Category Archives: Spring/Summer 2014

14 IPOS lab 2

Innovative Physical Organic Solutions– benefiting health and industry

Chemistry research carried out by Innovative Physical Organic Solutions (IPOS) has led to improvements in chemical manufacturing and the development of new inhibitors for use as antibacterials. The team based at IPOS carry out research in process and other areas of chemistry for the chemical industry. They have so far collaborated with more than 150 companies, many of them based in Yorkshire and Humberside, contributing to the growth and prosperity of both regional and national industry.

Meeting the needs of a growing industry

There is an ever-growing demand for academic research to meet the needs of industry. Reflecting the rapid and sustained expansion of activity in this area, IPOS was set up in 2006 to offer analytical and chemical process development services to the chemical industry. Awarded £3.6 million of European Regional Development Funding in 2009, IPOS has expanded rapidly, furthering existing strands of research and initiating new themes, including catalyst development.

Improving tools for chemotherapy

Small interfering RNA and antisense oligonucleotides have been demonstrated as powerful tools for chemotherapy. There is currently no efficient synthesis of oligonucleotides on an industrial scale. IPOS has provided an understanding of the synthetic parameters that can be used to optimise the large-scale synthesis needed, providing improved efficiency and cost benefits. This work has been supported by industry partners Avecia Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Bacteria resisting the treatment of antibiotics

The rise of bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been highlighted in recent years by researchers and medical professionals. IPOS is now part of a team that has published more than 50 papers in this area, furthering the understanding of how bacteria are able to resist antibiotics.

Findings have indicated that the lactam ring is not inherently reactive, creating a shift towards novel designs of alternative enzyme inhibitors. Highlighting the possibility of developing new methods of inhibition, this work has furthered understanding in the field and delivered both health-related and economic benefits. Industry partners including AstraZeneca and GSK have helped to support this research.

World class facilities for research excellence

Since the expansion in 2009, IPOS has moved to new purpose-built laboratories, including the Page Laboratory, an Agilent Centre of Excellence. The large majority of projects and enquiries are from within the Yorkshire and Humberside region, where regeneration is critically dependent on new, non-traditional, high technology companies, meaning IPOS’s expertise has been vital to local economic growth.

13 stock

Designing out crime – making housing safer

Research undertaken by the Applied Criminology Centre (ACC) has made a significant contribution to crime prevention through environmental design. This research into ‘designing out’ crime has been incorporated into national and local planning policy and procedures and has influenced international urban planning.

The UK Association of Chief Police Officers has worked with the ACC to extend the designing out crime initiative, Secured by Design, to 350,000 homes, reducing burglary rates by more than half in housing designed to this standard.

Building crime-free homes

Designing out crime involves changes to the design and layout of residential housing such as limiting access, maximising natural surveillance and ensuring that car parking is within the boundary of each property. Consideration for what may seem to be minor design changes can significantly reduce a property’s vulnerability to crime.

Research by the ACC has shown that properties located on through roads are targeted 93% more than those on a true cul-de-sac (without connecting footpaths). Maximising natural surveillance also limits crime, with properties overlooked at the rear experiencing 38% fewer crimes than those not overlooked.

Clever design means less crime

Homes built to the Secured by Design standard have been shown to be subject to 34% less crime and 60% less burglaries than those not built to this standard. The scheme is also economical, with additional costs being recouped by reduced crime in less than two years. These results were achieved through rigorous study carried out by the ACC of over 1000 homes across West Yorkshire, and concluded that a standard property is almost four times more likely to experience a burglary than a Secured by Design property.

Translating research into policy

Building upon the analysis carried out by the ACC, government policy has resulted in 350,000 Secured by Design homes being developed in the UK since 2007 and, consequently, a reduction in burglary rates of around 60% in homes designed and built to this standard. Particularly important in difficult economic times, these houses help to reduce crime and the negative experiences and considerable costs that accompany these crimes.

Transforming housing locally and internationally

As well as shaping national policy on designing out crime, the ACC research has had widespread impact on the practices of local authorities and police forces including Leeds City Council and Thames Valley Police, resulting in improved policy, extra staff resource and robust evidence to base key decisions on. The work has also been drawn on internationally, assisting the Abu Dhabi Planning Council and the Parliament of Victoria; Australia in their approaches to community safety and crime prevention.

12 Adele Jones

Reforming response and prevention around child sexual abuse in the Caribbean

The Centre for Applied Childhood Studies (CACS) has played a major role in tackling the problem of child sexual abuse in the Caribbean. The work has been described by UNICEF as a landmark in the field and has led to government acknowledgement of the problem, growing public awareness, new policies, innovative child protection programmes and improvements in the capabilities of professionals and agencies. The research is also helping to shape responses to child sexual abuse in other parts of the world.

Devastating effects of child sexual abuse

Although a global problem, in poor and middle-income nations, such as the Caribbean, child sexual abuse is under-researched. Policy in these countries often follows Western trends where child protection systems tend to be narrow in remit, focussing more on surveillance than on prevention; are costly to administer; and can lack cultural relevance for other societies. As well as leading to a wide range of psychopathologies, child sexual abuse contributes to the region’s status as having the second highest global prevalence rates of HIV and teenage pregnancy and high levels of family and community violence.

Taking wider factors into account

The CACS has taken an original approach to investigating the issue by examining how child sexual abuse is linked to social constructions of childhood and to context-specific gendered and sexualised behaviours. Researchers carried out studies in six Caribbean countries: Anguilla, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat and St Kitts & Nevis.

A wide range of abuse and a lack of protection and prevention

It was found that child sexual abuse, an extensiveproblem in all six countries, is underpinned by acomplex set of cultural, structural and economicfactors which are both historical and contemporary.New trends in abuse were discovered which hadnot been previously documented, includingchild sex tourism, cell-phone pornography andopportunistic abuse linked to natural disasters. Inaddition to the abuse of girls, the abuse of boys wasreported as a growing concern.

Despite the gravityof these problems, legislation, policy and services were found to be underdeveloped and ineffective, constrained by fragile economies and public debt.

Patriarchal beliefs – a vicious circle

The researchers found that deeply-rooted patriarchal beliefs contributed to the levels of abuse, with unequal gender relations shaping sexual behaviour, social attitudes and vulnerabilities. Reinforced through conceptualisations of childhood, these factors are both causes and consequences of abuse, leading to sexual victimisation and the early sexualisation of children becoming widespread, with sex-for-trade viewed as normal in some communities.

Changing law, policy and practice

Out of this work have emerged recommendations for a new approach to child protection which recognises and challenges the many layers of abuse in order to encourage attitude change, material improvements to the lives of abuse victims and actions which address inequalities.

All six governments involved produced National Action Plans on Child Sexual Abuse with the CACS research as the foundation. The plans include actions relating to parenting skills and education as well as further research, to challenge the existing cultural acceptance of child sexual abuse in these regions. The plans also include changes to existing child protection laws and government policies regarding the complex surrounding issues.

Organisations and institutions around the world have also used this work as the basis for change, including the introduction of new support programmes for those having experienced sexual abuse, and educational programmes for perpetrators of violence to encourage a shift in attitudes and understanding.

11 SRS

A new student response system for classrooms, online learning and industry

Research led by Professor Zhongyu (Joan) Lu has contributed to developing a next-generation student response system (SRS) supported by funding from Edumecca. The system makes SRS more affordable for a wider range of users by utilising cross-platform technologies, making it available on web services and smartphones.

By incorporating the use of widely available online equipment, the system allows for SRS to be used outside of the traditional classroom scenario. It is now used in Europe and the US by both academia and industry and this success has led to additional major funding streams for further research.

An outdated, expensive system?

It has been suggested that SRS could improve interactivity by a factor of ten times compared to a traditional classroom environment. These systems allow students to participate in the processing of questions and the formulation of answers and can greatly enhance the learning experience.

A traditional SRS includes a receiver for instructors, a collection of keypads for students and a dedicated software component. It uses infrared or radio frequencies to facilitate communication and is often limited to multiple-choice or true-or-false- style questions. Despite these limitations, the systems can be costly, deterring many institutions from using them. The Edumecca project aimed to address these limitations.

The new SRS system – flexible and affordable

The resulting SRS offers a platform-independent, internet-linked technology able to function anywhere and at any time. The system is not constrained by location or subject area, allowing it to be used in a range of scenarios and by a variety of learning groups. It enables teachers to initiate questions, students to respond using their own mobile devices and data to be collected and automatically stored for future analysis. By making SRS compatible with students’ mobile devices, the system is made more affordable due to the lack of additional ’clicker’ devices.

Used internationally by teaching and industrial organisations

The new SRS has been employed by institutions in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Romania and the US. The range of subjects covered is diverse, including physics, electrical engineering, sport and nutrition, computing, mathematics, history, languages and religion. Education providers and industry organisations have reported increased participation and an enhanced ability to gauge student comprehension, for both small and large teaching groups.

In addition to classroom settings, the new SRS is also ideal for distance learning, making it popular in industrial settings. The Hungarian Association of Welding Technology and Material Testing made the system available to 90 companies and more than a thousand people in 2010 and reported a positive impact on student learning and experiences.

Contributing to further research and applications

In 2011 the University of Leeds requested the new SRS system to form the basis of Mobile Lab Mate (MLM), a mobile application allowing the automatic submission, storage, retrieval and visualisation of data generated in experiments. MLM reduces the workload of those carrying out the experiments, and a similar system has also been devised for occupational therapists.

10 EMMA facility

Pioneering accelerator research

Huddersfield’s International Institute for Accelerator Applications has developed the world’s first ns-FFAG accelerator (EMMA) and has demonstrated the applications of the advanced particle accelerator technology involved.

The Institute has demonstrated the feasibility of compact, reliable and affordable proton machines for cancer therapy, radioisotope production and muon and neutron production, offering UK industry a technological lead in a potentially enormous international market. The Institute has strong connections with major accelerator facilities around the world, including the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva and the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund.

Research carried out at Huddersfield helped to establish a scientific and political case for the construction of the €1.5 billion European Spallation Source in Lund.

Innovative compact particle accelerators

The development of EMMA as part of the £7.5million Research Councils UK (RCUK)-funded International CONFORM project, brings together the fixed field and high duty cycle of a cyclotron with the strong focussing of a synchrotron, using magnets whose fields vary with position but not with time. In a conventional FFAG the beam optics does not change during acceleration, constraining the form of the field. Relaxing this constraint in EMMA enables simpler magnets and a smaller beam pipe to be deployed.

This discovery has allowed the development of cheap, simple and compact proton machines with simple magnets and low losses. Potential applications include proton and charged ion radiotherapy, medical isotope production and the production of muons and neutrons for boron neutron capture therapy.

Making a case for the European Spallation Source (ESS)

Huddersfield was the only UK higher education institute to participate in the European Spallation Source Preparatory Phase Project. The research carried out within the Institute played a major role in the project, which ran from 2008-2010 and led to the multinational decision to build ESS in Lund; Sweden.

Huddersfield’s original involvement with neutron instrumentation and general neutronics has evolved to include the design of the target, evaluation of induced radiation in the accelerator, and the accelerator itself.

Thorium power

Nuclear power currently provides 20% of our electricity, yet within 15 years most of the UK’s nuclear power stations will have closed. Although the support for nuclear power has been gradually increasing in the UK over the last ten years, there are still concerns over safety and of toxic waste storage. To address these issues, researchers at Huddersfield have been exploring the potential of an innovatively designed Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor based on thorium.

Through this research they have shown that thorium can provide an alternative form of nuclear energy. It is more abundant, safer, has a much smaller problem with legacy radioactive waste, and is proliferation resistant.

Industry recognition

Siemens AG has awarded the International Institute for accelerator Applications the status of Siemens Official Technology Partner in recognition of on-going innovative research, including the work on alleviating the global drought of medical radioisotope 99mTc by exploring low energy proton accelerator production of this and alternative radioisotopes.

This demonstrates the potential of local hospital based radioisotope production and presents new industrial routes for achieving reliable production and deployment of medical radioisotopes.

Machine tool

Saving time and energy

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Precision Technologies have been carrying out key research into factors contributing to machine tool inaccuracy. This has led to the development of methods for assessing the capability of machines and the formation of a low-cost electronic compensation system. These measures can significantly reduce the effects of geometric and thermal errors, producing cost savings from improved quality and factory temperature control. A unique virtual reality machine tool program, VirMach, was created to assist in the measurement, error simulation and installation of compensation systems in industry.

A crucial area of research – backed by UK funding councils

The accuracy of machine tools is fundamental to the quality of the products they make. A better understanding of why errors occur and how to minimise them is vital to ensuring higher standards of manufacturing and increased productivity. Research began in 1992, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to increase the precision of machines and improve the quality of work-pieces. Further EPSRC-funded work developed a real-time compensation system and a PC-based pre-calibrated compensation system for correcting the geometric errors of specific machine tools.

Working with industry

Leading UK employers such as BAE systems and Rolls-Royce, as well as major local employers such as Yorkshire-based Micro Metalsmiths, were among the first beneficiaries of PC-based compensation systems and have continued to use increasingly advanced versions of the technology since 2008. The Centre was selected to be a key contributor to Rolls-Royce’s SAMULET project (Strategic Affordable Manufacturing in the UK with Leading Environmental Technology, 2011-2013), helping to develop rapid calibration strategies for machine tools that can reduce the average calibration time from several days to less than one hour.

Addressing the issue of temperature change

Variations in environmental and machine-induced temperature can cause changes of size and distortion of shape of machine tool structures, producing significant errors. The Centre uses a range of equipment including thermal imaging and unique temperature sensing strips to help assess these errors efficiently. A new thermal compensation system has also been created to improve existing systems.

Further research helped to combine geometric and thermal compensation software. With research partners across Europe, this has led to a modular approach to solving the effects of temperature. New research is being carried out to make this approach even more effective by improving the efficiency of the modelling through advanced numerical methods and artificial intelligence.

Training for professionals

The use of the Centre’s new methodologies throughout the industry has led to a series of industrial training courses, developed and delivered in collaboration with Machine Tools Technologies Ltd and aimed primarily at maintenance engineers employed in advanced manufacturing. These courses help reinforce collaboration between the Centre and industrial partners and provide high levels of essential training for management and personnel. The Centre became a member of the Manufacturing Technologies Association Technical Committee in 2011, providing further opportunities to shape policy and are actively involved in associated BSI and ISO standards committees.

brougham castle

Raising awareness of cultural heritage through the writings of Lady Anne Clifford

Research led by Dr Jessica Malay into Lady Anne Clifford and her Great Books of Record has led to wide-ranging new awareness of this key figure in regional history, women’s writing and political and cultural engagement. The work has helped to raise debate and understanding of the era in which she lived, by featuring in an exhibition, a series of public lectures and radio and newspaper pieces. By raising awareness in this way the research has challenged cultural and gender stereotypes, generating local and national interest in Lady Anne Clifford’s life, her achievements and her influence on literature and society.

Aristocrat, feminist and writer

Lady Anne Clifford, the 17th-century aristocrat whose fight for equal land rights is sometimes cited as a milestone in feminism, has become central to the study of early modern women’s writing. During her lifetime – she was born in 1590 and died in 1676 – her influence was felt both nationally, through a network of relationships with leading figures, and regionally, through her administration of large parts of the North of England. In recent years historians and literary scholars have become increasingly interested in her life and work and their contribution to the larger emerging picture of the period.

Transcribing a lifetime’s work

Led by Dr Jessica Malay and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, this project has made possible the transcribing and editing of Lady Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record. The books contain a 600,000 word history of the trials and triumphs of her family dynasty over six centuries and her own landmark legal struggle – in defiance of James I, Oliver Cromwell, her father and her husbands – to inherit the Cliffords’ vast estates in Cumbria and Yorkshire, including five castles and a number of villages.

Challenging gender and culture stereotypes

Drawing on rich narrative evidence of how they circumvented male authority to participate more fully in society, the research has challenged the notion that women in the 16th and 17th centuries lacked any power or control over their lives. The study has also questioned standard assumptions regarding family networks, the interaction of lords and tenants and other aspects of more than 500 years of social and political life in Britain. Most specifically, it has made for a better understanding of both the culture of the period and the ways in which past social constructions continue to inform present-day cultural attitudes.

Making space for new exhibitions

The research has generated renewed public interest in Lady Anne in what she always termed ‘the lands of my inheritance’ – the vast areas of Craven; Yorkshire and Westmorland; Cumbria, in which she continues to be revered in folk memory. It has resulted in an exhibition of the Great Books and the Great Picture, a triptych commissioned by Lady Anne in 1646. Running from May to September in 2012, the exhibition attracted over 7600 visitors to the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal, Cumbria.

7 mental health support

Improving access to effective self-help support in mental health services

Recent NHS policy has made improving access to cost-effective psychological interventions for people with mental health problems a clear priority, with the aim of improving wellbeing whilst reducing the consumption of psychoactive drugs.

At the University of Huddersfield, the Centre for Health and Social Care Research is helping to meet this challenge by developing and evaluating self-help interventions which can be provided by a range of NHS staff without professional psychotherapy or mental health training.

Tackling nationwide mental health issues

More than 16 million people in the UK are thought to suffer from mental health problems. In 2010 the estimated cost to individuals, employers and the government is more than £100 billion per annum.

With around only 10% of sufferers able to access psychological treatments, the development of effective self-help approaches represents an important means of supporting service users, offering them greater choice, control and shared decision-making.

Self-Help Access in Routine Primary Care (SHARP)

The Centre’s research has resulted in the creation of the Self-Help Access in Routine Primary Care (SHARP) initiative, a programme that gives practitioners materials and training, enabling them to deliver brief self-help interventions in their routine work, supported by a dedicated website and a range of leaflets that recognise the need for easy to understand material.

Initially piloted in West Yorkshire, practitioners reported a resulting decrease in the quantity of antidepressants being prescribed, and trials carried out prior to the launch of SHARP showed positive effects on patients suffering from anxiety and depression.

Research benefitting the work of practitioners

The SHARP approach acknowledges the expertise of practitioners and provides additional resources and training to help them provide self-help support. Feedback from practitioners with regards to online resources and training has been positive, with evidence of an increase in practitioner confidence in their ability to deal with anxiety and depression.

There has also been an increase in the use of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) approaches with patients, improvements consistent with national guidance on best practice.

Changing attitudes towards mental health

The development of accessible self-help materials and training for practitioners contributes to normalising and understanding mental health problems. It also enables access to interventions and materials on a larger scale and provides more choice to service users. This is contributing to a shift away from viewing mental health issues as a medical condition, and instead viewing them in psychosocial terms and open to more varied and effective self-management and recovery.

6 Equipment

Improving the lives of asthma and respiratory disease sufferers

The University of Huddersfield’s School of Applied Sciences has been carrying out key research into how people use inhalers and the difficulties they encounter. A team of researchers led by Professor Henry Chrystyn has developed new understanding of issues affecting millions of people globally on a daily basis, by mimicking how patients use metered dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers. Their findings have been used to inform the publication of gold standard guidelines that are now influencing practice and policy both nationally and internationally.

Tackling a global issue

Up to 300 million people suffer from asthma, including more than 5.2 million in the UK, a fifth of them children. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) represents a similar problem, with approximately 3 million patients in the UK. Inhalers are the primary form of treatment, yet many patients experience problems using them. The main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is smoking.

Redesigning the way we study inhalation

Studies on dose emission from inhalers have in the past often focused on laboratory-based experiments and case studies using patients well-practiced in the use of inhalers. These two methods have provided limited useful insight, but do not accurately reflect the difficulties experienced by average inhaler users in a real-life setting. Researchers at Huddersfield have aimed to overcome all of these shortcomings, using Huddersfield’s comprehensive and highly competitive inhalation therapeutics laboratory, to use a patient’s inhaler technique to objectively identify the characteristics of the dose they would have received.

Findings lead to improved practice and training

Crucially, this research has identified that patients use inhalers in different ways; they have a variation of inhalation characteristics. The findings of these studies have been used to inform national and international guidelines on how to train patients to use their inhalers. As well as improving the lives of those suffering from asthma and respiratory diseases, the findings have revealed that the traditional focus on peak inhalation flow when using dry powder inhalers is not as important as other aspects of a patient’s inhalation manoeuvre during inhaler use.

Future plans

Chrystyn and his colleagues are soon to be involved in a forthcoming £2.1m National Institute for Health Research Technology Assessment project to identify the synergy between low-dose oral theophylline and inhaled corticosteroids at seven UK clinical excellence centres.

Flow handling

Flow-handling system research: improving productivity and sales

The Energy, Emissions and the Environment Research Group (EEERG), led by Professor Rakesh Mishra, part of the Centre of Efficiency and Performance Engineering, has carried out key research into the optimal design of flow-handling systems. This research has transformed the development strategies and global market sales of a major industrial partner, Weir Valves and Controls Ltd. The company has achieved a 75% saving in design lead time and a 1800% increase in annual sales after integrating fluid dynamics expertise into the design process.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership

A three year Knowledge Transfer Partnership, between Weir and the University of Huddersfield, has focused on the company’s need to embed complex flow knowledge into its design, operation and sales teams. By improving scientific understanding of flow geometry of valve bodies and complex internals, this research was able to enhance valve performance and fully comply with the latest international standards. This innovative work has been credited with transforming the design, operating and sales strategies of this major industrial partner. The successful application of research, which has resulted in an 18-fold increase in sales for the company and further contracts for the University, has been described as an exemplar of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Enhancing industry knowledge

In addition to improving design lead times and sales, the research by the EEERG has enabled enhanced knowledge of the pressure field and the velocity field inside valve internals, allowing the company’s design and sales employees to handle client queries far more efficiently. The success of this collaboration has also led to more investment in the company’s research, development and sales strategies, including the formation of a new team.

“The impact of embedding outcomes of fluid dynamic analysis into the design strategy, as well as operation and sales, transformed the market for X-Stream worldwide.”

Weir’s R&D Lead Engineer

Creating opportunities for graduates

In the past three years six graduates have been employed by the company as full-time engineers, and every year Weir has employed up to two placement students, contributing to the partnership’s sustainability. These opportunities will be replicated in a future venture with another local engineering firm, as two PhD studentships are being sponsored by Blackhall Engineering Ltd to embed the team’s knowledge base into the company’s design and development activities in order to optimise Blackhall’s product range.

Thermal analytics

New thermal methods for materials processing and characterisation

Methods to improve control over thermally-induced solid state transformations have been developed by the University’s Materials and Catalysis Research Centre. The feedback-controlled thermal and microwave methods developed give catalyst and adsorbent manufacturers improved control and understanding of the materials they are working with.

The same techniques are also being applied to pyrotechnic materials, making a significant contribution to defence research in the UK and overseas.

 Improving existing manufacturing processes

When using standard or conventional thermal methods, variations in temperature can limit the level of control and the information that is available. The new thermal techniques developed by the Centre have allowed increased control and precision, leading to finer control of material properties and a better understanding of many thermally-induced solid-state processes.

Making a difference for local and global companies

This research has improved thermal analytical techniques and made available new information on the structure and function relationships in solid-state systems. The techniques developed have been used in the characterisation of catalytic materials and pyrotechnic materials, resulting in benefits to users and manufacturers, including global companies and the defence industry.

Improving the performance of personal respirators

Joint research with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has been carried out to improve carbon adsorbents for personal respirator use by improving the balance between effective adsorption performance and resistance to airflow.

Developing new pyrotechnic compounds

The Centre has also carried out research in collaboration with defence industry companies concentrating on pyrotechnic compositions, with a view to designing new materials using more benign compounds than those that have traditionally been used, resulting in a series of new formulations based on magnesium alloy-sodium nitratecalcium resinate compositions.

archeogenetics-home

Telling the story of how early man moved across the globe

Archeogenetics: reconstructing the history of mankind

The University of Huddersfield’s Archaeogenetics Research Group has led the way in developing mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) as a tool for reconstructing the dispersal history of mankind. Results include a new model of the expansion of modern humans out of Africa and re-evaluations of the settlement history of Europe, Asia and the Pacific. This work has been pivotal in the emergence of commercial genetic ancestry testing and has helped the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) formulate guidelines for the industry.

Answering the big questions about human history

The Archaeogenetics Research Group has been at the forefront of the on-going process of establishing and developing archaeogenetic methodologies. These have been applied to many of the big questions about human history, such as the settlement of the world, the spread of farming and the impact of climate change.

Tracking the movements of early humans across the globe

The group’s research shows that European genetic patterns were shaped mainly by climate change at the end of the last Ice Age. This challenges the established view that European ancestry traces primarily to the Neolithic. It has also shown that the consensus “out of Taiwan” model for the origins of island Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders is inadequate, pointing to major dispersals accompanying sea-level rises following the Ice Age, reaching New Guinea around 60,000 years ago.

How did modern humans move on from Africa?

Perhaps most significantly, the researchers have proposed a new model for the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, suggesting a single expansion along the southern coast of Asia around 60,000 years ago. This model challenges both a single route through northeast Africa and the possibility of multiple dispersals, and has become widely recognised as the consensus since its publication in 2005.

Providing guidance for the growing genetic ancestry testing industry

Genetic ancestry testing companies have emerged in the past decade as a global market with over half a million customers, and they are underpinned by the published mtDNA sequences, lineage distribution details, data analyses and interpretations developed by the group’s researchers and their colleagues. Professor Martin B Richards, head of the Archeogenetics Research Group, has played a key role in providing guidance for the industry to ensure research is used responsibly, warning of the dangers in an article in The Guardian as early as 2003. With Richards’ input the HGC published revised advice for the general public, pointing out the inherent limitations of genetic ancestry tests in 2010. This led to the HGC publishing a framework including guidance on genetic ancestry tests.

Archeogenetic research underpins BBC TV documentaries

Richards has acted as consultant for the BBC Two series The Incredible Human Journey (2m viewers), and the first episode of BBC One’s Andrew Marr’s History of the World (3.85m viewers). Viewers commented that both programmes changed their view of human evolution, and the Andrew Marr series is now used in schools as a teaching aid.

‘When I discovered… that every person now alive who is not a sub-Saharan African shares ancestry from a single tribe that left Africa some 70,000 years ago… well, that felt like a wonderful place to begin.’

ANDREW MARR, JOURNALIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR

 

Students collaborating in the School of Education and Professional Development

Understanding and supporting young people out of work and education

A team of researchers at the University of Huddersfield’s School of Education and Professional Development has spent over five years researching the experiences and needs of marginalised young people, including those classified as not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Responding to a need for insight into their lives and possible solutions to the problem of youth unemployment, the research challenges populist conceptions of young people on the margins of education and work.

Challenging the stereotyping of young people

NEET young people are often burdened by negative stereotypes and assertions. The University of Huddersfield has addressed these assumptions by uncovering the complex factors involved in young people’s attempts to find a route into work, training or education. The team finds that although many NEET young people suffer significant social and educational disadvantages, most have what are generally considered as mainstream attitudes and aspirations. Dr Ron Thompson has carried out research relating dominant policy discourses about NEET young people to ideas of social exclusion. This contests the notion that youth unemployment is rooted in cultures of dependency and ‘worklessness’. At
the 6th National NEET conference in 2012, Professor Robin Simmons urged policy makers, educationalists and industrialists not to write off young people who are out of work and have dropped out of education, and argued that training schemes should be more
responsive to the needs and abilities of these individuals. He is also the keynote speaker at the 2014 National NEET conference in February.

Should further education or training be compulsory?

In 2008 Simmons examined the proposal to extend compulsory participation in education and training to the age of 18. He argued that the needs of NEET young people were in danger of being marginalised by an economy largely based on low-skill, low-pay work. Since 2008, the research has explored training programmes claiming to enhance the employability of young people, a critical area for practitioners and policymakers.

Employability programmes –do they deliver?

The team’s research into Entry to Employment (E2E) programmes and similar provisions warned that their focus on generic skills could promote an impoverished form of employability and reinforce class-based labour divisions. Subsequent research by Simmons, Thompson and Dr Lisa Russell showed how a target-driven system and funding constraints can compromise the ability to meet young people’s needs. Such schemes, although potentially helping young people to find work, are unlikely to offer participants a meaningful advantage in adverse economic conditions.

Securing funding for key education research

The success of this research helped secure funding from The Leverhulme Trust to carry out research into the lived experience of NEET young people between 2010-2013. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation then awarded the same team a grant to examine the workplace experiences of young people who have previously been NEET, a project which ran from 2012-2013. The team reports the results of the Leverhulme-funded research in the book Education, Work and Social Change, published by Palgrave Macmillan in summer 2014.

3M Bic

Entrepreneurial success

Entrepreneurial University of the Year

In 2012, the University was proud to receive the Times Higher Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award for its “entrepreneurial outlook championed at the highest levels of the institution”. The innovative research carried out by the Business School has resulted in regional and national impact in the field of entrepreneurship and enterprise. Continue reading