Thursday, 28 March 2013

Where are they now? MA Illustration graduate case study: Victor Melamed

Victor_Melamed_4Dr Barbara Brownie, online co-ordinator for the School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire interviewed Victor Melamed, one of our graduates from MA Illustration (online). Here is his story...

Victor Melamed is a former student of the online MA Illustration. He has an international career, spanning the UK, USA and Russia, and currently illustrates for magazines including Rolling Stone and The New Yorker, while lecturing in Moscow at the British Higher School of Art & Design.

Victor MelamedHis work first appeared in Rolling Stone in a special illustrated issue featuring young and up-and-coming artists. Having made that connection, he worked to maintain it, and continued to make himself available for further freelance illustration.  Victor found success through contacts, and furious self-promotion on the web. He is dedicated to maintaining a strong web-presence, with profiles on sites such as Behance and Livejournal.

Victor proposes that his work promotes itself. By placing strong images online, in as many places as possible, he is able to rely on networks of web audiences to share his illustration.

Victor understands that, as a freelance illustrator, there is strength in numbers. He co-founded Tzeh, an illustrators’ collective which has helped him to remain part of an active creative community. He feels that new illustrators find much more commercial success if they can align themselves with a group. In particular, he suggests, when a new illustrator’s work is considered radical or innovative, it helps to create connections to established practitioners. He feels that it is through this kind of artistic community that practice can move forward and incorporate new developments.

Victor_Melamed_3Last year he established a year-long Illustration course, the first of its kind in Russia. He aims to integrate ideas from diverse disciplines into the course, including poetry, anthropology, and choreography.

Although his new course leaves him little time for self-initiated work, he has found opportunities to continue to develop his practice. He is currently experimenting with new materials, including plasticine.

Study MA Illustration (online)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

It’s all in the genes - preventing rapeseed crop failure

Trees in rapeseed field by Petr Kratochvil
Dr Henrik Stotz from the University’s School of Life and Medical Sciences is leading a new Marie Curie Fellowship research project to understand what affects the resistance genes in rapeseed crops.  But why should the failure of rapeseed crops matter to us?

We’re all familiar with the fields of yellow-flowering plants that we see from late April onwards – the rapeseed crops. Traditionally, rapeseed was grown for the production of lamp oil and also for use in soaps.  But today, rapeseed crop production has been growing rapidly - providing animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption and also for use as a biofuel.

So, the failure of rapeseed crops is very important to us all.  It’s not just an economic problem for the farmers; it is a major concern for food security as well as for biofuel production.  This drives an urgent need to develop crops that suffer fewer losses from diseases yet still produce good sustainable harvests.

Dr Henrik Stotz, Marie Curie Fellow
at University of Hertfordshire
Some types of rapeseed have developed resistance genes to prevent infection from the fungus that causes phoma stem canker – the major cause of rapeseed failure. However, these resistance genes can become ineffective through changes in the genes of the fungus.

This research will help to understand how this happens and to develop strategies for deploying crop resistance for rapeseed – with a view to seeing how it can be applied to a wide range of crop systems.

The project “DURABLE RESISTANCE  - Understanding factors affecting durability of crop resistance genes" is funded from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 302202.

Click here for the full press release

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Triggering the birth of stars

New stars are forming all the time in our Galaxy. Stars form in dense gas clouds such as this one known as the 'Elephant Trunk Nebula' in the constellation Cepheus, about 2400 light years away from Earth.
Image taken using the Wide Field Camera (WFC) on the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) in La Palma. Image compiled from data in three different filters, broad-band r or 'red' (green channel), i' or 'infra-red' (blue channel) and a narrow-band H-Alpha filter (red channel). Data combined and adjusted using Photoshop.
Image Credit: Nick Wright (SAO / Herts) & Geert Barentsen (Armagh / Herts)
Stars form when dense clumps of gas build up and then collapse under their own gravity. One way in which these clumps are believed to arise is when ultraviolet radiation from a massive star ionizes and compresses a gas cloud and creates the conditions necessary for stars to form. This image shows a bright ionization front being created by ultraviolet radiation from a massive star to the left of the image.

By measuring the ages of stars across this image, scientists found that the stars were younger the further they were from the massive star, with the youngest stars found deep within the 'elephant trunk' where only infrared light can be seen in this image. This suggests that the formation of these stars was 'triggered' by the ionization front that has slowly been moving across the gas cloud. This process is thought to be occurring across our entire Galaxy with the formation of new stars being continually triggered all the time.

References: Barentsen et al. 2011 and Drew et al. 2005.

Guest post by Dr Nick Wright, Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Fellow at the University’s Centre for Astrophysics Research

Friday, 15 March 2013

Spring: new beginnings, new career for you?

Finally, the days are getting a little longer, the miserable weather will hopefully take a break, the woolly jumpers are being put away, and people are slowly crawling out of winter hibernation. 

Spring is the time of year people find a new sense of enthusiasm, the sun’s finally coming out, the annual daffodils are making themselves known and lambs are bouncing around in the fields. You can’t help but feel optimistic. Signs of new life are all around it’s a great time to start something new.

Study for a degree online can be life changing. Taking your career to a new level or going for a complete career change altogether. The beauty of distance learning is that it fits around you, your work life, your family commitments.

So whilst you’re gorging on your 27th Easter Egg, or planting bulbs in the garden, take the first step today and check out what you can do to give yourself a new beginning.

Monday, 11 March 2013

University retains its HR Excellence in Research Award

The University is delighted to be one of twelve UK universities to have successfully retained its HR Excellence in Research Award from the European Commission – two years after initially gaining it.  Retaining the Award demonstrates our continued commitment to improving the working conditions and career development for our research staff.

Researchers are critical to the success of the University’s aspirations in research, innovation and enterprise. We have been working hard over many years to provide the personal, professional and career development support that our researchers need to deliver world-leading research.

This prestigious award recognises the University’s commitment to attract, manage, support and develop researchers  - which, in turn, improves the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society and the economy.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Psychology Professor explains why repeat studies and negative findingsare essential, as section editor of new journal

Keith Laws, Professor of cognitive neuropsychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is a section-editor of the new open access journal, BMC Psychology and to coincide with its launch, Keith has provided a commentary for the journal, and an editorial in the Guardian on the importance of publishing repeat studies and negative ‘null’ findings, claiming they are essential to securing the reliability of results.

BMC Psychology is the first of its kind to be solely dedicated to all aspects of psychology and as Keith explains in his commentary, it will be the first to ‘encourage submissions of replications and null findings’, believing it to be a ‘key part of redressing the scientific reputation of psychology’.

In his editorial for the Guardian, Keith stated that ‘in a survey of nearly 6,000 American psychologists, the majority admitted being guilty of selectively reporting studies that ‘worked’ (67%)’ and continued ‘to collect data to reach a significant result (71%)’. But Keith stresses that keeping the failed replications and null findings unknown, may have huge implications to future studies – where the results may be replicated again until by chance a significant result is produced and published – giving an unreliable submission.

To read the full editorial in the Guardian, visit

To view the new open access journal BMC Psychology, and Keith’s commentary as section editor, visit