1. ITV Report

Universities and Science Minister visits Durham University

Universities and Science Minister visits Durham University Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

The Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, has been visiting Durham University to see research projects possible by government and private investment. He also unveiled a new £3.7 million supercomputer.

The computer, which is one of the most powerful in the country, is being used to run simulations of the Big Bang, the birth of the universe, through to the present day. Scientists at the Institute of Computational Cosmology (ICC) hope it will explain how the universe works.

Professor Carlos Frenk, Director of the ICC said: "Modern scientific research, from recreating the evolution of the universe to designing life-saving drugs, relies heavily on supercomputing - the ``new mathematics'.' The machine opened today by the Minister of State is one of the most powerful in the UK and will be wholly dedicated to science."

Mr Willetts will saw new technology which could lead better diagnosis of heart conditions. The Biophysical Sciences Institute are using non-invasive optical technology that is making it possible to study the beating hearts of live zebrafish. It is hoped this technology could one day be used on people.

Many projects at the university are done in partnership with private business. They include research into low carbon energy. Mr Willetts also saw a solar powered car which has been designed, built and raced by students.

Mr Willetts said, "We have a world-leading research base in the UK, thanks to excellent institutions like Durham. Today’s visit has provided an insight into the range of exciting projects at the university.”

Professor Tom McLeish, Durham University's Pro Vice Chancellor said: "We are delighted that the Minister has signified by his visit the partnership that Government, industry and leading research intensive universities like Durham are now developing."