September 20, 2018, by Liz Goodwin

University News Review — July and August 2018

The University of Nottingham saw many of its stories hitting the headlines over the summer…


Lost history of the brown bear

The fascinating story that wild brown bears, thought to have died out in the Bronze Age, may still have roamed Britain 1,500 years ago, hit the headlines.

New research, led by Dr Hannah O’Regan of the University’s Department of Classics and Archaeology, which appeared on the Mail Online and BBC News Online, revealed insight into the extinction of Britain’s largest native carnivore.

The study raised two scenarios… either ‘native bears’ went extinct around the early Middle Ages, or they disappeared some 3,000 years ago in the Bronze Age or in Neolithic times.

Dr O’Regan has examined the location of the sites where materials have previously been found, the dating evidence and the body parts present, to determine when the bear became extinct and where it was imported from other countries.

She concluded “Whilst we can speculate on when the bear became extinct based on existing evidence, more research, particularly on the many undated specimens from caves and fens is needed before a clearer pattern of where brown bear distribution and extinction in Britain emerges.”

Treating misogyny as a hate crime


According to a new report by Nottingham academics, people in Nottinghamshire will not tolerate misogyny. Over 87 per cent of people surveyed thought a policy change two years ago, to make it a hate crime, was a good idea.

The findings by Professor Louise Mullany of the University’s School of English and her co-researcher Dr Louisa Trickett of Nottingham Trent University revealed that while the public supported the change and women who had reported incidents were broadly positive about it, police were “dismissive” and “not in favour of the introduction of the policy.”

The story received widespread coverage both nationally and locally with articles appearing online for The Independent, The Telegraph and BBC News, along with discussion on BBC Radio Nottingham and Talk Radio.

Professor Mullany also appeared on BBC News at Six, talking about her research and data, which led to Nottinghamshire Police becoming the first force in the country to start recording cases of suspected misogyny as a hate crime.

She said: “The key thing is that women feel that the police are taking them seriously at last about this issue.”

Artificial Intelligence behind the wheel

It’s been predicted that driverless cars could become a reality in just five years, allowing people to read a book, eat or even work while their car drives them around.

But would you trust the technology? That’s something a team at the University is working on.

BBC East Midlands Today and BBC Radio Nottingham reported on the story that smart technologies are being developed to help driverless vehicles connect and communicate with each other. The £1.7m i-Motors project includes research into devising new sensors for autonomous vehicles, needed for navigation and communication between driverless vehicles to reduce collisions.

Dr Xiaolin Meng of the Nottingham Geospatial Institute, said: “A totally driverless world requires disruptive, affordable technology to help vehicles interact with traffic control centres, their connected surroundings and other vehicles. Real time, high-precision positioning and navigation with unlimited connectivity is vital to maintain vehicle performance.”

New balls please

As tennis buffs began to queue and mounds of strawberries and cream were consumed, it could only mean one thing…. Wimbledon.

July heralded the start of the prestigious tennis championships, where over the course of the two-week tournament some 2,500 tennis balls were used.

To ensure the balls have the required elasticity for play they are routinely changed every six games. Until now, a simple and convenient way to test a ball court-side didn’t exist, meaning many balls were unnecessarily rejected. But a team of mechanical engineering students at the University has developed a portable impact tester to accurately gauge the rebound of a tennis ball.

The prototype is affordable, lightweight, can test a ball every 20 seconds and is designed to minimise waste.

Watch the clip from East Midlands Today

Research News

New drugs used to treat serious blood clots, known as direct oral anticoagulants, are associated with reduced risks of major bleeding compared with the older anti-clotting drug, warfarin, according to a new study by the University.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, provide initial reassurance about the safety of the new drugs as an alternative to warfarin for all new patients. Until recently, thousands of patients at risk of strokes and heart attacks were given warfarin, but this can cause bleeding in the brain and stomach, and patients have to be closely monitored by GPs.

The new blood thinning drugs — direct oral anticoagulants, or DOACs — are much less likely to cause bleeds than warfarin.

The researchers point out that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Nevertheless, they say “our results give an initial, reassuring, indication of the risk patterns for all patients taking anticoagulants.”

Father’s diet could affect health of his offspring

Looking after your children’s health starts before they are even conceived, according to researchers from the University’s School of Medicine and Biosciences.

The Mail Online and the Express reported on the study, carried out on mice, which revealed a lack of protein in a man’s diet could affect the quality of his sperm which could have a direct impact on the long-term health of any children he has.

Kevin Sinclair, Professor of Developmental Biology, said: “It is important to recognise that sperm contribute more than just half of the genes that make up a child. Our study shows that the composition of seminal plasma can be altered by father’s diet, and this can also influence offspring wellbeing.”

Filming on campus

TV doctor, Michael Mosley and the BBC Trust Me I’m A Doctor crew have been back on campus over the summer filming a special episode of the popular medical show.

Our physiology researchers over at the School of Medicine in Derby have been helping Michael to investigate whether activities  other than running can give you a measurable ‘runners’ high’.

The team were filmed at the Graduate Medical School in Derby putting local volunteers through their paces, with cycling, dancing, singing and reading activities.

Tune in for the results which will be revealed in the programme due to be broadcast on Wednesday 26 September on BBC Two.

And finally…

If swiping right to find a human partner is getting boring, consider rating a rabbit.

Scientists at the University launched a ‘rabbit cuteness’ survey that asked the public to score a rabbit’s looks from 0-10 and say which features they find irresistible, from soft fur to soulful eyes.

The Rabbit Face Survey ‘hopped’ onto the internet last month and the team behind it wanted to find out what factors influence their preference for breeds of rabbit with different face shapes, ear and fur types, so they can better understand what drives breeding for some of the more unusual looking rabbits available.

The results of the survey, which collected over 20,000 responses, could inform safer breeding methods to help prevent some of the health problems that can happen as a result of intensive breeding to produce rabbits with more extreme facial features.

Dr Naomi Harvey from the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “The flat-faced rabbits can suffer from really bad dental problems and some of the more extreme lop-eared rabbits can develop ear infections.”

Watch the Rabbit Face Survey


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