News in brief

19 December 2014

Research set to establish UK as manufacturing hub for nano-engineered materials and devices

The University of Sheffield has been given a slice of £2.65 million to establish the UK as a leading hub for the manufacture of advanced semiconductor materials.

The grant from the Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has been awarded to the universities of Sheffield, Bath, Bristol and Strathclyde, to fund equipment and researchers to develop advanced manufacturing techniques for nano-engineered semiconductors, a foundation of modern electronics.

A particular focus of the hub will be III-nitrides – semiconductors such as Gallium Nitrade (GaN) which underpin the emerging global solid state lighting and power electronics industries. The impact of these materials was recently recognised by the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, pioneers in the field.

Professor Tao Wang, Professor of Advanced Optoelectronics at the University of Sheffield, said: “I am delighted by this phenomenal support from EPSRC. It will play a vital role in scaling up laboratory-scale process of manufacturing III-nitride semiconductors to pilot scale, significantly benefiting both academia and industry in the UK through working closely with the experts in Bath, Bristol and Strathclyde and also a number of industrial partners.”

Professor Mike Hounslow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield, added: “We are delighted to have received this award, which, combined with our exceptional record on advanced manufacturing techniques and semiconductors and our strategic academic and industrial partners, will enable us to be the UK world leader in this area.”

17 December 2014

Children’s use of apps studied to help parents and teachers

TabletWith almost 40 per cent of pre-school children in the UK now using tablets, a new study by the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh will examine how these youngsters use apps to learn and play.

University researchers will collaborate with the BBC children’s television channel CBeebies, development studio and consultancy Dubit, children's media company Founding Bird and Monteney Primary in Sheffield to explore how far tablet apps for 0-five year olds promote play and creativity.

The study, which is being funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council, will begin in January 2015.

Professor Jackie Marsh from the University of Sheffield’s School of Education, who is leading the study, said: “We know that almost 40 per cent of pre-schoolers in the UK use tablets, but many parents and teachers say that they are not sure how to choose good apps for this age group.

“From our work, we aim to develop guidance on the features of apps that promote play, creativity and learning”.

The study will be completed in June 2015, along with guidance on choosing apps for parents and pre-school teachers.

Kay Benbow, Controller of Cbeebies, said: "It's hugely helpful to be working with partners to benefit from an academic lens on the work which will help us shape our future output and serve our audiences the best we possibly can."

Peter Robinson, head of research at Dubit, added: "We've seen how tablets are able to grab children's attention in ways that physical media isn't always able to do. We're looking forward to taking part in this project.

"The more we can understand how children use these devices, the more we can help to improve their entertainment and their education."

16 December 2014

University lecturer elected Vice President of Education at the British Institute of Radiology

Dr Elspeth WhitbyA senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield has been elected as the Vice President for Education at the British Institute of Radiology (BIR).

Dr Elspeth Whitby, from the Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine and Honorary Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, was elected as the Vice President for Education by the oldest radiological society in the world.

Within her new role Dr Whitby will be working to expand the education available outside London and develop diplomas, online courses, and accreditation programme and webinars.

Dr Whitby said: “With a new education strategy, the BIR is in a great position now to offer really exciting and innovative education and I am really looking forward to working with the team to develop some fantastic resources for multi-disciplinary working.”

After joining the BIR in 1994 as a radiology trainee Dr Whitby is currently the Northern Branch Chair and was awarded the BIR Flude Memorial Travelling Fellowship in 2003.

Her research interest of obstetric MR imaging allows her to develop new services for the benefit of patients and teach colleagues to help develop a nationwide service.

Dr David Wilson, President of the BIR, said: “We are thrilled to have Dr Whitby on board. She brings a wealth of expertise and experience, not to mention lots of energy and innovative ideas.”

11 December 2014

University welcomes 100 postgraduate scholarship students

Postgraduate student Ali Hayward received a scholarshipFive Sheffield residents are among 100 students to be awarded scholarships to study masters degrees at the University of Sheffield as part of a multi-million pound scheme to encourage under-represented groups into taught postgraduate education.

Ali Hayward, 50, who is a wheelchair user and lives in Gleadless, has been awarded a scholarship to undertake a masters English Literature degree in Creative Writing. Ali completed an undergraduate English Literature degree through the University of Sheffield’s Department for Lifelong Learning, and is now determined to take her passion for creative writing further.

“This university is amazing,” she said. "I'm not well enough to work and so there would have been no way I could have afforded to do a masters degree. I love creative writing and I’m hoping that this will allow me to teach, particularly those who missed out on education like I did.

"A university should reflect the city it’s in and it’s great to see Sheffield is taking such positive steps to widen participation."

Another Sheffield recipient is Amberly Richardson from Birley. After completing a psychology degree at Sheffield Hallam University she worked as a teaching assistant for three years.

"I wanted to do social work but just could not afford to do the two year Masters degree,” said 26-year-old Amberly. "There is a career development loan but that would mean getting into even more debt after my undergraduate degree so this scholarship has really opened the door for me."

Sheffield is the lead member of a consortium of six universities (Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Warwick and York) which secured £3m of HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) funding to support progression to postgraduate study. The project aims to test ways of supporting progression into taught postgraduate education by stimulating participation by students who would not otherwise progress to this level of study.

The successful scholars were selected from over 300 eligible applicants who applied for the scholarship offer which is the biggest postgraduate taught scholarship offer the country has ever seen.

An event to congratulate the scholars’ success in securing their award was held on Friday 28 November 2014 at the University’s Firth Hall. Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett welcomed the scholars and the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Councillor Peter Rippon was present and joined in the celebrations.

In his opening address, the Vice-Chancellor said: "This University was built by people who were determined that education should be in the reach of all those who had the talent to make the most of it. They believed that privilege and family wealth should not be the only things which determined opportunity. We still believe that."

25 November 2014

Psychology academic blogs his way to success

Tom Stafford nibUniversity of Sheffield psychology academic, Dr Tom Stafford, has scooped a national award for his blog which makes research accessible to the general public.

Dr Stafford received the 2014 British Psychological Society’s Public Engagement and Media Award jointly with Matt Webb, a technology entrepreneur from, for their work editing, a popular blog covering psychology and neuroscience news and views.

The blog was established by the pair in 2004 and covers research relating to the mind and brain. Today it has a wide international audience reaching thousands of people and on its most popular day in May this year it received more than 100,000 unique visitors.

Dr Stafford said: “The thing that’s always drawn is finding the everyday angle on things, how can we see these phenomena outside of the lab.”

He added: “It’s really pleasing that this is the first time a blog has been nominated for this award and the first time one has won.”

The British Psychological Society award recognises the work of psychologists who, either directly or through the media, have made an outstanding contribution to raising the profile of psychology with the general public.

21 November 2014

University awarded $15,000 to support engineering students

The University of Sheffield has been awarded a $15,000 grant to support engineering students as they further their education and development.

The funding from the Alcoa Foundation will be used for materials, environment-related symposia and educational events to help undergraduate and postgraduate students, principally from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Professor Mark Rainforth, Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering said: “The Department of Materials Science and Engineering has a long history of working with industry, both local and international, to advance our knowledge of materials and metallurgy.

“Alcoa Foundation's grant will allow us to offer training opportunities to our students via short term assignments and industry placements, and provide them with additional skills, which they will use to further their careers.”

The Alcoa Foundation this week revealed it was awarding a total of $65,000 grants for three Sheffield organisations supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education and healthcare initiatives, also including The Children’s Hospital Charity, which serves Sheffield Children’s Hospital, and Work-Wise.

Scott Hudson, Principal Manager of Social Responsibility and Community Outreach at the Alcoa Foundation, said: “Alcoa Foundation partners with organizations in our communities to address local needs.

“These dedicated non-profit organisations continue to positively impact the youth in Sheffield, and we are proud to work with them to strengthen their efforts.”

The announcement followed Alcoa (NYSE: AA) completing its acquisition of Firth Rixson, a global leader in aerospace jet engine components, with operations in the Sheffield area.

17 November 2014

Students vote to name residences in honour of Sheffield war hero

Cadets with Major William Allen's grandson at the unveiling of the plaqueOne of the most decorated British Army medical officers of the First World War has been honoured by the University of Sheffield. 

To commemorate 100 years since the start of the First World War, students from the University have voted for a private student residence building to be named in honour of Major William Barnsley Allen VC, a medical officer who was recognised for his gallantry four times during the conflict. 

Born in Sheffield on 8 June 1892, Major Allen attended St Cuthbert’s College, now Worksop College, and then studied medicine at the University of Sheffield.

A member of the Sheffield University Officer Training Corps, William joined the Royal Army Medical Corps a few days after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, progressing through the ranks and ultimately being awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of his valour in the face of the enemy.

During a ceremony to announce the naming of the building, cadets from the region stood to attention while Major Allen’s grandson, Nigel Barnsley Allen, unveiled a plaque in William’s honour.

Miles Stevenson, Director of Alumni and Donor Relations at the University, said: “The University of Sheffield was honoured to dedicate Allen Court in honour of Major William Barnsley Allen VC. The naming idea came from our students and we are particularly pleased that Major Allen's grandson, Nigel Allen, could unveil a plaque. We feel it is very important to remember doctors like Major Allen who served on the Western Front.”

William’s grandson, Nigel Barnsley Allen, added: “I feel very honoured that the University of Sheffield students have chosen to name Allen Court after my Grandfather, Major William Barnsley Allen VC, and I was delighted to come to Sheffield to unveil a plaque in his memory.”

Among his many acts of bravery and courage during the war, Major Allen defied heavy shelling to dress the wounds of soldiers who had come under fire while unloading gun detachments. Despite himself being hit four times during the first hour, one of which fractured two of his ribs, William continued his duties until the last man was dressed and safely removed. It was only when this was done that he returned to his dug-out and reported his own injury.

14 November 2014

Honour for professor’s work championing women in STEM

Elena Rodriquez-FalconA University of Sheffield professor has been honoured for her outstanding contribution to promoting female talent in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by HRH The Princess Royal.

Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Professor of Enterprise and Engineering Education at the University, was 'highly commended' in the WISE Champion category at this year's WISE Awards, which recognise those who work to encourage and support women in STEM careers.

Professor Rodriguez-Falcon, who received her award from WISE patron HRH The Princess Royal, said: "Encouraging more women to study engineering is not only the right thing to do but the responsible thing to do. I am truly honoured to receive this award, I really am. But the work is far from over.

"I will continue to champion Women in Engineering under the leadership of Dr Rachael Elder and hopefully one day we will be able to evidence that our work has made a true difference."

Trudy Norris-Grey, Chairperson of the WISE Campaign, which is now in its 30th year, added: “Most girls never think about being an engineer or a computer scientist because they have never met a woman who is one. The WISE Awards change how people think about science and engineering by showcasing examples of girls and women who love what they do to inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps.”

12 November 2014

Entrepreneurs brew-up India success

Damini Mahajan and Arjun Krishna, graduates from the University of SheffieldIndia is set to get its first indigenous health drink, thanks to two pioneering entrepreneurs from the University of Sheffield. 

Arjun Krishna, aged 24, and Damini Mahajan, aged 23, have been awarded funding from the Indian Government to launch their ‘true health drink’ by 2016. 

The idea for the beverage, which is made using a process that produces vitamins and minerals naturally, rather than the current artificial methods used widely throughout the market, was born while Arjun and Damini were studying Biological and Bioprocess Engineering in Sheffield.

Produced in a similar way to beer, the multiple strain fermentation formula was inspired by a series of projects and competitions which the graduates completed during their time at the University.

Arjun, who has since co-founded the global beverage company Naturlich with fellow Sheffield-graduate Damini, said: “We got into the world of beverages during our participation in the AB-InBev Best Beer Competition in 2013, where we were supposed to brew a beer representing the University’s rich heritage and culture. We won the UK heats title and were European runners’ up, which brought us the thought of creating something for the Indian beverage industry.

“The University’s courses and modules helped us to understand the technical know-how of our project. Such well-equipped labs and infrastructure were a real motivation for us to work.”

Following the grant of 5 million INR, the graduates are now applying for a prestigious Education UK Alumni award, presented by the British Council, which honours outstanding achievements by entrepreneurs that are demonstrating how higher education in the UK has contributed to their success.

Meanwhile as the two await funding from the Indian Government to ramp up their health beverage production, they are developing a whole fruit drink concept which aims to incorporate two portions of fruit in each drink to meet dietary requirements outlined by the World Health Organisation.