Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funds research

Associate Professor Dr Sonja Rueckert (School of Applied Sciences) recently received funding (US$ 381,688) from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, to lead one of the 42 teams of scientists that are to be supported over the next three years as part of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative (US$ 140 million).

The initiative aims to develop and advance model systems to gain better understanding of how these symbiotic associations evolved and function.

Dr Rueckert says: “The international team I am leading will work on culturing techniques for gregarine apicomplexans infecting marine and freshwater invertebrates (Fig. 1). The team includes  researchers from the UK, USA, Czech Republic and France.

“This is very exciting, as we can now develop our culturing approach, which will enable scientists to advance fundamental research on the evolutionary steps of symbiosis in the Apicomplexa (important parasites for humans and livestock, e.g. causing Malaria).

“Having a culture system will make it easier to identify key cellular and molecular transitions in the evolution from free-living relatives to intracellular parasites.

“My research organisms of interest, the gregarines, cover the whole range of symbiotic relationships with their hosts from mutualistic to parasitic, and therefore play a crucial role in the understanding of the evolution of this symbiotic association.

“The unique, collaborative set up of this program will foster the exchange of techniques and ideas of about 200 scientists from different disciplines with the common goal to advance the field of aquatic symbiosis.’

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit Moore.org and follow @MooreFound.

Carnegie Trust Scholarship Award for PhD student

School of Applied Sciences student Abigail Cunningham (pictured) is the University’s first recipient of a Carnegie Trust PhD Scholarship Award.

Drawing on a Foucauldian theoretical framework and using narrative discourse analysis, her project will explore Scottish-Pakistanis’ experiences of ‘policing’ in everyday life, including institutional, community, and self-policing.

UK policy responses to terrorist threats have contributed to relationships of mistrust between British-Asian communities and police and to increasing incidents of hate crime against them. There is a lack of in-depth, qualitative research exploring the reasons for underreporting of hate crime, and few studies include the perspectives of Scottish ethnic minority citizens.

Abigail’s PhD aims to examine the idea of Scotland as an inclusive community from the perspective of Scottish-Pakistanis, and problematize the way ethnic minority groups participate in, respond to, and internalise policing on multiple levels. The study will conduct 30 in-depth face-to-face interviews with Scottish-Pakistanis from urban and semi-rural areas in Scotland.

In providing an understanding of the experiences of Scottish Pakistanis, findings will be of significant benefit to policy makers and practitioners, and will assist policing organisations in Scotland to improve their engagement with minorities.

Abigail’s supervisory team consists of Liz Aston as Director of Studies, with Grant Jeffrey and Taulant Guma as co-supervisors, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the PhD and expertise of the supervisory team across criminology and policing, human geography and migration, and critical community psychology.

Liz said, “The University has a supportive and well-resourced research environment for postgraduates, networked to external training opportunities. With Edinburgh Napier being a member of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and host university of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, Abigail will have access to a range of training courses, summer schools, postgraduate conferences and a supportive community of PhD students and academics.

“Abigail’s intellectual capacity and passion for exploring migration were evident in her academic record, reference and personal statement. She is one of our Social Sciences graduates, with great work and life experience and contacts. She has also been doing some teaching with us over the past year.

“Her Carnegie PhD Scholarship Award is a wonderful achievement and testament to her excellence. Grant, Taulant and I have enjoyed working with Abigail to develop her proposal and we are excited to get started!”

Meeting the demands of a changing world

Dr Janis MacCallum and Dr Graham Wright, Programme Leaders for the School’s Biomolecular MSc suite, outline why this is a good time to become an applied biologist.

Whilst it’s clear the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are numerous, we’ve been spending some time trying to understand what the ongoing response by the industry and academia will mean for our graduates. And the answer is resounding, it’s a good time to be an applied biologist. The need for scientists has been brought into sharp focus. Every day we are reading in the popular press about immunology, in the shape of vaccines and antibody tests; molecular biology in shape of diagnostic tests run from nose swabs; pharmacology in the shape of repurposing old drugs and designing new ones… I could go on.

In reviewing our MSc programmes to ensure they were training graduates able to contribute to the global response to COVID-19, we found that without exception our programmes were already doing this. Our suite of programmes already have a strong practical element with a focus on employability skills and all are supported by research academics, with strong links across the bio-medical and pharmaceutical industries and research institutes as well as within the NHS. This, combined with module and lecture topics that are designed to react to emerging research and demands to reflect the field, means that our programmes are already aligned to challenges created by COVID-19 and will be ready for whatever comes after it.

Our Biomedical Science programme, covers fundamental and emerging topics in immunology, toxicology, pharmacology and disease biology and how these disciplines are applied in biomedical science, allowing our students to gain unique insights into the challenges currently facing biomedical science (pandemic anyone?). One example of how COVID-19 will be reflected in our BMS programme comes from Prof. Peter Barlow, Professor of Infection and Immunology, module leader on our MSc programmes and Head of Research:

“I’ve given lectures and tutorials on the potential of host defence peptides for treating viral infections and related topics and covered emerging vaccination technologies that can be rapidly deployed that I’ve published on previously. I’ve also run tutorials where I’ve had MSc students critically review prior funding applications and could incorporate these into my modules now that we are starting to apply for SARS-CoV-2 related funding.”

Dr Peter Barlow

Or there is Drug Design and Biomedical Science, a unique programme which combines biomedicine and pharmaceutical science, focussing on the development and creation of effective drugs, from concept to clinic, including the theories and practical applications of chemical drug design and immunology, pharmacology and molecular biology. Our Head of Synthetic Chemistry, Dr David Mincher highlighted just one of the many areas these programmes that will reflect important aspects in the pharmaceutical response to COVID-19:

“A major topic taught in the Drug Design and Chemotherapy module is the design of drugs to treat viral infections, focussed on clinically successful drugs, exemplified by oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat influenza, and SARS. Parallel mechanism-based analysis, using our molecular modelling and computational biology facilities are extendable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, causing the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Chemotherapeutic approaches are critically important to the treatment of viral disease in the scenario that vaccines are of no use to persons already infected with the virus.”

We also offer programmes in Medical Biotechnology (January 2020 intake) and a 2 year MSc programme in Pharmaceutical and Analytical Science (January intake only). All are designed to support you in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to take on exciting employment opportunities in the pharmaceutical, biomedical and biotechnology fields. Perhaps now is the time for you to explore these opportunities further…

If you are interested in learning more, sign up for our next Postgraduate Open evening being held online on the 21st May via this link: https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/events/online-pg-open-evening-may-2020#Form .

Covid-19 Implications for Policing

This blog is reproduced with permission and was originally published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) www.sccjr.ac.uk

Dramatic changes to people’s lives globally, resulting from COVID-19, are having an impact on crime and the criminal justice system (CJS). As the police are the gatekeepers to the CJS it is important to consider the implications for policing. These sweeping societal changes shed light on a number of key aspects of policing, and provide an opportunity for police to enhance public confidence and legitimacy – or indeed to erode it.

Maintaining and protecting the ‘thin blue line’

Given that one of the central functions of the police is to maintain public order, a key issue is how to resource the ‘thin blue line’. Sickness absence during a pandemic presents a challenge, particularly given a backdrop of austerity where officer numbers have been dramatically reduced (especially in England). One of the key concerns for police unions has been protecting the safety of the workforce e.g. through appropriate PPE. Union action is important, particularly given police don’t have a right to strike, and securing workers’ rights is not just the right thing to do for the police workforce, it’s also important in order to protect the public.

A key concern for Police unions has been protecting officers through appropriate use of PPE

New emergency public health legislation

A fundamental issue with introducing new legislation in a rushed manner is the potential for governments to take advantage of the situation. It’s important to ensure that these powers are for as short a time span as possible, so restrictive emergency powers can’t be used once the crisis has passed. However, it’s important to note that new police practices have been introduced in order to enforce public health measures brought in by government. A public health approach is not unfamiliar territory for policing, and indeed in Scotland enhancing the safety and wellbeing of communities is enshrined in legislation as a core purpose of policing

A tricky aspect for police practice has been the difference between government guidance around social distancing, and the legislation and what can be enforced. Also, public understanding of government guidance may be confused, particularly given variations at a local, national and UK level, so this is a challenge for police in Scotland. Clarity in communication is central to compliance, and to reducing calls to the police seeking clarification.

Police powers and human rights

A fundamental concern with police powers is always the balance with human rights and, as with stop and search, between securing public safety and individual rights and freedoms. This comes into renewed focus when new legislation opens up the likelihood of a wider spectrum of society to being policed in this way. People tend to be more bothered when it’s something they might experience, rather than the policing of ‘the other’. Given the implications of lockdown will vary depending on people’s situations, and will be layered with inequality, this will impact on the likelihood of being policed. Various debates have emerged regarding differential enforcement, the use of ‘spit hoods’, and Fixed Penalty Notices.

That said compliance has generally been high. It’s important to acknowledge that the intended approach taken by the police has been to engage, and only enforce as a last resort. This is a good thing given that engagement approaches are connected with public confidence.

Public confidence and governance

Why is public confidence in policing important? The CJS relies on people coming forward as a victim or witness, and we know that people are unlikely to share information if they do not have confidence in the police. We also know from the extensive procedural justice literature that how people feel they have been treated in an encounter with the police has an impact on cooperation and compliance. Increasingly, the ways in which people are making contact with the police are becoming technologically-mediated (e.g. via online reporting or social media) but we don’t know what impact this has on legitimacy.

Given the concerns raised above, the governance of these new police powers is important. Mechanisms could include internal governance, making police data publically available, external oversight bodies, civil society organisations, and judicial remedies. In Scotland a new Independent Advisory Group has been set up to review the police use of temporary powers.

Future trends?

Changing crime patterns will have an impact on policing demand and require strong communication from police to increase public awareness (e.g. cyber security) and encourage victims to come forward (eg. domestic abuse). Whilst it is unclear how things will unfold over the coming months it is likely that policing will need to respond to variations in social distancing guidance and compliance. Trust in government decisions, as well as in the police, will be important in encouraging compliance. Indeed it may be that action will be taken to hold governments to account for failures to deal appropriately with the pandemic. There is also potential for social unrest and protests associated with an economic downturn. Policing organisations will need to take very seriously their commitment to the well-being of their workers, who are policing in a stressful context. It’s also important for police organisations to engage and listen to frontline views.

In these extraordinary times governments and police in some jurisdictions will take the opportunity to introduce coercive powers and surveillance measures. Indeed it would be a shame to let a good crisis go to waste -but this should involve taking brave and progressive action. For example, with a pandemic layered on top of a drug related death epidemic, it would be worth introducing safe prescribing and diversion for drug possession. There is also an opportunity for the police to take action which enhances public confidence.

Dr. Liz Aston is Director of Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) and Associate Professor of Criminology, Edinburgh Napier University, l.aston@napier.ac.uk, @AstonLiz

Images are copyright of PoliceScotland

A degree designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes

My name is Eoin Flemming and I am a full time international Judo player, fighting for Ireland, and I plan on competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2024 Olympic Games.

I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier University as it was the only university that offered a course that was designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes.

The degree course is online and is very flexible when it comes to sitting our modules. This is essential for me, as Judo is a full-on sport with no off season like other sports. I mostly train two or three times a day for six days a week, so knowing this degree is there and understands these demands is great. I was able to complete one recent assignment for university whilst I was on a five-week training camp in Japan. Having the flexibility to study and complete assignments from anywhere in the world is very helpful, especially as my sport requires me to travel a lot.

Edinburgh Napier University has supported me tremendously. They are one of very few universities that truly understand the needs and demands placed on professional athletes. The creation of the course is huge for people like me who want to get a degree without the normal time constraints of normal degrees. I understand the importance of having a degree and furthering my knowledge in today’s society. I have to be prepared for what I am going to do after judo and this degree will give me greater opportunities for when that time comes. It is such a highlight to be given the opportunity to achieve this without it affecting my sports performance.

I have already recommended the BA Business and Enterprise Sport to some of my training partners as I feel this is the perfect course for athletes. The modules are specific to elite sport so I find them really interesting. I’d absolutely encourage other athletes to do the course and enjoy the unique experience of studying whilst being an athletes. You will be opening new opportunities for yourself for life after sport. The university has plenty of support systems in place for us if you ever were to need any help.

Public Perceptions and Responses to Human Trafficking

International Migrant Day – 18 December – was an appropriate day to review the latest research published in Anti-Trafficking Review, at a special event at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), a network of over 80 NGOs worldwide, this issue of the quarterly academic journal has been guest edited by Kiril Sharapov, an Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Applied Sciences, and Suzanne Hoff, International Coordinator of La Strada International. Its focus is on public perceptions and responses to human trafficking.

The theme has emerged from research that identifies that many interventions, globally, are driven by assumptions or ignorance of the issue at a local level. Peter Olayiwola, a PhD student at Nottingham University highlighted that in Nigeria, which is the focus of his ongoing research, most NGO’s perceive the issue of trafficking to be driven by organised networks – a perception driven by the western donors most NGOs rely on to fund their programmes.

There is an obvious danger then that most interventions become necessarily time bound and focused around this single driver. But the reality for those working in exploited roles, many of whom Peter has interviewed directly, is that they are not trafficked into Nigeria by organised gangs, but taken advantage of in their own country, by those who would exploit the extreme poverty of their basic living conditions and the vulnerability it creates.

Caroline Robinson speaking at the launch of the Anti-Trafficking Review focused on Public Perceptions and Responses to Human Trafficking, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh 18 December 2019

Improving public awareness of the issues around trafficking is then, surely, a benefit?

As Kiril Sharapov and Suzanne Hoff write in their editorial however, the answer is not so clear cut. “Most awareness-raising messages continue to deliver simplistic narratives of ‘victims, villains, and heroes,’ while leaving the structural root causes of human trafficking and the systems of domination that underpin them intact.”

The range of research in this edition does point a way forward, and a focus on the broad range of root causes could do much to inform a better debate around how limited funds can be targeted. It is not uncommon for costly public awareness campaigns to be approved just as equivalent direct cuts to front line services are enforced. Strengthened labour inspection systems could also do much to impact the conditions under which currently exploited workers subsist, and anti-trafficking campaigns also need to call for labour protection in unregulated sectors, such as domestic work.

Ultimately, “those of us who hold the power of production and distribution of knowledge must let the people in vulnerable and exploitative situations… demand the change they need.”

Anti-Trafficking Review Issue 13, September 2019 ISSN 2286-7511

Understanding the health benefits of exercise and physical activity

Due to the prevalence of long-term health conditions in our modern society, and our developing understanding of the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, there is an important need to develop highly skilled postgraduates in Clinical Exercise Science.

The School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University has a unique course that can provide the specialised, evidence-based, clinical exercise science knowledge, and the applied skills required to work with both healthy and clinical populations.

On the MSc in Clinical Exercise Science you can expect to learn about many long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurological conditions and different types of cancer and the role that physical activity and exercise can play in both the prevention and treatment of such conditions.

We want our students to have as much hands on experience as possible, to enhance their career prospects. With that in mind the Clinical Exercise Science MSc includes a large practical component where students will learn to run exercise tests, screen patients, prescribe exercise programmes and learn motivational interviewing techniques. We think it is important that our graduates not only know the physiology of exercise and physical activity, but also have an excellent understanding of what motivates people and how people can be helped to incorporate physical activity and exercise into their lives. Clearly we are very concerned with research, but more importantly we are concerned with the impact that research has in the real world and what this does for the health of both general and clinical populations. The most important thing that a clinical exercise scientist does is make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. This course will give you the knowledge and skills required to go out and do this confidently.

Whether your background is sport/exercise science, psychology, physical activity and health or perhaps you work as a healthcare professional we want to hear from you. Our students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds. In addition to your academic qualifications you will also be given the opportunity to sit the REPS and CIMSPA Validated Level 4 Cancer and Exercise examinations. We want to offer you learning experiences which will enable you to be in the best possible position to exploit the increasing career opportunities as an exercise professional, whether as a physical activity coordinator, a health and well-being physiologist; a clinical exercise physiologist or an exercise referral coordinator.

Dr Melanie Leggate PhD, Programme Leader MSc Clinical Exercise Science

Research targets a cheap and fast method for rapid environmental assessment in coastal restoration

Mangroves protect the coastline. Here we can see old trees that protect the coast of Bunaken island in north Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Marco Fusi is a post-doctoral fellow in a research group led by Dr Karen Diele at Edinburgh Napier University. He completed his PhD at the University of Milan, studying mangroves and other coastal ecosystems around the Indian Ocean, in countries such as Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa.

Following his PhD, Marco has continued studying mangroves, with his post-doctoral fellowship research focusing on the Red Sea mangrove and seagrasses ecosystem.

Marco believes marine life is a natural laboratory, where environmental stressors shape and guide the evolution of life, especially in the light of the dramatic changes led by rapid global warming; and he has a strong passion towards his subject. His most current research project is the NERC project 2018-2021 – As Good as (G)old, which is led by Dr Karen Diele at Edinburgh Napier University.

The aim is to understand the ecological processes in coastal restoration. This will be achieved by comparing coastal areas in North Sulawesi, Indonesia that were previously exploited by intensive and unregulated shrimp farming activity, but which have now been restored to natural mangroves.

The project involves a diverse and multi-disciplinary team made up of scientists from both the UK and Indonesia who aim to understand the biological process that characterise restored mangroves in depth, in order to assess if they regain the full functionality of the natural mangrove.

Marco hopes the research project will deliver two major achievements. The first is to deliver a high impact case study on how the restoration process affects the ecological interaction amongst the species that live in the mangrove – from animals to bacteria.

The second major achievement would be to develop a cheap and fast method for rapid environmental assessment in coastal restoration.

The hope is to implement a conservation strategy that is able to monitor the health of the mangrove ecosystem to protect the sea and the people living nearby.

“Marine life is a natural laboratory where environmental stressors shape and guide the evolution of life, especially in the light of the dramatic changes led by rapid global warming.”

Left: Mangrove root create the right habitat to act as nursery habitat of fishes. In this picture you can see little cardinal fishes that find shelter among the mangrove roots.

Right: Mangrove root host a very diverse community of marine species. In this picture you can see a rich community of algae, sponges, tunicates that lives on a mangrove root. Bu creating structurally complex habitat they enhance the marine biodiversity.

 

Make a positive difference to peoples’ lives through Clinical Exercise Science

Due to the prevalence of long-term health conditions in our modern society, and our developing understanding of the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, there is an important need to develop highly skilled postgraduates in Clinical Exercise Science.

To enhance your career prospects, Edinburgh Napier has developed a unique course that will provide you with specialised, evidence-based, clinical exercise science knowledge, as well as plenty of hands on experience and the applied skills required to work with both healthy and clinical populations.

On this course you can expect to learn about many long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurological conditions and different types of cancer and the role that physical activity and exercise can play in both the prevention and treatment of such conditions.

We want our students to have as much hands on experience as possible. With that in mind the Clinical Exercise Science MSc includes a large practical component where you will learn to run exercise tests, screen patients, prescribe exercise programmes and learn motivational interviewing techniques. We think it is important that our graduates not only know the physiology of exercise and physical activity, but also have an excellent understanding of what motivates people and how you can help people to incorporate physical activity and exercise into their lives. Clearly we are very concerned with research, but more importantly we are concerned with the impact that research has in the real world and what this does for the health of both general and clinical populations. The most important thing that a clinical exercise scientist does is make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. This course will give you the knowledge and skills required to go out and do this confidently.

This course is designed to allow our students to gain the professional skills and knowledge that are required to work in the area of Clinical Exercise Science.

Whether your background is sport/exercise science, psychology, physical activity and health or perhaps you work as a healthcare professional we want to hear from you. Our students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds. In addition to your academic qualifications you will also be given the opportunity to sit the REPS and CIMSPA Validated Level 4 Cancer and Exercise examinations. We want to offer you learning experiences which will enable you to be in the best possible position to exploit the increasing career opportunities as an exercise professional, whether as a physical activity coordinator, a health and well-being physiologist; a clinical exercise physiologist or an exercise referral coordinator.

Get more details: https://www.napier.ac.uk/courses/msc-clinical-exercise-science-postgraduate-fulltime

Dean appointed to FSA Committee on Toxicity

Edinburgh Napier University’s Dean of Applied Sciences Gary Hutchison has recently been appointed to the Committee on Toxicity advising the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The FSA is an independent government department that works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect consumers from any potential food safety issues, by making sure food is safe – and is precisely what it claims to be – by using the best scientific evidence.

The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) is an independent scientific committee that provides advice to the Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health and other Government Departments and Agencies on matters concerning the toxicity of chemicals.

Due to Gary’s background in reproductive and development toxicity and particle toxicology, he has also been invited to join the FSA Register of Specialists.

As a member of the Register of Specialists, Gary will now be on a list of pre-approved experts whom the FSA can call on to carry out any scientific and technical work. This work will involve providing evidence, analysis or expert advice on risk assessment and other scientific issues relevant to food safety and regulated food products and food processes. As well as this, Gary’s expert knowledge will be called upon to provide peer review and appraisal of research questions and proposals.

The work that Gary will do with the FSA will benefit UK consumers directly by helping ensure the safety of food and the effective, evidence-based regulation of the food industry.

Professor Gary Hutchison