Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Waitrose collaborates with Hertfordshire researchers to reduce theimpact of pesticides

Image courtesy of Apolonia 
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire’s Agriculture and Environment Research Unit (AERU) are working with Waitrose Foods to develop a “pesticide load indicator”.

Pesticides are widely used to protect plants from pests such as weeds, diseases or insects  - to ensure a good crop yield whether in your home vegetable garden or in agricultural food production.

A pesticide can be chemically or biologically based and, although there are benefits to their use, there are also some drawbacks such as potential toxicity to humans and animals.  Everyone who uses pesticides has the responsibility to ensure that they use them correctly and effectively to minimise the risk they pose to people and the environment.  But small amounts may turn up in food supplies – and they may also turn up in the environment and drinking water.
Image courtesy of 
David Castillo Dominici at 

Waitrose has a policy of reducing the impact of pesticides used in its fresh produce.  Their fresh produce growers across the world need to be able to assess the risk of pesticide applications on human health, biodiversity and the wide environment. But an independent indicator of the risks of pesticide usage is not readily available - so, Waitrose sought the expertise of researchers at AERU led by Dr Kathy Lewis.

The collaboration with AERU will enable Waitrose to inform and improve on its policy to encourage the use of safer and more sustainable crop protection chemicals.  The pesticide load indicator will be used to evaluate crop protection plans from Waitrose suppliers all round the world.  It will give information to enable a more rational decision process for pesticide selection – therefore reducing the impact on biodiversity and the wider environment.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Top poster prize for research into older people’s kitchen practices

The University’s “Vulnerable older adults and kitchen practices in the home” poster won a top prize for an “outstanding presentation” selected from more than seven hundred posters at the recent IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics held in Seoul, Korea.

Dr Angela Dickinson, from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research into Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), presented the poster which was based on research from the recently published Kitchen Life report into what really goes on in our kitchens.  The study, led by Dr Wendy Wills from the University’s CRIPACC team including Angela, was carried out on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Photo credit poison-yvi

People aged sixty and above are considered to be more vulnerable to foodborne illness than younger people.  In the Kitchen Life study, most households did some things that were against FSA recommended practice, for example, not following the “use-by-dates” on food.  But older people may be at higher risk due to more factors working against them (compared to younger people).

The poster showed that the complexity of the kitchen practices of older people has the potential to impact on their vulnerability to foodborne illness in a number of ways.  And those interested in disseminating food safety messages need to account for this complexity and context with which kitchen life is undertaken.

Researchers from CRIPACC also won a poster prize for a poster in the second of the two poster sessions at the conference.  Dr Angela Dickinson presented the poster, which presented work involving Drs Frances Bunn and Charles Simpson also from CRIPACC, along with collaborators from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Brunel University, based on a systematic review ‘Preventing and managing falls among older people with mental health problems’.

This poster reviewed the evidence of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent falls in mental health settings.  It found only one study that had been undertaken in an in-patient mental health setting, this was in the US, and a lack of studies including patients with mental health conditions other than dementia or depression.  The review highlights the need for further research to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of fall prevention interventions for older people with mental health problems.

Copies of both posters can be obtained from Angela Dickinson.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What do you do in your kitchen?

Image courtesy of Suat Eman 
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Did you know that there are an estimated one million cases of foodborne illness each year in the UK? Resulting in 200,000 hospital admissions, 500 deaths and costing an estimated £1.9 billion according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA)?

Foodborne illness is caused by food which has been contaminated with bacteria or viruses and food safety in the home is a key focus of the FSA’s Foodborne Disease Strategy for 2010-2015.

Researchers led by Dr Wendy Wills, Reader in Food and Public Health at the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) have investigated domestic kitchen practices and published a report on behalf of the FSA.

The new report, called Kitchen Life, offers detailed insights for the first time into what people actually do and why in UK kitchens, and will help to develop thinking about how to reduce the burden of foodborne disease.
Photo credit poison-yvi

New insights from the report into how kitchen space is used highlights potential pathways which might lead to food contamination. Today’s kitchens are very busy areas with many activities taking place that have little to do with food preparation or eating - activities such as pet care, school and office work, gardening and bicycle repairs. These various activities combined with varied cleaning practices potentially lead to food safety and cross-contamination issues.

This close up examination of actual practices in UK kitchens presents an opportunity for fresh or renewed thinking about food safety policy - supporting the FSA’s communication for effective food safety in the home.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

And the Winner of 2013 RAS “A” Group Award goes to…

Dr Marc Sarzi
...the SAURON team!

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has awarded the 2013 RAS "A" Group award to the SAURON team, which includes Dr Marc Sarzi from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research (CAR).

This prize, which honours groups that have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy, was presented at last week’s 2013 UK National Astronomy Meeting held at St Andrews, Scotland.

Dr Sarzi was central to the SAURON team effort, having published two of the twenty-one team referred papers and also the third most cited paper of this project.   His analysis of the ionised-gas component of early-type galaxies helps dispel the preconception that these systems are purely stellar systems with little or no gas.

SAURON is an integral field spectrograph (which combines spectrographic and imaging capabilities in a large aperture, high resolution telescope) used by the SAURON project team to study the evolution of elliptical galaxies by making detailed observations of samples of nearby objects.

The SAURON initiative combines an impressive and optimised instrument design with the careful use of models and simulations to interpret the results, and a high degree of organisation across the collaboration.

The full list of SAURON team awardees is: M. Cappellari, R.L. Davies (Oxford University), R. Bacon (Observatoire de Lyon), E. Emsellem, H. Kuntschner, D. Krajnović (European Southern Observatory), P.T. de Zeeuw (ESO and Leiden Observatory), J. Falcón-Barroso (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias), R.M McDermid (Gemini Observatories), R.F. Peletier (Kapteyn Astronomical Institute Groningen), M. Sarzi (University of Hertfordshire), R.C.E. van den Bosch, G. van de Ven (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie).
Associates and former team members include: M. Bureau (Oxford University), C.M. Carollo (ETH Zürich), Y. Copin (Institut de physique nucléaire de Lyon), H. Jeong (Yonsei University), G. Monnet (ESO), B. Miller (Gemini Observatory), N. Scott (Oxford University), K. Shapiro-Griffin (Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems), E. Verolme (Leiden Observatory) and A. Weijmans (Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics).

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Open for business

Study business onlineWe’ve got another online open day on the books!

This time it’s for our new business course BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) on Thursday 1st August 2013 16:30 (BST).

The online Business course can be at studied at level 4 or level 6 (direct entry to the final year) and is 100% online. The online open day is a great way to find out more about the course, meet some of the teaching staff online and ask your questions which we hope to answer live on air.

Find out more and register at: http://www.herts.ac.uk/more/uh-online-distance-learning/online-open-day

We hope to see you online soon!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

University responds to demand for trained Agricultural Scientists

Why do we need trained agricultural scientists you may wonder?

University of Hertfordshire students visiting the GM field trial at Rothamsted Research whilst on a recent MSc module being briefed by Professor Huw Jones
Well, the world needs enough food to feed the ever growing population. And, as our first group of students on the University of Hertfordshire’s MSc in Environmental Management for Agriculture have been discovering, food production needs to remain sustainable. That is we need to produce food to meet human needs while ensuring sustainability of natural systems and the environment, so that these needs can be met now and for future generations.

At a recent speech at Rothamsted Research on “making the food and farming industry more competitive while protecting the environment”, Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, highlighted that the delivery of food security requires capacity building in the area of sustainable agriculture – identifying that more agricultural scientists are required.

The MSc in Environmental Management for Agriculture course was designed to fill this need for skilled agricultural scientists and managers who can work innovatively in all aspects of agriculture – from the research laboratory and the farmers’ fields, through agricultural policy and to the supermarket.

Students get a sound foundation in environmental management skills, including environmental auditing, and they spend fifty per cent of their time studying agriculturally related topics; including integrated farm management, crop pathogens, pests and weeds and their integrated control. It can be taken either as a full-time or part-time course with individual modules delivered as short courses with BASIS CPD points.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Bold Hearts – the results from Robocup 2013 in Eindhoven

Guest Blog by Dr Daniel Polani, Adaptive Systems Research Group

Some of the Bold Hearts team
RoboCup 2013, the robot football world championship, is now over!

The University’s Bold Hearts team took part, not only in the 3D Humanoid Simulation League where we’ve competed before but, also for the first time in the in the Humanoid Kid-Sized Hardware League: real humanoid robots running after the ball - uncontrolled by humans and fully autonomous!

In the Simulation League (where no hardware is used, we use software to control “virtual” robots in games which are shown on monitors) we’ve taken top spots in previous years with a strong third place trophy last year. And this year we were about to find out that the transition to the hardware league was not going to be easy!
Bold Hearts work area from above
Typically, hardware teams in their first competitions have robots standing around, looking futilely for the ball and generally doing nothing. Not so the Bold Hearts! True to their name, the robots went boldly for the ball and kicked it towards the goals - scoring quite a few! A great success for our new hardware team but, not always in the opposition’s goal! Unfortunately, the rules were changed this year – the goal posts were the same colour each end, making them indistinguishable for the robots and meaning that we scored a few own goals!

As in our last blog post, we lost 1-3 to MRL from Iran where we actually scored two goals (including one own goal!), won 2-1 against BitBots from Hamburg, and finally lost 1-2 to SNOBots in extra-time. After being 1-1 at full-time (and again scoring both goals!), SNOBots scored thirty seconds from the end of extra-time – and we went out of the competition. But we were pleased with our efforts and were far from being a walkover.  And we know that we can score goals which is good for the future.

Preparing for the game against SNObots
Our almost orphaned 3D Humanoid Simulation team, on the other hand, started well! It won the drop-in challenge (where robot players from different teams are combined and then evaluated how well they performed overall).

Then, in the regular competition, disaster struck. Our team had massive communication problems and the player kept falling over - so our poor, neglected simulation team barely survived the first round.

With extra input from our Kid-sized hard team who had completed their competition, we frantically tried to fix our simulation players – so that they could at least play at the level we expected them to. These efforts paid off as their performance in later rounds showed us how well they can play. We reached the last round before the finals – beating one of the favourites, magmaOffenburg 1-0 and drawing with FCPortugal (who finally came in 3rd place).

Our Simulation team ended in fifth/sixth position out of a field of twenty-four - much better than we expected for an extremely tough competition and a simulation team that had to take the back seat to the hardware for months!

Bold Hearts is looking forwards to next year's RoboCup in Brazil!!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Online Excellence

Quintin McKellar
Professor Quintin McKellar
Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire
Great news! Dr Mariana Lilley, School of Computer Science programme tutor for BSc Computer Science (online) has won the Vice-Chancellor award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Massive congratulations to Mariana!

Why are we excited about this award?

There are over 2,000 staff at the University of Hertfordshire - that’s quite a campus full. Both individuals and teams put a masses of effort into the University – helping it be the success that it is. The Vice-Chancellor’s awards recognises and celebrates those who go that extra mile and make an outstanding contribution to the University.

Excellence in Learning and Teaching is awarded to a member of staff who ‘provides a transformative learning experience for their students and inspires and supports their teaching colleagues in the development of their teaching practice’. Quite apt for online: adopting innovative approaches for learning and teaching helps distance learning to be an engaging, rewarding experience- so much more than just lecture slides being uploaded to the internet and Mariana is a pioneer in this area.

Voted by you.

Dr Mariana Lilley has also been highly commended in ‘Tutor of the Year’ as voted for by her students!  This award demonstrates ‘outstanding commitment and achievement and providing excellence in inspirational teaching.’

The awards were presented by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Quintin McKellar at the staff garden party. To find out more about the Vice Chancellor awards visit: http://www.herts.ac.uk/intranet/vc-awards/winners-and-past-awards

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Hertfordshire professor sharing new BodyMind Approach in Korea

Professor Payne delivering
keynote lecture in Korea
Professor Helen Payne provided the keynote lecture at the 2013 International Conference of the Korean Dance Therapy Association held in Seoul last weekend.

As a Fellow of the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy and one of the leading international experts in the field of Embodied Psychotherapy, Helen introduced the new BodyMind Approach for patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) which helps them to live better with their condition. Based on over 30 years of practice-based research at the University of Hertfordshire, it is an established approach for those people with medically unexplained, persistent, physical symptoms which fail to respond to medical treatment.

Helen was also interviewed live on Korean radio on Wednesday morning this week - sharing her knowledge and experience on this innovative approach for supporting patients with medically unexplained symptoms.

The Korean Dance Therapy Association has been pioneering dance movement therapy in Korea since 1993 – celebrating its 20th anniversary with this year’s international conference.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Making robots more trustworthy

Sunflower robot in Robot House
With robots being developed more and more for use in the home as active "helpers", can we humans fully trust that they will behave in the way that we want them to behave?

Can we trust them to be home companions for older people or even to be personal care robots to help patients during their recovery? Will a robot always make safe moves? Or will it ever knowingly or deliberately make unsafe moves?

Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Research Group, led by Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn and Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian, are part of a new £1.2 million collaborative project that aims to ensure that future robotic systems can be trusted by humans.

"Trustworthy Robotic Assistants" is a three and a half year project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that will explore how robots can interact with humans in a safe and trustworthy manner.

The Hertfordshire team will focus on safety issues and trustworthy behaviour in the application of robots as home companions – carrying out the research in the University’s Robot House where these behaviours can be observed in a realistic environment. Having been involved in several European projects since 2004, the team is internationally recognised for their research into adaptive systems - particularly for robots in therapy and education, 'affective' and expressive interfaces between humans and machines, and robotic agents that can learn by imitation. .

The Trustworthy Robotic Assistants project also involves teams the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology, and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, as well as Industrial partners including the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) and RU Robots Limited.

BA Business Administration (online) - Completing a personal statementfor an online course application

Student writing with a UH Online penSo you’ve found that online business course and are completing the application form, have you written your personal statement yet?

The personal statement for an online course application is your chance to shine. You can demonstrate to the admissions tutor the skills you possess and the reasons you want to study the course.

We’ve made a little video to help you make your personal statement the best it can be.

University of Hertfordshire programme tutor Karen Trimarchi gives her tips on how to complete your personal statement when applying for BA(Hons) Business Administration (online) at the University of Hertfordshire.

Take a look now - hope it's some help!