A pub crawl with a difference has helped a group of engineering students to come up with a useful new product. The five Hull students have designed a bar optic which can dispense a single or a double shot of drink in a single movement, as part of their Master of Engineering fourth year project. This asked the students to simulate an industrial environment by working in teams to develop a new product, plus a strategy for producing and marketing it. Their research involved checking out 10 pubs in the Beverley Road area of Hull, to see what products were in use. To get a double shot, staff have to press the optic once, wait for it to refill, and then press again. The new device always holds enough drink for two measures. Pushed halfway up, it releases a single shot; pushed all the way up, it releases two, without the wait. The students have made a prototype of the design and are looking for financial backing to enable them to go into production. "It's been good to create something which people might actually end up using," says Clare Bernard, who was project manager on the team. Staff at the pubs were happy to be involved. "Anything which helps us serve customers more efficiently is welcome," says Andrew Warcup, the assistant manager of The Gardener's Arms.

* And there is more booze news, this time from Scotland. The International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University is to expand its postgraduate provision. The centre runs a postgraduate diploma and an MSc in brewing and distilling at the moment, both of which are available on-campus or via distance learning. From November, an MBA specialism in brewing and distilling will be offered via distance learning by the centre to students of Edinburgh Business School (Heriot-Watt's graduate business school). See www.bio.hw.ac.uk/icbd/icbd.htm for more details.

* An 87-year-old woman has completed a PhD at Lancaster University. Anne Parkinson, who studied Catholics in Cumberland and Westmorland between 1558 and 1829, received her doctorate from the university's pro-chancellor, Bryan Gray, last month. Her thesis built on a previous study on the history of Catholicism in the Furness Peninsula between 1127 and 1997, which she published with the support of the late Bishop Brewer of Lancaster. Dr Parkinson missed out on studying for a degree as a young woman in the austere inter-war years. Her supervisor, Professor Michael Mullett of Lancaster's history department, was impressed by the hard work and extensive travel she did for her thesis. "In carrying out her labours, Anne Parkinson was making a huge contribution to our knowledge of the often secret life of the underground Catholic community in the two counties during the 'penal' period of active or latent persecution between the 16th and 19th centuries," he says. Dr Parkinson's examiners have recommended that she seek a commercial publisher for her study.