Reporter 396, 3 February 1997
Over 75 percent of the University's research staff are working in departments where research is of the highest order - of national or international excellence - according to the recent Research Assesment Exercise. Sixteen departments, below and overleaf, achieved the top 5 or 5* quality rating. The Reporter highlights some of the work which makes Leeds one of the UK's leading research institutions.
The rural community of Monticchiello, Tuscany, deals with rapid social and economic change by turning their own lives, past and present, into theatre. Professor Richard Andrews has studied these annual community dramas, and has also carried out innovative work looking at how Renaissance comedy worked in actual performance, not just on the written page.
Professor Brian Richardson's Renaissance research has similarly looked at texts in the practical context - in this case, the spread of printing and its influence on the usage and status of the Italian language.
Dr Alan Bullock's interests span 16th century poems and 20th century plays. He is currently concentrating on an edition of the papers of the Chaplin family, which spans the period 1880-1982. The most notable member of this family was the painter Elisabeth, who exhibited in France, Italy and the USA.
Astrophysical research has recently expanded into the area of star formation - one of the great unsolved puzzles of modern astronomy. High resolution radio and infra-red observations reveal evidence for disk-like structures around young massive stars, perhaps like those from which our own solar system formed. Theoretical work aims to explain how fast jets and outflows originating from these disks interact with the ambient clumpy medium.
One major activity of the department has been the search for the highest energy cosmic rays, which have been the focus of experimental efforts on the Yorkshire Moors and at the South Pole.
Polymers - or giant molecules - are all around us in many of the materials we use - such as wood and plastic - and are in the fabric of our own bodies. They also make for exciting science, bringing such diverse disciplines as theoretical physics, organic chemistry and process engineering into close collaboration. All of these essential components are represented at Leeds and the wider network of the Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Polymer Science and Technology, which we share with the universities of Bradford and Durham. Among current hot topics are materials for bone replacement and a plastic that stops bullets.
The School of Geography is internationally renowned for its research in the areas of population, deforestation and global environmental change, among others.
Under Professor Philip Rees, a population and migration group has concentrated on migration in Europe. The urban and regional intelligence group, which includes the Vice-Chancellor, focuses on applied research through GMAP Ltd, the Virtual Science Park, and the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Research Laboratory.
Professor Adrian McDonald of the environmental management group is well known for work on environment and health in collaboration with Professor David Kay of the Leeds Environment Centre. Global environmental change research has grown steadily, and is examining deforestation processes in Asia and Africa and responses by UK firms to global change. The sediment dynamics and environmental change group is looking at desertification processes and Holocene environmental change. Professor Mike Kirkby is one of four project coordinators of the EU Mediterranean Desertification and Land Use Programme.
The first of the school's new initiatives, the Centre for Computational Geography, is directed by Professor Stan Openshaw and is developing new high performance computing techniques for geography.
Human geographers and resource geographers are investigating the geographical dimensions of sustainable development.
Military disasters, civil rights struggles and the Channel Tunnel have all helped to put the School of History on the map.
In medieval history major studies were conducted of the medieval Church and chronicles, and contributions made to the Cambridge Ancient and Medieval Histories. Its European scholarship included 'Catholicism and Spanish Society'.
Notable works were produced by the centre of military history on military disasters and fiction writers in the First World War. British historians completed substantive works, including a collaborative volume on the boundaries of the modern state. International historians contributed works on the Channel Tunnel, chemical and biological weapons, and the Hapsburg monarchy, to name a few. A highly acclaimed account of the civil rights struggle in Louisiana, 'Race and Democracy', was one of the contributions of North American history.
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