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Faculty Updates

Masters Training Suite Bookings

Some notes on booking the Masters Training suite as well as a booking form are now available on the Science and Technology website:

Funding News

The Royal Society has a number of new funding schemes that focus on commercialising research.

Schemes include Innovation Awards such as the Brian Mercer Feasibility Award which provides up to 30,000 for researchers to test the feasibility of commercialising a part of their research; or up to 250,000 to enable the development of an already proven concept or prototype into a near market product for commercial exploitation.

Industry Fellowships are also available, intended to promote knowledge transfer between academia and industry. The Fellowships provide the chance for scientists in industry and academia to work for a year in the other sector, providing a foundation for future collaborative development. These fellowships will be advertised on the Royal Society website in mid August.

More details are available from Royal Society funding information

Funding Roundup

Newly funded research from across the faculty - selected awards for July 2006:

FP6: Soil Carbon Storage

Richard Bardgett - Biological Sciences - European Commission - 189,063

The issue of soil carbon storage is high on the political and scientific agenda due to growing interest in the extent to which soils can sequester C, which could help to mitigate human-induced increases in atmospheric CO2. This three year study aims to explore some of the factors that control soil carbon cycling and hence the capacity of soils to store carbon, with special focus on herbivory and soil fertility.

The project involves a period of work at the Cedar Creek Long Term Ecological Research Site, University of Minnesota, USA. Here, Dario Fornara, the Fellow working on this project, will work with Professor David Tilman.

The effect of grass root development on soil hydraulic function

Andrew Binley - Environmental Science - BBSRC - 83,888

This BBSRC grant aims to look at how grass roots affect the flow of water and transport of solutes within soils. It is part of a larger project "Exploiting genetic diversity in grasses to manage the biophysical interactions in grassland soils" which is linked with the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (Devon & Aberystwyth) and the National Soil Resources Institute at Silsoe.

The project aims to determine the genetic characteristics of common grasses that may help enhance drainage of wet grassland soils (to minimise flood potential, for example) but also allow greater rooting depths in prolonged dry periods.

Making links: the role of interclausal connectives in children's comprehension of text

Kate Cain - Psychology - ESRC - 118,804

Interclausal connectives explicitly signal coherence and influence how adult readers process and interpret text: compare "Sue was late, so/because she took the bus". Young children and children with poor reading comprehension fail to link up all the ideas in a text to produce a fully integrated representation of its meaning.

To date, we know little about the extent to which connectives guide the process of meaning-construction in young readers. This research will investigate young children's knowledge and use of connectives to process and understand text in relation to age and individual differences in language comprehension.


Nigel Davies - Computing - European Commission - €283,290

The goal of the SMS project is to create innovative tools enabling a new class of services, addressing the specific needs of mobile users and enabling individuals and small businesses to become service providers. We call these services Simple Mobile Services (SMS).

If mobile services are to repeat the success of the Web they have to be simple to find, simple to use, simple to trust and simple to set up. Like the Web, SMS will provide technology and operator-independent end-to-end connectivity, but unlike conventional web-based services they will target specific locations visited by specific classes of mobile users with specific needs. The overarching concept driving SMS is simplicity.

SUPERGEN V - Wind Energy Technology

Suzana Ilic - Geography - EPSRC - 122,548

The aim of the project is to study the detailed water flow and scouring of the seabed around the base of offshore wind turbines; and to investigate how the scouring can be reduced by changing profile of the base of the turbine.

The project is funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of the 'SUPERGEN 5: Wind Energy Technologies Consortium', which includes the universities of Durham, London, Loughborough, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Strathclyde and Surrey, national facilities such as CCLRC and CEFAS and industrial partners such as HR Wallingford.

Collection and exploitation of air quality data

Kevin Jones - LEC - British Oxygen Company - 75,000

Directional analysis of air pollution monitoring is usually based on measurements at a single site. This is because there are usually only enough resources for a single monitor. It follows that there is no opportunity to combine data from several monitors in order to 'triangulate' individual sources or to identify differential impacts between monitors located upwind and downwind of a source.

The main result of this research will be the ability to extensively monitor air pollution in a way not previously possible. The benefit will be the unambiguous detection and identification of pollution sources, allowing remedial action to be taken. This is a joint project with the Environment Agency and Professor Roger Timmis is helping to supervise the work.

High-temperature fracture mechanics of dome lava

Hugh Tuffen - Environmental Science - NERC - 10,373 (UCL Lead partner, total grant 550,217)

This collaborative research project will address the behaviour of lava domes, which are a very hazardous form of volcanic activity. A key issue is why gently growing domes suddenly collapse, unleashing devastating clouds of gas and ash.

Recent research has indicated that the formation and coalescence of cracks in the deforming lava is critical, as it can lead to failure of the dome. As cracking of lava can be picked up by seismometers on the volcano, it may be possible to predict when the dome will collapse, but only if we understand how patterns of cracking relate to material failure.

To investigate this we will use a unique high-temperature, high-pressure deformation apparatus to deform samples of lava collected from the surface of the growing lava dome at Mt St Helens (Washington). We will determine the stresses that lead to sample failure at simulated volcanic conditions, with temperatures up to 900C, whilst recording the acoustic emissions (AE) that indicate cracking within the sample. Of particular interest is how the characteristics of AE change prior to sample failure and how the AE compare to the seismicity recorded at the Mt St Helens dome. We will therefore gain new insights into the relationship between volcano seismicity and dome collapse.

The effect of diet choice on insect immunity to a macroparasitic infection

Ken Wilson - Biological Sciences - The Nuffield Foundation - 1,130

Previous studies on humans, livestock and poultry have suggested that the ability to mount an effective immune response often depends on eating the correct diet. However, very little is known about nutritional constraints on the immune systems of insects, despite the fact that most of the world's most important pests and disease vectors are insects.

Using artificial diets varying in their protein and carbohydrate contents, we are examining the susceptibility of caterpillars to infection by nematode parasites. Caterpillars are exposed to nematodes then either placed on single diets or given the choice between two diets varying in their protein and carbohydrate content. By examining the effect of diet on caterpillar growth and survival we will be able to show whether caterpillars can increase their resistance by choosing a diet that contains the nutrients they require to mount an effective immune response.

From LU News

£1m boost for business in Blackpool

Twenty new jobs and over a million pounds worth of new sales are the result of a two year project by Lancaster University's InfoLab21 to help local firms in Blackpool become more competitive

Re-using cow eyes to help replace animal tests

A proposal to re-use cow eyes left over as abattoir waste, as a replacement for animal tests, is one of nine projects that have been awarded funding by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)

Cancer research award

Scientists at Lancaster University have been awarded almost £78,000 from the North West Cancer Research Fund for a project investigating skin cancer