Published on December 2nd, 2014 | by Anna Ashton


30 days: November in Aberdeen

A round-up of the month’s science news and events. Compiled by Anna Ashton.

Back care


Image from Wikipedia.

A study led by researchers at the University of Aberdeen has found that the shape of an individual’s spine can change how they lift heavy objects comfortably. In contrast to current advice to ‘bend your knees and keep your back straight’ when lifting, the study found that those with curvy spines felt more comfortable when stooping to lift. This research suggests lifting guidelines should be tailored to the individual in order to help prevent occupational back pain. The work won an award for best paper at the annual meeting for the Society of Back Pain Research. [Source]


A team of undergraduates from the University of Aberdeen achieved great success at the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston, winning two trophies and a gold medal. They fought off competition from 260 teams from Universities across the world — including Oxford, Harvard and MIT — to be awarded the Best synthetic biology measurement approach and best team in the Health and Medicine track. They developed new diagnostic methods for African Sleeping Sickness, a disease which is fatal when undiagnosed and is frequently confused with flu. Read all about it in their blog.



Image by e-Magine Art (CC BY 2.0) at Flickr.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have completed the first study of its kind investigating how common addiction to non-prescription medicine is. These are medicines available over-the-counter such as ibuprofen, codeine-containing painkillers and smoking cessation products. A UK-wide survey of the general population found that 2% of respondents had been or were currently addicted to such medicines. Long-term use of these products can lead to serious physical and psychological problems including liver and kidney damage. Volunteers are now being recruited to take part in the next phase of the study, which will investigate what encourages some people to seek help with these addiction issues and others to avoid it. [Source]


The European Commission announced the termination of the role of Chief Scientific Adviser, after a life-span of less than three years. The position was held by Professor Anne Glover, who also holds a Chair in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen. The role was created in 2012 to provide advice to the President on science and technology matters and to ensure correct use of scientific evidence by the Commission. You can read an interview with Anne Glover in our latest issue.



Image by Viktor Rosenfeld (CC BY-SA 2.0) at Flickr.

The quality of air in a smoker’s home is similar to that of a heavily polluted city, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Aberdeen has shown. The study measured the levels of microscopic particles, called PM2.5, in smoking and non-smoking homes. The average PM2.5 concentration detected in the smoking homes was about ten times that in the non-smoking. Furthermore, the levels of air pollution in a substantial number of smokers’ homes were the same or higher than the average PM2.5 levels in Beijing, a heavily polluted city. Exposure to high levels of PM2.5 particles may lead to poor health as they have been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer. This study demonstrates the need for a reduction in second hand smoke exposure in the home. [Source]

Upcoming events in December

All events are free unless otherwise stated.

Obesity – It’s all in the head

Thursday 4th December, 7 – 8pm

Suttie Centre, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill

Professor Lora Heisler, from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, explores the role of the brain in controlling weight gain and how it could be the target of new obesity medications.

CafeMED Special: The Ethics of Clinical Research

Monday 8th December, 6 – 7pm

Suttie Centre, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill

Find out about clinical research and the ethical requirements that govern it.

How to Make the Perfect Burger

Weekends, throughout December

Satrosphere Science Centre

This new show adventures into the world of food science to discover the facts behind making burgers (included in the museum admission price).

King’s Museum Lunchtime Talks

Selected days throughout December, 1pm

King’s Museum, University of Aberdeen

An introduction to the exhibition Victorian Time: Spirit of the Age, which uses themes such as antiquities, communication and industry to explore how the Victorians perceived time.
Contact or 01224 274330 for more info.

We’d love to hear from you!

Do you have exciting news to report or upcoming events we should know about? If so, we’d love to hear from you, email us at

Featured image by Dennis Skley (CC BY-ND 2.0) at Flickr.

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About the Author

is a PhD student in Neuroscience at the University of Aberdeen.

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