Durham Research in the News
Ancient tooth provides evidence Neanderthal movement
A 40,000-year-old tooth has provided the first direct proof that Neanderthals moved from place to place in their lifetimes.
In a collaborative project, Professor Michael Richards, lecturer in Archaeology, and his team used laser technology to collect microscopic particles of enamel from the tooth. By analysing strontium isotope ratios in the enamel the scientists uncovered geological information showing where the Neanderthal had been living when the tooth was formed.
Professor Richards said: "Strontium from ingested food and water is absorbed as if it was calcium in mammals during tooth formation. Our tests show that this individual must have lived in a different location when the crown of the tooth was formed than where the tooth was found."
The findings could help answer the longstanding debate over the mobility of the now extinct Neanderthal species.
Professor Richards said: "The evidence indicates that this Neanderthal moved over a relatively wide range of at least 20 kilometres or even further in their lifetime."
This story was covered by the national media including the Daily Mail and Channel 4 News, as well as regional papers and broadcast including Northern Echo, Metro, Look North and BBC Radio Newcastle and Tees.
Super-computer could throw light on "mysterious" dark energy
Cosmologists have run a series of computer simulations of the Universe that could ultimately help solve the mystery of dark energy.
The research, co-authored by Professor Carlos Frenk, Department of Physics, tells researchers how to measure dark energy - a repulsive force that counteracts gravity.
Scientists believe dark energy, making up 70 percent of the Universe, is driving its accelerating expansion. If this acceleration continues, experts say it could eventually lead to a Big Freeze as the Universe is pulled apart and becomes a vast cold expanse of dying stars and black holes.
The simulations looked at tiny ripples in the distribution of matter in the Universe made by sound waves a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang.
By changing the nature of dark energy in the simulations, the researchers discovered the ripples appeared to change in length and could act as a "standard ruler" in the measurement of dark energy.
Professor Frenk said: "The ripples are a 'gold standard'. By comparing the size of the measured ripples to the gold standard we can work out how the Universe has expanded and from this figure out the properties of the dark energy."
This story generated national coverage in the Independent, Telegraph, Today Programme and Sky News and in some international titles.
Art and medicine meet to make the world's first 'operation' gown
A unique surgical gown, developed by Durham and Ulster Universities, will help medical students understand what it's like to go under the knife.
The gown, when worn by medical students, should significantly improve understanding of where operation incisions are made and what they mean to the patient.
With nine zips, the gown shows where surgeons make cuts in the body for various operations such as removal of the appendix and open heart surgery. Its silk material is more like human tissue than the plastic of traditional models of the human body and it is hoped the gown will supplement these plastic models.
Leading medical developer Professor John McLachlan, Associate Dean in the School for Health, explains: "Current anatomical teaching aids take no account of emotional involvement or the feel of the body. The way medical students distance themselves emotionally from the patient's body has long been seen as a desirable outcome. But this ‘desensitation' also brings with it the risk of objectifying the body.
"We think we can use art to bring meaning back into medical teaching and we want to help students understand the significance of the body as well as its structure."
This story gained international coverage in titles such as the Washington Post as well as generating wide-scale national coverage, including Sky News, Telegraph and BBC online.
Durham Centre for Catholic Studies is UK first
Durham University and the Roman Catholic Church are launching the first Centre for Catholic Studies at a secular UK university. The Centre will also be home to the first endowed chair of Catholic theology and has been made possible by donations thus far totalling £2.1million. The major sponsors of the Bede Chair are the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle personally led by the late Bishop Kevin Dunn, two religious orders and the Ballinger Trust.
Building on the Department of Theology and Religion's traditional strengths, the Centre aims to become internationally regarded, complementing the Department's close links with the Church of England and reputation as one of the UK's leading academic centres for Orthodox studies.
Leading Roman Catholic Scholar, Prof Lewis Ayres has been appointed to become the first holder of the Bede Chair of Catholic Theology, and will act as the intellectual figurehead of the Centre.
Centre Director, Dr Paul Murray, said: "These developments act as a measure of the way in which the UK has become a real centre for world-class Catholic theology. They provide a secure, long-term platform for the continued flourishing of such theology into the future."
This story generated national print coverage, as well as wide-scale regional coverage including the Sunderland Echo, Evening Chronicle, Durham FM, DurhamTimes, Scarborough Evening News and the Sheffield Star.
The Media Relations Office has developed a series of media toolkits which guide staff on how to write news releases for the media.
This move follows a restructuring and strategic review of the Media Team to provide a high-quality consultancy service to academic staff and to focus its resources on stories of major impact with the media.
Under its new strategic focus, agreed by senior management and Faculty Boards, the Media Team is proactively researching, developing and promoting news stories of major regional, national and international media impact.
For good news stories which fall outside this strategic focus, staff may request the media toolkits to promote their achievements to the regional and specialist media. The previous media toolkit was used to great effect, gaining coverage in the Journal, Northern Echo, the Evening Chronicle, regional radio and others.
The new suite of toolkits includes template news releases, information on how to contact and engage the media, and contact details for regional journalists. There are templates for different types of news such as awards, accolades, events such as seminars and conferences, musical performances, exhibitions, outreach activities and more.
For more information, or to obtain a toolkit, contact email@example.com x46075
JOIN MEDIA GUIDE TO EXPERTISE
The media relations office has launched a 'Media Guide to Expertise' which is a searchable database for journalists to source experts from Durham University.
To join the guide now, visit www.durham.ac.uk/dev.comms/pr/media-guide and click on 'Join Media Guide'.