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Sci-Tech bulletin

Faculty Plenary

Come to the summer term faculty plenary next Wednesday and hear about plans for a new School for Health and Medicine. This is an opportunity for all faculty members to have a say about current developments within the university.

Also on the agenda is a discussion about strategic partnerships led by Sam Chadwick from the Enterprise and Commercialisation Division, plus the chance to comment on Personnel Services' plans to introduce a range of discounts and offers under the new flexible benefits scheme. This will affect all staff so come and find out more!

The plenary will take place on Wednesday 9 May at 4pm in Meeting Room 2 of the Conference Centre.

May 2007 Plenary Agenda
Minutes from February 2007 Plenary

Measuring the Carbon Footprint of Academic Travel

Five Lancaster Environment Centre researchers recently travelled to a conference in Vienna by train as part of a scheme to investigate the environmental impact of academic travel. Their initiative was sponsored by the Department of Environmental Science and the Faculty of Science and Technology.

Read more about this story on the faculty website

Interactive TV Experiment

Researchers in the Computing Department working on next-generation TV distribution systems over the Internet are offering an interactive video archive to Lancaster University staff and students.

Included will be the remaining UEFA Champions League matches, all 2006 World Cup matches, the Eurovision song contest, music videos and more! The research is being conducted as part of an ongoing EPSRC-sponsored Autonomic Content Distribution Network project.

Please visit to try it out...

Funding Roundup

Congratulations to faculty members Kevin Glazebrook, Andy Sweetman, Jim Wild, Richard Bardgett and Robin Tucker, all of whom have have recently been awarded sizeable research grants:

Bandits and beyond: Index heuristics for dynamic resource allocation

Kevin Glazebrook - Maths and Statistics - EPSRC - £257,261

There is a major focus internationally on the modelling, analysis and optimization of complex stochastic systems, motivated by a wide range of applications in computer and communication networks and in manufacturing and service systems.

Optimization issues which broadly focus on making efficient use of limited resources are recognised as of increasing importance. However, stochastic (dynamic) optimization in the context of such systems is a major technical challenge.

Classical approaches based on direct use of dynamic programming have serious limitations, most especially on the size and complexity of systems which can be analysed. The research programme will focus on the development of policies which use simple calibrations of the options facing the system controller to support decision-making.

Early results look exciting. The work will involve both mathematical innovation in developing new methodologies and also computational implementation and evaluation of the resource allocation policies developed in the theoretical work.

Regional and National Modelling of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Andy Sweetman - LEC - DEFRA - £221,944

The fate and behaviour of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the environment has attracted considerable scientific and political interest, arising from concern over human exposure to these chemicals and their discovery in pristine environments far from source regions.

The ability of certain POPs to undergo long range atmospheric transport (LRAT) has resulted in the negotiation of protocols for their reduction or elimination, to reduce the risks to regional and global environments.

The aim of this contract, funded by Defra, will be to investigate the potential environmental and human health impact of the existing and candidate POPs using a number of modelling tools, in order to inform policy options that most efficiently reduce such risks. The immediate policy context will be multimedia fate modelling to support development and negotiation of international instruments to control POPs, involving consideration of restrictions on POPs already covered by the UNECE POPs Protocol and Stockholm Convention, as well as new "candidate" POPs for inclusion.

Multipoint measurements of magnetospheric substorms

Jim Wild - Communication Systems - PPARC - £285,518

Magnetospheric substorms are one of the principal mechanisms that regulate the coupling between the Earth’s magnetic field and the interplanetary magnetic field embedded within the solar wind. The onset of a substorm signals the explosive release of magnetic energy stored in the Earth’s magnetic tail and is accompanied by dramatic auroral displays and the injection of energetic plasma into the near-Earth environment.

However, the instability responsible for the triggering of magnetospheric substorms remains unclear. The proposed programme of research will resolve this uncertainty by exploiting an unprecedented combination of space - and ground - based experiments in order to determine the time-history of auroral breakup, current disruption, and magnetic flux disconnection in the tail. In highlighting the onset mechanism of magnetospheric substorms, the results will also address broader scientific questions in fundamental plasma physics processes and of relevance to the plasma physics community.

Since the proposed programme scrutinizes the near-Earth plasma environment, the results will be relevant to the design and operation of Earth-orbiting satellites utilized for a variety of applications. The research will also be of interest to the aerospace, defence and communication industries.

Changes in plant functional diversity matter for peatland carbon cycling

Richard Bardgett - Biological Sciences - NERC - £225,596

This collaborative study with Nick Ostle (CEH Lancaster) aims to determine the effects of changes in plant diversity on peatland carbon dynamics.

The issue of carbon (C) cycling is high on the scientific and political agenda, largely because of concerns over the ability of ecosystems to store C in the face of global change. Much of the research in this area is focused on moorlands, or peatlands, because they act as vast stores of terrestrial C, currently estimated to be one-third of the global C stock.

The main worry here is that changes in climate and land use will destabilise these stores, releasing C back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, thereby boosting global warming. To date, most research in this area has looked at how changes in weather, such as climate warming and drought, might affect these important C stores in peat. Very little, however, is known about how land use, and changes in vegetation diversity that result from management, influence these C stores.

In this proposal, we tackle this issue by testing how changes in vegetation resulting from long-term management, namely burning and grazing, influence the cycling of C in peatland ecosystems. To do this, we will use a long-term (50 year) field experiment at the Moor House National Nature Reserve, northern England, with various grazing and burning treatments.

We will manipulate vegetation of different management systems to test how this affects C cycling in peatland. This will be coupled with the use novel pulse labelling approaches which allow us to trace the uptake of C by plants and its transfer to soil, and then back to the atmosphere.

Harnessing laser-driven plasma waves as particle and radiation sources

Robin Tucker - Physics - EPSRC - £166,862

Ultra-short pulse lasers have become some of the most important tools available to scientists and industrialists exploring a wide range of phenomena and developing new technologies and products. Ultra-short pulse high-power lasers are providing the opportunity for developing valuable sources of electromagnetic radiation that cover a wide spectral range extending from terahertz frequencies to hard x-rays.

High power lasers are also producing exciting new opportunities in basic research not usually associated with laboratory scale science, such as realising astrophysical conditions in the laboratory. The evolution to ever-higher powers and shorter pulse durations is creating the fascinating possibility of studying fundamental physics by creating matter out of the vacuum.

Harnessing laser-driven plasma waves to accelerate particles is creating a technological revolution in particle and radiation sources. The huge reduction in size of laser-driven plasma Wakefield accelerators offers the potential to create table-top synchrotron sources and free-electron lasers with unique properties.

In the search for new methods of accelerating charged particles it has long been recognised that the large electrostatic fields associated with plasma charge separation would be ideal for accelerating ultra-short electron bunches to high energies over very short distances if effectively harnessed. However, controlling plasma forces to accelerate particles reproducibly with sharply defined energy has been an ongoing challenge for both the experimental and theoretical physicist. The theoretical work at Lancaster will contribute to the dramatic experimental advances that have recently been made by Strathclyde University in pushing back the frontiers of this pioneering research.

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Geography Department Phone List

Following their recent move to the new LEC 3 building, here is an updated list of telephone and room numbers for members of staff in the Geography department:

Geography Department telephone list

News and Events

From LU News:

Warning on Climate Change

An Engineering Department expert is warning that the Government’s targets on climate change will only be met if car usage falls every year for the next 30 years.

Glass on the moon sparks new theory of Diamond formation

Scientists pondering how layers of orange and green glass beads came to be formed by volcanic eruptions on the moon have come up with a radical new theory of how diamonds reach the Earth’s surface.

Professor investigates false memory in children

A Lancaster University Psychologist is investigating how children develop false memories.