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Carol Vorderman launches nine £2k bursaries for Swansea University maths students

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Nine Carol Vorderman Maths Access Bursaries – worth £2000 each – are on offer to all students applying to do Mathematics at Swansea University, including those who apply through clearing.

Carol, who grew up in north Wales in a single parent family and on free school meals, said that “mathematics in Wales changed my world for the better and I want in some way to help those who are trying to do the same.”

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The bursary is worth £2000 for each student. It will be open to all applicants for undergraduate degree programmes in Mathematics or Actuarial Science who will start their studies with Swansea University in September 2022.

In April 2021, Carol Vorderman MBE gave an International Women’s Day talk for the Computational Foundry, which houses the Mathematics and Computer Science department at Swansea University.

Carol has been hugely influential for decades in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), encouraging young women to study and work within the Science and Engineering sphere. In her Swansea talk, she spoke openly about her life and career and the challenges being a woman in STEM can have.

Carol visited the Bay Campus back in November 2021 and met with colleagues from the Mathematics department and Swansea University’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Paul Boyle, to discuss how her ambition to help young people from a similar background into higher education could come to life. Carol plans to visit the University again very soon.

Carol has always had a passion for Mathematics, finding inspiration at an early age from her mathematics teacher. This passion has been shared with the nation, with her being the presenter for television’s “Countdown” for 26 years. Carol strives to inspire young people, teachers and parents to enjoy mathematics through her talks, books and charitable work.

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In more recent years Carol has worked at government ministerial level including writing a major report about mathematics education for the prime minister.

Prof Elaine Crooks, Head of the School of Mathematics and Computer Science at Swansea University, said: “We are delighted to offer this great opportunity to students to study Mathematics here at Swansea University. The Carol Vorderman Maths Access bursaries demonstrate a continued commitment to inspire future generations and provide access and equality for all. We are hugely grateful to Carol for this generous donation.”

Applications are now open for the first round of funding.

“Learning mathematics in Wales changed my life” – Carol Vorderman’s story.

Carol Vorderman
(Image: 21stCenturyGreenstuff / Wikimedia / Creative Commons 2.0)

“I was a year or two ahead in primary school in Rhyl and then met the most wonderful maths teacher in the world, Mr Palmer Parry in Blessed Edward Jones High School, Rhyl, when I was 10.

“Mr Parry was strict, funny, made us work hard and made us laugh; he was clear and concise and encouraging.

“In the hot summer of 1976, all of us in his O Level class passed with a Grade A (there was no such thing as an A* in those days).

“He taught me A level and to my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong) I became the first woman from a north Wales comprehensive school to get to Cambridge.

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“These things didn’t happen back then. Not only that, Eugene, another student from my class with Mr Parry, got to Cambridge the following year and it was all thanks to him.

I was on free school meals and from a single parent family and so education was the most important thing in my world.

It was my golden ticket and I loved it all, I lapped up the learning and the speed of playing with numbers.

“My teacher Mrs Wynne Jones said in my school report when I was 8 years old: “Carol has a computational ability with numbers which could prove profitable in later life.” How right she was when years later I began a 26-year job solving the numbers game on Countdown.

“So, what has this got to do with the bursaries? It has everything to do with them. Because of that education I was able to form a financial stability and get myself into a position to give back properly. 

Mathematics in Wales changed my world for the better and I want in some way to help those who are trying to do the same. “

“They may not be lucky enough to have a Mr Parry or to have people encouraging them to follow Mathematics at university.

“We are all here to encourage you to follow that path and hopefully these bursaries will help some of you to do exactly that. I wish you all the luck in the world and here’s to a bit of playful mathematics in the years to come.”

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(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Research

Experts warn rising temperatures and extremely dry conditions contribute to unprecedented wildfire danger in the UK

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The UK is experiencing not only record temperatures, but also unprecedented conditions favouring extreme wildfire danger and behaviour, according to wildfire experts. 

Now the UK Fire Danger Rating System project team which includes vegetation fire experts from universities across the UK (University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, University of Exeter, Swansea University, London School of Economics, Portsmouth University) and Forest Research, is warning of further risks as the summer’s hot and dry weather continues.

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Analysis carried at Swansea University shows that the fire weather index – a numerical indicator of the likelihood of extreme fire behaviour (calculated from long-term and short-term relevant weather measurements, including temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and wind) – has reached a record level this summer.

Dr Tadas Nikonovas said: “The fire weather index on July 19 was the highest the UK has seen since at least 1979 when the available record began. The visualization below shows the last 20 years of maximum fire weather index values for England and illustrates how extreme the conditions were on the day.”

Professor Stefan Doerr, who leads the Centre for Wildfire Research at Swansea University, said: “Our analysis also shows that while we saw heathland fires before and after the record temperatures in July, the catastrophic fires in England on July 19 were concentrated on grasslands and arable land close to densely populated areas. Indeed, there were very few fires in more remote areas, which are typically dominated by heathland fuels, on the day of the record temperatures.” 

Dr Thomas Smith, from London School of Economics, added: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that few people were ‘out enjoying the countryside’ on the day of the extreme heat, because it was simply too hot, reducing the likelihood of ignitions in heathland area, while we know that the grassland and arable fires that led to the unprecedented loss of houses on July 19 may have been ignited close to homes and gardens where people were sheltering from the hot weather.”

Vegetation ‘fuel moisture’ data collected by the team at the University of Birmingham throughout July, show that in some cases, the moisture readings in some grassy fuels were extremely low (0-1%). Professor Nick Kettridge pointed out that in some cases it was so low that it was impossible to measure with the commonly used measurement approach. “This level of dryness also explains the extreme nature of the fire behaviour, with large flames and fast-moving fires, even in places without high wind conditions,” he said.

These unprecedented fire weather and extreme fuel moisture conditions are expected to occur more frequently in the coming decades driven by human-caused climate change.

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According to Professor Claire Belcher, of the University of Exeter, there is much that can be done to reduce the likelihood and potential impacts of fires. She said: “Major retailers stopping the sale of disposable barbeques in some regions is one welcome contribution to reducing accidental ignitions, but with the dry hot weather currently continuing in parts of the UK, the overall fire risk remains very high.”

University of Manchester’s Dr Gareth Clay, who leads the UK Fire Danger Rating System project funded by the UK’s Research and Innovation Council, added: “The Met Office provide a Fire Severity Index (FSI), an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, but this does not provide an assessment of the risk of wildfires occurring. To fill this critical gap our project team are researching the key components that allows building an effective, tailored fire danger rating system that can establish the likelihood and impact of wildfires in the country.”

(Lead image: Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)

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Coronavirus

Swansea professor’s COVID contribution recognised with new honour

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A Swansea academic at the forefront of shaping our understanding of Covid-19 has received further recognition for his work in the field of data science.

Co-director of Population Data Science and Clinical Professor of Public Health at Swansea University, Professor Ronan Lyons has been elected to a prestigious European body, the Academia Europaea.

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This latest honour follows on from Professor Lyons becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and being appointed OBE in the New Year’s honours.

The focus of his work is the use of routinely collected data to better understand factors that influence health and wellbeing and developing and evaluating interventions aimed to improve the health of the public. He has led some of the largest studies ever undertaken in this field and contributed to research surrounding the pandemic and its consequences at Wales, UK and European level.

Professor Lyons said he was delighted to have been recommended for membership of the prestigious Academia Europaea, which aims to encourage the highest possible standards in scholarship, research and education, and promote a better public understanding of the benefits of learning.

He said: “This honour is a recognition of the shared efforts and hard work of the various teams and partners I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. None more so than over the last two years, during the pandemic.

“Through the European Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI) Project we’re developing research infrastructure to generate the best Covid-19 population health knowledge. The multi-disciplinary, One Wales working group provided crucial evidence to Welsh Government’s response to Covid community transmission and informed policy development across the UK.

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“The International Covid-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) partnership with Health Data Research UK and the Bills Gates Foundation and others, is supporting a globally coordinated approach to tackling Covid and future threats.

“This has been an incredibly challenging period for us all and I’m enormously proud that these labours have been acknowledged and rewarded by this election.”

Professor Lyons now joins more than 5,000 other eminent, individual scientists and scholars, who cover a broad range of academic disciplines that include former Nobel Prize laureates, Turing Award recipients and Fields Medal winners.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Environment

Swansea University named one of country’s best green spaces

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The spectacular and diverse grounds of Swansea University’s two campuses have once again been judged among the best green spaces in Wales.

The University is celebrating after being awarded a Green Flag, the international mark of a quality park or green space and recognises excellent visitor facilities, high environmental standards, and a commitment to delivering great quality green space.

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It has also retained its Green Heritage Site Accreditation which it gained for the first time last year. This special award, endorsed by Cadw, recognises sites that are both historically significant and meet Green Flag criteria.

Grounds manager Paul Edwards paid tribute to his teams’ efforts at both University campuses: “We are immensely proud to have retained both the Green Flag and Heritage Award status. Our sites offer very different challenges and rewards and it is through the hard work and dedication of the team that both are to the highest standards for the enjoyment of our students, staff and visitors.

“The grounds team’s in-depth knowledge ensures that the historic nature of the Singleton site and the beachside setting of the Bay Campus will continue to be preserved and enhanced for future generations.”

Swansea University received a Green Flag Award for its two campuses

Swansea University Registrar and Chief Operating Officer Niamh Lamond said: “We are extremely pleased to have retained the Green Flag Award for five consecutive years. This recognises the hard work and commitment of our outstanding grounds’ team in developing and managing our green spaces in a sustainable manner, whilst appreciating the historic and scientific nature of these spaces.

“Our grounds and gardens are important to the wellbeing of our staff, students and local communities and valued immensely by the University.”

This year the University is among 265 green spaces – ranging from formal gardens and parks to allotments and churchyards – across the country have received the prestigious Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award.

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The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. Each site was visited by expert judges who looked at criteria including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement.

Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “Our local green spaces have a vital role to play in connecting us to nature. These awards go to prove that Wales’ parks and similar areas are doing a wonderful job in providing quality places to relax and enjoy.”

Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

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