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University recognised in UK’s Best Breakthroughs list

A research project by Professor Adam Hart from the university has been named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.

Professor Adam Hart is honoured in the UK’s Best Breakthroughs list of the last century for his work on spider season. His research aimed to help the public differentiate between spider species and sexes, education being the key to overcoming fear and worry when spiders are found in the home.

Adam Hart, Professor of Science Communication at the university, said:

“Many are scared of spiders, but by reassuring people that “spider season” is only a few weeks, and that most of the spiders they see are just love-sick males looking for females, we may start seeing a bit more respect for these fascinating and important animals.”

Work by Dr Jane Monckton Smith, which identified stalking behaviour in nine in 10 murders is also an excellent example of research with impact.

Dr Jane Monckton Smith, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the university, said:

“We worked with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to make sure the research report could be used by anyone who needed to argue for their own, or someone else’s safety. It has been used by professionals, victims, politicians and academics to illustrate the dangers of stalking behaviour.”

The list of breakthroughs demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, including the discovery of penicillin, work tackling plastic pollution, ultrasound scans to check the health of unborn babies and the establishment of the Living Wage. 

The list also highlights the less celebrated but vital breakthroughs that transform lives, including a specially-designed bra to help women undergoing radiotherapy; a toilet that flushes human waste without the need for water; the development of a new scrum technique to make rugby safer; a sports initiative that aims to use football to resolve conflict in divided communities; – and even work to protect the quality of the chocolate we eat.

The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.

It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching. The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said:

“Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics. The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”

The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list: 100+ Ways Universities Have Improved Everyday Life was put together in partnership with universities across the UK. As part of the MadeAtUni campaign, every university in the country was invited to nominate the one thing from their institution which they believe has had the biggest impact on people, lives and communities. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination. The entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community and culture and sport. 

You can find out more about the UK’s Best Breakthroughs and the MadeAtUni campaign here.