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News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Gaskell’s beautifully restored home on Plymouth Grove is now open to the public.  I visited earlier this month and was very impressed with the transformation.  If you have any interested in Elizabeth Gaskell’s writings, or in early Victorian domestic architecture, or in the social history of the period I would urge you to go along.  Details of the opening times, along with a programme of special events and activities, can be found on their website at:

Botulism’s genetic triggers found

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce the most deadly toxin we know of. Scientists from the BBSRC strategically-funded Institute of Food Research (IFR) have discovered genes that are crucial for its germination, which may present a new way of stopping these deadly bacteria growing in our food.”

“Botulinum spores are found throughout the environment. If they contaminate food, under certain conditions they can germinate and reproduce in our food, and generate a neurotoxin. This is when they become dangerous, as anyone eating this can develop botulism, a rare but potentially fatal condition. Stringent measures are taken by food manufacturers to stop this happening, and fortunately botulism outbreaks are now quite rare. But until now, we’ve known surprisingly little about the germination process.”

“Botulinum spores only germinate in a suitable environment, for example in the presence of nutrients which they sense through specialised receptors. These receptors then trigger a chain of events that lead to the spore becoming viable.”

“Clostridium botulinum has had its genome sequenced, and by comparison with other bacteria it is possible to identify genes that look like they might be involved in the spore germination process.”

“The researchers at IFR systematically turned off these candidate genes to see which were crucial for germination.”

“The research, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens [Open Access], identified two sets of genes that C. botulinum needs, and which must act together for the spores to germinate in response to the correct stimulus, in this case the presence of a nutrient amino acid. This allowed them to build a much better understanding of exactly how the spores germinate.”

Reference: Brunt J, Plowman J, Gaskin DJH, Itchner M, Carter AT, et al. (2014) Functional Characterisation of Germinant Receptors in Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium sporogenes Presents Novel Insights into Spore Germination Systems. PLoS Pathog 10(9): e1004382. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004382

[Source BBSRC news: ]

New computer codes to aid greener, leaner aircraft design

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“A computer model that accurately predicts how composite materials behave when damaged will make it easier to design lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft.”

“Innovative computer codes form the basis of a computer model that shows in unprecedented detail how an aircraft’s composite wing, for instance, would behave if it suffered small-scale damage, such as a bird strike. Any tiny cracks which spread through the composite material can be predicted using this model.”

“The codes are being developed by researchers at Imperial College London working with partners, Airbus, and with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).”

“The new model will enable panels to be made less bulky while still meeting the stringent safety margins demanded by the aviation industry. The result should be aircraft that are lighter than current designs and so use less fuel and produce fewer greenhouse emissions.”

[Source EPSRC news: ]

Library of Congress Fellowships for 25 postgraduate and early career researchers

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Twenty-five postgraduate students and early career researchers have been offered the opportunity to enhance their research with short-term fellowships of up to six months at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.”

“The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s International Placement Scheme (IPS) provides funded fellowships at some of the world’s leading research institutions, offering dedicated access to their globally renowned collections, resources and expertise.  This opportunity enables postgraduate students and early career researchers to enrich their research, understandings and connections through immersion in thriving research cultures, with privileges unavailable to independent visiting scholars.”

“Twenty-five researchers, including eight ESRC researchers, will be hosted by The Library of Congress (LOC) and will be based at the John W Kluge Center.”

“Many of the projects to be supported have an international  aspect, including research projects on ‘Sherlock Holmes as Travel Writing’, a study of the Lilli Lehmann diaries, tracking foreign intervention through medicine and social science in Haiti, ‘China in the US imagination’, and an exploration of ‘Soviet Hippieland’. Find out more about the research that will be conducted at the Library of Congress here.”

“These LOC IPS Fellows join thirty other IPS Fellows at other host organisations in 2014, including the Yale Center for British Art, The Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas at Austin), The Huntington Library, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Institutes for the Humanities in Japan (NIHU).”

“The AHRC’s International Placement Scheme will open for applications from early November 2014 with a closing date of mid-January 2015. Launch events will be held in early November to support the scheme opening.”

More details can be found on the IPS webpages:

[Source AHRC news: ]

Being Human: UK’s first national humanities festival unveils a rich programme of events

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Forget the eponymous TV programme featuring fanciful adventures of vampires, ghosts and werewolves, Being Human is a powerful nine-day festival highlighting the richness and vitality of humanities research to actively engage members of the public.”

“More than 100 free-to-attend public events led by over 60 universities will take place across the UK – from Orkney to Truro, Belfast to Swansea, and Liverpool to Norwich. Events will be hosted in all sorts of places including museums, galleries and cultural and community centres – even caves.”

“Conceived earlier this year, Being Human is led by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Since its launch, over 100 universities have applied to take part in what is the first festival of its kind in the UK.”

“The programme will offer a range of experiences from a joke-generating computer programme from Brunel University’s Feeling Funny/Being Human project and a coming together of archaeologists, artists, environmental scientists and the local Orkney community in Wilder Being (University of the Highlands and Islands), through to an exploration of the impact of ‘data overload’ on the human consciousness from Too Much Information (School of Advanced Study).”

The full programme can be viewed here:

[Source AHRC news: ]

Music industry must change definition of talent

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Millions of aspiring musicians are being denied the chance to develop careers in the creative industries because companies, colleges and the media haven’t evolved their understanding of talent for the digital age, according to a new report.”

“The Channelling Talent report, published by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), concluded that “these days David Bowie probably wouldn’t make it past the X-Factor auditions” and recommended that during a time of flux for the industry, that executives, educators and journalists would do well to take a critical look at what they mean by talent.”

“The report was funded by University of Manchester and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Music Communities ‘pilot demonstrator’ project.”

“Examining the mechanisms that generate, develop, promote, recognise and reward talent in music, it came as no surprise to many of the research participants that being wealthy, well-connected and good looking provides a fast track to success. Yet others pointed to a worrying set of consequences for young people aspiring for careers in music. One study highlighted that 95% of front covers of NME in the last two decades featured men; a former NME editor responded saying there were no women of note.”

“The RSA found the potential for financial reward for “bedroom musicians” is limited as live music becomes the only remaining profitable part of the business. This fuels fears that only the already affluent will be able to pursue music as a career – despite growing evidence of the broad benefits to all of participating and practicing music.”

“The report called on the big and the small players in the music industry to do more to live up to their own standards of supporting creative expression and commercial success, taking steps to ensure that norms of talent are constantly questioned.”

[Source AHRC news: ]

Open Access events

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Open Access week (20-26 October) is coming up!

To highlight Open Access the Open Access Steering Group (Library and RKE) is organising a series of lively Open Access information sessions and debates taking place across the University in October as follows:

16th October, Open Access in the Humanities, 12 – 2pm in Geoffrey Manton

Includes talks from MMU Professor Cathy Urquhart, Dr. Frances Pinter (Manchester University Press) and Dr. Martin Eve (Open Library of Humanities) as well as a “tradeshow” with representatives from Open Access publishers. Book tickets at:

22nd October, Open Conversations, 12-1.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections

A light-hearted and provocative exploration of different perspectives on Open Access. Speakers include MMU’s Dr. Sam Illingworth, Professor Cathy Urquhart, Ruth Jenkins and Rob Johnson (Director of Research Consulting and lead of a national project on costs associated with Open Access). Book tickets at:

24th October, RKE Social “Open All Hours”, 4 – 5.30pm in MMU’s Special Collections

Join the RKE team at their regular end of the month networking session. Join MMU’s Sam Illingworth, Mary Pickstone and Jayne Burgess who will talk you through their perspectives on Open Access. Book tickets at:

Please join us to find out more and engage with the debate.

Digital Innovation – The ‘Shed’

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

I attended RKE’s ‘last Friday’ social at the end of September, which had the theme of collaboration.  It took place in MMU’s new space for Digital Innovation, ‘The Shed’, and as part of the event we had a tour of the space led by the director Paul Basson.  As the use of digital technologies now permeates most disciplines he shared lots of his ideas about how the space could be used for collaborative work.  If you want to find out more about some of the things that have already taken place, and get ideas for how you might use the space, go to their website:

Terror and Wonder, the UK’s largest exhibition of Gothic literature, opens at the British Library

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination [has opened] at the British Library exploring Gothic culture’s roots in British literature and celebrating 250 years since the publication of the first Gothic novel.”

“Alongside the manuscripts of classic novels such as Frankenstein, Dracula and Jane Eyre, the exhibition brings the dark and macabre to life with artefacts, old and new. Highlights of the exhibition include a vampire slaying kit and 18th and 19th century Gothic fashions, as well as one of Alexander McQueen’s iconic catwalk creations. Also on display is a model of the Wallace and Gromit Were-Rabbit, showing how Gothic literature has inspired varied and colourful aspects of popular culture in exciting ways over centuries.”

“Celebrating how British writers have pioneered the genre, Terror and Wonder takes the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, and exhibits treasures from the Library’s collections to carry the story forwards to the present day. Eminent authors over the last 250 years, including William Blake, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, MR James, Mervyn Peake, Angela Carter and Neil Gaiman, underpin the exhibition’s exploration of how Gothic fiction has evolved and influenced film, fashion, music, art and the Goth subculture.”

For further information about the exhibition go to:

[Source British Library Press release: ]

Welcome back!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Welcome back to the Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin as it returns for the new academic year.

I must start by mentioning the physical changes to MMU’s Library Service over the summer with the bringing together of the last two remaining Manchester site libraries at Didsbury and Elizabeth Gaskell into the All Saints Library.  This is the culmination of a long consolidation project to bring all of MMU’s Manchester site libraries into one building.  However, we have worked hard through all of the changes to ensure that the Library Service continues to serve all of our users, not least our researchers, in the ways you have come to expect.  If you’ve recently moved from Didsbury or Elizabeth Gaskell and haven’t yet caught up with your subject teams, do get in touch with them in their new home.  And a reminder, too, that it’s business as usual in MMU’s other site library in Crewe.

Back to the bulletin: as ever I will try to bring you a mix of items over the coming months from a variety of sources and on a variety of subjects that I hope will be of interest.

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