The Main building of the University with the South of Glasgow behind it
Credit: University of Glasgow

World Changers in Focus

By Kimberley Mannion

A deep dive into the world-changing research published this month by Team UofG.

The “World Changers Welcome” bunting reaching across campus is hard to miss as you walk up University Avenue. When applying to the University, the slogan found its way onto the majority of freebies and goodies handed out to bright-eyed applicants, designed to entice more of us, as young, ambitious, hopeful students, to the University of Glasgow under the allure that one day we too could become a “world changer”. In our new World Changers column, The Glasgow Guardian will look at the research being done by the University that gives it the ground to call itself “World Changing Glasgow”.

University of Glasgow researchers are to help shape the next steps of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the UK. A £2.2m study called OCTAVE DUO, led by the Universities of Glasgow and Birmingham, will employ clinical trials to investigate whether a third dose of vaccine would improve the immune response from people with weakened immune systems. An initial study showed that 40% of immunocompromised and immunosuppressed people produced a low or undetectable immune response after having received the standard two doses of vaccine. UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This new study will play an important role in helping to shape the deployment of future vaccines doses for these specific at-risk groups.”

Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in the city this November, the University of Glasgow has developed new maps which forecast coastal erosion caused by the climate emergency. The maps predict that £1.2bn of Scotland’s buildings, transport infrastructure, cultural and natural heritage could face the challenge of coastal erosion by 2050. The Scottish Government has made a £12m investment in encouraging local authorities to put plans in place to face the prospect of coastal erosion, which these maps will allow them to plan for. Researchers collected over 2000 maps and images and carried out more than five million calculations to demonstrate the development of coastal erosion in Scotland over the last 130 years and make predictions on its future. Professor Jim Hansom, who led the research, said: “We need to act now to become sea level wise by planning short-term resilience measures and flexible long-term adaptation strategies.” The work is part of the Scottish Government’s Dynamic Coast project, funded by the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW). 

The University has also launched two new online courses focused on climate solutions. The courses are available to anyone worldwide at a cost of £799, with 200 places per course allocated to people living in Scotland, thanks to the Scottish Funding Council. Beginning 27 September, both courses, entitled Climate Change and Carbon Literacy, and Systems Thinking – Climate Change and Sustainable Decision Making, respectively, will last 10 weeks and require eight to 10 hours of study per week with final assessments worth 10 credits. Director of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Sustainable Solutions, Professor Jaime Toney, stated: “These courses are designed to help learners find new ways to do their part to make those changes happen in their own lives, communities and workplaces, and to better understand the global context of climate change.”

The University of Glasgow also led a study in rural Tanzania tracking herds of cattle through GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, to better understand how diseases can pass from one herd to another. Livestock diseases, like foot-and-mouth, are common in sub-Saharan Africa and it is hoped the new research will help develop disease control strategies. The work found that targeted interventions at specific locations and times could reduce the burden of these diseases and require fewer resources than broad-scale blanket vaccination schemes. In some countries in the region, the livestock sector makes up 80% of agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These diseases hence have a large impact on poverty and threaten food security. 


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