Research Activity

Our staff are pioneers in each of their chosen fields, conducting research that pushes each of their industries forward. This research and the new discoveries that comes with it is incorporated into everything they teach here at UCSD meaning students learn from recent discoveries from the minds behind the research as well as also take part in this research alongside their tutors.

Below are some of the different ongoing projects and the staff that are exploring their area of expertise even further:

Psychology in education – Issy Hallam / Alison Milner

Higher education offers students the opportunity to change their career and develop a range of transferable skills to enhance their futures. However, nationally 7.5% of students leave their university course before they graduate, impacting on their well-being and long-term career prospects. My research explores the psychological factors that enable students to persist with their courses even when things are tough at home and in their studies. I am also applying this research to improve the way University Centre South Devon supports students to develop their persistence enabling them to complete their studies and fulfil their university dreams.

At UCSD there are many areas of research interest, one member of the staff team has been exploring academic identity.

The evolving nature of education is currently in flux with changes in the delivery of Higher Education in Colleges in the UK.   For staff teaching in Higher Education the changes are also evident in the roles, responsibilities and activities linked to their identity.  Alison has recently presented at several conferences about her research discussing the shift in academic identity for staff teaching in college Higher Education.  The results are proving to be insightful in gaining an understanding about the role teaching staff in UK Higher Education.

Biomedical Science – Kenneth Armstrong

An area of research amongst Biosciences students at UCSD is Salivary peroxidase in oral health, Ken Armstrong is currently the module leader for level 4 Biochemistry and Level 5 Research Project as well as collaborating with Exeter University Medical School as an honorary research fellow.

The body’s ability to protect itself from bacteria in the mouth is linked to the level of salivary peroxidase activity. The team, including current and past Biosciences students, have found that levels of salivary peroxidase vary throughout the day and are currently investigating the impact that specialist oral hygiene products have on these levels.

Marine Biology – Andrea Gaion

One of the research areas studied here at UCSD is shark conservation, and one member of staff is the principal investigator of the UK Blue Shark project.

The healthiness of the North Atlantic blue shark population is threatened by overfishing and pollutants, so the project is aimed to understand more the condition of such population and provide new strategies for shark conservation.

To achieve this important result, Andrea is spending many hours at sea in close contact with these beautiful animals, with the hope of contributing to the protection of marine wildlife. In addition to this, Andrea is actively involved in different research projects aimed to study the impact of contaminants and climate change on marine wildlife; he will present results from 2 of these projects at an international conference organised by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, in Dublin.

Education – David Stephens

I am currently researching the relationship between political ideologies and education for my dissertation (MA Education). More specifically, I am looking at how the political ideology of neoliberalism has shaped the public-private partnership and has led to a general marketisation and commodification of education in certain spheres. Moreover, I am investigating how this prevalent ideology impacts upon practitioners, their roles, and whether or not it creates any additional pressure in the workplace.

Outdoor Adventure Education – Katy Joy

The importance of HE study is widely reported, but in the field of Outdoor and Adventure Education (OAE) it has had very little attention. Why do HE programmes in this field exist? My research sets out to examine the influence that OAE HE study can have on practitioners in the industry.

Marine Technologies – Matt Prowse

The FdSc Marine Technologie students have been researching and designing Marine Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) for the use in collecting litter that has made its way into the ocean. The proposed design will enable a drone to navigate its way around local inland waterways particularly harbours to remove waste from the surface of the water. The technology is new in the sense of applying control systems to marine vessels to self-navigate and be able to defect rogue litter. The system has also been successfully entered into a national university competition that uses automation in marine vessels to solve the marine waste problem.

The technology is also being utilised alongside my PhD in autonomous fishing vessels that will use MASS to solve the sustainability and recruitment issues currently facing the fishing industry. It is anticipated that a working model will be operational this time next year to demonstrate the benefits of robot technology in marine occupations.

Early Years Education – Jo Button

A Risky Little Game?

Within Early Years Education outdoor play in the natural world encourages curiosity, challenge, magic and adventure. Children’s feelings of fear, exhilaration and fun are associated with ‘risky play’ activities.  This type of play is often seen at Forest School, when tree climbing, lighting fires, and whittling.  I love to inspect the benefits of this kind of play, however within a ‘risk-averse’ society, there are often barriers from teachers, parents or practitioners.  Looking at the perspectives and views that we all hold about what is ‘too risky’, can inform practice to ensure consistency across staff, and a clear message to parents and children about the culture and ethos of a setting’s views on the value of play.

Cyber Security – Nirosha Holton

Motivating security engagement and compliance. Cyber security is a topic that is widely discussed, but not understood well.   We understand that cyber security is an essential issue but, we have poor security habits.  Organisations spend increasingly more on cyber security and yet, number of security breaches are rising in all sectors.   Most of these breaches are attributed to human error and therefore, users are often called the ‘weakest link’ in the security chain. 

 It is also proven that punishing users for not implementing security measures don’t work.   Therefore, my aim is to understand what motivates people to do something, and then to use those techniques to motivate cyber security compliance, making the “weakest link much stronger.”

Art – hypnotic repetition – Pawel Szymanski

This piece questions the concept of waiting and entrapment in the vacuum of life. It portrays a Burmese captain. His monotonous and repetitive job is to operate a long boat ferry between Ranong in Thailand and Kawthaung in Mayanmar. He spends his days killing time, while chain smoking and occupying himself with his mobile phone. He is withdrawn, totally oblivious to the outstanding beauty of the area and people around him. To maximise space for the passengers, he hides himself under a colourful umbrella and crouches on the front of the deck. His continuous exposure to the aggressive and scorching sun has resulted in the development of a massive tumour on his exposed ankle. Despite this, he remains suspended in the hypnotic repetition of daily routines.

Through my projects I feel that I discover my inner fears, longings and re-evaluate my uncertainties. My work seems to be an attempt to explore and question by metaphorical presentation my response to the hidden truths of the world. The essence of the value in these works is in their inherent meaning and an atmosphere, which manifests itself in the dusk of the space portrayed, thus the light may appear, where the hue of colour fulfils clarity and sounds with harmonious melody.

Psychology – Samantha Smith

Every educator wants to ensure their students achieve their full potential.   Sam Smith is researching how to enable this by improving the ‘classroom climate’ through supporting students to develop tolerance and reduce prejudice and conflict. Key areas of concern are developing classroom-based interventions to reduce some of the unconscious psychological biases we all hold; investigating how students respond to peer disclosures when discussing sensitive issues and how co-operative learning can be used to reduce peer prejudice.