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Winter 2011

Queen Mary Student

Staying on Campus over Christmas? Although the College will be closed from 23 December to 2 January, events and activities will take place for students staying on campus during the holidays. Any student may purchase a £5 campus events package, which includes a midnight mass at St Benet’s Chapel followed by a mince pie and mulled wine party on Christmas Eve, and carols, buffets, gifts and films on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For more information on the Christmas on Campus events package and general information about campus services during the holidays, please see the Advice & Counselling website: 60270.html

Principal Meets with Students

Professor Simon Gaskell, Principal of Queen Mary, met with approximately 35 students for a question and answer session on 24 October to cover issues including the upcoming hike in tuition fees, IT upgrades, library improvements, attendance at guest lectures, class timetabling and UCL Partners. Professor Gaskell kicked off the event by providing general comments about ‘where we are’, highlighting that QM, like all other higher education institutions, is experiencing funding cuts and is therefore on the verge of a tuition fees increase from September 2012. He acknowledged that students from poorer backgrounds will struggle to afford attending university, but that Queen Mary is combating this issue by offering bursaries and scholarship packages which are ‘more generous’ than those available at other universities. In regards to how the College is investing in improvements, the Principal explained that £20 million is going into updating IT infrastructure. He also referred to the recent library refurbishment, which provoked one student into asking how actual library

services have been improved, arguing there was a lack of books available for his course. Professor Gaskell answered that there is currently a discussion about increasing the expenditure of library books, that the amount was yet to be agreed, but that it will be at least the average library book expenditure of other 1994 Group universities. He also reminded students that they have access to Senate House and other libraries in London, and to take advantage of this privilege.

that he missed some crucial first classes, as he was unable to determine when or where they were being held. Students in other schools in the College are having the same problem, and Professor Gaskell replied that the system used to allocate teaching rooms and make student timetables was in need of improvement, that the issue is being addressed, but that students should continue to register their complaints on the matter with their respective course representatives.

Student participation in campus services and events was another topic raised by the Principal. This past summer, Professor Gaskell met with alumni in China who fed back that they would have liked to have received more careers advice whilst students, so he encourages all students to use the College’s Career Services. Furthermore, the Principal wants more students and staff to attend on-campus presentations by guest lecturers, even if they are not speaking directly about their subject, saying that he benefited from studying a humanities module along with his chemistry degree. A student reported that the College does not adequately advertise such events to students, and Professor Gaskell said that ‘we need to be a bit more proactive in getting the word out’.

Professor Gaskell closed the event by discussing the newly-established UCL Partners and how it will benefit students and QM He discussed the origins of the coalition in 2006, stated that we are an equal partner with equal influence and that the partnership will greatly increase access to resources and provides more hospitals in other areas of London in which to Barts & The London medical students can practise.

Late deliveries of timetables by some schools’ administrators is of great concern to many of this year’s students, and one from English & Drama complained of his timetable being made available so late in the first week of term

• Who are my Course Reps? • What do they do? • How can I contact them? Key contacts: Careers Services – Libraries – UCL Partners – Podcast – echo/presentation/d843fb00-fc5c-413181c7-0e6d350dbdfe/media.mp3

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you

Developing your Graduate Attributes at Queen Mary Queen Mary, University of London wants you to make the most of your student experience. To help you achieve this, we want to help you to identify the opportunities to develop your Graduate Attributes. The Queen Mary Graduate Attributes are the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours that you have the opportunity to develop during your degree, reflecting Queen Mary’s distinctive features - our location in the heart of East London, the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of our campus learning environment, the diverse and cosmopolitan profile of our student body and our well-established reputation for the high quality of our research, teaching and community involvement. The Queen Mary Statement of Graduate Attributes identifies 32 attributes grouped into seven themes that are designed to help you build your unique Graduate Attributes Profile by: • giving you a framework to think about your student journey at Queen Mary • encouraging you to reflect on your academic and personal development • enhancing your capability to fulfil your social responsibilities as a global citizen in a complex and changing world • enhancing your understanding of what employers expect of you You will have to take an active role in developing your individual Graduate Attributes Profile – you can do this by: • Fully engaging in your degree programme – make sure you identify where opportunities for developing your Graduate Attributes occur in your programme and fully participate in these learning activities • Taking advantage of the vast range of learning opportunities available to you during your time at Queen Mary, such

as volunteering, peer mentoring, sports teams and societies, work experience, enterprise education and entrepreneurship activities. • Signing up for an award or certificate designed to ensure that you reflect on your learning, monitor your progress and gain the most from the rich educational, cultural and social experience Queen Mary provides. • Be active in your career decision-making and make sure you participate in the Careers Programmes and activities offered by your School and by the University. • You can further enhance your development by recording and reflecting upon your engagement in these activities through your Personal Development Planning and academic advising sessions.

You’ll find more information, strategies, hints and tips on developing your Graduate Attributes Profile on your School website and on Mind the GAP – the Graduate Attributes and Employability site for all students at Queen Mary

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you

News Concerns For Somebody – recognising the signs of early mental distress It is more common than one may think to suffer or know someone who suffers from some form of emotional or mental distress during one’s lifetime.

International Student Barometer The International Student Barometer (ISB) is a twice yearly survey which gauges the satisfaction of international students with four different aspects of their student experience: learning, living, support and arrival. Of the 4,500 international students at Queen Mary 784 took part in the survey over the Summer; Queen Mary was one of 96 universities that participated in the study which looked at international student satisfaction in universities from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy and across Scandinavia.

Higher Education in a New Era: 11 January 2012 Principal Simon Gaskell and Vice Principal Susan Dilly invite you to the annual Teaching and Learning Conference. This afternoon event has been specially designed for staff and students to directly engage with the pressing issues of the day, participate in discussions that will contribute to strategy development and help keep QM on our upward trajectory. Filled with opportunities for discussion with people from across the College, this is an invaluable opportunity for anyone with a passion for their subject and for learning and an interest in higher education and shaping the future of QM. With concise, informative summaries of the key changes, opportunities and examples of best practice, this is an interactive and stimulating way to explore what this means for you, your subject, QM, higher education and beyond. The Principal, Professor Simon Gaskell will give a key note speech on this new era for postgraduate education, so don’t miss this important event. Register now online. Wednesday, 11 January 2012 from 1pm to 6pm. Register or find out more online now:

Mental distress describes a range of experiences which impact on an individuals day to day life. • Sleeping and eating patterns may get disrupted • Behaviour becomes erratic • Moods appear volatile • There may be a noticeable withdrawal from social contact • Self harm is often another aspect and manifestation of mental distress, as can be the heavy use of alcohol or street drugs. There are many life events that can contribute to the onset of mental distress. Changes in familiar and safe surroundings, such as coming to University can be a trigger, as can the more common causes of suffering the death of a loved one or the breakdown of a significant relationship. Sometimes mental distress can be linked back to earlier traumas in one’s life that have been evoked by the anxiety of the current trigger. Whatever the cause, it is the management of the current situation that assists the outcome, positively or negatively. Recognising the early signs of mental distress can help minimise the severity of a person’s suffering and its detrimental effect if it occurs. People often try to hide or disguise difficult feelings fearing the worst, so if becoming a student has evoked overwhelming personal and emotional

challenges, these feelings may be apparent in some of the behaviours mentioned above. The behaviour of someone experiencing such difficulties may be unnerving to witness and challenging to respond to, particularly if the person is fearful of being judged or loosing friends or their independence. When someone behaves in such a manner it is vital to be sensitive and supportive, holding in mind that there is a wealth of expert help within the university that is easily accessible. Counselling can be helpful for all kinds of difficulties whether you are dealing with something quite serious as outlined above or something that is interfering with your usual ability to study. Even if you do not know what the problem is, but you are finding life difficult to cope with or know someone that is, talking to a qualified counsellor can be helpful. The Advice and Counselling Service offer a range of specialist, confidential and free support for all students at Queen Mary. Our aim is to support students to achieve their academic potential and have a rounded student experience, by helping manage any personal, emotional, financial, legal or welfare issues that may arise whilst studying here. For further information access our website

QM Careers No matter what year you are in, you should start thinking about your plans after you finish your course. One of the many things we do at QM Careers is run a range of events to help you achieve success at every stage of recruitment from application to interview. Visit or follow us on Facebook at QMCareers for registration details and to find out about the full range of things we do.

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you


Go Away!

Queen Mary is getting serious about sustainability and wants you to get involved by emailing your environmentally friendly ideas to In the meantime, here’s a taster of some incredibly easy ways to make a difference: Recycle your batteries Even though most of our portable power is now rechargeable, it’s still important to take care when throwing out used batteries.

The College's International Exchange Programme gives undergraduate students the opportunity to spend a year or semester at one of our partner institutions in Australia, Korea, Singapore and the USA. The opportunity is open to current first year students to spend all or part of their second year overseas, students on four year degrees can go in either the second or third years of their degree. Students in all academic disciplines except Law, Medicine and Dentistry can apply. The academic work you complete abroad will be credited towards your Queen Mary degree. You will continue to pay tuition fees to Queen Mary while you are away (half the annual fee if you are away for a year but the full annual fee if you are away for a semester) but you will not have to pay the host institution's tuition fees. If you are interested in this opportunity please go to our website where you will find more info on our partners and the application and selection process. exchange/index.html Apply by 14 January for all host institutions besides the University of California. For full details of the programme please see: /exchange/index.html

Here’s where you’ll find battery recycling stations: • France House, residences reception

• IT Helpdesk

• Stock’s Court

• Floyer House, Whitechapel

• Estates Projects Office

• Dawson Hall, Charterhouse Square

• Estates Maintenance Office And here’s why you should use them: batteries collected here are sent to a certified recycling facility, where recyclable materials like plastic and metals can be used again, keeping heavy metals out of landfills and the air.

Make a choice for sustainability Think twice before pressing print. With WiFi provided everywhere from The Curve to the library, why not read that article on your laptop? Avoid unnecessary photocopying by passing on old copies to your classmates. After all, this way your print credit fund won’t need such regular topping up… Window shopping could benefit the environment. If you constantly find yourself reaching for the same brand, spend a little extra time perusing the aisles for an alternative product that uses less packaging. Make a trip to the pound shop to stock up on lunchboxes and you could end up saving yourself money, on top of helping the environment. If you don’t have time to pack a lunch every morning, you can still use your own container when you buy it on campus.

Litter and recycling Did you know that any general waste amongst the recycling means everything has to be sent to the landfill? At Mile End and Whitechapel, put your recycling in the pink bins. At Charterhouse Square, the black bins are for recycling.

If you spot litter or waste around campus, make sure to contact the Estates helpdesk before it pollutes the environment or harms local wildlife: email: Tel: 020 7882 2580

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you


Improving Student life over the next three years – The Queen Mary IT Strategic plan Over the next three years, IT Services will be implementing new tools and improved ways of working. As valued ‘customers’, you will be given full support from a single point. Improved learning tools, modern communications and networking products will be made available and become our new learning culture. How will your day to day life change and improve? IT Services plan to give you: • Active Directory • Improved timetabling • Virtual Learning Environment • Access to the Queen Mary network via any device, anytime, anywhere.

Student Mentoring and Tutoring Opportunities in Local Schools Are you interested in earning some money by helping pupils in local schools reach their full potential? Would you like to gain some valuable work experience to enhance your CV? If so, then the Education Liaison Office has a number of paid opportunities for students to work as mentors and tutors over the coming academic year. The work is flexible and designed to fit around your academic studies. For more information on these opportunities, please contact Roisin Hurst, Education Liaison Office (Room E107), Queens’ Building or email her at

Some tools will be available sooner than others. Please refer to the IT Strategy plan to see what is in the plan for the next three years. Want to know more? – To view the Queen Mary IT Strategy plan for 20112015 and other useful information, visit For further IT Services and Support please go to: services.shtml If you have any problems, visit the Library Help Zone or Welcome Desk, where a member of staff will help you.

WiFi (Wireless Internet Access) is available across all three sites and throughout the majority of Student residences. Using the service is simple. When you launch your web browser, you will automatically be taken to the main Queen Mary pages and can browse these freely. However, when you attempt to browse outside the main site you'll be asked to authenticate. This means you'll be asked for your Student Services / IMAP username and password. Once you have correctly entered these, you must agree to the terms and conditions displayed. Then simply select 'Full Internet Access' and click connect. Please note that there is no access to the wireless network for NHS staff. Getting Started: Information on how to access and use the College Wireless Network can be found at:



HOST is a voluntary organisation, a nation-wide group of UK residents who welcome adult international students to their homes for a weekend visit. By taking part in a HOST visit you are not only given the opportunity of visiting other parts of the UK, your host family will make you a part of their own way of life for a weekend. There is no better way to find out more about the real life of this country- sharing meals together, eating home-cooked food, chatting, asking questions and cultural exchange. You will see life in a private home and in a local community; you will make new friends; and be an ambassador for your own country. HOST visits are free, and QMUL cover the administration fee. The only costs would be return travel to the home of your HOST family.

International Students House (ISH) is a social and cultural centre in London. QM pays the membership for our students, saving you £20. ISH is near Regents Park, a beautiful royal park in central London. The nearest tube station is Great Portland Street on the Metropolitan line, Circle, or Hammersmith and City line.

If you are interested in applying please click on the following link:

ISH offers free karaoke (Thursdays), jazz sessions (one Monday a month), a Pub Quiz every Tuesday and a disco every Friday. They also offer educational events such as language classes and lectures. For information about events and activities at ISH, including information about the ISH Travel Club, please visit the following website

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you


Queen Mary Library Resources Need help with resources for your subject? The Library's team of Academic Liaison Librarians have specialised knowledge of subject-related library resources and offer training in a variety of skills to support your learning. You should have met your Academic Liaison Librarian at an induction or training session in your first few weeks at Queen Mary, but you can contact them direct with enquiries at any time throughout your studies. More information about who they are and the support they provide is available on the subject web pages at Reading Lists Online now live! Reading Lists Online lets you look up your course reading lists by name or module code, and from the lists connect to the Library Catalogue to find book locations, or click directly into full text journal articles, web pages or other electronic resources. So far there are only about 200 lists on the system, so you may not find yours yet. We are working on a vigorous roll-out project and lists are being added constantly. Are you looking for… • Books from your reading lists? • Books about study skills? • Books you have reserved? • DVDs and CDs

All these can be found in the Teaching Collection on the ground floor of the Mile End Library. The Library now has a facebook page – come and join us at for regular news, updates and info. Looking for a Student Services PC on campus? As well as the PCs on the ground and first floors of the Library, there are lots of other PC labs around campus. The PC availability tool on the big screen outside the Library entrance, or online at , tells you in real time how many PCs are free in each location. Literature Search Skills for medical and dental students The medical libraries run drop-in Literature Search Skills sessions at Whitechapel Library on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm, open to anyone wishing to improve their information skills including students in the healthcare professions.

appraisal, negotiating NHS Evidence or simplifying referencing using EndNote Web. New Archives catalogue The Archives Catalogue is now available! The Archives Catalogue contains over 3000 descriptions of original records held in the Archives. The Archives collections document the rich history of the College, and provide vital evidence for research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The collections are available for consultation in the Archives Reading Room on the 2nd Floor of Mile End Library. To find out more about the Archives and to access the Catalogue see our webpages: Contact us by email at or by telephone on 020 7882 3873. Apps for databases and journals Find apps in the apps store for fast access to your favourite journals including BMJ, Science Direct, Business Source and PsychArticles on your phone or tablet.

Sessions are also held once a month at West Smithfield Library. The next two are 15 December and 19 January

Other library resources have mobile friendly interfaces. Check out IEEE Explore, JSTOR, PubMed and Annual Reviews

The sessions can cover anything to do with search skills to suit your needs, but might include guidance on searching Medline using PubMed, tackling critical

And watch out for QR codes you can scan on your mobile to link to content that would have previously required a desktop or laptop computer.

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you


Money Matters Running out of money? Some tips from the Advice and Counselling Service (ACS) Work during the Christmas vacation Working over the three week Christmas vacation can be a useful source of extra income as well as providing you with valuable work experience. If you already have a job, perhaps your employer could offer you some extra hours during the vacation. If you don’t yet have a job and are looking for one, see below. How can I find work? Read the Finding Jobs section of the Advice and Counselling Service Part-Time and Vacation Work leaflet: ptwork See QM Careers Service information on part-time and vacation work: http://jobonline.thecareers The QM Careers Service can also help with CV writing and interview skills. How much could I potentially earn before tax and national insurance? If you are 18-20 the national minimum wage (the minimum amount that an employer can legally pay you) is £4.98 per hour. So if you worked 35 hours a week for three weeks you could earn £522.90. If you are 21 or over the national minimum wage is £6.08 per hour so if you worked 35 hours a week for three weeks you could earn £638.40. However many employers pay more than the national minimum wage. Do I need to pay tax and national insurance on my earnings? This depends on how much you earn, and on whether you only work during vacations. For more information see the Advice and Counselling Service leaflet, Part-Time and Vacation Work: money/ptwork

Apply for a non-repayable grant from the Access to Learning Fund (ALF) Undergraduates You can apply to the ALF if you have taken your maximum Maintenance Loan entitlement for this academic year and you are in financial hardship. Postgraduates You can apply to ALF if you can show you have most of your funding in place but need a little extra financial help. How do I apply? Collect an ALF application form from the Advice and Counselling Service Reception, ground floor, Geography Building, the Bursaries, Grants and Scholarships Office (CB2, Queen’s Building, Mile End), the Student Office (ground floor, Garrod Building, Whitechapel) or download one from How long will the application take to process? Applications are assessed weekly so you will usually have a decision within two weeks of applying, and payment is usually the week after that if you are eligible for an award. (This process will take longer during the College Christmas vacation period).

Increase your student overdraft limit If you think you are going to need money over the vacation, and if you have a student bank account, you could ask your bank if you can increase your interest free overdraft for a limited period even if they will not agree to increase it long term. However, if your bank do only offer this for a limited period, you need to be aware that you will have to find money to put into the account to bring the overdraft balance back down on the date set by the bank.

Plan a budget and stick to it The Advice and Counselling Service leaflet Managing your budget and cutting costs helps you to plan your own personal budget, and also gives you valuable tips on how to stick it. See ets/budgeting/5065.pdf

Council Tax exemption Most full-time students are not liable to pay Council Tax. Read the Advice & Counselling Service leaflet for more info To claim an exemption, you must prove your full-time student status to your Local Authority in each academic year. Send them a Council Tax exemption certificate which you can get from Registry (Queens’ CB5), or the Research Degrees Office (Queens’ E15) (unless you are a writing up student – please read the leaflet above) or the Student Office at Whitechapel for Medical and Dental students. Do you need further advice? You can find out more about the Advice and Counselling Service and how we can help you at To contact us, you can: • email us via our website • call us on 020 7882 8717 • visit our Reception on the ground floor of the Geography building, Mile End You can follow the Advice and Counselling Service on: Twitter: @QMUL_ACS Facebook:

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you

Comment Urgent need for research in the diagnosis of miscarriage The current ultrasound test to diagnose miscarriage in early pregnancy is based on limited evidence, raising questions about its reliability, according to a new paper published by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London. The researchers say that there is an urgent need to conduct a large-scale study for us to be confident that diagnosis of miscarriage is correct in every case using the ultrasound measurements. When a miscarriage is suspected, the standard test is an ultrasound scan to look for the presence of an embryo in the pregnancy sac, to measure the length of the embryo and look for signs of heartbeat. Doctors may also look at symptoms such as bleeding and may test women’s blood for levels of pregnancy hormones. If a miscarriage is confirmed the woman and her doctor can choose to wait and let the miscarriage progress naturally, or choose a medical or surgical intervention to speed up the process, and for that reason, accuracy is vital. The paper examined all relevant evidence on the diagnosis of miscarriage using an ultrasound scan. For the first time, the researchers assessed the quality of each study and collated the results. They found that the studies were very few, conducted more than a decade ago and involved a small number of women. The results highlighted gaps in the current evidence and raised questions about the reliability of the test in diagnosing miscarriage. Dr Shakila Thangaratinam, Senior Clinical Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, led the study. She said: “When we’re testing to see if someone has a healthy pregnancy or not, we want to be absolutely confident that the test is reliable to avoid making a misdiagnosis. Our paper raises concerns about the gaps in evidence. “We need to prioritise this area of research and do a large, good quality study so that we can be confident that ultrasound scans are highly accurate in diagnosing miscarriage. Until then, there is a need to review the existing guidelines and for women and their doctors to take a cautious approach until miscarriage is confirmed beyond doubt.”

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you

News Students Receive Entrepreneurship Awards

Ten students were awarded QM Student Entrepreneurship Prizes on 16 November at Café Marche on the Mile End campus to mark Global Entrepreneurship Week. Each winner was awarded £1,500 to develop his or her business, some of which are rooted in their academic research. Two History PhD candidates, Alycen Mitchell and Marie Wittman, were among the winners. Mitchell will use the funding to develop an ‘auction tool box’ which will enable art investors to compare auction services while Wittman will create health education services in London.

Qi Xiang Leong, an Economics undergraduate, will attempt to create an affordable tutorial service for families on low budgets. Tutors working for this service will be undergraduates with high marks and, preferably, academic scholarships, guaranteeing a quality service.

Two students will use the funding to help set up magazines. Eric Orlowski, a Geography undergraduate, will pursue publishing Executive Magazine, which will include articles on current affairs, business & economics, electronics, and other popular topics. Maths undergrads Shahed Ahmed and Malita Munyenyembe will create SMag (Student Magazine), covering issues surrounding employment, fashion and sport.

Postgraduate Law student Sam Amrani, who also earned a BA in History at QM in 2010, will use the funds to further develop KACE London, an executive corporation which makes mobile phone and laptop cases.

Psychology undergraduate Jonathon MacCarthy will use the award to start up Inspire Studios. In addition to being a recording venue, it will serve as a music school for those wishing to pick up instruments including guitar, drums, piano, violin and saxophone. Undergraduate Nikita Viki Patel of the School of Business & Management wishes to create an Indian ice candy business, ‘Gola’, serving the traditional dessert of that name in areas of London with large Asian populations.

Engineering undergraduate Sandeep Ahluwalia will use the grant to further enhance Queen Mary Entrepreneurs, which hosts presentations by entrepreneurs on campus, raise awareness of entrepreneurships amongst students and encourages undergraduates to create ‘minibusinesses’. A trio of students representing the Schools of Economics & Finance, Geography and Business & Management are putting the funds towards creating ‘Teenage Tourist’, an internet travel site especially for traveling teenagers. Gauthier van Malderen, Matthew Gill & Oliver Hartl anticipate this project developing into a free-information service to provide ideas and travel tips for young travellers trying to research holidays and book itineraries.

The awards ceremony also included a pizza and wine buffet bar, and attendees were able to view showcases displayed in the café by previous years’ winners of the Entrepreneurship Prize and the Knowledge East Enterprise Network (KEEN) Test-Trading Fund. Karen Baratram, a 2010 KEEN awardee who graduated from QM in 2006 with a degree in Biology, was giving out free, vegan cupcakes to all attending the ceremony. She has since started her own cupcake business, ‘RonLikesCakes’, and is currently in contractual talks with a supermarket. Got an idea for starting your own business? Need financial support? Up to ten prizes of £1,500 each will be awarded to applicants who submit business plans describing new business ideas that look the most feasible and novel and are most likely to be developed successfully. Provided you are a currently registered QM undergraduate or postgraduate student, you are eligible to enter the QM SEPF competition to help establish the feasibility of an enterprising idea that could become a new business. To learn more, please contact: Kevin Byron, 020 7882 2798.

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you

Research Brief Groundbreaking findings from your top research-led university…

Through the looking glass: physicists solve age-old problem A problem plaguing physicists across the globe for centuries has finally made a leap towards resolution. The nature of glass has stumped scientists for years but now a researcher from Queen Mary, University of London has a novel theory to re-ignite the glass debate. Glass has historically sat in an unknown classification territory, somewhere between being a liquid and a solid. Its molecules are jumbled randomly, similarly to a liquid but moving a lot slower, to the point where they almost aren’t moving at all, in a similar state to a solid. Many theorists have argued that glass must enter a phase transition at some point like water does in changing its state from liquid water into solid crystalline ice. Dr Kostya Trachenko from Queen Mary’s School of Physics, together with his collaborator Professor Vadim Brazhkin from the Russian Academy of Science, took a fresh look at the physics debate and argued that glass is a liquid with no phase transition at all. “It is difficult to think of glass as a liquid when it displays all the qualities of a solid – it is hard and it shatters when it breaks,” Dr Trachenko said. “However, contrary to what has been previously thought, we propose that glass is not different from a liquid from a physical perspective, in that the differences between the glass and the liquid are only quantitative but not qualitative.” Dr Trachenko and Professor Brazhkin decided to go back to the drawing board in order to explain the accumulated data in a new and noncontroversial way.

“When matter, being it gas, liquid or solid, changes between its different phases, its properties change profoundly. A similar important change, the jump of heat capacity, also happens during liquid-glass transition, which is why physicists thought there is some sort of a phase transition, between the liquid phase and the glass phase. “However, there has been no evidence to support the existence of a distinct glass phase: we know that the glass and the liquid are nearly identical in terms of structure. It was this simple yet persisting controversy that was at the heart of the problem of glass transition. “What we have shown is that you do not need to assume a new phase or a phase transition of sort to explain the jump of heat capacity. Instead, the mere fact that the liquid stops flowing at the experimental time scale necessarily results in the jump of heat capacity as well as the change of other important properties such as elasticity and thermal expansion. This, in essence, is our new and simple proposal to solve this old-standing problem in physics. “It has been noted that glass in old, medieval churches is thicker at the bottom, and it has been proposed that this is because glass flows over time. This explanation might not be correct from the quantitative point of view because a few centuries is not enough time for the glass to flow. Indeed, we show in our paper that it may take longer than the age of the Universe for some glasses to flow. However, the qualitative idea is correct: any glass is just a slow-flowing liquid from the physical point of view.” Dr Trachenko likens the theory of glass being a liquid to that of pitch, a name given to hard tar-like substances. He cites an experiment in Australia where pitch (in this case bitumen), was put in a funnel in 1927 to see whether it would in fact drip.

“Pitch, at room temperature, is similar to glass in that it shatters when broken with a hammer,” Dr Trachenko said. “The pitch experiment, which is still running, shows that it actually drips every 10 years or so. Our theory says that pitch heat capacity and other properties would show a change if you compare high- and room-temperature data during a short period of time only (say hours), during which roomtemperature pitch does not flow. “On the other hand, if you take the same measurements over time exceeding 10 years, system heat capacity and other properties will not change because the apparently “solidlike” pitch at room temperature becomes a flowing liquid.” "Nature is often quite economical with its laws. Uncovering this economy and underlying simplicity is the ultimate task of a physicist. This can be hard, but we were excited about getting to the bottom of this problem. When we realised how glasses work, we were quite astounded how simple it was”. Dr Trachenko is excited that the recent theory can be used to explain other dynamic systems which undergo no apparent phase transitions yet show profound property changes once they stop flowing at the experimental time scale. Dr Trachenko and his collaborator Professor Brazhkin published their findings in the flagship physics journal Physical Review, earlier this year.

Queen Mary Student: a newsletter for you

Research Brief Groundbreaking findings from your top research-led university…

Alleged daughter of King Charles II among exiled English nuns The sister of a Gunpowder plotter and a royal heir were among 4,000 women who risked life and liberty to join English Catholic convents exiled in Europe between 1600 and 1800, new research has revealed. The findings were made by a team of academics working on the ‘Who Were the Nuns?’ project, based in the School of History, Queen Mary, University of London. The researchers received almost £600,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council three years ago - an unprecedented level of funding for a study focused on Catholic history. The project’s aim is not only to profile individual nuns, but also to understand how the convents managed to recruit and survive against a backdrop of war, plague, and political unrest in mainland Europe and England. “We have undertaken a comprehensive study of the thousands of Catholic women who broke the laws of the land to continue practising their faith in English-led convents overseas," explains Dr Caroline Bowden, project manager and research fellow at Queen Mary. "They would have been very brave and committed to make the treacherous journey overseas; it was extremely rare for women to travel in those days, and a criminal offence for English women to become nuns after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.” Researchers gained unprecedented access to thousands of rare manuscripts, revealing testimonies and other written records in England, Belgium and France that had remained largely hidden in archives and convents over the centuries. These sources were originally produced by the nuns to record details of their members, daily devotional and domestic pursuits, and offer uniquely female perspectives on wider issues of the day such as literature, finance, national identity and the nature of exile.

The painstaking efforts of the research team have resulted in an extensive survey of all 22 English convents abroad together with their surviving sources. The project has since identified and profiled a wealth of fascinating women from disparate backgrounds, who joined the English convents in exile. Born into a landed family in Leicestershire, Elizabeth Digby crossed the English Channel to become a Benedictine nun in Brussels in 1611. She was the sister of Gunpowder plotter, Sir Everard Digby, who was embroiled, along with Guy Fawkes, in the 1605 failed attempt to blow up the House of Lords. She was also the aunt of Sir Kenelm Digby, a controversial English Catholic courtier and diplomat. Barbara Fitzroy, another Benedictine nun, along with her sister, was described in convent records as the illegitimate daughter of King Charles II, although recent research challenges the these claims of the king’s paternity.

“One of the most noteworthy cases involves Richard Weston, the Lord Treasurer of England under Charles I,” says Dr James Kelly, post-doctoral research assistant on the project. “Despite working at the heart of a regime that forbade the practice of Catholicism, Weston’s family had deep connections with the convents abroad: four of his granddaughters even became nuns. “Nevertheless, it should not be assumed that the convents were just the preserves of the elite. Recruits came from all backgrounds, from the daughters of tenant farmers to those of aristocracy,” adds Dr Kelly. Americans were also among the recruits. The first, from Maryland, joined a convent in Liège, Belgium, in 1721 and was followed by more than 60 others. Most were the offspring of tobacco planters who wanted a Catholic education for their daughters; unavailable at the time in America. Four of the nuns

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Alleged daughter of King Charles II among exiled English nuns (continued) returned to Maryland and opened the first English-speaking convent in the New World. “Another interesting case was that of Francis Bedingfield Esq of Redlingfield, Suffolk who had 11 daughters in convents in Europe," says Dr Bowden. "While 10 of the Bedingfield sisters became nuns early on in their lives, one broke the mould by marrying. She only joined a convent after becoming a widow in later life.” Far from being shut off from the world in their cloisters, convent inhabitants were politically active, particularly with the Jacobite cause after James II was driven from England in 1688. In addition, they had connections with some of Europe’s major figures, from royal families to artists. Dr Bowden says: “The project even unearthed clear evidence that three granddaughters of the famous court painter Van Dyck became nuns in English convents in Belgium, as did close relatives of several of his most prominent sitters.” “Convents were definitely hubs for English Catholic culture and learning, commissioning splendid buildings and patronising the arts. Surprisingly, Protestants would flock to visit the convents on the Grand Tour, and although they were not allowed to see the nuns, they could hear them singing.” To survive, the convents had to be selfsufficient financially, generating income by offering prayers and masses in return for donations, but their main sources of income were the mandatory dowry each nun paid on entry, and benefactors who supported the Catholic cause. English convents overseas were also places where young girls went to be educated, as the nuns ran schools. Widows, women separated from their husbands, and even gentlemen could also pay to lodge in the convents as ‘pensioners’. “Although one convent was closed because of financial problems, all 21 others survived until the French Revolution, when English society became more tolerant and many of the nuns returned home. The key documents they have preserved for hundreds of years have proved massively beneficial to our research,” Dr Bowden adds.

Where possible these sources have been edited and made accessible on the project website, and linked to their author’s profiles on a new online register of convent members. Manuscripts are being transcribed for a six-volume collection to be published by Pickering and Chatto in 2012-2013. “Our database provides a detailed picture of a nun’s life and work and is an invaluable tool for religious and social historians or those studying women’s intellectual history of this period,” Dr Bowden says. Biographical information on each nun, including their immediate family, their admission dates, size and currency of their dowry, promotions, and obituaries are stored on the database. Records of why a trainee nun succeeded or failed to pass probation and why nuns left the convent are also logged wherever possible. If some candidates were rejected, there was a selection process at work: these were not women who were being pushed out of their families into the enclosed life even if they had no religious vocation.

Social network analysis undertaken for the project has also revealed much about the web of supporters, agents and families that kept the convents alive for 200 years. Dr Katharine Keats-Rohan, a history researcher from the University of Oxford, who is on the project team, has constructed a collection of family trees of the most prominent families involved. These are being made accessible online. “As the religious life is not attracting many entrants these days, the project is doing an important job in locating and recording archives as convent communities find survival an increasing challenge,” Dr Bowden explains. “Since we began our research several convents have closed or downsized: we are able to help preserve their history for the future as well as record their past.”

QM Student december issue newsletter  

QM Student, Queen Mary, University of London newsletter, december 2011

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