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‘Stress in the Workplace: A Handbook for Practitioners'

stressintheworkplacecoverStress in the Workplace: A Handbook for Practitioners' is a new book by Dr Vincent Cassar and Prof. Mark G. Borg. It is directed at occupational heath and safety practitioners, persons actively engaged in HR, members of the Management team that firmly believe that efficiency and productivity are directly related to a healthy workforce, and to workers who want to understand better the phenomenon that is work stress. The handbook seeks to help the reader navigate through the nature, dynamics of work stress and its impact on the worker and the work environment. 

Ultimately its goal is to equip practitioners:
  • with the knowledge to be able to identify stress and its effects,
  • to become instrumental in the prevention of occupational stress, and
  • to offer the necessary support to those workers overwhelmed by this foremost endemic problem of the modern workplace.
‘Stress in the Workplace: A Handbook for Practitioners' is supported and sponsored by Elmo Insurance.

Dr Vincent Cassar is a member of the Department of Management (Faculty of Economics, Management and Administration). Professor Mark G. Borg is in the Department of Education Studies of the Faculty of Education. Both have researched and published on various aspects of occupational stress.

 

02 March 2015



The Building Blocks of the Future Defy Logic

A new logic-defying mathematical model could lead to materials for better skin grafts and new smart materials 

Cassi Camilleri  

Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at separate ends; it becomes thinner. So does a rubber band. One might assume that when a force is applied along an axis, materials will always stretch and become thinner. Wrong. Thanks to their peculiar internal geometry, auxetic materials grow wider when stretched. After confounding scientists for decades, University of Malta researchers are now developing mathematical models to explain the unusual behaviour of these logic-defying materials, unlocking a plethora of applications that could change the way we envision the future forever.

Auxetic materials have the amazing property of a negative Poisson’s ratio, becoming fatter when stretched. This comes from its structure which in the Malta-developed model is represented by a series of connected squares, technically called rigid, rotating subunits. When the subunits turn relative to one another, the material’s density lowers but its thickness increases.  

Auxetics caused such colossal confusion among researchers that it went ignored for years. It was only in the 1980s that auxetics were picked up again as practical application resurfaced. Recent advances are unlocking this material’s potential.  

In a paper published last week in Nature Publishing Group’s journal Scientific Reports, mechanicalauxeticbehaviourmodel metamaterials, chemistry professor Joseph N Grima, together with his team at the University of Malta, have presented a mathematical model of auxetic behaviour using hierarchical rotating unit systems. 

These systems take advantage of the enhanced properties provided by a negative Poisson’s ratio but also use a hierarchical system whereby the complex structures are created from the simpler units, thus creating a hierarchical auxetic metamaterials that are more versatile in terms of their mechanical properties, with experts being able to control and alter them.  

Emeritus Professor Anselm C Griffin (Georgia Institute of Technology, US), notes how Grima’s work “represents a huge step forward in the conceptualization and design of a new class of metamaterials.” “With the realistic prospect of tailorable auxetic mechanical properties as described in this paper, the potential for applications of these new metamaterial structures particularly in biomedicine and catalysis is quite exciting," he added. 

Materials Chemistry Professor at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, Andrew Goodwin, notes its “exciting [applications], how fractal-like assemblies of simple [shapes] might find application in smart medical stents and ultralight responsive supports.” In principle, he said, the ideas Grima and his team are working on could also be applied to atomic-scale assemblies as they do in life-size structures. Chemists and engineers will be working closer together to develop the smart materials of the future, he added. 

For Grima and his team, this innovative approach has one main application: healthcare, and more specifically skin grafts. This procedure involves the removal of a patient’s undamaged skin and using it to treat another severely damaged area, as in the case of burns. “Current methods don’t allow for the skin to be used as optimally as possible, which is not ideal when larger skin sections are needed. Our work potentially could reduce the amount of good skin needed to treat the injured area,” remarks Grima.  

The mathematical model is a solid foundation, but the real world material could always vary. To test that out, the team is 3D printing the designs. Grima said that they are already “managing to approach the ideal systems in a very cost-effective manner.” 

Despite the present success and the great potential it has unlocked for the future, the journey ahead for Grima and his team remains a long one. The next step is to further develop the auxetic structures then manufacture the materials industrially. “We see a future where real-life applications of auxetics will be rife”, states Grima.  

While these materials seem illogical, their path into the mainstream seems fairly straightforward. The ultimate aim? To improve people’s lives. Logically. 

The academic article can be found here

This work has been funded through the Malta Council for Science and Technology through the R&I-2011-024 Project (Smart Stents) and R&I-2012-061 (SMESH). The authors would like to thanks the University of Malta and the partners involved in these projects, Halmann Vella Group, Tek-Moulds Precision Engineering Limited and Mater Dei Hospital.

 

26 February 2015



Adult Education and Training in Europe: Widening Access to Learning Opportunities

Eurydice Report published by the European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2015)

Contributors for Malta: Maria Brown​ and Louise Gafà
(o.b.o. Eurydice Unit - Research and Development Department - Ministry for Education and Employment)

This Eurydice report aims to provide insight into the field of adult education and training in Europe and support decision-making at policy level. While promoting an integrated approach to lifelong learning, the report emphasises policies and measures to ensure sufficient access to learning opportunities for adults whose skills and qualifications do not fully correspond to current labour market and societal requirements.

Adults without upper secondary education represent around 60% in Malta and Portugal, and almost 70% in Turkey. Belgium, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Iceland are also characterised by a relatively high proportion of the adult population that has not completed lower secondary education (between 10% and 20%). Malta's National Literacy Strategy for all in Malta and Gozo 2014-2019 includes explicit references to the adult population; although Malta has not yet taken part in any international survey of adult skills (PIAAC).

In Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and Iceland upper secondary education (general or vocational) leading to mainstream qualifications can be delivered under various flexible arrangements, including part-time evening courses. These are open to all learners who are no longer subject to compulsory full-time education. As in the majority of European countries, in Malta, the development of validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNIL) was limited in 2010, which either could mean that the overall take-up of VNIL remained low.

The full report is available here

Dr Maria Brown is a Visiting Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Faculty for Social Well-being, University of Malta.

 

 

24 February 2015



Questionnaire: Erasmus Academic Network Project OI NET

The Edward de Bono Institute at the University of Malta is a partner in an Erasmus Academic Network Project OI NET. The project aims to create a University course on Open Innovation which is in line with the needs of industry.

In this regard, it would be appreciated if all those involved in local organisations could complete a survey. 

It would take approximately between 5 to 15 minutes to complete the survey depending on your organisation's involvement in Open Innovation.

Click here to access the online questionnaire.

 

13 February 2015



Europe's World

Europe’s World is the only independent Europe-wide policy journal, produced in association with some 100-plus leading European think tanks and academic institutions. Since its launch in 2005 it has become the premier ideas platform for new thinking on political, economic and social issues, read by over 100,000 of the most influential decision makers and opinion formers across Europe.

Published every 4 months, Europe’s World’s objective is to stimulate the much needed debate over topical policy issues by encouraging citizens and stakeholders within civil society, media, academia, business and government, to engage in a series of genuine and informed political debates which reach beyond the Brussels village.

To date over 300 authors, including Heads of State, corporate chiefs, top academics, leading NGO activists or policymakers, have contributed articles, firmly cementing Europe’s World’s reputation as a platform for new thinking and ground-breaking ideas.

Europe’s World’s newly extended website, EuropesWorld.org, is designed to further promote debate on the policy challenges facing Europe. It spans articles and reactions to articles published in Europe’s World, but is not limited to the journal since it also features studies and reports from think tanks throughout Europe.

Its aim is to give readers direct access to the latest in policy thinking across the EU, and encourage visitors to submit their own reports and comment on any of the contributions featured on the website. 

 

06 November 2009



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