News in brief

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

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

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

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

10 November 2014

New stain will help shed light on deeper workings of cells

University of Sheffield researchers have developed new easy-to-handle molecule stains for Transmission Electron Microscopy, TEM, something that could pave the way for medical breakthroughs by allowing a deeper understanding of how the cell works.

Cellular researchTo gain an understanding of how life works at a molecular scale, scientists currently use a variety of different microscope systems and TEM allows them to visualise structures within cells at very high resolutions. Instead of light, this technique uses a beam of electrons to build up pictures of the intricate molecular components that make up cells. However, really detailed pictures can only be obtained using special stains that increase the contrast and resolution of these images.

The most commonly used stain for this work, osmium tetroxide, is extremely toxic and nasty to handle, vaporising to produce toxic and corrosive fumes that will rapidly produce lung damage and blindness.

To address this issue, researchers from the University have developed a new, alternative stain to osmium tetroxide that provides even more detailed images of cell contents and is easy and safe to handle, non-volatile, and can easily be used in the open atmosphere. Their research has been featured on the front cover of prestigious journal Chem Comms.

Dr Jim Thomas, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Chemistry, said: "Our finding is a major step forward for cellular research. Currently, in order to understand how cells work, scientists are using a stain so dangerous that there have even been scares about its use by terrorists in dirty bombs.

"Our new stain is not only safe to use but will provide researchers with even more detailed images of the cell nucleus than was previously possible using osmium tetroxide, as it specifically stains DNA - the genetic blueprints" of life which is stored in the nucleus."

7 November 2014

University connects innovators in business and industry at international conference

Vice Chancellor Professor Keith BurnettThe University of Sheffield is bringing together partners from across disciplines and industrial sectors to create opportunities for collaboration and support partnerships that create value and impact.

BIN@Sheffield2014, the fifth international BIN@ conference, is being hosted by the University's Innovation Centres on 10-12 November 2014. It will challenge participants and delegates to consider how universities can be engines of innovation and growth.

BIN@ is an informal international network of partners from across industry, academia, investment, incubation, business development and economic development agencies supporting the sharing of good practice and knowledge and promoting open innovation. The network enables industry partners to create new products and access international markets by 'soft landing' in partner incubators around the world.

Examples of collaboration include a Portuguese medical device company starting up on Sheffield, and a UK company creating a Joint Venture in the United States to commercialise Portuguese research. The network also holds annual international events to promote global innovation and support collaboration opportunities.

Mark Sanderson, who leads the Innovation Centres at The University of Sheffield, said: "The objective of BIN@ is to create a trusted and open forum for sharing good practice in innovation, and promoting and supporting collaboration between academia and industry. Our university and business partners are now found in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Kobe, Kyoto, Riyadh and Toronto, as well across the USA and Europe.

"In the first half of 2014 alone the University of Sheffield has started discussions on at least six research projects which could deliver new innovations in areas ranging from medical imaging and new biomaterials, to autonomous parking systems which could significantly reduce parking costs, traffic congestion and the amount of land needed in overcrowded cities."


5 November 2014

University team awarded for best stand-out project

A research team from the University of Sheffield has been commended for an innovative partnership, which has led to the creation of a novel bioplastic made from sustainable materials.

(l-r) Andrew Gill, Alma Hodzic and Shaun ChattertonProfessor Alma Hodzic and her team last night (4 Novemeber 2014) won the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Best of the Best 2014 Awards, in the category Best UK Partnership, for her project with Shaun Chatterton and Dr Andrew Gill from Floreon, a spin-out company based on the biodegradable biopolymer technology developed by the University and CPD Plc in Hull.

This year’s awards celebrated partnerships that have excelled in the areas of Engineering Excellence, Societal Impact and Business Impact, among others, with individual awards being given to Business Leaders of Tomorrow. The celebration concluded with the much-coveted Best UK Partnership Award, defined as the KTP which has brought the greatest benefits to all three participants, and which best exemplified innovation through collaboration.

Floreon is an innovative, environmentally friendly, high performing bioplastic developed from sustainable materials.

Speaking about the project, Professor Hodzic, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: "The final product, Floreon, has been developed after four years of research and two KTPs that have both been graded by independent Technology Strategy Board reviewers as Outstanding."

She added: "This experience has shown us that the KTP scheme can effectively accelerate academic know-how into the world of innovative applications, and in this case with significant benefits to the environment."

Shaun Chatterton, CEO of Floreon said: “This KTP is a perfect example of the successful partnerships between industry and academia; the technology created by researchers at the University of Sheffield and the independent partner Floreon driving forward the commercialisation of the product. We are positive about the possibility of developing a global brand having already invested over £1 million into this exciting innovation.

3 November 2014

University promotes better protection for journalists across the globe after rise in attacks

ThumbnailThe University of Sheffield’s Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) has taken a leading part in the launch of a global initiative aimed at securing stronger protections for journalists, in response to an alarming rise in the number of killings and violent attacks.

CFOM, with the Council of Europe, the United Nation Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the European Lawyers Union, has organised a Seminar and Inter-regional Dialogue at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (3 November 2014), aimed at enforcing and upgrading legal protections for journalists everywhere, whose safety and security is threatened because of their work.

CFOM’s International Director, William Horsley, said: “Together with our partner organisations, CFOM aims to give practical support to international efforts to reverse the global trend of growing violence against journalists and impunity, where national authorities fail to prosecute and punish those responsible for such attacks.

“Frameworks of legal protection vary greatly between different regions of the world, and the Seminar will see representatives from Inter-Governmental Organisations and regional human rights courts in Europe, the Americas and Africa coming together with leading lawyers and NGOs to advance efforts to develop a consistent framework of protection and eradicate impunity.”

The event marks the first official UN International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which was declared by the General Assembly in December 2013.

23 October 2014

New university librarian swaps Australia for Sheffield

Librarian Anne HornA top librarian is swapping the sunny shores of Australia for Sheffield to embark on her dream job.

Anne Horn will travel almost 10,000 miles to take up her new role as University Librarian and Director of Library Services at the University of Sheffield.

Currently University Librarian and Executive Director of Academic Support at Deakin University in Victoria, Anne will become the ninth Librarian of the University of Sheffield and the first woman to hold the role.

Anne joined Deakin in 2005 having previously worked at the University of Queensland and EBSCO Australia.
“I am delighted to be joining the University of Sheffield,” said Anne.

“The University’s aspirations and culture, and the Library’s reputation and talented team, have made the decision to move to the UK an easy one.

“My husband, Mac, will be accompanying me to Sheffield and my son Douglas will be following us in his gap year. We are becoming increasingly excited with the prospect of exploring Sheffield, the beauties of Yorkshire and the UK.”

She added: “I understand that it will be near the end of winter when we arrive, which may allow us some time to acclimatise!”

University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, said: "The role of University Librarian is crucial to the academic purpose of our University. Teaching and research both rely on the highest quality of leadership in this area, and Anne was the unanimous choice of the selection panel, from a strong field.

“Our new Librarian will be fortunate to take on a library service which is rightly recognised as outstanding. Accolades such as the recent Number One for Student Experience and the award of Outstanding Library Team in the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards reflect Martin's exceptional contribution and leadership.”

Anne will take over the position from Martin Lewis who has been Director of Library Services and University Librarian since 2003. He also served as on the University Council as an elected Senate member.

8 October 2014

University of Sheffield awarded £1.3 million for EPSRC Project

A collaborative project led by the University of Sheffield has been awarded £1.3 million to pave the way for new drugs and treatments for dementia sufferers.

MRI brain scanThe project, entitled One-stop-shop microstructure-sensitive perfusion/diffusion MRI: Application to vascular cognitive impairment, will deliver MRI sequences and analysis tools to link neuropathology, neuroimaging, and biophysics, with the aim of discovering novel biomarkers of disease onset and progression, and to understand the effects of new drugs and treatments.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the 3 year project, was ranked 1st out of 5 proposals funded from 40 submissions and involves the University’s Faculty of Engineering (CISTIB and INSIGNEO), Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (SITraN and INSIGNEO) and Department of Psychology (Pre-Clinical MRI Facility), as well as other universities, charities and industrial partners from the UK and Europe.

Professor Alejandro Frangi, of CISTIB at the University of Sheffield, who is part of the project team, said: "We are delighted by this phenomenal opportunity to contribute to the efforts to combat dementias. It is through interdisciplinary efforts like OCEAN that we will be able to develop appropriate diagnostic and staging tools for the disease. I am really proud to count for this journey with colleagues in SITraN and INSIGNEO as well as with experts in the universities of Manchester and Cardiff, and beyond."

For more information, visit EPSRC

6 October 2014

SPERI and New Statesman reveal inaugural political economy prize winner

Speri prize winnerThe Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) has today (6 October 2014) announced the winner of the inaugural New Statesman SPERI prize celebrating the most innovative and exciting thinkers in political economy.

Professor Mariana Mazzucato, of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, has been honoured for her work on the entrepreneurial state and smart growth after topping a shortlist of five inspirational scholars to win the prestigious award.

The prize was launched this year by the New Statesman magazine and SPERI at the University of Sheffield.

It will be awarded biennially to the scholar who has succeeded most effectively in disseminating original and critical ideas in political economy to a wider public audience in the preceding two or three years.

Professor Tony Payne, Director of SPERI at the University of Sheffield, said: “Mariana Mazzucato is a fabulous first winner of this new prize. She fulfils the criteria that describe the prize to the letter.”

Helen Lewis, Deputy Editor of the New Statesman, added: “Mariana Mazzucato is one of the most engaging and interesting thinkers currently working in the field of political economy. Her work on the entrepreneurial state and smart growth is required reading for anyone working in economic policy-making.”

The shortlist for the prize contained some of the most innovative and exciting thinkers in political economy working today. They were: Mariana Mazzucato; Ha-Joon Chang (University of Cambridge); Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics); Wolfgang Streeck (Max Planck Institute, Cologne); Anne Wren (Trinity College, Dublin); and Simon Wren-Lewis (University of Oxford).

As part of her prize, Professor Mazzucato will deliver the The New Statesman SPERI Prize Lecture next month on: “Smart growth: an innovative way to tackle inequality”.

Professor Mazzucato said: “I am honoured and delighted to receive the New Statesman SPERI prize, especially given the high calibre of the shortlist. I hope it will help focus attention on the urgent need to tackle rising inequality.

"This is not just about tax: we need to fundamentally rethink how we talk about wealth creation. Ignoring the key role of the state – or the tax payer – in wealth creation has, in my view, been a lead cause of inequality, allowing some (hyped up) actors to reap a rate of return way beyond their actual contribution. My Prize Lecture will focus on this dysfunctional dynamic – and what to do about it.”

Professor Mazzucato will deliver The New Statesman SPERI Prize Lecture at the Emmanuel Centre in London at 6.30pm on Thursday 13 November 2014. The lecture is free, but places are limited. For more details, see