Media Highlights 2011
2 Media Highlights
Welcome to the 2011 edition of our annual publication, Media Highlights, featuring a selection of the print, online and broadcast coverage achieved by Queen Mary over the past year. Queen Mary receives positive media exposure on a daily basis, from a wide variety of outlets, through the international reputation of our academics and the work of the Communications team. These media appearances play a vital role in maintaining Queen Mary’s external reputation. They also support some of the College’s key objectives, from staff and student recruitment, to enhancing our standing in the eyes of stakeholders. This brochure covers some of our general College media appearances, then moves on to highlights from the year’s news from each Faculty.
About the Communications team The Communications team is responsible for media relations, corporate, stakeholder and crisis communications, internal communications (with both staff and students) and social media. The team promote the work of the College through its media contacts and source exciting news stories from our research Schools and institutions. If you would like to sign up to our daily round-up of higher education news and College media stories, Queen Mary in the News, or if there is anything newsworthy that you would like to communicate via the media, please do not hesitate to contact the Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 882 3004. You can also contact one of our individual Faculty leads, using the information in the right-hand column. For regular news updates, please see www.qmul.ac.uk/media
Deputy Director of Communications Sally Webster email@example.com 020 7882 5404 Deputy Head of Communications Alex Fernandes firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7882 7910 Humanities and Social Sciences Emma Lowry email@example.com 020 7882 5378 Medicine and Dentistry Kerry Noble firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7882 7943 Science and Engineering Sian Halkyard email@example.com 020 7882 7454 Science and Engineering, Medicine and Dentistry Bridget Dempsey firstname.lastname@example.org 0207 882 7927 Internal Communications Rosalind Stannard email@example.com 020 7882 7453
Join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/OfficialQMUL Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/qmul
Local interest stories Sarah Cox firstname.lastname@example.org 0207 882 3004 Media Highlights is edited by Sarah Cox
Media Highlights 3
4 Queen Mary in the News
Queen Mary in the News
At the start of the year, Times Higher Education reported that Queen Mary performed well in the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s first official attempt to measure the impact of academics’ research. In the pilot impact assessment exercise, many ‘top
How the mighty have fallen: impact pilot’s unexpected results, Times Higher Education,
research departments’ at other institutions performed ‘unexpectedly poorly’. In English language and literature, Queen Mary (rated second for the subject in the RAE 2008) performed strongly, with 40 per cent of its submission rated 4* and 60 per cent 3*, defined as ‘excellent’.
Queen Mary in the News 5
Blair Tactics, Evening Standard, March 2011
March In March, Cherie Blair QC, barrister and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, visited Queen Mary and was interviewed by the Evening Standard about the Africa Justice Foundation, a project she set up this year to send Rwandan lawyers to the UK to develop their knowledge. Isabelle Karihangabo, a Queen Mary student, said she was “speechless with appreciation” for the Foundation. Photographs of Cherie were taken both inside and outside the architectural award winning Lockkeeper’s Cottage, on the Mile End campus.
6 Queen Mary in the News
Later on that month, Queen Mary History and Journalism student Ruth Faulkner made one of many appearances on the London pages of the BBC News website. She applied to be a volunteer for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and has set up an Olympic-inspired volunteering project at Queen Mary called QMSU Aspire. It is led by students and works with schools in the local area, aiming to “increase understanding and recognition” of Paralympics and Parasport in Tower Hamlets.
April In April, Queen Mary moved up three places to 36th position in the newlyreleased Complete University Guide 2012, the independently published ranking produced in association with The Independent. The largest improved subject ranking was in Medicine, which moved up 20 places to 6th. Dentistry went from 12th to seventh and both Drama and Law retained their positions at third and seventh respectively. Linguistics and Russian remained in the Top 10 nationally.
May In the same month, QM’s Principal Professor Simon Gaskell’s comments on tuition fees appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. Defending Queen Mary’s decision to set fees at £9,000, he said: “Our calculations took full account of both the continuing funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the savings that we will be achieving through greater efficiency.”
There was more league table success for Queen Mary in May, as the College rose 10 places from 46th to 36th in the Guardian’s rankings for 2012. Queen Mary had six subject areas in the top 10: Drama and Dance (9th); Engineering: Materials and Minerals (7th); English (9th); Law (4th); Media Studies, Communications and Librarianship (6th); and Politics (10th).
Universities trigger a foreign student boom, Daily Telegraph, April 2011
Queen Mary in the News 7
It’s not often that Queen Mary gets a mention in Classic Rock or Metal Hammer magazine, but it is not often that heavy metal singers like Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson are awarded with honorary doctorates. The singer, author, champion fencer, pilot, DJ and entrepreneur graduated from QM with a degree in History in 1979. He attended graduation in July this year to receive an honorary doctorate for his contribution to music, resulting in media coverage around the world and a shock photo for fans showing the usually leather-clad front-man in a tie and academic gown and cap.
In August, the Observer profiled a number of young people affected by the summer riots in Hackney. Nancy Adimora, who gained three As at A-level and is now reading Law at Queen Mary said that she felt “no connection” to the young people involved in the unrest: “It’s ridiculous for some to feel they have a right to do these things because we live in these conditions. We’re all part of the same society, but take opportunities in different ways,” she said. Also in August, the East London Advertiser reported that student satisfaction at Queen Mary is five percentage points above the national average, and best amongst the large London universities, according to the National Student Survey. 88 per cent of respondents from Queen Mary said they were satisfied overall with their university experience.
Queen Mary rules in poll of students, East London Advertiser, August 2011
Another distinguished graduate made headlines in the same week. John North appeared in the Evening Standard and the Jewish Chronicle and was named as an ‘inspiration’ by SAGA magazine, a publication for the over 50s, for completing a PhD at the age of 93. Mr North, who was born in the former Bohemia in 1918, told the press that he will not use the title Dr because “at my age it would not be sensible”. He added: “The doctorate is a great honour and achievement. I have no clearly defined plans but will continue research in the area of my expertise.” A PhD in philosophy at 93, London Evening Standard, July 2011
8 Queen Mary in the News
University backs living wage call, East London Advertiser, September 2011
September In September, the East London Advertiser and East End Life reported the news that Queen Mary had become one of six principal partners of the Living Wage Foundation. QM agreed to become the first living wage campus in 2006, bringing cleaning services in-house to ensure social justice and a better service.
Later that month, Queen Mary hosted Researchersâ€™ Night at Mile End and Whitechapel. The building of a Lego Universe, a computer science magic show, and an experiment to track emotions on the micro-blogging site Twitter were just some of the ways for the public to learn about academia and research, Times Higher Education reported. Queen Mary was also shortlisted in two categories for this yearâ€™s Times Higher Education Awards; Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers and Most Improved Student Experience.
Queen Mary in the News 9
You’ll have to give master’s a KIS, Times Higher Education, December 2011
October QM also did well in the Times Higher’s World University Rankings in October. The College was placed at 127th position globally, and equal 17th in the UK out of the 32 UK universities which make it into the top 200. Also in October, Principal Professor Simon Gaskell appeared on BBC’s The One Show, discussing the topic of honorary degrees with presenter Arthur Smith and defending the practice as more than just a publicity stunt. Anna Lautenschlager, Queen Mary’s Deputy Director of Commercial Services showed BBC Inside Out around some of the College’s student accommodation. On a tour of a
10 Queen Mary in the News
mid-range room on campus, Anna commented on the availability of rooms for all price ranges and needs. Compared with some of the luxury student rooms currently available from private developers, QM’s rooms were great value for money.
December At the end of the year Principal Professor Simon Gaskell’s comments on Key Information Sets appeared in Times Higher Education. Speaking at a conference, he warned that universities could be dragged down with bureaucratic processes of “little value” such as mandatory Key Information Sets for master’s degrees, unless they are more open with
postgraduates about course quality. He said that institutions must “get on top of this” and make sure that “really important information is presented to students in advance”. Finally, in December, BMA News Review highlighted Queen Mary’s scholarships for students from lowincome backgrounds. Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary is offering £15,000 a year to high-achieving students from certain London boroughs whose families have a combined income of less than £25,000.
Queen Mary in the News 11
12 Humanities, Social Science and Laws
Humanities and Social Sciences
From the CBI to No11, the nerves are beginning to show, The Observer, January 2011
January In January, Observer columnist William Keegan attended a Mile End Group event featuring Denis Healey, former Secretary of State for Defence and Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking on the theme of “being Chancellor”.
He told the “high-powered audience” that the big problem “was the power of the trade unions, before the block vote was replaced in the 1980s by one person, one vote”.
Humanities, Social Science and Law 13
Professor Tilli Tansey of the School of History appeared on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time in February, discussing the nervous system with other guests and presenter Melvyn Bragg. They spoke about the first discovery of nerves in the human body by scientists over two thousand years ago and how this knowledge has since developed among scholars.
Presenter and economist Tim Harford talked to Dr Francesca Cornaglia in April for BBC Radio 4’s More or Less about her unusual study of why married men seem to be considerably better off than their single peers - a trend known as the Marriage Premium. Dr Cornaglia looked at the wages, marriages and productivity of professional baseball players, with the data going back well over a century.
14 Humanities, Social Science and Laws
London24.com reported on BBC journalist and war correspondent Jeremy Bowen lecturing Queen Mary students to mark the launch of the new Masters course Islam and the West. Dr Tom Asbridge commented that “Jeremy very much has his finger on the pulse of the Middle East... He offers a unique perspective through his well-honed journalistic expertise and background as a published author in the field.”
May In May, Professor Lisa Jardine was one of ten intellectuals who appeared in the Observer to offer their thoughts on Britain’s relationship with its intelligentsia. She questioned whether public opinion in the UK has any respect for intellectuals, arguing that the university fees debate and the removal of funding means that we have little respect for our higher education system, and therefore little respect for academics. The Independent reported the findings of Dr Cathy McIlwaine, whose study found that the size of the Latin American community in London has grown fourfold in the past 10 years and is now comparable to the Polish, Bangladesh and Pakistani population in terms of size. Ahead of the UK’s local elections, the New Statesman looked at Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) role since the start of Scotland’s assembly government. Professor Peter Hennessy observed that “Scotland [continues to] be to the UK what Quebec is to Canada and the UK is to the European Union, the awkward one spewing out a constant drizzle of complaint but never pushing it to the point of rupture.”
Lisa Jardine, Historian, the Observer, May 2011
June With child safety campaigners calling for more to be done by internet providers to stop children accessing adult material, Professor Ian Walden commented on BBC News in June that the government is using a “carrot and stick approach” with the industry - with the stick being that legislation could be brought in if the internet industry does not do enough. To coincide with Dirt, a major exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, Professor Amanda Vickery wrote in BBC History Magazine on the history of filth and our preoccupation with “beating back the slime” over the
centuries. “It seems strange that a people so keen on cleanliness were so unwilling to wash in water,” she notes. “The solution was to change your body linens frequently. A flourish of bright white linen at the neck and sleeve publicised your hygiene.” Professor Stefano Harney was among leading academics to criticise the Government’s approach to spending cuts in a letter to the Observer. The scholars outlined the need for a ‘Plan B’ for growth with such measures as clamping down on tax evasion, job creation and green policies for industry.
Humanities, Social Science and Laws 15
BBC News profiled Dr Jon Davis and John Rentoul’s The Blair Government course in June, interviewing some of its students. They commented on their experience of meeting and questioning the actual politicians and mandarins they had been studying, Blair included. At the end of June, Professor Clair Wills, author of, That Neutral Island, contributed to a Daily Express article on the Curragh in County Kildare, Ireland, a World War II Prisoner of War camp where Allied and Nazi prisoners co-existed “peacefully” due to Ireland’s neutral status. Professor Peter Aldridge commented in the Wall Street Journal on the News of the World phone hacking case. He explained that if News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks was charged after her arrest, she would not be able to give public evidence before a parliamentary committee as it could prejudice the trial.
What is it like to take a course in Blair Studies, BBC News, June 2011
16 Humanities, Social Science and Laws
August In August, Dr Jon Davis wrote in the Observer on the coalition, riots, budget cuts and deficit reduction. Professor Parvati Nair, Professor of Hispanic Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for the Study of Migration, was also interviewed on last summer’s riots by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. She spoke on what the riots meant for future community relations between police and Londoners, particularly in areas where racial tensions have historically run high. Dr Toby Dodge, of the School of Politics, specialises in modern Iraq and has interviewed members of Saddam Hussein’s regime. With critics claiming that The Devil’s Double, a film telling the ‘true’ story of the man who protected Saddam Hussain’s son from assassins, is based on a web of lies, Dr Dodge said that separating fact from fiction in Ba’athist Iraq is notoriously difficult. “The regime had always been shrouded in mythology,” he commented to The Independent.
In the first of a new series of BBC Radio 4’s Making History, presenter Helen Castor visited Bruges with the School of History’s Dr Caroline Bowden, to explore an English convent that was established in 1629 and is still open today. Since 2008, a team at Queen Mary has been studying English convents in exile between 1600 and the nuns’ return to England as a result of violence in the French Revolution. One hundred and fifty years since the start of the American Civil War, Dr Tom Sebrell explained in BBC Knowledge how, through its neutrality, Britain effectively supported the Confederate South and ‘soured’ relations with the US as a result. In the run up to the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks, The School of History’s Dr James Ellison wrote in the same issue on the past, present and future of the ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK, predicting that the relationship will continue.
The School of Geography’s Dr Simon Reid-Henry wrote in the New Statesman on the Norwegian response to Anders Breivik’s shooting spree. He focused on Norway’s vow to “hold one another near” rather than seeking scapegoats, and how other victims of extremism can learn from this example.
Dr James Ellison, BBC Knowledge, August 2011
Dr Tom Sebrell, BBC Knowledge, August 2011
Humanities, Social Science and Laws 17
September Dr Thomas Asbridge nominated the site of the Battle of Hastings for BBC History Magazine’s Top 100 Key Sites from Britain’s History. In a profile of Battle Abbey in East Sussex, Dr Asbridge said: “I love being able to go to places where we can really get a sense of what went on. It adds electricity to being in that place.” Professor Quentin Skinner appeared on Radio 4’s Analysis, presented by philosopher and commentator, Jamie Whyte. The show focused on the theme of civil obedience and why people chose to riot or obey the law. Professor Skinner discussed Thomas Hobbes and his text Leviathan and commented on why people obey, or disobey the law. In the Bangkok Post, Dr Lee Jones was one of more than 100 international scholars to sign a joint letter to the Thai Prime Minister, calling for a review of the Computer Crimes Act 2007. The letter highlights claims of human rights violations in Thailand and the arrest of independent media icon, Chiranuch Premchaiporn. Battle Abbey, BBC History Magazine, September 2011
18 Humanities, Social Science and Laws
Battle of Cable Street, East London Advertiser, October 2011
October Working with the School of Geography’s Dr Bronwyn Parry, artist Ania Dabrowska interviewed and photographed 12 people aged 84 to 100 who had agreed to donate their brains to medical research after death. Their October exhibition at Shoreditch Town Hall, Mind over Matter, featured on the BBC website. It was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and aimed to “demystify the process of brain donation” and highlight the importance of donation for research into dementia.
For the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, Dr Nadia Valman was interviewed by the East London Advertiser and BBC’s The One Show, commenting on the historic day when over 100,000 East Enders stood up to police and British Union of Fascist marchers. Professor Bill Fishman, was a teenager at the time of the Battle and discussed his eyewitness account of the event.
Humanities, Social Science and Laws 19
November In November’s History Today podcast, Professor Colin Jones explored the history of a collection of obscene caricatures of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. Professor Jones also authored The Other Cheek, the cover feature on November’s History Today magazine. The School of Law’s Christopher Brown wrote a column for the Guardian on the difficulty Britain will have in pulling back power from Europe. Some Conservative backbenchers have recently called for the removal of certain law-making powers from EU institutions and the repealing of laws such as the so-called Working Time Directive. Professor Miri Rubin appeared on a BBC2’s History Cold Case programme The Bodies in the Well. The team tried to identify the remains of 17 people discovered in a medieval well in Norwich.
December In December, Professor Amanda Vickery wrote in the Observer and the Radio Times on Jane Austen, to promote her BBC2 programme The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen. She commented on the enduring attraction of Austen’s work, as “each generation have looked for their own reflection in the novels, admiring and rejecting, cutting and pasting as fashion demands”.
20 Humanities, Social Science and Laws
Humanities, Social Science and Laws 21
22 Medicine and Dentistry
Medicine and Dentistry January Research into gigantism, conducted by Professor Marta Korbonits at the William Harvey Research Institute, received widespread media coverage in January. It established the underlying genetic changes behind gigantism and acromegaly (a disorder in which there is too much growth hormone in the body) through DNA examination of an 18th century Irish patient known to have grown to over 7ft tall. The research, published in January in the New England Journal of Medicine, makes early detection and prevention of excessive growth possible. Coverage appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, New Zealand Herald, New York Times, amongst others.
Land of Giants, The Guardian, January 2011
Medicine and Dentistry 23
February In February, significant online news coverage was generated by Dr David Wald’s explanation of a perplexing medical paradox. Taking folic acid a B vitamin - lowers homocysteine in the blood which, evidence indicates, should lower the risk of heart attack. Yet clinical trials of folic acid have not shown this expected benefit. Dr Wald’s explanation was surprisingly simple: since the trials were mainly conducted in patients who had already had a heart attack, participants were widely using aspirin, which itself stops blood clots, so no extra benefit had been gained from lowering homocysteine with folic acid. The story was particularly popular in the Indian press, featuring in the Times of India and other publications. Also in February, a study led by Professor Peter White at the Wolfson Institute gained attention from the Guardian. The controversial study found that exercise therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy were the most effective treatments for people with chronic fatigue syndrome (MS). Schools put on Swine Flu Alert, Daily Mail, January 2011
As flu dominated the headlines in January, Professor John Oxford, Britain’s leading flu expert, appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail warning that cases of swine flu could reach “epidemic levels” before it peaks.
24 Medicine and Dentistry
The findings, published in The Lancet suggests that these treatments should be offered to all who attend hospital if they are suffering from fatigue caused by chronic fatigue syndrome. In the same month, BBC News covered research, led by Professor Jack Cuzick, into a new type of prostate cancer test. The cell cycle progression test indicates which men suffering from prostate cancer need to receive the most aggressive treatment.
March The Telegraph featured a warning from Queen Mary academics in March that plans to reform the NHS would create a free market in health similar to the system in the US, where GPs may profit from rationing services. Professor Allyson Pollock and David Price’s paper, published in the BMJ, states that the proposal “amounts to the abolition of the English NHS as a universal, comprehensive, publicly accountable, tax funded service, free at the point of delivery”. They also said that the government “has repealed the health secretary’s duty to provide or secure the provision of comprehensive care” to create a commercial market in care.
Professor Allyson Pollock
Reforms ‘will kill NHS’, Telegraph, March 2011
Medicine and Dentistry 25
The remains of Joseph Merrick – aka the elephant man – were brought to life in a Discovery Channel documentary that was shown in March. The programme makers worked closely with staff at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, where Merrick’s remains are held, using new scanning techniques to study the skeleton and understand his medical condition.
Meet the Elephant Man, Discovery Chanel, March 2011
In April, BBC News reported that laboratory tests on mice have shown that inhaling a protein to boost the immune system could help in the fight against flu. Scientists from the US conducted tests using the granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) protein with positive results. Dr John Oxford was asked to comment and while he described the research as “cutting edge”, he was hesitant about the effects the protein will have on the human immune system. He said that “it could also help our understanding of the pathology of flu.”
A study led by Professor Sir Nicholas Wald at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine received widespread coverage in May, appearing in the Daily Mail and BBC News. He claimed that over 100,000 heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if medication is offered to everyone aged over 55. On the study, which was published in open access journal PLoS ONE, Professor Sir Wald said: “Identifying people at high risk of cardiovascular disease needs to be greatly simplified, enabling people to obtain easy access to preventive treatment from nurses and pharmacists as well as from doctors.”
26 Medicine and Dentistry
Study calls for all over 55 to offered heart drugs, BBC News, April 2011
June In June, the Chicago Tribune was just one of many publications to cover a study led by Professor Stephen Duffy into the success of mammograms in preventing death from breast cancer. The longest study into breast cancer screening ever conducted showed that regular mammograms prevent deaths and increase the number of lives saved over time. The study of 130,000 Swedish women began 29 years ago and was published in the journal Radiology this year. Professor Duffy recommended that women aged 40 to 54 should be screened every 18 months with women 55 and older screened every two years. Dr Douglas Noble’s comments on the outbreak of “an entirely new supertoxic” strain of E.coli appeared in the media in June. “The UK has, in recent years, been very strong in its response to such threats to human health, and this episode particularly highlights the need for a joined-up public health response across Europe,” he said in the Daily Mail.
July The Daily Mirror featured the discovery that Vitamin A, found in vegetables such as broccoli and carrots, could treat pancreatic cancer. Research has shown that injecting Vitamin A into healthy cells surrounding the cancer can help beat it. Dr Kocher, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Barts Cancer Institute, commented in the July article: “We found that paying attention to the non-cancerous tissues surrounding the cancer is as important as focusing on the cancer. It’s a significant milestone in the battle against this disease.”
August In August NICE published updated guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension). They were developed in conjunction with the British Hypertension Society – whose President, Professor Mark Caulfield, Director of the William Harvey Research Institute, is an expert member of the Guideline Development
Broccoli could be key to the treatment of pancreatic cancer, Mirror, July 2011
Group. It made a number of new recommendations that are set to significantly improve the way health professionals diagnose and treat high blood pressure in the NHS in England and Wales. Coverage was widespread, with the guidelines appearing in, amongst others, the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and the BBC News website.
Medicine and Dentistry 27
September In September, Dr Ramona Scotland’s research into the immune system received widespread interest when her team discovered that men really do suffer more than women when they are ill. They found that male immune systems are less effective in mice at fighting off infection. Dr Scotland told the Express: “[Male mice] didn’t release as many of the chemicals that stimulate the immune system response. It’s the release of these mediators that makes you feel lousy when you’re fighting off an infection”. She added: “Man flu is a bit of a joke but from what I’m seeing there is a real difference.” Also in September, Professor Allyson Pollock said that there is an urgent need to inform children, parents and coaches about the risks involved in playing rugby. Her research found that the chance of a school-aged rugby player being injured in a season was between 12 and 90 per cent. Coverage appeared in the Telegraph, Times Higher, Pick Me Up, The Scotsman, and other publications.
October Professor Wagner Marcenes was quoted in an article in The Independent in October, about an undercover investigation that “exposed poor quality assessments, inadequate examinations and treatment plans among NHS and private dentists.” In reference to these findings Professor Marcenes stated that the government’s new NHS contract for dentists may help rectify this problem: “The new contract will contribute favourably as dentists will be rewarded for prevention, patient satisfaction, quality of treatments and improvements in oral health,” he said.
28 Medicine and Dentistry
Why it’s women who are the stronger sex, Daily Mail, October 2011
In October, The Times, Metro, Sun and Evening Standard were amongst newspapers who reported the findings of Dr Shakila Thangaratinam’s research into the misdiagnosis of miscarriage in early pregnancy. The current ultrasound test to diagnose miscarriage in early pregnancy is based on limited evidence, raising questions about its reliability, found the research team. In the same month, QM scientists led by Professor David Kelsell at the Blizard Institute, released news of their investigation into the genetic cause of
a rare skin and bowel disease. The research team found the fault to be in an important gene called ADAM17, known to be involved in inflammatory conditions of the skin and bowel, and in cancer. This unexpected find was highlighted in The Times and has opened major new possibilities for treating serious diseases such as cancer.
November At the start of November, a study published in The Lancet and covered by Reuters and news websites across the world showed that do-it-yourself screening for cervical cancer could help prevent the disease in thousands of women who, for a number of reasons, cannot have a smear test. The study was led by Professor Attila Lorincz from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at QM.
December In the same week, GP’s receptionists were hailed as heroes by the Daily Mail and other media, as research from Queen Mary showed they played a ‘hidden’ role in ensuring patients got the right treatment promptly and efficiently. The study, led by Dr Deborah Swinglehurst, found that receptionists were vital in processing repeat prescriptions and resolving complex queries quickly.
In December, the Guardian was among those highlighting the research of Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Queen Mary. His study showed that lifestyle choices, such as cutting down on alcohol and unhealthy food, could reduce the chances of getting cancer by around 40 per cent. Birth defects affect one baby in 50, which is twice as many as thought, said a report by Professor Joan Morris of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in December. The findings were covered by the Telegraph, Independent and other media. Professor Morris was quick to point out that researchers do not think defects are becoming more common- the apparent rise is down to better data collection in some regions.
Receptionists ‘key’ to safe repeat prescription process, BBC News, November 2011
Medicine and Dentistry 29
30 Science and Engineering
Science and Engineering January Working at the River Laboratory in Dorset, a team led by Dr Genoveva Esteban from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, discovered more than 100 new species in the East Stoke Fen nature reserve. The
discovery of the microscopic pond organisms was reported in Environment Times, Nature and Metro, which succinctly headlined the story â€œDirty pond holds new organismâ€?. Dirty pond holds new organism, Metro, January 2011
Science and Engineering 31
Dr Dan Stowell from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science was interviewed by BBC World Service in January about digitising the human voice. He explained how he was able to visually map vocal sounds in his studio and that he beat-boxes in order to help ‘teach’ his computer programme about different kinds of sounds.
The January edition of The Engineer highlighted The Centre for Digital Music’s new software that gives drummers the ability to speed up and slow down the pace of preprogrammed music. The B-Keeper software allows musicians to add more “feel” and spontaneity to their performances.
Music is set for a change of beat, The Engineer, January 2011
32 Science and Engineering
February In a story about a series of lectures at the Royal Institution featured in the Evening Standard in February, scientists discussed how people will become more emotionally attached to robots in the future. The article mentioned that Queen Mary was one of many universities around the world developing robots that can respond to a person’s mood. Later in the month, a Daily Telegraph investigation in association with scientists at Queen Mary found that half of all chickens sold in supermarkets contain harmful bacteria on the external packaging. In the article, lead researcher Dr Ron Cutler from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences said: “People should be aware that if you have raw meat, then just handling it in its packaging may not be as safe as thought previously. It’s not just as easy as picking up a packet of cornflakes. The raw meat packaging is a potential source of infection.”
Food poisoning risk of handling packs of supermarket chicken, Daily Telegraph, February 2011
Science and Engineering 33
March In March, Dr Magda Osman from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences was interviewed by United Press International and the Voice of America about the psychological effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on survivors. She said that when disasters happen, there is often a large increase in mental health problems among those affected as it threatens their sense of control in the world. “Our sense of control is like a mental engine, it’s like an adaptive driving force that helps us stay motivated,” Dr Osman said. “When bad, unpredictable events happen we don’t feel we have any effect over anything and this is when we start to lose self esteem.”
May In a story on the BBC News website in May, Dr Elodie Briefer and Dr Alan McElligott talked about their research into how goats recognise their kids’ voices. The scientists, based in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, played recordings of kids’ bleats to female goats and studied their responses. “A mother and kid rely a lot on smell to recognise one another and, in the wild, during the first week of their lives, the animals hide in vegetation and don’t call much. It’s a strategy they use to avoid predators,” Dr Briefer explained to BBC News. “The mothers call to the kids when they want them to come and feed, so we expected that kids would recognise the mothers’ voices, but not vice versa.”
34 Science and Engineering
Kids recognise their kids’ voices, BBC News, May 2011
June The One Show made one of many trips to Queen Mary in May to interview Dr Fariborz Motallebi from the School of Electronic Engineering and Materials Science about how volcanic ash affects jet engines. The story was prompted by the eruption of Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano which caused volcanic ash to drift across to the UK and resulted in widespread disruption of air traffic.
Elements of the photosynthesis process should be adapted to create better use of solar technology, said Professor Alexander Ruban of the School of Biological and Chemical Science, in an article on Mother Nature Network online. “If we can somehow harness the capabilities of this magnificent mechanism and adapt these findings for the benefit of solar energy, our fight against climate change could become a whole lot easier,” he said. Professor Ruban’s study was published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Take a beeline? Not a chance with these bees, Daily Mail, June 2011
Queen Mary’s bees were also in the spotlight in June, when the work of Professor Lars Chittka and Dr Mathieu Lihoreau from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences appeared in the Daily Mail. Later in the year they spoke to the New Scientist, National Geographic and other publications. Despite “having a brain the size of a poppy seed,” bees can “solve a fiendish navigational problem that modern supercomputers struggle to crack”. The team found that bees try to fly in straight lines as much as possible, which would naturally lead them to take a roughly circular route around a flower field, rather than zig-zagging around in the centre.
Dr Qazi Rahman’s research about sexual orientation originating from birth rather than being a result of choice was featured in The Independent and other publications in June. Dr Rahman, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, found that there are neurological differences between gay and straight men and women. His research found that gay men and heterosexual women share a poor sense of direction, whereas heterosexual males stick stubbornly to the map.
Science and Engineering 35
July A study led by Dr Steve Le Comber from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences featured in BBC Focus Magazine and other publications in July. Research from the international team of scientists showed that geographic profiling (a statistical technique that uses the location of a crime to identify where a criminal may live and work) could be used to show the starting point of infections, such as the 1854 London cholera outbreak or a recent malarial outbreak in Cairo. Also in July, Dr Craig Agnor from the School of Physics and Astronomy spoke to Chemistry World about the discovery that Mars stopped growing two to four million years after the solar system formed, while other planets in the solar system continued to grow. Later that month, the BBC announced the launch of a five-year collaboration with world-leading academic researchers in audio research, including a team from Queen Mary.
Disease goes on the map, BBC Focus Magazine, July 2011
Augmented reality system gives you a new face, New Scientist, August 2011
36 Science and Engineering
The research will be shared with the industry and enable innovations like the recently launched HD audio and Radio Player. Professor Peter McOwan, Vice Principal for Public Engagement, spoke to a range of national media in July (including the BBC and the Daily Express), about his research into facial recognition technology. He told BBC News: “By understanding our expressions and being able to make meaningful expressions back, this new socially aware technology will make it possible to fit robots into our daily lives in the future.”
August In the New Scientist, Professor Ebroul Izquierdo and Vlado Kitanovski from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science debuted an ‘augmented reality mirror’ that lets you change the way you look by altering features. It is hoped the tool could be used as a visual aid for plastic surgery and as a smartphone app.
September In September the work of Dr Andrew Hirst appeared in the New Scientist. His research into copepods (small, freshwater crustaceans) found that as temperatures rise, copepods get heavier faster but they also get to adulthood quicker, so their quick growth ends at a young age. As a result, the warmer crustaceans are smaller. Dr Hirst believes that evolution favours organisms that are flexible in how fast they mature to adulthood as it increases their chances of reproducing before they are killed.
Why the warming climate makes animals smaller, New Scientist, September 2011
Science and Engineering 37
38 Science and Engineering
October In October, Professor Norman Fenton from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science spoke to the Guardian about his work as an expert witness in court cases. He uses the statistical tool Bayes’ theorem to calculate the odds of one event happening given the odds of other related events. Judges have shown hostility toward continuing to use the formulae. Forensic experts have expressed concern that miscarriages of justice will occur as a result. “The impact will be quite shattering,” says Professor Fenton.
Formula for Justice, The Guardian, October 2011
Science and Engineering 39
One in six mobile phones contain E coli, the Guardian, October 2011
Later in October, Dr Ron Cutler from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences led a national press campaign for Global Handwashing Day, revealing that one in six UK mobile phones is contaminated with E coli - bacteria of faecal origin. His research revealed that people may be lying about their hygiene
40 Science and Engineering
habits, as 95 per cent of people said they regularly washed their hands with soap but 92 per cent of phones and 82 per cent of hands had bacteria on them. Coverage of the study appeared in the Guardian, Daily Express, BBC, Daily Mail and other national and international publications.
November There was great relief in November, when Emeritus Professor Iwan Williams from the School of Physics and Astronomy talked to Channel 4 News and the Metro about the 400m wide asteroid which passed by Earth. He compared our planet to a car going around the M25 on its own and an asteroid is a pedestrian who might step out. He believes that smaller asteroids are of more concern, commenting: â€œThey will do more damage and are more frequent. These big ones that are meant to cause the end of the world.. never going to happen.â€?
Close encounters of the rocky kind, Metro, November 2011
Science and Engineering 41
December Dr Kostya Trachenko from the School of Physics and Astronomy spoke to Metro in December about his belief that glass is neither a liquid nor solid, but a sort of inbetween state known as an ‘amorphous solid’. Dr Trachenko’s research shows that glass might be a fast flowing liquid at high temperatures but at low temperatures it is still a liquid, albeit a very slow flowing one. Just before Christmas, Hamley’s toy shop scrapped its separate floors for boys and girls toys. Guardian columnist Polly Curtis interviewed Dr Qazi Rahman about whether colour and toy preferences are dictated by nature or nurture. Dr Rahman said: “I think the literature is erring on the side of no robust sex differences in either adults or children. However, there are sex differences in other types of cognitive abilities and psychological behaviours like engaging in roughand-tumble play, certain types of spatial skills (but not all), and play preferences for objects with moving parts versus those that indicate some kind of individual (eg crudely - trucks versus dolls).”
42 Science and Engineering
Glass: the laziest liquid of them all?, Metro, December 2011
Science and Engineering 43
Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS