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Leading Edge Spring 2012

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Issue 23 of Leading Edge, the University's quarterly research newsletter.

Text of Leading Edge Spring 2012

  • The Institute for the Environment (IfE) is celebrating its successes. On February 26th 2012, IfE was amongst the Diamond Jubilee winners of the Queens Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education. Head of the Institute for the Environment, Professor Susan Jobling and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Jenks were presented with the prize by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace. The Prize is in recognition and celebration of IfEs outstanding work which is deemed to have had a real and practical impact for the benefit of human progress. Also present at the Palace were former Head, Professor John Sumpter, Chancellor Lord Wakeham, Vice-Principal Mansoor Sarhadi and several of the postdocs and students from the Institute. Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Jenks said:

    Brunel University is delighted to receive this recognition of our globally influential research carried out by the Institute for the Environment. We pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of research at Brunel University and the work of the Institute for the Environments research teams is a fine example of our research excellence.

    IfEs research team secured the award for the global impact of their research leading to protection of the environment from hormones and pollutants. Their winning entry described the work of research teams headed by Professors Sumpter and Jobling and Drs Routledge and Scrimshaw spanning two decades. The story began with the uncovering of a link between exposure to water pollution and sex change in male fish, and continued with the realisation that pharmaceuticals consumed by people are inefficiently removed by water treatment and pass into our rivers and our drinking water. It also provided the impetus for global research into this issue, including human health research also linking chemical exposure with declining sperm counts, increased incidence of male genital abnormalities, and testicular, breast and prostate cancer.

    Collectively, the Institutes scientists contributed in a major way to the development of a new branch of toxicology termed endocrine disruption and have been actively

    involved in finding ways to assess and manage the risks posed by several endocrine disrupting chemicals, including those found in plastics, detergents and contraceptive pill hormones. Impact through collaboration with the chemical, pharmaceutical and water industries to understand and manage the risk posed by these chemicals was an area of excellence deserving of recognition. Government and industry actions stimulated by the IfEs work include new waste water treatment processes, and restrictions and bans on the production of

    certain chemicals.

    IfE was the first to highlight the oestrogenic effects of phthalate plasticisers and parabens (found in shampoos and cosmetics), leading to further research on their hormone disrupting properties, particularly in humans. This led to restrictions on their use in several European countries and a vigorous, current debate on their use in the USA and elsewhere. For example, childrens toys can no longer contain certain phthalates. Similarly, in mainland Europe, a European Union risk assessment on nonylphenols in industrial detergents was undertaken and partially as a result of research led by the Institute, restrictions on the use of nonylphenol for such applications have now been imposed across Europe.

    Mission and EthosThe Institutes research on chemicals in the environment is part of a broader research portfolio aimed at protection of life on Earth from environmental hazards, both present and future.

    IfEs staff and postgraduates are trained to provide explanations and solutions to environmental problems and to transform their research into useful knowledge for decision makers and consumers. Every project they undertake, whether it be analysing air pollution and its impact on human health, gauging the threat posed by the presence of specific chemicals in our water, or investigating what major climatic events in the past can tell us about the future, is rooted in the following guiding principles:

    1. That understanding environmental changes and hazards is vital for the well being of the global community.

    2. International collaboration is essential for effective and efficient assessment and management of environmental risks; no person is an island and nor is any nation.

    3. That public understanding of our research, is a vital step in determining its impact on society

    Continued on page 3...

    Institute for the Environment Celebrates Queens Anniversary Prize

    LeadingEdgeResearch at Brunel University

    LeadingEdge Issue 23 Spring 2012

    (l to r): Chancellor Lord Wakeham, Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Jenks and Professor Susan Jobling

  • LeadingEditorialLE2LE2Contents

    Institute for the Environment 1

    Editorial 2

    IfE Continued... 3

    Research News 4-7

    EPSRC First Grant Success

    Disabled Comedians

    AHRC Fellowship

    Royal Society Weather Project

    Research Profiles 8-9 Professor Barbara Prainsack

    Professor Nigel Saunders

    Professor Ashok Bhattacharya

    Professor Andreas Kortenkamp

    Research Contracts 10-12

    Research Round-Up 12

    ESRC Demand Management

    RSDO Contacts

    LeadingEdge focuses on research at Brunel University.

    Copy date for the next issue of LeadingEdge is 6 May 2012

    For details on how to submit articles please contact Vic Gill in the Research Support and Development Office on ext 67398 or email [email protected]

    Editor: Content and Production Vic Gill, RSDO

    University Photographer: Sally Trussler, Media Services

    Printed by: Brunel University Press

    Recycle When you have finished with this newsletter please recycle it.

    Welcome to Leading EdgeWelcome to the latest edition of Leading Edge, the 23rd issue since its launch.

    Since the last issue HEFCE have published their panel criteria and working methods,

    the rules the research excellence framework will follow. This contains few surprises, and

    as expected has eliminated much of the diversity in how different disciplines conduct

    the assessment within their units of assessment. In symbolic terms, this publication

    represents the firing of the REF starting pistol, and our preparations for the exercise

    are now well and truly underway. However, we have nothing to fear from the REF, and

    indeed the improvements we have made in the quality of our research since 2008, will, I

    am sure, stand us in very good stead.

    Space in this edition is devoted to the award of the Queens Anniversary Prize to the

    Institute of the Environment for their research in eco-toxicology. This, together with Celia

    Brackenridges award of an OBE in the New Year Honours for her research on equality

    and child protection in sport, demonstrates the high regard in which our very best

    research is now held.

    Other recent successes, though not on the same scale, include two recent JISC

    awards for research information management. The first project is to explore the

    feasibility of a national shared service for the reporting of research information from

    research organisations to funders. The project is lead by Kings College London and

    other partners include the British Library, Exeter and Edinburgh. The second project

    aims to increase the availability of validated evidence of research impact for research

    organisations, funders and policy bodies. Being involved in these projects is important

    because it allows Brunel to have input into the future direction of UK research policies

    within universities.

    This edition of Leading Edge contains numerous further examples of the success we are

    generating as our research culture continues to improve, and we receive further external

    recognition of our progress.

    With best wishes to you all

    Professor Geoff Rodgers

    PVC (Research)

    LeadingEdge

  • ResearchNews LE3Living with DisabilityProfessor Taeko Wydell, Co-Director of the Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging (CCNI), gave the Key-Note Speech at the 2nd International Symposium on Living with Disability held at the University of Toyama in Japan on 10-11 December 2011.

    Her speech entitled Living with Developmental Dyslexia based on her research findings from her projects at Brunel (funded by the ESRC, British Academy, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, etc.) provided the participants with helpful insights into dealing with world-wide problem of dyslexia. Her speech was very well received and featured in the Mainichi Shinbun, a national newspaper in Japan.

    Importing and Exporting Babies: Cross-Border SurrogacyThe Family Law Research Group held a seminar on 25th January 2012 as part of the Brunel Law School (BLS) research seminar series. The speaker was Dr Caroline Jones, Senior Lecturer at Southampton Law School and a co-founder and co-director of the Health Ethics and Law network at the University of Southampton. She has published extensively in the field of assisted reproduction and her paper, which dealt with the regulation of surrogacy, was entitled: Pretty Vulnerable? Protecting children in cross-border reproductive arrangements. The seminar was attended by BLS staff and students and Dr Jones insightful paper gave rise to a lively discussion. The seminar was not only enlightening and interesting but also very enjoyable.

    For further information contact: [email protected]

    New PublicationDr Thomas Owens (School of Engineering and Design) and co-author Cyril Onwubiko (Research Series) were pleased to see the publication of their new book in January.

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