News round-up

Read our news in brief

‘Ground-breaking’ project seeking to create soil

Scientists at the University are working with the world-famous Eden Project to explore how recycled and waste material could be transformed and then reused in agriculture and other sectors. The FABsoil project will research whether custom-made soils of varying characteristics can be designed for purposes across a range of locations and markets.

The team has sourced a range of waste material from small businesses across the South West made up of composted green waste, clay, grit and bark. They are currently testing a number of different artificial soil mixtures at open sites on the University campus, along with other samples that are more irrigated and controlled.

Dr Jennifer Rhymes, a Post Doctoral Research Fellow working on the project, said:

“What we’re trying to do is replicate the functions of the soil, but not the soil material itself. The science community is making great strides in understanding soil and the complex interactions that occur within it, but our vision is to develop a more sustainable, self-regulating, living system that doesn’t require much subsequent management.”

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FABSoil

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Research links with China strengthened with new PhD network

The University has launched a new research network with three of China’s top ten institutions that will see them collaborate on PhD programmes focusing upon creative subjects and technological innovation.

Called CODEX, the network establishes a novel co-tutoring model to offer PhD researchers access to Plymouth’s experts as supervisors, alongside academics from Jiangnan University, Nanjing University of the Arts, and Soochow University.

Students from China, where art and design is increasingly being recognised as a key economic growth area, will get the chance to spend the first 18 months of their PhD based at the in Plymouth. The second ‘residency’ will see them return to China to work in some of the country’s top research labs, which are housed in the three universities, while continuing to be supervised – via distance learning and composite sessions – by Plymouth staff. 

The doctorates will be awarded by Plymouth, and it is being led by academics in the School of Art, Design and Architecture and the iDAT research lab. It has been officially endorsed by the British Council in China for its innovative approach to transnational collaboration in postgraduate education.

Insight into stem cell behaviour has cancer treatment implications

In an exciting medical breakthrough, research has identified a new therapeutic target for cancer treatment and tissue regeneration.

The project, led by the University’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed) and Technische Universität Dresden, has found that a protein called Prominin-1 plays a significant role in ensuring stem cells respond to extracellular signals.

Stem cells have the unique ability to develop into specialised cell types in the body, and if they don’t respond to signals they can fail to be activated, leaving an area unhealed or damaged. The study, funded by the European Union Marie Curie Action and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, has shown that in the absence or mutation of Prominin-1, the stem cell activation is compromised.

Dr Bing Hu, of the Peninsula Dental School, and member of ITSMed, said: 

“The finding has significant impact on stem cell biology and cancer biology, which explains Prominin-1 can be used as a therapeutic target for treating cancer, as well as in tissue regeneration, such as regenerating a new tooth.”

 

First-of-its-kind marine postgraduate degree launched

A new masters-level degree focusing upon the challenges facing the planet’s marine environment has been launched by the University in collaboration with a number of UK and international policy makers and NGOs. 

The new MSc Marine Conservation, which will accept its first students in September 2019, is the first of its kind to be delivered in conjunction with a suite of regional, national and international practitioners.

It is also the only such programme where all students have the opportunity to gain direct experience working within these potential employers as part of their masters projects. They include government and charity organisations such as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Marine Management Organisation, Marine Conservation Society, WWF, and the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre. 

“This programme is the first of its kind to offer students the chance to learn about marine conservation and at the same time work directly with those responsible for it,” said Professor Attrill, programme coordinator in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences. “That combination will provide students with the very latest knowledge and appreciation of the challenges they might face both in the natural and organisational environment, and provide the next generation of ocean guardians with the skills our partners need.”

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</p><div>Shoal of small fish swimming together over seafloor with seagrass, Atlantic ocean.</div>

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<p>Beach scene on one of Ian's trips exploring the local area.</p>
<p>Plastic bag in the ocean</p>