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Department of Public Policy Delegation in Meeting with the President

On Wednesday 17 December, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca welcomed a delegation of academics and students from the Department of Public Policy. In a cordial meeting, a discussion was held on three main themes; (1) Public Sector Management; (2) the role of he Presidency; and (3) Constitutional reform.

The President augured more collaboration with the Department in areas of research and work placements for students. Staff and students at the Department thanked her for the warm welcome and extended their best wishes.

The delegation was led by the Head of Department, Dr George Vital Zammt, and Mr Robert Micallef, Resident Academic. 

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23 December 2014



Students successfully completing their Foundation Year at the University of Malta

A total of thirty one students were presented with certificates marking their successful completion of a Foundation year at the University of Malta. The students, hailing from Kuwait, Oman, Libya, Russia, Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Tunisia, Ukraine and Albania followed a year of study that allowed them to obtain the requirements set for students to pursue Degree programmes at the University of Malta. These students are now engaged in furthering their studies at Undergraduate level in a variety of disciplines. The certificate presentation ceremony included speeches by the Director of the Board of Studies of the Foundation Programme, Professor Charles Sammut and two graduating students - Mr Glebb Eliseev from Russia who is now reading for a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communication Technology and Mr Nesef Al Nesef from Kuwait who is now registered for the first year in Medicine and Surgery. 

The University of Malta presently hosts 795 full time international students from 83 different countries. International students are engaged at foundation, undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level. They are joined by 472 exchange students from universities in Europe, the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Japan who will follow a semester or full year of study at the University of Malta. These students will transfer the credits earned in Malta to their full degree programme back home. 

A total of 69 students are following the Foundation Programme this year in preparation to join Degree Programmes for the next undergraduate intake in October 2015. This represents an increase of more than 50% over last year’s student cohort. 

 

22 December 2014



Junior College Students Take Part in Hour of Code Campaign

A group of Junior College students attended the 'Hour of Code' event hosted by the Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) in Luqa. This event was held worldwide and aimed at inspiring anyone, not just students, to experience coding, demystify computer science and show that anybody can learn the basics of programming. 

As the name implied, the activity took approximately an hour, and even though the participants had already experienced programming as part of their studies, they were presented with a new programming environment. The organisers were impressed at how the college students immediately got to grips with this new programming environment, and the students commented that they had a lot of fun with this new experience.

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Junior College students accompanied by Mr Riccardo Flask

 

19 December 2014



Prof. Masayuki Tanimoto Talks on Free-viewpoint Television

Professor Masayuki Tanimoto from Nagoya University, Japan, delivered a talk on Free-viewpoint Television on the 12th December at the University of Malta’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology. Free-viewpoint Television is a technology that allows users to view a 3-dimensional scene by freely changing the angle and position of view.

Prof. Tanimoto has been very active in this research area and during the talk he explained the principles behind Free-viewpoint Television and processing techniques applied by his team to improve the viewing experience and allow for better reconstruction of the 3D scene. He discussed different interfaces and showed prototypes of such systems made at Nagoya University, including a 360 degree view cylindrical display where the user can view the 3D display from any angle round the cylinder. Prof. Tanimoto informed the audience on the work done in the standardisation of the technology by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) with the next call for proposals expected for early 2016.

According to Prof. Tanimoto, the technology will be in place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The talk was organised by Prof. Ing. Carl James Debono, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology.


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18 December 2014



Research Projects Presented at the University of Malta Biology Symposium 2014

Over 150 students, professionals and researchers attended the University of Malta, Department of Biology’s 2014 Biology Symposium. The Hon. Mr Leo Brincat, Minster for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, Prof. Richard Muscat, Pro-Rector for Research and Innovation, Prof. Charles Sammut, Dean of the Faculty of Science, and Dr Joseph A. Borg, Head of the Department of Biology, contributed to the opening session. Dr Brincat acknowledged the significant contributions of the Department of Biology to biological research and its efforts to expand on the number and variety of courses offered to university students and the general public. He emphasised that courses in biology and biological research are crucial, given the need for suitably qualified professionals to work in the environmental sector, and to use knowledge gained from the latest research to strengthen Malta’s capacity for implementing environmental objectives. 

As in previous editions of the symposium, the annual event served to showcase undergraduate (B.Sc.) and postgraduate (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) research projects undertaken at the Department. The research projects concluded in 2014 feature topics in aquaculture, botany, conservation biology, genetics, marine and terrestrial ecology, marine pollution, microbiology, and effects of plant extracts on biological systems, amongst others.

Projects on botany featured the influence of the shape and depth of freshwater rockpools on the associated aquatic plants, effects of sediment burial and water salinity on germination of wetland plants, variation in the morphology of local species of Sea Lavender Limonium spp., and production of a checklist of the vascular flora of the Maltese Islands.

Within the area of marine pollution, one project focused on the quality of sediments in the Grand Harbour, while two projects on mariculture concerned using sea cucumbers in integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, and the influence of stocking density and feed regime on cultured sea bream. Projects on marine biology concerned an in-depth (PhD) study on the ecology of cobble bed habitat, an assessment of changes to local coastal fish fauna, development of a computerised guide for identifying shore and shallow water algae, and assessment of the distribution and abundance of rocky shore molluscs in the Maltese Islands.

Two projects concerned use of plant extracts on germs and cancer cells; more specifically, one concerned an investigation of the influence of essential oils on bacteria, and the other assessed use of extract from grapevine waste to combat cancer cells. 

Projects on genetics and molecular biology featured an investigation on X-Chromosomal Short Tandem Repeats (STR) in the Maltese population, and development and validation of a molecular method for detecting and typing Legionella.

Within the areas of conservation biology and conservation genetics, a detailed (PhD) study focused on the Bluntnose Sixgill Shark Hexanchus giseus, implications of foraging habitat used by local bat populations for conservation, and phylogenetics of wrasse species. 

Abstracts of the 18 projects have been published in a booklet edited by Mr David Dandria, with a foreword by the Head of the Department of Biology, Dr Joseph A. Borg. Copies of the booklet may be purchased from the Department of Biology (Tel: +356 23402272). As in previous years, the 2014 Biology Symposium was partly sponsored by the Environment Protection Directorate of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Several of the research projects were funded by the University’s Research Fund.

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The Hon. Minister Mr Leo Brincat making his address during the opening session of the Biology Symposium (Photo: Owen Attard). From left to right: Dr Joseph A Borg (Head, Department of Biology, Hon Minister Mr Leo Brincat, Prof Richard Muscat (Pro-Rector for Research and Innovation) and Prof Charles Sammut (Dean, Faculty of Science).

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Participants at the Biology Symposium 2014 (Photo: Sandro Lanfranco).



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Inflorescence of an endemic species of Sea Lavender Limonium sp.  from Ghallis, Malta (Photo: Dieter Galea).

 

16 December 2014



Schools for the Future: Fostering Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Education

A delegation of school principals from different States in India recently attended a short course at the University of Malta entitled Schools for the Future: Fostering Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Education. This interactive training programme, which was prepared and delivered by The Edward de Bono Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking, focused on the importance of developing an entrepreneurial mindset through a cross-curricular approach, and included workshops on how to develop a school culture for enhancing creativity, how to be an effective creative leader, and how to apply foresight techniques to design schools that foster creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of the training programme, the delegation visited St Paul’s Missionary College, St Nicholas College, and San Anton School, where they observed lessons on creative thinking and entrepreneurship, learned about the local education system, and discussed projects and initiatives undertaken by these institutions to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship through education in Malta.  

The delegates were awarded a participation certificate by the Rector of the University of Malta, Professor Juanito Camilleri, during a closing ceremony at the Valletta Campus on 10th November.  During their free time, the delegates attended sightseeing and cultural activities including a day tour of Valletta, sponsored by the Malta Tourism Authority. This delegation’s visit to Malta was organised by the University’s International and EU Office with the support of the High Commission of Malta in New Delhi, and was a result of the close ties that have been built in recent years between the University of Malta and various educational institutions in India. Discussions are now being held to explore further collaborative projects, including follow-up workshops by The Edward de Bono Institute for teachers in India.


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The Indian school principals during one of their workshops at The Edward de Bono Institute

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The Indian school principals after their presentation ceremony at the Valletta Campus

 

15 December 2014



Department of Chemistry Strengthens its Facilities for Physical, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry

UoM                                                       ERDF

The University of Malta’s Department of Chemistry has augmented its line-up of research instrumentation for its research programmes in Physical, Inorganic and Organic Chemistry.

Research capacity in the field of physical chemistry was strengthened through the procurement of a Dynamic Light Scattering instrument, with the ability to measure particle sizes in the submicron range of 1 to 100 nanometres, as well as characterising the surface charge of these particles. The acquisition will further enhance the Department’s research and portfolio of publications in the area of nanoscience, boosting current activities in process development of nanosynthetic pathways, supramolecular chemistry, self-assembly, bionanoscience of protein and surfactant solutions, and nanopharmaceutical drug delivery systems. 

Another purchase is a High Resolution Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometer. This instrument will enable the Department of Chemistry to engage in elemental analysis research in the field of lanthanide chemistry and research in environmental chemistry, as well as collaborative work with other departments in the areas of surface coatings, materials and metallurgy, pharmacology, biochemistry, dentistry and stone and many more.

The largest investment has been in the purchase of a new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) facility. The new instrument is equipped with a 500 MHz supermagnet and multi-element probe. The new facility will not only enhance the Department’s organic and inorganic chemistry research programmes but can also be used in physical chemistry and natural products research.

This project is aimed at enhancing the research infrastructure of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Malta. Through this project, the Department will be able to train more undergraduate and postgraduate researchers in Science and Technology with modern instrumentation and thus providing well-trained graduates for the local chemical, pharmaceutical and biochemical industry.

The acquisitions were made possible through funding from the European Regional Development Funds under the grant ERDF309: Strengthening of the Organic, Inorganic and Physical Chemistry Facilities. The budget of the grant totalled €726,285.00.

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12 December 2014



Where was St Paul Shipwrecked?

The story goes that while St Paul was on his way to Rome to face charges he was shipwrecked off Malta at St Paul’s Islands in St Paul’s Bay. The truth is that no hard evidence backs the account. Recent research and archaeological findings narrow it down to two bays: one in the South and another in the North of Malta, as told in the latest issue of Think magazine.

Another article talks about the science behind Maltese wine, the project ViEnergy (Italia-Malta ERDF Programme [2007–2013]) is seeing Maltese researchers, ranging from engineers to food scientists, working with Italian oenologists and energy experts. 

Some creative solutions are turning wine and its waste into algae, pharmaceutical products and electricity—apart from making that glass of wine taste better and giving Maltese wine its identity.

Malta is also close to Earthquake prone areas, exhibit A: Etna, exhibit B: the Hellenic Arc under Greece. Seismologists write about the dangers to local buildings and what should be done to keep damage minimal.

Erosion is another danger to local buildings. Researchers are coming up with new materials to restore stone, keep it together, and prevent further deterioration.

On a more light-hearted note, researchers are studying Star Trek while others are reinventing how we tell stories with Transmedia storytelling—a technique that still needs to gather ground locally.

University students are writing about the gender stereotypes that culture creates artificially, while other students are researching how marine pollution spreads around Malta’s sea, how to control TV sets with hand gestures, and how to make better hip implants.

Alumni are talking about how to succeed by failing, and about their research to understand Alzheimer’s disease using fruit flies. 

This issue also stuffs in a list of the must have gadgets for Christmas 2014, film, game, and book reviews, and a comic—Think everything.

Think, the University of Malta’s magazine, may be picked up for free in newsagents around Malta and Gozo and in Agenda bookstores, it is now available online at www.um.edu.mt/think, available on Issuu, followed on Twitter @ThinkUoM liked on Facebook

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12 December 2014



University Staff Contribution Scheme for Research Projects Launched

Research is one of the key priorities of the University of Malta. The University has augmented its drive to attract funds and strengthen investment in high-calibre research and development through its independent body, the Research, Innovation and Development Trust (RIDT). 

A new Staff Contribution Scheme for the University of Malta and Junior College staff members is being launched by the RIDT coming into effect from January 2015. Staff members are encouraged, on a voluntary basis, to make a regular donation of a small amount of money which will be automatically deducted before tax from their salaries. The monthly donations will go towards more research studies across all faculties and departments.
 
The new Staff Contribution scheme is being endorsed by three unions that represent the majority of the employees of the University and Junior College. The UMASA (University of Malta Academic Staff Association), MUT and UHM have all shown support for this new scheme and will be encouraging their members to participate.  The UMASA is being the first to strengthen its endorsement of the scheme by donating €1,000 to RIDT.

The University is committed to remain at the forefront of research, be it fundamental exploratory studies or result-driven, applied research, so that development and innovation will continue. Research, however, costs money. 

“Our University is becoming an important centre for world-class research projects, across a wide range of disciplines, such as scientific, medical, as well as in humanities and arts. The University also collaborates with other international universities, educational centres and institutes in a number of significant research projects,” said RIDT’s CEO Wilfred Kenely.  

“We are beginning to experience support from various sectors of society, but the university consistently needs funds. We are now asking our colleagues, members of our staff, to proudly form part of this contribution scheme to help sustain this noble cause,” said Mr Kenely. 

Over the past two years the University of Malta through RIDT has received substantial contributions from NGOs, such as ALIVE Charity Foundation, LifeCycle Malta, Action for Breast Cancer Foundation, Europe Donna, as well as from corporate companies, such as The Alfred Mizzi Foundation, Malta Freeport Terminal, Evolve Limited, FIMBank, Bit8 and others.

The form for the University Staff Contribution Scheme can be downloaded from RIDT website or from here [PDF].

 

12 December 2014



ALIVE Charity Foundation Donates Record Sum for Breast Cancer Research

ALIVE Charity Foundation donated €80,000 to the Research Trust of the University of Malta (RIDT) to further the University of Malta specialised programme in breast cancer research. The generous sum was collected by ALIVE cyclists who bravely ventured into the Malta Airport – ALIVE2014 Cycling Challenge for Cancer – a gruelling marathon covering almost 1,100 km in seven days across five countries from Prague to Belgrade.


ALIVE Charity Foundation Chairperson Nicky Camilleri, on behalf of ALIVE committee members, main sponsor Malta International Airport, all supporting sponsors, participants and friends, presented the donation to University of Malta Rector and RIDT Chairperson Professor Juanito Camilleri, in the presence of Action for Breast Cancer Foundation committee member Betty Lee, Europa Donna – Malta President Gertrude Abela and Malta International Airport CEO Markus Klaushofer.

Mr Nicky Camilleri said: “ALIVE2014 was another successful event during which 45 cyclists raised funds for breast cancer research in Malta. For two consecutive years, we have worked closely with two organisations: Action for Breast Cancer Foundation and Europe Donna, and through ALIVE2013 University graduate Shawn Baldacchino was awarded a 3-year scholarship in PhD in breast cancer research. In the coming weeks, more scholarships will be awarded in this field, thanks to the funds raised this year.”

The money will benefit mainly a second PhD science student in breast cancer research under the tutorship of Professor Christian Scerri and Dr Godfrey Grech at the University of Malta and in collaboration with Mater Dei Hospital. 

ALIVE2015 will be launched soon. Following discussions with the University’s Research Trust, ALIVE Charity Foundation will be taking the task of raising funds for the gold ribbon, which is the official ribbon of children with cancer. ALIVE’s new slogan for the forthcoming challenge is ‘Closer to our Hearts’, will sustain their new cause towards the urgent need of scientific research in children’s cancers which can have different characteristics than those seen in adults. 

On receiving the donation, Professor Camilleri said: “Investing in research is a long-term mission. With this money, the University is able to sustain further crucial scientific research in breast cancer. We depend on the generosity of the Maltese community and it is encouraging to note that the University Research Trust is now being recognised as a good cause that deserves support.”

Malta International Airport’s Chief Executive Officer Markus Klaushofer said: “We would like to congratulate the ALIVE organisational team and participants for yet another successful challenge and for the fantastic result they have achieved. On a personal level, it was a real thrill to join the cyclists for one of the rides from Vienna, and really experience the challenge first hand, with my Maltese friends in my home town. We encourage ALIVE to continue to build on these initiatives which drive awareness and stimulate scientific research in the field, which will meaningfully impact the quality of life of cancer patients.”

The ALIVE2014 Cycling Challenge was sponsored by Malta International Airport and supported by Sky Spirits Fitness Lounge, Impressions Print, Signs and Displays, Go & Fun, Debenhams, Gollcher Group, Pizza Petrus, Garmin, Express Group and KPMG amongst others. 

 

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The cheque of €80,000 being presented at a ceremony in the presence of ALIVE committee members, officials of Malta International Airport, Action for Breast Cancer Foundation, Europa Donna, and RIDT. 

 

10 December 2014



 

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