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Bringing together alumni & friends

A CITY OF INFINITE ARTS OPPORTUNITIES Seizing Hull’s moment & carving cultural careers

THE MAKING OF A GRADUATION Behind the scenes at the ceremonies

Summer/Autumn 2016

NEW HEALTH CAMPUS World-leading research and a lasting health legacy

Venn // Bringing together alumni & friends

Welcome All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. The views expressed in this publication are those of the contributors and not necessarily the views of the University of Hull. To make content suggestions for future issues, or to contact the magazine, call +44 (0)1482 466645 or email alumni@hull.ac.uk.


Published by the University of Hull in association with White Light Media. www.whitelightmedia.co.uk This magazine is printed on paper produced from sustainable managed forests.


As Chancellor of the University of Hull it is a privilege to celebrate the achievements of so many graduates each year. Only last month almost 3,700 students graduated, with loved ones and well-wishers watching, in both Hull City Hall and Scarborough Spa. The mood of celebration was palpable – it’s always this way. Graduation time makes me think about the diversity of this splendid institution. The University of Hull welcomes people from more than 100 countries, making it one of the most international in the world according to the Times Higher Education rankings. One in five of our students is from outside the UK. This isn’t a mere box ticked: the key challenges of today’s world concern diversity and inclusion; successful businesses, societies and cultures need multicultural, frequently global teams. All of our students leave with the skills, values and creative potential that will drive their future careers and enable them to contribute to the world as rounded and responsible citizens. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of our students, and the University staff who have taught and supported them, that 96 per cent of our graduates go on to find employment or to further their studies within six months of graduating; the University ranks joint eighth in the country for graduate employability. Many graduates go on to start their own businesses. Almost 140 new and exciting business ventures have been supported by the University’s Enterprise Centre since it opened in 2008. Those operating out

of the Centre are beating both local and national survival rates. I am honoured to have served as Chancellor for the University of Hull for 10 years. Anyone who knows the University, who has come to love both it and the City, who has left having made lifelong friendships and memories, can only be ever more energised and impressed by its ambition, commitment and achievements. During the weeks running up to graduation ceremonies I reflect on the economic and geopolitical environment and the opportunities for those leaving the University. Everyone with the opportunity to be educated at Hull, as well as having honed the necessary skills and knowledge to embark upon successful careers, will have gained a grasp of some of the world’s critical issues. I hope that all of our graduates go on to use their abilities to effect change for good. There is no greater opportunity, and the students and alumni featured in this issue of Venn magazine demonstrate that truth. The Rt Hon. Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, DL Chancellor


Inside this issue 04


Culture club Introducing alumni carving art careers

Dramatic careers A drama degree, a world of opportunity



Hull to Hollywood Twentieth Century Fox’s Kieran Breen

China connections A booming alumni network



Freeing expression An alumna directing her passion

Control & courage Championing palliative care



The power of culture Darren Henley of Arts Council England

Health Campus Transforming health on the Humber



Graduation day The making of a graduation

Cosmic innovation Astrophysics at the E.A. Milne Centre



Teen doping Leading the race against teen doping

Magical science Talking chemistry, magic and Larkin



How did I get here? Nick Sills, Founder, Contraelectric Propulsion Ltd

A wonder treatment Confronting chronic cough

18 Alumni relations News and diary dates

8 27

32 28


39 Buggy running Wendy Rumble of runningbuggies.com



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Opposite L to R: A trio of Hull graduates and cultural trailblazers who have carved unique careers in the arts: Kieran Breen (Twentieth Century Fox), Indhu Rubasingham (Tricycle Theatre), and Darren Henley (Arts Council England)

High-flying in the arts

As Hull readies itself for its status as UK City of Culture 2017, we catch up with three notable graduates who have found success in the arts


n less than six months Hull will be transformed by the biggest party it has ever seen. When the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve, a 365-day programme of jaw-dropping and illuminating events will begin, because Hull will be the UK’s City of Culture 2017. All of our students will have chances most people can only dream of, as we enlist volunteers to undertake a range of exciting tasks.

Drama student Adan Osborne (pictured, left) has been selected for one of the other roles on offer. He is helping to bring back to life Hull-born MP William Wilberforce, who led the campaign against the slave trade, more than 200 years ago. The University is working with the Glasgow School of Art to create a lifelike digital William. Computer scientists from the University of Hull are using 3D computer games technology and real

life actor Adan to make sure William is as lifelike as possible. There will be four virtual Williams installed in different locations around Hull and people will be able to interact with the technology. Adan, 21, said: “They are using motion capture technology to record my facial

Feathered friends

Left: 3,200 volunteers turn the streets of Hull blue in Spencer Tunick’s ‘Sea of Hull’, which will be presented as part of the UK City of Culture 2017

expressions and my movements as I read the words that William Wilberforce will speak. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and I will take any other opportunities available in 2017 because I think they will help me to stand out from other drama graduates.” As part of another event,

thousands of people gathered at dawn in Hull to be painted blue and photographed for an installation celebrating the city’s relationship with the sea. ‘Sea of Hull’ will be presented at the Ferens Art Gallery during the UK City of Culture Year. Across the next few pages of this issue we illustrate how dedication and focus open doors. We have put a spotlight on a selection of our alumni who have carved out careers in the arts, made a difference and helped entertain the nation. n

T housands gathered in the centre of Hull this summer to witness ‘Place des Anges’ – a breathtaking aerial spectacular, which brought angels to the rooftops and a bed of feathers to the city streets. The acrobatic showstopper was performed by French company Gratte Ciel and culminated in around two tonnes of feathers being dropped onto the delighted crowd below, transforming Queens Gardens. The event was presented by Hull UK City of Culture and as the finale of the Yorkshire Festival, in association with the Amy Johnson Festival, which celebrates the achievements of the pioneer pilot, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. She died 75 years ago, but her legacy lives on as she inspires people to consider career choices in engineering and the sciences.The festival programme includes a chance to meet Amy, thanks to our computer scientists who have created a life size digital character with the help of the Glasgow School of Art. If you come to Hull this summer you can also see reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s flight and wind machines on loan from the Da Vinci Museum, Florence and visitors to the University campus can enjoy Stealth Moth, one of a series of large-scale artistically designed sculptures. The moth sculptures reference the De Havilland Gipsy Moth plane that Johnson flew on her famous solo flight. info More info cursor www.amyjohnsonfestival.co.uk

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From Hull to Hollywood Kieran Breen (BSc Economics, 1990) might be one of the movie business’ biggest marketing gurus, but his best friends are still the people he met living in halls at the University of Hull in the 1980s. This year he took time out of LA life to return to his old haunts in Hull and to talk to the undergrads of today about how he made it big!



t is hard to believe that begging for ten minutes here and there would eventually lead Kieran to one of the biggest jobs in film as President of International Theatrical Marketing, Twentieth Century Fox. His story is a study in how determination can change fortunes. It would be nice to think that he honed his tenacity whilst studying for a BSc in Economics, in Hull, more than 25 years ago. As part of the ‘Inspired in Hull’ alumni lecture series, he told his audience that he had found his degree “very challenging” but he got through it with the support of his lecturers. Despite the challenge of study, Kieran said: “For three years life was good”. He had a full grant, all-day drinking had just been made legal and Hull was firmly on the map thanks to the Housemartins, riding high in the charts. However, as Kieran said: “All good things come to an

end.” In 1990 he was forced out into the real world, which was on the brink of a revolution. The Berlin Wall had fallen, Nelson Mandela had been freed from prison after 27 years, Margaret Thatcher had introduced the poll tax and the first page of the World Wide Web had quietly been published. For Kieran they were uncertain times. His plan was to get a job using his economics degree. He explained: “In the first instance, I went after lots of jobs that really used my economics knowledge. I had interviews with number crunchers, Metal Bulletin, even CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), because I liked the idea of using my degree and my love of beer.” But as the weeks stretched out in front of him, and as the pressure from his father increased, he realised he had to change tack. He started to think about his passions in life. As a child he had collected film posters and won tickets to


the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. “I just used to consume huge amounts of movies, but I didn’t ever think it would be anything more than a hobby. I started to think about what I really loved in life. I knew I didn’t want to be an actor or a director, so I started to think about the industry behind movies.” Kieran was living in preGoogle times, and was forced out of the comfort of his home to libraries across London to find out more. He read film industry trade magazines cover to cover and sent out handwritten letters to film execs. “They were a mixture of flattery and an appeal for ten minutes of their time,” he says. “I worked out it wasn’t worth asking for a job – they weren’t willing to have that conversation with me – but they were willing to spend ten minutes with me. I asked lots of questions; it was like a jigsaw puzzle which slowly started to assemble.” After six months putting in the hard yards, he was given a job as a trainee publicist on Chaplin, starring Robert Downey Jr. However,

almost as quickly as Kieran’s hopes had been raised they were dashed. The making of the film was moved to Budapest to save money and Kieran wasn’t part of the deal. Down, but not out, he resumed his letter-writing campaign. This time it took him to Manifesto, an arm of Working Title, which went on to become the UK’s biggest film production company. On a visit to the company offices in Camden, he could see they were run off their feet, so he offered to work for free. He was given work as a runner, and after six months he guilt-tripped the company into paying him. The time was right for Kieran and his career took off. Cool Britannia was de rigueur all over the globe. Oasis and Blur were making a name for themselves and the British film industry was churning out non-stop hits. He worked hard and took a series of job opportunities that helped him rise to Marketing Director at PolyGram Films Entertainment, where he worked on the marketing for films such as Reservoir Dogs, Four Weddings and a Funeral,

Below: Kieran with Leonardo DiCaprio. As Executive Vice President of International Marketing for Twentieth Century Fox in LA, Kieran worked on the 2015 film The Revenant which starred DiCaprio

Fargo, Trainspotting and The Green Mile. He was eventually made redundant from his position as PolyGram was taken over by Universal. But Kieran being Kieran, he bounced back and took a job running marketing for Twentieth Century Fox UK, where he guided the campaigns of more than 60 films, including X-Men, The Devil Wears Prada and the Star Wars prequels. In 2006, after a successful run in this role, he was asked by Twentieth Century Fox to run the company’s international marketing in LA, so he packed his bags and moved to California. Recent hits he has worked on include Deadpool, The Martian and The Revenant, and last year he was elected Chairman of the 2015 Board of BAFTA LA. Kieran looks like an ordinary chap. He is well spoken and casually dressed. His closest friends are still the people he met at Wynyates, his halls in Cottingham, in the late 1980s. Unlike some creatives, he doesn’t fall back on trading on an image. At the ‘Inspired in Hull’ lecture, held in February at the University’s Business School, Kieran happily answered a series of questions. One shrewd member of the audience asked him if he got many flattering letters. His answer? “None.” Kieran started to mull it over – what would he think if he got a letter through the post? Not an email, a letter? “That would be interesting,” he said. It is good to think that if someone wrote to Kieran Breen, President of International Theatrical Marketing, Twentieth Century Fox, he might just find ten minutes to talk. n



Venn // Bringing together alumni & friends

Freedom of expression Hull alumna and Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre Indhu Rubasingham (BA Drama, 1992) tells Venn how her time at university helped her find her voice How did your time at university prepare you for your career?


It was a true education for me, in the sense that I started my degree in drama feeling unsure and intimidated by the theatre world. I believed I was going to work in radio or media, but then I discovered my vocation: directing in theatre. Hull opened my eyes to something I didn’t know about. The course also encouraged independence and self-motivation through creating your own work. The degree was roughly 50 per cent academic and 50 per cent practical so I received such a breadth of experience. The first play I directed at university [Low Level Panic by Clare McIntyre] got selected for the National Student Drama Festival where Fiona Shaw and Phyllida Lloyd were judges and the opportunity very much led to where I am today. I graduated in 1992 and won an Arts Council bursary to be an assistant director at Theatre Royal Stratford East. You took over the Tricycle Theatre four years ago. What have been your highlights? Red Velvet, a play about Ira Aldridge, the first black actor

in this country. It was my first production as Artistic Director. I’d been trying to put the play on for a long time but most theatres had rejected it, so when I programmed it at the Tricycle it ended up being an incredible achievement: it’s been nominated for Olivier awards, transferred to the West End and gone to New York. Don Roy, the head of my drama department at the University of Hull, came to see the play. I found out he’d researched Ira Aldridge and the times he performed in Hull. I could tell Don was really proud. The theatre is currently undergoing a rebuilding programme. What do you hope it will achieve? The mission statement for Tricycle is that it is a theatre for everyone. It’s about inclusivity. The new auditorium will be completely accessible and the audience will have a much better relationship with the artistic work on stage. Instead of it being a hidden gem, I’m hoping the capital project will make the theatre a beacon on the high street. What’s the best thing about making theatre in Britain? There’s a freedom of expression that allows us to be provocative

and hold people and institutions to account. At Tricycle, I’m really interested in unusual narratives, and I love that the programme is unexpected. I don’t think it is by accident that our national writer is a playwright rather than a novelist or poet – we really value the voice of the playwright in this country. Who inspires you? My parents. I did science at A level but you can’t get into drama without an English A level. My school was trying to convince me to do something else. It was my dad who said, if all you need is an English A level, then take an English A level. Theatre and film director Peter Brook was also a big inspiration, particularly at university where he read about his practice about multiculturalism in theatre. What advice would you give to students looking to pursue a career in the arts? Try everything and don’t be intimidated; that’s what made me direct a play as I’d been too intimidated to do the directing course. Jump in at the deep end; it’s the best way to learn and discover what you’re good at. Unless you try, you never know. n



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The art of the possible Hull alumnus and Chief Executive of Arts Council England, Darren Henley OBE (BA Politics, 1994; Hon DLitt, 2014), believes in the power of culture to change people’s lives. Here, he explains how he has strived to achieve this throughout his career



I studied politics at A level and all the course books were written by Philip Norton, a Professor at the University of Hull. And genuinely by fluke, he was there at my open day and asked why I’d come to Hull. I said, “You wrote all the books,” and he leaned forward and said, “Well, Mr Henley, that is a very good answer, if I may say so,” and I got in. ON MAKING CLASSICAL MUSIC MAINSTREAM At Classic FM, I was most proud that we took an art form, popularised it and made it relevant to millions of people who previously hadn’t connected with classical music. We said that Classic FM could be part of your life whoever you are, whatever stage you are at, and wherever you are. ON FINDING FUTURE TALENT I’m really interested in how we find talent from every section of society in England. Talent is everywhere but

sometimes the route for it to surface isn’t there. To get true creativity in the arts, you need to fuse people from different backgrounds. That’s why I believe in initiatives such as the National Youth Dance Company, which offers talented young people a real chance to build careers in dance. ON BRINGING THE ARTS TO EVERYBODY At the Arts Council, we are absolutely passionate about high-quality arts for

everybody. The quality of the experience must be excellent wherever you are. One of the first announcements I made as Chief Executive was changing the ratio of Lottery money spent inside and outside London so by 2018, it will be 75 per cent outside London. ON THE UK CITY OF CULTURE 2017 I’ve seen for myself that there is, without question, a renewed spirit of creativity, excitement and optimism in Hull. In

my book The Arts Dividend, I talk about the real benefits that investment in the arts can bring: it encourages creativity, it improves young people’s education prospects, and there’s a huge bonus for people’s health and well-being. It can define places, too. But these good things don’t happen by accident. They happen because of leadership and partnership. People across Hull are seeing the transformational power that culture can have.

The University organised 14 graduation ceremonies in 2016, demonstrating a masterclass in event planning. From dress codes to seating plans, venues to visitor experience, nothing is left to chance by the team behind the ceremonies

The making of a graduation


Venn // Bringing together alumni & friends

The making of a graduation



Photography: Once robed, students pose for professional photos in one of the eight studios created in Hull Guildhall’s ballroom.

Robing: Students’ first job is to collect one of the 3,000+ specially-ordered robes, hoods and caps.


10:30 Ceremony starts: Each ceremony’s seating plan is drawn up well in advance, with students seated in a specific order to match their degree.

09:45 Waiting time: Many students use the lull between robing and the ceremony starting to get selfies in Queen Victoria Square outside Hull City Hall.



Meanwhile: Inside the City Hall, the University’s Chancellor and senior staff, local civic dignitaries and the ceremony Page put on their finery.

The Page: Usually the child of University staff, a Page’s role is to hold the Chancellor’s train as she processes.


in the ballroom of the Guildhall in Hull. 18:00 Time to celebrate: After the ceremonies, students are invited to celebration events such as Gradfest in Scarborough.

12:00 Hats off: The eagerly-awaited hat throw is led and organised by the local town crier in Hull and Scarborough.



Final checks: Robing staff are on hand just before students cross the stage to ensure they look perfect.

Many hands: Over 50 staff are needed for each ceremony; roles include cross-checking students, welcoming guests and organising the procession.



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Tackling teen doping with tech The University of Hull is leading the field in the race to tackle teen doping. Venn looks at the work sports coaching and psychology expert Dr Adam Nicholls will carry out on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Olympics Committee


he number of adolescents doping to become elite sports stars is one of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) biggest concerns. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has also made teen doping a top priority and both agencies have awarded Dr Adam Nicholls, reader in Sports Coaching and Psychology at the University of Hull, grants to find ways to tackle the problem. Deputy Director of WADA Rob Koehler told Venn: “The area of concern for us is the level of young athletes who have not broken through into the elite who are trying to get that breakthrough and are susceptible to taking drugs because that’s a shortcut. Not only are they susceptible to taking drugs, they are being encouraged to do so by any one of a number of people that surround them – coaches, trainers, even parents – because it’s a way to make a lot of money.” He believes that work carried out by Hull will help WADA find better ways of tackling the problem. Dr Nicholls is currently working with athletes and universities from Hong Kong, Australia, the US and the UK to measure the susceptibility of

Above: Dr Adam Nicholls, leading the field in the race against teen doping

young athletes to doping and the key factors that prompt doping. Adam says: “At the moment there is no age-appropriate questionnaire, so young athletes are asked to answer adult questions and we don’t even know if they understand them. It is very important that we have a mechanism to gauge what is happening in their lives, from their perspective. We will use our techniques in addition to other measures to explore whether factors such as the coaching environment and whether

“If we can shape teens’ attitudes, we have a chance to prevent doping throughout their lives” people are praised for improving their attainment or for being winners impact on attitudes towards doping. We believe this will help young athletes question themselves in an appropriate way.” The other strand of Adam’s research is finding ways to influence teen athletes for the better. He has been awarded $189,000 by the International

Olympics Committee to help transform how the sporting stars of the future think. The three-year study will see him form a research team, which will work with governing bodies in a crosssection of sports and with adolescents involved in elite sports throughout the UK. The team will create an app that uses interactive support and coping strategies. The effectiveness of the app will then be tested by a group of elite young athletes. A second group will be given face-to-face support sessions and a third group, the control group, will have neither. The study will reveal if there is any difference in the attitudes, susceptibility and doping intentions of the athletes if they were given the face-to-face intervention or used the app. Adam says it is an exciting project, which he hopes will reap rewards. “The way young people use technology and are influenced by it is very interesting. They are vulnerable and we think that technology can be used as a positive influence on their lives. Attitudes are formed during adolescence. If we can shape their attitudes, we have a chance to prevent doping throughout their lives.” n


Venn // Bringing together alumni & friends

How did I get here?


Following a degree in Zoology, Nick Sills embarked upon a whirlwind career which saw him salvaging shipwrecks, digging for gold, handling high explosives, flying fighter jets and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Buzz Aldrin. Space is the next frontier (and he hopes to conquer it next year)


hen I sold my last business in 2006, I decided to buy myself a toy. I got a Ferrari, and the first time I took it into the garage for fuel a man came over to me. “How’d you get one of these?” he said, amazed. I looked at him and thought for a moment, and then I said, “You have to work your damned hardest for forty-two years, take chances, and at times risk everything.” Graduating with a 2:2 (BSc Zoology, 1969) was a crushing disappointment as it meant I wasn’t able to fulfil a placement

doing a PhD in Marine Biology on the Great Barrier Reef (I’d been diving since I was 14). And so I found myself looking for a job in Hull. The Royal Navy was reluctant to take me on as a diver – apparently I was ‘too educated’. They did, however, put me in touch with a local commercial diving company. The guys who ran Northern Divers were ex-Navy and well known in Hull. They gave me a trial period, fed me and put me up for three months in a decompression chamber. My big break came when an American pipeline contractor contacted us. They

Above: Nick Sills demonstrates his newly invented 300hp twin motor electric contra rotating system for light aircraft – the first of its kind in the world – at the Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford

needed a diver to take photos of a burst pipe. I had an underwater camera, so I was sent out. The next day I came into the office with a report and the photos (I’d contacted some friends at the University’s Photographic Club to help me process them). They were absolutely gobsmacked. The business expanded, and I was promoted. For more than a decade I worked in docks, abattoirs, sewers, rivers, canals, nuclear power pits and bridges, recovering bodies, cars, helicopters, aeroplanes – it was an incredible time. Eventually I got into subsea


“You have to work your damned hardest for forty-two years, take chances, and at times risk everything” construction for the oil and gas industry using diving bells and saturation systems. My knowledge of physiology, physics and chemistry gave me a huge advantage. I joined

Shell International as their Diving Adviser in The Hague, and that launched me into all manner of things and put me in touch with some incredible figures: Buzz Aldrin, Jacques Cousteau and many of the world’s leading diving physiologists. When I left Shell, I moved into the archaeological and commercial shipwreck business, recovering treasure all around the world. One of the first jobs I went on was to salvage a quantity of gold bars from the SS Laurentic in Lough Swilly, Northern Ireland. We had to remove three metres of seabed to actually get to the ship’s hull. Standard excavation equipment would have been useless, so I invented a vertical thruster to do the job. With the IRA on one side of us, the British Army on the other, and a boatload of explosives on board, we never managed to salvage the gold. However, we did have what turned out to be an amazing piece of equipment (the RUE), and oil companies soon heard about it. The device quickly became a massive success. After setting up numerous other companies (three of which I lost, one of which made me a fortune), I retired. Wondering what to do, I visited my local airfield and said I wanted to learn how to fly a jet fighter. Under ex-military instructors (one an ex-Red Arrow), I learned formation flying and aerobatics. We did full display practices, so 50 to 40,000ft – it was just incredible. Right now I’m working with my company Contraelectric Propulsion Ltd on a newly invented 300hp twin motor electric contra rotating system for

light aircraft. Nobody’s ever done this before. The motor is currently being tested by mounting it on the back of an electric vehicle and using it to drive the vehicle at high speed down a runway. It’s the only contra rotating propeller driven car in the world – maybe one day I’ll make it road legal. First, though, I’m waiting to head into space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic programme. I’ve had a ticket for eight years – the programme just fascinates me. Technically you become an astronaut. Every time I meet Richard he says we’ll fly in 18 months. The last time we met I told him that was the fourth time he’d said it, so this time he said 14 months! We should be up there next year, though. I remember my father lecturing me one day. He said the one thing he would give me was a good education – the rest was up to me. Going through the whole process of school and university – that’s the bit that really makes you understand how to study. It’s not even always about the subject you take. It’s the ability to study, to think an idea through, and to become inventive. The best advice I could give students and new graduates today? In a word, tenacity. Most people give up on the cusp of being successful. I’ve been pushed back in my box many times, but you have to keep at it. Even when I did my degree, I wasn’t very bright academically but I worked at it. By meeting the right people and just having a brain in your head (it needn’t even be a very sophisticated one), you really can do anything. n



Venn // Bringing together alumni & friends

Not what you know... University to build on success of alumni groups with launch of Alumni Professional Networks



he opportunity to meet fellow graduates can be an extremely powerful benefit available to alumni, and alumni groups flourish because through new links alumni develop professionally. To build on their success we are increasing the range of meaningful opportunities for alumni to link with fellow professionals by launching the Hull Alumni Professional Networks. Open to graduates from any programme of study, the networks will offer events and online groups for professionals in sectors such as Creative Industries, Business and Finance, Politics and Government, Law and more. They will enable alumni working in common sectors and professions to connect, to organise events of common interest and to advance career opportunities. While not linked to a particular academic area, they will complement the networking

opportunities already available. The first professional network to launch will tie in with Hull’s City of Culture 2017, and invitations will soon be circulated for the Hull Alumni Creative Industries Network. This network will hold its first meeting at London’s Groucho Club during autumn 2016 and speakers will include two influential and inspirational alumni success stories in the form of Darren Henley (BA Politics, 1994; Hon DLitt, 2014) and Indhu Rubasingham (BA Drama, 1992) as well as Martin Green, CEO & Director of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 company. Often volunteer-led, the longevity of Hull Alumni Groups is evidence of their value. For example, alumni have met in London for 15 years, in Accra for 10 years, and the Singapore and Hong Kong alumni groups recently celebrated their 20th anniversaries. During the last couple of years alone, alumni groups have met

Above: An alumni meeting in Shanghai

in Hull, London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Accra, Paris, Lahore, Riyadh, Beijing and Shanghai. They are supported by the LinkedIn University of Hull Alumni Group with over 7,500 members and the Facebook Alumni Group with 4,000 members. Beyond this are a range of departmental groups and online networks, including Hull University Business School’s excellent online professional networking platform at www.hubsconnects.me. Get connected If you are a professional in the creative economy, join us for the Creative Industries Network event this autumn. We will be advertising other professional networks soon, for which you may volunteer in coordination of activity or offer your space for an event. Contact the Development and Alumni Relations Office with the subject title Hull Alumni Professional Networks on alumni@hull.ac.uk or call (+44) 1482 466645.



Take advantage of your status and meet up with fellow alumni by joining us for these events Opera North Hull Alumni VIP ticket offer for Billy Budd Special ticket price Opening night, 18 October 2016 Opera North Grand Theatre, Leeds Hull alumni special ticket price of 20 per cent off, including drinks reception and after-party with Opera North General Director, Richard Mantle OBE London Group alumni meetings Varies Ensure you receive invitations by updating your email address at alumni@hull.ac.uk with subject line ‘Update my details’ info More info ✉ For more information about any of these events and to ensure you receive your invitation just email alumni@hull. ac.uk with your details, or call (+44) 1482 466645

Alumni reception The Gaul, Hull Truck Theatre 27 October Hull Truck Theatre, Hull Alumni drinks reception and reduced ticket price on this Hull Truck play, contact alumni@hull.ac.uk to book University Founder’s Day Service Free date tbc

Holy Trinity Church, Hull The long-standing annual memorial to our founder Thomas Ferens University Christmas Carol Concert Free Early December 2016 Holy Trinity Church, Hull All alumni are welcome to this popular University event. Tickets available from University reception from November Public lectures on campus Free Throughout the year University of Hull All alumni are welcome to campus for public lectures and arts events. Autumn/Winter booklet available September 2016 International Women’s Day Inspired in Hull Alumni Lecture Free 8 March 2017 Allam Lecture Theatre, Esk Building, University of Hull Liz Sproat (BA English, 1994), Head of Education at Google for Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Hull Alumni Blog – about alumni, by alumni Celebrating the University’s 90th anniversary in 2018, the Hull Alumni Blog has gathered over 28,000 views from 8,000 visitors since its launch in 2015. Created as a place for former students to tell their stories, it has attracted posts from people all over the world. Company CEOs, award-winning inventors, entrepreneurs and academics have written about their time at Hull. Alumni from the 1940s wrote about studying Aeronautics during and after World War II, which led to alumni influencing UK aircraft development from the Comet to Concorde. Student accommodation during the early 1950s incorporated basic Nissen huts, of which photographs are now on the blog, while alumni from the 1960s shared their thoughts on how the press coverage of 1967 student political demonstrations cooled the feelings of the Hull population toward its students. info More info cursor www.hullalumni.me If you have a story email alumni@hull.ac.uk with subject line ‘Story for Alumni Blog’



Venn // Bringing together alumni & friends

Centre stage Drama alumni return to Hull to celebrate 40th anniversary of their graduation by offering some advice to current students

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hile some might choose to spend their reunion sharing a small sherry or two, a group of University of Hull alumni chose to mark the 40th year of their graduation by sharing their specialist knowledge with current students and giving something back to the younger generation. The Drama alumni returned to campus to deliver bespoke workshops created especially for undergraduates to help give them an advantage in their future careers. A wide range of classes were delivered – from business skills seminars to performance master classes and one-to-one personalised coaching sessions. Students benefited from experience gathered in the worlds of acting, journalism, TV, politics, health and business with members of the group having progressed into high-profile organisations including the BBC, the House of Commons and RADA – while many others set up their own successful consultancies. Tom Atkinson graduated from the University of Hull with a Drama and English degree in 1976 and helped organise the reunion. He said: “It was really important for us to give something back to current students and we wanted to provide the benefit of our experiences. We also wanted

Below: Tom Atkinson (BA Drama and English, 1976) at a bespoke workshop for students, showing that drama degrees can open doors

to help open undergraduates’ eyes to the wide range of careers a drama degree can launch you into. Our degree was very practical in nature and we learned not just how to perform – a valuable skill in itself – but all aspects of how to put on a show. As such I have gone on to enjoy a long career in television production. It was wonderful studying at the University of Hull and it gave all of us a solid grounding for our successful careers.” Elise Fairbairn, who is currently studying a Drama degree at the

University of Hull and attended the special workshops, said: “It’s been great to meet graduates and hear their advice and guidance. It’s been great to hear how useful a drama degree is – there is so much you can do with it: TV, communications, leadership! It isn’t just an acting degree; it teaches you how to act in the real world – and that’s what this University is great at, teaching you how to act in the real world, not just an educational world.” Pavel Drábek, Professor of Drama and Theatre Practice, Research and Enterprise Coordinator in the School of Drama, Music and Screen at the University of Hull, said it was great to welcome the alumni back. “Our University was one of the first in the country to teach drama and as Hull takes centre stage as the next UK City of Culture we are proud to continue to combine our strong tradition with the potential for future,” he added. “Our Drama degrees have a very strong practical element and balance theory and theatre making. The opportunity to gain extensive first-hand experience of artistic, technical and production skills combined with critical knowledge means that our students can progress to a range of rewarding careers within the creative industries and beyond. This reunion was a brilliant initiative offering students the opportunity to talk to their ‘schoolmates’ who studied Drama at Hull and went on to have successful careers in a range of professions.”


CHINA CONNECTIONS With more than 10,000 alumni in China and Hong Kong and 700 Chinese students currently enrolled, Hull’s alumni network is booming and looks set to get bigger and busier. In the coming pages, Venn highlights the University’s growing links with China, starting with one of our network’s leading lights – Catherine Peng (MBA, 2000)


atherine Peng credits her time at Hull with two important things. Firstly, the business skills and international outlook that helped her land a role in the upper levels of Volkswagen. Secondly – but no less important – a strong network of friends and colleagues in China who shared her experience of studying in Hull. As Vice President of PR and Communications at Volkswagen Group China, Catherine is one of very few women working in the upper levels of the company’s management. China is Volkswagen’s largest single market and it is a highpressure role –­ not long after joining the company she helped manage the recall of nearly 400,000 cars in the region, a public relations challenge that she handled with aplomb. Catherine was awarded as an honoree of “Women to Watch – China”

by Advertising Age for her role in the crisis. There is just one word she can use to describe life and study at Hull University Business School – “fantastic”. Typically of Hull’s Chinese alumni, Catherine has maintained contact with former friends and colleagues as many former classmates now live in Shanghai and Beijing: “I know a lot of Chinese alumni, and we have contact with each other quite often,” she says. “I am very happy to be connected with Hull. Still today, my experience in Hull is a lifelong memory. Nothing can replace that. The lecturers and professors were very patient and nice to the Chinese students, because we came from a totally different education system. “I shared with [Volkswagen Chairman] Mr Matthias Müller that studying abroad can greatly enhance an international outlook;


“I am very happy to be connected with Hull. Still today, my experience in Hull is a lifelong memory” Catherine Peng, Vice President of PR and Communications, Volkswagen Group China

Volkswagen should hire young people who have an international perspective or who are educated overseas – this is my true feeling. My time in Hull has helped me to manage the many crosscultural issues within and outside the company.” Returning to campus a few years ago, Catherine was surprised to see how much things had changed:

“I always remembered in 1999 to 2000 around Newland Avenue, it was much smaller than today; I couldn’t really recognise it when I came back. But it was very good because it was much more dynamic than before – it is still as nice and as memorable as it was in the past. My days at the University are unforgettable.”


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Forging stronger bonds As the Deputy DirectorGeneral of the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE), another prominent member of the Chinese alumni network Che Wei Min (MEd Education Studies, 1991) is forging even stronger bonds between UK universities and China. The CSCSE is part of the Government of the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Education and is a highly influential organisation in China. Its role, among other things, is to accredit overseas degrees for recognition in China. Without this accreditation a degree from a foreign university holds no formal value, and so the organisation is critical in ensuring employability of graduates of non-Chinese universities. It also creates international partnerships between Chinese and foreign universities. Under his stewardship over 50 Chinese universities partnered with 80 overseas universities, of which Hull was one. There were 89,500 Chinese students in the UK as of 2014–15. Speaking during the alumni drinks reception to celebrate the Vice-Chancellor’s visit to Beijing last year, he spoke warmly of his time at Hull and how the University provided the foundation for him – and more than 10,000 fellow alumni in China and Hong Kong – to achieve success in their careers.

The Confucius Institute at University of Hull gives students the opportunity to learn the most widely spoken language in the world

Celebrating Chinese language and culture with the Confucius Institute

P info More info ✉ For further information about the Confucius Institute at the University of Hull please contact us at ciuh@hull. ac.uk or visit www.hull.ac.uk/ confucius

eople from across the Hull and wider Humber region have the chance to learn the most widely spoken language in the world with the opening of a new Chinese language and cultural institute: the Confucius Institute at University of Hull. Opened in January this year, the Confucius Institute is promoting Chinese language and culture through a variety of activities and courses. The Institute will train teachers and offer Chinese language programmes to local schools, colleges, businesses and the general public as well as current University staff and students. Future plans include the development of training courses

for teachers of Chinese as a Foreign Language including a pioneering Masters programme. The Confucius Institute at University of Hull has been established in partnership with Tianjin Normal University and the Chinese Ministry of Education. Commenting at the opening of the Institute, Professor Gao Yubao, President of Tianjin Normal University, said: “Confucius at the University of Hull is a bridge between the University and Tianjin Normal University. With this stage we can broaden our collaboration in terms of teaching, education, research and technology. Today is an important day for both Hull and Tianjin, and it is an exciting day.”


Hong Kong – nowhere better to be a Hull graduate


fter more than 20 successful years of the Hong Kong Alumni Association, Hong Kong is one of the world’s best places to be a Hull graduate. Founding member Michael Leung MBE (MBA, 1993) says he is proud of what the group has achieved through its many activities for thousands of alumni – furthering friendships and strengthening business and social connections whilst maintaining very strong links with the University. “I have seen the number of Hong Kong Hull graduates grow quickly, particularly those who had attended teaching programmes in Hong Kong,” he says. “Our Alumni Association aims to provide a platform for building a strong network for all graduates and students.” The University has one of the longest-running Executive MBA programmes, run in partnership with Kaplan Higher Education, taught entirely by Hull professors, and running now for more than 25 years.

Keep in touch

Alumni Association representatives have become regular guests of the graduation celebrations at HKU SPACE (Hong Kong University School of Professional and Continuing Education), which now delivers marketing, accounting and criminology degrees, among others. A weekend of events held in April, including an alumni reception, celebrated the successful partnership between Hull University Business School and HKU SPACE. Professor Kathryn Haynes, Dean of Hull University Business School, said: “Over 2,000 students have graduated from our programmes with HKU SPACE, many of whom meet and network through the thriving Hong Kong Alumni Association. These graduates have gone on to achieve success in many professions and industry sectors – putting into practice the knowledge and skills developed while studying our programmes.”

We hope that you enjoy Venn magazine. With over 90,000 recipients, it is the most important means by which we communicate with alumni, supporters and friends of the University. We also use email to send invitations to free alumni events in the UK and around the world, sharing regular news bulletins, blog updates and information on professional

China in numbers Students came from

30 out of 34

provinces, municipalities and regions of China

24% 13% 9%

Beijing Municipality Shanghai Municipality

Hubei Province

Hong Kong



Most popular programmes: Law 55


networks. To ensure you keep up to date with alumni benefits, send your contact details to alumni@hull.ac.uk, or complete the coversheet sent with the packaging of Venn. If you know fellow alumni who have not received this magazine but would like to, ask them to email us with their refreshed contact details. We won’t share any information without your permission.

graduates from China over the last 15 years

Most popular programmes for students from China and Hong Kong of all time:

graduates over the last 15 years

Health Studies  63 Social Policy  371 Management  589 Business School 4,219


Business School/ Management Social Policy



114 Law


Computer Science

Visit our alumni website www.hull.ac.uk/alumni Follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/hullalumni Join us on Twitter www.twitter.com/hullalumni Connect with us on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/ groups/63362



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Hull’s newly established Wolfson Centre for Palliative Care Research will help people with life-limiting illnesses live as well as they can, and, when the time comes, give them control of symptoms and courage as they die


eople with a life-limiting illness will no longer be allowed to slip through the care net – thanks to work being carried out by a new centre at the University of Hull. The Wolfson Centre for Palliative Care Research will form part of the University of Hull’s £28m Health Campus, which is currently under construction. The Wolfson Foundation, a charity which supports excellence in

medical research, has awarded a £500,000 grant to the University to help fund the new £2.4m centre, which will build on ongoing palliative care research, aiming to improve care for the terminally ill in the UK and further afield. One of the projects that researchers at the University of Hull are working on will develop a checklist for doctors and nurses to use when someone has a terminal illness. It will ensure

Marie Curie


arie Curie funds crucial research to improve the care of those with chronic lung conditions. Marie Curie has awarded £118,682 to researchers at the University of Hull from a £1million annual pot that the charity provides to fund high quality studies that will benefit people living with terminal illnesses and those with end of life care needs. The money has paid for research into the care received by people with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) – a chronic and ultimately fatal lung disease.

As part of the study, researchers tested a new tool that will help doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals identify when patients could benefit from palliative care – care that is focussed on managing pain symptoms and improving quality of life while taking account of psychological, social and spiritual needs. The tool will enable healthcare professionals

to better assess these needs and refer patients to specialist palliative care services, when required. Natalie Atherley, Community Fundraiser for Marie Curie, said: “The amazing work being done at the University of Hull really illustrates the difference that Marie Curie is helping to make for people living with terminal illnesses across the country but we are only able to do this thanks to the generosity of our local supporters and volunteers. We would encourage anyone in Hull who can spare the time to get involved in helping us to raise funds.”


that, in addition to physical and psychological problems, the patient’s legal concerns, money worries, and their fears for their family and themselves are heard so an action plan is developed and followed. Professor Miriam Johnson, who is heading up the Wolfson Centre, says that they are conducting rigorous research across the UK with patients and their families to make sure that the right questions are included and that checklists are tailored to different conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, chronic lung conditions and cancer. She says: “This piece of work is so important to the future care of patients. Many people have not been given the best possible care, they haven’t been asked difficult questions and they haven’t been given the help to live well at the end of their life. We need to give people courage to face the things that frighten them and the help to deal with them. We want to make sure that people are honoured as people rather than a condition. Our major hope is that we will improve people’s quality of life. Palliative care is not just for the last weeks of someone’s life. Palliative care is there to help people from the point of diagnosis and people can live for a long time after that

Above: Professor Miriam Johnson, heading up the Wolfson Centre and committed to improving people’s quality of life

point with an unnecessarily poor quality of life and a lot of fear and worry.” The development of these checklists is just one strand of work that will take place at the centre. Miriam will also head projects that look at how to help patients who suffer from breathlessness and how we should manage cancer patients suffering from dangerous blood clots in hospices. Miriam, who still practises once a week at Scarborough’s St Catherine’s Hospice, to keep in touch with the front line, says she feels passionate about the underdog. She explains: “For me the work we are focusing on is forgotten things. Things that really matter to people, patients and families,

but have not been the subject of a huge amount of research.” She says that she is already beginning to make breakthrough discoveries. Scanning the brain of people with breathlessness has revealed that when cold air was blown across their face people felt less breathless and the brain scans appeared to reflect this change. Other studies using a small battery-operated handheld fan to blow cool air across the face helped people recover from breathlessness more quickly. She believes that other small breakthroughs that make big differences will continue to be made by the Centre. But the biggest breakthrough she wants to make is to demystify palliative care. “People are frightened of the word palliative,” she says. “If you leave the monster in the cupboard, it will make a big racket; if you bring it out into the light, it will shrink. We believe that our work will help people face that monster, and give people the courage to live a better life and to die as well as they can.” Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, who has visited the new Health Campus, says: “Improving end of life care is one of the most important challenges facing healthcare. We were very impressed by the excellence of



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research at the University of Hull, which is well positioned to make significant advancements in the support of people who are dying and their families.” Annie Jones and her family are among those who have benefited from the support of palliative care services in the past. “Dealing with terminal or chronic illness is a daunting, and often frightening, experience for the affected individual and their family,” she says. “Specialist palliative care services not only provide medical treatment and emotional support but also aim to maintain quality of life regardless of an individual’s condition. We live in a society where death remains a relatively taboo subject. Providing good, robust evidence through research is therefore vital in terms of improving care, removing some of the social stigmas and increasing awareness. Gaining funding for new and possibly innovative interventions is critical. These interventions range from new drug treatments to practical advice, such as reducing breathlessness or other symptoms experienced by people with these conditions.” Annie became involved with Miriam’s work at the Wolfson

Above: Annie Jones who, along with her family, has benefited from the support of palliative care services Right: Professor Calie Pistorius, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull; Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation; Dr John Mc Loughlin, Director of Development, Alumni and External Affairs; and Charles Wolfson Townsley, at the University of Hull’s £28-million Health Campus, which is currently under construction, below

“Improving end of life care is one of the most important challenges facing healthcare” Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation

Centre, which is part of the Supportive Care, Early Diagnosis and Advanced Disease (SEDA) Research group, in 2010 as a Patient Public Involvement (PPI) representative. “I have been involved in a number of research projects and grant applications for funding,” she says. “Involving the lay public in medical research provides a ‘real world’ aspect that in the past may have been overlooked in academic research. Lay input can also provide an insight into some of the day-to-day

practicalities of living with a chronic or terminal illness. “In addition, research projects often involve a huge commitment from participants in terms of time or clinic visits. This is sometimes overlooked. It may also present problems for researchers in terms of getting people to take part in these vital studies. The Wolfson Centre and multi-disciplinary SEDA research group are dedicated to making a difference to people with chronic or terminal illness. It is a privilege to be part of this team.” n


New campaign will strengthen research and leave lasting health legacy


n exciting new campaign will give all friends and supporters of the University of Hull a chance to play their part in creating a new, worldleading research centre and architectural landmark for the campus. Opening late 2017, the £28m Health Campus will become a leading centre for health and social care and medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health professional training. This investment is a sign of the University’s commitment to creating the very best facilities for students who will become the health practitioners of the future, as well as delivering world-leading research.   At the heart of this major development is the fivestorey Allam Medical Building. Supported by a £7m donation from alumnus and leading East Yorkshire businessman Dr Assem Allam, it will provide specialised teaching facilities including a full mock hospital ward,

operating theatre and intensive care nursing facilities. But the Allam Medical Building is not just an impressive addition to the campus – it will also profoundly affect the people of Hull and represents our desire to transform the health of the city, the region and the nation.  The £500,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation to set up the Wolfson Centre for Palliative Care Research in the building (see pages 24–26) is just the start. We also want our friends and supporters to become part of this great endeavour too. In 2016–17 we will be asking alumni and students to help us maximise the opportunity to make sure that this facility is as great as it can be by donating and raising funds at all levels to support the costs of construction and to help equip the building. We have already received very generous support and over the coming months we will be launching an exciting new campaign giving you the opportunity to be associated with this project too. 

Above: Anna Harlinska, a junior doctor, graduated from Hull this year. The university is committed to creating the best facilities for students who will become the health practitioners of the future

info Donate Anyone interested in supporting the Health Campus through a donation or fundraising should contact Tariq Sadiq in the Alumni team ✉ T.Sadiq@hull. ac.uk

Dr Julian Golec (BSc Chemistry, 1978; PhD Chemistry, 1982) is one alumnus who has already played his part with his generous donation of £62,500 going towards the Allam Medical Building and the endowment of a prize in organic chemistry. Julian, the recently retired Senior Vice-President, Research & Development, and Site Head for Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Europe) Ltd near Oxford, visited the campus recently and was impressed with the sense of energy and drive he saw in the chemistry-led bioscience research. “I visited and gave a lecture and I saw huge change and massive improvement in the direction and energy. I wanted to help and I felt I could give a little bit to help maintain the momentum. The Health Campus looks to me like the centre of the re-energisation of science at Hull. It’s a real hub and something that everyone can look at and say, ‘This is Hull University!’ I hope it will become a key feature of the University and a real attraction. “I had a really nice time at Hull when I was a student. People were always very kind and I was blessed in landing a job that set off a career. I have a great affection for the place and I’m glad to be able to give something back. I feel I owe it to the people who gave me huge encouragement and set me off on an enormously fulfilling career. I feel truly blessed. If we can encourage more kids at Hull to follow the path into organic chemistry, it will be worth it.”



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Cosmic innovations, local foundations From our small corner of northern England the Universe is being watched, and its secrets gradually revealed. Venn introduces the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics




alactic archaeology, cosmochemistry, galaxy evolution. These might sound like terms borrowed from the world of science fiction, but to researchers operating out of the University of Hull’s E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics they are very real disciplines with unprecedented real-world applications. Opened in October last year, the Centre is taking a fresh and dynamic approach to many of the big questions and topics that have fascinated humankind for thousands of years. From unravelling the origins of the elements to locating potential harbours of extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way galaxy, research under way at the Centre is already breaking ground. The Centre has enabled students of Physics and Astronomy to explore entirely new avenues of research. But to say that the Centre’s sole aim is to train new generations of astrophysics graduates prepared to tackle the mysteries of the Universe is untrue. More potent entirely is its aim to increase the numbers of students who leave trained in problem solving, engineering, mathematics, technology and computing, able to contribute to industry and society as a whole. Frontier discovery As with space itself, the attractive and visual nature of astrophysics can engage and inspire like little else. Recent work at the Centre, led by Lecturer Marco Pignatari, may have finally solved one of the great unknowns of the universe: the origin of nitrogen. His team analysed dust particles older

than the Sun itself, providing insight into ancient massive supernovae and the nitrogenrich nuclear reactions that characterised these stars prior to explosion. Marco, Professor Brad Gibson (the Centre’s Director) and their team are building on this work to try and finally pinpoint the origins of the elements which have eluded our understanding through the ages – nearly two-thirds of the periodic table, in fact, including day-today elements such as gold, silver and platinum. Brad’s own team, including Milne Fellow Gareth Few, and students Chris Jordan and Isobel Jordan, are mining the fossil chemistry records of millions of stars to discover the origin of our own Milky Way galaxy – an undertaking considered one of the most audacious not just in astrophysics today but in science as a whole. In parallel, the team is working out where within our Milky Way Galaxy we might find the conditions conducive to the development of complex biological life, like we have here on Earth. Stunning insights into the origins of unprecedented energetic eruptions on the Sun are being discovered by Lecturer Sergei Zharkov, while worldleading observational efforts using the largest telescopes on Earth (and those orbiting the Earth) have been made by Senior Lecturer Kevin Pimbblet and his team. The Centre’s most recent lecturer, Elke Roediger, is a pioneer in the use of High Performance Computing (HPC) to model the complex physics surrounding the largest structures in the Universe, with physical insights into these structures provided by the mathematical



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models of lecturer Siri Chongchitnan. Enabling the Centre to push such boundaries is the University’s brand-new £2.1m High Performance Computer system known as VIPER, which can produce complex simulations of galaxies and how they behave. Hull has gone from being a minor player in the game of high performance computing to having a facility that rivals anything in Europe. It has the capacity to completely transform the impact and quality of research throughout the University, allowing researchers to tackle the sort of ‘Grand Challenge’ problems that would have otherwise been impossible. Mavericks of science In June 2015, Professor Brad Gibson was appointed Professor of Astrophysics and Director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Hull. He’s candid about where his passion for astronomy and astrophysics began. On the one hand, he puts it down to a pair of inspirational years 4 and 5 teachers – the sort of teachers we all remember well into our adult lives. On the other hand, he cites Star Trek. “It might sound clichéd, but watching that show did play a part in driving my love of trying to

understand what’s above us,” says Brad. “On a more practical level, though, those particular teachers fostered a love for understanding the origins and underpinning physics of everything around us today.” Eighteen months ago, a new challenge beckoned: “I wanted to play a part in building something new from the ground up,” says Brad of Centre’s

“E.A. Milne was a poster child for the kind of scientists we want today” Professor Brad Gibson, Director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics

Above L to R: Martin Barstow, then President of the Royal Astronomical Society, Meg Weston Smith, daughter of Arthur Milne and Professor Brad Gibson, Director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics

establishment. “I wanted experience in growing a research group.” And so when a position for a new professor opened up within the University’s Department of Physics and Mathematics, he decided to visit. An exploratory visit very quickly turned into an easy decision when Brad was offered the position that very day. “This was a place I really liked,” says Brad. “Despite the smaller size of the region in terms of population base, there’s a number of really significant 19th- and 20th-century pioneers in the field of astrophysics.” The Centre itself is named after mathematician and astrophysicist Edward Arthur Milne. “Hull-born, Milne was an outspoken challenger of


scientific orthodoxy, a true maverick,” says Brad. “He relished open debate, pushing the biggest names in science at the time on their theories – Einstein included. He never allowed himself to be pigeonholed. “Milne’s own research spanned pure mathematics and relativity to stellar atmospherics and the origins of the universe. He really was a poster child for the kind of scientists we want today. We want fast, flexible, responsive scientists; scientists who don’t just go out into society to do astronomy or work on particle physics, but who utilise the skill sets that astrophysics provides to contribute to any and all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” Going forth and prospering The true power of astrophysics, according to Brad, lies in its ability to attract people into the sciences as a whole. His goal is not to train hundreds of people to simply move on and become astronomers (although that will be a natural outcome for some): it is to increase the numbers of people who walk away trained in problem solving, engineering, mathematics and computing, able to contribute to industry and society as a whole. “Astronomy and astrophysics are seriously good STEM enablers, so science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Brad. “They are very visual, attractive sciences which engage the public. If we can use astronomy and astrophysics as an attractive way to get people into the field, then I’ve succeeded in what I want to do.”

The facts speak for themselves. The Institute of Physics recently surveyed a group of CEOs across the world and discovered that one of the primary reasons they ended up in their respective field – be it finance, energy, retail or any other industry – was a love and a passion for astronomy and astrophysics from when they were young. At the University specifically, enrolment in the sciences has gone up. “The Centre is succeeding in what we wanted it to do,” says Brad. “If you went around the UK and looked at other groups, you’d see that in many cases the primary goal is to train students to become astronomers, full stop. At Hull, we’ve taken a different approach. Yes, this is our individual passion in terms of research, but we also have a

Right: A student inspects a solar telescope outside the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics

very realistic picture of what we want our students to go off and do – and thus far that’s absolutely working.” Brad may be a scientist by training, but he readily admits that he is a teacher by trade. Via social media, he’s recently had the chance to meet up with the two teachers who so inspired him four decades ago. “Being able to reconnect and let them know what impact their teaching had on me was incredible. I like to think that had a big impact on them as well, seeing what they did to shape, I guess, what I’ve become.” E.A. Milne would have appreciated the sentiment – and surely over the decades to come so will the Centre’s current students, shaping both our understanding of the cosmos and their own futures. n


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Look at Eddie Dawes’ face and you will see an elderly gentleman. He is 91. But there is always more to the story. Eddie became a scientist and a magician as a child and many people alive today will have come into contact with his brilliance. Venn talks to him about his life


Man of magic


Man of science 33


ddie Dawes (Hon DSc, 1992) has spent many of his 91 years working out how to make things disappear. Professor Dawes’ work in his University of Hull lab led to the production of biodegradable plastics, which quickly disappear in the soil. He has also been a keen magician since a young age. Growing up in Goole, East Yorkshire, it was as a five-year-old child that Eddie developed an appetite for investigation. Suffering from pneumonia, he watched in awe as his father and grandfather performed a selection of magic tricks they’d learned from magazines. Eddie says: “I wanted

to understand how they did it. So they taught me. Magic captured my imagination from that day to this.” Eddie’s love of chemistry grew as a grammar school pupil in Goole. He started spending his pocket money on equipment and set up a lab in the garden shed. When he was issued with a gas mask during the Second World War, Eddie decided to put it to the test. He gathered the necessary chemicals to make potentially deadly chlorine gas, shut the door and closed the windows of his shed, donned his gas mask and got to work. He says: “It worked and I survived. I became hooked on chemistry and conjuring took a back seat.”

Above: From backyard experiments to academic excellence – Eddie’s early passion for chemistry led to the development of biodegradable plastics

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Eddie Dawes read Chemistry and went on to do a PhD in Biochemistry at Leeds University where he met the love of his life, Amy, a student of Domestic Science. They moved to Glasgow where Eddie took a research and teaching post at the University and Amy taught in some of Glasgow’s toughest schools. It was in Glasgow that Eddie began to reinvestigate his interest in magic. He joined the Scottish Conjurers’ Association and was President from 1958 to 1963. He developed a stage show with Amy, called ‘Only

Make Believe’. The act began with Eddie conjuring a rabbit from a silk streamer, and then making it disappear. In 1963, they moved to Hull when Eddie was appointed to establish the University of Hull’s Department of Biochemistry. He also took up the role of the President of Hull Magicians’ Circle in 1965. Throughout the seventies, his research focused on the internal energy sources that enable bacteria to survive under starvation conditions. It was during this time that his team discovered one of these materials had the

Below: Eddie Dawes performing his stage show with his wife, Amy


“Magic captured my imagination from that day to this”

properties of a biodegradable thermoplastic that would break down in the soil and become carbon dioxide and water. They developed an association with ICI, which had a commercial interest in this field, and built a plant on Teesside to produce ‘Biopol’. Today, the fruits of Eddie’s dedication can be seen in things like biodegradable bottles, coffee cups and surgical stitches, but the plastic isn’t as widely used as he’d hoped because it isn’t as cheap to make as non-biodegradable oil-based plastics. Throughout the time that Eddie worked on this important research, he also managed to keep up his interest in magic. Eddie is known all over the world for the work he has done to document the history of magic. A list of the books and papers he has published is extensive, and he counts the likes of David Copperfield as a friend. During a visit to Eddie’s East Yorkshire home in 1994, Copperfield’s limo famously blocked Beverley Road, Anlaby. Eddie recently flew out to visit Copperfield in Las Vegas to carry out some research. In July, Eddie turned 91. He is a truly remarkable man. He has worn many hats – professionally with the Biochemical Society, Society for General Microbiology, Federation of European Microbiological Societies, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of Yorkshire Cancer Research, Chair of the Larkin Society, Honorary Vice President for The Magic Circle (London), and latterly carer for his beloved late wife Amy. The pioneering biochemistry textbook he first wrote in 1956, which went through six editions and was translated into six languages, is still in print in Japan. He is also still pulling rabbits out of hats. n

Larkin and me How Eddie’s 17-year campaign helped his great friend, the poet Philip Larkin, take his place among Britain’s greatest writers in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey


ddie Dawes first met Philip Larkin to discuss his forthcoming library requirements in 1962. Eddie was establishing the new Biochemistry Department at the University of Hull and Larkin wanted to ensure appropriate books were available. Over the coming months, the pair became friends through a shared sense of humour and a curiosity about each other’s interests. Larkin loved jazz and magic was Eddie’s thing. Eddie says: “He just had an incredible wit. He was one of the wittiest people I have ever met.” Larkin’s admiration for Eddie was expressed in a postcard home to his mother describing an evening when Eddie, an accomplished magician, demonstrated some of his tricks. Larkin described it as one of the best evening’s entertainment he’d had. In later life, Eddie has dedicated time to working as the Chair of the Philip Larkin Society since its foundation in

1995. In that role, he has never given up in his attempt to have Philip memorialised in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. His first attempt was thwarted because the rules applying at that time required a poet to be 20-years deceased before they could be recognised, but when Ted Hughes was memorialised in Poets’ Corner Eddie tried again. After nearly 17 years of effort, Eddie’s and his colleagues’

Above: Eddie Dawes and Philip Larkin bonded over their love of jazz and magic, pictured here with magician Dale Salwak

A place for poets Thanks to Eddie Dawes’ efforts, a ledger stone for Philip Larkin will be placed in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. It will be dedicated on Friday, 2 December 2016, the anniversary of Larkin’s death in 1985. Larkin will join many of Britain’s other greatest writers including W.H. Auden, Jane Austen, William Blake, Charlotte Brontë, Lewis Carroll, Ted Hughes, William Shakespeare and more.

wish was finally granted. A floor stone dedicated to Larkin – who died in 1985 – will join the names of the country’s best-loved poets, including W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot and William Wordsworth. It will be unveiled on 2 December 2016, the 31st anniversary of Larkin’s death. “The memorialisation of Philip Larkin in Poets’ Corner will be warmly welcomed by his many admirers in all walks of life,” says Eddie. “The most admired and popular poet of the 20th century, his words are quoted more frequently than those of any of his poetic contemporaries, in the press and other media. In 2014 ‘The Whitsun Weddings’, his best-loved poem, was commemorated by the installation of an inscribed slate ellipse at King’s Cross Station, and we are delighted that in 2016 Larkin will take his place at the very cultural heart of the nation, in Westminster Abbey amongst Britain’s greatest writers.”



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For many it is devastating, affecting relationships and careers, but a ‘wonder’ treatment is in the works


early 30 years ago Professor Alyn Morice helped discover what causes chronic cough; now he is helping to test a medicine that could change the lives of millions of people who are devastated by the condition. An estimated one in ten people around the world suffer from a chronic cough. For many it is devastating, affecting their relationships and their career. For some, the force of the cough can even cause internal damage. But sufferers are on the verge of accessing a ‘wonder’ treatment.

The drug, AF-219, is being trialled at the world’s largest cough clinic, in East Yorkshire, which is run by University of Hull Professor of Respiratory Medicine Alyn Morice. The drug works by blocking the nerve receptors in the throat that trigger the cough reflex and early indications are that patients see a reduction in their cough of around 75 per cent. AF-219 has been developed in response to Alyn’s game-changing discovery that has helped the world understand the causes of chronic cough and how it can be treated. In 1987, when he was working at


Above: Professor Alyn Morice, pioneering the treatment of chronic cough

the University of Cambridge, Professor Morice discovered that persistent coughs are triggered by hypersensitivity of the nerves caused by non-acid reflux, but he says that until recently the link he made between chronic cough and reflux had largely fallen on deaf ears. He says: “People hear reflux and think only of acid reflux, but that is completely wrong and results in people being given the wrong treatment. Blocking the acid – which is great for heartburn – doesn’t help cough and other drugs are needed.” Alyn moved to the University of Hull to help establish Hull York Medical School (HYMS), of which he is Chair of Academic Medicine. He has since built his reputation and his clinic, at Castle Hill Hospital, part of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which currently treats around 5,000 patients from across Europe. He is

able to find suitable drug therapies that significantly reduce coughing bouts in 90 per cent of people and believes that AF-219 will change the face of care for people with a persistent cough.“You could call it a wonder drug,” he says. “People who live with chronic cough are desperate for a cure because chronic cough can be very damaging to people’s lives.”

“You could call it a wonder drug. People who live with chronic cough are desperate for a cure”

Alyn now travels the globe talking about persistent cough, its causes and how to treat it. He says the work being done to promote understanding is paying off. There are now eight cough clinics in the UK, when once there was only his clinic. It is not just chronic cough sufferers that call upon him for help. He is known all over the world and is called on to offer his expertise on everything from the power of chocolate to treat acute coughs (it helps, apparently), to offering evidence in court. Alyn was an expert witness in an infamous UK court case. When Tecwen Whittock and Major Charles Ingram were accused of cheating in order to win £1m on ITV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Alyn came to their defence. Whittock was accused of coughing at vital moments to indicate correct answers to Ingram, who won the million- pound top prize on the ITV show in September 2001. Alyn says he remains astonished that the pair were found guilty as he believes the vital coughs came from other people. One of the reasons he spends so much time talking about chronic cough is that he hopes one day it will be recognised as a disease. He explains: “If it were recognised as a disease, it would help doctors understand the condition properly and help patients access better treatments.” AF-219 will go a long way to shaping the future, when it is licensed in two years’ time. It will be the first new medicine to tackle coughs to be licensed in 50 years. This summer it was sold for $500m with an additional $750m when it reaches the market. “People do not understand how chronic cough can ruin lives, jobs, relationships. This drug will change lives,” says Alyn.




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“I knew he understood what I was talking about. You can’t imagine the relief I felt” Maggie Tschirhart feels as though someone has cast a spell on her. Thirteen years ago, Maggie, who lives in Strasbourg, France began coughing. The coughing fits were so intense they have driven her to seek help 700 miles from home at an East Yorkshire Clinic. Here, she tells Venn why she has placed her trust in Professor Alyn Morice, of the University of Hull


was 53 when I started to cough in the middle of the 2003 French heat wave. It has not stopped for one day of my life since. I saw quite a lot of doctors and specialists who tested, prodded, analysed and prescribed different drugs for me over a four-year period, all to absolutely no avail. I was having heavy coughing fits triggered by an intense tickling irritation in my throat. Pepper, pimento and curried foods systematically set it off, but also smoke, dust, dry cake, the list was endless. One of the most distressing aspects of the coughing fits was that sometimes my throat would go into a spasm and I couldn’t breathe for some seconds, which would send my heart racing. I had to learn to control these spasms and not to panic. There was quite often vomiting as well. Around 2010 the internal pressure from intense coughing resulted in a prolapse operation. I suffered from quite severe heartburn. It’s difficult to explain the violence of chronic cough on the internal organs. At first my family empathised, but after a while it got on their nerves. They began to show involuntary signs of exasperation, and I felt hurt because no one seemed to understand that it was uncontrollable. I was in charge of case management at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. My colleagues would run for a glass of water and I could see that they understood that I was dealing with something

Above: Maggie Tschirhart’s quality of life has improved thanks to Hull research

strange, which was poisoning my very existence. Then, my mother, who lives in Britain, read about Professor Morice and his work with chronic cough in the British press. I arranged to see him as soon as possible. From the first time I met him, I knew that he understood what I was talking about. You can’t imagine the relief I felt. He has helped me considerably and I’m still collaborating with the clinic in Hull. I am taking a drug that significantly decreases the intensity of the coughing bouts. It’s not available in France, so Hull send it to me. It costs a lot, but it is worth it. Living with chronic cough can be hell, but I’m at an age where I’m losing friends to cancer and other illnesses and I say to myself, well, there’s worse. I’ve been told by Hull they are trialling a new drug, but I must wait for these trials to be completed before I can try it. I find working with Professor Morice and his clinic offers me help and hope. n

Run with your instinct

Left: Wendy’s company, runningbuggies.com, aims to inspire and assist parents looking to join in the running buggy revolution

(and your baby) Wendy Rumble (BA Business Studies, 2002), founder of runningbuggies.com, on babies, buggies and business, and life lessons learned at university


y brother’s always been a talented long-distance runner. The arrival of fatherhood didn’t distract him: no, he bought a stroller to run with. He’d trot out for 20 miles without even thinking about it. Most of the runs when I started out were local errand runs. They ticked the boxes of exercising and getting my daughter out in the fresh air. When my second daughter arrived I became more adventurous, running around lakes and other beauty spots. The more I got into running with a stroller, the more my friends and colleagues would ask me about it. Recommendations, prices, reviews, hints and tips – none of this was in one place. There was a gap in the market, and I realised

that I was in a place to plug it. And so I bought the domain name www.runningbuggies.com. I set it up as an e-commerce site for parents to compare different running buggies from various manufacturers. It’s regularly updated with information on buggy running and product tests. Starting my own business was about using skills I’d started learning at university. As I came from rural Cambridgeshire, the University of Hull might not have

seemed the most obvious choice, but I wanted to go to a proper ‘red brick’ university. I wanted a completely different experience. I couldn’t have had a more relevant base than a degree in Business Studies; the course felt like real life. Although, in my case, 14 years later, I don’t remember everything I learned during my studies, so much of it comes back as I go about my business. Hull is such a well-balanced place. There’s a great focus on study and coming out with an excellent degree, but also life experience and I picked up so much of this. Whether it was working for Red Bull as their Student Brand Manager organising events like urban mountain bike races, socialising a little too hard, or taking part in sport, it was a constant learning curve. Some universities are very pressured about study, to the extent that you might get the degree you want but not the life experience. At Hull you get both. Finding the thing you’re passionate about is key to starting a business. There are lots of good ideas out there but you’ve got to be genuinely passionate about it to go for it. Run with your gut instinct, and never be afraid of failure. n

“As I came from rural Cambridgeshire, attending the University of Hull might not have seemed the most obvious choice, but I wanted to go to a proper ‘red brick’ university. I wanted a completely different experience”




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Profile for The University of Hull

Venn - University of Hull magazine  

Bringing together alumni and friends

Venn - University of Hull magazine  

Bringing together alumni and friends

Profile for hull