New research study explores attitudes to polio immunisation in India
The University of Birmingham in the UK is working with Ravenshaw University in Orissa on a new research project looking at ethics, policy and practice concerning polio vaccination in the state. Although encouragingly India has been removed from the list of polio endemic countries, misconceptions still remain around polio vaccination within the country; this two-year project will gather relevant empirical evidence about attitudes to polio vaccination campaigns in Orissa from three key groups - parents, community workers and those involved in planning and implementing the campaign, such as government officials. While no cases of polio have been officially reported recently in the state, the research team will study more remote tribal areas where facilities are less developed. The study will outline and systematically explore the ethical issues that arise in relation to vaccination in general, as well as the issues raised by the empirical material gathered as part of the project.
Delhi and Birmingham students unite to stand against poverty
Lighting the way for medical imaging
In recent years there has been a major drive to develop novel techniques that aim to image deep into the body. Of these, the use of Near Infrared Light has received much attention, as it is non-invasive and can provide information regarding the physiological state of living tissue. Since 2005, Dr Hamid Dehghani from the School of Computer Science at Birmingham, together with Professor Phaneendra Yalavarthy at the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) have been working together to develop computational tools for the application of this new imaging technique, which can be used to characterize molecular features of tissue for the detection, diagnosis, and/or management of cancer therapy. They have been the recipient of Research Exchanges Award through the Royal Academy of Engineering and through their direct collaboration have been able to improve the diagnostic accuracy of this technique, paving the way for future large scale clinical studies..
The role of religion in development
Academics at the University of Birmingham, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies and other Indian institutions are looking at how faith communities and faith-based organisations have engaged with post-conflict situations in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Researchers are also examining the relationships between religion, politics and social movements; comparing the development activities of non-governmental and faith-based organisations in Maharashtra and Punjab; and examining how people interpret religious teaching in their everyday lives with respect to wealth and poverty and attitudes to corruption. The Religions and Development Research Programme led by Professors Carole Rakodi and Gurharpal Singh is an international research partnership that explores the relationships between several major world religions, development in low-income countries and poverty reduction.
Do Indians suffer heart failure?
Over 3,400 South Asians have taken part in the UK’s largest study into heart failure in ethnic minority populations. Members of the Indian community in the English Midlands were screened at their local surgery to discover how common heart failure is among them. Dr Paramjit Gill, GP and Clinical Reader in Primary Care Research at the University of Birmingham, describes a particular case where a 60-year old Indian gentleman, having been persuaded by his wife to participate in the survey, was diagnosed with an atrial myxoma. He had no symptoms but the benign tumour, if left to progress, would have been ultimately life threatening. Plans are in place to replicate this study in India working with Professor Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India
Micro-engineering and nano-technology research
Every day, engineers at Birmingham embark on futuristic explorations that are rapidly turning fantastic ideas, which would not be out of place in a science fiction story, into industrial and commercial reality. They are voyaging into the domain of the astonishingly small – the world of nanotechnology where objects are measured not in millimetres or even microns but nanometres – one thousand millionth of a metre. Professor Philip Prewett, the head of the Micro-Engineering and Nano-Technology Research Group has recently won UKIERI funding for a project looking into the design and fabrication of nanomachined thermal sensors in collaboration with the S N Bose Centre for Research in the Basic Sciences, Kolkata.
Astrophysics and Space Research
The Universe started as a uniform ball of energy – so why is it clumpy today, and full of galaxies and stars? This cannot be worked out without a clear understanding of the activities of the supermassive black holes that lie at the core of each galaxy.
The key to understanding them lies with a unique facility built entirely with Indian technology – the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), in Maharashtra, westcentral India. Dr Somak Raychaudhury, who studied at Kolkata and once worked in Pune, leads an international collaboration to understand galaxy evolution. He and his colleagues at the Astrophysics and Space Research group at Birmingham have been working on this with colleagues in Pune and Bangalore, as well as in other institutions in the USA, Canada and Italy, extensively using the GMRT, along with the Chandra X-ray space telescope (NASA), named after the Indian-born Nobel Laureate, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar.
Alternatives in education and India
Dr Laura Day Ashley, Research Fellow in the School of Education is currently researching Indian influences on progressive education in Britain during the early 20th century. This historical interest grew from earlier research into ‘private school outreach’ in contemporary India – private schools that also offer education to children out-of-school. This multiple case study found that these initiatives not only enabled the mainstreaming of out-of-school children into local government schools (and in one case, the private school), but also led to a deformalising of education to benefit children in both private and government schools.
Professor Indrajit Ray, from the School of Economics is the Chairman of Vidyapith, a Birmingham-based charity that awards grants to fund facilities and services that will improve educational provision for children and young students in need, particularly in rural West Bengal. Over the past four years, the charity has awarded grants to 34 different schools and organisations in nine districts in West Bengal.
Mother Teresa: saint or celebrity
Albanian born Professor Gëzim Alpion, a lecturer in Sociology and Media Studies has recently published two significant books: Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?, and Encounters with Civilizations: From Alexander the Great to Mother Teresa.
Both books have been received well and reviewed widely in India and across Asia by academics and major newspapers, such as the Asia Journal of Theology, Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Statesman, The Herald, and Asian Times. Dr Alpion visited Calcutta in 2005 to conduct field work on Mother Teresa during which time he gave four lectures, one in the headquarters of the Mother Teresa order which was a great honour for him.