Summer 2021 • northumbria.ac.uk
TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE
PARTNERSHIP SPARKS INTO LIFE
Shining a light on the Northumbria research addressing climate change, both on Earth and in space!
Northumbria signs landmark partnership deal with world-leading battery technology investor, Britishvolt.
Turn to pages 4-5 to find out more.
Discover more on page 6.
Read about the Northumbria spinout company, whose product could revolutionise disease diagnosis, on page 14
Researchers find first evidence confirming glacier’s tipping point DR SEBASTIAN ROSIER ON PINE ISLAND GLACIER IN 2015
“THE POTENTIAL FOR THIS REGION TO CROSS A TIPPING POINT HAS BEEN RAISED IN THE PAST, BUT OUR STUDY IS THE FIRST TO CONFIRM THAT PINE ISLAND GLACIER DOES INDEED CROSS THESE CRITICAL THRESHOLDS.” DR SEBASTIAN ROSIER
Northumbria University researchers have found the first evidence that one of Antarctica’s biggest glaciers could reach the ‘point of no return’ at the speed it is melting into the sea, which would have significant consequences for the global sea level. At approximately two-thirds the size of the UK, Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is already a cause for concern for scientists as it is losing more ice than any other glacier on the continent. Pine Island and the neighbouring Thwaites glacier are responsible for around 10% of global sea level rise. If Pine Island was to cross what is known as a ‘tipping point’, it would undergo an irreversible retreat from which it could not recover. This could lead to the collapse of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contains enough ice to raise
the global sea level by over three metres, causing devastation to many coastal and delta regions. Although scientists have argued for some time that the region could cross a tipping point, researchers from Northumbria’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences are the first to find evidence showing how it might happen. Northumbria is home to a team of experts in ice modelling who have used a state-of-the-art ice flow modelling tool developed at the University which can identify tipping points within ice sheets.
They have found that Pine Island Glacier has at least three distinct tipping points, the third of which – triggered by a 1.2 ºC increase in ocean temperatures – would lead to the irreversible retreat of the entire glacier. Dr Sebastian Rosier, a ViceChancellor’s Research Fellow and lead author of the study, explained: “The potential for this region to cross a tipping point has been raised in the past, but our study is the first to confirm that Pine Island Glacier does indeed cross these critical thresholds.
“Many different computer simulations around the world are attempting to quantify how a changing climate could affect the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but identifying whether a period of retreat in these models is a tipping point is challenging. “However, it is a crucial question and the methodology we use in this new study makes it much easier to identify potential future tipping points.” Hilmar Gudmundsson, Professor of Glaciology and Extreme Environments, worked with Dr
Rosier on the study. He added: “The possibility of Pine Island Glacier entering an unstable retreat has been raised before but this is the first time that this possibility is rigorously established and quantified. Continues on Pg. 2
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
IN THIS EDITION SUMMER 2021 NEWS
Northumbria signs landmark partnership with Britishvolt Page 6
BIG INTERVIEW Professor Tom Lawson talks about his new role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria University Page 11
Northumbria ranked Top 50 in the world for sustainability in latest Times Higher Education (THE) list page 7
FOCUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE Pages 4-5
Research breakthrough at Northumbria could result in new cancer treatments
A writing chance for aspiring authors from underprivileged backgrounds,
BUSINESS AND LAW
Major appointment for Northumbria academic on international board of knowledge exchange Page 34
Revolutionising solar architecture at Northumbria Page 27
SPORT Rugby star tackles mental health with Northumbria Sport, Page 43
Keep up to date with the latest news from Northumbria University at www.northumbria.ac.uk/news
Glacier’s tipping point – continued “This is a major forward step in our understanding of the dynamics of this area and I’m thrilled that we have now been able to finally provide firm answers to this important question. “But the findings of this study also concern me. Should the glacier enter unstable irreversible retreat, the impact on sea level could be measured in metres, and as this study shows, once the retreat starts it might be
impossible to halt it.” Their findings are published in leading scientific journal, The Cryosphere, which highlights research on all aspects of frozen water and ground. Northumbria is fast becoming the UK’s leading university for research into Antarctic and extreme environments and is the only UK university to play a part in two projects in the £20m International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration – the largest joint
project undertaken by the UK and USA in Antarctica for more than 70 years. Find out more about the research being carried out by Northumbria’s Cold and Palaeo Environments research group at www.northumbria.ac.uk/CAPE
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University pledges to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities Northumbria University has signed a national pledge to promote access to higher education for Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showman and Boater (GTRSB) communities – strengthening its existing commitment to equality and diversity. Barriers that affect GTRSB pupils’ achievement emerge as early as primary years, continuing into secondary education, and then into further and higher education, resulting in very few GTRSB university students and graduates in the UK. Research, as reported by Buckinghamshire New University, shows that there is an estimated average of only 200 members of the GTRSB community in higher education at any one time. The ‘GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge’ is a firm commitment by a university, college or educational institution to take certain steps to support GTRSB students into and within higher education. It is designed to support best practice in ensuring monitoring of data; inclusive education and representation; and the development of widening participation practice to support GTRSB students and potential students.
Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University said: “We recognise that members of GTRSB communities experience considerable inequalities in access to education, along with prejudice and discrimination in everyday life. “As a university we value diversity, and we are determined to ensure we provide an inclusive environment for all. In signing up to this pledge we commit to better understanding the experience of our GTRSB students and staff, so that we can work collaboratively to create environments where everyone feels welcomed, supported, and able to thrive.” The University marked the signing of its pledge during Gyspy, Roma and Traveller History Month which was established in 2008 to raise awareness of these communities and their contributions to society, and to offset negative
stereotyping and prejudices. Speaking about the pledge, Martin Gallagher, PhD student at Northumbria University, and Irish Traveller, said: “The Pledge helps us have a voice within education, providing us with a place where we feel accepted, represented and welcome. We hope that this initiative will allow us to educate other students and staff to make decisions that will make life within universities a more welcoming place for future generations of GRT students.” Signing the GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge further
strengthens Northumbria’s commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and contributes to the University’s Race Equality Charter work which it signed in 2020. You can find out more about EDI at Northumbria on www. northumbria.ac.uk/equality
“THE PLEDGE HELPS US HAVE A VOICE WITHIN EDUCATION, PROVIDING US WITH A PLACE WHERE WE FEEL ACCEPTED, REPRESENTED AND WELCOME.” MARTIN GALLAGHER
Northumbria commits to protect academic standards The University has signed up to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education’s Academic Integrity Charter, which safeguards the standards of university level qualifications. The Charter, developed with the support of the UK Academic Integrity Advisory Group, has been signed by 118 higher education providers across the UK. Academic misconduct takes a wide variety of forms from the use of essay and degree mills, plagiarism, collusion between students, forged or altered qualification certificates through to fake institutions and questionable accreditation bodies. Students who commit
academic misconduct, especially if they deliberately cheat, risk their academic and future careers. Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Northumbria University, welcomed the Academic Integrity Charter for UK Higher Education. “Academic misconduct is a growing problem and presents a threat to the world-class reputation of UK higher education,” he said.
“This is a significant sector pledge to protect academic integrity and committing to the charter is a marker of the importance that Northumbria University attaches to academic excellence and integrity.” The Charter sets out seven principles that signatories commit to implementing within their institutions and has been welcomed by UK Government Ministers. Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, (pictured)
explained: “Degree fraud cheats both learners and employers and has no place at all in our higher education system. This Government is committed to tackling academic misconduct, and upholding the hard work of students, especially during this difficult time.”
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RESEARCH FOCUS: CLIMATE CHANGE
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Examining the impact of climate change on Siberia’s permafrost Northumbria University is to play a leading role in a major study to assess the long-term impact of global warming on Siberia’s thawing permafrost. Permafrost is frozen ground that stores vast amounts of fossil carbon – twice as much as the atmosphere. With almost a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere covered in permafrost, this frozen land plays an essential role in stabilising climate change. Thawing permafrost is considered one of the key contributing factors to long-term irreversible changes to global climate. But current warming global temperatures are causing the permafrost to begin to thaw and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Northumbria University is home to a team of world-leading academics specialising in reconstructing climate and environmental changes through the millennia. They have been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant of £489,000 to reconstruct Siberia’s climate over the past 500 to 800 thousand years and subsequently estimate the long-term fate of Siberia’s permafrost under today’s rising temperatures. The researchers will work in partnership with experts from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Potsdam. The four-year study will assess how Siberia’s permafrost expanded and contracted in response to the changing climates of the past, and how the cold glacial and warmer interglacial periods contributed to its forming and thawing respectively. It will be the first study to collectively examine research archives of permafrost ice, cave deposits and crustacean fossils over the years to help reconstruct past temperatures and regional climate histories. Previous studies have only ever examined these archives individually.
Permafrost ice originates from, and preserves, water in the atmosphere, including rain, sleet and snow. This means it holds records of winter and summer weather conditions and temperatures. In a similar vein, cave deposits provide insight into long-term average temperature changes. The composition of the ancient permafrost ice samples and cave deposits will allow the researchers to decipher the climate conditions at the time they formed. Tiny shrimp-like creatures, known as ostracods, only live for a few months in summer and form a shell similar to mussels. Their fossilised shells will tell the story of the summer temperature at the time they were formed, each containing an important climate archive. The researchers hope the holistic view obtained by combining findings from each of these archives will give new insights into how temperatures changed, which can help to reveal seasonality changes in the past. The team have found several sites which they describe as having great promise in providing them with the important samples and data they need from caves, ice and lake deposits. These include the Arctic seaboard, the Batagay Megaslump and the Mamontova Gora site in Central Yakutia; the Botovskaya Cave in southern Siberia; and the so far unstudied Kirensk Karst region, more than 500 miles northeast of Lake Baikal. Dr Sebastian Breitenbach, ViceChancellor’s Senior Fellow in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, said: “The Siberian permafrost formed mainly, but not exclusively, during cold periods, known as ice ages or glacials, in the last two million years, while at least some
of the permafrost thawed during warm stages, known as interglacials. “We know that the way permafrost responds to climate change and longterm climate controls appear to be more complex than simply reacting to warmer or colder temperatures. We therefore believe that if we can provide evidence on the interplay of temperature and precipitation on a seasonal scale, we can answer the crucial question of whether past permafrost formation and degradation can be attributed to specific climate conditions or seasonality patterns. “With the installation of our new mass spectrometry lab, Northumbria
becomes one of just four universities in England to be able to undertake the detailed tests required to reconstruct these temperature conditions. We are very excited to begin to use our new equipment and establish Northumbria as a leading centre for geothermometry and carbonate research.” Find out more about the study at www.northumbria.ac.uk/ Siberianpermafrost
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“WITH THE INSTALLATION OF OUR NEW MASS SPECTROMETRY LAB, NORTHUMBRIA BECOMES ONE OF JUST FOUR UNIVERSITIES IN ENGLAND TO BE ABLE TO UNDERTAKE THE DETAILED TESTS REQUIRED TO RECONSTRUCT THESE TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS.” DR SEBASTIAN BREITENBACH
RESEARCH FOCUS: CLIMATE CHANGE
Weathering the storm – research that will help protect spacecraft and satellites Space weather experts from Northumbria University have been awarded more than £400,000 to explore how to better predict the conditions in the area of space surrounding the Earth. The environment in the radiation belts 60,000km above our planet, in the area known as near-Earth space, can be highly dangerous. The density and energy of radiation belt particles can increase and decrease, with particularly high levels of radiation posing a danger to astronauts, spacecraft and satellites. However, the method currently used to predict when and where periods of high radiation might occur is based on average measurements, meaning scientists are unable to accurately forecast particularly dangerous events. Professor Clare Watt, a space plasma physicist from Northumbria’s Department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering, is leading a new project which will enable more accurate forecasting of space weather. Funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the project will use samples of the atmosphere taken at different positions in nearEarth space, as well as observations taken from spacecraft, and run these through numerical models. The results
will be used by scientists to predict when dangerous weather conditions could occur. Speaking about the research, Professor Watt said: “The near-Earth environment is so variable because our Sun is a magnetically variable star affecting both electromagnetic waves and high-energy particles in the area of space close to Earth. Understanding the near-Earth environment is a real challenge, but one we need to address, especially given our increasing use of satellites in everyday life and the focus on human space travel. Just as predicting storms here on Earth allows us to keep aircraft and passengers safe, predicting storms in space will allow us to ensure astronauts and satellites are protected from severe space weather events.” Professor Watt will work alongside post-doctoral research associate Dr Oliver Allanson on the three-year Effects of Temporal Variability on Wave-Particle Interactions in Magnetospheric Plasma project.
They will use data collected by NASA’s Van Allen Probes – two robotic spacecraft used to study the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth. They will also have access to high performance computing facilities and a state-of-the-art numerical model that will use the data collected to predict interactions between charged particles and the electromagnetic waves. Professor Watt added: “For much of the time conditions in near-Earth space are mild, but the rare extreme events that do occur can be very dangerous. Because these events are so rare, we need something to help us understand them. Nobody has looked at this in the way we are proposing before – looking at variations in time rather than averages. By better understanding the radiation belt environment and its variability we can ensure we are better prepared here on Earth. This could change how we design spacecraft and satellites in future, how space exploration missions are planned and how we keep astronauts safe.”
Professor James McLaughlin leads Northumbria’s Solar-Terrestrial Science research group. Speaking about Professor Watt’s new research he said: “Satellites play a key role in our daily lives, more satellites are being launched regularly by countries around the world, crewed space missions are being planned, first back to the Moon and, within the next 15-20 years, to Mars, and we are at the beginning of an age of space tourism. All of these endeavours will need protection from the natural hazard that is severe space weather, and I am delighted that Professor Clare Watt is leading the way on this project which is of international importance.” Find out more about the work of Northumbria’s Solar-Terrestrial Science research group at www. northumbria.ac.uk/STS
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“JUST AS PREDICTING STORMS HERE ON EARTH ALLOWS US TO KEEP AIRCRAFT AND PASSENGERS SAFE, PREDICTING STORMS IN SPACE WILL ALLOW US TO ENSURE ASTRONAUTS AND SATELLITES ARE PROTECTED FROM SEVERE SPACE WEATHER EVENTS.” PROFESSOR CLARE WATT
BETTER SPACE WEATHER FORECASTS WOULD PROTECT SATELLITES, WHICH PLAY A KEY ROLE IN OUR DAILY LIVES.
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Battery technology partnership sparks into life
Below: Artist’s impression of Britishvolt’s proposed site in Blyth, Northumberland.
Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham Universities have signed a landmark partnership agreement with leading battery technology investor Britishvolt, as part of a ground-breaking development for the North East. As the UK’s foremost investor in lithium-ion battery cell technologies, Britishvolt recently selected a site in Blyth, Northumberland, to develop a £2.6 billion ‘gigaplant’ factory to manufacture electric car batteries. The project represents the largest industrial investment in the North East since Nissan’s arrival in Sunderland in 1984 with the potential to directly employ up to 3,000 people while supporting a further 5,000 jobs through the supply chain. The new ‘gigaplant’ is expected to start production in 2023. Britishvolt has now entered into an early-stage agreement, known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham Universities. The MoU will enable Britishvolt to collaborate with the universities and benefit from their worldleading expertise in engineering innovation, research and development (R&D) and battery technology.
The three universities will also provide Britishvolt with a pipeline of highly qualified and skilled graduates. Dr Allan Paterson, Chief Technology Officer at Britishvolt, says they are delighted to be working with the three universities, explaining: “This partnership will help us to explore collaborative R&D opportunities looking at future technology advancement and assist in developing the required skills needed to further the UK’s battery industry. Alongside the universities we are hoping to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers by familiarising themselves with battery technology and the Britishvolt
project.” Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Northumbria University, adds: “Britishvolt has made a hugely significant commitment to the region that will create high value jobs and economic opportunity. Northumbria offers worldleading research in areas such as physical and electrical engineering, energy materials and battery technology and we are looking forward to using these strengths within this partnership to help put the region at the forefront of renewable energy and sustainable transport on a global scale. “As the largest provider of graduates in the North East’s
“AS THE LARGEST PROVIDER OF GRADUATES IN THE NORTH EAST’S PROFESSIONAL JOBS MARKET WE ARE READY TO DELIVER A PIPELINE OF HIGHLY-SKILLED UNDERGRADUATES, MASTERS AND PHD STUDENTS TO MEET GROWING DEMAND IN THIS SECTOR.” PROFESSOR ANDREW WATHEY CBE
professional jobs market we are ready to deliver a pipeline of highly-skilled undergraduates, masters and PhD students to meet growing demand in this sector – and help meet our zerocarbon targets.” The partnership announcement with Britishvolt comes as Universities UK highlights the positive economic impact of universities as part of its #GettingResults campaign which seeks to position universities at the heart of the economic and social recovery. See page 8 for more on #GettingResults. Britishvolt aims to establish the UK as the leading force in battery technology. Working with partners and suppliers the firm intends to help ensure a successful future for the
UK automotive industry and bolster the overall economic and industrial health of the UK. Britishvolt believes that the UK is the right place for its investments because of the strength of its automotive and energy industry, its expertise and its history of industrial and academic battery research and development. For more information on collaborating with Northumbria through R&D please visit: www.northumbria.ac.uk/ business
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Northumbria’s victory in global sustainability rankings
THE is the leading provider of higher education data for research-led institutions worldwide. Their Impact Rankings are the first league table to measure how well universities around the world are developing their research, outreach, and teaching to help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The SDGs are a set of 17 goals developed for all countries to follow with the aim of helping
the world to become more sustainable in the future. They address global issues such as access to good quality education, improving gender inequality, and tackling climate change to make a positive impact on the world socially, environmentally, and economically. In the third edition of the rankings, published in April this year, Northumbria claimed a spot in the top 50 out of over 1,100 institutions across the globe after
providing data to demonstrate its work towards 12 of the goals. Northumbria performed exceptionally well in three of the SDGs, achieving a top 40 ranking in Affordable and Clean Energy; Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions; and Partnership. The ranking for each goal is based on many factors, including, the University’s research publications; the impact of the research; graduate output; and operations and performance.
This year’s rankings recognise Northumbria’s commitment to reducing energy usage in the wider community; its outstanding research on peace and justice; and the broader ways in which it supports the SDGs through collaboration with other countries. Celebrating the University’s accomplishment, Professor George Marston, Pro ViceChancellor for Strategic Projects at Northumbria University, commented: “I am absolutely delighted by this success. Sustainability is at our core in both the way that we operate our campuses and our academic offer. This result in the THE Impact Rankings is a testimony to the University’s wide-ranging commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.” Northumbria strives to support the SDGs in all areas of its activities and has seen some incredible results. The University won a highly prestigious Green Gown Award in 2019 for the work of its Student Law Office to transform and benefit society. Now being ranked a top 50 university for global sustainability, these achievements highlight the great work Northumbria is already doing to contribute to the SDGs by sharing resources, knowledge, and expertise. To view the 2021 THE Impact Rankings, please visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/ theimpactrankings
Northumbria’s results from the rankings:
10th for Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions (SDG no. 16)
15th for Partnerships for the Goals (SDG no. 17)
35th for Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG no. 7)
Northumbria University overall success:
Top 50 university in the world for sustainability
11th most sustainable university in the UK
Carbon emissions reduced by
58% in past 5 years
Silver lining for hedgehogs on campus Northumbria University has been awarded silver certification at the 2021 Hedgehog Friendly Campus Awards for transforming its campuses into safe places for hedgehogs.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is a charity dedicated to helping hedgehogs in the UK, which are currently at risk of becoming extinct in the next 20 years. Whilst hedgehog numbers have been declining, research has proven that urban and suburban areas have become a stronghold for hedgehogs in recent times, which makes university campuses the perfect potential home for hedgehogs.
In 2019 Northumbria joined the society’s Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign, which was introduced specifically for universities to raise awareness of hedgehogs and protect them on campus and in their local area. From litter picking on the streets of Newcastle to creating log piles to help hedgehogs forage for food, the University has carried out a wide range of initiatives to earn its Silver
award. As one of just 20 universities to achieve the Silver status, Northumbria is now working towards achieving Gold accreditation, with staff and students continuing to support this much-loved creature in the future. To find out more about Northumbria’s Hedgehog Friendly Campus, please visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/hedgehog
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Mark of Excellence for Northumbria Northumbria University’s reputation for providing worldclass support to small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurial students has been reaffirmed following re-accreditation with the Small Business Charter award. In 2015 Northumbria became the first university in the North East to achieve Small Business Charter status – an award recognised as a mark of excellence for UK business schools and the role they play in supporting small businesses, student entrepreneurship and economic growth. With the further five-year re-accreditation confirmed, Northumbria remains the only university in the region to hold the prestigious award. Re-accreditation will create new opportunities for Northumbria to access additional funding and support for a range of leadership and programmes the University is already helping to deliver with the Small Business Charter. These include the Government-backed Help to Grow Management programme which will offer leadership training to 30,000 SMEs across the UK as they look to respond more effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic. In its latest submission to the Small Business Charter,
“THESE ARE STAND-OUT ACHIEVEMENTS THAT REFLECT THE QUALITY OF SUPPORT NORTHUMBRIA PROVIDES TO THE NORTH EAST BUSINESS COMMUNITY.” LUCY WINSKELL OBE
Northumbria also secured exemplar status for both its student-led consultancy service The Business Clinic, and for its Incubator Hub set up to help entrepreneurial graduates and start-ups build their new business ventures. Lucy Winskell OBE, Pro ViceChancellor for Employability and Partnerships at Northumbria, says the University is immensely proud to have regained the Small Business Charter award for a further five years, adding: “Gaining the maximum score in our reassessment and securing exemplar status for our Business Clinic and Incubator Hub are stand-
out achievements that reflect the quality of support Northumbria provides to the North East business community. It highlights the significant contribution we are making to the regional economy and employment, as we build back stronger from Covid-19. “The Small Business Charter is also a badge of excellence which opens additional funding opportunities to support our transformational knowledge exchange and leadership training programmes aimed at helping our businesses grow and thrive.” The Business Clinic at Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School was established as an
innovative educational programme for final-year business students. Since its inception in 2013, the value of the students’ free consultancy advice and reports – given to more than 500 clients – has been estimated to exceed £2.7m. The programme both enhances the learning experience and employability of Northumbria’s students and delivers considerable benefits for clients. Opened in December 2019, Northumbria’s Incubator Hub has been designed and equipped for early-stage start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs. Known as a pre-accelerator, it is located next to the University’s city-centre
campus. The state-of the-art facility provides high quality support for students and graduate entrepreneurs looking to establish new and innovative businesses and enterprises. For more information on business support from Northumbria please visit: www.northumbria.ac.uk/ business
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#GettingResults - helping the region build back stronger from Covid-19 Northumbria University has renewed its commitment to helping the North East build a better future as Universities UK (UUK) launches #GettingResults - a campaign to put universities at the heart of the nation’s economic and social recovery. Universities, employers, and local leaders in the North East will be working together to create thousands of local jobs as the region’s recovery from the pandemic gathers pace. Research recently published by UUK, a representative organisation for 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, predicts that over the
next five years universities in the North East will be involved in research projects with partners worth almost £1 billion. The study also estimates that during this time the region’s universities will help 725 new businesses and charities to be formed and train over 10,000 nurses, up to 4,000 medics and 8,000 teachers. Professor Andrew Wathey
CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University, said: “We are more strongly enthused than ever by our roles as anchor institutions, as major employers and as key partners in driving regional economic and social recovery. It has never been more important, given the enormous challenges created by Covid-19, and the huge opportunities to shape the North East’s economic landscape through our research and our
graduates, that we work together to address need and maximise impact.” Professor Wathey notes that the skills of graduates from Northumbria will also have an important role to play in the future success of businesses and sectors during the Covid-19 recovery process: “We know that Northumbria’s investments in high-level skills, research, entrepreneurship and
economic growth, and improving employment opportunities, are key to helping the North East build forward better and shape a better future. As the largest provider of graduates in the North East’s professional and managerial jobs market, we are also strongly placed to deliver highly skilled graduates to the regional workforce as it grows, modernises and develops.” Find out more about UUK’s #GettingResults campaign at www.universitiesuk.ac.uk
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Revolutionising support for LGBT+ veterans Northumbria University and charity Fighting With Pride have joined forces to carry out the first ever research into the health and social needs of LGBT+ military veterans in the UK. The research will particularly focus on those who were affected by the ban of LGBT+ personnel serving in the Armed Forces, lifted just 21 years ago. Under the ban, anyone found to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender could be subjected to interrogation without counsel, arrest, degrading medical examinations, court martial, imprisonment and dismissal in disgrace. Service Record Cards were marked in red pen ‘Dismissed in Disgrace’ or ‘Services No Longer Required’. Individuals were outed to family and friends and dismissed from the military without any consideration of the impact on individual wellbeing. They were denied education, training or resettlement opportunities and were often turned away from veterans’ charities. Many also received letters forbidding them to wear their uniform on occasions of remembrance or to use their military ranks. It is not known exactly how many military personnel were discharged as a result of the ‘gay ban’, but it is now recognised that thousands were affected by this policy. Many LGBT+ veterans have never recovered, and are scarred by the consequences of blighted careers, homelessness, mental health issues, denied pensions and living estranged from families. Northumbria University and Fighting With Pride (FWP) are working together to raise awareness of this hidden history and to address the gaps in knowledge surrounding the support services LGBT+
veterans need; whether that’s health services, jobs or housing, for example. This work will build on the ‘Map of Need’ project, led by Northumbria’s Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research, which analyses data from across the NHS and charities within the Armed Forces charity sector, providing a health and social care overview of the veterans and military families community. Using this data, FWP can ascertain the type of support needed and where across the country it is required and then work with the Government and the wider veterans’ sector to improve existing services and create new ones. This work will be closely supported by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), as both FWP and Northumbria University have strong links with the 136-year old tri-service
charity. Dr Matt Kiernan is an Associate Professor of Mental Health and Veteran Studies at Northumbria University and a former Lieutenant Commander in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service. He said: “With hindsight it is quite astonishing to consider that in the last years of the 20th century we were still prosecuting and dishonourably discharging members of the British Armed Forces for no other reason than who they chose to love, or who they chose to be. “The work we are about to undertake is long overdue, as we must strive to understand the long-term emotional, psychological and financial impact the actions of the ban had on this hard to reach, hidden population of veterans.” Caroline Paige and Craig Jones MBE, Joint Chief Executives of Fighting with Pride said: “The treatment of our LGBT+
“THE WORK WE ARE ABOUT TO UNDERTAKE IS LONG OVERDUE, AS WE MUST STRIVE TO UNDERSTAND THE LONG-TERM EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND FINANCIAL IMPACT THE ACTIONS OF THE BAN HAD ON THIS HARD TO REACH, HIDDEN POPULATION OF VETERANS.” DR MATT KIERNAN
veterans has been a national disgrace for which there has been no remedy, or reparations. Many of these veterans were left unsupported and fell on hard times. Disassociated from the military they became isolated and often discarded by family. For many individuals, the circumstances, methods, and consequences of dismissal precipitated debilitating mental health issues. “As the UK’s only LGBT+ veterans charity, FWP is working with the Government, the NHS and charitable organisations,
to bring the LGBT+ veterans community into the protection of the Armed Forces Covenant and welcome them back to the military family.” Find out more about the latest research from the Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research by visiting www.northumbria.ac.uk/ veteranhub
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Research results in cycling relay challenge
Below: Northumbria’s Shaun Cutler hands over the Cathedrals Cycle Route relay baton to The Reverend Canon Clare MacLaren outside Newcastle Cathedral.
A Northumbria University academic has designed a 2,000-mile cycle route linking all 42 of England’s cathedrals, with the aim of promoting wellbeing and helping to secure the future of cathedrals across the country. Like many cultural attractions, England’s cathedrals have had a difficult year financially, being forced to close their doors to visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Northumbria PhD researcher Shaun Cutler has been exploring ways historic places of worship can establish sustainable futures and has come up with a unique challenge, designing a cycle route linking every single cathedral across England. Shaun is currently carrying out a collaborative doctoral award, co-sponsored by Northumbria University’s Department of Arts, Newcastle Cathedral and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which explores how cathedrals balance their role as heritage destinations and places of worship. As a keen cyclist himself, he came up with the idea for the Cathedrals Cycle Route to promote the role of cathedrals in the community, as well as encouraging greener travel and highlighting the importance of mental and physical wellbeing. The route, which travels in a loop covering the length and breadth of England, is suitable for beginners, families and keen cyclists alike, and can be ridden in individual stages or as part of a relay. On 30 May Shaun was part of a group of cyclists who carried out
the first leg of the 2,000-mile relay, from Newcastle Cathedral to Durham Cathedral, as part of The World’s Biggest Bike Ride, which also marked the beginning of National Bike Week. Speaking about the project Shaun said: “Times are challenging for cathedrals right now, both economically and from a social point of view. Cathedrals are unique as they have a ‘double identity’ – on the one
hand they are seen as a place of worship and, on the other, as a tourist or heritage destination, and this can make it difficult to balance perspectives and resources. The Cathedrals Cycle Route is about connecting our historic cathedrals and enjoying the spaces between them. Now more than ever, after over a year of living with the coronavirus pandemic, this is a way to support people’s mental and physical
health and promote the mission of England’s cathedrals through pilgrimage, wellbeing and heritage.” Shaun was joined by Newcastle Cathedral’s Reverend Canon Clare MacLaren to officially launch the Cathedrals Cycle Route. They carried a specially commissioned bronze baton, designed by Shaun’s 13-yearold daughter, which features two sculptured hands reaching towards each other, portraying the message that “some days you need a hand, other days you are called to lend a hand”. The baton was handed over from one group of cyclists to the next at each cathedral, returning to Newcastle on 10 July during the final stage of the relay, 42 days after it launched. The Cathedrals Cycle Route has been supported by a
unique partnership between the Association of English Cathedrals, the British Pilgrimage Trust, Cycling UK and the cycling charity Sustrans. Several of Shaun’s Northumbria University colleagues have also been involved, with Graphic Design lecturers Andy Reay and Mike Pinkney designing the Cathedrals Cycle Route logo. Shaun’s PhD research project is entitled Strategic Heritage Management of a Medieval Building: A Practice-led PhD. A case-study Newcastle Cathedral. You can find out more about the Cathedrals Cycle Route challenge, including each of the 42 stages, at www.northumbria. ac.uk/relay
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How does your new role connect to other matters you are passionate about? I’m passionate about universities. They are amazing institutions – transforming the lives of students and carrying out research which has a real impact on the increasingly fragile world in which we live. Take for example the ongoing experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, universities have been central to the UK’s response: central to vaccine development, and central to tracking how the pandemic has developed, which continues to help inform policy decisions. Universities such as Northumbria will be at the heart of the recovery too – training the graduates our region needs, as well as designing and developing tools to help us live with Covid-19 and other communicable diseases in the future.
THE BIG INTERVIEW: PROFESSOR TOM LAWSON DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR AT NORTHUMBRIA Over the last 18 months universities have played a key role in the response to the global Covid-19 crisis and will continue to do so as the world begins to recover and rebuild in the wake of the pandemic. Professor Tom Lawson, Northumbria University’s new Deputy Vice-Chancellor, is determined that Northumbria plays its part in responding to the challenges this recovery presents. He speaks to Northumbria University News about the importance of universities in society, the contribution they make to the world and what, in his new role, he looks forward to helping Northumbria achieve over the coming years.
As Deputy Vice-Chancellor, what do you want Northumbria to achieve in the future? In the short term we need to ensure that we emerge from Covid-19 in a way that really supports our students and colleagues. That does not mean simply returning to the ‘prepandemic normal’. We have learned so much in the past 18 months – we now need to take the best of that, for example our use of technology to support teaching, and work hard to develop it even further. We also need to carry on supporting our colleagues, who have worked extremely hard to continue to deliver vital services to our students throughout the pandemic, often in the most trying of circumstances. In the longer term, our ambition for Northumbria is undimmed – we want to be the best university that we can. We want to ensure that we provide the most innovative and exciting learning environments and that our students achieve the best possible outcomes from their programmes and for their future. We also want to continue to invest in and drive the most important and impactful research - pursuing new thinking, driving discoveries and tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges as we work together to take on tomorrow. And we want to do all of that in a community that is caring and passionate about changing the world for the better. Staff and students at Northumbria are helping to address to the most pressing
challenges of our age –from climate change to poverty and the imbalance of global resources. At Northumbria colleagues are leading the thinking on these global challenges and helping us to find better ways to live on our planet in the future. At the same time, we are educating our students about how they can play their part in shaping that future. Our students are ambitious and restless for change – it is they who will have to solve the problems of our age and our role is to equip them to do that. How has the conversation around equality, diversity and inclusion changed since you first joined Northumbria in 2013? We are more than a year on since the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, and much has changed in that time – some positive and some less so. At Northumbria we have continued to build on our conversation around racial discrimination – this did not start with Black Lives Matter, but the movement gave it a very positive impetus. We have been working to provide a space for racialised minorities within our community to talk
about their experiences and are keen to build on this work further in the future. Some of the experiences reported by our staff and students through our race equality charter work have given us reason to reflect as an institution, and I am determined that we must strive to be a more diverse, more inclusive community. As an institution we are committed to being antiracist, and to do that we need to look at all aspects
of our community. We need to understand the disadvantages all our minority students face, challenge ourselves about what we will do about it, and make sure that tailored support and opportunities are available and accessible. We need to ensure that all our curricula are inclusive, and that we encourage every student to ask the most challenging questions. There is still work to be done, but I am really proud that as an institution we are having these conversations, and that colleagues at all levels of the organisation are involved in our discussions around diversity, equality and inclusion. You were involved in Northumbria’s REF 2021 submission – what is REF and why is it vital to the University? The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is an assessment of the quality and the impact of the research carried out at British higher education institutions, and generally takes place every seven years. At the most basic level it is important because it determines one element of the funding we receive for research for the duration of the next funding cycle. But it is about so much more than just income – it has an enormous impact on our reputation from a research perspective. It is ultimately a peer review exercise by panels of academics across each discipline, and as such is an objective assessment of our research position within the sector. During the last REF assessment, which was submitted in 2013, we entered around 340 academic colleagues – this time it was over 1,000. This confirms to us that research truly is embedded across all areas of Northumbria, and reflects the enormous strides colleagues have made since the last REF. It is also a reflection of the focus and investment the University has put into research over the last seven years – it really has been core to our University strategy. Obviously, we must wait for the results of the assessment next spring to truly know what we have achieved, but what I do know is that I am enormously proud to be part of a most extraordinary and committed community of colleagues and students from across the world.
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
“THIS PROJECT HAS SUCCESSFULLY ILLUSTRATED THE TRANSLATIONAL POWER OF GENOMICS IN HELPING US TO UNDERSTAND INFECTIOUS DISEASE EVOLUTION AND TRANSMISSION DURING THIS PANDEMIC.” PROFESSOR DARREN SMITH
Over half a million genomes sequenced in total since the start of the pandemic*
Over 1,500 genomes sequenced
For over a year, academics from Northumbria University have been working with partners in the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium (COG-UK) to map the spread and evolution of Covid-19 - insight which is vital to help combat the pandemic. On 23 March 2020, the government announced the launch of COG-UK, a consortium backed the UK’s leading clinicians and scientists to map how Covid-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing. Genome sequencing analyses the virus sample taken from a Covid-19 positive patient and compares it with other cases. The consortium - comprising the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and several academic institutions, including Northumbria – is delivering large scale, rapid sequencing of the virus. This provides public health agencies, hospitals, regional NHS centres and the government unique, cuttingedge intelligence that enables them to rapidly evaluate ways to reduce the impact of the disease on society. Northumbria University is a funded academic partner of the COG-UK consortium. Experts from Northumbria have been using the University’s DNA sequencing research facility, NUOMICS, to assist the consortium in rapidly sequencing whole SARS-CoV-2 genomes since April 2020. So far, Northumbria
has sequenced over 18,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes, with a highest weekly submission of approximately 1,900 genomes. At the beginning of March this year, Darren Smith, Professor of bacteriophage biology from Northumbria’s Department of Applied Sciences and consortium lead for the University, was appointed as one of four new Deputy Directors of COG-UK. In his new role he is supporting the Executive Director and Chair, Professor Sharon Peacock, as well as the steering committee and COG network, in transitioning testing back to Public Health England (PHE). He will also help to shape the future use of genomics in pathogen surveillance – monitoring the spread of disease - regionally and nationally. Professor Smith also continues to lead work locally with seven NHS partners and PHE, with Northumbria acting as the North East England’s regional sequencing hub for Covid-19. In June, the consortium reached a total of over half a million genomes analysed from across
the UK - a milestone no one wanted to reach, but reflective of the herculean efforts of all involved. Reflecting on the last 15 months, Professor Smith said: “I am extremely proud of how hard the team and our clinical colleagues have worked so far as part of this groundbreaking network of sequencing centres across the UK. We have scaled our capacity to support a broad surveillance of viral genomic variation across the North of England, feeding into the national picture informed by COG-UK as a whole. “Alongside this we have supported hospital infection control teams and PHE in understanding outbreaks and transmission in a range of clinical, and other important institutional settings. Genomic sequencing in this context is very powerful and can show transmission within clinical settings as we trace viral mutations between cases, informing infection control practise in a way never before possible. “This project has successfully illustrated the translational power of genomics in helping us to understand infectious disease evolution and transmission during this pandemic. We continue in our monitoring of variants of concern such as
within the ﬁrst month (West African Ebola outbreak ~1,500 genomes sequenced in two years.)
the Kent, South African and Indian lineages. Continued observation of these existing and new variants is essential to shape important public health decisions, locally, nationally and globally.” On the first year anniversary of the project, Professor Sharon Peacock, Executive Director and Chair, COG-UK, thanked all colleagues involved, commenting: “As a consortium, these achievements, and many more besides, have been met while juggling countless Zoom meetings, home-schooling, and support of family members amidst the ongoing lockdowns and restrictions. “We thank all within the consortium for your outstanding dedication, commitment and support throughout the past year that has made COG-UK and its achievements possible.” Find out more about Northumbria’s NU-OMICS DNA sequencing facility at www. northumbria.ac.uk/nu-omics
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Over 600 consortium members
Over 75 NHS sites
4 public health agencies
Over £30 million awarded in funding *Correct as of 21/06/2021. For updated daily figures, please see the COG-UK Mutation Explorer, an open-access dashboard that provides access to data on SARS-CoV-2 mutations and variants of interest.
Investigating remote healthcare for eating disorders
Northumbria staff give their all in Covid vaccination roll-out
PICTURED L-R: THE VACCINATION TEAM, INCLUDING DR JOANNE ATKINSON; PROFESSOR DEBBIE PORTEOUS; PROFESSOR JOHN UNSWORTH; AND DR CAROLINE JEFFERY
Five senior Nursing academics from Northumbria University have helped to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations to priority patients at a GP-led vaccination centre after the University pledged to support the regional vaccination campaign.
A Northumbria University psychologist has been awarded a Medical Research Foundation Fellowship – one of four projects supported by £1.1 million of new funding to tackle eating disorders and self-harm. Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Recent research by health and cyber psychologist Dr Branley-Bell suggests that many individuals with eating disorders have experienced worsened symptoms during the pandemic, and reported concerns around the suitability of healthcare delivered remotely. Such concerns included the use of online video calls, resulting in individuals seeing themselves on screen more often, giving them more cause to be self-critical of their appearance. Concerns were also raised about having to record their own weight at home, with many individuals who experience eating disorders often choosing not to keep weighing scales in the house as this can lead to an unhealthy fixation on their weight. Building on her previous research, Dr Branley-Bell will work with people with lived experience of eating disorders, healthcare providers, eating disorder charities, technology designers and other experts in the field to identify
why symptoms worsened during the pandemic and to investigate the challenges experienced with remote treatment. The project will also look at how technology can be improved to increase the efficacy and security of remote eating disorder treatment, ultimately co-designing new technology and recommendations for how it should be used going forward. Commenting on her Fellowship, Dr Dawn Branley-Bell said: “Even after Covid-19 is under control, there remain many other situations which prevent individuals from accessing face-to-face treatment. Remote care can ensure access to vital help and support. Drawing on experiences during the pandemic, this research will help to improve our understanding of eating disorders and inform future healthcare, technology design, guidance and policy.” The Medical Research Foundation scheme provides postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to establish independent research careers in the field of eating
disorders and self-harm. Dr Angela Hind, Chief Executive at the Medical Research Foundation, said: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, eating disorders were already affecting increasing numbers of young people. Today the need for new research insight is even greater, as it’s been an immensely challenging year for many young people with these devastating conditions. We’re excited to see what Dr Branley-Bell’s project uncovers about the impact of remote healthcare for eating disorders.” Find out more by visiting www.medicalresearchfoundation. org.uk
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The academics, from the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, are spending time volunteering with East Durham Primary Care Network. All the academic volunteers undertook full Covid-19 vaccination training before meeting patients and between them vaccinated more than 300 people over the age of 80 during their first weekend administering the doses. Staff from Northumbria have been working closely with local NHS Trusts, primary care partners, and Health Education England to look at ways the University could contribute to the frontline pandemic response. Staff and students have been encouraged to volunteer for a variety of roles, and Nursing students were able to sign up for bespoke placements to support the vaccination roll-out. Dr Joanne Atkinson, Head of the Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing, described the experience of
giving vaccines as one of the greatest privileges of her life. Explaining the logistical difficulties that GP surgeries have faced finding staff qualified to give vaccinations, she said: “As a registrant with experience of this, I felt it was my moral duty to contribute. I couldn’t sit and do nothing when I have skills that can help.” Professor Debbie Porteous, Head of the Department of Nursing, Midwifery and Health and a member of the vaccination team, added: “We knew we had to do our utmost to help in this massive national challenge. We put out a call to action to all staff within the Faculty to support the regional vaccination workforce team and I am honoured to say that the response was overwhelming.” Find out more and read the full story by visiting www.northumbria.ac.uk/ staffvaccination
“WE KNEW WE HAD TO DO OUR UTMOST TO HELP IN THIS MASSIVE NATIONAL CHALLENGE.” PROFESSOR DEBBIE PORTEOUS
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Far left: Dr Sterghios Moschos (right) pictured with Design Engineer Saqib Ali. PBM-HALE ™ (left) is currently being trialled in Germany, Brazil and Greece. PulmoBioMed are working to reduce the product into a lipstick-sized device (concept version bottom left)
Scientists at Northumbria have worked with the University’s Research and Innovation Services team to launch PulmoBioMed, a medtech spinout company whose lead product for collecting breath samples could revolutionise diagnosis of a range of diseases, including Covid-19.
The company was founded by Associate Professor Dr Sterghios Moschos, PulmoBioMed’s Chief Scientific Officer. He is working alongside Chief Executive Officer Dr Pete Hotten, who has 20 years of Board-level management experience in medtech startups and SMEs; Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Brookes, a Northumbria University alumnus with 15 years’ experience of working in the medical device industry; and Chair Dr Huw Edwards, who has over 30 years of global experience in emerging diagnostic technologies. PulmoBioMed has developed PBM-HALE™, a hand-held aerosol collecting device that allows sampling of the lung in a non-invasive way - by patients simply breathing into it. To date, all products used for collecting breath samples have issues relating to contamination, sample loss and variability. The spinout’s PBMHALE™ technology resolves these issues: after an extensive world-wide clinical partner triage, devices are currently being trialled in Germany, Brazil and Greece, to determine how SARS-CoV-2 becomes
airborne, and how to detect individuals spreading COVID-19 in this way. The first phase of data collection from this work is due to be published over the summer of 2021. The process of taking the technology from academic research to a spinout company was facilitated with support from Northern Accelerator, a collaboration between Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland Universities to commercialise research and boost the region’s economy. Northern Accelerator’s ‘Proof-of-Concept’ funding supported the development of a first functional prototype. Northumbria graduate, Saqib Ali, was appointed as a Design Engineer at PulmoBioMed and carried out the rapid prototyping of PBM-HALE™ using 3D printers within the University’s engineering labs. A second Northern Accelerator initiative, ‘Executives into Business’, supported the onboarding of the executive team, and a third programme of support, ‘Future Founders’, provided business training. PulmoBioMed also benefitted from North by Northwest Partners’ ‘Innovation to
the Commercialisation of University Research’ (ICURe) scheme, a programme of commercialisation support for teams of academic researchers wishing to explore the commercial potential of their research. The ICURe programme helped validate the market for the spinout’s technology. In addition, the company has also won funding from Innovate UK to support the first 18 months of business development activities. Professor George Marston, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at Northumbria University, believes the technology has the potential to deliver huge impact in healthcare on a global scale: “We are a
university ambitious to get our innovations out to the market to make a difference, and we encourage and support that process. This new business reflects the hard work of our entrepreneurial staff and the pioneering research we are doing at Northumbria.”
In November 2020, PulmoBioMed attracted the licensing interest of DeepVerge PLC, a company specialising in artificial intelligence, clinical research, medical devices and life science. The partnership will combine the breathalyser PBM-HALE™ with DeepVerge’s ‘Microtox BT’ platform – a rapid analytical technology that will analyse the breath condensate sample to detect disease in less than two minutes. This collaboration hopes to be the starting point for expanding disease detection from breath analysis to more than 40 other diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative, respiratory and metabolic conditions. Dr Pete Hotten, said: “PulmoBioMed has an exciting future with its initial breath sampling technology already recognised as best-in-class by analytical technology companies who are engaged in joint product development projects with PulmoBioMed. “The vision is to develop the sampling technology and integrate it into a number of analytical platforms, both with partners and eventually our own. While PulmoBioMed is currently focused on human healthcare applications, the same technologies also have utility in many other sectors, such as veterinary and biosecurity, as well as doping and illicit drugs testing. PulmoBioMed will maximise its future through a combination of key partnerships and its own product development”, added Dr Hotten. Find out more about Northumbria’s latest spinout and PBM-Hale™ technology at www.pulmobiomed.com.
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Northumbria safety expert recognised with MBE Protecting the health and wellbeing of Northumbria’s students and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic has been the number one priority for the University. One of the key players in leading this effort has been recognised for his services to Higher Education after being awarded an MBE as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021. Director of Health, Safety and Sustainability at Northumbria University, Emrys Pritchard, joined Northumbria in 2016 and has since made a significant contribution to the University’s focus on health and safety – protecting those working and studying on Northumbria’s campuses, as well as the wider community. As the pandemic began to unfold early last year, Emrys collaborated with University colleagues, and liaised with sector, local and national bodies, to ensure Northumbria was prepared, safe and secure. He worked closely with teams from across the University to ensure key services such as student accommodation and research were able to continue operating in a Covid-secure way, and that access to campus was safe. In addition, he and his team worked to ensure that local partners were able to access and make use of Northumbria’s facilities as part of the fight against Covid-19. This included working with colleagues from the Northumbria School of Design and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to enable a team of volunteers to produce muchneeded hospital gowns using Northumbria’s industry standard facilities, including over 60 professional grade sewing machines and pattern cutting tools. On receiving news of the honour, Emrys said: “The last 18 months have been extremely challenging. Providing a safe environment
for our staff, students and the wider community could only have been achieved through a monumental team effort by the whole University community. Northumbria places staff and students at the heart of everything that we do, and while we continue the fight against Covid-19, their safety will remain our number one priority.” Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, ViceChancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University added: “I am delighted to see Emrys Pritchard’s work protecting the health and wellbeing of our students and staff recognised. This is a fitting tribute to Emrys’ service to Higher Education and Health and Safety.”
“PROVIDING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR OUR STAFF, STUDENTS AND THE WIDER COMMUNITY COULD ONLY HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED THROUGH A MONUMENTAL TEAM EFFORT BY THE WHOLE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY.” EMRYS PRITCHARD
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CARE PACKS BEING PACKAGED UP TO BE DELIVERED TO ISOLATING STUDENTS
Northumbria community comes together against Covid-19 The far-reaching effects of the global pandemic has presented the University with unprecedented challenges since early 2020, but at every turn Northumbria and its community of staff, students and partners have worked hard to protect each other. The University has worked tirelessly to safeguard the health and safety of its staff and students throughout the pandemic following, at all times, the UK government guidance. National lockdowns and local restrictions have changed the way that the University provided welfare to students, none more so when students have been forced to self-isolate because they have either tested positive for Covid-19 themselves or been linked to a case. The University quickly implemented an all-round package of support offered to those who needed to isolate at any point. This included free grocery delivery, support with studies, checkins from welfare staff, and roundthe-clock mental health support through the online wellbeing platform Kooth and Northumbria’s own Help and Support on the Student Portal. At the time of publication Northumbria has provided this package of care to nearly 4,500 students across its campuses in Newcastle, London and Amsterdam. Recognising the challenges that lockdowns have presented for students with additional hardship needs, the University has also worked with the Office for Students to distribute extra government funding throughout the year. This has enabled students to access help
with rental payments, as well as support to cover living expenses in the absence of being able to take up their usual part-time employment. In addition, a Digital Inclusion Support Scheme has provided funding for laptops and Wi-Fi for those students who are unable to easily access their online learning during lockdowns. To provide further reassurance for all students, the University also created a specialist out-bound call centre to offer one-to-one wellbeing advice from a team of advisors who were able to provide information on what personal and academic support was available, as well as referral routes for more detailed help. This personal interaction has been received very favourably by students, who have valued the guidance at what has been a time of great uncertainty. Sue Broadbent, Northumbria’s Assistant Director for Student Life and Wellbeing, said: “The University has worked hard to provide an all-round package of support, whether that’s making sure students have access to simple things like groceries, right the way through to ensuring that they can take part in their studies online when they have had to. I couldn’t be prouder of our support teams who have worked together to provide their expert care during this extraordinary time.”
Keeping Northumbria’s campus open for staff to carry-out key Covid-19 research, deliver essential support students or provide learning environments to those students who rely on using facilities provided another set of challenges. Dedicated teams have ensured that all University buildings are covid-safe with safety messages clearly visible and social distancing measures in place. In addition, a specialist Covid-19 Lateral Flow Testing centre has been in operation since November, providing easy access to thousands of students and staff to take regular asymptomatic tests. Restarting face-to-face teaching on campus, when Government guidance has allowed it, has been of paramount importance for Northumbria. Wherever possible, the University has acted swiftly to reintroduce on-campus provision, including health care and education courses, as well as other programmes that rely on physical settings such as laboratories and workshops. Professor Tom Lawson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria, said: “Our number one priority is always to make sure that our students are safe, and this year has presented us with some real challenges. Acting in-line with government guidance, we have endeavoured to provide students with the best university experience possible, while keeping vital research in place. Our thanks and appreciation go to all the Northumbria community who have made this possible.”
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
The Conversation is a collaboration between news editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish. At Northumbria, our academics have been working with The Conversation to produce independent, quality current affairs journalism on some of the latest topics to hit the news.
CALLING ALL ACADEMICS! If you have a great idea for an article, the Communications team at Northumbria can help you pitch it to The Conversation. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
HERE ARE SOME OF OUR TOP PICKS OF RECENTLY PUBLISHED ARTICLES
Six tips for coping when the news is getting to you Staying informed and educated is important, but the pandemic has brought with it daily news briefings and a seemingly never-ending influx of Covid-19 related headlines. Dr Dawn Branley-Bell, Chartered Psychologist and Research Fellow in Psychology shares her tips on how we can look after ourselves if we feel overwhelmed or ‘triggered’ by news stories.
Lauren Napier – thousands more satellites will soon orbit earth – we need better rules to prevent space crashes As satellites have become smaller, cheaper, and easier to make, more people can afford to send them into orbit. Lauren Napier, Researcher in Space Law and Policy, discusses the need for better rules to prevent space crashes as thousands more satellites start orbiting Earth.
Lockdown, quarantine and self-isolation: how different COVID restrictions affect our mental health
Nick Neave – Digital hoarders – we’ve identified four types – which are you?
Since the city of Wuhan, China, went into the world’s first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, we have all had to live under some form of pandemicrelated restriction. Dr Tom Heffernan, Programme Leader in Psychology with Criminology, has explored how the different Covid-19 restrictions can affect our mental health.
In the physical world, hoarding disorder has been recognised as a distinct psychiatric condition, with sufferers accumulating such an excessive amount of possessions that it prevents them living a normal life. Nick Neave, Professor in Psychology, has recognised that hoarding can be a problem in the digital world, too.
Why urban gardens are crucial for conserving bees and butterflies – and how you can help them
Bitcoin isn’t getting greener: four environmental myths about cryptocurrency debunked
As humans have industrialised farming to feed a growing global population, pollinators – animals vital for plant reproduction – have seen their food supply decline. Katherine Baldock, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, explores how urban gardens can help reverse this trend and help conserve bees and butterflies.
With more and more people enticed by heady Bitcoin rewards, bitcoin mining on some days uses as much energy as Poland and generates 37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Peter Howson, Senior Lecturer in International Development, explores environmental myths around cryptocurrency.
Find out more about The Conversation, and keep up to date with articles by Northumbria academics, by visiting www.theconversation.com or visiting our online newsroom at www.northumbria.ac.uk/news
No place like OME Construction work on the OME is due to be completed in July.
“THE OME WILL ALLOW US TO APPLY THE BIOTECHNOLOGIES WE ARE DEVELOPING IN A REAL-LIFE SITUATION RATHER THAN IN THE LAB ALONE.” PROFESSOR GARY BLACK
Construction work on an experimental living building which could transform the way we live is nearing completion.
Living buildings are so called because they are self-sufficient – producing more energy than they use and responding to the natural environment around them. One such building is the OME – an experimental biological house which forms a key part of the £8m Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE). A joint initiative between Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, the HBBE is developing innovative biotechnologies to develop a new generation of sustainable ‘living buildings’. Central to the OME will be a self-contained apartment which will allow HBBE experts to test and demonstrate these new biotechnologies in a domestic setting. The research teams will be testing a wide range of technologies, from new materials grown from microbes (microscopic organisms) through to waste systems which generate power from domestic waste. The microbial life (microbiome) within the apartment will be studied to better understand the influence of materials, surfaces and ventilation systems on the microbes which surround us – both to avoid harmful organisms and even viruses such as Covid-19 from entering and surviving within the apartment, and to encourage good bacteria that benefit human health. The apartment will sit above a laboratory where processes will be developed to convert waste,
including human waste, food waste, cardboard and plastics into fuel, electricity, and other useful products. “There is a real sense of excitement at Northumbria around the OME, a ‘Living Building’ and very much the linchpin in our successful Research England E3 Funding Award,” explained Professor Gary Black, Co-Director of the HBBE at Northumbria University. “It will allow us to apply the biotechnologies we are developing in a real-life situation rather than in the lab alone. The OME embodies the HBBE’s research approach to harbour collaboration and build longlasting research links between Northumbria and Newcastle Universities.” “There is nothing quite like the OME anywhere in the world,” added Professor Martyn DadeRobertson, CoDirector of the HBBE at Newcastle University. “The building will create a space to develop technologies which are well beyond the state-of-the-art. The OME puts the North East at the heart of a new field of research and potentially a new industry.” The OME will also include a prototyping and exhibition space, where designers, architects, engineers and microbiologists will work together to create large scale installations to demonstrate how their research can be applied to scale within buildings. The exterior of the building has been designed so experimental
material samples can be easily installed for testing and whole sections of the internal and external walls can be replaced with new forms of construction. The OME will also enable HBBE’s researchers to collaborate with industry stakeholders on diverse approaches to incorporating biotechnology in the built environment, creating selfsustaining, regenerative, living buildings which benefit human and ecological health and wellbeing. Building work on The OME is expected to be completed in July 2021, with cutting edge equipment and laboratory facilities installed throughout the summer.
IN BRIEF Launched on 1 August 2019, the HBBE is funded by an £8m grant from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England Fund. The Hub is led by a multidisciplinary team across Northumbria and Newcastle Universities and is supported by 14 diverse industry partners. Since its launch, the HBBE has recruited over 40 members of full-time research staff and has invested close to £3m on state-of-theart equipment, workshop and laboratory facilities to establish an outstanding centre for research.
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Research breakthrough could result in new cancer treatments Researchers have discovered a new way of examining molecules within the human body which could help scientists better understand the progression and possible treatment of diseases such as cancer. Academics from Northumbria University, working with colleagues from Bogazici University in Turkey, have combined two existing scientific techniques to provide new insight into the structure and dynamics of single protein molecules. The team, led by Northumbria’s Dr Hamdi Torun, used a technique known as ‘atomic force microscopy’, which allowed them to identify a single protein molecule within a sample of millions and investigate how it behaved when exposed to other molecules. They combined this with another technique known as ‘computational investigation’ which allows scientists to develop models and simulations. In this case it allowed the researchers to predict how a molecule might react and mutate following biochemical changes, and how this might affect the progression of a disease. Being able to identify such mutations would allow scientists to understand mutation-led diseases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis, and enable them to design more effective drugs to aid the treatment and prevention of these diseases, possibly extending to Covid-19 in the future Speaking about the research, Dr Torun said: “This is the first time that these two techniques of experimental investigation and computational investigation have been combined to examine
a specific protein molecule. Isolating one particular molecule in this way is not common practice, but it is the most effective way to probe the structure of the molecule and ask questions such as ‘what if I change a specific part of the protein?’ or ‘what if I attach a specific enzyme to the protein?’ It is the answers to these questions which will allow us to then design new drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, potentially making a huge difference to people’s lives.” The research has been published in the Biophysical Journal in a paper entitled Oncogenic mutations on Rac1 affect global intrinsic dynamics underlying GTP and PAK1 binding. An image depicting the results of their computational investigation was also selected to appear on the front cover of the journal (volume 120, issue 5). The research project, entitled Force and Function in Biological Macromolecules: Molecular Simulation and Single-Molecule Studies, was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBİTAK). Speaking about the potential to use this technique more widely Dr Torun said: “For this study we chose to investigate a protein
THIS IMAGE DEPICTING THE RESULTS OF THE RESEARCHERS’ COMPUTATIONAL INVESTIGATION WAS SELECTED TO APPEAR ON THE FRONT COVER OF BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL.
“THIS RESEARCH HAS HUGE POTENTIAL FOR APPLICATION, AND WE HOPE IT WILL LEAD TO NEW BREAKTHROUGHS IN THE TREATMENT OF DISEASES IN THE FUTURE.” DR HAMDI TORUN
which is available in all human cells, but the technique could be applied to any protein, for example the spike protein found in Coronavirus. This research has huge potential for application, and we hope it will lead to new breakthroughs in the treatment of diseases in the future.” Find out more about this research at www.northumbria. ac.uk/proteindynamics
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Diphtheria risks becoming ‘major global threat’ once more Diphtheria is evolving to become resistant to a number of classes of antibiotics and in future could also lead to vaccine resistance, warn an international team of researchers from the UK and India. Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that create a potentially deadly poison. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure and paralysis – potentially resulting in death. Similar to Covid-19, diphtheria is highly contagious, spread by sneezes or close contact with an individual who is infected. Diphtheria rarely occurs in the United States and Western Europe nowadays as children have been vaccinated against the condition for decades. However, diphtheria is still common in developing countries where vaccination rates are low. In 2018 there were over 16,500 cases reported worldwide. This was the highest incidence in 22 years and more than double the yearly average of 8,105 cases between 1996–2017. New research led by scientists at the University of Cambridge and including academics from Northumbria University
has revealed that the impact of Covid-19 on diphtheria vaccination schedules, coupled with a rise in the number of infections, risk the disease once more becoming a major global threat. Dr Vartul Sangal, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Applied Sciences at Northumbria, was one of the lead researchers involved in the investigation. He used genomics – the study of genomes of organisms – to map out infections, including a subset from India where over half of the 2018 cases occurred. The researchers found clusters of genetically related strains, isolated across several continents – most commonly Asia and Europe. This indicates that the bacteria has been present in the human population for at least the last 100 years, spreading globally as populations move and travel between countries. The main disease-causing component of C. diphtheriae is the diphtheria toxin, which is encoded by the
tox gene. It is this component that is targeted by the antibodies induced by the vaccine. In total, the researchers found 18 different variants of the tox gene, of which some may have the potential to alter the structure of the toxin. Dr Sangal, who has researched diphtheria for almost 10 years, explained: “We were rather alarmed when our findings revealed that the gene that produces toxins has several mutations, some which could be considered to have high impact. Although diphtheria is largely controlled, it is not eradicated and as we can see the antimicrobial resistance is emerging.” The researchers also warned that the number of children vaccinated against diphtheria has dropped significantly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, making them more susceptible to contracting the infection. Generally, diphtheria is treatable with antibiotics such
“ALTHOUGH DIPHTHERIA IS LARGELY CONTROLLED, IT IS NOT ERADICATED AND AS WE CAN SEE THE ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE IS EMERGING.” DR VARTUL SANGAL as Erythromycin and Penicillin in the early stages of the illness. However, the research team also found that antimicrobial resistant genes are becoming more abundant in this pathogen. The researchers identified genes that may be resistant to six different classes of antibiotics among infections from the 2010s. Genomes of bacteria isolated from infections in the last decade (2010-19) showed the highest average number of antimicrobial resistance genes per genome, recording almost a four-fold increase in comparison to the 1990s. Dr Ankur Mutreja of the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and
Infectious Disease, who was a lead researcher in the study, added: “We mustn’t take our eye off the ball with diphtheria, otherwise we risk it becoming a major global threat again, potentially in a modified, better adapted, form.” The findings from the research are published in Nature Communications – read more and download the paper at www. northumbria.ac.uk/diphtheria
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
World stage for sport management expert
“OUR STUDY SHOWS HOW PERCEPTION OF IDEAL BODY SIZE AND SHAPE IS MOULDED FROM OUR EARLIEST YEARS TO EXPECT UNREALISTIC IDEALS.” PROFESSOR MARTIN TOVEE
DR RUTH CRABTREE
An internationally renowned expert in sport management at Northumbria University has been appointed to the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE). Dr Ruth Crabtree, a principal lecturer in sport management within Northumbria’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, will sit on the Development Committee for the global umbrella organisation for sport, sport science, and physical education for the next four years. The ICSSPE is the world’s largest network of organisations and institutions concerned with sport, sport science and physical education, and represents millions of sporting people worldwide. Established in the late 1950s, it seeks to encourage cooperation between scientists, policymakers and practitioners, while incorporating research into physical activity and sport. Recognised as the strategic and scientific driver of ICSSPE, the Development Committee comprises representatives from international member organisations and universities, as well as independent members. “It is an honour to be elected to work within an internationally recognised
organisation that aligns with my personal and professional values of inclusivity, equality, and cooperation,” said Dr Crabtree. “As with all work I undertake with external organisations, I also look forward to developing opportunities for Northumbria staff and students , whether that be through attendance at conferences and events or exploring the potential for work placement opportunities.” Dr Crabtree, who has been teaching in higher education for more than 20 years, . is internationally recognised for her strong academic credibility in the field of sport management For more information about Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University please visit www. northumbria.ac.uk/ser
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Playing with body image Playing with ultra-thin dolls could contribute to giving young girls unrealistic body ideals, according to new research. The study, published in the academic journal Body Image, was led by Durham University and included academics from Northumbria University and Newcastle University. In the study, 30 girls aged between five and nine years old played with either an ultra-thin doll, a realistic childlike doll or a car. Before and after each session, the girls were asked about what they perceived their own body size to be and their ideal body size via an interactive computer test using pictures. Results showed that playing with the ultra-thin dolls reduced girls’ ideal body size in the immediate aftermath of play. There was no change in perception even when they subsequently played with the realistic childlike doll or car afterwards, showing that the effects cannot be immediately counteracted with other toys. Professor Martin Tovee, from Northumbria University’s Department of Psychology, is an expert in body image dysfunction in patients with eating disorders. He said: “Our study shows how perception of ideal body size and shape is moulded from our earliest years
to expect unrealistic ideals. This creates an inevitable body image dissatisfaction, which is already known to lead towards disordered eating.” Current widely available dolls tend to have ultra-thin bodies with an estimated body mass index (BMI) between 10 and 16, which is classed as underweight. Realistic childlike dolls used in the study resembled healthy seven to nine year-old children. Dr Elizabeth Evans, from Newcastle University’s School of Psychology, said: “This study isn’t intended to make parents feel guilty about what’s in their child’s toy box, and it certainly isn’t trying to suggest that ultra-thin dolls are ‘bad’.
“What our study provides is useful information that parents can take into account when making decisions about toys. Ultra-thin dolls are part of a bigger picture of body pressures that young children experience, and awareness of these pressures is really important to help support and encourage positive body image in our children.” Discover more at www. northumbria.ac.uk/dolls
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KEY FACTS Current widely available dolls tend to have ultra-thin bodies with an estimated body mass index (BMI) between 10 and 16, which is classed as underweight. Realistic childlike dolls used in the study resembled healthy seven to nine yearold children.
Northumbria supports delivery of vital school holiday programme
£220m of DfE funding for 151 English top-tier local authorities to roll out free HAF programmes for children eligible for free school meals in 2021
16 expert members: charities, academics, councils and community interest organisations
640k meals served served in HAF pilots in 2020
56% of adults
“THIS SUMMER, IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER THAT CHILDREN, ESPECIALLY THOSE LIVING IN AREAS OF SOCIAL DEPRIVATION, HAVE ACCESS TO BEST-INCLASS HOLIDAY PROGRAMMES.”
believe social inequality has increased during the pandemic (source: Social Mobility Commission annual survey 2020)
PROFESSOR GRETA DEFEYTER
Researchers from Northumbria University are helping to ensure that children, families and communities that have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic are able to access support through a £220m government funding scheme. The last year has been a challenging time for many families across the UK, with many parents unable to work and a significant proportion of children unable to physically attend school. As well as missing out on face-to-face teaching, many children no longer had regular access to nutritious food through school breakfast clubs and free school meals. Although schools have now reopened, the school holidays remain a difficult time for many families, due to the increased costs of food and childcare. Evidence shows children from disadvantaged families are less likely to have the opportunity to access organised out-of-school activities and are more likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of social isolation and physical wellbeing, as well as nutrition.
Support is being provided through the government’s £220 million Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, which provides healthy food and a range of indoor and outdoor activities to disadvantaged children across England. A team of experts, including academics from Northumbria, have now formed the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Alliance which will help Local Authorities to implement the HAF programme. The group consists of 16 not-forprofit and community interest organisations with experience of working with children and young adults, community groups and the education sector to alleviate inactivity, food poverty and social inequalities. The HAF Alliance is has seen support from a range of prominent experts, including Children and Families
Minister Vicky Ford MP and the government’s National Food Strategy advisor Henry Dimbleby. Northumbria University is one of the founding members of HAF, with research from the University’s Healthy Living Lab leading to a national shift in school breakfast programmes which has directly influenced the development and expansion of the HAF programme. Reflecting on the work of the HAF Alliance, Great Defeyter, Professor of Developmental Psychology, Greta Defeyter, and Director of the University’s Healthy Living Lab said: “The importance of an enriching holiday experience for all children cannot be underestimated, especially following a year in which large numbers of children have not physically attended school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This summer, it is more important than ever that children,
especially those living in areas of social deprivation, have access to best-in-class holiday programmes. This means a well-structured day full of fun activities that enable children and young people to learn new skills, socialise with friends, and enjoy nutritious food in a safe environment.” In June 2020, following the high-profile drive for action led by professional footballer Marcus Rashford, the government announced the expansion of the HAF programme for 2021.The new £220m grant funding can be accessed by every local authority in England to provide free holiday club provision for children and young people, aged 5-16, who are eligible for free school meals. Jane Ashworth OBE, Founder of StreetGames and HAF Alliance spokesperson, said:
combined experience working together to alleviate food poverty, inactivity and social inequalities “We have a perfect opportunity to use the energy of the 16 HAF Alliance members to motivate local authorities to go beyond a minimum-standards approach to HAF 2021 for children and young people and build a platform for future delivery.” Find out more about Northumbria University’s research and evaluation of holiday programmes in the UK at www.northumbria. ac.uk/holidayprogrammes
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Removing Covid-19 language barriers Academics from Northumbria have developed public health messaging materials with a difference in order to help overcome communication challenges in Guatemala.
Can Psychological First Aid improve care workers’ wellbeing? Academics at Northumbria are investigating Psychological First Aid training as a tool to support care workers’ wellbeing amid the Covid-19 pandemic. There are approximately 1.8 million people working in care homes across the UK, all of whom have faced exceptionally challenging times during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Growing international evidence has showing that the virus has disproportionally impacted people living in nursing and residential care homes, resulting in a high mortality rate. This has taken its toll on the emotional health of those working in these environments who have been at the forefront of battling Covid-19. In order to improve support for frontline staff such as care workers, in June last year the Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, launched a free Psychological First Aid (PFA) training course. First developed by the World Health Organisation, PFA is the globally recognised training course aimed at supporting people during an emergency and providing guidance on the psychosocial care required in the immediate aftermath of
such an event. The training develops an understanding of how emergencies impact mental health, what psychological first aid is and how it can be delivered. Although PFA training was originally designed to enable frontline workers to support others, research is now being carried out to explore whether it could be used to help care workers manage their own mental health and wellbeing. In a new study funded by the Royal College of Nursing Foundation, academics from Northumbria University and the University of Highlands and Islands will evaluate the usage and effectiveness of PFA for people working in the care home sector throughout the pandemic. The researchers will survey care workers from across the country to identify where in the UK PFA is being used, how it has been implemented, and its impact on their psychological wellbeing. The survey findings, along with insight from focus groups, will enable the team to make recommendations
regarding further implementation of the training. Dr Mariyana Schoultz, project lead and Senior Lecturer in Mental Health in Northumbria’s Department of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, said: “We feel honoured to lead on such an important project. Care home staff have had a particularly hard time during the Covid-19 pandemic. This study will enable us to see if this is a useful intervention for frontline care staff and how we can support care homes and their staff further during any future crises.” Anyone working in a care home interested in taking part in the research should visit www. northumbria.ac.uk/empathstudy
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Despite having the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala endures widespread poverty and inequality, and faces some of the worst health issues in the world. With the Covid-19 pandemic came an urgent need for effective public health messaging, but with an ethnically diverse population speaking multiple official languages Guatemala also faces significant challenges when it comes to universal communication. To help overcome these communication barriers, health psychologists Associate Professor Nicki O’Brien and Senior Lecturer Santosh Vijaykumar, and Arts Senior Lecturer Ellie Land, collaborated with the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala to develop of a set of animated GIFs. Having reviewed the country’s existing Covid-19 visual health communication, the team conducted interviews with health professionals in Guatemala to help explore and develop a set of culturally sensitive, relevant and engaging GIFs. The subsequent suite of animations provides a ‘languageless’ form of communication, promoting key Covid-19 preventive behaviours such as handwashing, social distancing and the correct use of face masks. Project lead Dr Nicki O’Brien brought her own experience
of living and working in Guatemala to the research, as she explains: “Effective communication about Covid-19 that does not rely on language is essential in Guatemala where there are 25 official languages. The idea for this project stemmed from my experience of living in Guatemala and working for the Human Rights Office, where I had seen firsthand the health challenges that the country faces. These GIFs use visual storytelling to communicate how to reduce Covid-19 transmission through key preventive behaviours.” Supported by funding from Northumbria’s QR Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the collaborative project also benefited from creative and cultural expertise from freelance animator Lottie Kingslake, who had previously volunteered for a charity in Guatemala. To view the GIFs, visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/ guatemala-gifs.
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“EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION ABOUT COVID-19 THAT DOES NOT RELY ON LANGUAGE IS ESSENTIAL IN GUATEMALA WHERE THERE ARE 25 OFFICIAL LANGUAGES.” ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR NICKI O’BRIEN
Leading the UK industries’ Green Revolution
“THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO SET THE FOUNDATION FOR CHANGE IN OUR INDUSTRIAL MANUFACTURING SECTORS AND TO FIND NEW, BETTER AND GREENER WAYS OF WORKING TOGETHER.” Northumbria University has been named as part of a multimillion-pound research consortium that will help transform the UK’s manufacturing and construction sectors. Professor Justin Perry and Dr Matthew Unthank will lead research on behalf of the bulk chemicals sector. The sector forms part of the Government’s newly launched hub, Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation (TransFIRe). TransFIRe was developed in response to Government Ministers’ calls to transform the foundation industries, namely chemicals, cement, ceramics, glass, metals, and paper. These industries produce 75% of all materials in the UK and are vital for the UK’s manufacturing and construction industries. The Government wants to make these industries more internationally competitive and drive forward
Britain’s climate change ambitions. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) - a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) - has allocated £4.7 million to TransFIRe for three years to work with universities, research organisations and industries to develop new materials and technologies, as well as new business opportunities. Both Professor Perry and Dr Unthank already have extensive experience of working closely with the polymer, materials, and pharmaceutical formulation industries.
“This is a great opportunity to set the foundation for change in our industrial manufacturing sectors and to find new, better and greener ways of working together,” said Dr Unthank. “Northumbria University is ideally situated to represent the bulk chemical sector in this new national consortium, building upon our strong track-record of industrial collaboration in this field.” Together, foundation industries are worth £52 billion to the UK economy and produce 28 million tonnes of materials per year, accounting for about 10% of the UK total CO2 emissions. TransFIRe forms part of a wider Government-led Green Industrial
Revolution, which has recently awarded £166.5m to innovators, businesses, academics, and heavy industry right across the UK. This incentive will accelerate the delivery of the critical technologies needed to further drive Britain’s climate change ambitions, while creating over 60,000 jobs across the UK. Energy Minister, AnneMarie Trevelyan, said: “We are determined to tackle climate change and make it win-win for both our planet and our economy. This major cash boost – targeted at our most polluting industries - will encourage the rapid development of the technologies we need to reign in our emissions and transition to a green economy,
DR MATTHEW UNTHANK one that reduces costs for business, boosts investment and create jobs. The Prime Minister set out a clear ten-point plan for creating and supporting up to 250,000 British jobs as we level up and build back greener from the pandemic. We’re boosting our armoury for the fight against climate change and backing innovators and businesses to create green jobs right across the United Kingdom.” Find out more about the work of the TransFIRe hub at www. northumbria.ac.uk/transfire
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Forensic breakthrough to fight sale of fake drugs
Fake medicines are one of the biggest health problems in the world today. The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) has seen a rise in fake medical products related to the outbreak of Covid-19, including counterfeit facemasks, substandard hand sanitisers and unauthorised antiviral medication. During an international operation in March 2020, INTERPOL arrested 121 people and took more than 2,500 websites offline. Dr Matteo Gallidabino, an expert in forensic science at Northumbria University, has worked with Professor Francesco Saverio Romolo, a world-leading forensic scientist from the University of Bergamo, in Italy, to develop a new method of testing that quickly and accurately characterises illegal pharmaceutical products. This method assesses their risk to human health, while also speeding up the exchange of data between laboratories around the world. Their method, which is unique, is based on nuclear analysis techniques – the use
of neutrons and protons – to analyse illegal medicines. They are working with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – a forum that promotes the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. “Illegal medicines can contain toxic chemical substances and need comprehensive analytical approaches,” explains Dr Gallidabino. “Full analysis of these medicines at an elemental level provides the most comprehensive technique we have to date. It allows both early warning whenever there is a serious threat to public health, as well as providing effective and easily sharable information about the manufacturing and the supply chain of illegal products.” Professor Romolo, who has more than 25 years of experience in crime scene investigation and chemical analysis related to major criminal cases around the world, says that it is still challenging today to exchange data between
different forensic laboratories because the analytical techniques used are not ‘as standard’ on a global scale. “International collaborations between countries are difficult and, in a lot of cases, between laboratories in the
technology. “To effectively protect public health and to allow criminal investigation, we cannot keep facing global issues with local approaches. This new method is invaluable for intelligence, investigation and criminal
same country,” he said. “In policing this is what is known as ‘linkage blindness’ – where police departments fail to share information that connects criminal activities, because of a lack of cooperation or information-sharing
prosecution as information can be shared quickly and accurately among laboratories around the world.” Selling fake medicines is a big criminal business, given the products’ high profit margins and the low risks of detection
and prosecution, weak penalties, and the ease in which buyers can be deceived into believing that the counterfeit products are genuine. Dr Gallidabino and Professor Romolo tested their new technique specifically on Viagra, which is the most counterfeit medicine in Europe and the USA. However, it could be applied to a large range of products, not only medicines, but also supplements and foods, as well as drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Northumbria’s Forensic Science Unit is a team of researchers made up of scientists and ex-practitioners in the field. Members of the group have been published widely in forensic science and contributed to casework in the investigation of major crimes, including homicides and serious sexual assaults.
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TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS DRONES COULD REVOLUTIONISE URBAN ECOSYSTEMS.
A robotic revolution for urban nature The advantages and disadvantages of using technologies such as drones, robots and autonomous systems within our towns and cities, and the impact this could have on urban nature, has been explored through an international research project. Drones, robots and autonomous systems have the potential to transform the natural world in and around cities for people and wildlife, according to a research project coordinated by Northumbria University’s Dr Mark Goddard. Working with a team of more than 170 experts from around the world, Dr Goddard helped to assess the opportunities and challenges that these cuttingedge technologies could have for green spaces and wildlife within built-up areas. The research findings, which have been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, highlight the positive impact new technology can have on nature in cities. For example, increased use of drones, robotics and autonomous vehicles can result in a reduction in traffic congestion and pollution. Drones
can also be used to identify emerging pests and ensure plants are cared for. Both these benefits could help people living in urban areas to better appreciate and engage with the natural world around them. However, the researchers also warned that advances in robotics and automation could potentially be damaging to the environment. For instance, robots and drones might generate new sources of waste and pollution themselves. Cities might also have to be replanned to provide enough room for robots and drones to operate, potentially leading to a loss of green space. The research team conducted an online survey of 170 experts from 35 countries. Participants gave their views on the potential opportunities and challenges created through the growing use of robotics
and autonomous systems, specifically for urban biodiversity and ecosystems. Robotics and autonomous systems are defined as technologies that can sense, analyse, interact with and manipulate their physical environment, including unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), selfdriving cars, robots able to repair infrastructure, and wireless sensor networks used for monitoring. These technologies have a large range of potential applications, such as autonomous transport, waste collection, infrastructure maintenance and repair, policing and precision agriculture. Speaking about the findings Dr Goddard, a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow within the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Northumbria, said: “Spending
“UNDERSTANDING HOW ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS WILL AFFECT OUR INTERACTION WITH NATURE IS VITAL FOR ENSURING THAT OUR FUTURE CITIES SUPPORT WILDLIFE THAT IS ACCESSIBLE TO ALL.” DR MARK GODDARD time in urban green spaces and interacting with nature brings a range of human health and wellbeing benefits, and robots are likely to transform many of the ways in which we experience and gain benefits from urban nature. Understanding how robotics and autonomous systems will affect our interaction with nature is vital for ensuring that our future cities support wildlife that is accessible to all.” The research paper’s lead author Dr Martin Dallimer, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, added: “Technology, such as robotics, has the potential to change almost every aspect of our lives. As a society, it is vital that we proactively try to understand any possible side effects and risks of our growing use of robots and automated systems.
Although the future impacts on urban green spaces and nature are hard to predict, we need to make sure that the public, policy makers and robotics developers are aware of the potential pros and cons, so we can avoid detrimental consequences and fully realise the benefits.” The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The research paper A global horizon scan of the future impacts of robotics and autonomous systems on urban ecosystems can be read in full at www.northumbria.ac.uk/ urbandrone
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Protecting penguin populations Left: Yellow-eyed penguin chick
The population of one of the world’s rarest penguin species could be safeguarded thanks to research carried out by academics at Northumbria University. Yellow-eyed penguins are one of the world’s rarest species and are native to New Zealand and its outlying islands. However, breeding pairs have been rapidly declining for over two decades, largely due to outbreaks of a diphtheria-like infection (diphtheritic stomatitis) which is fatal to young chicks. The diseased chicks are commonly treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin or enrofloxacin, however this course of medication has often failed to save them. A team of researchers led by Dr Vartul Sangal from the Department of Applied Sciences at Northumbria, has identified a new species of bacteria which
is causing these infections. The team, that includes scientists from the New Zealand Department of Conservation, University of Otago and Massey University, has also discovered that certain proteins could, if turned into a vaccine, be used to help protect the species from potential extinction. Diphtheria is a serious infection in humans which is caused by a poison producing strains of the bacterium corynebacterium diphtheriae. A thick grey coating is often observed in the patient’s throat including the tonsils. Similarly, diphtherialike infections in Yellow-eyed penguins are caused by a new Corynebacterium species that
affects chicks aged between one and 28 days. These infections are also characterised by a thick puss and ulceration in the mouth, which can prevent the chicks from eating – resulting in starvation and, in some cases, sepsis. The research team took swabs from the mouths of Yellow-eyed penguin chicks from nests at four breeding sites in the Otago peninsula. Bacteria associated with diphtheria-like infections in chicks were isolated and genome sequences (DNA) were analysed which helped the scientists understand how ‘avian diphtheria’ is attacking the penguin chicks and how it might be treated.
“THIS STUDY HAS HELPED US TO UNDERSTAND HOW THE BACTERIUM ATTACKS ITS HOST. IT MEANS THAT WE CAN FOCUS OUR TREATMENTS TO ENSURE THAT MORE YELLOWEYED PENGUIN CHICKS SURVIVE.” KATE MCINNES
Dr Sangal, an expert in cellular and molecular sciences, has researched diphtheria and related corynebacterial infections for almost a decade. He explained: “Based on the genome sequences of these penguins, the strains were very distinct from other corynebacterium species. We also tested the biochemical properties and found that these strains belong to a new species that has not been reported yet. We identified multiple diseasecausing genes, which helped us understand the mechanism of infection. One such gene produces a protein, Phospholipase D, that is important for infection and can potentially be used as a vaccine to protect Yellow-eyed penguins. “Interestingly, these strains also possessed unique DNA sequences which enabled us to develop a simple test to rapidly and reliably identify the infection. A rapid detection may help facilitate an early treatment of infected chicks, improving their chances of survival.” Kate McInnes, the Threatened Species Veterinarian at the Department of Conservation in New Zealand added: “Yelloweyed penguins, or hoiho as they are known in New Zealand, are a rapidly declining endangered species that are facing extinction in their northern range. This study has helped us to understand how the bacterium attacks its host, in this case, baby yelloweyed penguins. It means that we can focus our treatments to ensure that more yellow-eyed penguin chicks survive.”
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Left: Solar panels could soon be integrated into buildings thanks to research being carried out by Northumbria academics.
Funding to revolutionise solar architecture Renewable energy experts from Northumbria University are using new research to create groundbreaking technology which will allow buildings in towns and cities to generate their own solar power. Working alongside researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of Loughborough, academics from Northumbria are aiming to create a new technology that will enable solar panels to be integrated into windows, cladding and rooftops, meaning urban areas can create their own clean and renewable energy. Plans for the new technology, known as solution-processed inorganic thin-film photovoltaic devices (SoIPV), are the result of research carried out by a team of renewable energy experts from Northumbria University. This led to significant funding to help revolutionise the manufacturing of photovoltaic devices (nonmechanical devices which convert sunlight directly into electricity) used to produce solar energy. The project has been awarded £1.93 million by the Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council, which has been split between scientists from all three universities, as well as industrial partners, The Centre for Process Innovation Catapult, BAE Systems-Air, Johnson Matthey and MSolv Ltd. Unlike existing solar technologies, the SoIPV device will emit less carbon during the manufacturing process and will be more flexible and semitransparent in appearance which makes it more suitable for use in or on buildings. The Northumbria University team is led by Dr Devendra Tiwari and supported by Professors Guillaume Zoppi and Neil Beattie. The trio have been awarded £600,000 from the £1.93m total project funding for their contributions to the research. Dr Tiwari said, “To me, the highlight and challenge of the proposal is the ‘solution
processing’ element. Solution processing is much less capitally intensive and much more readily suited to allow integration of solar cells to scaffoldings and windows than current manufacturing technology prevalent for thinfilm solar cells.” At present there are only two solar cell technology types in the market – one silicon-based and another which makes use of inorganic compound semiconductor based thin-film solar cell (TFSC) technology. The SoIPV project aims to offer an alternative to this existing technology. The team at Northumbria University will process and prototype high-performance solar cells using copper, zinc and tin – all of which are low cost. They will replace indium and gallium, the materials currently used in PV technology, which
are much more expensive and difficult to source. The new methods of manufacture devised by the team will enable the solar cells to be incorporated more easily into windows and buildings, as well as automotive and aerial vehicles, without affecting their functionality. The successful funding of the SoIPV project is a further example of Northumbria University’s long and successful track-record in solar cell and energy research. Find out more about energy research at Northumbria at www.northumbria.ac.uk/ energyfutures
DISCOVER MORE www.northumbria.ac.uk/physics
“SOLUTION PROCESSING IS MUCH LESS CAPITALLY INTENSIVE AND MUCH MORE READILY SUITED TO ALLOW INTEGRATION OF SOLAR CELLS TO SCAFFOLDINGS AND WINDOWS THAN CURRENT MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY PREVALENT FOR THIN-FILM SOLAR CELLS.” DR DEVENDRA TIWARI
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Rebuilding and rebalancing northern culture
“THIS IMPORTANT INQUIRY WILL WORK TO REFRAME THE ROLE OF NORTHERN CULTURE IN A POST-COVID WORLD.” PROFESSOR KATY SHAW
The Northern Culture All Party Parliamentary Group, supported by Northumbria University, has launched its first Inquiry into what Northern Culture needs to rebuild, rebalance and recover. The global Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the cultural and creative sectors, with the North of England being recognised as having been particularly badly affected. In order to fully understand the impact, the Northern Culture All Party Parliamentary Group has been established to hear from key stakeholders across the North on how to increase diversity, sustainability, accessibility and resilience in Northern Culture. Launched in March this year, the six-month inquiry is currently gathering evidence and will produce a bespoke ‘State of the North’ report on northern culture. This will include recommendations to help inform, shape and influence future government decision making, as well as a Post-Covid Action Plan for northern culture.
As the academic partner, Northumbria University will play a key role in the inquiry – helping to facilitate the exchange of ideas between academics, cultural organisations and MPs, with the aim of informing future policy and decision making. Professor Katy Shaw, Director of Cultural Partnerships at Northumbria University, said: “The North’s cultural industry has been hit hard by Covid-19 and faces a historic challenge as the global pandemic continues to affect our everyday lives. “Northumbria University has a long and proud history of working with cultural partners and stakeholders across the North and beyond, and I have seen what can be achieved when academia and the cultural sector align in pursuit of a shared vision.
“This important inquiry will help influence thinking and shape the debate on Northern culture and drill-down into what is needed to level-up social and economic opportunities for the North. It will work to reframe the role of northern culture in a post-Covid world.” The inquiry is led by the Northern Culture All Party Parliamentary Group co-chairs, Labour MP for Sunderland Central Julie Elliott and Conservative MP for Bury North James Daly. Julie Elliott MP said: “In our towns and cities across the North which once buzzed with activity, from live music shows, to theatre productions, to art galleries, and to nightclubs, it all, very suddenly, went quiet. Tickets weren’t sold, shows weren’t attended, opportunities disappeared, and ultimately, jobs were lost.
“This is why the return of the cultural sector post-Covid is so important. Not only does it enrich our everyday lives, but it provides highly skilled jobs to so many people, through the work of technicians, producers, electricians, stage managers and a range of different roles on all different levels. It’s a sector in which the UK is world renowned, exporting these incredible skill sets right across the world, with big industries seeking out those who have developed in the creative industries of the North of England.” James Daly MP added: “Northern culture has been hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis and if it is ever to fully recover from the acute impact of the
pandemic, Northern culture needs immediate and long-term support to safeguard and protect its future. “No matter your background or where you are from, you should have access to culture. The Northern Culture APPG is determined to make a difference and make sure northern culture has a roaring voice in Parliament.” Find out more about the inquiry and keep up to date with developments at www. northernculture.org.uk
DISCOVER MORE www.northumbria.ac.uk/ humanities
Exhibition explores attitudes to body donation after death Two Northumbria University academics are collaborating on a unique online exhibition which will explore perceptions around end-of-life choices, and in particular body donation.
Writing a new chapter for British literature ARTWORK PRODUCED FOR THE EMBODYING NORMALITY EXHIBITION Becoming an organ donor can have a long-lasting impact, whether that is by saving the lives of others or supporting medical research to find cures for diseases. From May last year, the UK shifted to an ‘opt out’ system for organ donation – moving it closer to a socially normalised practice. However, body donation, or the donation of tissue after death for education, scientific and medical research, has been less widely discussed within public forums. A new online exhibition by Dr Stacey Pitsillides, of the Northumbria School of Design, and Dr Holly Standing, of Northumbria’s Department of Nursing, Midwifery & Health, aims to explore organ donation by encouraging people to think about the choices we make regarding our own death. Their exhibition, entitled Embodying Normality: Donate my Body, Bequeath my Data, is part of the ‘One Cell At A Time’ project, which brings together art and science to explore our growing understanding of the trillions of cells that make up the human body. Dr Pitsillides and Dr Standing have been carrying out interviews and workshops with scientists, medics, organ donors and medical students
to understand the impact that organ and tissue donation can make. They will then invite the public to explore their own feelings around donation by working online with the interactive design collective Body>Data>Space to create a virtual avatar of themselves. People will then be encouraged to ‘donate’ their avatar as a symbolic gesture representing body and organ donation. As Dr Pitsillides explains: “Much of my research is around the choices people are making regarding their own death and the reasons behind these. The concept of giving something back to society after death is becoming more prevalent, and organ and tissue donation is one way this can be achieved. However, we recognise these are big, emotive and often difficult ideas to discuss and so the aim of the exhibition is to support people to explore these concepts in an interactive and educational way.” The Embodying Normality exhibition is due to take place online later this year. Find out more at www. northumbria.ac.uk/hca
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New research by Northumbria University has revealed for the first time how and where contemporary British literature is being taught in higher education institutions around the world, and why it should be supported. British literature has always been a popular area of study, both in UK universities and overseas, but new research findings have shown an even greater global spread of contemporary British literature higher education programmes than previously thought. Universities across Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Australia are currently teaching 21st-century British literature at undergraduate or postgraduate level, with particularly strong representation in South America and countries such as Cuba. The findings come from a survey of international teachers in higher education (HE), which took place as part of the Write Now: Exploring the Teaching of Contemporary British Literature in Global Higher Education research project. The research was coordinated by Northumbria University’s Professor Katy Shaw and supported by the British Council and the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS). It is the first ever review of the teaching of contemporary (post-2000) British literature on named English Literature HE programmes currently delivered outside the UK and Ireland. The results suggest that student demand to study contemporary British literature comes from their desire to discover new stories about the diversity of Britain
today. Those surveyed said they believed 21st-century English Literature offers students a greater diversity of representation than the pre-1900 texts traditionally taught on English literature programmes, such as Shakespeare and Dickens. However, while the increase in demand is encouraging, the research also highlights a lack of resources and support for educators teaching contemporary British literature overseas. The research makes a series of recommendations for investment in trusted online resources, such as the British Council Literature website, as well as opportunities for increased collaboration between academics, learned societies and UK government to enable continuing professional development, greater networking and sharing of resources internationally. Report author Professor Katy Shaw said: “The findings of the research will be of key interest to UK HEIs seeking to better support and understand international students’ needs. It makes a clear case for increased collaboration and networking between academics, publishing organisations and UK government in joining up networks and enabling the sharing of knowledge across international borders. There has never been a more vital
time to study Literature, and the rising popularity of 21st-century British writings in the global classroom offers an enormous opportunity to share new stories about Britain today.” Find out more and download the Write Now report at www. northumbria.ac.uk/writenow
DISCOVER MORE www.northumbria.ac.uk/humanities
“THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A MORE VITAL TIME TO STUDY LITERATURE, AND THE RISING POPULARITY OF 21ST-CENTURY BRITISH WRITINGS IN THE GLOBAL CLASSROOM OFFERS AN ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE NEW STORIES ABOUT BRITAIN TODAY.” PROFESSOR KATY SHAW
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
“THIS PROJECT AIMS TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE MANY BARRIERS THAT BUDDING WRITERS FROM UNDER-REPRESENTED GROUPS FACE, AND TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR MORE NONFICTION AND CREATIVE WRITERS TO BE PART OF THE INDUSTRY.” HUSNA MORTUZA, JOSEPH ROWNTREE FOUNDATION.
WHO WRITES FOR THE BRITISH MEDIA?
A writing chance Aspiring writers from under-represented backgrounds are being given the chance to break into the creative industries thanks to a project supported by Northumbria University. How we experience the world around us is often influenced by the publishing and media industries, with writing and journalism shining a light on untold stories and personal narratives. But research has shown that the editors and journalists currently setting the media agenda often come from similar social backgrounds, with limited diversity of experience. The Writing Chance initiative was therefore established to open up the creative industries to marginalised voices, discover new talent, support writers from under-represented backgrounds and encourage publishers and editors to make space for a broader range of perspectives. The project is co-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and supported by the New Statesman and Daily Mirror. It is being delivered by the writing development agency New Writing North and literature organisations nationally and is supported by research from Northumbria University. Through the project, aspiring writers and journalists will receive mentoring from
people working within these professions, giving them access to, what has until now, been an elitist industry. Bursaries will also be provided to make it financially viable for writers from all backgrounds to take part. Professor Katy Shaw, Director of Cultural Partnerships at Northumbria University and Professor of Contemporary Writings, is the researcher in residence for A Writing Chance. She will explore the barriers currently preventing writers from under-represented backgrounds from entering the publishing and media industries and produce a policy report at the end of the programme setting out recommendations for change. Speaking about the project, she said: “This is an amazing opportunity and a great example of what can be leveraged through partnership working across sectors.” Husna Mortuza, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added: “Far too often, talented storytellers from working-class backgrounds have found it difficult to break into the media and publishing industries, whether through lack of
support, networks or space to develop their craft. This project aims to better understand the many barriers that budding writers from underrepresented groups face, and to create opportunities for more non-fiction and creative writers to be part of the industry. Hearing a diverse range of voices from across society matters, and both writers and readers will benefit from a widening of the lens.” Applications for A Writing Chance have been shortlisted, with a group of 11 new and aspiring writers of journalism, fiction and creative non-fiction selected for the programme. Over the coming months they will receive mentoring and be given the opportunity to have work published in the New Statesman or Daily Mirror or broadcast as part of a new podcast series. For more information about A Writing Chance please visit www.awritingchance.co.uk
DISCOVER MORE www.northumbria.ac.uk/ awritingchance
Just 0.2% of British journalists are Black (compared to 3% of the population) and 0.4% of British journalists are Muslim (compared to nearly 5% of the population). (City University, 2016)
47% of authors and writers are from the most privileged social starting points, contrasting with only 10% from working-class backgrounds. (Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, 2014)
12.6% of those working working in publishing come from working-class social origins, compared with a third of the population as a whole. (Cultural Capital: Arts Graduates, Spatial Inequality, and London’s Impact on Cultural Labor Markets, 2017) Newspaper columnists, who significantly shape the national conversation, draw from a particularly small pool,
with 44% attending independent school
(compared with 7% of the population) and 33% coming through the independent school to Oxbridge ‘pipeline’ alone (compared with less than 1% of the population). (Sutton Trust, Elitist Britain 2019)
Inspiring the next generation of Graphic Designers Images of Vaughan’s work
Aspiring Graphic Design students at Northumbria University will have the opportunity to enhance their learning experience, through The Vaughan Oliver Scholarships, launching in September 2021.
VAUGHAN OLIVER (CREDIT GARY WALLIS)
“THESE GRAPHIC DESIGN SCHOLARSHIPS WILL ENABLE STUDENTS, TO REMOVE THEIR BARRIERS TO HIGHER EDUCATION, MAKING A LIFELONG DIFFERENCE TO THEIR LIVES. THIS SUPPORT WILL ENSURE THAT TALENTED GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDENTS, FOR THE NEXT DECADE ARE PROVIDED WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENRICH THEIR STUDENT EXPERIENCE AND THRIVE AT NORTHUMBRIA.” DR HEATHER ROBSON
Vaughan Oliver was one of the most influential British Graphic Designers and Art Directors of his generation. Graduating from Northumbria University, then known as Newcastle Polytechnic, in 1979, he went on to earn a global reputation as a visionary in his field. He is perhaps best known for his work with independent record label 4AD where he built an enviable portfolio of work for bands including Cocteau Twins, Pixies, The Breeders, Throwing Muses, Scott Walker and Modern English, to name just a few. Vaughan sadly passed away in 2019. In his memory, and in recognition of his contribution to the music industry, Northumbria University worked with Vaughan’s wife, Lee Oliver Widdows and 4AD to celebrate his legacy and establish The Vaughan Oliver Graphic Design Scholarships. The scholarships are aimed at helping the next generation of highly gifted Graphic Design students and will be accompanied by a memorial lecture each year in Vaughan’s name.
Over the next decade, three scholarships will be offered every year to support, enhance and extend students’ education and employability within the sector. Each year, one scholarship will be awarded to a second year Graphic Design BA (Hons) student transitioning into their final year of study, helping them kickstart their career. Two further scholarships will be given to students who live in the North East of England and are applying for Northumbria’s Graphic Design undergraduate programme. They are open to students who may benefit from additional financial support, as part of Northumbria’s commitment to widening participation from under-represented groups in higher education - reaffirming Vaughan’s commitment to art education for all. Dr Heather Robson, Head of Department, Northumbria School of Design said: “These Graphic Design Scholarships will enable students, to remove their barriers to higher education, making a
lifelong difference to their lives. This support will ensure that talented graphic design students, for the next decade, are provided with the opportunity to enrich their student experience and thrive at Northumbria.” Vaughan spent more than four decades creating iconic work, helping to reinvent the practice of graphic design. His art attracted clients from across a wide variety of industries including Ballet Preljocaj, Sony, John Galliano, Tyneside Cinema and film director David Lynch, and will continue to inspire future students at Northumbria. Speaking about the creation of this bursary and lecture series, 4AD’s Rich Walker said “It’s a great honour for us to be working with Vaughan’s wife Lee and his alma mater Northumbria University to help inspire a new generation of designers. We can’t understate just how important Vaughan was in helping 4AD to become what it is today and as someone who also dedicated a lot of his time teaching others, we know he would have been delighted that his legacy lives on back where he started and helping those starting out on a similar journey to his own.” To find out more about The Vaughan Oliver Scholarships, please visit www.northumbria. ac.uk/voscholarship
DISCOVER MORE www.northumbria.ac.uk/ graphicdesign
BUSINESS & LAW
Investigating effectiveness and accountability in the Board room
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Exploring the fundamentals of finance
Northumbria University academic Natalia Blagburn has been awarded a prestigious research grant to investigate the performance of UK start-up businesses set up with Venture Capital funding. In particular, Natalia will use the British Academy Leverhulme Small Research Grant to study the characteristics and evolution of the Board membership of Venture Capital-backed companies. Venture Capital (VC) is a form of financing that investors provide to start-ups and small businesses that are believed to have long-term growth potential. These VC investors often appoint themselves onto the Boards of the new businesses and become major decision makers in how they are run. Commenting on the research, entitled Venture Capital Backed Company Board Characteristics and Effectiveness, Natalia explains: “Start-up businesses can be future industry disruptors.Backed by a significant amount of VC funding they can grow rapidly just as Uber did, redefine traditional industries in the way Airbnb did, and become an important part of the economy as Deliveroo has. Their Boards of directors are major decision-makers, yet we know very little about them. So, it has become necessary to better understand them, their effectiveness in transforming start-ups to growth companies and their role in developing first time entrepreneurs into responsible leaders.” Natalia says she will use the Leverhulme grant to help build a critical mass of evidence in what is being
regarded as an increasingly significant field of corporate governance research, adding: “VC-backed start-ups are having an enormous social and economic impact worldwide. Yet traditional corporate governance approaches and effectiveness theories do not capture their Board characteristics that are distinct from traditional corporations. Questions around a lack of independence and accountability, and complex conflicts of interests need to be explored. “As a former VC manager, with a background in making investments into UK startups and then observing their Boards of directors, I have first-hand experience in how venture Boards make an impact. However, this impact varies significantly from venture to venture, even within the same investment portfolio of a VC firm, and, sometimes, even when ventures have the same individuals on their Boards. With this research I aim to influence and enhance the Board practices of VC-backed start-ups, shape Board formation approaches, and help founders grasp more effective ways of composing and managing their Boards.” For more information on research at Northumbria please visit: www. northumbria.ac.uk/research
DISCOVER MORE www.northumbria.ac.uk/nbs
Up to 3,000 students and recent graduates across the UK from a Black and Black Mixed Ethnicity background have boosted their financial skills and enhanced their employability by taking part in Santander Universities’ Black Inclusion Programme. The new online learning programme from Santander UK, delivered in partnership with leading finance industry specialists Finance Unlocked, works with students and alumni on their professional development and helps build their CVs. Emmanuel Kabengele, President of Northumbria Students’ Union from July 2019 to 2021 commented on the launch of the programme: “As a black man and Students’ Union President, I think this inclusion programme is truly amazing. Talking from experience, there is less tailored careers support available for students from a Black and Black Mixed Ethnicity background. I am very excited about the launch of the inclusion programme, as it will give those students a chance to explore potential career choices that may be different to what they are currently doing. We are happy to have been partnered with Santander to share this programme – it is a great opportunity for students to get involved in.” Fourteen Northumbria students were selected to join the eight-
hour online programme which ran from March to May 2021, giving them the opportunity to receive a £1,500 Santander Scholarship. Professor Peter Francis, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria University said: “Northumbria’s relationship with Santander continues to enhance our students’ employability and business skills. I am delighted to have shared this exciting opportunity for our students and graduates from a Black and Black Mixed Ethnicity background to get involved with the programme and be in with a chance of winning a Scholarship with Santander.” The Santander Universities’ Black Inclusion programme is part of Santander UK’s Black Inclusion Plan which launched last year as part of the bank’s overall commitment to being a genuinely inclusive and diverse organisation. The plan focuses on three key areas: leadership, allyship and networks, which all shape the bank’s ongoing activity in creating a culture that champions everyday inclusion. The new Santander Universities’ Black Inclusion programme supports the drive for
positive change. Matt Hutnell, Director at Santander Universities, said: “Over the last decade Santander Universities has collaborated with its network of university partners to ensure students from diverse backgrounds are supported into university, work and selfemployment. The new programme aims to provide students and recent graduates from communities under-represented in the financial services sector with further professional development as they prepare for and embark on their future careers.” Northumbria University is proud of its multi-cultural community of staff and students. The University values diversity and is determined to ensure that the opportunities it provides are open to all. To find out more about how Northumbria celebrates equality, diversity and inclusion, you can visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/edi
DISCOVER MORE northumbria.ac.uk/sbip
BUSINESS & LAW
Sustainably tackling period poverty Students from Northumbria are addressing period poverty in the North East through the distribution of sanitary products to those who cannot easily access them and removing the associated stigma surrounding menstruation. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in period poverty across the UK, and menstrual health, hygiene and education are prevalent issues. The Hygienies, a social enterprise team at Enactus Northumbria, are tackling this challenge and supporting women in the local area whilst improving the environmental impact of menstrual waste. Enactus Northumbria is a society within the University comprising students, academics and business leaders who set up new businesses and enterprises that help shape a more sustainable world. Each enterprise is aligned to one or more of the UNs seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. The Hygienies focus on: Good Health and Wellbeing; Clean Water and Sanitation; Responsible Consumption and
Production, and Climate Action. To mark Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May, The Hygienies launched a buy one, donate one scheme which consists of a range of monthly ‘make-your-own’ sustainable subscription boxes. ‘The Basic Box’ and ‘The Teen Box’ offer environmentally friendly alternatives to products which are commonly used, including a variety of sanitary, personal hygiene and self-care products. Both boxes can also be upgraded to feature luxury editions such as cotton wash bags and bamboo face pads. For each box purchased, The Hygienies donate a selection of sustainable menstrual products to Newcastle-based charities, West End Women and Girls who fight for women and girl’s rights to live in a fair society, and Smart Works who support women back into work.
Eilish Malliagh from Smart Works commented: “We always provide women with a goodie bag of beauty and sanitary products to make them feel confident ahead of their interviews. The Hygienies delivered a brilliant array of sanitary products that we are sure will help our clients feel great in themselves as they re-enter the job market.” The Hygienies recently collaborated with Yoga Therapies, a Newcastle-based Yoga studio, to provide online classes encouraging those attending to pay what they can afford. Money raised for each session was donated to various charities across the North East. Courtney Brown, Head of Business Development at The Hygienies said: “We want to use our entrepreneurial spirit to combat period poverty, which unfortunately has risen
“WE WANT TO USE OUR ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT TO COMBAT PERIOD POVERTY, WHICH UNFORTUNATELY HAS RISEN SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC. OPERATING SUSTAINABLY IS SOMETHING WHICH IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO US, WHICH IS WHY WE ARE REALLY EXCITED TO HAVE RECENTLY LAUNCHED THE NEW SUBSCRIPTION BOXES.” COURTNEY BROWN significantly since the start of the pandemic. Operating sustainably is something which is really important to us, which is why we are really excited to have recently launched the new subscription boxes. “We have been fortunate enough to create an entrepreneurial start-up in a safe ‘risk-free’ space, thanks to support from Enactus Northumbria, University business advisors and the Students’ Union. The Hygienies
work with incredible charities in the local area, to distribute products to people who need them and working on this project has been a personal highlight of my time at Northumbria.” For more information about the work of Enactus Northumbria visit www.enactusnorthumbria.org
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BUSINESS & LAW
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Should we trust technology?
CELEBRATIONS AT BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SCHOOL, SRI LANKA
Sri Lankan success Long-standing Northumbria University partner Business Management School (BMS), Sri Lanka, held celebratory graduation ceremonies for almost 400 students despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. Amidst the ongoing pandemic it has been difficult to imagine returning to large scale inperson events. However, with government guidelines in Sri Lanka very different to those in the UK, Northumbria University’s partner BMS safely hosted four physical graduation ceremonies with nearly 400 students in attendance. On 25 February 2021, students were able to enjoy traditional graduation activities with their peers while their family and friends watched on virtually to ensure they didn’t miss the special occasion. A total of 369 students took to the stage across the four ceremonies to accept their well-earned degrees in a range of Business and Applied Science courses, such as Business with Financial Management and Biomedical Sciences. Northumbria University’s two-decade long partnership with BMS has produced over 2,500 graduates. The institution works closely with Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School and more recently has also teamed up with the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Pro Vice-Chancellor for International at Northumbria University, Professor Jon Reast,
recorded a speech to commend the occasion, in which he said: “The students studying for Northumbria degrees with BMS are of the highest quality, gain excellent results and career outcomes, but have faced many challenges over the last year. On that basis, I would particularly like to congratulate them for their hard work, resilience, and determination in successfully completing their studies. This of course would not have been possible without the excellent teaching, support, and guidance from our colleagues at BMS and Northumbria.” BMS and Northumbria University partnered to allow students from Sri Lanka to study close to home in their own country and the success of the partnership has been consistent, with hopes to develop relationships in further subject areas in the future. To find out more about the University’s partnerships with BMS and other Transnational Education (TNE) partnerships, please visit www.northumbria. ac.uk/global-partners
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“THE BILETA CONFERENCES ARE HIGHLY PRESTIGIOUS, SO TO BE RECOGNISED WITH THESE AWARDS BY OUR PEERS IS HUGELY REWARDING.” DR MARION OSWALD
Can advancing technology be relied upon when it comes to policing and law enforcement? This is the question being asked and investigated by academics at Northumbria University, who have led research into how safe and trustworthy the increasing use of technology is in combatting crime. Dr Marion Oswald and Post Graduate Research (PGR) student Samantha Rasiah, who have been leading this research, have now been recognised for their work, after winning awards at the British and Irish Law Education and Technology Association (BILETA) annual conference. Northumbria Law School’s Dr Oswald, a leading researcher in the interaction between law and digital technology, won the BILETA European Journal of Law and Technology (EJLT) prize for her paper: ‘A threepillar approach to achieving trustworthy use of AI and emerging technology in policing in England and Wales: Lessons from the West Midlands Model.’ Meanwhile, PGR student Samantha Rasiah, from Northumbria Law School, was awarded the Postgraduate Research paper prize following a presentation she gave at the conference based on her research around the use of legal technology. Northumbria Law School has a global reputation for research, including investigating the
ethical, safe and responsible use of emerging technologies, which are being adopted in areas of law enforcement and used as evidence in criminal trials. These include the use of a variety of artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools: live facial recognition, for example, is being used in policing trials with the evidence gathered being considered by the courts in England and Wales. Commenting on their success Dr Oswald says the BILETA conferences are highly prestigious, adding: “To be recognised with these awards by our peers is hugely rewarding, and reflects the quality and impact of the research we are conducting at Northumbria in areas of ethical importance and relevance. I would also like to congratulate Samantha on winning this year’s PRG Award – it highlights
the breadth and depth of new research talent here at Northumbria.” Samantha Rasiah adds: “It is such an honour to receive this prize and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share my research with pioneers in my field at BILETA.” BILETA is one of the oldest and largest technology law associations in Europe. It was formed in 1986 to promote, develop and communicate highquality research and knowledge on technology law and policy to organisations, governments, professionals, students and the public. Read Dr Oswald’s prize winning paper at www.northumbria. ac.uk/bileta
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BUSINESS & LAW
Leading the way in knowledge exchange Dr Matt Sutherland, Associate Professor at Newcastle Business School has been appointed to the board of PraxisAuril – a worldleading professional association for knowledge exchange. By sharing – or exchanging – new knowledge and solutions, universities and academics can work collaboratively with partner organisations to help tackle societal, scientific, environmental, human and economic challenges facing the world. PraxisAuril is a national association, supporting universities and businesses to conduct and develop this type of research which can then be shared to help economies and societies. The organisation works with more than 5,000 individuals from universities, public research bodies and industry, providing high quality training within the sector. Dr Matt Sutherland is an Associate Professor in Marketing at Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School and has been appointed as Stakeholder
“BY WORKING COLLABORATIVELY WITH BUSINESSES OF ALL SIZES THROUGH KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE PARTNERSHIPS, UNIVERSITIES CAN PLAY A POWERFUL AND STRATEGIC ROLE IN HOW WE BUILD BACK STRONGER FROM THE PANDEMIC.” DR MATT SUTHERLAND
Director at PraxisAuril for four years. His research interests include knowledge exchange, small business growth, workbased learning and consumer choice. He sees his role within PraxisAuril as helping to position the organisation as the leading authority in Knowledge Exchange. Dr Sutherland commented on his new position, saying: “By working collaboratively with businesses of all sizes through knowledge exchange partnerships,
universities can play a powerful and strategic role in how we build back stronger from the pandemic. PraxisAuril is at the heart of this collective effort, so it is an honour to have been appointed to its Board. I am looking forward to the opportunities ahead.” Professor John Wilson, Pro Vice- Chancellor for the Faculty of Business and Law at Northumbria adds: “Matt’s appointment is a significant achievement which underlines Northumbria’s
growing reputation in knowledge exchange and wider collaboration within the business community.” Dr Sutherland is also a member of the Management Board of The Small Business Charter – a mark of excellence for UK business schools - and is currently leading the Charter’s Help to Grow Management Programme across Northern England. He has secured over £4.5 million worth of research income through knowledge exchange activity
including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and Continuous Professional Development courses, and through other national networks for knowledge exchange activity. To find out more, please visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/nbs
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Northumbria Law lecturer shaping the future of solicitor training Northumbria University Associate Professor, Dr Victoria Roper, has been appointed as Chair of the Law Society’s Education and Training Committee for England and Wales. The Education and Training Committee represents the interests of around 200,000 solicitors and tens of thousands of law students and formulates national policy in relation to solicitor education and training. At present, students must pass the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and undertake training to qualify as a solicitor. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority, an organisation which regulates solicitors in England and Wales, will introduce the Solicitors Qualifying Exam in Autumn 2021, a national assessment which will be examined centrally and require students to pass
instead of the LPC and complete two years of work experience in order to qualify. As profound changes are being made later in the year, Dr Roper’s appointment to the Committee is timely. She joined the Faculty of Business and Law in 2013 and has a wealth of teaching and assessment experience through her work at Northumbria and
various external roles, including being a Trustee of the UK Clinical Legal Education Organisation. Commenting on her appointment, Victoria said: “I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to lead the important work of the Committee at such a crucial time for the solicitors’ profession. I am passionate about the education and training of solicitors and the Law Society’s work is helping to shape the
future of legal education which in turn impacts students, universities and law firms.” Professor John Wilson, Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Business and Law, added: “Victoria’s appointment to lead such an important and influential committee exemplifies the way in which Northumbria is a businessfocused university with strong links to the professions.”
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“I AM DELIGHTED TO HAVE BEEN GIVEN THIS OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD THE IMPORTANT WORK OF THE COMMITTEE AT SUCH A CRUCIAL TIME FOR THE SOLICITORS’ PROFESSION.” DR VICTORIA ROPER
PARTNER OF CHOICE
Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Building a sustainable future
A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between digital manufacturing business Platinum Electrical Engineering and Northumbria University has received the highest possible rating from Innovate UK for developing an innovative and more eco-friendly technique for house building. KTPs enable UK businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity by providing access to the wealth of knowledge, technology and skills through collaboration with universities. The KTP scheme enables a three-way partnership between businesses, the University and a recent graduate, known as the KTP Associate. The graduate is partfunded by Innovate UK to work for up to two years on a strategic innovation problem. Collaborating through a KTP with Northumbria University, Platinum Electrical Engineering has been able to develop a new Building Additive Manufacturing (BAM) capability which ‘prints’ the complete structure of a building by depositing concrete layer by layer from the ground upwards. And by developing on-site manufacturing, the BAM capability reduces build cost and time, as well as making a significant contribution to net-zero carbon emissions. It streamlines the supply chain and reduces construction materials, transportation and waste. Cement usage is also reduced by using waste materials from the steel and coal
industries as an alternative. By focusing on BAM’s potential for building affordable housing and creating bespoke manufacturing equipment and software, the KTP was able to create a prototype device capable of the in-situ manufacture of two-storey structures and eventually a row of terraced houses. Using the BAM equipment on housing projects would therefore reduce build costs and times and enable houses to be built more quickly. Northumbria’s partnership with Platinum Electrical Engineering has now been rated as “outstanding” by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. Knowledge Transfer Adviser, John Clayton, of the Knowledge Transfer Network, supported the KTP throughout and describes it as “an extremely challenging and complex project,” going on to say: “The impressive results were achieved through excellent collaboration among the company and Northumbria team whose performance, insight and team-working were exemplary throughout.” The KTP was led by Northumbria graduate Laurence Foster, as the KTP Associate, in
collaboration with academics from the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Environment and the Platinum project team. Based at Platinum’s premises in Gateshead. Laurence was able to take the project through a detailed two-year timeline involving discovery, technology development, prototyping, testing, and continual enhancements. Laurence is now employed by Platinum in a lead role as Research and Development Engineer. Reflecting on the KTP, Laurence said: “This project has opened my eyes to the huge potential benefits, both to the construction industry through the development of newly emerging innovative systems, and to the wider housing crisis in the UK. I’ve also honed my CAD design, 3D printing and project management skills’ Platinum Engineering is continuing to work with academics at Northumbria led by Associate Professor Phil Hackney, and expert in rapid manufacturing to further develop in-situ construction technology. Northumbria has a long track record of successful KTPs with
businesses of all sizes, building relationships that often extend beyond the initial collaboration. Platinum Engineering, for example, is continuing to work with academics at Northumbria on a project led by Associate Professor Phil Hackney, and expert in rapid manufacturing, to further develop in-situ construction technology. As Professor Hackney explains: “KTPs are a great way for the University to build a long-term relationship with a company and for academics to learn about their business-critical industrial challenges and create a route to high impact for their research. Our KTP with Platinum helped the company embed new knowledge in additive manufacturing and, in Laurence, they have a new, highly skilled motivated member of the team ready to take on the next project.” To find out more about KTPs with Northumbria please visit: www.northumbria.ac.uk/ business
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“THE IMPRESSIVE RESULTS WERE ACHIEVED THROUGH EXCELLENT COLLABORATION AMONG THE COMPANY AND NORTHUMBRIA TEAM WHOSE PERFORMANCE, INSIGHT AND TEAM-WORKING WERE EXEMPLARY THROUGHOUT.” JOHN CLAYTON OF THE KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER NETWORK
BUSINESS & LAW
Will the lure of country living boost rural economies?
Research reveals risks to cross-border policing post Brexit
Researchers at Northumbria University, are studying how shifting work patterns and homebuying preferences are changing rural communities – and creating new business opportunities. Analysis of data from the past decade shows that rural areas which attract new residents in their 20s and 30s also see an increase in business start-ups. This suggests that the adoption of new ways of working and subsequent growth in demand for rural living and new ways of working in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic could launch a new wave of rural businesses. Based on this data Dr Gary Bosworth and Dr Robert Newbery, from Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School, are now working with partners at the University of East Anglia and the University of Lincoln, as well as property consultants Watsons and George F. White, to explore how changing migration choices are shaping today’s rural communities. Dr Bosworth says the research will seek to understand what makes different rural places attractive and how we make home-buying choices from the information available to us. He explains: “So called `counterurbanisation’, the movement of people from cities to rural areas, has been part of the UK housing market since the middle of the last century. In other countries the lure of rural living has ebbed and flowed but here in the UK it has been a continuing trend. The countryside holds a particular place in British culture. We cherish the timeless landscapes, natural beauty and traditional virtues of rural community life, so we are now asking if this romantic vison of
the countryside can also offer a dynamic location for new businesses.” The appeal of living in the country has resulted in more commuting, increased rural housebuilding and hikes in property prices in many of the more accessible and picturesque rural areas. At the same time the impact of population growth in these areas means that ural Britain today is home to some of the wealthiest and also some of the poorest people. Dr Bosworth adds: “We have well-connected, well-served communities with diverse business populations, but also Internet ‘not-spots’, pockets of hidden deprivation and villages and towns that are losing their business centres. Understanding the needs of rural communities and their businesses is a key priority as the nation emerges from the worst impacts of Covid-19.” Dr Bosworth and the team have now conducted a major survey of people who were thinking of moving house, or have moved within the last year. The results will be finalised later in the year and will help policy makers and rural planners understand what people really want from a new home in the country. Read the full story at www. northumbria.ac.uk/rural
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A briefing paper, co-authored by a Northumbria academic, has warned MPs that the Brexit deal risks downgrading cross-border policing and cooperation between the UK and Ireland. The paper was written as part of a study by the UK-Irish Criminal Justice Cooperation Network – a collaboration between Northumbria University, Queen’s University Belfast and the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development in Ireland (ACJRD). Based on their findings, the authors, including Northumbria Law School Associate Professor Gemma Davies, have given evidence to the UK Parliamentary Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Among a number of key impacts of Brexit on crossborder policing they highlighted a loss of real-time access to EU information systems and potentially slower extradition processes for wanted criminals.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has now published a report referencing the contribution made by Gemma Davies, including a number of direct quotes from the evidence she gave. Commenting on the paper, Davies says the relationship between the EU and the UK post Brexit is clearly not the same as it was, explaining further: “Some of the instruments that have been utilised to great effect over the past 20 years are no longer available, so the UK and Ireland will have to find alternative ways of ensuring that cooperation between the two countries continues to flourish. Our research led us to conclude that a UK-EU comprehensive and formal agreement is the optimal way of achieving this.” Gemma Davies’ research found that as informal cooperation
is likely to be far less effective post Brexit, formalising police cooperation and establishing a joint operational centre to exchange information offers a positive way forward. “Our paper recommended that the remit of the British-Irish Council be expanded to include criminal justice cooperation,” adds Davies. “This would emulate the Nordic model which sees criminal justice cooperation driven by justice ministers in the Nordic Council despite four different types of relationship between its constituent members and the EU.” Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the aim of the UK-Irish Criminal Justice Cooperation Network is to understand the challenges the UK and Ireland might face in relation to criminal justice cooperation after Brexit and to explore how these challenges might be mitigated. Read the evidence submitted by Professor Davies and colleagues at www.northumbria.ac.uk/borders
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Northumbria University NEWS • Summer 2021
Northumbria on the ball at FA Vase final Cherry juice takes gold medal for recovery Researchers at Northumbria University and St Mary’s University have revealed just how effective Montmorency tart cherry juice products can be in helping people recover after exercise. After 10 years of research, elite athletes have used Montmorency cherry products in the run up to, and during, the 2012, 2016 and 2021 Olympic Games to aid recovery from intense bouts of training, strenuous competition and injury. As a result of the findings, elite sportspersons worldwide, from Premiership footballers to NBA basketball players and Grand Tour cyclists, are now routinely incorporating Montmorency cherry products into their training regimes. For more than 10 years, Professor Glyn Howatson - researcher and Professor in Human and Applied Physiology at Northumbria University - has been leading the ground-breaking research. In the latest development, both universities have worked together to produce a new meta-analysis - a statistical assessment that reviews the combined results of multiple scientific studies – to come up with conclusive evidence of the benefits of tart cherry juice.
The analysis, which included 14 previously published studies, concluded that taking Montmorency tart cherry in the form of juice, powder, or tablets - has a significant effect on improving the recovery of muscle strength and reducing reported muscle soreness after exercise. The studies ranged from seven to 16 days and involved one to two servings per day. The findings, which have been published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, have the potential to aid training and recovery among millions of elite athletes across the world. To view the findings from this latest meta-analysis, please visit www.northumbria. ac.uk/humankinetics
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“ELITE SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN WORLDWIDE ROUTINELY INCORPORATE MONTMORENCY CHERRY PRODUCTS INTO THEIR TRAINING REGIMES.” PROFESSOR GLYN HOWATSON
“TO BE IN THE FA VASE FINAL AT WEMBLEY STADIUM WAS A VERY SPECIAL OCCASION FOR NOT ONLY ALL INVOLVED AT CONSETT BUT FOR THE WHOLE TOWN.” DR ANDREW COYLES
Northumbria University was involved in the Football Association Challenge Vase (FA Vase) final at Wembley Stadium this year, with staff, students and graduates part of both of the teams who made it through to the final of the competition. The FA Vase is an annual men’s football competition for teams playing in the English National League system. It is one of the most prestigious cup competitions in football, and one in which the North East has had a long history of success. In May this year, Consett AFC and Hebburn Town both reached the FA Vase final – making them the final two teams out of the 667 teams involved in the competition. Both teams included a number of Northumbria student and graduate players among their ranks, as well as staff members who guided and supported them to the final. Dr Andrew Coyles, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria
and first team coach for Consett AFC said: “To be in the FA Vase final at Wembley Stadium was a very special occasion for not only all involved at Consett but for the whole town.” Ali Alshabeeb, third year Sport Management student at Northumbria and Consett AFC player, described his experience as one he’ll never forget, reflecting: “Being supported and acknowledged by my lecturers and fellow students made me appreciate Northumbria even more as their encouragement is what kept me going.” The Hebburn Town team also included strong representation from Northumbria, including Sport Science with Coaching Masters graduate and Strength and Conditioning coach
for Hebburn Town Angelos Eleftheriadis. Commenting on the Final, he said: “I feel truly blessed that I was able to be part of such an amazing experience. It is an event that very few will experience in life, being at Wembley as a member of a team that won a prestigious trophy at the FA Vase.” The final score was 3-2 to Hebburn Town, with the team lifting the FA Vase for the first time in their 109-year history. Read the full story at www. northumbria.ac.uk/favase
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Sports for thoughts Northumbria University recently launched a new mental health and wellbeing initiative, supported by Rugby World Cup winner and TV presenter, Matt Dawson. The NU Thinking initiative supports students who are struggling with their mental health, by providing a bespoke programme of activities tailored to the individual’s needs. The three-month programme fosters a ‘whole wellbeing’ approach, combining mental health support from the Counselling and Mental Health team, and physical wellbeing support through Northumbria Sport. Students on the programme have access to a free sport fitness membership, personal training and nutritional advice sessions, as well as fortnightly meetings with the Sports Development Officer, where they can discuss their progress and ways to continue tailoring their experience in order to achieve their agreed goals. This fitness offering coincides with the work students do in counselling. Caroline Parker, Counsellor at Northumbria University said: “The NU Thinking initiative has really complemented the work I have been doing with students in counselling. It has had a real positive effect on both their mental and physical health.”
At the end of the programme, Sodexo health and wellbeing ambassador, Matt Dawson will join students to chat about their experience and share his personal tips on improving mental health through exercise. Sodexo provides food, catering, facilities management, property and technical services to many private and public sector organisations. They manage a number of Northumbria’s halls of residence and have supported thousands of self-isolating students with food and essential provisions in recent months. Their focus on improving the student experience has led to a donation of £11,000 to support initiatives such as NU Thinking and NU Ideas - a programme developed to help student entrepreneurs to develop their business concepts. Sodexo’s donation has contributed towards staff at Northumbria Sport undergoing mental health training, to support students during and after they have completed the programme. Rory Kavanagh, Vice President of Sport at Northumbria
“THE NU THINKING PROGRAMME HAS REALLY COMPLEMENTED THE WORK I HAVE BEEN DOING WITH STUDENTS IN COUNSELLING. IT HAS HAD A REAL POSITIVE EFFECT ON BOTH THEIR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH.” CAROLINE PARKER Students’ Union commented on the programme, saying: “Due to the pandemic, the mental health needs of our students have been heightened, and we know that exercise can have a really positive impact on mental health. The NU Thinking project is a fantastic opportunity to have a positive impact on mental health by
Celebrating Liam’s legacy A new cricket coaching initiative is launching at Northumbria University, celebrating the legacy of former student Liam Curry and his girlfriend Chloe Rutherford. Liam, a keen cricketer, was in his first year of an Applied Sports and Exercise Science degree at the University, when he and his girlfriend Chloe tragically lost their lives in the Manchester Arena terror attack on the 22 May 2017. Their families set up the Chloe and Liam Together Forever Trust which aims to honour the couple by inspiring others to enjoy and pursue their dreams, particularly by taking part in the activities Liam and Chloe loved the most.
Northumbria University was successful in securing a grant from the Trust, which will go towards a new cricket coaching initiative, launching in September 2021. The programme will enable Northumbria students to gain cricket coaching qualifications which then allows them to lead weekly participation cricket sessions for other students. Chloe and Liam’s parents are delighted to be working with Northumbria to enable future cohorts of students to fulfil the
couple’s ambitions – particularly through sport, which Liam was so passionate about. They are also discussing opportunities to support other projects and activities in future. This poignant partnership will continue the legacy of Chloe and Liam and deepen their connection with Northumbria University for years to come.
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giving students an opportunity to understand and experience the benefits of physical activity.” The NU Thinking project further enhances Northumbria’s commitment to supporting students and is one of many ways students can get help with their mental health whilst studying at Northumbria University.
For more information you can visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/ supportforstudents
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Summer 2021 • northumbria.ac.uk
NEWCASTLE UNITED WOMEN’S TEAM AT 2021 COUNTY CUP FINAL
Women United in football excellence
“THERE’S A FIRE INSIDE EVERY PLAYER ON THE NEWCASTLE UNITED WOMEN’S TEAM AND AT NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY. ONLY THEY CAN IGNITE IT, BUT I WILL TRY AND GIVE THEM THAT SPARK.” REBECCA LANGLEY
A partnership between Northumbria University and Newcastle United Women has seen the Newcastle United Women’s team crowned winners of the Northumberland Football Association’s Bluefin Sport Insurance Women’s Cup final this year – one of the most competitive fixtures of the season. With Covid-19 leading to the cancellation of many of the Football Association’s Women’s National League matches, the Newcastle United Women’s team still managed to bring victory to Tyneside after lifting the County Cup. It was a proud moment for Rebecca Langley – head of Women’s Football at Northumbria University and Manager of Newcastle United Women – and marks what she hopes is the first trophy of many in her role as Manager. Newcastle United Women and Northumbria University became
official partners in August 2019 and have since worked together to develop women’s football within the region. Through the partnership, Northumbria provides expert support to all aspects of player performance at Newcastle United Women, from strength and conditioning to sports psychology and video analysis. Langley said she has been impressed with the way in which the Newcastle United Women’s team has performed and developed since the collaboration began. As she explains:
“The Northumbria and Newcastle partnership has seen both teams go from strength to strength. It is fantastic to be on this journey with the players and seeing them accelerate their learning daily is a joy. There’s a fire inside every player on the Newcastle United Women’s team and at Northumbria University. Only they can ignite it, I will try and give them that spark.” The Newcastle United Women’s team train at Northumbria University’s Coach Lane Campus – one of only nine Women’s High Performance Football Centres
in the UK and designed to offer regional support to grassroots coaches working in the women’s and girls’ games. A key role of these centres is to support and drive the Football Association’s (FA) ambition to increase the number of qualified coaches and improve the quality of coaching – both central to the growth of the women’s game. The centres will provide an educational and communitybased setting to recruit, develop and deploy coaches, who will then lead and inspire player development. They will also help
develop the ‘behind-the-scenes’ workforce required to support women’s football – including volunteers, administrators, and development staff. To find out more about Women’s Football at Northumbria University, please visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/ womensfootball
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IMOGEN SCORES PLACE ON TV FOOTBALL ACADEMY Northumbria student Imogen Longcake is part of the Newcastle United Women’s team. She has been described as a standout performer and was one of just 26 players selected from across the globe, for the Ultimate Goal BT Sport Squad programme. The programme ran from 17-27 May 2021, during which time Imogen lived and trained as a professional footballer at the exclusive Ultimate Goal academy, alongside football experts. Ultimate Goal is available to watch via www.ultimategoal.tv
Northumbria University News Summer 2021