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Sci-Tech bulletin

Faculty Plenary

Come and find out about the International Mountain Environment Research Centre! Professor Barbara Maher, Head of Geography, will be talking about the proposal and what it would offer the faculty and wider community.

Interested in what opportunities Framework Programme 7 might bring and how you can access its funds for your research? Then come and listen to Professor Colin Lambert's overview.

This term's Plenary will take place on Wednesday 14 February at 4.00pm in Meeting Room 4 of the Conference Centre.

February 2007 Plenary Agenda
Minutes from November 2006 Plenary

Philanthropic Funding Programme

As reported in the last bulletin, Julia Resenterra has recently been appointed as the Alumni and Development Office's new Trusts and Foundations Officer, with a remit to increase the amount of philanthropic funding coming into the university to support medium level projects.

To help give an idea of the kind of funding that may be available, Julia has put together some examples of trusts and foundations that offer grants for university projects.

If you have a project idea you would like to progress (circa £10,000-£100,000), please contact Julia on 93676. To send Julia an outline of your project, please complete the downloadable pro-forma which should be signed by your Head of Department.

Examples of Trusts and Foundations for University Projects (pdf)
Outline Application - New Medium Level Grant Programme (pdf)

Funding Roundup

Newly funded research from across the faculty - selected awards for November and December 2006:


David Hutchison - Computing - European Commission - £302,954

The Internet communication infrastructure (the TCP/IP protocol stack) is designed for broad use; as such, it does not take the specific characteristics of Grid applications into account. This one-size-fits-all approach works for a number of application domains, however, it is far from being optimal - general network mechanisms, while useful for the Grid, cannot be as efficient as customised solutions.

While the Grid is slowly emerging, its network infrastructure is still in its infancy. Thus, based on a number of properties that make Grids unique from the network perspective, the project EC-GIN (Europe-China Grid InterNetworking) will develop tailored network technology in dedicated support of Grid applications. These technical solutions will be supplemented with a secure and incentive-based Grid Services network traffic management system, which will balance the conflicting performance demand and the economic use of resources in the network and within the Grid.

By collaboration between European and Chinese partners, EC-GIN parallels previous efforts for real-time multimedia transmission across the Internet: much like the Grid, these applications have special network requirements and show a special behaviour from the network perspective. However, while research into network support for multimedia applications has flourished, leading to a large number of standard protocols and mechanisms, the research community has neglected network support for Grid computing up to now. By filling this gap and appropriately exploiting/ disseminating the project results, EC-GIN will, therefore, cause a "snowball effect" in the European and Chinese networking and Grid computing research communities.

Use of geometry for spatial orientation in toddlers: does it only apply to symmetric arrays?

Adina Lew - Psychology - Nuffield Foundation - £5,944

A fundamental mechanism of mammalian spatial orientation is thought to be allocentraic spatial coding, that is coding of goal locations by their spatial relations to visible landmarks.

A recent challenge to this view has come from proponents of the 'geometric module' hypothesis. They propose that following inertial disorientation (loss of sense of direction), mammals rely on the large-scale geometry of the environment to reorient. In a rectangular room, this would mean searching at the two equivalent corners for a goal, ignoring unambiguous landmark information that may be available.

Proponents of this view have found that only human adults, able to verbalise spatial relations using terms such as left & right, can overcome this reliance of room geometry; toddlers make similar geometric errors to those found in other mammalian species such as adult rats. In our laboratory we have obtained preliminary results suggesting that the findings on which the geometric module hypothesis are based may only apply to symmetric arrays, this challenging the basis of the theory. This study aims to extend and complete this work.

Covariant analysis of accelerating charged beams and plasmas

David Burton - Physics - EPSRC - £188,862

High-energy particle physics demands ever more powerful particle accelerators to probe the fundamental structure of the Universe on ever smaller scales. However, as accelerators become more powerful they also become extremely large and expensive (for example, the proposed 30km long International Linear Collider, ILC).

Lower energy machines are one of the components of intense light sources used to study molecular structure. The cost and size of such light sources, mostly due to the accelerator component, prohibit housing them in university departments and they are only accessible as expensive large shared facilities (for example DIAMOND at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory).

This project addresses future compact acceleration schemes that promise to deliver particles with the desired energies over much shorter distances than conventional technology currently permits. It will support the on-going development of the proposed high-energy Compact Linear Collider (CLIC), which promises to achieve electron-positron energies that are three times greater than the ILC over the same accelerator length. It will address fundamental issues in proposed laser-driven plasma wakefield accelerators whose long term aim is to allow university departments to house their own "table-top" intense light sources and probe matter on unprecedented temporal and spatial scales.

Isoprene emissions from Ice Age, present and future tropical trees: fluxes and mechanisms

Nick Hewitt - Environmental Science - NERC - £358,697

In order to understand how the Earth system works, and in particular to understand how the Earth's climate may change in the future, it is important to study the Earth's history, as well as thinking about the future.

One fact that influences climate is the interaction between plants and the atmosphere. Some plants produce reactive compounds that can change the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and we think that the amount of these chemicals produced by plants may be affected by the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

We know that during the last Ice Age, carbon dioxide concentrations were much lower than at present, and we also know that carbon dioxide concentrations are rapidly rising. In this project we will grow plants under "Last Ice Age" conditions of carbon dioxide and temperature and under "double carbon dioxide" conditions and test how much of these chemicals are produced. We will also study why carbon dioxide has this effect on plants, and this will help us predict what might happen in the future as carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise.

Understanding the role of the Arctic for the cycling of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Crispin Halsall - Environmental Science - NERC - £324,556

As part of the forthcoming International Polar Year, Dr Crispin Halsall has been awarded a NERC funded grant to investigate chemical pollutants in the Arctic. The award, in collaboration with Prof. Kevin Jones (Centre for Chemicals Management) will examine the delivery of a range of industrial pollutants and pesticides from the atmosphere to the arctic marine system. Dr Halsall’s interest is centered on investigating the geochemical cycling of these pollutants in the sea-ice snowpack and examining the role of ice-leads (large ‘lakes’ of open seawater) in delivering these pollutants to biologically-rich surface waters.

Dr Halsall has been invited to the launch of the UK’s International Polar Year to be held at the Royal Society, London, and attended by HRH the Princess Royal and Prof Chris Rapley, Head of the British Antarctic Survey.

From LU News:

Indian Mela gives insight into crowd behaviour

Psychology researchers studying the largest single gathering of people on earth may have unlocked the secret of how large communities can live together in harmony

Sustainable Uplands Management

The sustainable future of the uplands will be debated at a workshop this month

Nigerian students' network launched at Lancaster

Over a hundred people have attended the first ever International Conference of Nigerian Students organised by an award-winning Environmental Science postgraduate