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2018

Cardiff’s Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS) has played host to officials from Chongqing Municipal Government in south western China.

The party of ten delegates visited the University to get to know more about the business opportunities offered by the Compound Semiconductor cluster in South Wales.

Hosted by Welsh Government, the visit brought together ICS Director, Professor Peter Smowton, and Chongqing Executive Vice Mayor, WU Cunrong, to explore ideas.

The delegation also featured key-decision makers who will shape Chongqing's future economic development, including economics and finance experts.

Charlotte Fundalski, International VIP Visits & Events Protocol Officer with Welsh Government’s Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office added: “The visit gave us a golden opportunity to showcase Wales' key strengths and highlight how Wales and Chongqing might forge future economic connections and collaborations.”

In a short talk, Professor Smowton set out the opportunities available for businesses working with the ICS and CS Connected – the wider CS cluster.

Professor Smowton explained how the ICS is dedicated to changing academic mindsets to focus on “manufacturable” research. The ICS provides a bridge between the research lab and the commercial world for one of the world’s key enabling technologies.

“Ultimately, we want the ICS to become a sustainable and reliable compound semiconductor fabrication facility, where research and industry work together closely supported by skilled process engineers, at the heart of the fifth cluster in Europe for semiconductors - but the first in the world for Compound Semiconductors.”

The ICS is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Digital technologies can help create a Wales we all want to live in, says a leading academic who chairs the Wales review of digital innovation.

Launching a public call for evidence, Cardiff University’s Phillip Brown believes the coming technological revolution will not just be felt from an economic perspective.

“If you read the scare stories we could all be left thinking robots are coming for our jobs. The reality is likely to be somewhat different. Despite the challenges, there are some clear opportunities for Wales to use technology to enhance the way we live and work,” said the Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Social Sciences.

Professor Brown’s expert panel is examining how advances in automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and large-scale data will affect the Welsh economy in years to come.

The Review of Digital Innovation for the Economy and the Future of Work in Wales has launched a public online survey to help understand how people perceive the impact of digital innovation and the challenges and opportunities facing Wales.

“I am keen that the review is able to hold the widest possible conversation with a range of stakeholders, not just those at the forefront of technology development,” said Professor Brown. “This Call for Evidence is very much the start of that conversation.”

Other leading digital stakeholders agree.

Ian Jones, co-founder of AMPLYFI, said: “The growth in open-source content available on the internet allied with technologies that increasingly enable us to unlock it are starting to transform how we can think about the future of work. Governments can now design and implement economic plans, support initiatives to develop the future skills and capabilities that will be required, and benchmark and monitor global progress in a way that was not previously possible.”

Peter Sueref, Data Science Director, Centrica, added: “There’s no clear forecast of what the future of work actually looks like but we know digital transformation will affect it.

“There are lots of different moving parts we need to consider: policy, public sector, business, education, infrastructure but most importantly the people of Wales. We can understand and shape the future impact of new technology by outlining a path that works for all of Wales. Let’s grow as a nation and really set out our narrative around what it means to be Welsh in the digital future.”

Phil Brown will be working with his Expert Panel to review the responses received and plan the next steps to engage the people, businesses and communities in Wales.

The Review of Digital Innovation for the Economy and the Future of Work in Wales was announced in March 2018. The review aims to gather further insight on the challenges and opportunities associated with digital innovation in the context of the Welsh economy and the future of work.

An interim report will be published by the end of November 2018, with final recommendations to follow by March 2019.

A Cardiff University MSc and PhD graduate has won a prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship for her work on the association between magnesium levels and mental and body well-being.

Currently Associate Professor of Neurological Physical Therapy at the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), Dr Hanan Khalil completed both her MSc and PhD in the School of Healthcare Sciences at Cardiff University.

Her MSc lead to the development of a physiotherapy framework for Huntington’s Disease (HD) which now underpins global clinical guidance and her PhD work, , supported through a Cardiff University Overseas Research Student award, and co-funding from JUST, involved the first ever randomised trial of a DVD- based exercise intervention in Huntington’s Disease which is now used globally as a critical component of evidence based clinical management of the disease (currently available in English, Arabic and Chinese).

Since Dr. Khalil left Cardiff, she has additionally published several peer-reviewed articles and successfully obtained seed funding (as a principal investigator) for a number of studies (both observational and interventional) in the field of neurological rehabilitation for people with neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr Khalil won the L'Oréal-UNESCO Levant regional fellowship based on her project on the association between magnesium levels and mental and body well-being in community-dwelling adults and people with neurodegenerative disease. The ceremony to announce Fellowships was held in Beirut in October 10th 2018.

Dr Khalil commented: “Winning this fellowship is very exciting and motivating to me indeed. One thing that I would like to mention is that a lot of this credit goes back to what I have learned from Professor Monica Busse during the 5 years in Cardiff. I believe that having her as a mentor during my PhD study has had a long term impact on my career.

Monica Busse, Director of Mind, Brain and Neuroscience for the Centre for Trials Research, added: “I am especially proud of what Hanan has achieved both during her time in Cardiff and since she left. It is wonderful to see how she has applied what she has learned during her time with us in Cardiff to develop into an internationally renowned rehabilitation researcher.

“This is a real tribute to the cross-university collaborative approach that is embedded in the activities of the Cardiff University Huntington’s Disease Research and Management Centre. It is thoroughly well-deserved and shows the positive international impact of our research and student support.”

The Vice-Chancellor has received one of China’s most prestigious awards in recognition of the University’s longstanding contribution to the development of China’s capital city, Beijing.

Professor Riordan received the Great Wall Friendship Award in recognition of the success of research collaborations spanning thirty years, most notably with Beijing and Capital Medical University.

Previous winners of the award include former NBA basketball star Stephon Marbury, former Siemens China President Ernst Behrens, I.T. United founder Cyrill Eltschinger, and ABB China President Claudio Facchin.

Professor Riordan said: “It is a tremendous honour to receive such a prestigious award on behalf of the University."

The University’s historical links with Beijing can be traced back to 1999 when it first partnered with Peking University to research the causes of cancer and work on improving diagnoses and treatment of the disease.

This partnership has since developed culminating in the establishment of the Cardiff – Capital Medical University (CMU) Joint Centre for Biomedical Research in 2013.

The joint venture has resulted in some 91 scholar exchanges, more than 60 student exchanges, and collaborative research into the causes of and treatment for cancer.

Professor Riordan added: “I am proud of the links that we have developed with CMU, in Beijing and across China.

“I look forward to further developing these already successful partnerships in the years ahead.”

A UK - Netherlands consortium of semiconductor device specialists has won a €1.2 million (£1.06m) award to develop photodetector solutions for ultra-high speed data-communications applications.

The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) – a joint venture between Cardiff University and IQE Plc - will deliver MISCA (Monolithically Integrated Detector Solutions for Next Generation Communications Applications) in collaboration with Integrated Compound Semiconductors (ICS) Ltd of Manchester, and VTEC Lasers and Sensors of Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

CSC Director and consortium lead, Dr Wyn Meredith, said: “The project aims to drive a radical improvement in component performance via advances in semiconductor materials integration and will result in a new European source of high performance detector products for fibre optic data-communications applications.”

Professor Mohamed Missous, founder and CEO of ICS added: “The rapid growth of the high speed optical transceiver market is an exciting opportunity for ICS. The demands of optical transmission markets require a deep understanding of RF component design to complement high-quality optoelectronic device manufacture.”

Led by the European Union through Horizon 2020, Eurostars is a funding and support programme, aimed at R&D-performing SMEs that wish to exploit benefits from international collaboration.

Dr Jan Mink, CEO of VTEC added: “The Eurostars programme is specifically aimed at enabling agile SMEs to collaborate across Europe, and gives VTEC a great opportunity to collaborate with like-minded companies in the UK to extend our value chain. We see great potential in using semiconductor component integration to enable a new class of low power consumption, high performance detector products.”

The mission of CSC is to accelerate the commercialisation of Compound Semiconductor materials and device research.

Based in Cardiff, the Centre plays a pivotal role in CS Connected – the world’s first Compound Semiconductor cluster.

Cardiff University’s social science research will be celebrated in a week-long festival.

Taking place between November 5 and 10, research in areas as diverse as child psychology, teaching, public health, young people and politics will be shared with a wide range of audiences.

The events include a family-friendly evening where parents can speak to researchers about their children’s development, an interactive session where young people explore how friendship is valued among their peers, debates on the emergence of peace in Northern Ireland and a discussion about a new wave of trade union membership through social media.

This marks the third Festival of Social Science in Cardiff, which is organised in association with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and aims to bring social science research in UK universities to the masses.

Professor Gillian Bristow, Dean of Research for the University’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor in Economic Geography said: “We are delighted to showcase the strength and breadth of research being carried out at Cardiff University.

“Our researchers undertake world-leading and impactful work that informs the development of policies, services and innovation – both here in Wales and around the world.

“I hope that people will join us during the week to learn more and find out why social science research has never been more important in solving the major societal challenges we face today.”

Events during the week are free but places must be reserved. The full schedule and further information is available here: www.cardiff.ac.uk/festival-of-social-science

The University’s arts, humanities and social science research spans areas including digital, creative and cultural industries; devolved, urban and regional governance; family, gender, human rights; health, medicine and disability; sustainability & the environment; education; work; data social science; crime and security; and human cultures, beliefs, languages.

The University is developing SPARK – the world’s first social science research park. Based on Cardiff’s future Innovation Campus, SPARK will act as a hub for social science research across the University and bring together academics, policy and practice organisations to develop new solutions to pressing global challenges.

Conversations are more responsive in natural environments such as parks and gardens than indoors, finds new research by the University of Manchester and Cardiff University.

The researchers recorded conversations between three- and four-year-old children and their parents while they explored a city park and the park’s indoor education centre and found that the conversations in the park were more responsive and connected compared to those recorded indoors.

Dr Thea Cameron-Faulkner, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Manchester, and one of the study authors, said: “Our research demonstrates that natural environments can significantly enhance social interactions, in this case improving the quality of parent-child conversations.”

Professor Merideth Gattis, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, one of the study authors, added: “One of the most challenging aspects of conversations is listening and responding to what other people say. The results of our study suggest that one simple way for people to improve this process is to spend time outdoors in natural environments.

“Our findings are an important first step toward building a better understanding of how natural environments can influence communication and could be used to inform and improve a number of services including education, child welfare and urban design."

The team focused on families with three- and four-year-olds because at these ages most children have a lot to say, but coordinating with a conversational partner is sometimes challenging.

Dr Cameron-Faulkner said: “Our study introduces a novel experimental design, which allows us to draw stronger causal conclusions about the benefits of natural environments compared to previous correlational studies reporting positive associations between green space and child outcomes.”

Sam Williams, Co-author of the Arup report Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods, who was not involved in the research, commented: “Positive and engaging parent-child communication is key to a child’s healthy development with lifelong benefits. This study, which is the first of its kind, demonstrates the importance of access to local, natural environments to enhance this relationship. Providing opportunities for daily contact with nature is a simple but powerful way that cities can support both children and their caregivers, with significant implications for how we plan, design and manage our public spaces.”

Professor Courtenay Norbury of the School of Psychology and Language Sciences at University College London, added: “The language that children possess when they start school is highly predictive of later language competence and early scholastic and social success. Thus increasing opportunities for language learning that are embedded in rich social interactions is key to enhancing oral language competence.”

The study ‘Responding to nature: Natural environments improve parent-child communication’ is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Researchers at Cardiff University will evaluate the size of the gender pay gap within UK public sector occupations such as teaching and nursing after successfully securing a research grant from the Office of Manpower Economics (OME).

The research will inform the work of the independent public sector pay review bodies. Professor Melanie Jones and Dr Ezgi Kaya from Cardiff Business School will use large scale data to identify whether gender differences in pay and occupational choice can be explained by personal characteristics like education and work experience and/or job-related characteristics such as hours of work.

The project is part of OME’s research, analysis and advice service which supports the eight UK pay review bodies by obtaining timely, high quality evidence to inform annual pay recommendations across the UK public sector.

Melanie Jones, Professor of Economics at Cardiff Business School, said: “The potential impact of this project is enormous when you consider that the work of the OME and the pay review bodies impacts upon 2.5 million workers, or around 45% of public sector staff, with a combined annual pay bill of approximately £100 billion.

“Ezgi and I will be building on some of my earlier work with our colleague Professor Vicky Wass which showed that the gender pay gap is narrower in the public sector than the private sector in the UK.

“This grant gives us the opportunity to explore this in more depth by considering key occupations covered by the pay review bodies.”

As part of the collaboration with the OME, Professor Jones and colleague Dr Kaya will analyse nationally representative data across a diverse range of public sector occupations including within the armed forces, healthcare, prison services, teaching and policing.

As well as quantifying the size of the gender pay gap across the public sector, the researchers will consider the drivers of such differences in remuneration between men and women before recommending what might be done to reduce or challenge these inequalities.

The project is already underway and is due to report its findings in April 2019. The research will be published on the OME website.

A scientist involved in creating the ultra-sensitive detectors needed to glimpse gravitational waves for the very first time has been awarded a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize.

Dr Katherine Dooley, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, has picked up the £100,000 prize for scientific work ‘that has had a significant international impact’.

Dr Dooley is an experimental physicist who specialises in developing the equipment needed to reach out far into the Universe and detect gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves, first predicted by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago, are tiny ripples in space-time that are emitted as a result of extreme cosmic events, such as the colliding of two black holes.

Having spent 4 years in residence at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US, Dr Dooley put some of the key processes in place that made it possible to detect gravitational waves for the very first time in 2015 after decades of searching.

The discovery was made using two detectors in the US, made up of 4km-long L-shaped experiments that bounce lasers back-and-forth off a collection of mirrors and become fractionally distorted in the presence of a gravitational wave.

Dr Dooley’s work was primarily focussed on increasing the laser power so that researchers could look deeper into the Universe and thus have a better chance of making more detections. The techniques Dr Dooley is currently developing will also be important for future generations of gravitational wave detectors, which are likely to be built over coming decades.

The prize comes as Dr Dooley is establishing a programme of experimental research into gravitational wave astronomy at Cardiff University.

This will build on the world-leading expertise that currently exists at the University, which also played a significant part in the detection of gravitational waves.

Cardiff University was one of the founding members of LIGO and for the last 30 years has been developing novel algorithms and software that have now become standard search tools for detecting the elusive signals.

Dr Dooley gained her PhD in Physics from the University of Florida in 2011, before moving on to postdoctoral research roles at the Albert-Einstein Institute in Hannover, Germany and the California Institute of Technology. Before joining Cardiff University in 2018, Dr Dooley was an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi, where she still holds a research post.

In 2017, Dr Dooley was made a prestigious Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences in the US.

Each year, the Leverhulme Trust awards thirty Philip Leverhulme Prizes to recognise researchers at an early stage of their career, whose work has already had a significant international impact, and whose future research career is exceptionally promising.

Professor Matt Griffin, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, said: “I’m delighted that Katherine’s ground-breaking work has been recognised with this prestigious prize.

“She is an extremely talented and well-regarded scientist who has already made a significant contribution to the field of astronomy in her early career. The detection of gravitational waves was arguably one of the greatest scientific discoveries of modern times and it would not have been possible without Katherine’s key contributions.

“With the help of this award we can continue to grow our experimental gravitational wave research programme here at Cardiff University and develop the future technologies and techniques needed for the next generation of gravitational wave observatories.”

Children in Northern Ireland are 80% less likely to be in foster or residential care than children in Wales, according to a study.  

Professor Jonathan Scourfield and Dr Martin Elliott from Cardiff University contributed to the UK-wide research that analysed the data of 36,000 children in contact with child protection services.

Findings showed that if Wales could reduce the number of children in care to the same rate as Northern Ireland, it would equate to a reduction of 2,000 fewer Welsh children living away from home.

Youngsters in Northern Ireland were also found to be 50% less likely to be in foster or residential care than children in England and 130% less likely than children in Scotland. Overall, if the rest of the UK was to follow the same policies as Northern Ireland, it would mean 31,500 fewer children in care.

The study revealed that a child in Wales, living in one of the most deprived 20% of the UK’s neighbourhoods, was 13 times more likely to be looked after away from parents, relatives or friends than a child in the least deprived 20%. Similar trends were found across the UK.

Researchers also discovered large differences in where looked after children were placed. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, around half of all looked after children went to stay with another relative or friend, compared to a little over 25% of looked after children in Wales, and only one in six in England.

Data from 55 local authorities or trusts were collected from a specific date in 2015 for the study. Researchers analysed children’s ages, genders, ethnic categories, and the type of abuse or neglect experienced if they were on child protection plans.  They also assessed the deprivation levels of the areas in which each child lived.

Dr Martin Elliott, based in the Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) in the School of Social Sciences, said: “There are stark inequalities here, both within and between countries in the UK. Policymakers could take lessons from what’s happening in Northern Ireland. An important part of reducing the need for children to come into care in the first place is by making efforts to reduce family poverty.”

Child welfare inequalities in the four nations of the UK is available here.