin to further raise the profile of the University.

India has the second largest English speaking population in the world after the USA. This, together with long-standing cultural and personal ties, makes India a prime candidate for collaboration. India is now the world’s tenth largest economy, and growth of 8.5% is predicted for 2011.

Scotland has the opportunity to develop productive links with India to develop new markets for goods and services, and Scottish exports to the country are already around £200m a year and growing.

The University of Dundee has a long-standing partnership with the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) in Pune. Dundee signed a range of agreements with MIT Pune last year, under which students begin courses in India and then travel to Scotland to study at Dundee.

The University and MIT Pune are developing joint masters courses in product design, design ethnography and international business, and MIT will also sponsor staff PhDs at Dundee.

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Protecting the brain when energy runs low

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Dundee have shed new light on the way that the brain protects itself from harm when ‘running on empty’.

The findings could lead to new treatments for patients who are at risk of stroke when their energy supply from blood vessels feeding the brain become compromised.

Many regions of the brain constantly consume as much energy as leg muscles during marathon running. Even when we are sleeping, the brain needs regular fuel.

Much of this energy is needed to fire up ‘action potentials’, tiny electrical impulses that travel along nerve cells in the brain. These electrical impulses trigger the release of chemical messages at nerve endings, allowing the brain to process information and control bodily functions.

Normally, the bloodstream supplies enough glucose and oxygen to the brain to generate the large amount of energy required for these action potentials to be fired up. But things can go wrong if the blood vessels feeding the brain become narrowed or blocked, restricting the supply of vital nutrients.

A team, funded by the Wellcome Trust and led jointly by Professors Chris Peers (Leeds), Mark Evans (Edinburgh) and Grahame Hardie (Dundee), has now identified a way for the brain to protect itself when its energy supply is running low. This protective strategy, which is triggered by a protein known as AMPK, reduces the firing frequency of electrical impulses, conserving energy.

It was Professor Hardie who first discovered AMPK. He said: “When we first defined the AMPK system by studying fat metabolism in the liver back in the 1980s, we had no idea that it might regulate completely different functions in other organs, like nervous conduction in the brain.

‘There are drugs currently on the market that stimulate AMPK, which are used to treat other conditions. In future these and other drugs could be given to at-risk patients to give them a better chance of surviving a stroke.’

Professor Chris Peers of the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, added: ‘Our new findings suggest that if brain cells run short of energy, they start to work more slowly. However, it is better to work slowly than not at all. It is possible that this discovery could, in the long term, lead to new treatments for patients who have problems with circulation to the brain, placing them at higher risk of conditions such as stroke.’

‘This research is a good example of what can happen if you pool the expertise of research groups who work in different areas,’ he added.

Full details of the work are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research was funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust awarded jointly to the three investigators.

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Sentient Medical progresses towards hearing loss relief

A University of Dundee spin-out company has received commercial development funding and further business investment to help develop technology for the relief of hearing loss.

Sentient Medical is developing a miniature Middle Ear Implant (MEI) for the relief of moderate-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss – a type of deafness affecting about 90 per cent of all hearing-impaired persons.

MedEl, a leading international hearing device company, is funding the next development phase of the project, which will take two years to complete. Their six-figure investment in Sentient’s technology will take it a step further towards a future clinical trial. Archangel Informal Investment, together with the Scottish Co-Investment Fund, has also recently provided equity funding of £100,000 for the company.

Up to 10 per cent of the population of the western world suffer from deafness of this type, and the Sentient team believes that its MEI will overcome the technical inadequacies of previous systems. The market for the developed MEI is estimated at being between $1.8 and $2.7 billion per year, and it is hoped the final product will be affordable to most members of the general public.

Sentient’s management team consists of Eric Abel, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University, and investor Chairman David Campbell.

Professor Abel said: ‘Sentient Medical is very pleased to be working with MedEl, who are world leaders in hearing implants. This development, together with the continued support from our lead investor Archangel, is an important next step for taking forward Sentient’s new hearing implant technology. Middle ear implants will in the future become a viable alternative to hearing aids for the treatment of hearing loss.’

Hearing aids are limited in the amplitude they can generate and therefore the hearing loss they can compensate for. The Sentient MEI is designed to operate by direct vibration of the bones of the middle ear in response to sound, or the round window of the middle ear, and so can pass much more energy (with high fidelity) to the inner ear than a hearing aid, which must transmit sound through the air of the ear canal.

Sentient will continue to develop the MEI in Dundee, and aims to develop the products through regulatory clearance and readiness for clinical trials with its industry partner.

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Dundee ‘multi’ project wins European acclaim

An interactive study of life in a Dundee tower block scheduled for demolition has won a major film prize in Poland.

DJCAD student Pawel GrzybPawel Grzyb, a third-year Time Based Art & Digital Film student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, won the top prize at the Filmteractive Festival in Lodz for his exploration of life for the few remaining residents in Bucklemaker Court – a 23-storey tower block in Dundee’s Hilltown area.

26-year-old Pawel is originally from Krakow, but has lived in Scotland for more than six years. He found out about the competition when he visited Poland during the summer and submitted the project he had worked on as part of his studies during the previous year.

After being shortlisted for the top award, Pawel presented the work to a panel of academics, filmmakers and industry representatives from Poland, and won 10,000PLN (£2,000) and a scholarship for postgraduate studies at the State Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Lodz. He was also awarded the Audience Prize for the most interesting idea.

Pawel says that he created ‘Fading Community’ in an attempt to preserve the unique atmosphere of the tower block and create a living memory before Bucklemaker and the neighbouring Butterburn Court are demolished next year. The giant tower blocks were built 40 years ago, and once housed hundreds of families. Only a handful of residents remain in the ‘multi’s’ as they await re-housing.

‘Coming from the part of Krakow that I do, it was quite common for me to see high-rise housing like this,’ he said. ‘What interested me was hearing that the multi was due to be demolished and that there was an opportunity to create something that would preserve the memory of this place for future generations.

‘It provides a snapshot of late-20th century architecture and life, and it was very interesting for me to get to know about Dundee’s history in this way. Bucklemaker Court is where many people lived and played a huge role in their lives so it is important that something exists to keep help their memory alive.

‘The scholarship is to one of the best universities for film studies in Europe, and it was great to win these prizes but the most important thing for me was just seeing my work recognised in this way.’

Pawel used photography, film and sound recordings to create a memoir of the council block and to document the changing nature of Dundee. He created a documentary website with interactive features which allow the viewer to hear interviews with residents and concierges, undertake a virtual tour of the building, and gain new insights into life in Bucklemaker Court, past and present.

Filmteractive is an annual festival where film talent meet to exchange experiences, ideas and establish business contacts. Young artists can see the latest trends in digital media and interactive business representatives can obtain partners for their film projects. Visitors can observe how film and the internet combine to provide a new kind of communication.

Over the two-day duration of Filmteractive, visitors can speak to people who are at the forefront of multimedia development, and take part in inspiring discussions, workshops and informal talks.

Pawel will complete his Time Based Art & Digital Film degree before taking up his scholarship at the Higher State School, or other postgraduate study.

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‘Tom Foolery’ to raise money for serious cause

A night of fun, festivities and fundraising will take place at the University of Dundee’s Bonar Hall on Friday 14 October.

‘Tom Foolery’ is a comedy revue featuring the music and lyrics of the renowned American singer-songwriter, satirist and polymath Tom Lehrer. Presented by University of Dundee Music, the event will raise money for the ‘Million For A Morgue’ campaign.

Tom Foolery was devised and produced for the stage by the British musical theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh, and the revue went on to enjoy successful runs in the West End and on Broadway. It includes many of the pithy and humorous songs that made Tom Lehrer a huge star in the 1950s and 60s.

‘This is a rare chance to hear a live performance of the songs of Tom Lehrer,’ said Graeme Stevenson, of University of Dundee Music.

‘Tom was very popular in the 50s and 60s and wrote songs for That Was The Week That Was as well as an educational offshoot of Sesame Street. Tom Foolery was one of Cameron Mackintosh’s first musicals and features such Lehrer classics as The Masochism Tango and Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

‘The cast comprises students and graduates from Dundee and St Andrews, and they have put together a fantastic production to raise money for this very worthy cause.’

The Million For A Morgue campaign is being spearheaded by Professor Sue Black, Director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) at the University. The fundraising aims to enable the University to build a new morgue, which will allow researchers to adopt the Thiel method of embalming.

This gives surgeons, dentists, students and medical researchers a more realistic method of testing techniques, practising procedures and developing new equipment and approaches.

Tom Foolery takes place at the Bonar Hall at 7.30pm on Friday 14 October. Tickets, costing £10, £8 (concessions) and £5 (students), are available from www.buyat.dundee.ac.uk or at the door.

More information about the Million For A Morgue can be found at www.millionforamorgue.com.

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Dundee scientist awarded £80,000 Rank Prize for research into human nutrition

Professor John Cummings, Emeritus Professor of Experimental Gastroenterology at the University of Dundee, will receive £80,000 after winning one of the most prestigious prizes in the field of nutrition research.

He has been named as the winner the 2012 Rank Prize for his research, which identified the role of the colon in human health and nutrition.

The Rank Prize was established in 1972 following a bequest from the late industrialist and film producer Lord Rank. It was his wish to promote the sciences of nutrition and optoelectronics.

These two areas were of special interest to Lord Rank because of his family’s milling and baking business, and the Rank film organisation. Two prizes are awarded annually – one for nutrition and one for optoeletronics – and are only given to those considered to be eminent leaders in their respective fields.

‘This is a tremendous honour, and it is really great, not just for myself, but for all the people who I work with in Dundee and who I have worked with in the past,’ he said. ‘This Prize is recognition for nutrition as a whole. Previous winners have come from all over the world – from the US, India and the Far East – so it is good that it should come to Scotland and this University.

‘As far as nutrition prizes go, there aren’t many that can top this in terms of both prestige and money so I’m very pleased to have won.’

Although the large bowel was known to play a major role in regulating the digestive health of animals such as horses and elephants, it was not conventionally regarded as being of major significance for human health.

Whilst researching the role of dietary fibre, Professor Cummings and his team showed that the large bowel, or hind-gut, was indeed vital to human digestion. They identified that fermentation in the colon contributes to energy metabolism and protection against large bowel cancer.

In recognition of his pioneering research, Professor Cummings was appointed OBE in 2008. He also received the British Nutrition Foundation Annual Award for 2008 for making an outstanding contribution to nutrition.

He will add the Rank Prize to that collection when he is formally presented with the award on Monday, 6th February 2012 during a ceremony at the Royal College of Physicians, London.

The Rank Prize Funds is a charitable organisation which seeks to recognise excellence in specific fields of research and reward innovators for their dedication and outstanding contribution.

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Dundee announces RUK fees, more three-year degrees

The University of Dundee is to develop a range of specially designed three-year honours degree programmes which will be offered to Rest-of-UK (RUK) and Scottish students.

The move is part of the University’s approach to setting fee levels for RUK students, which will be £9,000 per year, capped at £27,000 for a four-year course.

The first tranche of three-year honours programmes will be launched for entry in September 2012, with the intention being to expand their range to include all appropriate degree programmes in future years. Programmes likely to be available for 2012 include those in art & design and life sciences.

Appropriately qualified RUK students will continue to remain eligible for advanced entry to the second year of all existing programmes where such entry is currently permissible.

Where RUK students wish to take advantage of the benefits of a traditional four-year Scottish honours degree, or where a three-year option is not available, the total fee payable for the programme as a whole will be capped at £27,000.

The new three year programmes will also be available to Scottish students who gain the required entry qualifications (either through Advanced Highers or via articulation from Colleges of Further Education) consistent with the principles of the Scottish Credit & Qualifications Framework and emergent thinking in relation to the ‘learner journey’ in Scotland.

These new programmes will allow students to gain an honours degree in the same length of time as in the rest of the UK. This significantly reduces the total cost of a degree once living costs such as accommodation are factored in.

Dundee has consistently rated as one of the most cost-efficient cities in which to live as a student in the UK. The University of Dundee has in the past month been shortlisted as University of the Year by Times Higher Education and ranked as one of the world’s top 200 universities in the QS World Rankings.

‘We fully appreciate the views of students and their families looking at the costs of attending University. By offering competitively priced three-year programmes, which of course mean a year’s less extra costs in living expenses such as accommodation, and combining this with very high academic standards we think we have a very attractive offer for students,’ said Professor Pete Downes, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University.

‘Many of our other courses will continue to be offered on a four-year basis, where we will cap total fee costs at £27,000. However, we are actively working on developing a three-year option for many of these courses.’

A significant proportion of the additional fee income generated from the above changes will be used by the University to fund a generous package of bursaries and scholarships. These will be used primarily to attract students with high potential who might be deterred from undertaking a degree programme because of the cost and will primarily take the form of bursaries towards living costs rather than fee waivers.

The £27,000 cap will not apply to courses which are the same length as elsewhere in the UK, such as medicine, dentistry and architecture. The total fee applicable will therefore be comparable with the rest of the UK.

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Public invited to cut, scratch and score with artists

Three acclaimed figures from the UK art scene are to collaborate with ordinary Dundonians on a major new performance and exhibition commissioned by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD).

Up-and-coming star artists David Barnett and Sam Belinfante will team up with Bruce McLean, one of the most renowned figures in British contemporary art, to produce ‘A CUT A SCRATCH A SCORE: a comic opera in three parts’, which will be held across three public spaces in Dundee in October.

The project combines opera, comedy, drawings, sculpture and moving images. The daring work will act as a stage for the city and its people, upon which the comedies of contemporary life will strut, turn and take a bow. The five-day project is open to members of the Dundee public interested in shaping the final performance, which will draw on the history of the city’s famous industries of jute, jam and journalism.

It will be the first time Bruce McLean has held a major performance exhibition in Scotland for several years, and the project represents a rare opportunity to see such a high profile artist working in collaboration with a team of visual artists, performers and musicians.

A series of open rehearsals and salons will be held from Monday 17 October. The Salons will be events where the artists invite the public to join them for a round-table discussion. All events are free and open to anyone to attend.

The culminating performance will take place on Friday 21 October, and an exhibition relating to the project will then be held at the Cooper Gallery, DJCAD.

In dealing with obesity, gluttony, avarice, consumerism, deportment, immigration, anarchy and conformity, the story line will chart the ups and downs of our very modern relationships.

Directly following the final performance, the exhibition will continue to tell the tale of this comic opera by drawing on the ethos of collaboration.

Renowned Mezzo-soprano Lore Lixenberg and performance artist Adeline Bourret will also take part in the performances, as will musicians from Dundee including the Cantiones, Sacrae and St Paul’s Cathedral choirs, and Dundee Drum Academy.

The project is part of the Cooper Gallery-led ‘Legends of Now’, a series of commissions featuring influential British artists who came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, and who are still making innovative and challenging new works today in collaboration with other artists. ‘Legends of Now’ is supported by Creative Scotland and The Elephant Trust.

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Is your computer smarter than you? – A guide to artificial intelligence

‘Is your computer smarter than you are?’ That’s the question that will be asked during the next Café Science event on Monday 26 September.

In the 1999 film The Matrix, one of the lead characters tells us that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ‘a singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines.’

This, and other science-fiction representations, has led to many people being terrified of the concept, but Dr Karen Petrie from the University of Dundee’s School of Computing will set the record straight on AI during the Café Science event.

In her talk, Dr Petrie will discuss what AI really is and explain how beneficial it can be for humans. The intriguing discussion on the ability of computers to mimic human intelligence and behaviour will be followed by questions from the audience.

‘We’ve all seen sci-fi films where AI leads to robots taking over the world so it will be something of a relief to have Karen Petrie put our minds at rest,’ said Dr Jon Urch, Public Engagement Co-ordinator at the University of Dundee and event organiser.

‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to find out about the future of computing, which is safer but every bit as exciting as the movies. Half of each Café Science event is set aside to allow the audience to put their questions to the speaker, an expert in this field.’

Café Science was launched in January 2008, and has attracted more than 2,500 people since then.

The monthly events are informal discussions led by leading local researchers that allow members of the public the opportunity to learn more about the ground-breaking science happening at the Universities of Dundee and Abertay and Dundee Science Centre.

‘Is your computer smarter than you? – A guide to artificial intelligence’ takes place from 7pm on Monday 26 September, at Chambers, South Tay Street.

Chambers will be open as normal before the talk. This is a free event and everyone is welcome. There is no need to book in advance but attendees are advised to arrive early to avoid disappointment.

More details of upcoming events can be found on the Cafe Science Dundee website.

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Scottish expertise backs major diabetes programme in Kuwait

Scottish expertise in diabetes care and education is being used to deliver a major new education programme for health services in Kuwait.

The Masters programme in Diabetes Care and Education is the first major educational programme being delivered as a result of agreements signed last year between the University of Dundee, NHS Tayside, Aridhia Informatics, and the Dasman Diabetes Institute and the Ministry of Health in Kuwait.

Diabetes is a significant problem in Kuwait, where it has been estimated that up to 1 in 4 of the adult population suffers from the disease. This equates to almost 700,000 Kuwaitis.

The mission of the Dasman Diabetes Institute – which is based in Kuwait – is to prevent, control and mitigate the impact of diabetes in Kuwait through effective programmes of training and education.

The Scottish partners involved in the collaboration have world-renowned expertise in tackling the disease. Tayside is now internationally recognised as having arguably the best information and knowledge of a diabetes population anywhere in the world and the clinical network model
developed in the region has consistently demonstrated improved outcomes for people with diabetes.

‘The joint development of a programme that combines education, research and enhanced clinical care for patients with diabetes between Kuwait and Dundee is extremely exciting – it offers real prospect for innovation and quality enhancement that will be to the benefit of all partners in the enterprise,’ said Professor John Connell, Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Dundee.

Professor Connell will help launch the new Masters programme at the Dasman Diabetes Institute on Monday 19 September.

The Masters in Diabetes Care and Education is aimed at all healthcare professionals in Kuwait and is designed to help them develop specialised knowledge of diabetes and provide them with educational and management training so they can communicate more effectively with colleagues and patients.

Approximately, 100 healthcare professionals representing the multifunctional medical team required to manage a chronic disease such as diabetes are enrolled in the programme.

The course is designed to be flexible with students choosing modules most relevant to their professional needs. To pass the course students are expected to apply classroom learning in a project designed to improve an aspect of their current job. In this manner the training received can have an immediate impact on healthcare provision to patients.

To support the students through their project the KHN Learning Zone has been launched as part of the Kuwait Health Network (KHN) informatics system. The Learning Zone provides the students with on-line educational support through the use of additional teaching material such as recorded lectures and discussion forums with their teachers.

The Learning Zone includes an Open Zone which is accessible to all healthcare professionals in Kuwait providing links to the latest news in Diabetes and clinical decision making tools. It is hoped the Learning Zone can become a useful and active forum to link health care professionals across Kuwait, sharing knowledge to enhance the speed of change.

Dr Kazem Behbehani, Director of the Dasman Diabetes Institute, announced another landmark for the collaboration – all primary health care clinics and hospitals in the capital region have now been linked to the Kuwait Health Network, bringing the benefits of an electronic health record to a population of 600,000 potential patients.

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Dundee researchers make gene breakthrough

Researchers at the University of Dundee have made a significant breakthrough in understanding how human cells decode genes important for cell growth and multiplication.

Dr Joost Zomerdijk and colleagues in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression in the College of Life Sciences at Dundee study the process of transcription, in which cells copy the DNA of genes into RNA, ultimately leading to the manufacture of proteins.

Transcription must be tightly controlled because otherwise the cells can die or they can grow and multiply without restraint, as seen in certain human diseases including cancer.

Dr Zomerdijk and his team have discovered a previously hidden link within the components of the transcription machinery, the details of which are published in a research paper in the prestigious journal Science.

‘Three separate transcription machineries exist in human cells. Each is important for transcription of a subset of genes within the cells and each is made up of one specific RNA polymerase enzyme and several other groups of proteins that direct and control transcription activity.’ said Dr Zomerdijk.

‘The transcription machineries of RNA polymerases II and III contain TFIIB or TFIIB-like proteins, which are essential for transcription of their particular subsets of genes. It was surprising that a similar protein had not been identified as a component of the RNA polymerase I transcription machinery, which produces the millions of copies of ribosomal RNAs needed to sustain normal cell growth and multiplication.

‘Now, we have discovered that the protein TAF1B, one of a group of proteins that directs the RNA polymerase I enzyme to the ribosomal RNA genes, is similar to TFIIB and Brf1 in structure and function.

‘This discovery indicates that the three transcription machineries of human cells, which are likely to have evolved from a common ancestor, are even more similar than previously realised.

‘My lab and I are extremely excited to have discovered this important missing link. Furthermore, this research, funded primarily by the Wellcome Trust, advances our understanding of how normal transcription is maintained and controlled in human cells, which will help us to work out how transcription becomes deregulated in certain diseased cells and, potentially, how we can reverse such deregulation.’

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Science writing prize for student Amy

Amy Capes, a PhD student in the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery at the University of Dundee, has won the Medical Research Council’s 2011 Max Perutz Science Writing Award for her article Putting Sleeping Sickness on the Radar.

University of Dundee student Amy CapesIn the piece, she described how her research could prevent the parasite which causes sleeping sickness from evading the immune system of the people it infects. As part of the prize, Amy’s winning article will be published in the Guardian newspaper later this month.

Amy, who is 30 and from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, said: ‘I am delighted but quite shocked to have won! The other essays on the shortlist were excellent, so after they had announced the commended finalists and the runner-up, I was sure I was going home empty-handed.’

Amy originally studied Computer Arts at the University of Abertay Dundee before going on to do a BSc Hons in Chemistry at Edinburgh University. She is now just finishing a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry at Dundee.

‘I chose to go into science because I felt it offered greater intellectual challenges and more practical applications than art,’ said Amy. ‘Chemistry is particularly beautiful because it relates to everything from tiny organisms to the composition of stars.’

The 2011 Max Perutz competition received over 100 entries from some of the UK’s brightest PhD students, all eager to explain their research to a non-scientific audience. The winner, chosen from a shortlist of 12 essays, was announced at an awards ceremony in London at an event attended by members of the Medical Research Council’s Council, MRC chief executive Sir John Savill, and representatives from across the science community.

The distinguished judging panel of scientists and writers comprised Sir John Savill; the Guardian’s science and environment correspondent, Alok Jha; author and broadcaster, Georgina Ferry; director of the MRC Clinical Trial Unit, Professor Max Parmar; and last year’s Max Perutz Award winner, Nicola Illingworth from Newcastle University.

During the awards ceremony, Sir John said: ‘An integral part of the MRC’s mission is to promote dialogue with the public about medical research. This competition is a fantastic way of achieving this. All of our 12 shortlisted students have done exceptionally well in capturing the excitement and relevance of their research. It was a pleasure to meet them this evening and congratulate them on their considerable achievements.’

Now in its 14th year, the Max Perutz Award encourages MRC-funded PhD students to communicate their research to a wider audience, asking them to describe the importance and excitement of their research in just 800 words. Since the competition started in 1998, hundreds of students have
submitted entries and taken their first steps in science communication.

The award is named in honour of one of the UK’s most outstanding scientists and communicators, Dr Max Perutz. Max, who died in 2002, was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work using X-ray crystallography to study the structures of globular proteins. He was the founder and first chairman of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, the lab which unravelled the structure of DNA. Max was also a keen and talented communicator who inspired countless students to use everyday language to share their research with the people whose lives are improved by their work.

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University expert asks: ‘Is this the face of Jack the Ripper?’

A University of Dundee forensic anthropologist will help shed new light on the world’s most famous cold case when she appears on the hit BBC One show National Treasures Live.

Dr Xanthe Mallett from the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification will interview Trevor Marriott, an ex-murder squad detective and one of the world’s foremost Jack the Ripper experts, about the man he believes most likely to have carried out the brutal killing of five women in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888.

Marriott believes Carl Feigenbaum, a German merchant who was shown to be visiting London at the time of each murder, is the top suspect. No photographs of Feigenbaum exist, but Dr Mallett will be examining an e-fit produced by Trevor Marriott based on the description of him when he was sent to prison in the US. She will also be exploring the evidence that either supports and rebuffs the theory.

‘As a forensic anthropologist, it was a privilege to trawl through the treasure trove of surviving documents from the original police investigation,’ she said. ‘It was fascinating to explore these and review this case, although it did leave me wondering why, after more than 120 years, we still crave to know who Jack was.

‘The crimes may have taken place more than 120 years ago, and the review may have shed new light on them, but this case is certainly not solved. I look forward to learning about the new twists and turns as this dark tale has many more secrets to give up before we know, for sure, the name of the man we call Jack the Ripper and whether this new e-fit is the closest thing we have to a definitive image of him.’

Dr Mallett and her colleagues in CAHID are no strangers to the small screen, having starred in the BBC Two series History Cold Case, which saw them use sophisticated forensic techniques and historical evidence to analyse skeletons from across the ages in staggering detail, opening new windows on the history of our forebears.

The e-fit of Carl Feigenbaum will be revealed on National Treasures Live, which will be shown on BBC One at 7.30pm on Wednesday 31 August.

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Police drawings, tumour visualisation, and festival tents – Dundee Masters Show 2011

A project to improve the accuracy of police drawings, a 3D method of visualising the development of cancer cells, and an innovative approach to cutting down on the number of tents thrown away after music festivals – just three of the exhibits at the Dundee Masters Show 2011.

The show will feature a wide range of conceptual, thought-provoking and vibrant work from around 50 postgraduate students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

The exhibition of work from some of the UK’s most exciting and innovative arts programmes will take place at DJCAD, part of the University of Dundee, from 27 August to 3 September.

The students exhibiting include:

  • Claire Priddle, a composite artist with the Canadian Mounted Police. Claire’s employers paid for her to study in Dundee and research how the drawings composed with witnesses vary according to the interview technique employed.
  • Dylan Gauld, who has been working with mathematicians from the University to visualise the growth of cancer cells. Tumour growth is visualised using a combination of custom-built 3D visualisation tools and cutting-edge computer graphics and animations techniques with the long term goal of helping clinicians to develop more accurate patient-specific treatment.
  • Linsey McIntosh, a keen festival-goer who has become increasingly uncomfortable about the environmental footprint of such gatherings. As a result, she has embarked upon ‘Re-Tent’, her Master of Design project which aims to prevent thousands of tents being simply thrown in landfill.

Students from six Masters programmes – Animation & Visualisation, Design, Fine Art, Forensic Art, Media Art, and Medical Art – will be exhibiting. Jeanette Paul, Head of Learning & Teaching at DJCAD, said the exhibition featured highly stimulating and thought-provoking work which demonstrated intelligent research applications, creativity, imagination and innovation.

‘Students on our Masters programmes only have one year in which to develop their work to a new level or in a different direction. Therefore they work extremely hard throughout the year and their dedication is demonstrated in the work displayed in this year’s Show.

‘Examples include the design of a Forensic Jewellery Classification System to help identify victims of international disasters; an audio quilt comprising stories gathered from people met by the artist while walking along the coast of Fife; and the recreation of a fragment of a famous architectural landmark.

‘I would encourage everyone to come along and find out more about what the students have been doing – you will be inspired.’

The Master Show 2011 celebrations will begin on Saturday 27 August when an Open Doors event takes place at DJCAD between 11am and 4pm. A range of events showcasing the work of Masters students from all programmes, including guided tours, workshops and students talks, will take place throughout the day.

The Show will conclude on Saturday 3 September. A special evening event to recognise the students’ achievements will be held the evening before.

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Universities launch new Policing Studies course

A new postgraduate course aimed at people involved in policing has been launched by a consortium of Scottish universities.

The Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) Postgraduate Diploma in Policing Studies has been developed in close co-operation with the Scottish Police College.

The course has been developed for police officers and staff, people involved with policing from other backgrounds (such as those in the public, community and voluntary sectors who work in criminal justice and community safety fields) and those interested in a career in policing from across the UK and internationally.

The launch of the course has been welcomed by Chief Constable Patrick Shearer, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

‘Policing is performed in an increasingly diverse, complex and rapidly changing world where the need for advanced skill levels and knowledge has become ever more important,’ said Mr Shearer. ‘I therefore warmly welcome the establishment of this diploma.’

Among the subject modules being offered in the diploma are:

  • Theories, concepts and models of policing, led by the University of the West of Scotland.
  • Education and Social Research, led by the University of Dundee.
  • Managing and controlling crime, led by the University of Glasgow.
  • Management and leadership in policing organisations, led by Robert Gordon University.
  • Social identity and the makings of community: anxiety, threat and security, led by St Andrews University.

‘This Diploma draws on the world-class expertise of Scotland’s universities and will provide an innovative, relevant and interdisciplinary programme for all those involved in policing,’ said Lynn Kelly, programme director based at the University of Dundee.

The diploma has arisen out of the activities of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research. SIPR is a strategic collaboration between 12 of Scotland’s universities and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, funded by the Scottish Funding Council, offering a range of opportunities for conducting relevant, applicable research to help the police meet the challenges of the 21st century and for achieving international excellence for policing research in Scotland.

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Dundee boosting computing education in Iraq

A British Council-backed partnership between the University of Dundee and the University of Kufa in Iraq is helping boost the development of higher education in the Middle Eastern country.

The link has been formed between the Schools of Computing in Dundee and Kufa. Members of staff from Kufa’s Computing department have been shadowing research and teaching teams in Dundee, to learn how to develop their curriculum and research activities. As a result, it is expected that the Iraq university will:

  • develop new internationally relevant IT subjects and programs in computing
  • improve the quality of teaching and learning skills of staff,
    including use of advanced e-Learning techniques
  • introduce more opportunities for female academics
  • advance the English language capabilities of staff.

Dr Janet Hughes, Dean of the School of Computing at Dundee, said: ‘This is a project that will have a significant impact in developing the capability of Kufa to deliver high-level programs in computing, which in turn helps to re-establish higher education in Iraq.

‘It has also been immensely rewarding for our staff and students. There has been a real exchange of ideas and knowledge and I think it will ultimately be of real benefit to everyone involved.’

The British Council is supporting the two-year project, which has seen groups of staff from Iraq coming to Dundee for two-week stints to be given research and academic management training and to develop their e-learning activities. As each visit happens at a different part of the academic cycle, Iraqi staff are exposed to a very wide range of activities at all levels within the staff and student body.

Staff from both institutions also attended a joint Learning and Teaching Conference in Istanbul this summer.

Dr Yahya Hadi, past Chair of the Computer Science department at Kufa, said: ‘This link with Dundee and the expertise they have across a wide range of computing and e-learning has been extremely valuable to us. This is work that will contribute to our own teaching programmes and enhance the progress of higher education in Kufa University.’

The visits to Dundee have involved Kufa staff in a wide range of activities across all aspects of university life, including meetings with research groups, teaching and administration staff and students. Kufa staff have attended student presentations at all levels from Level 1 to PhD and have had the opportunity to discuss the students’ work with the students and the teaching staff.

There are two further visits of 6 Kufa staff planned for October 2011 and January 2012.

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Medical student recognised for ovarian cancer research

The 2011 Elma Reid Bursary has been awarded to third-year University of Dundee medical student Abdulla Ibrahim, who will receive a certificate marking his achievements during a symposium in Dundee this week.

The bursary was made possible by Elma Reid from Inverarity, who raised over £20,000 to increase awareness of inherited cancers through education or research before she died in September 2009. Elma was passionate that we should learn as much as possible about this, and other cancers, so that everyone can benefit.

Part of that funding has been used to create the bursary, which allows one medical student from the University with an interest in research to spend the summer studying the causes of familial cancer each year.

23-year-old Abdulla who is originally from Cardiff, is investigating new ways of identifying which genes have been involved in causing a cancer, and whether these have implications for other family members.

He will present the findings of his summer research work at a symposium held at the Department of Clinical Genetics, Clinical Research Centre, on 17 August. Afterwards, he will meet with Eliane (CORRECT) Reid, Elma’s daughter and one of the trustees of the fund, who will present the award and congratulate Abdulla on his achievement.

Abdulla said: ‘I am delighted to have been afforded this unique opportunity to contribute towards the advancement of medicine at an institution internationally renowned for its excellence in medical research. I have been exposed to an interdisciplinary environment where healthcare professionals and scientists work together with the common goal of tackling problems in human health.

‘The study we conducted focused on novel methods in identifying women with genetic changes that would increase their risk in developing ovarian cancer. Evidence suggests that certain types of ovarian cancers are more likely to respond to new therapies, offering new found hope for the treatment of such women.’

Elma’s fund-raising efforts began after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006 and she met with representatives of the Biomedical Research Institute, Ninewells Cancer Campaign and the clinical genetics and oncology departments at Ninewells. The group are keen to advance understanding of inherited cancers – of particular importance to Elma, as both her mother and grandmother had also died of cancer.

Eliane said: ‘I am so grateful that we are able to provide support for another year of funding which will advance our awareness and understanding of inherited cancers and especially ovarian.

‘Woman are diagnosed with this cancer every day and any small part we can play to helping people living with cancer, or on prevention of cancer, is vital. My Mum could not have achieved so much fund raising on her own, and I know that she would want me to continue to thank and remember those who were equally determined to help her raise awareness and fundraise in her lifetime and since.

‘Ovarian cancer is a disease which is not easily diagnosed and therefore often detected at an advanced stage, where treatment options are limited. It was therefore particularly important to mum, a teacher by profession, to advance our understanding of the many complex factors which influence both the development and treatment of this disease.

‘We are really grateful for all the clinical and research work, which has given us the time and opportunity to use these resources wisely.’

Abdulla was chosen from amongst his peers to conduct a study on the proteins that cause ovarian cancer. As part of his research he looked at how to identify those women most likely to experience the genetic changes that result in them developing cancer though their family history, and how changing treatment might improve the outcome for them.

He was selected, not only as a high-achieving student, but because he had also displayed a keen interest in undertaking academic research and developing medicines. Abdulla will be one of four students presenting at the symposium. All are medical students who won bursaries to carry out research work with leading cancer specialists at Ninewells over the summer.

The symposium will also feature presentations of work in the area of breast cancer risk by Christopher Merrick (a former winner of the Elma Reid Bursary), Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity disorder by Kirsty Hogg, and the use of stem cells to investigate brain development by Christopher Respinger.

These presentations will highlight some of the opportunities available to Dundee students to allow them to develop the academic and research skills essential for the future progress of medicine.

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Global ID experts study Scheuer Collection at Dundee

Students from the UK, Finland, Sweden and the United States and practitioners from the FBI and the Netherlands Forensic Institute are at the University of Dundee this month to take part in a unique course in the study of juvenile skeletal remains.

The Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) at the University of Dundee holds the Scheuer Collection, the only active repository in the world for juvenile skeletal remains.

‘Following recent curation of the collection, kindly funded by the Mathew Trust, the Scheuer Collection is recognised as a first class resource for those forensic practitioners who are involved in identification of the child,’ said Professor Sue Black, Director of CAHID.

‘This is a very important area of education and research but one where there are very few opportunities due largely to the paucity of available material.’

The two-week-long instructional course taking place this month is led by Dr Craig Cunningham and supported by Lucina Hackman and Professor Black, who together wrote the award-winning text Developmental Juvenile Osteology.

The course was run for the first time last year and was praised for offering the opportunity to study with expert instructors and work with the collections.

‘Access to the Scheuer Collection is a unique experience that can only be offered at Dundee and it is a tremendously rewarding experience to see practitioners from around the work who recognise the importance of the resources that we have at Dundee,’ said Professor Black.

The Scheuer Collection is believed to be the only active repository for juvenile skeletal remains held anywhere in the world. It consists of the remains of over 100 sub-adult individuals, collected from archaeological and historical anatomical sources.

The collection is composed of a combination of complete skeletons, partial skeletons and isolated skeletal elements.

The material offers significant opportunities to address areas of education and research into skeletal development that have largely been ignored in the past due to a paucity of material.

Currently there are a number of on-going research projects investigating previously neglected areas of skeletal development. ‘These research projects are beginning to produce some very exciting and unexpected results which challenge some established theories on skeletal growth and development,’ said Professor Black.

‘As this is an active repository, the collection continues to grow with the addition of new skeletal elements which are primarily obtained from other anatomy departments who wish to curate their juvenile skeletal material in a recognised and dedicated collection.’

The Scheuer Collection has formed the basis of three seminal textbooks on developmental osteology which are regarded as the primary reference resources for the identification of juvenile skeletal remains.

The Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee is an internationally leading centre in the fields of human identification, forensic anthropology, cranio-facial reconstruction and the study of the human body.

Professor Black is currently spearheading a major fundraising campaign ‘Million For A Morgue’ to build a new morgue at the University to allow researchers to adopt the Thiel method of embalming. This gives surgeons, dentists, students and medical researchers a more realistic method of testing techniques, practising procedures and developing new
equipment and approaches.

For more information see www.millionforamorgue.com.

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Hollywood star lends support to homeless film project

A Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design graduate has teamed up with Hollywood star Brian Cox to make a series of films raising awareness of the plight of homeless people across the globe.

Scott Davidson came to the attention of Brian, the current Rector of Dundee University, with Pressure, a short film that he made with the city’s homeless community as part of his studies at DJCAD last year.

The X-Men and Bourne Identity star was so impressed by the film, which saw the cast of 16 homeless people from Dundee recite the lyrics of the famous Queen-David Bowie song Under Pressure, that he asked to become part of the project and help extend its reach.

Since then, Scott and Brian have been in regular contact and held meetings to discuss how they can take the project global and make a series of similar films in cities all over the world.

They have chosen London to be the location for the next film, which is to be entitled Think and which will feature the Phil Collins track Another Day in Paradise. Scott says that, like Pressure, the intention is to create a film that can help people understand the situations that the cast have found themselves in.

‘I work with charities and support groups to produce films that are strictly not for profit to be used in their campaigns,’ he said. ‘The aim is to create films that can help the charity by inspiring people to donate money or give their time. At the very least it will hopefully help people understand more.

‘I hope to give insight into understanding a social issue. I have gained so much in the way of opportunity in my life and career, so I try to give back where I can as much as possible. It’s fantastic, and slightly surreal, that Brian has become involved as he is a Hollywood legend.

‘Brian’s involvement is to oversee the progress of the project. I come up with the concept and send it to him, and we work from there based on his feedback. Once every few months, when Brian finds himself in Dundee, we meet up and discuss possible strategies.

‘My creative development will benefit through gaining the opportunity to do something I love and hopefully my work with the charity can help inspire people to donate, give their time or at very least understand the issue involved. The message of Pressure was that this is why people may end up living on the streets – the pressure of work, family or life in general.

‘The lyrics of Another Day in Paradise are very relevant to the struggles that homeless people face, and there is the line that says “think twice”, which is what we’ll be encouraging people to do with this film.’

Scott has joined forces with the charity Open Cinema and 11 women who are in support services will recite the lyrics of the song in spoken word. He says he hopes that Amsterdam will be the next city where he takes the project, and that he is keen to link up with charities across the globe to help them in their efforts.

Filming will take place in London later this year.

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Dundee student hopes to strike gold on Amazonian adventure

A psychology student from the University of Dundee is to embark on an expedition to try to locate a legendary Incan city of gold later this month.

It was adventure-hungry Ken Gawne, originally from Northern Ireland, who came up with the plan to undertake the journey to the Amazon jungle along with four other explorers. There, they will hunt for Paititi, the city where – according to legend – the Incas hid their treasures from Spanish conquistadors.

Twenty-eight-year-old Ken, who is about to begin the third year of his psychology degree, has embarked on several expeditions already, including one to China as well as crossing the Sahara desert in Western Africa. Ken is also a keen filmmaker, and made the feature film ‘Treasure of the Templars’, a tribute to Indiana Jones during these exhibitions.

Now he hopes to make a documentary of the adventure in South America as he and his team mates hope to succeed where other expedition parties have failed. They will head to Peru and spend three weeks hunting for the lost city amongst the country’s jungles.

Ken said the plan started to form during a discussion with his Norfolk-based team mate Ian Gardiner, who will act as expedition leader.

‘Basically Ian said one of the things he would like to do before he was 30 was to go to the jungle to find the lost city,’ he said. ‘I asked him if he was serious about it and took it from there.

‘I became really interested really quickly because it is a very exciting idea and a once-in-a-lifetime chance.’

Also on the expedition are writer Ken Halfpenny and cameraman Lewis Knight, both of whom are based in Dundee. The team also hopes to be joined by German archaeologist Jens Notroff.

They will take a satellite phone with them on their expedition, and plan to update their website and facebook and twitter pages live from the jungle.

‘We have spoken to a previous explorer Gregory Deyermenjian, who has been looking for the city for 20 years and he has been fantastic,’ continued Ken.

‘He has found about 15 different settlements so we will be looking in an area where previous things have been discovered. When you are in the jungle it is very dense and as far as you can see is what has been explored so I think we have as much chance of finding something as anybody.’

More information about the project can be found at www.TheSecretOfTheIncas.com.

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Blood pressure drugs may offer benefits in valvular heart disease

Drugs used to treat blood pressure could offer significant benefits to patients with one of the most common forms of valvular heart disease, new research at the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside has revealed.

Aortic stenosis – when the main valve between the heart and the rest of the body becomes narrowed – is one of the most common forms of valvular heart disease in the developed world, affecting around 5% of the population and growing.

Patients with aortic stenosis are often asymptomatic. However, when the valve becomes too tight they often experience chest pain and breathlessness when they are physically active.

The mainstay of treatment is surgery to replace the valve. For patients who have no symptoms it had not been known whether offering other treatments such as drugs called ACE Inhibitors or angiotensin blockers, commonly used to treat blood pressure, may offer benefit, or indeed may delay the need for an operation.

Chim Lang, Professor of Cardiology at the University of Dundee, and his team studied the records of Tayside patients with aortic stenosis who have undergone heart scans over the last 20 years in Tayside.

‘From looking at these records, we have shown that patients taking drugs that block the renin angiotensin system like ACE Inhibitors and angiotensin blockers had significantly lower rates of all-cause death and cardiovascular events,’ said Professor Lang.

‘Aortic stenosis is a growing problem. Physicians have previously not known whether to continue these ACE Inhibitor medications or not. On the one hand, a fall in blood pressure may not be helpful but on the other hand these drugs offer many protective benefits.

‘We observed that patients with aortic stenosis who were taking these medications had a better outcome. This observation, however, needs to be confirmed by prospective clinical trials.’

Details of the research are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The research team utilised the unique resources of the Health
Informatics Centre at the University of Dundee to link anonymous data on patients having heart scans to prescription records, hospital admission and test data as well as data from the general registry office.

The study was kindly funded by the charity TENOVUS.

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University students DRIVE to success

The University of Dundee’s student motor racing team, DRIVE, have just returned from the Silverstone Motor Racing Circuit having recorded their best ever result in the Formula Student event, which attracts competitors from all over Europe.

Dundee Uni students with their car at SilverstoneThe Dundee team not only beat their local rivals from every other Scottish university in the Formula Student but they were seventh in the Sprint event and 20th UK team overall. The Formula Student event attracts competing teams from all over Europe.

Dr Alan Slade, of the University’s Mechanical Engineering department and DRIVE’s Academic Co-ordinator, said this was an important result for the team and a massive boost to morale.

‘In our Business Plan when the team was formed we said that we would be the top team in Scotland within three years and one of the top ten teams in the UK within seven. The team have achieved their first goal and I see no reason why we cannot achieve the second,’ said Dr Slade.

Team Member Graeme Allison said this year’s event had allowed the students to see where improvements can be made to realise their goals.

‘We didn’t do so well in the static events in comparison to
previous years but we know what we need to concentrate on for next year while just making some minor development changes to the car,’ said Graeme. ‘Our main aim for 2012 is a top 20 finish overall.’

Formula Student promotes careers and excellence in engineering by providing the students with a real-life exercise in design and manufacture and the business elements of automotive engineering.

Dr Robert Keatch, Head of Department for Mechanical Engineering at Dundee University emphasised the importance of the programme as an educational resource as it gives practical experience of working as a team, under pressure and to tight timescales.

‘There are lots of late nights and many frustrations and challenges along the way, but the ultimate result is the development of highly talented young engineers who not only understand the theory of engineering but can also work within a practical and commercial environment dealing with suppliers, sponsors, potential customers and competitors. This skill base has lead to the top Formula 1 teams, amongst others, to visit the Dundee University pit garage at Silverstone to recruit their future engineering talent,’ said Dr Keatch.

DRIVE has been set up to further the reputation of the University, and to provide its students with a unique opportunity to experience a ‘real world’ challenge and develop the skills learnt in the lecture theatre.

The project is run by students who dedicate time outside their courses to design, build and race the Formula-style car. The ultimate aim of DRIVE is to prepare students for the challenges and problems that the real world may throw at them and to produce better educated and well-rounded engineering graduates. This approach and commitment has lead to Dundee University’s Mechanical Engineering Department producing the top Scottish Team in 2011.

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Record show for sports scholar Eilish

Dundee University sports scholar Eilish McColgan made the most of an invitation to the prestigious Diamond League athletics meeting in Birmingham on 10 July, smashing the Scottish record for the 3000m steeplechase.

Eilish’s time of 9 mins 47.03 secs also meets the qualifying standard for this year’s World Athletics Championships. She finished 9th in the race, which featured some of the world’s best in the event.

‘While we have had some outstanding athletes at Dundee University over the years, we have never had anyone deliver such a high quality performance, setting a new national record in the process,’ said Paul McPate, Assistant Director of the Institute of Sport and Exercise at the University.

‘Eilish has also set a British Universities and Colleges Championship best in the steeplechase earlier this year, so it is a great season for her.’

The televised Diamond League meeting in Birmingham featured some of the best athletes in the world. Eilish was given a wild card place as the event was being hosted in Britain.

The Sport Scholarship programme at the University has been running for over 10 years. It aims to assist high performing athletes to achieve their full potential in the sporting and academic arenas, raise the profile and reputation of the University and the athletes themselves in the sporting arena, and improve Dundee’s performance in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) rankings.

The Sports Scholarship programme is run by ise (the University’s Institute for Sport and Exercise) in association with the student Sports Union.

Teams and individuals on the programme receive a range of help and services including finance, strength and conditioning training, and sports science support.

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Chinese design is the focus of new module at Dundee Uni

The role of design in the growth of China’s consumer culture will be examined in a new interdisciplinary module offered by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD).

‘Made in China’ is a 30-credit module available to full-time undergraduates at DJCAD, part of the University of Dundee, from January 2012. Undergraduates studying a range of craft, design and communications disciplines will have the option of taking the module, which it is hoped will also be offered to students of other subjects, and to part-time and distance learning students, in the future.

The module will focus on the country’s rise as both a producer and consumer of design, both historically and contemporarily. As China is now the world’s second largest economy, an understanding of the complex and ever-changing status of design in the country is essential to companies across the globe.

Module author Jonathan Baldwin believes Made in China offers a unique opportunity to examine modern Chinese culture and to get away from stereotypes.

‘When you talk about Chinese design people either think of ancient pottery and fireworks, or of modern day sweatshops churning out the goods demanded by western consumers,’ he said.

‘But the truth is far more complex and while it’s right to examine the implications of the west’s demand for consumer goods, China itself is rapidly becoming a massive consumer culture.

‘This has enormous implications for us – China is becoming an important market for things we design here, but is also a competitor. The days when things were designed in the west and manufactured in the east are fast disappearing.’

Students taking the module will examine China’s long and fascinating past but, Jonathan says the main focus is on China today, its role as an economic power, its importance as a manufacturing base, and its future as a source of design.

After completing the module students will have the option of continuing with a personal research project.

It is also hoped that a scheme will be developed to allow Dundee students to partner with Chinese students, who are in their own country but thinking of coming to study in Scotland. Using email and video chat, the partners will be encouraged to learn from each other about their respective countries and cultures.

Jonathan, who has developed links in the country, continued, ‘We’re hoping that some students will want to examine the process of doing business in China, or explore traditional Chinese techniques in areas such as textiles or jewellery.

‘I think any graduate who has some understanding of another culture, another market, will find it immensely useful, as will any employer who gives them a job. So the employability potential is huge.

‘But my main hope is that students doing this module will develop a deeper personal understanding of a country that is still a little bit mysterious. This is something that those in industry – not just the design industry – would undoubtedly benefit from understanding more.

‘Hopefully we can offer the module to designers and managers from a range of sectors. It’s not about taking advantage of a growing market, but about understanding the people within it. We need to change the nature of the relationship between the west and China – and hopefully this is one small step towards that aim.’

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Stronger ties between Dundee and Indian powerhouses

A University of Dundee academic taking part in a British Council Scotland mission to two of India’s powerhouse cities will help build new links with one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

A delegation from the British Council Education UK Scotland programme will embark on a trade mission to Bangalore and Ahmedabad. This initiative is designed to raise awareness of Scottish education’s unique offering and build partnerships that could improve Scotland’s future business prospects.

Dr Carlo Morelli, Senior Lecturer in Economic Studies in Dundee’s School of Business, is one of a number of academics from leading Scottish universities taking part in the delegation, which will showcase Scotland’s expertise in finance and business education to Indian counterparts.

Desired outcomes include more students flowing between Scotland and India, research collaborations and academic exchanges. And in the longer term, these partnerships could act as a springboard for commercial links in high growth sectors, particularly financial services.

Dr Morelli said: ‘We will be seeking to develop academic and research connections with Indian counterparts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.’

‘In particular, the trip will build on the collaborative aspects of my research on Dundee’s and India’s jute industry. Jute played an important part of Dundee’s industrial history and Ahmedabad continues to be one of India’s main textile producing areas.

‘I will outline my research to academics and students during the visit and I hope to develop reciprocal exchanges with academic staff and students.’

India is now the world’s tenth largest economy and growth of 8.5% is predicted for 2011. Scottish exports to India currently total around £200m but the Scottish Government has ambitious plans to increase this.

India also has more than 100 million English speakers, the second largest number in the world after the USA. This legacy, together with other cultural ties, makes India a prime candidate for collaboration.

Julia Amour, Director of British Council Scotland, said: ‘This week’s mission to India is part of our activity to promote Scotland and its unique educational offering in the world’s fastest growing economies.

‘With our specialisms in key areas including finance, education, energy and life sciences, Scotland is well placed to reap the benefits of being part of a better connected, globalised world.

‘By helping to build closer ties with major emerging markets like India, which are in many ways untapped, the British Council can act as Scotland’s gateway to the world.’

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Exercise class puts Breast Foot Forward

An innovative exercise class at the University of Dundee which supports women who have, or have had, breast cancer has been boosted by an award of £15,000 in funding from the charity Breast Foot Forward.

The Active ABC programme at the University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise is for women during and after their treatment for breast cancer.

‘Research has shown that being active during and after treatment helps to counteract the physical and psychological side effects of breast cancer and its treatments,’ said Dr Anna Campbell, Lecturer in Sports Biomedicine at the University.

‘Issues such as muscle deconditioning and weakness, general tiredness, depression, all of these can be helped by being active and doing exercise.

‘We are working closely with the breast cancer teams in NHS Tayside to established physical activity consultations and classes as one element of the wider treatment programme given to patients.

‘This funding from Breast Foot Forward is a major boost for the programme.’

The Active ABC class already has around 15 participants and the numbers are increasing on a montly basis.

Dr Sally Beattie from Breast Foot Forward will present the £15,000 cheque to the ISE team on Monday 20 June.

Dr Beattie said: ‘We raise money through sponsored walks specifically to support projects in Scotland which provide support and care for people who have or have had breast cancer. This programme is one which has clear benefits for patients and we are delighted to give our support.’

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Applications invited for 2011 publishing bursaries

Postgraduate students at the University of Dundee with ambitions of working in the publishing industry are invited to apply for this year’s coveted publishing bursaries, worth £5,000 each.

Two successful applicants will be given the opportunity to work within Dundee University Press, a vibrant publishing company that has published 55 books since being established in 2007, and has 50 more in the pipeline. The bursaries are funded by the University’s College of Arts and Social Sciences.

The students will have to commit to spending 800 hours in the DUP office engaging in a range of activities related to publishing over the course of the year. There will be opportunities for development in editorial, production, marketing, promotion and other aspects of the industry. Applications from those with a background in the humanities or law are particularly welcome.

DUP Publishing Manager Anna Day said she expected a high standard of applications.

‘This is now the fourth year we have been offering the bursaries and, each time, the standard and volume of applications has been very impressive,’ she said.

‘This is a fantastic opportunity for students who wish to work in publishing to get hands-on experience and get paid at the same time. I’m sure this year will be no different from the past three, and the field for applicants will be competitive.

‘In addition to gaining experience of the world of publishing – they are involved at every level and gain a full working knowledge of how a book is made, from commission to typesetting and sub-editing – they will also have the opportunity to become involved in other literary-related activities, such as the Dundee Literary Festival.’

Each bursary will be paid in monthly instalments, and the hours the students work are flexible, arranged around their studies. The work that successful applicants will carry out is tailored to the area of their interest (ie law postgrads working on law texts).

To apply, please send your CV and a letter of no more than 500 words to: Anna Day, Publishing Manager, DUP Ltd, Tower Building, University of Dundee – a.c.day@dundee.ac.uk. The deadline for applications is 1st September.

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Dundee dental experts leading cleft research

The University of Dundee Dental School is set to spearhead a cutting-edge European initiative on research into craniofacial abnormalities – such as cleft palate – and associated health inequalities in Europe.

Professor Peter Mossey, Associate Dean for Research in the Dental School, has recently received a European Science Foundation (ESF) grant of approximately €450,000 (Euro) for the ESF Network for Orofacial Clefts Research, Prevention and Treatment.

Orofacial clefts are birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate where the top lip or roof of the mouth does not form properly. ‘This research programme builds on a previous multi-million Euro and multi-centre collaborative research initiative, EUROCRAN (European collaboration on craniofacial anomalies) which has yielded new insights into genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the cause of orofacial clefts,’ said Professor Mossey.

‘This work means that for the first time a major effort will be made towards the ultimate scientific and humanitarian objective – primary prevention of orofacial clefts.’

The effects of a cleft of lip and/or palate on an individual’s
speech, hearing, appearance and psychology can lead to adverse outcomes for health and social integration. Care requires a multidisciplinary approach from birth to adulthood, involving a range of disciplines, for example plastic surgery, speech and language therapy, counselling and dentistry.

Approximately one in 700 live births is affected, with prevalence varying according to geography and ethnicity. In Scotland the birth prevalence of cleft palate is amongst the highest recorded, along with Finland, and Canada; and lowest in Africa and parts of Latin America.

The highest recorded rates of cleft lip are in Asia and parts of Latin America; the lowest in Africa and Southern Europe.

There is a very high infant mortality rate among children born with orofacial clefts in parts of the developing world such as India and sub-Saharan Africa.

The grant awarded will facilitate a research network which has received support from research member organisations in Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland as well as the Medical Research Council in the UK.

The network will be launched at an event in Strasbourg on Thursday 9 June.

The ongoing research work, the facilities and the expertise at the Dental School in Dundee, which is a designated World Health Organisation collaborating centre for craniofacial anomalies, will be an integral part of the European research network.

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Dundee student receives top rugby award

University of Dundee student Kirstin Daly has been awarded one of the top prizes in Scottish rugby just three years after picking up the oval ball for the first time.

Kirstin, 21, originally from Ayrshire, received the Women’s Premier 1 Player of the Season trophy, beating off competition from the country’s top players to land the prestigious award.

The 4th-year Dental student only took up rugby in 2008 but proved a natural Inside Centre and quickly became a fixture in the Dundee University Women’s Rugby Football Club (DUWRFC) side.

She has received many Player of the Match nominations, represented the Scottish Universities sevens team at last year’s Home Nations tournament, and was invited to train with the full Scotland side as part of a select development group.

Former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol presented the award to Kirstin during a ceremony held at Murrayfield Stadium’s President’s Suite. Kirstin said she felt honoured to receive the award, especially as she had been nominated for it by opposition players in the league.

‘I was quite surprised to receive the award as I expected that it would go to a player in one of the other much more established teams we play against, not a University side,’ she said. ‘I’m very pleased for the whole side as the fact the other teams nominated someone from DUWRFC for the award shows our growing stature at this level.

‘I only took up the game in my second year at university, having never played before, so I think this shows the great commitment of the whole team and coaches. Those training sessions on cold Dundee nights have paid off and I hope this shows that the University offers great opportunities not only to learn new sports but also to excel at them.’

Kirstin is a key member of the University women’s rugby team that plays in Premier 1 – the top division in Scotland – and that has produced a remarkable four Scottish international players in the past five years.

The club have consistently finished in the top two places of the Scottish Universities Tier 1 in the past four years, and won the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Trophy two years ago.

Congratulating all award winners, Scottish Rugby President Ian McLauchlan, said: ‘Tonight was a mark of the achievements of our clubs, their successes and to recognise the individuals who have excelled throughout the season in both the men’s and the women’s game.’

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Researchers reveal violent deaths of medieval dead at Stirling Castle

Scientific research has revealed that at least five of the medieval people whose skeletons were discovered at Stirling Castle suffered brutally violent deaths.

The discovery offers an extraordinarily rare insight into medieval warfare.

One man, aged 26–35, endured some 44 skull fractures from repeated blows with a blunt object, and up to 60 more across the rest of his body.

The skeletons were buried beneath a lost 12th-century royal chapel which was excavated as part of Historic Scotland’s project to refurbish the Castle’s 16th century palace, which stands nearby.

Historic Scotland has created 3D facial reconstructions of two of the people – visitors to the grand opening of the palace will be able to see them for the first time on 4 and 5 June.

They will be on display as part of a new exhibition of the Castle’s history in the Queen Anne Casemates overlooked by the palace block.

Radio carbon dates indicate that the people probably died in a series of incidents between the 13th century and around 1450.

Some, or all, may have been killed in sieges, skirmishes or battles round Stirling during the Wars of Independence. Richard Strachan, Historic Scotland’s Senior Archaeologist, said: ‘The skeletons were a remarkable find and provided an incredibly rare opportunity to learn more about life and death in medieval Scotland.

‘The new research has brought some quite incredible results.

‘It was unusual for people to be buried under the floor of a royal chapel and we suspected that they must have been pretty important people who died during periods of emergency – perhaps during the many sieges which took place.

‘The fact that five of the skeletons suffered broken bones, consistent with beatings or battle trauma, suggests this could be what happened.’

The research builds on the findings of earlier investigations into two of the skeletons, the results of which were featured last year on BBC2’s History Cold Case series.

These attracted worldwide headlines, with one of the skeletons being identified as a knight – perhaps Sir John de Stricheley who died in 1341 – and the other probably belonging to a high-born lady, whose skull had twice been pierced by a weapon.

Both of these skeletons were among the nine sent to the University of Bradford for further investigations. The 3D models are of the knight and the lady’s faces. The model of the lady was created by the Bradford University team and the one of the knight was made at the University of Dundee.

Bradford used a traditional clay modelling approach, while the one from Dundee was created using the latest digital scanning and replication techniques and painted by a medical artist.

Professor Caroline Wilkinson, at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, University of Dundee, said: ‘This 3D facial model depicts a strong muscular man with a healed wound across his forehead and rugged features.

‘This reconstruction was produced using anatomical standards and the latest digital 3D technology, and allows us to come face to face with this medieval knight.’

The Bradford experts say the lady had 10 fractures to the right side of her skull, resulting from two heavy blows. Neat, square holes through the top of her skull suggest she may then have fallen and been killed with a weapon such as a war hammer.

Dr Jo Buckberry, biological anthropology lecturer and experimental officer at the University of Bradford’s Biological Anthropology Research Centre, said: ‘What we discovered from this research is enormously exciting and has far-reaching implications for our understanding of medieval warfare.

‘At least five of these people had their bones broken with blunt and heavy objects, such as clubs, which is very different from soldiers that have been studied who died in open battle and were killed with swords or halberds.’

One set of remains, known as Skeleton 190, were from a young man of 16–20, showed signs of a stab wound in the chest.

Yet the major damage came when he was struck on the base of his skull, on the jaw, the collarbone and ribs. The stabbing points to death by violence, rather than an accidental fall from the castle walls.

Stirling Castle changed hands several times in the Wars of Independence, sometimes being held by the Scots, sometimes by the English and their Scots allies.

It is not certain where the deceased were from, or who they were fighting for, though tests so far are consistent with at least some of them being from the Stirling or Edinburgh area. To be buried beneath the floor of a royal chapel was very unusual and suggests that these were people of considerable importance.

Bodies would normally be buried in a kirkyard, which suggests that the people were killed at times when it was too dangerous to venture beyond the castle walls.

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Kids say the funniest things – or is it adults?

Five-year-olds talking about hangovers and online dating – thankfully not a discussion between dangerously precocious children but a study of everyday conversation carried out by a Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design student.

Ailidh MacGregor has developed an interest in sound art and, in particular, playing with people’s perceptions of conversations, during her time studying on the Time Based Art & Digital Film programme at DJCAD – part of the University of Dundee – and uses a variety of techniques to experiment with speech and language.

For her honours project, which is one of the near-300 exhibits at this year’s Dundee Degree Show, Ailidh recorded a number of children relaying the words of adults. She recorded largely mundane conversations that she had with other adults over a period of many months before asking the youngsters, who range in age from five- to ten-years-old and are all children of Ailidh’s friends, to repeat them.

The topics being discussed also include energy efficient lightbulbs and cleaning products. Rather than asking the children to read a script back to her, Ailidh would say a line and ask the children to repeat it so that the conversation was more natural.

When asking children to relay very adult conversations, Ailidh was very conscientious about breaking the conversation up and splicing it back together so that the children didn’t understand what they were speaking about and each of the six children who feature in the project were recorded separately to further distance the conversation from its original context.

‘Hearing your own words spoken by children really makes you think about what you say,’ said Ailidh. ‘Especially when you hear them talking about things like drinking and hangovers you start to think about how inane the conversations that seem perfectly normal at the time really sound.

‘I wanted to capture the everyday and mundane and they sound even more so when relayed through the mouths of children. When you hear kids speaking like this then the conversation takes on new meanings and sound completely different.

‘When you hear what seems to be very young kids talking about drinking and dating it sounds somewhere between funny and shocking depending on your viewpoint, but I was careful to ensure that the children never fully understood what they were talking about. Also, it shows how recorded words can be put together, taken apart and re-assembled to mean something completely different.

‘My idea came from the fact I’m a very chatty person and conversation is something I find very interesting. I love different rhythms of speech and the different language and jargon that people use. From there, I like to play with it and bend it to alter perspective. Hearing a grown up conversation spoken by children definitely makes you think about what you say, to who, and why.

‘All the conversations were based on recordings of me and my friends speaking to each other. To start with I always asked people if they would mind me recording the conversation but eventually people were just accustomed to the fact I was to have my equipment with me and had come to expect that whatever they said would be recorded.’

For her degree show exhibit, Ailidh will have six speakers playing the conversations, with one speaker for each child. Her work looks at how mundane conversations can be seen in new perspectives and the set up of her show emphasises this by having each speaker positioned in a different part of a darkened room.

The visitor will get a different perspective of the conversation depending on where they sit, which speaker they are next to and whether they move around the exhibition to experience another side of the conversation.

Ultimately Ailidh would like visitors to think about the use of sound and the fact that changing one element of sound can create an entirely new conversation that can be interpreted in a different way.

After graduating Ailidh hopes to carry on working on her project and is interested in working in community arts.

Almost 300 students from 11 disciplines are exhibiting at this year’s Dundee Degree Show.

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Hollywood star lends his voice to student’s animation

Not many student film-makers can attract top Hollywood talent, but a Dundee animator pulled off that very coup when she persuaded Brian Cox to star in her Degree Show piece.

Image shows Brian Cox’s character The DukeFreya Hotson, a final year animation student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, tells the story of a daring train heist with a twist in her two-minute animated short The Flying Duchess. University of Dundee rector Brian Cox provided the voice of ‘The Duke’, the villain of the piece.

The film will be exhibited, alongside other examples of Freya’s work, at this year’s Dundee Degree Show, which takes place at DJCAD, part of the University, from 21 to 29 May.

Twenty-two-year-old Freya, originally from Forres, made The Flying Duchess as part of a group project with fellow animation students John Harkins and Kieran Baxter.

She explained that the trio decided to ask the Dundee-born star of The Bourne Identity and Troy to take part more out of hope than expectation.

‘It came about as a result of us being opportunistic,’ she said. ‘We just thought, “well he definitely won’t take part unless we ask” and got in touch with Brian through the Students Union and were absolutely thrilled when he replied to say he was happy to help because he was so perfect for the part.

‘He’s obviously very busy when he comes back to Dundee but we got half an hour with Brian and he was just brilliant. He got it down perfectly, as you’d expect, and we’re so grateful that he agreed to help us out. He hasn’t seen the final version yet but he did see the pre-production artwork so has a good idea what it will look like.’

When Brian Cox does see the final piece he is likely to be impressed with the high standard of the film. Freya, Keiran and John collaborated with a composer and sound effect technician to ensure that the audio matched the professional quality of the visuals.

Freya worked on the character animation, using traditional hand-drawn techniques, and the group experimented with new approaches for using these drawings within a computer-generated, 3D environment, discovering innovative ways to achieve their aspirations as they did so.

The environmental design and live action effects were devised by Kieran, while John was responsible for scripting and directing the film as well as for 3D animation.

Freya continued: ‘We used a trace technique employed by larger animation studios to retain accuracy in the hand-drawn animation when implementing difficult 3D camera movements upon a 2D character. It’s a very labour intensive process involving the literal tracing of every 25 frames to the second, but vastly improves the overall look of the animation.

‘Hopefully this work showcases the breadth of our work in both 2D and 3D, and in specific areas of design. Our final pieces for the Degree Show have taken over our lives but there is a really great culture of collaboration here which helps.

‘All students help their classmates by lending their specific skills within animation and this helps us all to further develop. Keiran and John were my main collaborators, but the list of credits show there were loads of other people who contributed and a whole host of second and third years also lent their time and abilities.’

More information about Freya and her work can be found at www.theflyingduchess.co.uk.

Almost 300 students from 11 disciplines are exhibiting at this year’s Dundee Degree Show.

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Students get help to beat exam stress

Dozens of students from the University of Dundee have been getting help to de-stress and focus on their exams over the past few weeks.

Scholars from across the University are currently sitting exams, with many taking papers which will impact on their degree classification and, as such, their future career prospects.

Recognising how stressful a time this can be, and how this can adversely affect academic performance, Dundee ’s Student Activities team have put together a programme of events to help reduce stress levels over the exam period.

The ‘chill out days’ feature a range of activities to help combat tension. Shiatsu massages from an experienced masseuse are on offer, while staff from the University’s Institute of Sports and Exercise have arranged Equilibrium classes bringing together yoga, tai chi, pilates and other forms of power stretching.

Bicycles have been made available free of charge to allow students to undertake trips from the main campus to the Botanic Garden, one of the most relaxing spots in the city. An outing to Tentsmuir Beach to allow students to unwind and recharge in scenic surroundings proved so popular that an extra excursion has been arranged to accommodate all interested parties.

‘We know just how stressful exam time is for students, and so we felt it was important to do something that will help them to relax and not get so worked up that they end up not performing to the best of their potential,’ said Sheena Stewart from Student Activities.

‘As well as revising, it is vital that students spend some time away from the books to make sure exam tension doesn’t overwhelm them – they will perform better as a result. We hope that we have helped in some way to keep exam tension as low as possible and wish the students the very best of luck.’

Stress-busting sessions have also been organised by Peer Connections, the University’s award-winning mentoring initiative. Students are invited to work on stress management using relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques. This helps them to focus on calming anxiety and to deal with panicky feelings so they can remain calm and focussed in exams.

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Wellcome Trust grants more than £6m to Dundee researchers

Two researchers at the University of Dundee have been awarded a total of more than £6m in grants from the Wellcome Trust.

Professor Jason Swedlow and Professor Tom Owen-Hughes, both based in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at the College of Life Sciences, have received grants of £4.2m and £2m respectively.

Professor Swedlow, recently named ‘Innovator of the Year’ at the BBRSC’s Excellence with Impact Awards, has received the £4.2m grant for his research project, ‘The Open Microscopy Environment: image informatics for biological sciences’.

‘It is not only a recognition of the quality of work done by the Open Microscopy Environment team based in our Wellcome Trust Centre – it is confirmation that Dundee is a significant hub in biosciences research and continues to thrive and grow.’ said Professor Swedlow. ‘In the current economic climate it is great to have our research grant application funded in full by the Wellcome Trust.’

Explaining the nature of his work Professor Swedlow went on to say: ‘The rise of quantitative biology has driven the generation of ever increasing stores of experimental data.

‘Our team at the Open Microscopy Environment (OME) has built open software tools that enable access, analysis, viewing and sharing of large data sets. Initially built for light microscopy, we have successfully extended these tools to many other domains of biological imaging.’

The OME data-sharing software recently won them the accolade of ‘Innovator of the Year’ and ‘Social Innovator of the Year’ at the BBRSC’s Excellence with Impact Awards, recognising the team and Dundee’s significant contribution to knowledge-sharing, world-wide.

‘In this newly-funded project, we aim to make OME’s tools widely used by biologists all over the world,’ added Professor Swedlow.

The funding will support a total of 25 posts, 16 of them at Dundee, and the rest at collaborating universities in the UK, USA, France and Italy.

Professor Tom Owen-Hughes has received over £2m from the Wellcome Trust to continue his basic research into the mechanisms for remodelling chromatin structure.

In response to the news Professor Owen-Hughes said: ‘My research team benefit from the long term vision shown by The Wellcome Trust in funding basic research into processes such as gene regulation which lie at the heart of all biological systems. We are also fortunate to have a critical mass of facilities and expertise available in Dundee.’

The grant will support six positions within Professor Owen-Hughes’ team.

Professor Angus Lamond, Director of the Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression said: ‘I am delighted to see the outstanding work of Jason and Tom, and their respective teams, recognised for its importance and creativity. This major funding award demonstrates the exceptionally high
regard for the work being done here in Dundee.’

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Dundee to lead drug discovery network

The Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee, together with other leading not-for profit UK drug discovery and chemistry groups, is to coordinate building a UK-wide network in a developing area of drug discovery.

Professors Ian Gilbert and Paul Wyatt, based in the Drug Discovery Unit at Dundee, have received a £200,000 networking grant from the EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC for the project involving the generation of 3D fragment libraries.

Fragment libraries are collections of small molecules which are increasingly important for use in the discovery of potential new treatments for diseases through the process of drug discovery and design.

‘This award will allow us to build a unique consortium, with
engagement of the major UK not-for-profit drug discovery groups in combination with excellent synthetic and computational chemistry groups in UK universities. This network grant gives us the opportunity to develop this consortium and actively seek further members and interactions,’ said Professor Gilbert.

‘Fragment based drug discovery is an emerging area and one in which the UK as a whole is playing a leading role. This network of research groups will help us maintain our position on a global stage.’

The founding organisations in the network are:

  • Drug Discovery Unit, University of Dundee
  • MRC Technology
  • Cancer Research Technology
  • The Institute of Cancer Research
  • Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
  • Structural Genomics Consortium, Oxford
  • University College London
  • The Beatson Drug Discovery Program

The project is one of seven new networks being funded by the EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC, aimed at increasing collaborative research and identifying and refining research priorities and challenges.

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Giving blood? There’s an app for that...

A University of Dundee student has developed a mobile phone application to make it easier for existing and potential donors to give blood.

James McLaren, a 4th year Applied Computing student, began looking at how technology could be used for good and decided upon encouraging more people to give blood after speaking with Jamie Shek, himself a Dundee graduate and director of spin-out company iGiveADamn.

The concept of a blood donor app was originally conceived by Jamie and his business partner Kyle Montague but, as they were concentrating on other projects for iGiveADamn, it was not developed beyond the conceptual stage.

They were delighted that James was interested in taking the idea forward for his honours project, and supported him as he developed it into ‘MyBlood’, a prototype app with real potential to increase the number of people giving blood and the frequency with which they do so. It works by providing users who download the app with a host of information relating to blood donation services.

MyBlood works to encourage increased levels of donations by:

  • keeping track of when the user last gave blood
  • counting down to the user’s target for giving blood a certain number of times within a particular time period
  • letting them know where and when the next blood donation service will be held
  • giving them the option to invite friends through Facebook and other social network sites to arrange group visits
  • providing directions to sessions to make it as easy as possible for donors to give blood
  • sending the latest news about blood donation and messages from people who have benefited direct to subscribers’ phones.

‘For my honours project, I have been working in collaboration with Jamie and Kyle and it has been fantastic to learn from them and their experiences,’ said James. ‘The project consists of a mobile application aimed at blood donors to encourage them to give blood and make it easier to do so.

‘The concept and prototype I’ve developed with iGiveADamn has the potential to become a real world application with a meaningful purpose. An app like this would encourage new and more frequent donations but more importantly help blood transfusion services maintain a constant supply of blood, benefiting the patients who need it.’

iGiveADamn is a design consultancy for digital media, and both its founders are keen that it remains true to its original purpose of harnessing technology for the benefit of society.

‘James has done a great job in developing MyBlood and hopefully this is a prototype that is taken further and has a real and positive impact on blood stocks,’ said Jamie.

‘An app that encourages increased levels of blood donation very much ties in with the objectives of iGiveADamn. Although we’re now branching out into other areas of digital design, our roots lie in this area and we still have a focus on using technology for more meaningful purposes.’

More information about iGiveADamn is available at www.igiveadamn.org.uk.

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£1million grant boosts academia-business links

Links between Tayside’s internationally renowned Life Sciences research institutes and businesses across Scotland are being strengthened through a funding package of more than £1million.

The University of Dundee, the University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee City Council (through the BioDundee project) and the James Hutton Institute (formerly the Scottish Crop Research and Macaulay Land Research Institutes), have been awarded £1,015,000 grant funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Scottish Government’s SEEKIT programme.

This award will fund the ongoing work of the Innovation Portal, based at the University of Dundee, and BioDundee and is also backing a new project, the BioPortal.

The BioPortal is an innovative new project designed to further enable Tayside research institutes to form stronger links with the Scottish life sciences industry by providing a match-making service of intellectual property and skilled postdoctoral researchers with needs of small-to-medium sized businesses, or SMEs.

The BioPortal project has been designed and developed by Research and Innovation Services at the University of Dundee to address specific barriers that prevent effective transfer of innovation from research institutes to SMEs. Barriers include the element of risk associated with technology development, the financial, human and skills shortages often experienced by SMEs, and the ability to identify and access novel technologies, which is a particular resource constraint for many small companies within the sector.

‘We are delighted with these awards of funding from ERDF and SEEKIT. It allows us to continue the good work of the Innovation Portal and BioDundee whilst also provide further focus on our excellence in Life Sciences at Dundee,’ said Diane Taylor, Director of Research and Innovation Services at the University of Dundee, and Chair of the Portal Steering Group.

‘Developing our Portal Business Model in this way demonstrates our commitment and ability to positively engage with the Scottish SME sector.’

A key facet of the project will be to increase the ease of access by Scottish SMEs to the intellectual property of the Universities and JHI by introducing risk sharing and no- or low-entry costs to reduce the barriers to innovation for the companies. This new project has also created a new opportunity that will allow postdoctoral researchers to more readily move from academia to industry, generating a skilled workforce, and most importantly retaining that workforce in Scotland.

The project is being delivered by the Innovation Portal, based at Dundee University Incubator, and BioDundee through a new partnership agreement. The funding covers three years.

Over the course of the project Dundee and Tayside will benefit from an increase in sector-specific training programmes, workshops and networking events, as well as the revival of Scotland’s leading life science newsletter, the BioDundee Update, which is circulated to over 14,000 international contacts.

The ERDF funding is made through the Lowland and Upland Scotland Objective 2 scheme.

Dr Fabian Seymour has joined the Innovation Portal as BioPortal Manager.


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Dundee dental researchers win top awards

Two dental researchers at the University of Dundee’s College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing have won prestigious awards at a major international conference.

Professor Nigel Pitts, Director of the Dental Health Services and Research Unit, and Dr Nicola Innes, clinical lecturer in paediatric dentistry, were recognised at the International Association for Dental Research Awards in California.

Professor Pitts won the IADR Distinguished Scientist Research in Dental Caries Award for his research into the detection, assessment and preventive treatment of caries and the implementation of findings on a truly international basis.

The award is designed to stimulate and recognise outstanding and innovative achievements which have contributed to the basic understanding of caries aetiology and/or to the prevention of dental caries. This success makes Professor Pitts one of the very few researchers in the world to hold two IADR Distinguished Scientist Awards, following an earlier prize in the field of dental epidemiology and public health.

Dr Innes won the IADR/Unilever Hatton Competition Senior Clinical Research Prize for her paper Sealing Caries in Primary Molars: Hall Technique RCT 5-year Results. This was a clinical trial carried out by Dr Innes with Dr Dafydd Evans involving general dental practitioners in Tayside.

This important award follows on from her winning the British Society for Oral and Dental Research Senior Clinical Research Prize in Barcelona in 2010.

Professor Pitts said: ‘It is very gratifying to have this international recognition of the impact, over an extended period, of the caries research undertaken by the team in Dundee.’

Dr Innes added: ‘Being awarded this international prize is a great achievement for all those who were involved in this clinical trial, and a further boost to the University’s reputation as a centre for clinical research.’

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Dundee dozen selected for Royal Scottish Academy exhibition

Twelve art and architecture graduates from the University of Dundee have been chosen to appear at this year’s prestigious RSA New Contemporaries exhibition.

RSA New Contemporaries is one of the premier showcases for emerging artistic talent in Scotland. The annual exhibition, which opens at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh on 19 March, features work including painting, sculpture, film making, photography, printmaking, architecture and installation.

The eleven artists from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) – Joss Allen, Kimberly Bartsch, Sinéad Bracken, Fiona Gordon, Charlene Noble, Lyndsey Redford, Mary Somerville, Kimberley Stewart, Lisa Ure, Jan Williamson and Colin Wilson – were selected after impressing representatives of the RSA who visited the 2010 Dundee Degree Show. Architecture graduate Alan Keane was also chosen after his work caught the eye of judges.

Dundee graduates won prizes totalling almost £4,000 at last year’s exhibition and Professor Tom Inns, Acting Dean at DJCAD, said he was sure this year’s cohort would do the University proud once again.

‘Over the past couple of years, this exhibition has established itself as one of the most important and respected for emerging artists in Scotland,’ he said.

‘It is a fantastic opportunity for recent graduates to take advantage of a wonderful platform and show they deserve to be regarded as among the best in Scotland. It is heartening to see so many artists and architects from Dundee selected to exhibit, and to see that so many were so successful last year.

‘I would encourage anyone to get along and visit RSA New Contemporaries – it highlights the role of the RSA in supporting new talent, and is a unique opportunity to see work from the best of Scotland’s up-and-coming artists and architects under one roof.’

The exhibition forms part of the RSA’s commitment to supporting and presenting the best contemporary work in Scotland. Sixty artists and architects from Scotland’s art colleges and architecture schools were chosen to exhibit in 2011, the third annual showcase event.

The artists were chosen from the 2010 Scottish Degree shows by exhibition conveners Sandy Moffat RSA (art) and Gareth Hoskins RSA (architecture), with assistance from members of the Royal Scottish Academy and representatives from the five main colleges of art and six schools of architecture in Scotland.

The chosen graduates are given the opportunity to launch their career at the prestigious RSA galleries. This exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity to invest in Scotland’s up-and-coming talent at the early stages of their careers.

With over £11,000 worth of monetary awards in addition to residency, studio and purchase prizes, the development of this exhibition is an important initiative for emerging artists in Scotland, enabling a ‘first exhibition’ opportunity for dozens of emergent artists annually.

RSA New Contemporaries will be held at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, between 19 March and 13 April. The exhibition is open from 10am–5pm Monday to Saturday and from 12noon–5pm on Sundays. Admission is £2/£1 concession.

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Dundee Literary Salons 2011

The 2011 programme of the popular Dundee Literary Salons series will be launched at a brand new venue later this week.

Now taking place at Roseangle Café Arts, The Bridge, 120 Perth Road, the Literary Salons bring together members of the local community to meet with publishers, writers and agents to discuss writing, culture and ideas in an environment that is informed but informal.

The inaugural salon of the 2011 series will see Roderick Watson, Emeritus Professor of English Studies at the University of Stirling, discuss how to balance the work-heavy demands of professional life with the contemplations of poetry.

Professor Watson will also read from his most recent collection of poetry, Into the Blue Wavelengths as well as sharing how he manages to find time to dream whilst also carrying out a day job.

The event takes place between 5pm and 7pm on Thursday 3 February, and free refreshments will be provided.

All salons are presented by Professor Kirsty Gunn, Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Dundee. More information about the salons can be found at the Literary Dundee website.

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Dundee to welcome hundreds of language students

The University of Dundee is set to play host to over 1200 teenagers from around Europe this summer, bringing an economic impact worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to the city.

Young people from Turkey, Italy, France and Spain are expected to arrive on campus between June and August, studying English as a foreign language under the auspices of Greenwich Viaggi, a tour operator which facilitates an English language school on campus.

The visitors will stay in the University students residences, take meals in Dundee University Students’ Association and attend classes on the University campus.

‘We are delighted to renew our contracts with Greenwich Viaggi for this summer,’ said Elizabeth Shearer, of the University’s Corporate Services department.

‘We have been welcoming European students to the campus in the summer months for over a decade now and it makes a huge difference to life around the campus. It also brings considerable benefits economically, not just on campus but to the city of Dundee and the surrounding area.’

The association may also have longer term benefits for the city and the University.

‘These are young people who aren’t far away from making decisions about their higher education and this is a chance to show them what we have here at Dundee, both in terms of the University and the wider area,’ said Dr Brendan Barker, Head of International Development at the University.

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Hugs tell us much about shared experiences

In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, couples the world over will be thinking about how they can convey their love to their partner in a meaningful and lasting manner.

One of the most obvious ways a person can share their feelings is through physical gestures such as hugs which, according to new research from the University of Dundee, last an average of three seconds.

The study into the post-competition embraces of Olympic athletes, which was published in the latest edition of the Journal of Ethology, was led by Dr Emese Nagy, from the University’s School of Psychology.

This research confirmed that a hug lasts about as long as many other human actions, and supports a hypothesis that we go through life perceiving the present in a series of about three-second windows.

Cross-cultural studies over the past century have shown that people tend to operate in these bursts. Goodbye waves, musical phrases, and infants’ bouts of babbling and gesturing all last about three seconds.

‘What we have is very broad research showing that we experience the world in these three-second time frames,’ Dr Nagy explained.

‘Many basic physiological events, such as taking a breath and exhaling, last about 2–3 seconds each. When music and dance and other things are broken down we can see that these actually consist of singular movements bound together.

‘This has been referred to as the "feeling of nowness" and we began looking at how long these moments last and whether we can objectively measure their duration.

‘The memories of these moments become our personal stories, but they are our own individual experiences – what we wanted to do with this research was explore whether we ever share these movements which are so unique and subjective.

‘We wanted this study to go a step further and see whether these moments can be experienced by two people at the same time – if we can ever share our internal reality – and whether these moments ascribe to the three-second hypothesis.’

Dr Nagy, a keen gymnastics fan, was struck by how the behaviour of athletes encapsulated strong emotions. She hit upon the idea of analysing the embraces of gymnasts at the Beijing Olympics to see whether their hugs, either celebratory or consoling, fitted with the previously identified pattern.

Most of the existing three-second research had been done on individuals, and she wondered whether the pattern would hold for an experience shared between two people, especially one as intimate and emotionally charged as an embrace.

Dr Nagy then conducted a frame-by-frame analysis of video recordings of the Olympic finals in 21 sports, among them badminton, wrestling, and swimming. She had an independent observer time 188 hugs between athletes from 32 nations and their coaches, teammates, and rivals.

Regardless of the gender or national origin of the athletes and their partners, the hugs lasted about three seconds on average. The results reinforce the idea that intervals of about three seconds are basic temporal units of life that define our perception of the present moment.

Dr Nagy continued, ‘I was watching the Olympics and thought that this was the perfect example illustrating how people experiencing these feelings want to share them with other people. It was a shared moment which we could clearly mark the beginning and end of.

‘The other people may be similarly emotionally charged, such as team mates and coaches, whereas others may be competitors or more dispassionate observers. The interesting thing is that, regardless of culture, nationality or gender, they all shared the moment through a hug whether they were expressing happiness, comforting, or being comforted.

‘Our research illustrated that these feelings can be transmitted to another person to make the movement a shared experience. These moments may increase the likelihood of sharing further experiences, synchronization of further movements, and ultimately, could lead to the feeling of "togetherness" between people.’

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Make-or-break time of season for student sports teams

The next couple of weeks will see no fewer than 16 sports teams from the University of Dundee reach the business end of their season as the knock-out stages of the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) competitions begin.

Having won through from their domestic league competition, Scottish sides will now meet their counterparts from England and Wales in the BUCS Championship or Trophy competitions.

The ultimate aim of all student teams is to make it to Sheffield for the BUCS Championship Finals on 18–20 March. This event, involving around 6000 student athletes in 19 different sports, is the biggest sporting event to take place in Britain this year.

Dundee sides have done exceptionally well on the competitive front this year, with a record 16 teams making it to the knock out stage. They are men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s badminton, women’s fencing, women’s rugby, netball, women’s basketball, women’s football, men’s hockey, trampoline, ultimate frisbee, karate, swimming, women’s squash, and men’s tennis.

The success of University sports teams is a reflection of the positive changes that have taken place since the formation of Dundee University Sport. This partnership between the University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise and Dundee University Sports Union enhances the provision of sport for students and staff.

Paul McPate, Assistant Director of ISE, said there were many benefits to the arrangement and the partnership was now beginning to bear fruit.

‘It is a fantastic achievement for so many teams from Dundee to reach this stage of the BUCS Championship, and we hope to see several of them qualify for the finals in Sheffield,’ he said.

‘We are sure they will do us proud, and the more success they have, the more students and staff will be inspired to take up sports and realise the benefits of doing so.

‘I think the success reflects what’s been happening since Dundee University Sport was formed. The partnership has seen more efforts invested in the clubs, including the increased provision of coaching staff; dedicated strength and conditioning sessions and increased allocation of facilities time for team training.’

The University regularly fields around 50 teams in 24 different sports. These teams are supported by over 2000 sports club members at the University.

The high degree of team preparation was highlighted last week with a briefing of all those involved in the BUCS Play Offs. Aspirations and competition targets were discussed with team captains, and those present were given an insight into some key factors for competitive success by Gil Stevenson, former coach to the Scottish Women’s Rugby Team.

Gil’s experience of leading Scotland to a Rugby World Cup provided the student captain’s with some inspirational advice on what factors might make the difference between success and failure on the sports field.

The next fortnight will see Dundee teams play against some of the best student sides from across the UK.

Sports Union President Graeme Spowart said, ‘Our teams have put in a great deal of hard work this season, and these games are their rewards. They deserve this opportunity to test themselves against the best of the rest of the UK.

‘I am sure they will all do the University proud and fly the flag for Dundee. I wish them all the best of luck and am sure they will all benefit from the experience.

‘Hopefully we can have a good few teams in the University red and black down in Sheffield representing us in the biggest sporting event of the year.’

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Nominations for 2011-12 sport scholarships now open

Talented student athletes from the University of Dundee have been invited to apply for national scholarship support.

‘Winning Students’, Scotland’s national sports scholarship programme, supports student athletes with annual funding of up to £5,500 to help them achieve their sporting and academic goals.

Scholarships are provided in a number of sports and, as Dundee is a member of the Winning Students network, its students are entitled to apply for individual assistance.

Athletics star Sarah Kelly is in the first year of a History and International Relations degree at the University of Dundee. The Fife teenager finished seventh in the 800m finals at the 2010 World Junior Championships and was selected for a Winning Students scholarship.

‘When I did well at the World Juniors that gave me a taste of what the future can hold, but I can’t just sit back now and expect it all to come together,’ she said.

‘The Winning Students scholarship is a massive help, enabling me to compete in more events in England and abroad, where the standard of competition will push me to perform even better and hopefully be at the front fighting for the medals.’

Athletes in the Winning Students core sports of badminton, golf, hockey, judo, orienteering, squash, swimming, triathlon and women’s football are nominated directly by their governing body and should not apply individually.

Athletes in non-core sports must have either attained the following level in their sport, or demonstrated the potential to compete at that level:

  • Top 25 at the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games or World Championships.
  • Top 15 at the European Championships or Commonwealth Games.
  • Top 5 at the World University Games or World University Championships.

For 2011–12 applications, consideration will be given to athletes in contention to compete in any discipline, including team sports, at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

To be considered for a 2011–12 individual scholarship, scholars should check the general selection criteria for education and non-sporting requirements. Athletes in the process of applying to study at the University in the 2011/12 academic year are also eligible.

The nomination process closes on 15 April 2011, and forms can be submitted by the athlete, governing body of sport or college or university, but must carry a signature from all three parties to be considered. Anyone not yet at college or university should provide proof of application (college) or a UCAS number (university).

Representatives of the Winning Students Advisory Board will consider the nominated athletes and selection for an individual scholarship will be confirmed in early October 2011.

More information is available by visiting www.winningstudents-scotland.ac.uk

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Prestigious award for cancer expert

The University of Glasgow has awarded the 2011 Tenovus-Scotland Medal to a cancer expert from the University of Dundee.

Dr John Rouse is a Programme Leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Protein Phosphorylation Unit in Dundee and has recently made several discoveries in how cells recognise and repair DNA damage to prevent mutations which can lead to cancer.

The award will be presented in June at the Scottish Chromatin Group Meeting during which Dr Rouse will deliver the 2011 Tenovus-Scotland Medal Lecture, entitled Forks and molecular knives at the cutting edge of DNA repair.

Dr Sheila Graham, at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and Co-Chair of the Tenovus Committee, said: ‘Dr Rouse is a deserving winner of the 2011 Tenovus Medal. His recent research promises to uncover new avenues for developing cancer treatments.’

Dr Rouse added: ‘I am delighted to be awarded the Tenovus Medal, which is a reflection of the talents and efforts of the people who have worked in my lab and the outstanding research environment and facilities that we have here in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit and College of Life Sciences at Dundee.’

The Tenovus Medal Lecture has been presented annually at the University since 1992 and is awarded each year to a scientist with a Scottish link whose work has had a major impact on molecular medicine.

The Scottish Chromatin Group Meeting will meet at the University on Wednesday 8th June 2011.

Dr Rouse becomes the third researcher from the College of Life Sciences at Dundee to be awarded the Tenovus Medal. Previous recipients were Tom Owen-Hughes and Neil Perkins, who carried out the work for which they received the Tenovus Medal in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at Dundee.

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Tackling tuberculosis with new antibody treatments

Researchers from the University of Dundee, King’s College London and St George’s, University of London have identified potential new means to treat tuberculosis (TB).

In a study, published in the most recent edition of Journal of Immunology, researchers led by Professor Juraj Ivanyi at King’s, Dr Jenny Woof at Dundee, and Dr Rajko Reljic from St George’s, have developed a monoclonal antibody which was found to offer protection against tuberculosis infection in experimental models when combined with interferon, a modulator of the immune system.

TB remains a recognised global emergency, claiming around two million lives across the world each year, and 2010 saw the largest number of new cases of TB in the UK for over a decade.

Approximately one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for this huge public health problem. Unfortunately, the BCG vaccine used in some countries does not protect against disease in all adults, and drugs need to be delivered for several months.

The problem has been compounded by a dramatic rise in TB strains displaying multiple drug resistance. As a result, new ways to prevent and control tuberculosis are urgently required, and the strategy developed by the London/Dundee teams paves the way toward a previously unexplored form of treatment.

The human monoclonal antibody produced by the team is of the IgA type and can specifically recognise Mycobacterium tuberculosis. IgA antibodies are proteins normally used by the immune system to identify and neutralise foreign microbes like bacteria and viruses within the lungs and intestinal tract.

The human monoclonal antibody generated in the research is a homogeneous antibody preparation with the capability to specifically attach to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium and trigger immune processes that prevent bacterial growth. Although human monoclonal antibodies are widely used to treat various forms of cancer and inflammatory disorders, this is the first demonstration that they might have applicability against tuberculosis.

Dr Woof explained the need to develop new treatments and vaccines for TB, and the potential to develop this research further. ‘The number of cases of TB remains very high, and so this is clearly a major problem,’ she said. ‘Across the world, there are millions of people falling victim to infectious diseases such as TB, so the implications of this research could be considerable.

‘Antibodies exist as five different types in humans, with those of the IgG type already being used in some clinical treatments. Antibodies of the IgA type are slightly different. They possess properties that we believe may be important in governing how this IgA antibody works against TB infection.’

The study, funded in part by the Wellcome Trust and the Dunhill Medical Trust, was the result of a productive collaboration with each team bringing a different sphere of expertise. Professor Juraj Ivanyi at King’s is an international expert in tuberculosis research, while Dr Woof’s team in Dundee brought experience in human IgA antibodies. Dr Reljic at St George’s has expertise and special facilities for experimental models of TB infection.

Several years of previous research by Professor Ivanyi, Dr Reljic and their collaborators at the HPA Salisbury and Palermo, Italy provided general ‘proof of concept’ for this sort of approach, while this study opens the road for translating it toward human application.

Professor Ivanyi is based at the Dental Institute at King’s College London, which has a long history of pioneering research into mucosal immunology and vaccines. He said: ‘This study brings us much closer to finding new ways to treat tuberculosis, although further research is needed before we can begin to trial this approach in patients.

‘I am excited about where this project can lead us in terms of potential new treatments for this devastating disease.’

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