I attended the Spotlight on Lancaster University with mixed feelings… As an alumni I was really interested in seeing what the University was involved with and where it was heading in the future. On the other hand I had ‘trepidations’ of sitting in a lecture theatre being bombarded with information I would struggle to understand and would be irrelevant to me as a business.
I was blown away.
The subjects covered were all fascinating and focused on how the University was putting the research they were engaged with into practical applications. As a proponent of video marketing I was really happy to see that the presentations were not only being filmed but being streamed live on the web. The post event footage has yet to go live (a LOT of content) but it can be found at Spotlight on Lancaster University.
It was also interesting to see how video was incorporated into the presentations itself. The whole thing kicked off with this short film that celebrated the 45th Anniversary of Lancaster University.
A really good way to start for a few reasons. There was no way that this could all of been handled in a presentation with photos and films of the past, arranging the Chancellor to speak and making sure that everything went on schedule. By incorporating the video at the beginning of the day, Spotlight on Lancaster University managed to get a huge kick off, all of the above, put it into context and do it all in 5 minutes… guaranteed!
The introduction was ended with event facilitator Professor Christopher May reiterating the belief of the “need for university to work with business.” He also clarified that this was only a taste of what was happening at Lancaster University.
Health & Aging
The first thematic topic was delivered by Professor Christine Milligan, Professor of Health and Social Geography and Director of the Centre for Ageing Research.
Christine gave some fascinating figures that really put the issues of a globally ageing society into context:
In 2010; 1 in 10 people were over the age of 60, by 2050; 1 in 5 people will be over the age of 60… outnumbering children for the first time.
This obviously throws up some issues:
* the need to increase healthy life expectancy
* meeting the needs of an aging workforce
* combating the effects of poverty in old age
* addressing the projected ‘care gap’ of how we look after our elderly
* combating diseases of old age
Improving End of Life Care
The first presentation in this theme was given by Professor Sheila Payne, Help the Hospices Chair in Hospice Studies and Director of the International Observatory on End of Life Care.
After pointing out the (oft forgot on purpose) fact that we are all guaranteed to die, she mentioned that despite the desire of most of us to die in our homes the likelihood is that most of us will either die in hospital or in a care home.
Leading from this Sheila outlined two innovative projects that Lancaster University are involved in:
* ATOME, a consortium of academic institutions and public health organisations to help European governments identify and remove barriers that prevent people from accessing medicines that could improve end of life care, alleviate debilitating pain and treat heroin dependance.
* Unpacking the Home, an in depth study of the experiences of bereaved family carers of older people dying at home
The frank and sympathetic portrayal of the issues and research being conducted was really brought home by Sheila’s examples of two residents of her community, an elderly lady who had just died and a new born infant with his life and death ahead of him facing the problems that are emerging in our society.
From Quality of Service to Quality of Life
Professor Garik Markarian, Chair in Communication Systems started by commenting on the similarities between aviation and health care. The fact that in both the aircraft and the operating room, a whole suite of sensors providing information are funneled to a human being who needs to make a decision, a decision that is open to human error.
Garik continued by showing how Lancaster University is making it possible to create a system of not just what is happening now but also predicting what will happen based on the patient’s circumstances. There was also a demonstration of how they are making it possible to provide remote access to doctors who are able to monitor a patients condition and feed back instructions to nurses on site.
He went on to introduce an additional system whereby an on site monitoring system can be introduced in care homes and residential properties linking nurses, carers, family members and patients together providing not only monitoring of conditions in the home and of the patient through data streams and web cams but also link the patient with the outside world in a similar way to twitter.
I really felt this was ground breaking stuff and felt a little bit more comfortable with the prospect of growing old knowing that this was being trialled currently.
Health over the Life Course
The next section was introduced by Dr Alison Collins, Research Associate of the School of Health and Medicine. She introduced a positive and warming project, ‘Health and Well being amongst older Wii users’. This section was underpinned by a video clip from CBBC showing elderly people gathering together to play on their Wii.
Alison showed in detail the positive effects of using the Wii for psychological, social and physical well being amongst the elderly in that encouraged physical exercise, improved co-ordination and skills as well as bringing the elderly together in a social and fun environment.
The video content spoke volumes as you could see the immediate impact with engagement, smiling faces and physical movement. From being a bit scared about growing old, I was now looking forward to it! 🙂
The Thermometer of the 21st Century
The final section in this theme was delivered by Dr Alan Bernjak, Research Associate, Department of Physics. I was a little surprised at a physicist being in this section but Professor Garik Markarian had already given an impressive example of the interdisciplinary strengths of Lancaster University and the benefits it could lead to.
Alan introduced what he refers to as the ‘thermometer of the 21st Century, a device that could measure changes in a patients condition not simply the ‘mean’ measurements available currently.
The applications of this had my mind buzzing, although the use of applying physics and new theories of non-linear dynamics went a little over my head!
Diverse Economic Opportunities
This section appealed to me greatly as it dealt with many areas that I have always been interested in. Introduced by Professor John Urry, Director of Mobilities Research who has been developing a new paradigm for the social sciences, the ‘new mobilities paradigm’ focusing on the importance of travel and communication, rather than territorially fixed societies, in our lives.
Mobilities was something I was ignorant of, but had vaguely sensed. I intend to look into this in the future.
The Economic and Wider Impacts of Education
Professor Geraint Johnes, Professor of Economics and the Dean of Graduate Studies introduced the first section regarding the link between investment in education and growth, showing statistical proof that the more societies invest in education the more growth is experienced both by the student studying in terms of income and the society as a whole. This certainly rang a chord, given the current economic turbulence and the ongoing discussions about education policy.
It did leave me however with the nagging worry that perhaps I had studied the wrong degree! 🙂
Developing Entrepreneurial Behaviour
I have been called many things, one of which is an entrepreneur. I never really fully understood the term, feeling that humble me 🙂 was certainly not an entrepreneur.
Professor Mary Rose, Professor of Entrepreneurship helped me understand the the term and how to encourage it, going through the ways entrepreneurs recognise opportunity and sift through what is needed and what is possible (there was a flow chart!).
Mary continued to show how they are providing an integrated learning model at Lancaster University which focuses on learning through personal experiences and the experiences of others whilst shifting learning from a static one to an interactive model.
She ended with showing the need for people to understand path generation and mindful deviation. Fascinating stuff!
Diverse Cultural Industries
Dr Paul Coulton, Senior Lecturer from the School of Computing and Communications talked games! Specifically he began with the figure that over 4 billion hours have been played in multiplayer games on Xbox Live. I don’t currently have an Xbox otherwise I would have raised my hand and said guilty! I realised later that he meant in total worldwide…
He went on to show how important playing games has become to our society as a whole showing that rather than the stereotype of a 14 year old boy in his bedroom, the average social gamer in the UK and US is actually a 43 year old woman.
A disturbing figure he did give however, was that 105, 878 years have been spent virtual farming on Facebook… some of that can be attributed to Amanda in the office. 🙂
Paul showed how games are powerful motivators illustrating his point with two projects:
* Space Invaders was a mobile based game co-designed with young people from Manchester and Lancaster, both in the 20 most deprived wards in the country and identified as being ‘digitally excluded’. The games allowed the young people to come together and explore their community in a different way.
* m3dcam.com is a project that allows visitors to get software on their phone that allows them to take 3D photos and upload them to the website. Despite the humorous image of a load of people worldwide wearing bad 3D glasses, Paul showed information that displayed an interesting fact.
Although Africa was not shown on the worldwide map for web uploads it was certainly there when showing mobile uploads, underlining the point that mobile technology has the capacity for connecting the world in incredible ways even in the poorest and most deprived areas.
The final section in this theme was given by Professor Rachel Cooper, Chair of the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts and Co-Director of Imagination Lancaster. She showed how design and future imagining could have a fundamental impact on how we develop policy, healthcare and technology.
Rachel gave examples from work currently being undertaken by Lancaster University with the government, NHS and the BBC in identifying and anticipating future developments.
She ended with the phrase, “the theory and practice in design to take the future into the present”. Eye opening material.
Food Security & Safety
Professor Bill Davies CBE introduced the next theme, showing how there is a growing food crisis that cannot simply be solved by producing more food. Another flow chart(!) showed the complexity of the subject and how food impacts into every corner of our life. Something I have to say I have taken for granted.
One statistic that shocked me was that due to food prices more than 50 million people have been pushed into hunger since June 2010. Very sobering.
Another short film was played showing the work undertaken by Lancaster University covering Kenya, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The video content really showed the issues and the context of the work undertaken by the University in an impactful way. A presentation that probably would have taken at least an hour by itself.
Science & Technology Studies of Food Security
This section really highlighted the absurdity of the food situation. Delivered by Dr. Oscar Forero, Senior Researcher at the Centre of Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, the presentation showed the problem of our ‘supply driven’ economy. Some figures to put things into perspective.
There are 300,000 species of plants in the world. Of these 10,000 are possible to be used as food. Past records show that human society has used 7,000 species as food.
We currently only use 12 species as staple food sources with another 150 species in research currently. The largest percentage of research is done on Aloe Vera!
Oscar pointed out that this narrow concentration had severe risks on health, food production and loss of biodiversity.
River Catchments & Human Health
The final section of this theme was delivered by Professor Roger Pickup, Chair of Biomedical and Life Sciences. He presented his research into MAP (Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratubercolosis) and its relationship as a potential trigger for Crohn’s Disease.
Although a little nauseating, the subject matter was interesting to see how MAP can transfer from cattle (34% infected in UK) through the water supply and into our food, not simply beef and BBQ food but also salads!
Roger showed the implications of this one disease in terms of health and in terms of cost. I’m just glad this wasn’t directly before lunch!
The final theme of the day was introduced by Professor Colin Boxall, Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust Chair in Nuclear Engineering and Decommissioning. I was in my element as there was another flowchart illustrating the complexity of our energy use and the difficulties of changing it.
Nano-materials for Energy Applications
Professor Tony Krier, Head of the Semiconductor Physics & Nanostructures Research Group provided insight into his research of quantum dots by building atomic layers for semiconductors to improve the efficiency in solar cells so that more light in the spectrum can be captured, providing more affordable concentrator solar cells for clean electricity generation.
Informing Energy Choices through Digital Innovation
The final topic of the day was given by Dr Kim Kaivanto, Lecturer in Economics on the use of energy and the best ways to adjust energy bundles and activities involving the use of energy. Aside from the interesting result of the ‘hob cam’, showing various students cooking things on a hob (including roasting a marshmallow) the presentation really drilled home the impact of our choices in response to factors such as price and time of year.
The goal of his research is to roll out interventions in order to change behaviour with information on impact and cost at the point of delivery. The case study given was regarding air travel. Air travel consumes a great deal of energy at the beginning of the flight in order to bring the aircraft to cruising height, multiple shorter journeys may be cheaper but they could be more harmful to the environment and significantly increase fuel consumption. Kim is currently investigating whether research findings collected across the university and provided at point of purchase will modify the behaviour of the consumer to go for the more energy efficient, environmentally friendly choice even if it works out more expensive.
The series of presentations given at Spotlight on Lancaster University really did give a flavour of what is going on at Lancaster University and the positive contribution it plays not only now in the region but also in the future, worldwide. I would recommend watching the videos as this is only a summary (at 2522 words) of all the interesting content available.