Friday, 7 November 2014

IMAGINE … could a non-party Scottish Parliament work?

The Centre for Housing Research (CHR), School of Geography and Geosciences, will be hosting a Café Politique (format – café style public debate in an informal setting with a licensed bar, tea, coffee and cakes), entitled "IMAGINE … could a non-party Scottish Parliament work?" at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on Wednesday, 19th November from 5:45-7:45pm as part of Parliament Week.

Pre Scottish independence referendum, as the chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP), Louise Cameron was invited to talk to the Law Society of Scotland about the work of the SYP. The lawyers asked her the above question (that forms the title of the talk). At the time, Louise didn’t answer in detail. After some reflection, this informal talk is her response.

The style of the discussion will be that the speaker will introduces her 20 minutes informal talk in an accessible and challenging way. The floor will then be opened up for comment, debate and discussion. The idea is not to follow a strict Q&A but to invite audience members to offer thoughts (facilitated by Kim McKee, the Director of CHR). The idea is to create an atmosphere where people can talk openly, with passion and keeping minds open to new ideas (after Newcastle Café Culture format). For more information please email Fionagh Thomson (

Parliament Week is a programme of events and activities that connect people across the UK with Parliament and democracy.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Pulbic talk: 'The Weather in British Literature'

The School of English will be hosting a lecture by Dr Alexandra Harris of the University of Liverpool, entitled "The Weather in British Literature".

"Writers and artists across the centuries, looking up at the same skies and walking in the same brisk air, have felt very different things. There have been times when the numbers on a rain gauge count for more than a pantheon of aerial gods; there have been times for meteoric marvels and times for gentle breeze. Shelley wanted to sublimate himself into a cloud while Ruskin, equally but differently obsessed, wanted to store the clouds in bottles. Alexandra Harris will introduce her work on a cultural history of English weather, show how Woolf's Orlando can be read as a guide to the climates of history, and ask whether modernism has distinctive weathers of its own."

Dr Alexandra Harris
'The weather in British Literature' 
Tuesday, 11 November 2014, 5.15pm
Lawson Room, Kennedy Hall,
School of English, The Scores 

Dr Harris' wide-ranging book 'Romantic Moderns' won Guardian First Book Award in 2010. She appears regularly on radio and television, most recently fronting an episode of the BBC series 'The Secret Life of Books'.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Monday, 3 November 2014

"Dragon" wins Best Play for Children and Young People award

Dragon, by Oliver Emanuel, a lecturer in Creative Writing at the School of English, was named Best Play for Children and Young People in the UK Theatre Awards. The play was up against productions of Around the World in Eighty Days and Nivelli’s War in the awards ceremony at London's Guildhall on 19 October 2014.
Oliver had been approached by directors Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds to write a visual play with very little text about grief and dragons. The result, Dragon, has no spoken text, instead utilising puppetry, magic and orchestral music to tell the story of 12-year-old Tommy who has recently lost his mother. His father is in despair, his big sister ignores him and he has become the target of the school bully. And then, one night, a dragon appears at his window…
Dragon, which was commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland, opened at the Citizen’s Theatre in October 2013. A co-production with Scottish touring company Vox Motus and the Tianjin People Arts Theatre, China, the play subsequently toured Scotland and opened in Tianjin, China in 2014.

The UK Theatre Awards are the only nationwide awards to honour creative excellence and the outstanding achievement seen on and off stage throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Oliver, whose new play for children, The Lost Things, will open next May, said, “Dragon is a dark tale of loss, family and the beasts that haunt our dreams. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re in the process of developing another tour at the moment. It seems to be a show that both young and old respond to.”

Dragon trailer from the National Theatre of Scotland

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

"Animal Culture" exhibit at the Great British Bioscience Festival

"Animal Culture: Nature's second inheritance system" is one of the engaging and exciting displays that will be on offer at the Great British Bioscience Festival on 14-16 November at the Museum Gardens in London's Bethnal Green, showcasing the best of British bioscience by BBSRC researchers.

The Animal Cultures team consists of Prof. Andy Whiten of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience as well as researchers from the University of Exeter, Newcastle University and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Edinburgh Zoo.
The research behind the exhibit revealed cultural processes of varying complexity in primates, birds and fish (e.g. "The scope of culture in chimpanzees, humans and ancestral apes". Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, DOI:  10.1098/rstb.2010.0334; and further reading). Observational and experimental studies have identified cultural differences across different wild populations and have shown migrating individuals conforming to local group habits. Controlled experiments seeded foraging techniques in animal groups and mapped the spread of these techniques, creating local traditions. The team's discoveries highlight a potent ‘second inheritance system’ in animals that complements genetics. This illuminates human cultural evolution, and has implications in areas as varied as child development, robotics, welfare and conservation.

This free festival is accessible for all and will be the culmination of a yearlong programme of activities marking BBSRC's 20th anniversary – bringing together exciting exhibits from world-leading bioscience research groups.

The research is highlighted in the Leverhulme Trust Annual Review 2013.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Innovators from Physics scoop lucrative start-up support

PhD research students Alexander Ward and Jack Barraclough, and postdoctoral researcher Dr Clifford Hicks, of the School of Physics and Astronomy, were recently awarded third place in the Converge Challenge 2014 for their company Razorbill Instruments. Converge Challenge is a national competition aimed at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship amongst academics.

The technology behind the company, and for which they won the award, is a nanopositioner – a device which can move with minute detail, especially useful in the manufacturing of microchips, and in physics and biomedical research. As a prize for third place the partnership received a cash sum, as well as a range of business support from leading legal, financial and branding companies, to the tune of over £13,000.

Razorbill Instruments was one of 111 entrants from across Scotland to apply for the competition, undergoing a rigorous selection process including business plans, a number of pitches, and a Dragon’s Den style Q&A with a panel of judges. Alexander has also received a fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which will allow him to work on a prototype of the product. [press release]

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

EGU "Outstanding Young Scientist" award to DEES biogeoscientist

Dr James Rae of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences has been awarded the European Geosciences Union (EGU) "Outstanding Young Scientist" in the Biogeosciences (BG) Division as part of their announcement of 35 recipients of next year’s Union Medals and Awards, Division Medals, and Division Outstanding Young Scientists Awards.

The individuals, from both European and non-European countries, are honoured for their important contributions to the Earth, planetary and space sciences.

James' research focuses on reconstructing past climate change and its causes, with particular interests in the cause of recent glacial-interglacial cycles, and climate changes over the Cenozoic. To study these questions, James uses geochemical measurements on fossils, sediments, water and ice, with a special focus on the boron isotope proxy for pH. Recent research highlights include new estimates of tropical ocean temperatures over the last 5 million years (DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2194), and a new mechanism for the end of the last ice age (DOI: 10.1002/2013PA002570).

The recipients will receive their prizes at the EGU 2015 General Assembly, which will take place in Vienna on 12–17 April  2015.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities

The world’s first national graduate school for the arts and humanities launched in Scotland
  • £16.8 million funding for collaborative venture to train the next generation of research leaders 
  • First cohort of students begin 
  • Bespoke research projects sought in partnership with business and industry 
  • Competition for 50+ AHRC-funded studentships now open
Doctoral researchers in Scotland are set to benefit from a unique £16.8 million initiative that was launched on 1 October to help train the next generation of professionals working in the arts and humanities.

The Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH), of which St Andrews is pleased to be part, is the world’s first national arts and humanities graduate school, servicing 1,500 arts and humanities PhD students in universities across Scotland. It includes 16 higher education institutions plus a wide range of supporters and partners in the creative, cultural, arts and heritage sectors.

SGSAH has launched a competition to offer 50+ PhD studentships, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), at one of eight Scottish Universities, including St Andrews. The AHRC are committed to providing up to 200 studentships over the next 4 years. It is also seeking bids from universities to work with public, private or third sector organisations to design bespoke doctoral research projects. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is providing matched funding for these projects.

Professor Dee Heddon, the Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow, which is hosting the new development, said: “We are delighted to welcome our first cohort of students to the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities. We bring together distinctively diverse provisions, internationally renowned expertise and unique and extensive resources to support the very best doctoral training for our students. Through this they will develop and use their skills, knowledge and experience across a wide range of specialisms to benefit culture, society and the economy in Scotland and beyond.”

Laurence Howells, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “The establishment of a Graduate School for Arts & Humanities in Scotland is a welcome and highly significant development, not least because it is supported by over 30 organisations from across the country.

“SFC’s investment of £1.8 million will help to give aspiring research leaders opportunities that simply were not there before including the new Applied Research Collaborative Studentships. Crucially, it will help to direct all their talents and potential to the growth of the creative industries within the Scottish economy. I’m delighted to see the first students being welcomed to the Graduate School and I wish them every possible success.”

Professor Rick Rylance, CEO of ARHC, said: “The creation of the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities is a fine achievement and creates an exciting and imaginative environment for postgraduate research in Scotland. Through our Doctoral Training Partnership scheme we invited universities to work more closely together, drawing in partner organisations and sharing resources to offer students enhanced doctoral training.

“We are delighted that the AHRC’s funding in Scotland supports this vision. We will follow the progress of this new national Graduate School for the arts and humanities with eager interest.”