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OxStu Bitesize: Issue 1

Oxford keeps ticking even when its students are on holiday – so we at the OxStu News team have put together a weekly newsletter for all your Oxford news in one quick bite. Every Monday, to start your week, we’ll bring student, university, research and city news all together in one place.


STUDENT

Care teams recognised for placements

Students at Oxford Brookes recognised the NHS staff who provided them with work placements in the Placement of the Year Awards last week. See our article for details.

IFS finds students left with £50,800 debt

The IFS, an independent economic think tank, has released a report on student debt and the current system of repayment. See our article for details.


UNIVERSITY

OU defends against access criticism

Oxford University has jumped to defend its outreach and accessibility in light of criticism from the Office of Fair Access. The Office’s director, Professor Les Ebdon, said: “Do I think there’s fair access at Oxbridge? Well, obviously not.” See our article for details.

Alumni magazine goes digital

Oxford University’s alumni magazine, Oxford Today, is going digital after the cost of printing physical copies became too high. With over 200,000 alumni and a print circulation of 165,000, producing the magazine for its international readership has become more expensive. The first digital issue will be released in October.

Brookes awarded for entrepreneurship and innovation

Oxford Brookes University has been recognised for its support of social enterprise and social enterprise education at the SEE Change Social Entrepreneurship Conference at Wolfson College. Brookes won the Higher Education Institution (HEI) Recognition Award for Innovation in Partnership and Ecosystem Development.

Research awards 2017

This year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards have been awarded, including Project Awards for six projects which engage with the public, raising awareness of research in their respective fields, Early Career Researcher Awards for individual academics and Building Capacity Awards for exhibitions around Oxford. Details of the recipients and their work can be found here.


RESEARCH

Archaeology and Paleontology

A research team has mapped 4,147 hillforts across Britain and Ireland, led by Gary Lock, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Oxford University, and Ian Ralston, Abercromby Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. The team provided citizen scientists in local archaeological societies and from the general public with training resources and asked them to provide information on hillforts local to them, including ramparts, ditches and entrances. The project won a Project Award in the Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards this year.

Research fellow of Oxford’s Museum of Natural History, Dr James Neenan, in collaboration with Dr Torsten Scheyer of the University of Zurich, has found an exceptionally well-preserved fossil of Eusaurosphargis dalsassoi from the Middle Triassic. Its name means “lizard-like turtle” in reference to its seeming transitional traits between turtles and other reptiles. The specimen, just 20cm long, is of a juvenile with armour plates and refutes earlier belief that the species was likely aquatic, as the body is not streamlined or adapted for swimming. The team’s findings are published in Scientific Reports.

History and Classics

Professor Armaund D’Angour of the Faculty of Classics has received a Project Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. The award was given in recognition of his groundbreaking work in recreating the scores for the chorus of Euripides’ Orestes and the Athenaeus paean among other smaller documents. His work has been used to reach the public with a performance of Sappho’s “Brothers” poem on BBC 4, a live performance of the Mesomedes hymns and Seikilos Song in the British Museum and a performance of the Orestes chorus on stage in Poland.

Mathematics and Computer Science

The supposed randomness of seat allocation on RyanAir flights has been investigated by Dr Jennifer Rogers, Director of the upcoming Oxford University Statistical Consultancy, following up on investigations by the BBC program Watchdog. Four groups each containing four people were sent on different RyanAir flights, and in every instance all people in the group were given middle seats. Each individual was sat 10 rows on average from the nearest person in their group. The chances of the distribution of middle seats being random is 1:540,000,000. Dr Rogers expressed delight that the Consultancy has had this opportunity to showcase the kind of services it will be offering after opening on 19th July.

Biology and Medicine

Researchers from Oxford University and the University of Twente in the Netherlands have developed a promising technique to allow drugs to bypass the blood-brain barrier, a protection for the brain against toxins which prevents access of drugs for the treatment of such diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s. The technique uses ultrasound and microscopic bubbles to open the barrier, allowing the relevant chemicals access. While not perfect, it opens a potentially rich area of study.

A team headed by Stephen Taylor at the University’s MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine has developed CSynth, software which uses virtual reality to enable the examination of DNA structures. The software facilitates exploration of the genome by rendering it in 3D. Taylor said: “Using the virtual reality mode in CSynth is helping us visualise these complex 3D structures in a more intuitive way.”

The University’s Medical Sciences Division and the University of Birmingham have together found that about a fifth of ovarian cancers use a natural process, NMD, to become stronger. The process, non-sense mediated decay, allows cells to identify DNA errors and eliminate them before they lead to proteins which can cause diseases. In certain cases the gene TP53, which normally protects cells from developing cancer, can become mutated and thus be rendered inactive by NMD. This indicates that by inhibiting NMD they may be able to prevent the cancer from thriving.


OXFORD

Food bank report released

An 18-month study on more than 400 households referred to food banks, commissioned from Oxford University and King’s College London by the Trussell Trust, has been released. The study reports on the circumstances of the households surveyed and their reasons for turning to food banks. See our article for details.

A&E wait times on the rise

Wait times in Oxford’s hospitals are rising this spring, with the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reporting that just 86.4 percent of patients were treated, admitted or discharged within four hours of arrival this May. This is down from April’s 88.8 percent, and is significantly lower than the national target of 95 percent. Reasons for the spike are unclear.

Future city development changes

Oxford City Council has opened a public consultation on the public’s preferred policy options for the new Local Plan, which will affect development in Oxford over the next 20 years. Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, said: “We will continue to support the City Centre and district centres as the most sustainable locations for new development. This approach will support our public transport and other sustainable means of travel and will help to mitigate some of the potential negative impacts associated with economic growth. Another key aim is to use the planning system to reduce air pollution, shift journeys to sustainable transport, and reduce the need for journeys by putting homes, jobs and facilities close to one another.”

 

OxStu Bitesize 10/07/17 – compiled by Charlie Willis.

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