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Cardiff scientists join hunt for 'ripples in space-time'

A dust disc being sucked into a black hole. Credit: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

An international project involving Cardiff University researchers, set up to find the first direct evidence of the existence of gravitational waves, has been officially inaugurated at a ceremony in the America.

Researchers at the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy will use a powerful supercomputer to comb through data from two gravitational wave detectors that have undergone a major upgrade as part of the Advanced LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project.

Gravitational waves are tiny ripples in space-time that are emitted as a result of violent cosmic events, like exploding stars and merging black holes.

They were first predicted by Albert Einstein as a consequence of his general theory of relativity, but have yet to be detected directly.

It is believed the detection of gravitational waves will usher in a new era of astronomy, allowing researchers to examine the last minutes of the lives of black holes, as well as provide a snapshot of the Universe just a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

At Cardiff University we hope to use these observations to understand the nature of space-time and matter under extreme conditions, and to test Einstein's theory of gravity when gravitational fields become super strong.

– Professor B S Sathyaprakash, Cardiff University

Cardiff scientists discover cancer-fighting compound

Credit: Britta Pedersen/DPA/PA Images

Cardiff University says scientists have developed a new anti-cancer stem cell agent capable of targeting aggressive tumour forming cells common to breast, pancreas, colon and prostate cancers.

The new OH14 compound has been licensed by Tiziana Life Sciences, a British-based pharmaceutical company.

It will now undergo further development before undergoing clinical trials. Researchers say studies have shown it to be effective in eliminating a number of different kinds of cancers cells, including cancer stem cells from breast cancer patients.

The breakthrough comes almost exactly a year after the same research team announced that they had discovered a molecule capable of reversing the spread of malignant breast cancer.

Our computer aided drug screening process has now identified two new classes of anti-cancer agents, specifically targeting two distinct and novel mechanisms underpinning cancer.

– Dr Andrea Brancale, Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy

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Computer programme 'aids rescue effort'

A seismic graph. Credit: Ralf Hirschberger/DPA/PA Images

Cardiff University says experts are helping the immediate rescue efforts in Nepal by providing a real-time assessment of the risk of more landslides after Saturday’s earthquake.

Dr Robert Parker and his team from the University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences have developed a computer program calleds ShakeSlide.

The University says organisations like The World Bank and MapAction are now collaborating with Dr Parker directly, working alongside the disaster assessment teams.

The model predictions provide a rapid, first-order assessment of earthquake-triggered landslide hazards, and are currently being used to guide efforts to map landslide damage caused by Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal.

– Dr Robert Parker, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

Cardiff research on graphene ‘revolutionary’ for industry

Credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/PA Images

Tests on graphene by a Cardiff University researcher could open up global exploitation of the lightweight ‘wonder’ material.

Graphene is a form of carbon and forms an atomic-scale lattice. It is extremely strong and conducts heat and electricity efficiently. It is used in products from computer chips to super-light aircraft.

But its development has been held back commercially by the cost and difficulty of large-scale production.

Now research by Dr David Morgan, of Cardiff Catalysis Institute, has developed methods of testing and analysing changes in the material.

Dr Morgan has worked alongside South Wales company Perpetuus to test the characteristics of graphene on an industrial scale – a ‘world-first’ for the University.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first analysis of its kind from raw material to final use of the processed material. The development of graphene and related materials is an exciting and ever-expanding field.

– Dr David Morgan, Surface Analysis Manager at Cardiff Catalysis Institute

Cardiff scientists find new uses for gold

Researchers are discovering gold's hidden value. Credit: ROBERT JAEGER/APA/PA Images

Gold is traditionally regarded as chemically uninteresting because it doesn't react readily with other substances.

But researchers at Cardiff University's School of Chemistry say when broken down into nanoparticles, containing a few hundred atoms, it becomes incredibly reactive.

That makes it an efficient catalyst to speed up chemical and biological processes.

The scientists say they have discovered gold is the best catalyst for making the main ingredient for PVC and it could replace environmentally harmful mercury.

It's hoped using gold in catalysis could mean the better use of raw materials and the ability to generate fuels, plastics and other chemicals from renewables.

Griff Rhys Jones withdraws from Cardiff University role

The comedian has withdrawn from becoming the university's Chancellor Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Griff Rhys Jones has withdrawn from becoming Cardiff University's new Chancellor just two weeks after an embarrassing debacle which saw his appointment halted at the last minute.

The comedian's appointment was blocked when it emerged current chancellor Sir Martin Evans was not offered the chance to be reappointed.

In a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, Jones said: "Following the recent decision of the Court of Cardiff University to refer the appointment of a new Chancellor back to the Council, I can see that it is going to need a period of reconsideration and re-evaluation.

"It may well be that the Council wants to re-offer the post to the incumbent, Sir Martin Evans. Sir Martin may decide to take it or step aside.

"I feel, however, that my presence only makes this a more complicated process for everyone concerned. I believe it better that I should withdraw.

"I can't say that I am offering my resignation. I haven't yet been appointed. But I do not want to be further considered for this post. I was honoured to be chosen."

A spokesperson for Cardiff University said: "Cardiff University is very sorry for creating the circumstances that led Griff Rhys Jones to step aside. These events were based solely on internal rules and procedures: our ongoing friendship with Griff Rhys Jones was never in question.

"We are immensely proud of Griff’s continuing work as an Honorary Fellow and Patron to our Sustainable Places Research Institute, and he remains a trusted supporter of the University.

"Council will meet to consider the nomination of a future Chancellor at a meeting on 19 May. Professor Sir Martin Evans has indicated to the Chair of Council his willingness to be considered for nomination for a further term.”

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Cardiff University leads new global Alzheimer's research

Scientists from Cardiff University are leading new global research into Alzheimer's disease, in a study involving more than one million people around the world.

The £6m project will look into the relationship between genetics and lifestyle in the development of Alzheimer's, hoping to produce the most comprehensive understanding of the disease's risk to date.

Cardiff University's Professor Julie Williams is leading the global research.

"For too long scientists studying Alzheimer's have been working in silos, engaged in a single-minded 'race' to try and beat the disease. That's simply not going to happen unless we pull together," said Principal Investigator Prof Julie Williams from Cardiff University.

"The insights gleaned will pave the way for a new era of therapies. We predict that in future, based on this unrivalled data, GPs may be able run a simple test to analyse a patient's risk of developing Alzheimer's."

"A combination of gene therapy, drugs and lifestyle changes could then be prescribed to reduce that risk."

The research will look at the genetic data of more than a million people over the age of 65, from Europe, America, Australia and Asia.

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