Students Staff

25 January 2019

Recipients of annual postgraduate history award announced

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 11:20 am

This year’s recipients of the Dr Philip Hills Award have been announced. The three students were awarded £500 each – Sarah Beer, Leanne Campbell and Melanie Taylor. All are Masters’ students within the Department of History.

Sarah Beer, Rachel Hills and Melanie Taylor

Sarah Beer, Rachel Hills and Melanie Taylor

The Award was established by Dr Philip Hills’ wife Rachel, and their sons Thomas and Matthew, to honour his memory and love for Essex, and is presented to postgraduate history student(s) at Masters or PhD level each year.

Mark Frost, Head of the Department of History, said: ‘‘Congratulations to Sarah, Leanne and Mel on winning the Philip Hills Award, and thank you to Rachel and the Hill family for continuing to generously support such interesting and diverse research in memory of a very much-loved and important member of our Department.”

Philip joined Essex as a mature student in 1979, graduating with a BA in History in 1982. He continued to study in the History Department, and completed a PhD in 1989. During and after his studies, he taught nineteenth-century English social history until he left in 1997. He was involved in the Local History Centre, took on a role as an external examiner at the University of East Anglia and taught for Cambridge University Extramural Department.

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Elevenses and Controlled International Microdata

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 11:13 am

The UK Data Service are holding introductory talks about the controlled data now available to you from three international Research Data Centres (RDCs) across Europe:

  • the French Secure Access Data Centre (CASD)
  • the German Research Data Centre (FDZ) of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB)
  • Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The talks are on 29 January, 10.45-12.00am in Room 2N2.4.08 in the Social Science Research Centre off Square 2.

Speakers will be Matthew Woollard and Beate Lichtwardt from the UK Data Service (based here at Essex), Roxane Silberman from CASD, Dana Mueller from the IAB and Ruben Dood from CBS.

The new service is part of the UK Data Service’s involvement in the International Data Access Network (IDAN) project, founded in 2018. The project is a collaboration between six RDCs from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to make it possible for researchers to use controlled access data between these RDCs/countries.

As a member of the IDAN project, the UK Data Service will enable researchers to work remotely on controlled access data using the UK Data Archive Safe Room. This will reduce the need to travel, the associated costs with international research, and helps to address the challenges that researchers currently face when trying to access data from outside the country they are working in.

We look forward to welcoming you to our data talks over a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit.

(And, if you haven’t heard the word before, ‘elevenses’ means a break for light refreshments, usually with tea or coffee, at about 11 o’clock in the morning.)

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18 January 2019

Meet our Sustainability Project Officer

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 1:01 pm

After completing an Electronic Engineering degree at Essex in 2017, Charles Ballardini successfully applied for an internship in our sustainability team, where he’s now been working for over a year. We met him to find out more.

Tell us a bit about your background at Essex.

Charles Ballardini

Charles Ballardini

My undergraduate degree was in Electronic Engineering which included a year abroad in New Zealand. I graduated in July 2017 and immediately began working for a small engineering company based in Ipswich. I had quite a bad experience working for that company. I found it to be very disorganised and frustrating to work with, so I began looking for alternative work. My job hunt led me to CareerHub, where I found this internship advertised. I began working in this role on 1 January 2018 on a three month contract to complete a specific project. It was here that I really found a passion for environmental sustainability. As my work progressed, I received three contract extensions which means I’ve now been here for over a year.

Tell us what your role involves?

My role now spans quite a diverse range of responsibilities. First and foremost, I have been working on a project reviewing the University’s position in the People and Planet university league and actioning any areas that require attention.

How has the role developed sine you first started?

Originally the role involved performing a gap analysis on our position in the league table to determine where we were falling short, this was complemented with a report listing my findings. After this, my role required me to action my findings in the report, ensuring that tasks were completed in an order of priority. Alongside this, I have been tasked with supporting the Sustainability Engagement Officer in improving sustainability engagement amongst staff and students.

What do you think are some of the key skills you have learned and developed while working with the sustainability team?

Throughout my time here, I’ve learnt and developed numerous skills and enhanced my knowledge in all kinds of areas. I’ve become familiar with the internal politics, operations and structure of the University and other similar organisations. I’ve learnt how to maintain professional conduct in an office based environment, and how I interact with people in person and through email. I’ve also grown to appreciate the importance of building good relationships with colleagues. I’ve also learnt a large amount of technical knowledge regarding climate change, waste and recycling, water, energy and carbon saving,  workers’ rights, strategy and policy-making, sustainable food, and management for sustainability.

What have been the highlights while working in this role?

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the changes I have helped to influence throughout my time here, working with a great team and obtaining large swathes of knowledge relating to environmental sustainability.

What advice would you give to other Essex students or graduates, to help them succeed in their internships?

I’d advise people to focus on building good connections with colleagues across the University, regardless of their department. Jump at any opportunity to help others, at some point during your time at Essex you will need the help of others, and the better your relationships the more receptive they will be to your own requests and queries.

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A better, greener printing service is on its way

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:42 am

Printing is set to become easier and more secure as part of our new centrally managed printing services – launching in student areas in February, and staff areas from March.

We’re installing 180 brand new Canon printers for staff and students and introducing follow-me printing at all three of our campuses.

Follow-me printing allows your printing to be held in a queue until you’re ready to pick it up from the printer.  You’ll be able to pick your printing up at any of our printers, either by tapping your staff card on the sensor or by logging in with your username and password – reducing the amount of uncollected printing and ensuring all printing is collected securely.

The new printers will also be able to copy and scan documents so you’ll only need to print something if you really need to – saving paper and reducing our carbon footprint.

Using the new printers, you’ll be able to scan to:

  • Email
  • USB Drive
  • Network drives

We’ll also be centralising the management of all our new printers so that you won’t be responsible for ordering and paying for paper and toner, IT will. They’ll also make sure all the new printers are working smoothly.

We’ll let you know when the new printers will be arriving in your area and make sure you know how to use them.  We’ll also talk to you about any specialist printing requirements and alternative arrangements for people who might find it difficult to get to one of our new printers.

If the installation of a new Canon printer means that you have surplus printers, scanners or copiers we will make arrangements to collect these. Devices that are no longer required can be repurposed or sent for responsible recycling if they can’t be reused.  Toner for these older printers is expensive, so as we get ready to launch the new printing service, please think carefully about ordering new toner for old devices.

The new multi-function devices will significantly reduce the number of printers we need at each of our three campuses, and the savings it brings has already made it possible for us to offer free printing to all of our students.

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15 January 2019

Supporting student success and promoting the value of an Essex degree

Filed under: Latest news — mh17332 @ 3:46 pm

Our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Madeline Eacott reflects on how we’ve revolutionised our support for students and the improvements in student outcomes this has helped us achieve.

We believe in delivering a transformational education which leads to a degree which is really valued by our graduates.Madeline Eacott

We have seen a step change in the way we support students to succeed in their studies over the past five years and we have seen a corresponding improvement in their academic achievements.

In that time we have been carefully monitoring student degree outcomes to ensure we are confident any increase in ‘good degrees’ is due to student achievement above anything else.

Last October our Senate, which safeguards the quality and standards of an Essex degree, reviewed an in-depth report on this exact issue and recognised the huge amount of work which has gone into supporting student success, while maintaining standards.

We’ve revolutionised our approach to supporting students to succeed and have introduced a huge range of measures to drive forward student achievement including:

  • Our spending on facilities and academic services per student has led us to be ranked in the top 5 in the UK for this measure in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide in the last three years.
  • Student satisfaction with ‘Assessment and feedback’ and ‘Learning resources’ as measured by the National Student Survey has seen a long-term improvement.
  • We have a robust system of course approval, monitoring and review in place. We also ask external examiners to comment explicitly on the maintenance of academic standards and consistency with national qualifications frameworks.
  • Our Curriculum Review programme and commitment to developing best practice means we support diverse learning styles, assess students more effectively, have an increased focus on inclusive learning and provide staged preparation for final year projects.

All of this work has been recognised. The Quality Assurance Agency commended Essex for the way we enhance student learning opportunities and the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework Panel rated us Gold and praised us for ensuring “students from all backgrounds achieve outstanding outcomes”.

Our teaching and learning strategy won a Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award in 2017 and was praised by the expert judging panel for having a “demonstrable impact on student learning outcomes”.

And of course the citation from the judges who named us University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards 2018 said  Essex has been “unabashed in its strategy to recruit students on the basis of potential rather than just prior achievement, and it has helped them to fulfil that potential”.

Of course we can do better and we are striving with the Students’ Union to further improve the student experience and continue to help students to succeed and reach their potential.

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11 January 2019

University of Essex Choir open rehearsal

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 1:33 pm

Do you have a passion for singing? Would you like to join one of the most popular choirs in Essex and sing with professional soloists and orchestras including The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra? Why not pop along to the University of Essex Choir open rehearsal?

The University of Essex choir

The University of Essex choir

The University of Essex Choir is inviting anyone with a passion for music and singing to come along to an open rehearsal on Thursday 17 January 2019 at 7pm. You do not need to be able to sight read music but you must have a passion for singing, a willingness to learn and be available on Thursday evenings to rehearse.

The University of Essex Choir will start rehearsing for our concert of Elgar: Dream of Gerontius which will be performed in Snape Maltings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and we would like you to join us.  We will be rehearsing and performing under the baton of Musical Director Richard Cooke at Snape Maltings on 5 May 2019.

Rehearsals are held weekly at The University of Essex (Colchester Campus) from 7pm to 9.30pm. The choir is open to anyone over the age of 13 including members of the public as well as university staff and students.

If you would like to join the University of Essex Choir, please email  or come along to our open rehearsal on Thursday 17 January at 7pm at the University of Essex.

Date: Thursday 17 January at 7pm to 9.30pm.

Rehearsal location: University of Essex, Lecture Theatre Building 7, Colchester Campus.

For more information visit

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In memory of Dr Gordon Ritchie

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:47 am

Dr Gordon Ritchie, who first joined the University as a lecturer in our Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, has passed away.

Gordon was born in Pakistan, but grew up in Scotland.  He originally studied Science at the University of St. Andrews and was awarded a First-Class Honours degree in Electronic Physics in 1964.

After leaving St Andrews, Gordon joined the Marconi Company in Chelmsford, then became a lecturer at Marconi College.

In 1967 Gordon registered for a PhD at Essex, under the supervision of Professor John Turner. He became a lecturer here when he joined the Department of Electrical Engineering Science, which later became our School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, in 1969.

Gordon served as Assistant Proctor from 1974 until 1979, and was responsible for discipline at the University during a period when student unrest at Essex was headlined in the papers.  He went on to become Head of Department from 1983 to 1986, and was Dean of Science and Engineering from 1990 to 1993.

Gordon was a keen Daily Telegraph reader and cryptic crossword aficionado. He used to tell how he stopped one of his class  – in the first lecture of the day – from completing the crossword during his lecture by completing it himself over breakfast, and then putting the solution up on the overhead projector. He was also a committed golf player, and many colleagues may recall his commitment to the University Golf Team.

Gordon delivered excellent lectures in the important area of Transistor Circuit Design and wrote a significant book on the subject – the first of a series of 18 for Chapman and Hall publishers.  The book has run to three editions and is the best seller in the series.

Gordon’s commitment to the University continued for over 30 years until the year 2000, when he retired to York.

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9 January 2019

Meet our technicians – Hannah Adams

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 3:50 pm

Hannah Adams is a Laboratory Technician in our School of Biological Sciences.  We met her to find out more about her work. 

Hannah Adams

Hannah Adams

What does your work involve?

I manage two research laboratories which host six different academic research groups, the research includes cancer biology, antibiotic resistance, metallo-proteins (covering a wide range of biological activities from apoptosis or ‘cell death’ to the production of greenhouse gases in bacteria) and virology. The Crystallography suite is also housed within these labs. This is where we carry out protein crystallography to determine the structure of proteins on a molecular level.

Managing the laboratories includes specialist equipment maintenance,  like our crystallography screening robot, training staff and students to safely use our laboratories, making sure we’ve got all the equipment and consumables we need for people to be able to run, as well as carrying out our own wet-bench research.

OK – we can’t go any further before you tell us more about the crystallography screening robot!

Proteins can be very fussy about what conditions they crystallise under so we have to screen lots of different reagents to find the best one for the protein we are currently working on. The robot is a cool bit of kit which allows us to run almost 100 conditions at once, speeding up the process of screening for crystal ‘hits’ (conditions which make a protein turn into crystals). We basically put all the reagents in and then the robot does all the hard work of mixing the conditions and protein together for us, making the whole process much quicker and easier.

How did you get into your role?

After my MSc I was working for a small company, running their laboratory, and realised that I much preferred working in an academic environment. When this position came up at Essex I applied for it instantly.

What qualifications do you need for your work?

I have a BSc Genetics and MSc Molecular Medicine, both from Essex, and I’m currently doing apart-time PhD alongside my job.

What sort of skills does being a technician require?

Most importantly – patience, good communication skills, a level head and common sense. You have to be able to think on your feet as no one day is the same. Specialist training for the area you are interested in is useful, but a lot of skills can be learnt on the job. A large number of the specialist skills I now have I have learnt since working as a technician.

What advice would you give someone who was interested in becoming a technician? 

If you have good communication skills, are organised and like working with people in a very varied job then being a technician is a good role for you. It can be hard work – technicians are what keep a lot of departments running smoothly, but it is an interesting and rewarding role.

What are you working on at the moment that is particularly interesting?

Copper nitrite reductase protein crystals

Copper nitrite reductase protein crystals

I have been assisting Dr Zwacka’s research group who are looking into cell death pathways and mechanisms in cancer and I also do a lot of work with protein crystallography, primarily in Dr Hough’s group, helping to discover the structure of proteins, which is both scientifically important and also very pretty!

What is your one top tip for people working at the University?

Make the most of the opportunities available at the University, there is so much you can do here both for your career and on a personal level.

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