UCL News Roundup 2013

Image: Twitter languages of London by Dr James Cheshire and Mr Ed Manley (CASA and UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering)


UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur introduces this year's review and talks about some of the highlights of 2013

Image: UCL Creative and Media Services

Formal opening of UCL Academy

A unique partnership between a school and one of the world’s leading universities was celebrated at the formal opening of the UCL Academy, the first school in England to have a university as a sole sponsor.

Grant Museum of Zoology opens The Micrarium – a place for tiny things

The Micrarium at UCL Grant Museum of Zoology showcases some of the tiniest and most intriguing members of the animal kingdom.

Most natural history collections have thousands of very small specimens kept in their storerooms, which are rarely shown to the public. To right this wrong, the Grant Museum created a display never seen in a museum before: the Micrarium, an old office converted into a beautiful back-lit cave covered with 2000 wall-to-wall microscope slides.

Sounds of UCL

What sounds make up London’s global university? UCL Communications announced the winners of its ‘Sounds of UCL’ competition, which invited staff and students to capture ambient audio clips that reflect the life of UCL.

Interact with panoramas

The Spider King's Daughter | Chibundu Onuzo

21 year old Chibundu Onuzo was born in Lagos, Nigeria and is currently doing an MSc in Public Policy at UCL. Last year, her debut novel, The Spider King's Daughter, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Ben Stevens went to interview her about her novel and how it has been received both here and in Nigeria.

Minimally invasive test provides best alternative to colonoscopy

UCL research showed that a new scan offering patients a less invasive diagnostic test for possible bowel cancer is more effective than the current radiological standard of barium enema, and should be considered alongside the ‘gold standard’ of colonoscopy.

Read more about the diagnostic study on the UCL News website

Image: Solar 6 by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

‘A fertile site for our imaginations’: the Tube at 150

In the year of its 150th anniversary, there was a renewed sense of public affection and appreciation for London’s tube – not least because of its sterling performance during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. This was certainly apparent at a Lunch Hour Lecture by Professor Richard Dennis (UCL Geography) in January, where there was standing room only and a large number of people even had to be turned away.

Rather than describing a particularly short walk, the lecture’s title, ‘Gower Street to Euston Square: a local history of the Underground’, referred to how UCL’s local station started life as Gower Street station before being renamed in the early 20th century.

Read a review of Professor Dennis’ lecture on the UCL Events Blog

Image: London by _dChris licensed under CC BY 2.0

Faith in Suburbia

UCL geographer Dr Claire Dwyer, and award-winning photographer Liz Hingley, opened up spiritual understanding between faiths by creating a new photography project by senior citizens, based in a Hindu temple in Ealing, West London.

Lincoln: the man behind the film

Dr Adam Smith (UCL History) gave Spielberg's Lincoln a rave review, but warned that the real Abraham Lincoln was a far more complicated and enigmatic man than the Hollywood blockbuster suggests.

Image: tipito I by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Institute of Making

Institute of Making

The Institute of Making opened at UCL giving a permanent home to the Materials Library, a collection of the most unusual materials in the world, and the MakeSpace, the ultimate making workshop.

View the Institute of Making Flickr slideshow

Study finds strong genetic component to childhood obesity

Childhood body weight is strongly influenced by genes, according to UCL research published in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study is based on data from a population-based cohort of 2,269 children aged between eight and eleven years old. Researchers looked at whether children who happen to be more genetically similar might also be more similar in body weight. Using a new method called Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis (GCTA), the researchers found that additive effects of multiple genes across the whole genome accounted for 30% of individual difference in childhood body weight.

Read more about the childhood obesity study on the UCL News website

Image: paper green by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Migration photography competition

The UCL Environment Institute held a photography competition under the theme of 'Moving people, changing lives', which was open to all UCL staff and students. In addition to three winners, the judging panel identified seven highly commended images. All 10 images were on display at UCL from 18–22 March and again at the 4th NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funding Co-operation Agency in Europe) Migration Conference, 10–13 April.

View the migration competition Flickr slideshow

Image: Abandoned fairground, Pripyat, Chernobyl, 2011 by John Bingham, UCL Research Department of Oncology

Human Brain Project wins major EU funding

The Human Brain Project was officially selected as one of the European Commission’s two FET Flagship projects. The new project will unite European efforts to address one of the greatest challenges of modern science: understanding the human brain.

The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together all our existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations.

View UCL News article

UCL Students help local schools stage musical

Students from the UCLU Musical Theatre Society helped two schools in the Camden region to put on the musical Hairspray.

Cast of Hairspray performing

A production team of UCL student directors, choreographers and musical directors worked with children from UCL Academy and Regent High School to stage the upbeat musical.

Read more about the musical collaboration on the UCL News website

Festival of the Planets comes to London

From 8–13 September hundreds of astronomers from all over the world arrived in the capital, bringing with them a huge variety of different public events to get Londoners involved in astronomy.

Events included organised stargazing in Regent’s Park, a space-themed variety performance, a science fiction film night, exhibitions, art installations and public talks.

Read more about the Festival of the Planets on the UCL News website

Image: The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Osterley Park and House: The East India Company at Home, 1757–1857

The East India Company at Home, 1757–1857 is a three-year (2011–2014) research project based in the Department of History at University College London and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The project examines the British country house in an imperial and global context.

‘The Trappings of Trade’ was a display held at Osterley between 27 July – 3 November, which explored how the East India Company shaped Osterley and the country houses of Britain in the eighteenth century. Robert Adam may have remodelled the house but the East India Company shaped its interiors with stunning decorative items.

Image: Crumpled blush by clive sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

UCL Festival of the Arts: Professor Jonathan Wolff

Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy), Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, talks about the UCL Festival of the Arts (7–17 May) and the importance of celebrating the arts at a time when many courses at other institutions are under threat.

Image: Creative and Media Services

UCL launches pop-up Shop in Shoreditch's Boxpark

Boxpark – the world's first pop-up shopping mall in the heart of East London – played host to a very unique kind of store: Launchbox, UCL's first ever pop-up shop.

Launchbox showcased the hottest new designs and products emerging from UCL's creative students and research staff; from etchings, wallhangings and keyrings from artists at the Slade School of Fine Art to posters from CASA.

Read more about Launchbox on the UCL Advances website

Almost a quarter of jurors confused about rules on internet use during a trial


Almost a quarter of jurors (23%) are unclear about the rules surrounding internet use during a trial, according to preliminary research led by Professor Cheryl Thomas (UCL Laws).

Read more about the jury research project on the UCL News website

Ryo Fukaura interview: music, memories and ambitions

Pianist Ryo Fukaura, a UCL medical student, played pieces from memory in the Peter Samuel Hall at the Royal Free Hospital. He also recorded an interview in which he talks about music, memories and ambitions in life.

Image: Piano by esc861 licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

UCL awarded £11.1m towards new Institute of Immunity and Transplantation

UCL was awarded £11.1 million from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) towards the cost of the new UCL Institute for Immunity and Transplantation at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

The Institute is a £33 million partnership between UCL and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, with the Royal Free Charity undertaking a £22 million fund-raising campaign to provide the additional investment that is required.

Find out more about the new Institute on the UCL News website

UCLPartners gets the green light to improve the healthcare of over six million people

Millions of people in London and the south east will see improvements to their healthcare following the decision by NHS England to designate UCLPartners as an Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

The AHSNs will enable academics, healthcare professionals and industry to work together to speed up delivery of cutting edge medical research into routine practice in the NHS; lives will be saved and the UK economy will be stimulated as inventors and industry join forces to develop new medical technologies for the benefit of patients.

Read more about UCL Partners on the UCL News website

Oldest Egyptian iron artefacts made from meteorites

UCL researchers showed that ancient Egyptian iron beads held at the UCL Petrie Museum were hammered from pieces of meteorites, rather than iron ore. The objects, which trace their origins to outer space, also predate the emergence of iron smelting by two millennia.

Image: El-Gerzah dig, Pitt Rivers Museum

Can you guess who won a music competition? (psychology experiment)

You have three options through which to guess the winner of a classical music competition: audio only, silent video or video with sound. Can you guess who won a music competition based on short clips?

Wave of blue fluorescence reveals pathway of death in worms

Blue flourescence travelling through worm

The final biological events in the life of a worm were described by scientists at UCL, revealing how death spreads like a wave from cell to cell until the whole organism is dead.

When individual cells die, it triggers a chemical chain reaction that leads to the breakdown of cell components and a build-up of molecular debris. The molecular mechanisms of this are reasonably well understood at a cellular level but we know much less about how death spreads throughout an organism at the end of its life.

Read more about the worm ageing study on the UCL News website

UCL celebrates 150th anniversary of Japan’s Choshu Five

Choshu Five

The story of five young Japanese noblemen, who endured a perilous 135-day sea journey aboard a Jardine Matheson & Co ship to come to Victorian-era London and study at UCL, is was marked at an event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of their departure.

Find out more at UCL News

Disneyland in south London

Ever since fossils were first discovered in the 19th century, the public has been fascinated with these prehistoric creatures.

It was this fascination that gave rise to the wonderful dinosaur sculptures that still stand in Crystal Palace Park and which Professor Joe Cain (UCL Science and Technology Studies) focused on in his hugely entertaining Lunch Hour Lecture at the Museum of London on 5 June.

Read a review of Professor Cain’s lecture on the UCL Events blog

Image: Dinosaur sculptures in Crystal Palace by Zoe Rimmer licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

UCL students win 2013 National Mooting Competition

Two UCL students won this year’s Essex Court Chambers National Mooting Competition for the first time in 41 years, having beaten Liverpool John Moores University in the President’s Court of the Royal Courts of Justice.

Held on the 27 June, the UCL pair of Astina Au, an affiliate student from Hong Kong, and Jia Jun Toh, a second year undergraduate, argued the fictitious legal appeal case, “ChemBuild Refineries Ltd v IndoPet Explorations Ltd”, winning the Silver Mace and £1,000 each for their efforts.

Read more on the students’ success on UCL News website

Half of all UK seven-year-olds not getting enough exercise

Half of all UK seven-year-olds are sedentary for between six and seven waking hours per day, and half are not doing the recommended daily minimum of one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, according to findings from the Millennium Cohort Study.

The research, led by academics at UCL and published in the journal BMJ Open, showed that girls, children of Indian ethnic origin and those living in Northern Ireland are least active.

Read more about the Millennium Cohort Study on the UCL News website

My first 100 days

Professor Michael Arthur reflects on his first 100 days as UCL President & Provost

Image: UCL Creative and Media Services

UCL launches new audio tour app for iPhone and Android

UCL Communications and Marketing produced a new audio tour app that allows students, staff and the general public to learn more about the Bloomsbury campus and the remarkable people who have studied, worked and lived there.

Find out more on the Audio Tour webpage

Imagining the Future City: London 2062 – editors' introduction

Is London turning into a city where football clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea run schools, Londoners commonly convert their roofs into “micro-farms” and people are subject to separate migration laws to the rest of the UK? A UCL book launched in November enables academics to imagine how current trends in energy use, transport, education, governance and health might have played out by 2062.

Image: Crumpled blush by clive sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

UCL Qatar formally opens in Doha

Having welcomed its first intake of 29 Master's students in August 2012, UCL Qatar saw further growth with the arrival of an additional 39 students in August 2013. In addition, five PhD students from the UCL's Institute of Archaeology transferred to UCL Qatar to conduct high-level research into heritage issues of relevance to the Arab and Islamic world.

Read more about UCL Qatar on the UCL News website

Image: Dutch 1 by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

UCL and Chinese students join forces to build Lego microscope

The world’s first low cost Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) was developed in Beijing by a group of PhD students from UCL using Lego.

Students working with lego

In the first event of its kind, LEGO2NANO brought together students, experienced makers and scientists to take on the challenge of building a cheap and effective AFM, a device capable of seeing objects only a millionth of a millimeter in size – far smaller than anything an optical microscope can observe.

Read more about the students’ microscope on the UCL News website

Image: Wallpaper: Lego Debris by Edgar Alejandro Anzaldúa Moreno licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

UCL top in research council income

UCL researchers and those who support their grant applications to research councils are to be congratulated, wrote Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research).

Our awards in 2012–13 surpassed £135 million, making us the top recipient of research council grants by value. We attracted more than £30 million more than our leading competitors, Cambridge and Imperial. Our overall success rate by number of applications was 33% – again in the very top tier.

Read more about UCL’s research income on the UCL News website

Image: Bora 6 by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Survey examines changes in sexual behaviour and attitudes in Britain

New results published in The Lancet as part of the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) revealed how sexual behaviour and attitudes in Britain have changed in recent decades.

Data from three Natsal studies, carried out every ten years, demonstrate changes in age at first sex, number of sexual partners, and prevalence of sexual practices, as well as attitudes towards sex.

Read more about Natsal on the UCL News website

Image: Bora 10 by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Risk and resilience in Japan after the Fukushima disaster

There is no amount of concrete that could have kept people safe from the 2011 Japanese tsunami – and in any case, the height of the wave could never have been predicted. But learning the right lessons from past disasters, along with a helping hand from technology, could help keep us safer in the future. That was the message delivered by Prof Peter Sammonds (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction) in Tuesday’s Lunch Hour Lecture.

Read a review of Professor Sammonds’ lecture on the UCL Events blog

Image: paper green by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Oldest existing lizard-like fossil hints at scaly origins

Lizard-like fossil

The fossilised remains of a reptile closely related to lizards are the oldest yet to be discovered.

Two new fossil jaws discovered in Vellberg, Germany provide the first direct evidence that the ancestors of lizards, snakes and tuatara (known collectively as lepidosaurs), were alive during the Middle Triassic period – around 240 million years ago.

Read more about the fossil on the UCL News website

Image: Solar 6 by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Peter Higgs and François Englert win Nobel Prize for Physics

Peter Higgs and François Englert have won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics, for their work in the 1960s that led to the concept of a mass-giving particle now known as the Higgs Boson.

Peter Higgs

Early in his career, Peter Higgs undertook a year-long ICI Research Fellowship at UCL. He later became a temporary lecturer in mathematics at UCL, leaving in 1960 to return to the University of Edinburgh – where he remains to this day, now as Emeritus Professor of particle physics.

Read more about Peter Higg’s time at UCL on the UCL News website

Image: Bora14 by Clive Sax licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Patterns of nature

Scientists try to understand apparent patterns and structures from data. This is complicated because patterns can be deceiving; we are apt to see structure in noise. Professor Sofia Olhede (UCL Statistical Science) talks about her research in building statistical models to understand data and how we can model phenomena in time and space.