Universities are at the forefront of some of the most important and exciting discoveries and innovations.
At Derby, we've increased our annual research income by 172% in the last decade and our latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) results were our best ever, with three-quarters of our output judged to be at least ‘internationally significant’.
Take a look at some of our research:
The nation's lifesavers: The exceptional 100 keeping us healthy
People responsible for using virtual reality to help stroke patients recover, curing blindness, using AI to tackle heart disease and designing a device to help dogs communicate when cancer is present are among those named as the Nation’s Lifesavers, part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on families, communities and wider society.
The Nation’s Lifesavers are the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities across the country whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing. The University of Derby’s iTrend project, to personalise kidney dialysis treatment, is part of the list.
Experimental patient 'personalises' dialysis treatment by predicting blood pressure levels
A Derby-based project to personalise kidney dialysis could improve the lives of thousands of people worldwide who are dependent on the treatment. A collaboration between the University of Derby, the Royal Derby Hospital and the University of Nottingham, the iTrend project aims to predict a patient’s blood pressure level so that their dialysis treatment can be tailored to ensure it does not cause negative long-term physical effects.
The project, funded by the MStart Trust, a Derby-based charity, is being led by Professor Paul Stewart, Research Chair in Intelligent Systems at the University of Derby, and Professor Maarten Taal and Dr Nick Selby, consultant nephrologists at the Department of Renal Medicine at the Royal Derby Hospital and the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine.
The Royal Derby Hospital is running a study involving 50 patients, collecting real-time blood pressure and other physical data while patients undergo dialysis, which can take up to four hours. Analysis of this data has led to the identification of physiological “fingerprints”. These fingerprints will help to personalise the treatment, and, it is believed, could have applications for the wider population too.
The University of Derby has also created a unique experimental synthetic dialysis patient – nicknamed Steve - to prototype a cheap, non-invasive and accurate method of continuously measuring blood pressure. The team is now applying for a patient-study approval.
Reconnecting with nature
Our Nature Connectedness Research Group was the first to focus on nature connectedness shifting from an individual's contact with nature to a sense of their relationship with the natural world.
The group works with Natural England, National Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and other national nature conservation NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to understand and improve people's connection to nature, with the aim of bringing about associated benefits in wellbeing and conservation behaviour.
Professor Miles Richardson, Lead of our Nature Connectedness Research Group, was a co-author to the #NatureForAll Connecting People with Nature publication recently launched at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Egypt.
The group’s research has been honoured in the UK’s Best Breakthroughs list of the last century, compiled by Universities UK, for its pioneering work looking at people’s sense of their relationship with the natural world.
- Improving wellbeing through urban nature
- Pathways to nature connectedness
- Nature Connections Indicator
- 30 Days Wild
- Nature Connections conference series
Find out more about connecting with nature
Protecting coral reefs
Climate change and rising sea temperatures continue to threaten coral reefs, which contain some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Research into coral reef ecosystems is essential in investigating how best to protect or even restore reefs on a global scale. In part, this can be done by creating safe places for corals to grow (coral nurseries) or transplanting what has been referred to as super corals (those capable of surviving the onslaught of climate change).
Our Aquatic Resarch Facility, a dedicated research space for students, staff and project partners, explores various aspects of coral biology, including the impact of disease outbreaks on coral reefs and the effect of nutrients on coral bleaching. In collaboration with our colleagues at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, we were able to induce coral spawning in a controlled environment over a full reproductive cycle for the first time ever.
The facility allows us to tackle real world issues surrounding marine and freshwater systems, and for studies to be designed in such a way that findings are valid and robust enough to be utilised by zoos, aquariums and conservationists.
Further to this, Dr Michael Sweet, Associate Professor in Aquatic Biology, was involved in the creation of a purpose-built research laboratory in the Maldives which will enable vital research projects to be carried out, such as growing new varieties of coral that will allow new areas of reef to be replanted.
Dr Adam Hill, Senior Lecturer in Audio Engineering, also contributed to a project for the BBC’s Blue Planet II series, looking into ways to judge the health of coral reefs. Using part of an algorithm, which he developed for a previous research project looking into virtual bass synthesis, Dr Hill was able to analyse the sounds from various creatures living in and around the reef to estimate the reef’s health. The more sharp clicks and pops coming from the reef, the healthier the reef.
Pioneering cancer research
University of Derby researchers, as part of the Lifestyle Disease Research Group, carried out the first pilot study in the UK looking at the rates of oral HPV in young healthy adults. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a common viral infection which can be passed through close contact and has high-risk strains that can lead to head, neck and cervical cancers. The study, which questioned 124 people aged 18-24 about their lifestyle and involved taking a mouth swab, revealed 4% had a detectable oral HPV infection and indicated that possible lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking, could increase the risk of contracting HPV.
Dr Gillian Knight, former Head of Biomedical Science and Public Health, later worked in collaboration with the Royal Derby Hospital to look at the levels of HPV in patients attending the Head and Neck departments and Gynaecological departments in order to get an idea of the levels of HPV infection within the patient community, and if their lifestyle choices influenced their likelihood of obtaining a HPV related cancer. The research team was awarded a grant by the Midlands Institute of Otology to support this study.
Research has also been conducted into the HPV knowledge and attitudes of young adults and adolescents to determine what understanding younger people have about infection with HPV and the HPV vaccination programme. This involved visiting a number of local and national schools to discuss HPV and the HPV vaccination programme with year 8 school children, with an aim to better educate children about infectious diseases.
Our study also looked into whether the HPV vaccination programme, then only given to girls within the UK, was influencing rates of oral HPV infection. In the UK, we only vaccinate 12-13 year old girls to prevent them from picking up the high-risk strains of HPV when they become sexually active, which hopefully will prevent in girls all HPV-related cancers, including cervical cancer. However, boys were not vaccinated even though they have the same risk of contracting HPV infection as women and an identified risk – higher than in women – to head and neck cancer. There was call amongst HPV scientists and also support organisations such as HPVAction.org to look to follow the lead of other countries such as Canada, USA and Australia to make this HPV vaccination gender neutral. In July 2018, it was announced that adolescent boys in the UK will be offered the HPV vaccine - a huge step forward in proactively tackling HPV-positive cancers and removing any gender bias associated with the vaccination programme.
Our Lifestyle Disease Research Group worked in collaboration with The Swallows Head and Neck Cancer Charity to raise awareness of HPV infection and the diseases it can cause. Students from two of our degree programmes, BSc (Hons) Human Biology and BSc/MSci (Hons) Biomedical Health, supported by our Technology Enhanced Learning team, worked with The Swallows Charity to develop ‘What about me’ – an educational video to raise awareness of head and neck cancer and provide a greater understanding for children and their parents of the HPV vaccination programme.