DISCO - EU funded research project
The School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London has been awarded a €6.5 million grant to develop ‘green products’ for health and medicinal purposes. This grant forms part of €20 million investment from the European Union for research into sustainable bio-resources. This grant competition received a record number of applications.
The project DISCO, aims to DISCOver bioactive compounds from plants. Plants are a natural resource with a vast chemical diversity, much of which is largely unknown. The DISCO project will identify and extract bioactive compounds from plants and develop them into environmentally–friendly products of pharmaceutical and industrial interest. Many green products already exist and are used for anti-aging cosmetics and anti-oxidant supplements during cancer therapy.
DISCO has a huge potential to enhance scientific and technological knowledge. In turn this will drive growth and prosperity within the European economy. The project will utilise natural resources from both new and underutilised crops, which will promote agricultural development in both developed and developing countries. The creation of green products will also reduce health and environmental concerns, by reducing the need to produce expensive, chemically-produced substances.
Professor Paul Fraser, head of Plant Molecular Science, is co-ordinating the DISCO project. The project is a global initiative with a multi-disciplinary team from fifteen academic and industrial partner organisations.
Professor Paul Fraser said: “Despite notable scientific achievements there have been relatively little commercialisation or feasibility studies performed to date on the production of bioactives from renewable sources”. “Therefore one of our major objectives within DISCO is to address these issues and to create a framework that can act as a generic pipeline capable of taking discovery and innovation through application and validation, to translation and industrial valorisation.”
DISCO builds on the activities of prior work carried out within the group during the successful EUFP7 funded METAPRO project. To look at recent work from the group, click here to access a published paper in The Plant Cell Journal.
Vocal Communication – T’ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it
The human voice is an amazingly expressive tool for communication. While the words that we say allow us to transmit complex linguistic messages to others, the way that we speak is also rich in cues to our identity, as well as our mood, aspirations and intentions as we interact with other people. Dr Carolyn McGettigan is a cognitive neuroscientist whose work seeks to better understand the brain mechanisms underlying human vocal behaviour, which she sees as an essential part of social cognition.
Humans use their voices both with and without words. For example, laughter and screams can be used to convey important social messages, but equally the intonations of speech are infinitely adaptable to social situations. Dr McGettigan has been researching how we extract socially relevant cues from vocal signals, for example in telling whether someone is ‘faking’ a laugh or genuinely expressing amusement (article here). In a recent study on the expression of vocal identity, Dr McGettigan used MRI scans to identify the brain regions supporting voice changes when the participants performed accents and impersonations of other individuals – these tasks were good approximations for many of the ways in which we deliberately modulate our voices for a variety of social purposes. The flexibility of the voice brings challenges, however, as trying to recognise people from their voice alone can be very difficult - ongoing work in the lab is exploring how listeners vary in this ability.
The voice can also be used to make music, which has enormous social importance across all human cultures. Dr McGettigan is particularly interested in beatboxing as a compelling example of the plasticity of human vocal expression, and she has worked with professional beatboxers to explore the neural correlates of their expertise. A short film about her work with the beatboxer Reeps One is available on youtube.
For those interested to find out more, Dr McGettigan’s website contains further information and videos on her research, as well as details of how to get in touch.
The nature of television: the study of moving image forms and their influence on modern culture
Since becoming widely available in homes during the 1950s, television has become one of our most powerful cultural forms, dominating the worlds of entertainment, news and advertising. Technological advances in recent years have, however, radically altered the way in which we relate to television. We’ve moved from being passive observers to making films on mobile devices; from silent consumers to a twitter tribe; from domesticated recipients of programming to fully interactive participants in the medium.
A television producer, media theorist and historian for many years, Professor John Ellis' principal research areas are in television, moving image and sound, with particular interests in the nature of television as a medium. Professor Ellis' books include TV FAQ (2007), Seeing Things (2000) and Visible Fictions (1984), in which he examines what distinguishes television from other media; the nature of its appeal and how it works as an industry and as a cultural form.
In his Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation (2011), he has examined issues such as how digital technologies have changed TV by enabling new production possibilities and by enabling viewers to become more critical and sceptical about what they see.
Professor Ellis also researches specific genres of TV and the audio-visual; the impact of moving image forms on modern culture and the process of audio-visual witnessing; how digital availability will change TV; how the institutions and markets of the audio-visual are becoming more diverse; and how all of this impacts on usage.
His recent work involves initiatives to make archival TV material more available: EUscreen is an EU funded project to make 40,000 items from the archives of Europe's broadcasters universally available through streaming, and involving the creation of an online journal: VIEW. He received AHRC funding to develop an innovatory search facility for BUFVC's millions of items of data on archival moving image and sound.
Professor Ellis has recently been awarded £1.3m by the ERC for his project ADAPT: The ADoption of new technological Arrays in the Production of broadcast Television; a study – the first of its kind in the UK - into the history of television technology since 1960 and the technological constraints and developments that have given programmes their unique appearance.
Professor Ellis is the course leader for Royal Holloway’s new MA in International Broadcasting. Further information and videos on media arts at Royal Holloway can be found here and on the RHUL arts youtube channel.
Royal Holloway -
Front Runners of Cyber Security Research
In today’s technology-driven society, we must take out precautions to protect our personal information (i.e., names, security numbers, driver’s license), and any digital file (i.e., text or media file) that is stored on your computer device. In the UK, the internet-related market is now estimated to be worth £82 billion a year, making the need for data protection great.
It has been reported that this year saw the highest level ever of documented breaches to cyber security. The UK government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimated the damage to UK organisations was billions of pounds every year. Cyber-attacks are initiated by terrorists, rogue states and cyber criminals, but can also arise through accidental error from internal employees. Cyber-attacks are a real threat to our national security. Preventing these attacks is therefore a top priority.
Royal Holloway’s Information Security Group (ISG) is one of the largest academic security groups in the world. The ISG explores many different facets of cyber security and develops ideas and technology to help the UK government, businesses and consumers keep up with security trends. The ISG is home to leading researchers in the field, consisting of mathematicians, computer scientists and social scientists.
Last year, Royal Holloway was awarded Academic Centre of Excellence status from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC and the UK intelligence agency GCHQ.
Earlier this year, the ISG received a £3.8 million pound grant from the EPSRC to host a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in cyber security. The CDT provides scholarships for ten PhD students each year to specialise in an advanced topic of cyber security.
Since 2002, the ISG has hosted the Smart Card Centre (SCC), a joint collaboration between Royal Holloway academics and key industry players in the telecommunication sector; including Vodafone, Gieske & Devrient and Visa Europe. Research at the SCC develops the technology, associated systems and applications behind smart cards and smart tokens (those that have embedded microchips).
This research impacts our daily lives and helps reduce our personal and national security risks. For those interested to find out more, please visit the ISG homepage. To find key publications and projects click here.