Project Testimonials 2012

The Annual Giving distribution 2012 was a great success, with more projects than ever before receiving more than £180,000 worth of funding. The successful projects were innovative and will have an immediate impact on the student and staff experience at the University of Birmingham. Thank you to everyone who submitted a bid for the money generously donated by our alumni. Please click on each project title to read updates on some of the successful projects from 2012.

UBRacing CAD Computers and Presentation Display Screen


UBRacing-1During last year’s Formula Student season UBRacing purchased two CAD computers and a 26” computer screen.

The presentation screen was purchased to give the team a more professional and efficient feel during the judging events at competition. The screen allowed our technical director to give a brief introduction to the design philosophy of the car and allowed him to display data, in the form of graphs and charts, to back up the team’s design decisions.

The CAD computers were purchased so as to aid the team in thedesign phase of the project. The components of the computers were specified by members of the team after discussions with the IT department to ensure their components would fully enable CAD files to be opened and edited, which requires a large amount of computing power.

These new computers will allow for greater amount of computer aided design to be carried out during the project as well. The team will be able to view large assembly models of the car, which requires large computing power, this will aid the design and will reduce any mistakes made during the design phase of the project.

They will also be used to teach new members of the team the basics of using CAD software without using valuable licences for CAD software that are obtained through sponsorship.

Mark Sawczyn, Technical Director UBR15:

"The monitor used in the design presentation at the Formula Student events this year was a key attribute to our exposition. It meant that, for the first time, the presenters were able to link each design area together using key goals and statistics that were clearly presented on the screen at the start of the event. This gave an overview that allowed each design judge to understand the vehicle concept as a whole, which had not been possible in previous years. It is vital portray these unified goals during the event and the monitor helped us achieve just that."

Fuel Cell Hybrid Locomotive 

"The 1st IMechE Railway Challenge" - supporting the Team from the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education building a fuel cell hybrid locomotive










The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) held their first ever Railway Challenge in June 2012. This event was closely based on the very successful Formula Student which has been run by the IMechE and SAE since 1998. The University of Birmingham was invited to participate in this railway challenge, alongside 3 other institutions with a track record in excellent railway research.

The task was to build a 1:10 scale railway traction unit that fulfils set criteria, and its performance was compared to the competing participants’ designs during testing on the Stapleford miniature railway in Leicestershire in June 2012. The three main challenges were; ride comfort, tractive effort, and regenerative braking capabilities. Students from different Schools with various specialist skills were involved in design, construction, testing, and operation of the locomotive.

Students and young researchers from Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, and Mechanical Engineering, were involved in the UoB team. The project allowed students to apply their theoretical knowledge in practice, and it strengthened the students’ transferable skills, including their team work and communication skills.

The University of Birmingham is at the forefront of railway traction research, and the locomotive that was constructed received huge media interest. Following the successful trials the University released a press release of the trial which focused on the novel aspects of the overall design:

“The locomotive is a hybrid design, combining a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid batteries similar to the ones used in cars. The fuel cell is used both to power the permanent magnet electric motors and to charge the batteries, with the batteries helping to meet the peak power demands when accelerating under load.

Hydrogen provides a clean source of energy and it offers a considerable extension in range in comparison to battery only operation. Over 5 000 litres of hydrogen are stored in a solid state metal hydride tank at relatively low pressure, with the system typically operating at just 5 bar. This was achieved by using one of the ten advanced hydrogen storage units successfully employed on the University’s hydrogen powered canal boat, the Ross Barlow.

This amount of hydrogen would enable the locomotive to haul a 400 kg load up over 2 700 m, twice the height of Ben Nevis, and two additional tanks can be easily fitted to further extend its range.

The locomotive also features regenerative braking to capture, store and re-use braking energy, as well as adjustable air suspension and a highly advanced touchscreen remote control that operates over a Wi-Fi link.”

The press release generated a great deal of media interest. The highlights of these include being featured in the following publications; New Scientist Blog, Huffington Post, The Engineer and Railway Gazette International.

Dr Hillmansen, the project proposer was also interviewed on the BBC’s West Midlands Radio Station. News of the loco was also picked up internationally and was featured in USA, Russian, Portuguese, Italian and Indonesian news sites.

The testing of the locomotive coincided with the 7th International Hydrail Conference which was held in the University of Birmingham in July 2012. This attached an international audience who, amongst receiving papers from leading hydrogen experts also had an opportunity to view the locomotive.

The interest in the locomotive was incredible and we soon realised that we should give the loco a name, as is traditional for locomotives. The loco was named “The Hydrogen Pioneer” by the team.

Since the challenge, The Hydrogen Pioneer has been busy. It was invited to Germany to a demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and it was filmed for a Germany TV station. It has also been invited to form part of the National Science Museum Science Week in 2013 where it will be used to demonstrate the options for zero carbon fuel for future autonomous transport. It was also recently filmed by the Department for Transport to provide promotional footage for the Government’s Railway Technical Strategy – which will be used to define the priorities for the technical development of the UK railway over the next 30 years.

Stephen Kent the team leader commented:

“I was ‘volunteered’ to be the Project Manager for the University of Birmingham team entering the inaugural IMechE challenge back in January 2012. While it sounded like an worthwhile project, it was when one of the team suggested constructing a hydrogen fuel cell based design that things really started to become interesting. The technology is fascinating, and appears to be point where it can usefully be applied to the UK rail network, as demonstrated by our locomotive, the Hydrogen Pioneer. I am convinced of the benefits and usability of this technology, and my involvement with the Railway Challenge has convinced me to start a part time PhD in the area. 

As technical lead for mechanical design of the locomotive, the success of the Hydrogen Pioneer has also given a boost to my confidence and abilities in developing both concept and detail mechanical designs. This will benefit future project work within the Railway Centre, which frequently requires significant mechanical input.

The support received from the Circles of Influence Alumni was pivotal in enabling the Hydrogen Pioneer to exist. I am grateful for the opportunities it has given me personally, and also for the spot light it has shone on the potential this technology has for the UK’s railways.”

Photos taken by Charles Watson:


List of media coverage

UK Researchers Build Hydrogen Fueled Train - ?16 hours ago?

kilometersAugust 22, 2012- A team of scientists and engineers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have created the first ever hydrogen-fueled locomotive which was able to carry about 11 people at a distance of 2.7 kilometres. The team ...

Engineering students build U.K.'s first hydrogen-powered locomotive

R & D Magazine - ?18 hours ago?

Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the U.K.. This narrow gauge locomotive is a hybrid design, combining a hydrogen fuel cell and ...

UK's First Hydrogen Powered Hybrid Vehicle Gets Tested; Makes Team Leader ...

CrazyEngineers VoiCE - ?19 hours ago?

Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham are joyous. The first ever prototype of the hybrid vehicle designed by the students managed to haul 4000 kilograms, 6 times the specified load. The team now expects that the technology will be ...

Engineering students build UK's first hydrogen powered locomotive

Phys.Org - ?20 hours ago?

Engineering students build UK's first hydrogen powered locomotive. Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the UK. This narrow gauge ...

Birmingham University Students Build UK's First Hybrid Train (PICTURES)

Huffington Post UK - ?21 hours ago?

A prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive has been designed, built and tested by a group of university engineering students and staff. Hailed as the first of its kind to operate in the UK, the University of Birmingham's hybrid train operates using a ...

UK's first hydrogen-powered locomotive undergoes trials

The Engineer - ?22 hours ago?

A hydrogen-powered locomotive has been trialled successfully at the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire. Designed and built by engineering students and staff at Birmingham University, the prototype locomotive — part of a competition led by the ...

Hydrogen-powered train trialled in the UK (blog) - ?22 hours ago?

The UK's first prototype hydrogen-powered train has made its inaugural run in the UK. Designed and built by the University of Birmingham students, the new narrow gauge locomotive uses a hybrid-type drivetrain; combining a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid ...

Students build hydrogen locomotive

MSN News UK - ?Aug 21, 2012?

In future, non-electrified routes could be used by hydrogen powered locomotives, experts said. University engineering students and staff have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive. Hailed as the first of its kind to ...

First UK hydrogen train takes passengers for a ride

New Scientist (blog) - ?Aug 21, 2012?

It may not be the most luxurious of trains, but the first hydrogen-powered locomotive in the UK has now shown that it can haul up to 4 tonnes for 2.7 kilometres. Built by a team led by Stuart Hillmansen from the University of Birmingham, UK, for a competition, ...

Engineering students design hydrogen locomotive

E&T magazine - ?Aug 21, 2012?

Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive. The university said the narrow gauge locomotive was the first of its kind to operate in the UK. The hybrid train operates ...

Students build hydrogen locomotive

The Press Association - ?Aug 21, 2012?

Students build hydrogen locomotive. (UKPA) – 11 minutes ago. University engineering students and staff have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive. Hailed as the first of its kind to operate in the UK, the University ...

Students build hydrogen locomotive

Bourne Local - ?Aug 21, 2012?

Students build hydrogen locomotive. Published on Monday 20 August 2012 15:18. Birmingham University engineering students and staff have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive. Hailed as the first of its kind to ...

Youtube link



Audio-Visual Facilities for the Practical Chemistry Laboratories


Audio-Visual Facilities for the Practical Chemistry Laboratories to Enhance the Student Experience


The funding has been used to install Audiovisual facilities in one of our Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories in Chemistry West. The system, which was installed during July/August 2012, comprises of 7 large screens displays connected to PC/DVD and a video camera, which enables the transmission of visual aids to help with the teaching of the undergraduate students. 

For example, our postgraduate demonstrators have, during Semester 1, used the system to explain the setup of experimental equipment and illustrate technique and skills to large groups of undergraduate students located around the laboratory, while screens can also be individually set to display pre-recorded videos of common techniques.

The screens have also been used in our Admissions program, when our prospective new students carry out a short experiment in the Labs. During the experiment we are able to show a presentation which highlights the chemistry being carried out, as well as linking to the related research carried out in the School of Chemistry.

As our demonstrators become more comfortable with the operation and scope of the facilities (and seeing themselves on screen!!) we will see further novel developments to underpin the practical teaching program and enhance the student experience.

 “The Circles of Influence Alumni Fund has enabled the installation of AV Facilities into our Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratories. This has provided the means to deliver practical information in an exciting and innovative way to students during lab sessions, and is also being used as a feature in attracting new students through our Open Day activities.”


New facilities in the Biosciences Undercroft

The generous donation of £8,000 by the Alumni Giving Fund matched with funds from the College of Life and Environmental Sciences enabled the School of Biosciences to buy new computers and worktops for the undercroft section of the building. In addition to 12 brand new computers, additional worktops have been positioned around the undercroft and existing worktops have been extended thus increasing the study space available to staff and students.

The project was completed on the 1st November 2012 and there has been a noticeable increase in the volume of students and staff utilising the study space since its inception. Certainly, the undercroft is now a more vibrant and active place, and no longer just seen as a corridor between buildings.

“It is fantastic that, even in these financially difficult times, we have been able to greatly enhance the Undercroft for the benefit of students as this testimonial shows – and just would not have been possible without the generosity of alumni in giving to the University through the Annual Fund.  We are very grateful indeed for this support.” says Gideon White, Director of Operations for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences











The College, having identified the potential of the Biosciences undercroft as a study area, embarked on a project to upgrade the existing facilities with the aim of supporting the needs of individuals and groups alike. This has undoubtedly been achieved. Tom Williams, a third year student studying Geography certainly appreciates the benefits of the new computers and says, “It’s good to finally have department specific computers here, something that the majority of students have had but Geography and Biosciences have lacked in the past. It has become much easier to find a place to study thanks to these new computers.”

The new computers have been grouped into three installations conveniently housed on each side of the undercroft entrance and since its completion the area has been bustling with activity with the computers in constant use.

Franki Cooper, a third year student studying Human Biology comments, “I always find it hard to find a free computer on campus, so having these in the Biosciences building is much better for students.”

Not only do the new facilities provide additional ICT resource for students and staff to support learning and research, but they contribute to the overall appearance of the undercroft. The workshop team worked well to make use of awkward spaces in the Undercroft and built new worktops around the cylindrical uprises to create additional study spaces. To support laptop use, the new worktops have been suitably positioned to allow easy access to plug sockets and these are being widely used on a day-to-day basis.

The location of the clusters and worktops couldn’t be more ideal with easy access to the Biosciences and Geography buildings, the Undercroft Café, lecture theatres and laboratories.











What was once considered to be a corridor between the Biosciences and Geography buildings has now been transformed into an interactive and resourceful study space. The new computer clusters and worktops not only provide accessible and comfortable work areas for individual study, but facilitate collaborative learning between students. What is most notable is the increase in the amount small groups and pairs using the area as a place of study. The informal setting of the new facilities has certainly encouraged more small groups to use the area. In fact, you will often see small groups congregating round individual computers in a manner that other study areas around the University may not permit.

 In order to managBio-U-3e the increased demand to use the computers, a 40 minute time limit has been introduced to ensure fair access to all. This illustrates the popularity of the new facilities and certainly works well in effectively managing computer usage.  

Improving employability through the use of industry
standard software

The Annual Giving Programme Donation enabled the School to purchase the ADMS 4.2 and ADMS-Roads 3.1 pieces of software from Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC). These state-of-the-art computer programmes are used throughout the world to simulate the dispersion of air pollution from industrial premises (ADMS 4.2) and from roads (ADMS-Roads 3.1). Because of the School’s long-standing contacts with CERC, and knowing the source of the funding, the software developers kindly gave the University a 12% discount on the purchase of this software.

Air quality modelling, particularly as part of Environmental Impact Assessment, is a core skill for environmental consultants and regulators. Many Honours- and Masters-level graduates from Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Science are recruited into environmental consultancy and regulation, and we have several degree paths, both at undergraduate-level (within the BSc Environmental Science and Geography programmes) and at Masters-level (e.g. the Environmental Health and Air Pollution MSc courses) that directly target this sector. We have strong industry links in the sector, including industrial colleagues (alumni of the course), who deliver real-life case-study teaching sessions.

The leading software currently used in UK environmental impact assessments — the ADMS family of programs — is produced by the CERC software house and is proprietary. The Annual Giving funding enabled us to update our teaching to use this state-of-the-art software.  This is a significant improvement in our teaching because the software can be used as a tool for experiential learning to demonstrate the fundamental principles of air pollution dispersion and to familiarise students with industry-standard user interfaces, allowing our students to add “experience with state-of-the-art ADMS models” to their CV. Such evidence that a graduate is ready to contribute immediately — without further training — to the business or agency, adds significantly to employability.

The Big Idea Extravaganza Event

Driven by ideas from both MDS and LES, our Big Idea Competition has gone from strength to strength since the challenge was first established in 2006, to encourage the translation of research into healthcare benefits or downstream tools for other investigators.

In the finale of our competition for 2012, over 65 people came along to see our four shortlisted contestants - Dr Peter Balfe, Dr Yanina Sevastsyanovich, Dr Oliver Goodyear and Dr Peter Noy - pitching their ideas to a dragon’s den of experts and speakers including Dr Chris Hand (CEO of Abingdon Health), Dr Rupert Osborn (co-founder and CEO of IP Pragmatics) and Dr Terry O’Neill (TWI Industry Sector Manager).

Prizes were presented by Professor Alice Roberts, and all our finalists will be working with Alta Innovations (the technology transfer company of the University) to transform the most promising proposals for commercialisation into a reality. This year, the audience and dragons agreed and awarded both the Hotel Chocolat audience prize and first prize of £1,500 to Oliver Goodyear, made possible thanks to the generosity of University of Birmingham alumni, supporters and friends to the Circles of Influence campaign.

Congratulations to him, and well done again to all of our finalists!

We hope that through the combination of the competition and series of talks given by our external experts, that we have achieved the aims of the event which were to promote an understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the benefits of engaging in knowledge transfer and commercialisation.  

Development of Human Motor Control Laboratory from
QinetiQ equipment

The alumni grant enabled the delivery and installation of bespoke equipment for testing human sensory function and spatial orientation. This equipment was donated from the leading defence research company QinetiQ (formerly The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency of the MoD). All the equipment is now installed and 3 of 4 items are fully operational, with the last item to be completed in early 2013.

The equipment includes two rotating turntables, a linear oscillator and caloric irrigation apparatus for testing vestibular function. The turntables are now installed and operational, and are currently being used to perform research into the effect of ageing upon balance, as well as supporting undergraduate research projects.

This equipment has featured in a recent Daily Mail article which can be seen here:

Support from the alumni fund was key to establishing our new sensory testing facility in Sportex, and it now forms an integral part of our research and teaching activities. It has also enabled collaboration with local ENT surgeons for the purpose of research examining causes of dizziness in neurological patients. Without the alumni support this unique equipment would have gone to waste


Left - An elderly volunteer is shown seated on the clinical turntable for the purpose of vestibular function testing (from Daily Mail article)

Right - The linear oscillator which will be operational in early 2013


Biosciences Tower Teaching Laboratories Audiovisual equipment installation

Since the installation of the AV facilities our laboratories have been used in a much more interactive manner with academic staff able to utilize a variety of multimedia to illustrate their teaching material e.g. educational videos and in depth live views of teaching equipment. I believe this has greatly enhanced the student experience.

Testimonials from two academic users of the new facilities:

"Since the installation of the new AV system in the teaching labs I have noticed a massive improvement in a number of areas. The responsiveness from students is by far the most obvious, allowing them to really appreciate and understand the information that I am trying to convey to them. Being able to quickly switch between different modes of media is especially good and this has most definitely been noticed by the UGs and is very welcome, especially since they are being taught in a modern, well equipped lab at a time when they are paying £9k fees". says Luke Alderwick, a Ph.D student

Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology

“The provision of new AV equipment, both the screens and the audio has transformed the usefulness of this space for my teaching.  The ability to quickly and easily show material to the class on the screens and to switch between visualiser and computer provides real added value and qualitatively improves the usefulness of this room for teaching and so the student experience. I hope this process of fitting out labs in this way can continuesays Jeremy Pritchard, Head of Education for the School of Biosciences

Welcome 2012 Induction Retention Enhancements

Key themes a) arising from the new First impressions (diary) project and b) informed by relevant University services, were used to:

1. Review and subsequently enhance the two ‘Starting University’ videos hosted on the Welcome website, and

2. Develop a new postcard campaign signposting pertinent welfare and other information at times when students are known to be at risk of dropping out of their studies.

Testimonials from students

‘These are amazing.’

‘I feel really reassured – it’s great that the University recognises the issues facing students.’

‘It’s really good to know that other students are in the same situation.’

‘I love the designs and will put them on my wall so the information’s there should I need it.’

Student Group Performance Space Development

Following extensive research and student consultation it was revealed that the provision of space for the 200+ student groups at the Guild of Students was not enough. This issue was perhaps the most prevalent with our award winning performance groups, who needed a bespoke space in which to facilitate performances, rehearsals, classes, and training.

The Guild was successfully awarded funds for new and bespoke performance and rehearsal space. Work on the project commenced during the summer vacation and was completed in time for start of the 2012/13 academic year.

So far, this project has enabled the Guild to deliver a number of positive outcomes for students, including:

Bespoke facilities for our 20 performing student groups, which include the award winning Bhangra Society, and Edinburgh fringe performing theatre groups such as Article 19, 3BUGS and the Infinity Stage Company who have received 5* rated show reviews in recent years.

 The development has also supported the Guild’s efforts to deliver, develop and adapt services in response to students’ needs – which is a key criteria for our Students’ Union Evaluation Initiative (SUEI) assessment.

“The new dance studio and rehearsal space has enabled the Guild to develop and enhance its offering for the thousands of students involved in our student groups. Students, especially those involved in arts and performance groups, are now able to fully utilise the opportunities available to them at the Guild.” Ollie Cosentino, Vice President (Activities & Development)

"The dance studio is amazing to dance in, the mirrors really help with posture and how you look on the floor. It's been a real help to all our society members and our teacher loves it."

Llinos Lloyd, Ballroom Dancing Society




Arts: Celebrating Religion and Faith on Campus (CORP7)

This project is progressing well, but is not yet complete; almost all of the art to be displayed has now been sourced and most if it has also been acquired and sent to D&P for printing. An extension to the expenditure deadline until March 2013 has been requested and the first stage of the arts project should be completed next term.

The basic idea of the arts project is to reinvigorate St Francis Hall, the home of the University’s Multi Faith Chaplaincy, by displaying a variety of new art work that reflects the wide range of beliefs and traditions of its users. This has been greeted with enthusiasm by staff and students and there has been a high level of engagement across faith groups.

Three initial displays are in the process of being created, which are being funded by the Circles of Influence campaign. These displays are primarily designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but it is hoped that they will also serve an educative purpose. Ideally, the new art work will both make the building a more pleasant and relevant space for all its users and provide a starting point for interfaith dialogue and debate. This has in fact already begun between student faith groups, recognised chaplains and University staff, even before the first pictures have been displayed.

The first display, in the Cadbury Room (one of the main halls in SFH), will consist of three illuminated manuscripts. These will be a page of the Hebrew Bible, a page from a Qur’an in Kufic script and a Sanskrit or Pali manuscript that is still to be finalised.

The second display, in the Oasis Lounge (the main social area), will consist of photographs of places of worship of various religions by night, shot using a range of artistic photographic techniques.

The final display will use the collection of religious artefacts that is currently housed at the OLRC. There are some beautiful and interesting objects in this collection and by moving these objects to SFH we will be greatly increasing the number of people who see and engage with them. Our team of chaplains are particularly excited by the opportunities that this display will present for interfaith discussion, and for sparking debate on what objects best represent modern religions.

There are several future developments planned for the arts project at the Chaplaincy, once these first displays are in place. All three of the initial displays will be extended and/or rotated regularly, keeping the art fresh and relevant and taking any feedback into account. In particular, there are a variety of future displays for the Oasis Lounge planned, such as art that involves religious symbols or depicts stories and events from different faith traditions.

A new, collaborative multi faith art work is also planned for the Oasis Lounge, to be created by members of the various student societies based in the Chaplaincy. Finally, another display will be created in the Worship Room (the main prayer hall) using themes and imagery that relate to many different faiths, such as fire or water.


A wide range of people have helped plan and generate ideas for the arts project, including full and part-time chaplains, University staff and students from the Anglican, Catholic, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh Societies. There has been great enthusiasm from those involved with the project and some comments include:

The new art work will enhance multi faith co-operation and respect for all religions. Learning about other faiths, and how to live in a multi faith way, is important; art can help to remove a “one-track” mindset.’

‘The Mingana Collection in the Cadbury Research Library is an amazing resource. There are some beautiful religious manuscripts and it would be excellent if the users of the Chaplaincy had the opportunity to see some of them whenever they came into the building.’

'A mixture of traditional and contemporary art will really make SFH more relevant to the students who use it, especially for new students who might not have had much experience of other religions before.’

‘The new art displays could help us engage more with wider faith communities, as a focal point for people and especially artists of different faiths. This is a really exciting opportunity.’

The full team of recognised chaplains have also been supportive of the project:

‘The SFH Art Group project should certainly be encouraged and some of the suggested art seen so far is beautiful. As long as all the images used are as representative and inclusive as possible, and are not exclusive of different faiths, then this will certainly reinvigorate the Chaplaincy building.’ 

 Places Of Worship:



Harmandir Sahib (Golden) Temple, Amritsar, India (Sikh)






 Illuminated Texts:

Kennicott Bible (Hebrew)

Qur'an from the Mingana Collection (Kulfic)

Algerina Peckover Bible


The Big Idea 2012 (MDS-LES)


Thanks to the funding received from the project we were able to provide two prizes for the best student idea which were pitched to a dragon’s den of experts and speakers, within our Big Idea Competition (run jointly with LES). This year the audience and dragons agreed and awarded both the Hotel Chocolat and £1,500 competition prize to Oliver Goodman (Immunity and Infection).

"The Big Idea Competition was set up to encourage the translation of research into healthcare benefits or downstream tools from other investigators. All our finalists will be working with Alta Innovations to transform the most promising proposals for commercialisation into a reality” says Dr Eliot Marston, BUPA Translational Research Manager

Seeing The Light

Using an advanced dedicated spectroradiometry system (MARC) to enhance the training, assessment and effectiveness of dental clinicians

Thanks to the grant that we received from the Circles of Influence annual giving fund, we have been able to introduce a specific piece of advanced equipment into our teaching. This has added enormously to our students’ understanding of restorative dentistry by helping them appreciate the impact and relevance of some of our theoretical teaching. It provides instant feedback on how they should handle the blue light guns which are used to polymerise tooth-coloured dental fillings. This is a very important aspect of clinical technique and students enjoy being able to come back and monitor how they are improving over time. We can see that they now pay more attention to how they manipulate these blue lights and have noticed improvements in their clinical technique. Its use is now to be extended to the training of postgraduate dentists, dental nurses and hygiene and therapy students who also use these devices.

External visit and lecture series

Intercalated BMedSci (Clinical Sciences) module

The Alumni funding has made a wonderful contribution to student education. We were able to take students to the Richard Doll Clinical Trials Unit in Oxford where we heard from Professor Hugh Watkins. We then went on to the Natural History Museum where we had a ‘behind the scenes’ tour and saw the world’s only Dodo from which DNA can be extracted. Finally we headed back to Birmingham for a curry in Selly Oak to reflect on the day and develop student bonding! It was a magnificent day that students will remember for the rest of their lives. We hope that this investment will develop the next generation of clinical academics to take forward the wonderful opportunities in medical research. 

Healthly-Aged Summer School

The money received from the annual giving fund allowed us to host a 2 day summer school, jointly with the College of Medicine, on the topic of Healthy Ageing. We were able to put on a very full and challenging programme for 100 trainee health professionals covering disciplines from podiatry, to dentistry to nursing and medicine. All students said they found the event extremely valuable and that the topics discussed really changed their attitude towards older adults and especially how old age can be improved if all aspects of health and wellbeing are maintained in to the third age. One of the best aspects was that due to the funding we received we could also support 8 older adults to attend as small group facilitators, discussing with the delegates their experience of old age covering topics such as retirement, spirituality and sexual health. 


Enhancement of E-Learning: Histology Teaching using Virtual Microscopy

“Thanks to the funding received from the project we have scanned 100 normal histology slides, which have been used to generate an extensive library.  This has been created under  “Magscope Teacher Resources Webpage” and currently contains over 350 high quality digitized images, which will be available to all members of staff within the College in the near future. Each digitized image within this searchable database is accompanied by a brief description. Every member of the staff will have the option to freely download the original very large original scanned image or to download images of specific tissues and structures at different magnifications ready to download for their teaching needs. This resource will also provide a link to allow colour-blind individuals to “see” confusing colours in histological images using the imaging techniques developed by Professors Landini and Perryer.”

Examples of e-learning microscope photographs from a temporary website -   

College of Social Sciences - Fast Access PCs...

The project had the aim of providing fast-access PC’s in the entrances of Birmingham Business School and Muirhead Tower for use by students.

The computers are up and running in the Business School and have been extremely popular. 

Students and staff have commented on their success:

“The funding awarded to the Business School and Muirhead Tower for the fast-access pcs has been very positively received.  The two units within University House have now been completed (see attached photos) and are proving very popular with our students.”

“I think it helped me access information very easily and quickly, since I don't need to log in with my bham (which takes a long time to load). The idea of having such a facility is unique, and beneficial.”



Delegation to the University of Delhi 

Birmingham Student Chapter of Academic Stand Against Poverty Visit University of Delhi

Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) is an international professional association focused on helping poverty researchers and teachers enhance their positive impact on severe poverty. It does so by promoting collaboration among poverty-focused academics, effective outreach to policy makers and broader public audiences, and by helping academics turn their expertise into impact through specific intervention projects (

Joshua Lindsey-Turner, co-founder of ASAP: Students provides information on a visit 5 students made to Delhi:

“The background to this project started when I Co-Founded ASAP: Students, with a student from Delhi and another from Yale. ASAP, was envisioned as a group to bring academics together and produce some real answers to questions surrounding global poverty.”


“After establishing the group I wanted to provide students with an opportunity to collaborate with others across the world. We had held a number of meetings with students from Delhi and they began forming their own group simultaneously.”

“After a generous donation from the Circles of Influence we were able to fully fund 5 students to travel to India. This was an unparalleled opportunity to experience the work that NGO's were doing in Delhi, gain a deeper insight into poverty issues and launch the second chapter of ASAP: Students.” 

“The highlight of the trip was meeting a group of recent graduates who were working for Indian politicians. Discussing issues surrounding poverty with them it became clear that every young person in the room felt strongly about this and I look forward to a future in which the energy people showed us becomes real political influence.”

“On a personal note I had an unforgettable time, made some wonderful friends and learned more about global poverty than I could have done any other way.” 

Students contributed to blog during their visit. Here is an extract from their first day:

Day 1 – Monday, July 16, 2012: Meeting with ASAP Delhi Students, presentation by Campaign Against Pre-birth elimination of females and visit to North Delhi slum community “Khilauna Bagh” / By Heather Owen, Vice Chair of ASAP Students Birmingham Chapter 

ASAP Delhi Students Meeting: Our first morning in Delhi began with a warm welcome from all the wonderful ASAP Delhi students and ASAP India’s Chair, Dr. Ashok Acharya of Delhi University. The core of Delhi students who have worked alongside Dr. Acharya to launch the students delegation for ASAP India were some of the most committed and insightful people I have ever met, who will no doubt become the individuals who will change India in future years.

Suparna Priyadarshini, Santosh Kumar, Mannu Singh, Bhavna Sharma and Abhishek Choudhary helped to organise and coordinate our visit to India. They arranged presentations and meetings with some of Delhi’s most established and important organisations and campaigns that were dealing with pressing issues facing Indian society today. Thanks to their help and effort, and with the support of Dr. Acharya, we were able to learn and develop a unique understanding of Indian issues relating to poverty in complex ways, from food security to the pre-birth elimination of females. 

Bringing Education Room 225 into the 21st Century

The School of Education teaches around 180 full time and 100 part time undergraduate students each year. There are around 400 students studying on postgraduate taught programmes, 250 of which are doing initial teacher training. There are also around 50 post graduate research degree students at any given time.

Room 225 is the main computer cluster and training room for the Education building. Uses of the room include:

Introducing students to various technologies to enhance their learning

Computer lab for students

Supporting students on Teacher Training courses

Training academic and professional staff in the use of various technologies to enhance their teaching, administration and general IT skills

The aim of the project of the project is to upgrade the facilities in room 225 to benefit students and staff.

Shakespeare Today and the Student Experience

Subsidies from the School of EDACS enabled us to repeat the success of last year’s trip to bring a group of 80 UG English students to the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon for a half days visit in October. We had received extremely positive student feedback on last year’s event with the academic highlight identified as the workshop session with Dr Jaq Bessell’s Performance Research Group of professional and PG student actors. Support from the Annual Giving Fund has fortunately allowed us to include this element in the programme for a second time to enrich the programme of events. Again the student feedback reported that ‘the Macbeth workshop had been great’ and ‘the highlight of the academic programme’ for them, see comments below.

It is very important to us that the UG students are given the opportunity to take full advantage of the University of Birmingham’s foothold in Stratford-upon-Avon and we therefore hope that this trip will become an annual event. It has also raised awareness of how such initiatives enhance the student teaching experience in order that similar trips are now being planned for students in other cohorts. This will have positive benefits for recruitment, with students confirming on the activity evaluation questionnaires that the day had ‘definitely interested them in postgraduate study’.

One student said that ‘the Macbeth workshop was entertaining and enjoyable’, another ‘the Macbeth actors-brilliant!’ and another ‘the Macbeth workshop was excellent’. A further student said ‘that they couldn’t have asked for more-it was fantastic!’ Students explained that ‘the workshop highlighted the element of performance and how varying interpretations can alter the text’. To summarise, one student made a special effort to email the lecturer to say ‘I just wanted to say a thank you for organising the Shakespeare trip to Stratford last week. I had a fantastic day and it will definitely help with studying our module-I haven’t heard anyone say a bad thing about the whole day out, so it was obviously a huge success!’ 


The photo shows a member of the acting company involved in the student workshop of Shakespere's play Macbeth, showing how location and atmosphere can be altered by the creation of specific sound effects using the piano in unusual ways.

Engaging Shakespeare

 Video capture and streaming equipment for the Shakespeare Institute Hall

‘Support from the Circles of Influence annual giving fund will allow us to install video and audio recording equipment in the Shakespeare Institute lecture hall, where we host weekly seminars given by internationally recognized Shakespeare scholars each week during term. These seminars are a vital part of the student learning experience at the Shakespeare Institute and the ability to record them for off-site viewing will open up these important events to our growing body of part-time and distance learning students. In addition to recording the seminars we also aim to record and even live stream high profile lectures held at the Shakespeare Institute as well as important community events such as the reading of our MA and PhD graduates’ names at our annual graduation party. The ability to connect with students and alumni far away through these broadcasts will help foster new networks of learning and exchange across our ever growing Shakespeare Institute community.’ 

Dr Erin Sullivan, Fellow and Tutor for Distance Learning 



‘My name is Hannah Unwin and I have been a distance-learning, postgraduate student at the Shakespeare Institute for almost two years.

I live in a part of the world where modern academia is, somewhat, in its infancy. Therefore, I am fortunate to be studying in an age when remoteness from universities and colleges does not prevent learning. Through the technology acquired and utilised by the Shakespeare Institute, I have been able to complete my studies with far greater ease than one might expect of someone without access to libraries and direct contact with lectures, seminars and tutors. Online discussion groups have even connected me with other students around the globe and enabled me to feel like part of a student community.

However, there is still an aspect of the Shakespeare Institute life that is excluded and lacking from my university experience. Each week upon receipt of the Institute’s weekly bulletin, I learn of all the seminars and events taking place with celebrated and expert speakers that I cannot attend and must miss.

The support from the Annual Giving Fund has provided the Shakespeare Institute with the means to purchase advanced recording equipment that will be installed in the Shakespeare Institute Hall. This generous funding will enrich the university experiences of our students living around the globe who will be able to log into the system and benefit from being able to watch the events in the Hall in the same way as if they were in attendance. The events are additional, but complementary, to our studies, providing not only a deeper knowledge of our subject but a greater enjoyment of the course and the ability to match the faces of the speakers to the names listed in books, journals and weekly bulletins. 

Naturally, the recording equipment will also benefit students studying face-to-face as they will be given greater flexibility with their weekly schedule. Just because they have a family or part-time job to attend to, does not automatically mean they have to miss the events specially organised by the Institute that could be of academic benefit to them. 

Finally, the recordings will also keep Shakespeare in the minds of the Institute’s alumni. Unfortunately, our studies cannot last forever and not everyone secures a career involving Shakespeare. Therefore, the recordings of speakers and other events will be a fantastic, informative, yet informal means of allowing both current and former students keep up with contemporary thoughts and trends in Shakespeare studies from world leading experts.’ 

CAL Bank of Assessed Work

Testimonials from students who have submitted for:

"As one of the students who said in the survey that we have not had sufficient examples of good & bad work, I am pleased some action has been taken and would be more than willing to contribute to the project by allowing my work to be used”.

“I trust this initiative will truly help and guide future students on how to approach their work.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve."

Acquisition of the files of the Office of the Military Government (US) in Germany, (OMGUS)

Support from the Annual Giving Fund for the acquisition of the files of the US Military Government (OMGUS) in Germany, 1944-49 means that the timeframe of the purchase can be reduced by several years. The University of Birmingham Library will be the only site in Britain (and only the third in Europe) to hold these files. It will allow research into the American occupation policy in Germany, including aspects of ‘Nation Building’; economic reconstruction and democratisation of (West) Germany; inter-Allied differences and co-operations; US – Soviet relations and similar topics, to name but a few. The files will be an excellent source for final student dissertations, second year Group Research modules and a very important source for postgraduate students in History, Political Science and Conflict Studies.

"OMGUS has been the foundation with which I am writing my dissertation on and therefore, I have spent a lot of time using the files. OMGUS has been pivotal to me choosing a dissertation topic which I have a real passion for and without access to these materials I would have not been able to pursue a topic which I have a real interest in. It has enabled me to have the experience of working with archive files and developed key analytical skills which I have utilised in the final year of my degree. OMGUS has been both informative and a really interesting system to work with and I have really enjoyed my time using the files. The OMGUS files provide a huge amount of information and great level of detail which I would not have been able to have access to anywhere else in the country. Overall, I believe OMGUS is an amazing and invaluable source to have access to as a student of the University of Birmingham."

Emma Marks Final Year Undergraduate BA History

"I have been using the OMGUS files over the past six months for my dissertation. That such a extensive range of files is so close to hand and easy to access has enabled me to undertake a substantial and comprehensive study of the relevant material that I would have been otherwise unable to do. This research has enhanced my understanding of my dissertation topic unequivocally, and without this resource, the quality of my findings would have been quite different, and much diminished. I cannot speak too highly of these files, for they have been invaluable to me and my study, and with the continued expansion of the number of files held at Birmingham, it will surely continue to be the case for future students."

James Ansell, Final Year Undergraduate BA History