News in brief

Students seek to educate with ground-breaking conference on learning differences

16 January 2017

Experts will gather to debate disability, society and education at a student-organised conference, introduced by Lord David Blunkett.

Hosted by the Specific Learning Difficulties Society, the conference will take place in the Student Union’s Auditorium on Thursday 9 February 2017 from 6.30 - 9.30pm.

The evening brings together top experts in the fields of disability and learning difficulties, and is designed to create dialogue around the topic of disability in education.

Organising students have found a strong supporter in Lord Blunkett, who states that the society is ‘worthy of considerable praise’ for holding a debate ‘which aims to give a voice to those to whom lip service is often paid but practical action is long delayed in implementation.’

Tickets are on sale from

12 December 2016

Exposing weaknesses in the bacterial cell wall to prevent infection

A Sheffield researcher is part of an international team that has found a new way to attack one of our strongest bacterial enemies.

Dr Andrew Fenton, who recently joined the University of Sheffield, moving from Harvard University in the USA, has published research that has identified a part of the bacterial machinery that, if compromised, could offer a potential new target for novel anti-bacterial drugs.

Antibiotics, such as penicillin, are often used to treat bacterial infections. However, there is widespread concern that bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and that this could present a major hazard to human health.

Dr Fenton carried out research at Harvard, with Professors David Rudner and Thomas Bernhardt, to find out how the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, controls the structure of its cell wall.

Dr Fenton said of the findings: "Now a weak spot in bacterial armour has been identified, my future research at the University of Sheffield will examine the opportunities to target this failing. If we can deliberately prevent CozE from doing its job, we can prevent the spread of infection and reduce the potential for life-threatening illness in patients.”

12 December 2016

University and Mironid collaborate on kidney disease drug discovery

The University of Sheffield has announced a new collaboration with a leader in cell signalling-directed drug development, Mironid Ltd, to identify and develop new molecules for the treatment of kidney disease.

The partnership will focus on advancing Mironid’s proprietary LoAc molecules towards clinical development with the aim of producing new therapies that can improve the health of patients with Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD).

ADPKD is a devastating, life-threatening and currently incurable genetic disorder in which kidney cysts progressively form throughout life. It affects around 12.5 million people worldwide, with around 50 per cent requiring treatment for kidney failure by the age of 60.
The cyst formation is driven by excessive generation of the cell signalling molecule cyclic adenosine monophosphate (AMP), and causes a wide range of health problems including abdominal pain, high blood pressure and urinary tract infections, eventually leading to kidney failure.

Albert Ong, Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Sheffield's Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, said: “The University has developed leading edge, translational ADPKD models and expertise in biomarker development and clinical strategies for therapeutics for the disease. Prof Miles Houslay has spent over 30 years investigating the mechanisms of PDE4 biology, and we are very pleased to be working in partnership with his team at Mironid to progress the development of therapeutics for this debilitating disease.”

Dr Neil Wilkie, Director and Chief Operating Officer at Mironid, said: “Professor Ong is a world leading authority on ADPKD and his research at the University of Sheffield focuses on the molecular genetics, cell biology, pathogenesis and therapy for this disease. We are delighted to be working with his team to develop new therapeutics that have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for patients suffering with ADPKD.”

8 December 2016

Royal Academy Fellowship for ‘outstanding’ energy researcher

An academic from the University of Sheffield has been awarded five years’ funding to advance their work in functional materials for energy applications by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Rebecca Boston, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was awarded the prestigious fellowship for her work, funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Her research, in the area of nanostructured oxides for sustainable energy storage and recovery, is focused on creating functional ceramics for capacitors, thermoelectric generators, and fuel cell materials.

The Royal Academy of Engineering research fellowships are designed to advance excellence by encouraging the outstanding early career researchers to continue their work at the cutting edge of engineering developments and become future leaders in their field.

Dr Boston said: “I was extremely pleased to hear that I had been awarded a fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This distinguished award will allow me to focus on my research and will be a huge boost for my career.”

The University of Sheffield’s Energy 2050 institute is one of the UK’s largest energy research centres with world-class expertise in the area of energy storage – from materials and battery chemistry to testing facilities.

11 November 2016

Sheffield student’s Parkinson’s snap wins national award

A PhD student from the University of Sheffield has scooped a national award after capturing a striking image of pioneering Parkinson’s research.

The winning image

Scientist Karla Robles Lopez, from the University’s Department of Neuroscience, won the Picturing Parkinson’s annual research image competition which celebrates the beauty and art of research into the degenerative disease. It is thought Parkinson's affects 127,000 people in the UK.

The winning photograph depicts the trial of TIGAR which researchers believe may be involved in some genetic forms of the condition – however its role remains unknown.

All scientific research comes with no promises of success and Karla’s image - which shows a section of brain tissue where the TIGAR protein has been stained - represents years of painstaking work.

Picturing Parkinson’s is held in memory of scientist Dr Jonathan Stevens, a research supporter who was passionate about making research accessible and easy to understand. He communicated progress to inspire other people with Parkinson’s.

For more information about the Department of Neuroscience please visit Neuroscience

View the top 10 images from the 2016 Picturing Parkinson’s image competition

For more information about Parkinson’s please visit Parkinson’s UK

19 October 2016

Sheffield residents can take a tour of the globe during international language festival

Students at the University of Sheffield are giving members of the public a chance to try out a selection of 17 languages from across the globe in a single afternoon.

Spanish, Tamil, Luxembourgish, Cantonese and Urdu are among the diverse languages on offer during 50-minute taster sessions at the International Languages Festival – part of Sheffield Students’ Union’s World Week.

The event on Sunday 23 October 2016, from 1pm-6pm, will see students from different cultural backgrounds teaching a selection of languages including Russian, Farsi, Mandarin and Esperanto.

Ana Popa, International Officer at Sheffield Students’ Union, said: “The International Languages Festival is more than an opportunity to learn the basics of many languages in a day - it is a cultural journey from one country to another, from one continent to another.

“It is also a showcase of our diverse community and it sends across the message that, despite our language barriers and differences, we can find similarities in our communications. This ability to communicate in more than one language, even just a phrase - to understand and to learn – is the main trait that makes us all global citizens. We are international.”

The International Languages Festival is in its seventh year and is part of World Week – an annual celebration of the cultural diversity at the University of Sheffield. The Students’ Union’s official partner and sponsor is the British Esperanto Association, which founded the festival in France in 1995.

Tickets for the festival cost £2 and are available at the Students’ Union Box Office or online at

23 September 2016

From Sheffield to Broadway: researcher advises on 60th anniversary production of My Fair Lady

A researcher from the University of Sheffield has been recruited as an advisor in a landmark production of the Broadway musical My Fair Lady.

Dr Dominic McHugh from the University’s Department of Music has been advising the production team during their preparations for the 60th anniversary performance of the musical, directed by Dame Julie Andrews, which is a reconstruction of the original 1956 Broadway staging.

Dr McHugh was asked to work as an advisor after discovering lost songs from musical, which were then performed in public for the first time in 59 years during a production at the University of Sheffield last year.

The special 60th anniversary production is now being staged in Australia at the Sydney Opera House until November.

Understudies in the Opera House production sang seven of the lost songs and Dr McHugh appeared on a panel to discuss the musical alongside Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli, who is the choreographer for the production. The panel was chaired by Emily Altman, President of the Frederick Loewe Foundation.

Dr McHugh said: "It was a dream come true to go and meet Julie Andrews and see the energetic work of the team at the Sydney Opera House behind this unique production. The Australian audience loved the opportunity to hear the 'lost songs' too, and it was an honour to be able to share a project that was such a special event in the life of the University in 2015."

5 September 2016

Olympic silver medallist returns to University

Olympic silver medalist Bryony PageOlympic silver medalist Bryony Page returned to the University of Sheffield last week (2 September 2016) to thank staff who supported her during her studies.

Trampolinist Bryony graduated in 2015 with a first in Biology from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.

She returned to Sport Sheffield at the University to thank those staff that supported her throughout her studies and training.

Bryony was a recipient of a scholarship from the University’s Elite Sports Performance Scheme which gave her financial support towards training and travel to competitions as well as mentoring and access to facilities.

Andy Cox, Director of Sport Sheffield said: “We are so proud of Bryony’s achievements at Rio. She is a fantastic role model for our students involved in sports at all levels, whether that’s our elite athletes or sports club members.”

More info on the Elite Performance Scheme:

21 July 2016

Pioneering university lab opens its doors for charity

Researchers funded by the Bone Cancer Research Trust will be offering a behind the scenes lab tour at the University of Sheffield on Saturday 23 July 2016.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust, which is the leading charity dedicated to fighting primary bone cancer, is working with the Sheffield Sarcoma Research Group (SSRG)at the University of Sheffield to open up a research laboratory for the morning, with talks from oncologists and researchers also on offer.

The SSRG is made up of clinicians and non-clinical researchers working together to better understand the causes of soft-tissue and bone sarcomas, to identify new prognostic markers and to develop new therapeutic approaches.

Dr Alison Gartland, Reader in Bone and Cancer Biology from the SSRG, said: “We are passionate about finding ways to cure and treat patients with this devastating disease, and funding from the Bone Cancer Research Trust is vital for that.

"It is also important to us at SSRG that we engage with both patients and fundraisers to let them know what we are doing and how their money is being spent! Opening the doors to our labs so that they can see exactly what we do is just one fun way to do that!”

Hannah Birkett, Research and Information Officer at the Bone Cancer Research Trust, said: “Primary bone cancer is a rare and brutal disease, and it can be very difficult for people to access the information they need as they navigate diagnosis and treatment.

It’s really important that the patients and families we support have the opportunity to find out more about the pioneering research being carried out to improve treatment options and quality of life and care.”

To book a press place for the morning, which runs from 10.30am until 1pm at the University of Sheffield, please email