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Queen Mary and Warwick award academics £230,000 for new collaborative studies

New research into type 2 diabetes, social media, space plasma, and cabbage genetics that could boost crop production are just some of the collaborative projects to be carried out by academics at Queen Mary, University of London and its partner university, the University of Warwick.

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Warwick's Vice Chancellor Nigel Thrift and Queen Mary's Principal Professor Simon Gaskell
Warwick's Vice Chancellor Nigel Thrift and Queen Mary's Principal Professor Simon Gaskell

Queen Mary and Warwick formed a partnership in March 2012, in a move to benefit students and academics at both institutions, particularly in areas of flagship and innovative research. As part of this partnership, the two Russell Group institutions have jointly funded 13 collaborative projects of three to nine months in duration, with a maximum grant of £30,000 each, totaling £230,000.

Project highlights include Professor Richard Nichols and Professor Andrew Leach of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences working with Warwick’s Professor Jim Benyon on Combining the Needle with the Haystack: The challenge in Plant Genomics. They will use new technologies to sequence and analyse huge volumes of DNA.

“We’re taking the unusual step of being unpleasant to cabbages,” says Professor Nichols. “This strange experiment was suggested by evidence that stress may trigger dramatic changes in their chromosomes: some segments of the DNA will be copied and shuffled into the rest of the genome. Such changes can affect the activity of genes; most of which will harm the plant or be innocuous – but a minority may lead to valuable innovations. The study is important to both fundamental biology and to the breeding of new crops with increased yield and the ability to grow in ever more marginal land.”

Professor Graham Hitman and Dr Sarah Finer of Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute will be working with Dr Gyanendra Tripathi and Dr Ponnusamy Saravanan of Warwick Medical School on a study that brings together both biology and genomics and could lead to new methods of obesity and diabetes prevention.

Professor Hitman says: “This exciting project brings together complementary expertise in adipocyte biology from Warwick and genomics here at Queen Mary. The project adds to recently funded studies and creates an exciting platform to bring lab and patient-based studies together. It is hoped that data from this initiative will help us get significant external funding to support clinical translation of our findings to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes through nutritional intervention and altering metabolic programming.”

Novel nanoparticles for neural stem cell drug delivery is a project that lies at the interface between the physical and life sciences brings together three high profile female researchers with interdisciplinary backgrounds and large research groups:  Queen Mary’s Dr Marina Resmini, with expertise in organic chemistry, nanoparticles and drug delivery; Professor Silvia Marino (Queen Mary), an expert in neural stem cells biology and stem cell-driven tissue regeneration; and Professor Rachel O’Reilly, a polymer synthesis, self-assembly and nanostructure characterisation expert from Warwick.

Professor David Burgess from Queen Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy is collaborating with Professor Sandra Chapman (Department of Physics, Warwick) to take existing expertise in space plasma – the state of matter that makes up the universe - into the new area of nuclear fusion energy research. Their research will use high performance computing to investigate the formation of plasma structures on the edge of fusion plasmas, which play an important part in energy transport.

Professor Pat Healey from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary joins Dr Thomas Hills of Warwick’s Department of Psychology and Dr Pietro Panzarasa of Queen Mary’s School of Business and Management in a multi-disciplinary study of group innovation and creativity in social media. Professor Healey says: “The recent growth in new social media technologies and applications, such as Wikipedia, Zopa and Linux, place a premium on understanding how groups create and leverage social capital to foster innovation and creativity.”

A full list of funded collaborative projects can be found below.


Regulation, Innovation and Sustainability – Corporate Approaches to Managing the Abstraction, Use, and Disposal of Water Resources
Professor Stephen Brammer (Warwick Business School) and Professor Frances Bowen (School of Business and Management, QM)

Research network investigating concepts and practices of friendship in the eighteenth century
Professor Mark Knights (History, Warwick) and Dr Tessa Whitehouse (School of English and Drama, QM)

The  Externalisation  of  European  Union  Economic  Governance:  The  Mismatch  of Economic  and Social Development? A Pilot Project
Dr Ben Richardson (Politics and International Studies, Warwick) and Professor Adrian Smith (School of Geography, QM)

Modeling the physical structure of pre-invasive breast cancer
Professor Matthew Turner (Department of Physics, Warwick) and Professor Louise Jones (Barts Cancer Institute, QM)

Novel fullerenes for dynamic nuclear polarization and organic solar cells
Dr Gavin Morley (Department of Physics, Warwick) and Dr John Dennis (School of Physics and Astronomy, QM)

An integrated study of altered gene regulation in a model system of adipogenesis to elucidate the role of one-carbon nutritional environment in the development of human metabolic disease.
Dr Gyanendra Tripathi, Dr Ponnusamy Saravanan (Warwick Medical School), Professor Graham Hitman, Sarah Finer (Blizard Institute, QM)

• Kinetic simulation of nonlinear structures in magnetic confinement fusion plasmas
Professor Sandra Chapman (Department of Physics, Warwick) and Professor David Burgess (School of Physics and Astronomy, QM)

• Rethinking Cosmopolitan Citizenship in an Austere Europe
Dr Gurminder Bhambra (Sociology, Warwick) and Dr Robbie Shilliam (School of Politics and International Relations, QM)

• The social and structural foundations of group innovation
Dr Thomas Hills (Psychology, Warwick) and Professor Pat Healy (School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, QM)

• Combining the Needle with the Haystack: The challenge in Plant Genomics
Professor Jim Benyon (Life Sciences, Warwick) and Professor Richard Nichols (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QM)

• Access to TEM to determine surface morphology of metal loaded ferroelectric catalysts
Dr Richard Beanland (Physics, Warwick) and Dr Steve Dunn (School of Engineering and Materials Science, QM)

• Novel nanoparticles for neural stem cell drug delivery
Professor Rachel O'Reilly (Warwick Business School) and Dr Marina Resmini (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QM)

• Nanoscale localisation of microtubule plus end binding proteins using multispectral super-resolution imaging
Dr Anne Straube (Warwick Medical School) and Dr Ann Wheeler (Blizard Institute, QM)

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Rupert Marquand
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