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Professor G Roberts, Dr A Munro, Professor P Cullis (Chemistry)
Industrial Biocatalysts by Design: Rational Re-engineering  of Flavocytochrome p450 BM3 for Chiral Chemical Synthesis
£243,929   BBSRC
The use of enzymes to carry out chemical synthesis has a number of attractions: enzymes can carry out chemical transformations very selectively under mild conditions, without the use of hazardous reagents and solvents, minimising the production of dangerous waste. In addition, enzymes can sometimes carry out reactions which are very difficult to do chemically. This is the case for cytochromes P450, which carry out hydroxylation reactions. One member of this family of enzymes, P450 BM3, is particularly attractive for synthetic applications. In this project we will use the structure of the enzyme to design mutants of the enzyme with precisely altered specificity which will be able to carry out four specific synthetic reactions of industrial importance. 
October 2003

Dr A Munro, Professor N Scrutton, Dr M Sutcliffe, Dr D Leys
Elucidating Enzyme Mechanism and Physiological Role of a Key P450 Enzyme (CYP121) from Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
£196,872   BBSRC
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the causative agent of TB) presents a global threat to human health. We have identified that azole-based drugs are efficient inhibitors of the pathogen, and that these drugs target the M. tuberculosis P450 enzyme CYP121. We have solved CYP121’s atomic structure at higher resolution than any other P450, and are now undertaking systematic analysis of structure/function relationships. The detailed comprehension of its mechanism will facilitate a better understanding of how CYP121 can be exploited as a drug target. In this study we will determine molecular interactions with proteins (redox partners) that CYP121 binds in the cell, establish its true substrate, and analyse reaction mechanism. In the latter case, we have identified, from the structure, amino acids involved in catalysis. By performing rational mutagenesis of the enzyme and employing spectroscopic methods to identify transient enzyme intermediates, we will decipher novel aspects of the catalytic process of P450 enzymes.
October 2003

Dr A Heery
Supplement - Function of Transcriptional Coactivators in Nuclear Receptor-Mediated Transcription - Senior Research Fellowship in Basic Biomedical Science
£44,485   Wellcome Trust
The theme of this continuing research program is to investigate the biological functions of Nuclear Receptor coregulator proteins, of which CREB Binding Protein (CBP) is of central interest. The program comprises an integrated series of projects that will investigate the structure, function, interactions and subcellular distribution of CBP and NR coregulators, their recruitment to target gene promoters, and their impact on various cellular processes. We will also explore new lines of evidence arising from our previous studies that suggest a role for CBP in the regulation of nuclear transport. This research program also has relevance to understanding the role of NR coregulators in human disease, in particular some forms of acute myeloid leukaemia. 
October 2003  

Professor N Scrutton, Professor G Roberts, Dr G Aldo
Isothermal Titration Calorimetry: Novel and Established Applications in Redox Enzymology
£29,252   BBSRC
This grant provides funding to establish a facility for anaerobic isothermal titration calorimetry within the REAL (Redox Enzymology at Leicester) consortium at the University of Leicester. The equipment will support a number of mature research projects funded by BBSRC and other grant awarding agencies focussed on the mechanisms of redox enzyme catalysis, and will involve studies of protein-ligand, protein-protein interaction, and also kinetic studies. The instrument will be housed in an anaerobic glove box for studies of redox enzymes in an oxygen-free environment. This will enable studies with oxygen labile substrates and interactions in different redox states of the protein. These interaction studies are required to address new mechanistic proposals arising from structural and kinetic studies performed at Leicester both on redox enzymes, and on other important enzyme and signalling proteins. The instrument will be maintained in a new kinetics laboratory with existing transient kinetic instrumentation in a new Biomedical Sciences Research Building (completion June 2004) in which the REAL group members will be accommodated.
October 2003

Professor N Scrutton, Dr M Sutcliffe, Dr D Leys
Quantum Mechanisms for Enzyme Catalysis - Beyond the Transition State Theory Paradigm
£383,354   BBSRC
Enzymes are extremely efficient catalysts that can achieve rate enhancements of up to (up to 10 to the power of 21) over the uncatalysed reaction rate. Our quest to understand the physical basis of this catalytic power is challenging and has involved sustained and intensive research efforts by many workers in the physical and life sciences. Recent years have witnessed new and important activity in this area, and extended our theoretical understanding beyond the shortcomings of transition state theory to include roles for protein motion, low barrier hydrogen bonds and most recently quantum mechanical tunnelling. Quantum tunnelling of hydrogen has now been observed experimentally through studies of kinetic isotope effects in a number of enzyme systems, supported by computational simulations of enzyme catalysis. This grant was awarded to develop further our new conceptual framework that explains more fully the catalytic power of enzymes. Through work of this type, our abilities to understand, rationally design and redesign biological catalysts are strengthened and the prospects for therapeutic intervention are improved. 
October 2003

Professor L Ng, Dr S Khan
Risk Stratification of Myocardial Infarction using Cardiac Hypertrophic Inducing Peptides
£86,179   British Heart Foundation
The prediction of adverse events after a heart attack can be difficult. In this BHF funded fellowship, Dr Sohail Khan (supervised by Professor Leong Ng) will examine the use of some peptides derived from heart which induce hypertrophy of the heart muscle, in the prediction of adverse events such as heart failure and mortality. It is hoped that this improved risk prediction would enable therapy to be directed to the highest risk patients.
October 2003

Dr D Tincello, Dr R Elliott
A Study of the Effects of Carbonated Soft Drinks and Cigarette Smoking upon Destrusor Muscle Function
£9,250   British Society of Urogynaecology
Leicestershire has hosted a large community based epidemiological study funded by the Medical Research Council during the last five years. A study on 250,000 people identified new dietary and lifestyle associations with urinary incontinence. Daily consumption of fizzy drinks was associated with a 1.6 fold higher risk of the onset of irritative bladder symptoms, and cigarette smoking with a 1.4 fold higher risk. Carbonated drinks contain several potentially active ingredients, including phenylalanine, aspartame, citric acid, sodium benzoate, calcium phosphate and sodium citrate. In this study, the effect of carbonated drink ingredients upon isolated rat detrusor muscle strips will be studied in vitro. Using similar methodology, the function of human detrusor muscle biopsies from smokers and non-smokers will be compared.

The data will provide preliminary information to support or refute the epidemiological data and should lead to further studies using human tissue samples and human subjects. The data may provide insights into new treatments for overactive bladder disease.
October 2003

Dr B Billups, Professor I Forsythe
RM36056, RM36057
Reciprocal Interactions Between Vesicular Glutamate Concentration, Mitochondria and Neurotransmitter Release
£189,032   Wellcome Trust
Neuronal cell in the brain communicate to their neighbours by releasing tiny packets of chemical neurotransmitters, termed vesicles. The aim of this project is to investigate the mechanisms by which vesicles are filled with neurotransmitter prior to release and how this process is
regulated. The energy required for this vesicular filling is produced by the mitochondria in neurons. The role of mitochondrial energy production in vesicle filling and hence neuronal communication will be studied in particular detail. Since mitochondrial dysfunction is though
to play an important role in many neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Huntington's, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), elucidation of their precise role in vesicle filling may have potential therapeutic implications.
October 2003

Professor I Postlethwaite
Shape Performance Improvement in Metal Rolling using a Knowledge-Based System
£23,174   DTI/ALCOA GB
In an earlier EPSRC grant, in collaboration with Alcoa UK and VAI Industries UK, we developed an expert system for the supervisory control of rolling mills. The aim is to produce aluminium plate of specified gauge and flatness. Although the system mimics expert operators, it is designed to assist rather than replace operators and early tests on specific types of aluminium plate have shown that the new system can produce high quality product. The next step is to expand the knowledge-based system so that product quality can be further improved and so that a wider range of products can be handled. This will be done through a two-year TCS project with Alcoa in cooperation with Reading University. 
October 2003

Dr D Bates, Professor I Postlethwaite
New Analysis Techniques for Non-Linear Systems with Application to the Clearance of Flight Control Laws for Highly Augmented Aircraft
£344,665   EPSRC
New research could enable aircraft manufacturers to secure approval for their flight control systems more cheaply. The project’s aim is to develop more efficient ways of proving the reliability of these systems, which are vital to air safety. 

The three-year initiative will be carried out by engineers at the University of Leicester, with funding from the Swindon-based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It will involve collaboration with some of Europe’s leading aerospace companies, including Airbus and BAE Systems.

Modern high-performance aircraft are equipped with complex flight control systems that ensure their stability, handling and performance. Obtaining clearance for a system involves demonstrating to the relevant authorities that it meets all requirements for the aircraft’s safe operation. This is difficult and time-consuming, involving investigation of a huge number of different aircraft configurations. 

It is particularly difficult where the effects on the aircraft’s dynamics of complex factors such as saturation of the aircraft’s flight control surfaces (e.g. rudder, ailerons) and abrupt changes in aerodynamics in certain parts of a flight path have to be identified and quantified. Currently, the clearance process relies heavily on costly simulations using desktop computers and piloted flight simulators to identify such effects.

The new project will develop new computer-based analytical tools for this purpose which can improve the speed, efficiency and reliability of the clearance process. It will focus on approaches that have already shown great potential, but where theoretical and practical issues need to be resolved before widespread adoption by the industry is achieved. The project therefore aims to illustrate the applicability of the approaches to realistic clearance problems. 

The research team is being led by Dr Declan Bates from the University’s Control and Instrumentation Research Group. He says: “As well as reducing costs for manufacturers of both civil and military aircraft, the project could make a valuable contribution to ensuring air safety”.
October 2003

Dr Y Dubrova
Supplement: Transgenerational Instability in the Germline and Somatic Tissues
£5,266   Wellcome Trust
Our recent data have shown that mutation rate in the offspring of irradiated male mice does not return to normal levels, but instead remains significantly elevated. These results raise the important issues of delayed genetic risk. The purpose of the present project is to analyse some mechanisms of transgenerational instability in the germline and somatic tissues. Mutation rates and the expression profiles will be evaluated in the germline and somatic tissues of first-generation offspring of male mice exposed to ionising radiation. Mutation rates will also be evaluated the germline and somatic tissues of first- and second-generation offspring of male mice exposed to chemical mutagens and anticancer drugs. It is hoped that this major survey will elucidate the still unknown mechanisms of genomic instability in germline and somatic cells and will improve the accuracy of the estimates of genetic risk for humans after exposure to mutagenic agents.
October 2003

Professor R Trembath
A Clinical and Molecular Genetic Study of Dyggve Melchior Clausen Syndrome 
£139,946   MRC
The skeletal dysplasias are a varied group of disorders associated with abnormal bone development and growth. Dyggve Melchior Clausen syndrome, (DMC) an inherited syndrome characterised by reduction in final height, marked curvature of the spine and a barrel shaped chest is one such disorder. Many of these patients have significant learning difficulty. Working with families with DMC, this proposal seeks to understand how the genetic change present in DMC leads to abnormal bone structure and function. This training fellowship will use state of the art approaches to unravel this uncommon disorder. It is likely that the findings will have applications for the better understanding of normal and abnormal bone activity.
October 2003

Dr C Tufarelli
Mechanisms of Antisense-RNA Mediated DNA Methylation in Mammals
£189,257   Royal Society
Despite knowing the entire human genetic sequence it is still unclear how genes are regulated, so that in a given tissue only a specific subset is expressed at the correct times and levels. It is now recognised that there are ‘epigenetic factors’ that do not affect the underlying DNA sequence, but contribute to the decision to turn on and off the correct genes in the right places at precise times. The aim of my research is to understand the molecular mechanisms leading to the establishment of the epigenetic modification known as DNA methylation. Normal gene expression during development, and aberrant expression in human genetic diseases and in tumours are in some cases regulated by DNA methylation. Understanding how DNA methylation patterns are established and how they affect gene expression has exciting potential clinical implications, especially in the design of drugs and therapies for cancer and human genetic disorders.
October 2003

Professor M Bradshaw
A New Russian Heartland
£45,592   ESRC
This project assesses the impact of Russia’s recent economic and demographic crisis upon the effective occupation of its national territory and considers the implications for Russia’s political and economic cohesion. Following the work of the Geographer David Hooson, six criteria are used to assess the dynamics and effective national territory: scale of contribution to the national economy, rate of population growth, relative importance of accessible resources, economic specialisation, regionalism and ethnic considerations. All the relevant information will be stored and analysed in a geographic information system and the results presented in graphic and cartographic format. The results of this project will identify new security challenges posed to the Russian State by changes in its effective national territory. The results of the project will be of interest to other academics, policy-makers and businesses interested in Russia’s future place in the world.
October 2003

Mr A Sutton, Professor D Jones, Dr Abrams
Studies of Chemical Workers: Revised Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
£34,864   Americal Chemistry Council
This study aims to update and extend the scope of a previous systematic review of mortality and cancer occurrence among chemical industry workers (Greenberg et al., 2001), in North America and Western Europe. 

The geographical scope of the study will be widened to include data from other regions, as will the range of study designs considered. One of the main aims of this study is to evaluate mortality and cancer occurrence among workers in different areas of the chemical industry separately, to allow investigation into any links between certain causes of death and types of cancer among workers who may be exposed to specific chemicals or processes.

Statistical data from multiple different studies will be combined using a technique called meta-analysis, which provides a powerful tool to explore potential associations between occupational factors and mortality and disease among workers.
October 2003

Dr C Minelli
Meta-Analysis of Genetic Studies: Overview of the Methodological Issues and Proposal Guidelines
£150,706   Department of Health
The project focuses on the methodological issues of synthesising the evidence available in medical literature on a specific topic (meta-analysis) in the field of genetic epidemiology. The importance of identifying genetic markers of disease extends beyond the understanding of the pathological basis of disease in populations and future possibility of gene therapy. The recognition of genotypes “at risk” for a disease could lead to targeted prevention programmes on specific subgroups of subjects, and gene markers could identify subjects who are more likely to respond to specific interventions, guiding future therapeutic choices on a genotype-specific basis (pharmacogenetics). Genetic epidemiology, however, often seeks relatively small effects against a noisy background of biological and social complexity, and most studies are so expensive they are almost all smaller than would be ideal. For this reason the development of valid approaches to evidence synthesis plays an important role in advancing our biomedical knowledge by increasing the statistical power. 

Ms J Peters
Development of Methods for Generalised Synthesis of Evidence: Application to Epidemiological and Toxicological Evidence in Environmental Standard Setting
£145,461   Department of Health
Risks to human health need to be thoroughly evaluated when setting standards for ‘safe’ exposure to chemicals in the environment. An informative and useful risk assessment should therefore be based on all available data relevant to the area of interest. Such data may be quite diverse, including both animal and human evidence. 

This research consists of critically exploring and developing the use of systematic review methods and statistical models to combine these diverse data in an appropriate, coherent manner to assist in the risk assessment process. Additional information, such as the relevance of the animal data to human exposure and sensitivity groups must be incorporated. Uncertainty associated with this information, and the uncertainty of the choice of models used, is taken into account and assessed by applying Bayesian methods of analysis. ‘Real life’ examples are used to help develop these methods and assess their suitability.
October 2003

Ms R Hancock
Paying for Long-Term Care for Older People in the Uk: Moving Forward by Modelling the Costs and Incidence of a Comprehensive Set of Options
£29,142   Nuffield Foundation
This project is a collaboration between NCCSU and the Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at the London School of Economics. It will examine a wide range of options for reforming the current system of financing long-term care for older people. It will provide for each option, projections to 2050 of: the total cost of long-term care for older people, in absolute terms and as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product; its breakdown between public and private sources, and within the public sector; how the costs borne by service users vary by the level of their income and wealth; the sensitivity of projections to assumptions about future numbers of older people, dependency levels, costs of formal care, supply of informal care and future demand for formal care.

PSSRU and NCCSU have each developed computer models designed to examine different long-term care policy and charging options. PSSRU’s macrosimulation model makes projections of demand for long-term care by older people, and of public and private long-term care expenditure, under clearly specified assumptions. NCCSU’s microsimulation model simulates long-term care charges for current and future generations of older people. The project will use the two models. 
October 2003

Dr C Prestel
New Jewish Women in Germany between Submission
£13,153   AHRB
In a period of fundamental change for all women, most notably through World War One and the extension of the franchise German-Jewish women's lives were marked off, partly as a consequence of increasing racial anti-Semitism. This study will use a wealth of primary materials, chiefly memoirs, diaries and letters, to investigate German-Jewish women's professional choices, leisure activities and attitudes towards sexuality, motherhood and marriage, as well as strategies for combating gender-specific constructions of anti-Semitism. The book will make an original contribution to our understanding of German-Jewish women's experience, a much under-studied topic in Jewish and German history, including women's studies. 
October 2003

Dr C Beardsmore, Professor S C Koenig (Mathematics and Computer Science)
Equipping the Lung Function Laboratory
£30,180   The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust
This supplement provides for the continued respiratory follow-up of infants aged 12-15 months who received neonatal ECMO. ECMO is a means of getting oxygen into the blood outside the body when the lungs are incapable of adequate oxygenation. It is used in infants with severe respiratory illnesses that are potentially reversible. We measure lung volumes and airway function in infants approximately one year after their treatment with ECMO. Although most infants do very well some do go on to have significantly reduced lung function.
October 2003

Professor A Felstead, Professor L Unwin
Learning as Work: Teaching and Learning Process in the Contemporary Work Organisation
£1,037,448   ESRC
This multi-disciplinary project aims to break new theoretical and methodological ground by examining the interplay of the organisational context with processes of individual/group teaching and learning at work. It will assess the implications for workplace learning opportunities for
employees at all levels in both the public and private sectors. In particular, it will investigate the hypothesis that workplaces which exhibit high involvement characteristics and OEexpansive¹ learning environments provide employees with greater opportunities to engage in and attain new
skills and knowledge through learning at work than would be the case for employees in low involvement (OErestrictive¹) workplaces. The project will combine qualitative and quantitative techniques in a multi-layered approach to data collection. Crucially, organisational level data will be triangulated with the workplace learning experiences and perceptions of employees. In keeping with its collaborative and transformative approach, the project seeks to: improve the process of and learning outcomes from workplace learning in the case study organisations; and influence and inform the practitioner and policy-making communities in the field of workforce
October 2003

Professor G Hanlon
Shaping Knowledge Through Dialogue: Analysing Corporate Social Responsibility
£149,819   ESRC
This multi-disciplinary, social science research project will develop a theoretical understanding of the evolution of corporate social responsibility knowledge and the concept of Corporate Citizenship within the UK. It will expand research into CSR beyond existing management/business school perspectives and examine firstly, the extent to which the evolution of CSR knowledge is a process controlled entirely within the business community, and secondly the relationship between CSR knowledge and the concept of the corporate citizen.

The research will play a key role in the re-evaluation of contemporary relationships between business, the sate and civil society. It will pay particular attention to the new processes of interaction and exchange between these actors, through the development of CSR knowledge and the sharing and dissemination of information regarding ethical business practices. In doing so, it will focus upon the development of forums for information exchange in this field. By examining these processes from a broad social science perspective the project will explore the method by which CSR is shaping new forms of business knowledge and the manner in which this knowledge impacts upon the relationship between the newly emerging ‘Corporate Citizen’ and civil society. 

Understanding Corporate Citizenship as a complex set of networks in which knowledge is continuously evolving requires new theoretical and multi-disciplinary insights which seek to explain the systems through which companies interact with civil society. These processes are reflected in the methodological approach of the research. To gain an effective picture of the shaping, interpreting, validating and dissemination of information into a framework for CSR knowledge and Corporate Citizenship, the investigation will be conducted through a number of stages, involving survey data, participant observation, in-depth interviewing and discussion forums. The research design reflects the rapid pace of development within this field and is therefore both participative and interactive; encouraging the active collaboration of both business and other user groups.
October 2003

Dr S Penn
Esotericism in Latin American Literature

The award has been made towards the travel costs of a research trip to Mexico. Dr Penn will be visiting university libraries in Mexico City as well as sites of cultural significance throughout the country. This is preliminary research for a monograph on the role of religious syncretism and esotericism in Mexican and other Latin American twentieth-century literatures. 
October 2003

Professor E Hooper-Greenhill
Evidence of the Outcome and Impact of Learning 
£80,000   Resource
During 2003/04 Resource: the Council for Museums and Galleries will commit £1.2 million to the development of museum/school education programmes in three groups of regional museums and galleries in England. This is the first tranche of £10m, allocated for the first time to regional museums by DCMS/DfES following Resource’s Renaissance in the Regions report; it will be spent on museum education development over the next three years. RCMG has been commissioned to evaluate the learning outcomes for school students and teachers that result from the school visits in the first half-term 2003/04.

The methodology for the evaluation involves questionnaires for teachers and older pupils, and focus groups with teachers, which are based on the generic learning outcomes (GLOs) identified during RCMG’s Resource-funded earlier work for the Learning Impact Research Project (LIRP). This project is an extension to LIRP. Its results may inform Resource’s submission to the up-coming Comprehensive Spending Review.
October 2003

Professor E Hooper-Greenhill
Evaluation of the DCMS Strategic Commissioning 2003-2004: National/Regional Museum Education Partnerships
£119,196   Department of Culture, Media and Sport
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has commissioned 12 projects between national and regional museums that focus on museum education and life-long learning. The aims are to encourage partnerships between museums and the educational sector, to work towards community-building and to promote high quality provision for schools through sharing expertise and resources.

DCMS has commissioned RCMG to evaluate the impact of this programme, with a focus on the learning outcomes for pupils and community members. The evaluation will run in tandem with the evaluation of Resource’s educational programme (previously notified RA 17022), and the same research methodology, structured in relation to generic learning outcomes, will be used across both projects as far as possible. One outcome of the research will be a perspective on the national impact of museum education and a view on the extent to which this may be seen as contributing social value.
October 2003

Professor W Harper
Supplement - Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial of Daily Oral Vitamin D and Calcium for the Secondary Prevention of Osteoporosis Related Fractures in the Elderly (RECORD)
£829   MRC via University of Aberdeen
The Medical Research Council is continuing a study comparing oral vitamin D and calcium versus placebo in the prevention of osteoporotic fractures. This study has now completed recruitment. Follow-up is being undertaken to judge the effectiveness of treatment.
October 2003

Professor T R Robinson 
SPEAR Operations Phase
£587,963   PPARC
Leicester's new £2.5M SPEAR radar system has now been completed by the Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group on Svalbard. It is a revolutionary new design and will study the dynamical processes in the space plasma that surrounds the Earth, in the vicinity of the polar cap. Here magnetic field lines stretch out into space and link with those from the Sun. This allows charged particles from the Sun to enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause electrical currents and 
aurora displays. This new grant from PPARC will fund the operations of SPEAR for the next three years.
October 2003

Dr W Willingale, Professor G Fraser (King's College London, CCLRC)
Basic Technology - Practical X-ray Interferometry
£93,649   EPSRC
X-ray interferometry has the potential to image the sky at ultra high angular resolution; ultimately 1 micro arc second, equivalent to the size of a 1 pence piece at a distance of 4 million km! A truly amazing feat which is far from present reality. Designing and building a practical
astronomical X-ray interferometer is a major technological challenge involving the development of novel X-ray mirrors and X-ray detectors and employing very high precision optical engineering.
This initial study aims to turn a new optical design developed in the Space Research Centre into a working model. In the longer term the X-ray interferometer design could form the basis of an
international space mission to image the event horizon of a black hole. Eventually X-ray interferometry will give us a window into a completely unexplored astrophysical environment probing the behaviour of matter in very extreme conditions inaccessible on Earth.
October 2003

Dr R Saull
The War on Terror and the American Empire Workshop (BISA) 2003
£3,231   ESRC
This research workshop will discuss the historical, socio-economic and political dimensions of the nature of US global power after the Cold War and assess the degree to which the 'war on terror' reflects a significant shift in the nature and projection of that power. Some of the key issues that it will address are: the relationship between the projection of American military power and capitalist globalisation and the contradictions there within; the analytical purchase concepts such as 'empire', 'imperialism' or 'hegemony' in the analysis of such power; and the socio-economic and political causes and consequences of the 'war on terror' both local and global. It is expected that the papers presented will appear in an edited volume with a leading publisher.
October 2003

Dr R Napiwotki
Spy and the Progenitors of Supernovae Type 1A
£239,077   PPARC
Supernovae (SN) mark the violent termination of a star's life in an explosion. The class of SN of type Ia is of special interest, because they were identified as excellent distance indicators for cosmology. One of the shortcomings of SN Ia is our ignorance of the progenitor systems.

There is general consensus that the event is due to the thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf when the Chandrasekhar mass (1.4 solar masses) is reached, but the nature of the progenitor system remains unclear. In one of the two viable scenarios SN Ia result from the merging of a close binary (through gravitational wave radiation) consisting of two white dwarfs with a total mass exceeding the Chandrasekhar mass. However, radial velocity searches for close binary white dwarfs have so far failed to produce a statistically significant sample that would allow to verify this scenario.

It is the aim of SPY (Supernova type Ia Progenitor survey) carried out with the 8m UT2 telescope of ESO VLT to increase the number of investigated systems by a large factor and thus provide a definitive answer.
October 2003

Dr F Bolger, Dr R Gillett
News, Moods and Consumer Confidence
£47,125   ESRC
You may hear on the News that, for instance, "consumer confidence is growing, so economic recovery may be just around the corner". 'Consumer confidence' refers to the monthly questionnaire responses of panels of consumers. This data is collected because it is thought a good predictor of consumption, and the state of the economy more generally. However, responses to the questionnaire seem to be influenced by things bearing little relation to future consumption, such as non-economic news events, which undermines the usefulness of consumer confidence for economic forecasting. 

We test the hypotheses that news influences the mood of consumers, which then affects their responses to the consumer confidence and other expectations questionnaires, both through retrospective analyses of the effects of news on consumer confidence, and by examining relationships between news, mood and consumer expectations occurring at the current time. It is hoped our research will enable improved forecasting from consumer surveys.
October 2003

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