Postgraduate: Space research; African scholars; police placements

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The Independent Online

An instrument destined for the International Space Station (ISS) is being built with the help of three University of Sussex postgraduates. The device is designed to monitor the weather in space, and will be sent by an unmanned rocket to the Russian segment of the ISS in 2006, then bolted to the outside of the station by cosmonauts. The students, George Seferiadis, Nick Huber and Marianne Pouchet, have been given a big break, their supervisor, Professor Paul Gough, says. "For a prestigious project such as this, it is unusual to involve research students." It reflects well on the sorts of research opportunities that Sussex is able to offer, he says. The glamour of the job is not lost on Seferiadis. "It's a unique opportunity for us to develop an instrument that will actually fly," he says. Professor Gough is responsible for the overall design and control software; the students have designed aspects of the measuring systems. The instrument - a correlating electron spectrograph known as Cores - will measure electrons and ions to study how the ISS and its surrounding environment affect each other. It is about the size of a hand and is a safe shape for cosmonauts to handle while doing a space walk. The mission continues a collaboration between Sussex, the Russian InterKosmos Institute and the Ukrainian Institute for Space Research, which started with Mars missions in the Eighties.

* The genteel setting of St Andrews witnessed a vibrant African dance last month. A group of seven Rwandan women gave the performance as thanks for the Rwandan University Scholarships Scheme, organised by Gerda Siann, Emeritus Professor of Gender Relations at Dundee University. The participating universities waived the women's fees, the Rwandan government met their living costs and the scheme paid for their flights. St Andrews, Dundee, Edinburgh and Stirling universities took a student each and Glasgow Caledonian took three. The scholars gained degrees in IT, public health, education, business and aquaculture. Their qualifications will help them to contribute to Rwanda's continuing recovery, says Professor Siann. Women are playing an important part in this reconstruction and form half of Rwanda's democratically elected government, she adds.

* Police liaison officers in Lancaster have been sharing their expertise with a Masters student. Mary Jayne Rushton shadowed two domestic violence officers for four months to complete her degree at Lancaster University. It is believed to be the first time that a social work student has taken a work placement with the police. Rushton, 25, who hopes to work with families when she qualifies, visited domestic violence victims and offenders during the programme. She says the police were "wonderfully supportive" towards her. It is hoped that her experience will be replicated across the country. The university's placement co-ordinator, Tina Stern, said such schemes would help social workers and the police to work together more effectively.