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Durham University

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12 Stories to Remember from 2019: part 1

(1 January 2020)

Cosmic Architecture at Lumiere Durham 2019

Cosmic Architecture, Lumiere 2019

2019 was the year we revealed just how fast Greenland's ice sheets are melting, opened a £40m Teaching and Learning Centre and stage our first Community Fun Day. In the first in a two-part series, we recall the first six of 12 Stories to Remember from 2019. 

 1. Greenland’s ice sheets are melting faster than we thought

Dr Pippa Whitehouse was part of an international team that revealed that Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s. The island has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992 – enough to push global sea levels up by 10.6 millimetres. The rate of ice loss is in line with the more pessimistic climate warning scenario by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which would see 40 million more people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100.

2. A new mesh to clean up oil spills

On a more positive note for the environment, our surface scientists developed a coated mesh to clean up oil spills faster and in a more eco-friendly manner. The stainless steel mesh, similar to that used in screen doors to keep flies out, can not only separate oil from water but also kill water-borne bacteria.

3. Five thousand eyes started looking at the sky

Turning our gaze upwards, a cutting-edge new telescope instrument designed and built by an international team including ourselves started making its first observations of the night sky this autumn. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) has 5,000 fibre-optic eyes designed to give scientists a unique view of our rapidly growing universe.

4. Lumiere returned for a 10th anniversary

We were all looking skyward, though with our own eyes rather than a big telescope, as Lumiere light festival returned to Durham in November. We sponsored the festival and hosted several installations, including Cosmic Architecture (pictured), a stunning audio and visual experience centred on the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics and inspired by the physics research undertaken inside the Centre.

5. Over 1,000 people enjoyed our first Community Fun Day

Held in a huge marquee on Palace Green back in June, our Community Fun Day brought together some of the community activities organised by staff and students. There was live music and theatre, sports, dancing, hands-on science, arts and crafts, exhibitions and much more. Hugely popular with families, the event will return in summer 2020.

6. A new era in learning…

September saw the opening of the £40m Teaching and Learning Centre, which has state-of-the-art learning and teaching facilities, hundreds of study spaces and an Education Laboratory for trialling new teaching methods. We hope it will help students from backgrounds where attending university is not the norm thrive here, by creating inclusive learning spaces, enhanced with the latest digital learning technologies.