The 2017 Review of the Year
Ground-breaking research, the wonderful achievements of our students and the difference we make to our local and wider communities: 2017 at The University of Manchester has been another astonishing year.
January: Tied in knots, cancer findings and polar pursuits
January is cold in Manchester, but scientists began planning an expedition to somewhere even chillier as they announced a mission to discover the lost meteorites of Antarctica. Back in the lab scientists tied the tightest knot ever achieved. Why? Well it’s all about creating the next generation of advanced materials. This research even achieved a Guinness World Record in December. In the health field we also made new advances in leukaemia and breast cancer.
February: Feeling international, ageing well and boldly going…
There were double celebrations on the world stage as Manchester was ranked not only one of the world’s top international universities, but also one of the world’s best international student cities. Manchester isn’t only aiming to be good for students though, as one of our researchers launched a landmark report on making it an age-friendly city region. Meanwhile the next generation of robots is under development at the University – going to those nuclear sites where humans can’t.
March: Getting graphic, changing communities and student dementia clinic wins award
In March we celebrated ten years of the Equity and Merit Scholarship – that’s more than 200 exceptional students from developing countries who receive help to complete postgraduate degrees that they can’t do at home. After ten years we produced a special film to catch up with some of their stories.
There was another great result in March as a legal advice centre for people with dementia and their carers - which is run by students - picked up a prestigious award. We also got graphic as a new novel which explains biofuels was released for businesses and schools. And there was just time to squeeze in another league table success – we were in the elite categories in each of the five subject areas in the QS World University Rankings.
April: Important research continues, but in the shadow of a major fire
In April we revealed the huge contribution that carers of the terminally ill make, Professor Hilary Pilkington’s book on the English Defence League won a major BBC prize, we appointed Sir Howard Bernstein as a visiting professor and there was potentially huge news that a graphene ‘sieve’ can turn seawater into drinking water.
However, on 26 April there was a major fire at the Paterson Building which houses many of the University’s cancer researchers. Though no one was hurt, there was extensive damage to the building which rendered it unusable. Despite this disruption and thanks to our partners around the city, all of the researchers are now being housed elsewhere in facilities where they can continue their world-class science.
May: Looking to the stars
Our progress in addressing cancer continued as we welcomed world-leading clinician-scientist, Professor Rob Bristow to be the new Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre.
We also looked to future and the stars, as we started construction on the headquarters for the world’s largest radio telescope and found a new black hole. Our students got into the space theme too as they began creating the world’s first spaceplane.
May: The Manchester Arena bombing
On 22 May, 23 people were killed and more than 500 injured in a terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena. This was a traumatic event for our city and personally for many of our staff and students. Diversity Officer at the Students’ Union, Ilyas Nagdee, who grew up in Manchester, summed up the feelings of many in our community when he wrote for Huck.
June: Purple waves, Greenland sharks and lollies from the sky
Almost 2,500 staff, students and alumni took to the streets as part of a Purple Wave at the Manchester Great Manchester Run in a show of defiance and to raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity.
Elsewhere, one of our scientists returned from the far north, where she’d been studying the mysterious Greenland shark. International experts in renewable energy headed to Manchester and, just in time for summer, we discovered clouds filled with ice lollies. Sorting the hot air from the cold facts were our politics experts who were all over the news as the country went to the polls in the General Election.
July: Running, flying and graduating
July is a time to celebrate the achievements of the thousands of students who graduate from the University. Among them are some very special stories indeed - like that of Richards Stephens who overcame a stammer to become a speech therapist. We also recognised the achievements of two men who, with the help of our employment service the Works, had gone from being homeless to having jobs at the University.
The discoveries didn’t stop for summer as we found new ways of improving survival rates for lung cancer and discovered a new material that could pave the way for hypersonic air travel. There was also a global phenomenon as we revealed T Rex couldn’t run.
August: North and south, lost and found
Startling findings from our researchers revealed that the health divide between young southern and northern people is bigger than ever, while Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party Conference speech included our research that showed having a bad job is worse for your health than no job at all.
And it’s amazing what you can find down the back of cupboards. Take Professor Jim Miles in our School of Mathematics, who found a lost and unique collection of letters and correspondence from the late Alan Turing.
September: Legal eagles, tiny robots and happy birthday NHS!
Our Chancellor Lemn Sissay launched a new scholarship designed to help young black men become lawyers. There was also success for one of our former scholarship students as he became the youngest government minister in the history of Rwanda. The University moved up to 33rd in the world in a league table of graduate employability.
Elsewhere we revealed new robots – a millionth of a millimetre in size - that are capable of building molecules, and a new device capable of detecting fake alcohol. And we also started planning a new research project which is set to tell the story of 70 years of the National Health Service.
October: Whales and dolphins, and a world heritage nomination
Jodrell Bank Observatory was put forward as the UK’s nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The iconic observatory has just turned 60 and is aiming to join the ranks of landmarks such as Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal. One of our other cultural institutions announced the appointment of Alistair Hudson as its new director.
The achievements of whales and dolphins made headlines around the world as we revealed their complex societies. One of our students was honoured by the Prime Minister for his charitable work and there was also an award for our contribution to Manchester sport.
November: Ruining whisky, coming out of retirement and literary city
Manchester was named a UNESCO City of Literature in November with the University part of the committee that put the successful bid in. We also authored a report into the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
It was also the month where we remembered the members of the University community who died in World War One and the legacy left by Nobel Prize winner, Ernest Rutherford. We also used graphene to filter the colour out of whisky and revealed that one in four retirees return to work.
December: A jobs landmark, China and building begins
In December, our employment agency, The Works celebrated placing its 4,000th person in a job. We began construction of the Manchester hub of the Sir Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials, while we announced a £5m gift that will help us establish a new Manchester China Institute.
One of our students was an international prize winner, while others helped fund life-saving research. We also revealed that women’s football has a long way to go for equality, that plastic could be made out of uranium, shoes out of graphene, and we discovered a major cause of dementia.
That was just a small sample of 2017’s biggest news, so give us a follow on Twitter @UoMNews for the full picture of what is sure to be another great 12 months of discovery and amazing stories.
You can also read our countdown of the most read stories of 2017 on our site and find out which countries contributed just a solitary reader of our news.
See you in 2018!