Edge Hill University achieves high rankings for postgraduate research experience

Professor George Talbot

Initial responses to the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) position Edge Hill University in the top 10 for employability and retention as well as in the top 25 per cent for assessment.

The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) is the only UK higher education sector-wide survey to gain insight from postgraduate research students about their learning and supervision experience. Results for PhD students at Edge Hill show the University as the 3rd highest ranking for retention, and 8th highest for employability.

Commenting on the results, Professor George Talbot, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), said:

“The PRES survey is one of many indicators that research at Edge Hill is continuing on its steep upward trajectory. In recent years the number of PhD students has increased significantly, many on our Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme which provides valuable teaching experience alongside research studies. These students are part of a thriving research culture characterised by rigorous intellectual enquiry into issues that have an impact on society – an excellent basis for career progression.”

Detailed results from the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey will be published in September.

  • 82 per cent of Edge Hill University Graduate Teaching Assistants have secured academic posts within months of completing their doctorates, against a sector benchmark of 38%, with a further 9% securing professional positions in their chosen fields. Others acquired academic posts before graduating (Vitae What do researchers do? Early career progression of doctoral graduates 2013).
  • The recently-published Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey 2016/17 shows 100 per cent of Edge Hill University Graduate School leavers are in employment or studying after six months.

Edge Hill University achieves high rankings for postgraduate research experience

Professor George Talbot

Initial responses to the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) position Edge Hill University in the top 10 for employability and retention as well as in the top 25 per cent for assessment.

The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) is the only UK higher education sector-wide survey to gain insight from postgraduate research students about their learning and supervision experience. Results for PhD students at Edge Hill show the University as the 3rd highest ranking for retention, and 8th highest for employability.

Commenting on the results, Professor George Talbot, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), said:

“The PRES survey is one of many indicators that research at Edge Hill is continuing on its steep upward trajectory. In recent years the number of PhD students has increased significantly, many on our Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme which provides valuable teaching experience alongside research studies. These students are part of a thriving research culture characterised by rigorous intellectual enquiry into issues that have an impact on society – an excellent basis for career progression.”

Detailed results from the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey will be published in September.

  • 82 per cent of Edge Hill University Graduate Teaching Assistants have secured academic posts within months of completing their doctorates, against a sector benchmark of 38%, with a further 9% securing professional positions in their chosen fields. Others acquired academic posts before graduating (Vitae What do researchers do? Early career progression of doctoral graduates 2013).
  • The recently-published Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey 2016/17 shows 100 per cent of Edge Hill University Graduate School leavers are in employment or studying after six months.

Book explores Joss Whedon’s extraordinary contribution to popular culture

An Edge Hill University academic has written a book about American screenwriter, director, producer, comic book writer, and composer Joss Whedon.

Best known as the creator of several television series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Whedon also co-wrote the Pixar animated film Toy Story and wrote and directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films The Avengers and its sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Professor Matthew Pateman, Head of Media at Edge Hill was inspired to write the book after becoming a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first aired over 20 years ago.

Matthew said: “This developed into keen intellectual curiosity which itself became a few conference papers and then a book (The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The focus on the show drifted to a focus on the producer, Joss Whedon, and his extraordinary diverse offerings. He was working in television, film, comic books, the internet; he wrote songs, musicals, episodes, features, web series; he was director, producer, writer, performer; as well as political activist and spokesperson for the culturally peripheral. But he was also involved in some of the most globally powerful franchises there are (Marvel and Disney for example). The more I consumed the culture his company and his collaborators made, the more complex, fascinating and important his work became.”

Joss Whedon assesses Whedon’s contribution to US television and popular culture. Examining everything from his earliest work to his most recent tweets and activist videos, it explores his complex and contradictory roles as both cult outsider and blockbuster filmmaker. Crucially, the book insists on the wider industrial, technological, political and economic contexts that have both influenced and been influenced by Whedon, rejecting the notion of Whedon as an isolated television auteur.

Matthew Pateman said: “The relationship of Whedon’s work to questions of creative control, distribution, networks, studios, actors, directors, set-designers, editors et cetera, fascinated me. This led me to question the industrial contexts of his work, the material factors that allow or impede, especially televisual production. So, a love of a TV show that revolutionised U.S. prime time network television became, for me, the catalyst to locate the work of one person, Whedon, inside the complex set of political, technological, legal, industrial, aesthetic, personal, ideological, practical and theoretical factors that allow us to consume these amazing works of mass mediated art.”

Using key source material, with exclusive access to drafts of many of the episodes across Whedon’s career, as well as unique correspondence with Whedon collaborator Jane Espenson, this book offers unparalleled access to the creative process that helped produce the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly.

The book is published by Manchester University Press and can be purchased here.

Book explores Joss Whedon’s extraordinary contribution to popular culture

An Edge Hill University academic has written a book about American screenwriter, director, producer, comic book writer, and composer Joss Whedon.

Best known as the creator of several television series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Whedon also co-wrote the Pixar animated film Toy Story and wrote and directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films The Avengers and its sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Professor Matthew Pateman, Head of Media at Edge Hill was inspired to write the book after becoming a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first aired over 20 years ago.

Matthew said: “This developed into keen intellectual curiosity which itself became a few conference papers and then a book (The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The focus on the show drifted to a focus on the producer, Joss Whedon, and his extraordinary diverse offerings. He was working in television, film, comic books, the internet; he wrote songs, musicals, episodes, features, web series; he was director, producer, writer, performer; as well as political activist and spokesperson for the culturally peripheral. But he was also involved in some of the most globally powerful franchises there are (Marvel and Disney for example). The more I consumed the culture his company and his collaborators made, the more complex, fascinating and important his work became.”

Joss Whedon assesses Whedon’s contribution to US television and popular culture. Examining everything from his earliest work to his most recent tweets and activist videos, it explores his complex and contradictory roles as both cult outsider and blockbuster filmmaker. Crucially, the book insists on the wider industrial, technological, political and economic contexts that have both influenced and been influenced by Whedon, rejecting the notion of Whedon as an isolated television auteur.

Matthew Pateman said: “The relationship of Whedon’s work to questions of creative control, distribution, networks, studios, actors, directors, set-designers, editors et cetera, fascinated me. This led me to question the industrial contexts of his work, the material factors that allow or impede, especially televisual production. So, a love of a TV show that revolutionised U.S. prime time network television became, for me, the catalyst to locate the work of one person, Whedon, inside the complex set of political, technological, legal, industrial, aesthetic, personal, ideological, practical and theoretical factors that allow us to consume these amazing works of mass mediated art.”

Using key source material, with exclusive access to drafts of many of the episodes across Whedon’s career, as well as unique correspondence with Whedon collaborator Jane Espenson, this book offers unparalleled access to the creative process that helped produce the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly.

The book is published by Manchester University Press and can be purchased here.

Can the food you consume affect your mood? Student finds out thanks to nutrition studentship

A Nutrition and Health student at Edge Hill University who wants to investigate how food affects mood has won a coveted Summer Studentship from the Nutrition Society.

Lindsay Hodgson, from Ormskirk, will be working on an eight week research project with the aim of discovering if there is a link between certain types of food and anxiety levels, supervised by Edge Hill’s Dr Catherine Tsang, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Health.

The Nutrition Society’s Summer Studentships are aimed at undergraduates interested in a career in nutritional science, and they provide undergraduates, registered on nutrition or related degree programmes, the opportunity to undertake a period of research in a University, research institute or industrial setting.

“My 23 year old daughter suffers from anxiety, and one day she told me that on the days when she eats well, her levels of anxiety are lower,” said Lindsay. “This inspired me to want to look into it further.”

Lindsay is collaborating with Belgian chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, who have developed polyphenol-rich dark chocolate and placebos for the research volunteers to consume.

The 30 volunteers taking part have been split into two groups.  One group will consume 25g of the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate (the equivalent of a couple of squares of chocolate) daily over a four week period, and the other will consume the placebo chocolate.

Samples of their saliva will be taken so Lindsay can measure the levels of cortisol before, during and after the four week process and the volunteers will also be asked to fill in a PANAS questionnaire at various points which will measure their mood.

Lindsay is hopeful that the levels of cortisol will reduce and the mood scales will improve for those who have consumed the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate, and there will be no change in the other group.

This research could help uncover whether consuming this polyphenol-rich dark chocolate can help boost peoples’ mood and help them feel better mentally.

“I was so shocked when I found out I had been awarded a Summer Studentship but I’m really excited,” said Lindsay. “I have Catherine working with me so I know I will have all the support I need. I’m pleased to have such a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to working on a research project from start to finish so I can understand the whole process.”

Lindsay decided to return to higher education after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.

“When I was diagnosed, I wondered why it had happened – was it because of something I was eating? Was there anything I could do to make it better? There was so much conflicting information online, and I wanted to learn more about the research process so I could try and help other people going through the same thing.”

Each student will present their findings at the Nutrition Futures conference in September 2018 in Newcastle. One student will be awarded as the overall winner of the Summer Studentships at the Society’s annual reception in December.

Find out more about Edge Hill’s Nutrition and Health course here.

Edge Hill academic drives innovation in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity continues to be a growing priority for businesses all over the world, and an academic from Edge Hill University will be conducting research into the use of novel technologies such as ‘Block Chain’ to address the security threats particularly in smart devices.

Dr Chitra Balakrishna, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) Computing (Network Security & Forensics), has been awarded a grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to work with the University of Bahrain on a year-long research project.

This relationship will create a synergy between the two institutions’ academic and research activities around cybersecurity, which will lead to them offering world-class training and joint MSc and PhD supervisions resulting in high-quality joint-publications.

The collaboration came about when Chitra delivered a keynote speech about her research at a UK-Gulf cybersecurity workshop last November, and an academic from the University of Bahrain approached her and suggested a partnership.

As well as building a network of experts in cybersecurity between the UK and Bahrain, and updating and exchanging information on future developments, this collaboration will also benefit staff and students.

“I’m looking to recruit third year students to investigate cybersecurity in healthcare, and not only will it help the research project, it will also help develop students’ skills and boost their employability,” said Chitra.

“This project is so important as when a business is experiencing cybersecurity issues, they come to a complete standstill. With new threats appearing constantly and attackers continuously evolving their techniques, more research needs to be done to generate advances that can help keep up with the growing cyber risks.”

Dr Chitra Balakrishna leads the Networking, Security and Forensic Pathway at Edge Hill and in 2015, she secured HEA funding for gamification of cybersecurity education.

She has also successfully designed and managed a Master’s programme on Mobile Telecommunications Management, and has been part of two European and ERDF funded research projects.

Polish city offers new immigration model after Windrush scandal, says academic

Old market square with tourist in Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw, Poland

In the wake of the Windrush scandal, the UK government should publicly and pro-actively make the case for immigration and a culture of openness and inclusion, Edge Hill University’s Dr James Renton has stated.

James, who is the Academic Advisor on MONITOR, a ground-breaking bi-monthly publication sharing global intelligence on racism, made the comments in response to an article in the latest issue.

Mayor of Polish city Wroclaw Rafał Dutkiewicz’ article explains how the city is leading the way in welcoming immigrants, and experiencing an upturn in its economy and employment figures as a result.

Dr James Renton

Dr Renton, Reader in History said: “It is a profound irony that in the midst of the Brexit quagmire, in which anti-East European racism played no small part, a Polish city is leading the way in welcoming immigrants. Wroclaw is showing itself to be an economic powerhouse, in which immigrants play a critical role.

“Government can define the tenor of public understandings of immigration. The Mayor of Wroclaw is doing what UK governments should have done from the start of the freedom of movement: pro-actively and very publicly making the case for immigration and a culture of openness and inclusion, supported by concrete social policies.

“Instead, the current UK government is now reeling from the consequences of its ‘hostile environment’ policy. The Windrush generation affair has laid bare three things: the human cost of this policy, its irrationality, and that many people in the UK are appalled. It is time for a sea-change.”

James thinks that UK towns and cities could benefit from a similar model. He said: “Now that city administrations are starting to have more power with metro mayors in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and elsewhere, there is the potential to take an independent line, promoting immigration like they are doing in Wroclaw.”

A multimedia magazine, MONITOR is open access, and aims to be the go-to source for research-based public debate on racism. It brings together NGOs, museums, and policymakers with academics to showcase the latest research and initiatives around the globe.

This, its second issue, also includes:

  • Swedish NGO ‘Order of the Teaspoon’ showcasing Sweden’s first role-play App designed to help teachers and teenagers confront racism.
  • Podcast interview on the latest research on racism in European football with Pavel Brunssen, co-organiser of the Berlin event, ‘The Beautiful Game?’
  • The artwork of Alessandra Ragioneri in advance of her exhibition at the European nomadic biennial, Manifesta 12, in Palermo, Sicily; and an illustration by Damiano Restivo
  • Articles and videos on: high-profile Australian Senator Jim Nolan & the denial of racism; ‘The Far-Right Czeching in?’- the 2018 presidential election; contemporary Christianity & whiteness; & the experience of researching racism and the Far-Right, from the US to Europe

Research into past inspires better futures for local communities, believes new head of department

Edge Hill University has a new Head of Department of English, History and Creative Writing.

Paul Ward is a professor of modern British and public history whose own research is inspired by the communities in which he has lived and worked.

He describes the University as being an ‘Anchor Institution’, it is an organisation based in the community, bringing a positive cultural, economic and social impact to their local community, but also being able to react to its needs.

Paul shares this ethos with his approach to managing the department, with teaching and research being integrated with staff carrying out research, but also all teaching and involving students in that work, and being able to link that research to the communities where they are based.

He describes his own studies as the ‘Coproduction of historical knowledge’. His research is concerned with national identities in the United Kingdom since the 1870s. In particular, Paul is known for his historical study of Britishness and his research explores the way communities think about their past, and he is keen to involve his students and his new location in this work.

He joined Edge Hill from the University of Huddersfield where his location and local communities inspired research into topics such as Sound System culture and Bhangra.

He anticipates his latest move will inspire further research based on community heritage in West Lancashire and Merseyside, including the link between identity and new towns such as Skelmersdale, and also Britishness and Black History.

“I research Britishness and community heritage. If people know about their past they can imagine better futures out of it, and I have worked with community groups to get them to think about what would make their lives better,” he said.

“My research responds to what the community and organisations are telling me,” said Paul. “Depending on what I learn, my research is pushed in different directions and I respond to what people feel passionate about.”

He added: “I’m looking to get our students involved in my research, and want to inspire creative responses to the past. Being able to think like this helps students with employability- enabling them to think about their future.”

Paul has been involved in a major ESRC-funded collaborative project called ‘Imagine: Connecting Communities Through Research’ under the Connected Communities programme. He has also recently researched representations of the Beefeaters at the Tower of London as icons of Englishness and/or Britishness.

Paul has written four books: Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism and the British Left 1881-1924, published in 1998 (re-issued in paperback in 2011); Britishness since 1870 in 2004; Unionism in the United Kingdom in 2005; and Huw T. Edwards: British Labour and Welsh Socialism, published in 2011 (funded by a British Academy Major Research Grant).  This year he has a number of publications coming out, including Re-imagining Contested Communities Connecting Rotherham through Research Policy Press), a book that challenges contemporary images of ‘place’, through co-writing with people from Rotherham in South Yorkshire.

One of his plans in his new role is to examine Edge Hill’s history during WWII with students involved in the research to identify the past in a building they are based in and how it relates to them.

Find out more about studying English, History or Creative Writing here (https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/englishhistorycreativewriting/)

Edge Hill unveils project to predict areas at risk of malaria

Researchers at Edge Hill University are working on a project which will identify malaria risk ‘hot-spots’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the use of satellite image technology.

This multidisciplinary project, which has been funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, involves Edge Hill’s Geography and Biology Departments, who are collaborating with the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in DRC, and the Centre for Disease Control in the USA.

Leading the project is Paul Aplin, Professor of Geography, who is working with Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Dr Christopher Marston, and Dr Clare Strode, Senior Lecturer in Biology and expert in mosquitoes.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the second greatest malaria burden globally, with approximately 200 child deaths a day resulting from this disease. With no vaccine and increasing resistance to malaria drugs, mosquito vector control is the primary method of preventing the disease in malaria-endemic countries. Control measures exist, but resources are limited and their effectiveness is reduced by inefficient geographical targeting.

This means there is an urgent need for cost-effective, broad-scale monitoring mechanisms to identify malaria risk ‘hot-spots’, and new satellite image technology to map malaria risk via identification of mosquito habitat suitability could be the answer.

Professor Aplin said:

“It’s exciting to be working on the fight against malaria, which is such a blight on human populations throughout the Global South. We hope this project will be the first step towards targeted control measures to reduce the incidence of malaria in DRC.”

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

Edge Hill academic claims chocolate could be the next healthy snack

A lecturer from Edge Hill University has discovered that chocolate can be manufactured in a way which may help with weight management, and it won’t taste any different.

Dr Catherine Tsang, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Health in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, collaborated with top Belgian chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, who manufacture chocolate using the Acticoa method, to preserve important compounds within the cocoa.

Usually when chocolate is produced, some of the compounds within the cocoa are lost, however the Acticoa method ensures that over 80 per cent of the antioxidant properties – the polyphenols – are retained, meaning a larger amount of these healthy compounds are consumed.

So what are the health benefits of these compounds? And are there any benefits of adding fibre to chocolate? Catherine has conducted research to find out whether consuming polyphenol-rich dark chocolate and adding fibre can help us feel fuller for longer.

Dark chocolate has a greater content of cocoa and lower content of sugar compared to milk chocolate, so chocolatiers at Barry Callebaut developed three types of dark chocolate buttons for the project, which all tasted and looked exactly the same. One type contained polyphenol-rich dark chocolate, one contained the same chocolate with added fibre, and the final chocolate was a placebo, low in polyphenols and matched for energy and other nutrients.

Twelve healthy volunteers consumed 20g of each chocolate on three separate occasions.

As well as analysing their normal food intake before and after consuming each type of chocolate, urine samples were also collected to measure levels of polyphenols.

They were then invited to an open buffet where they could consume as much as they liked of a test meal so Catherine could measure their satiety.

The volunteers were also asked to complete a visual analogue scale which recorded their feeling of hunger and desire to eat before and then after consuming the chocolate, which they filled in six times at different intervals within two hours of consumption of chocolate.

After 15 minutes of consuming the polyphenol-rich chocolate with added fibre, desire to eat was significantly less. The volunteers felt like they had eaten enough, they were kept full for an average of two hours and consumed less calories the following day. Similar findings were also found after consuming polyphenol-rich chocolate without added fibre but were more effective with added fibre. No effect was found after the placebo chocolate.

Fibre has many health benefits and the recommended daily intake in the UK is 30g a day, with the average person only consuming between 17 – 20g. Manufacturing chocolate with added fibre could help people increase their intake, keeping them fuller for longer.

This means that dark chocolate containing preserved polyphenols and added fibre could be used as a healthy snack, as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Catherine has been working with academics at the University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University and Liverpool Hope University, and they plan to carry out further studies to monitor satiety over a longer period of time, and to understand their mechanism.