UCL News


UCL in the news: some highlights of 2008

19 December 2008

Here are a few interesting stories to come out of UCL in 2008: DECEMBER RAE 2008 confirms UCL's multidisciplinary research strength Medicine, Architecture and the Built Environment, Laws, Economics and Philosophy are among the academic disciplines at UCL to have achieved outstanding results in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 published today, with UCL's total number of full-time equivalent staff rated of world-leading quality third overall after Oxford and Cambridge.

RAE The RAE is a periodic exercise conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland). It assesses the research strength of UK universities, and informs the distribution of public funds to the sector by the nation's higher education funding bodies. UCL (which is also ranked seventh in the 2008 THES-QS World University Rankings) submitted over 1,800 staff in 49 of the 67 Units of Assessment. More...


UCL astronomers catch binary star explosion inside nebula

The explosion of a binary star inside a planetary nebula has been captured by a team led by UCL researchers - it is an event which has not been witnessed for more than 100 years. The study, published in 'Astrophysical Journal Letters', predicts that the combined mass of the two stars in the system may be high enough for the stars eventually to spiral into each other, triggering a much bigger supernova explosion. Dr Roger Wesson, UCL Physics and Astronomy, has described the event as posing "a major challenge to current theories of how stars evolve", and has called it a possible "Rosetta Stone in understanding some aspects of the lives of stars". More...


Human evolution is over, says Professor Steve Jones

Human evolution has virtually come to a halt, according to Professor Steve Jones of UCL. Speaking today at a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture in London, Professor Jones argues that human evolution has reached the end of the line and we have arrived at utopia - or as close to it as we are likely to get. "We now know so much about the process of evolution that we can make some predictions about what might happen in future," says Professor Jones of the UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment. "To many people the future looks dystopian, doomed - an idea that goes back centuries. In modern terms, there is a fear of decay." More…


Professor CJ Lim wins Chinese shopping park design competition

Professor CJ Lim (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture) has won an international competition to design a multi-use district in Shenzhen, a city in southern China. The Nan Yui Shopping Park will be a new green urban 'living room' for the city, connecting public and private activities including residential apartments, offices, commercial spaces, a hotel, cultural/sports strip, public park, car park and an existing school. The design was inspired by the 'golden bowl', a symbol of prosperity and an auspicious sign in feng shui. Professor Lim rejected the original brief based on vertical dominance, given the pre-existence of numerous towers in the district. Instead he adopted horizontal continuity to complement and enhance the social and cultural relationship between the buildings and the landscape, and to support in a sustainable manner the community that the shopping park will serve. More…


UCL Partners announced - Europe's largest academic health science partnership

UCL has joined forces with its teaching hospitals to create the largest academic health science partnership in Europe. The venture, known as UCL Partners, brings UCL together with the Great Ormond Street, Moorfields, Royal Free, and University College London Hospitals NHS Trusts - creating a combined partnership comprising over 3,500 scientists, senior researchers and consultants. By pooling resources and expertise, the grouping will be able to produce more world-class research in key areas including cancer, ophthalmology, women's and children's health; a close partnerships between researchers and health practitioners will also enable new scientific discoveries to be translated more quickly into treatments. The partner institutions treat around 1.5 million patients a year between them, and the creation of UCL Partners provides a significant boost to NHS patients in London. More...


Obesity gene 'stops you feeling full'

A new study carried out by researchers at UCL and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, has found that children who carry a gene which is strongly identified with obesity could be fatter because they may not know when they're full. Previous studies have demonstrated that the gene, known as FTO, is strongly associated with obesity, and the results of this investigation strongly suggest that the gene works by modifying appetite, so that the children in the study who had two copies of the higher-risk FTO gene were less likely to have their appetite 'switched off' by eating. More…


UCL on 'iTunes U'

UCL has taken a leading step forward in opening up its educational impact to the world. It has today launched its platform on iTunes U through which users can download lectures, interviews, seminars and news, and play audio and video materials on their iPod or computer. Until now, only North American institutions have featured on iTunes U. The new partnership between UCL and Apple makes UCL the first mainstream UK university (and one of only three European universities, with Trinity College Dublin and the Open University) to pioneer global participation in iTunes U. UCL on iTunes U broadcasts talks and lectures by UCL academics, interviews and news of UCL research, and information for prospective staff and students. More...


UCL signs landmark agreement with South Australia to establish School of Energy & Resources

UCL became the first UK university with a campus in Australia with the signing today of an agreement with the Government of South Australia to establish the UCL School of Energy & Resources, Australia (SERAus) in Adelaide. Under the terms of the agreement, signed by the Hon Mike Rann, MP, Premier of South Australia, and Professor Malcolm Grant, UCL President and Provost, the UCL SERAus will start work in 2009 and become fully operational in 2010. The Government of South Australia, a recognised leader in energy-related policy issues, and UCL, one of the world's leading universities, have worked together to design a facility that will have the potential to shape how the critical issues of energy and resources development and utilisation are tackled globally. More...


Results of world's first gene therapy for inherited blindness show sight improvement

UK researchers from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital have announced results from the world's first clinical trial to test a revolutionary gene therapy treatment for a type of inherited blindness. The results, published today in the 'New England Journal of Medicine', show that the experimental treatment is safe and can improve sight. The findings are a landmark for gene therapy technology and could have a significant impact on future treatments for eye disease. More…


Hyperactive girls face problems as adults

New research led by Dr Nathalie Fontaine, UCL Psychology, has found that hyperactivity and aggression in young girls is linked to greater risk of smoking addiction, mentally abusive relationships, teenage pregnancy and low job prospects later in life. In a collaborative study published in 'Archives of General Psychiatry', Dr Fontaine's team followed the lives of 810 young Canadian girls from the age of six to 21. Around one in ten had hyperactive behaviour, while another one in ten had both hyperactive and aggressive behaviour. While for the majority of girls, these behaviours calmed down by the age of 12, these two groups showed a higher tendency to develop adjustment problems in adulthood. More…


Found: the frog from hell

A team from UCL and Stony Brook University, New York, have discovered a fossil of a giant dinosaur-eating frog in Madagascar, giving weight to the theory that the island off Africa's east coast was once linked to India and South America. The 70 million-year-old frog, dubbed Beelzebufo ('the frog from hell'), is of a kind previously thought only to live in South America. Weighing 4kg and with a body length of up to 40cm, it had a squat body, huge head and wide mouth. More…


Increased hurricane activity linked to sea surface warming

The link between changes in the temperature of the sea's surface and increases in North Atlantic hurricane activity has been quantified for the first time. The research - carried out by scientists at UCL and due to be published in 'Nature' on January 31 - shows that a 0.5°C increase in sea surface temperature can be associated with a ~40% increase in hurricane activity. The study, conducted by Professor Mark Saunders and Dr Adam Lea of the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre and the UCL Tropical Storm Risk forecasting venture, finds that local sea surface warming was responsible for about 40 per cent of the increase in Atlantic hurricane activity (relative to the 1950-2000 average) between 1996 and 2005. More


July: UCL records the sound of jelly wobbling

The sound of a jelly wobbling has been recorded for the first time ever in a soundproof chamber at UCL. The recording is being turned into a soundtrack for an architectural jelly banquet to be hosted at UCL at 8pm on 4 July 2008. The event, run by Bompas and Parr as part of the London Festival of Architecture, will see a troupe of dancers deliver a spoon-based performance to the soundtrack sampled from wobbling jellies and a delicious aroma of strawberries, and will feature jelly wrestling and other festive frolics. More...