Research

Our researchers are finding ways to improve lives globally, from unravelling the link between motor neurone disease and physical activity, to transporting us via robots to far-flung places and finding ways to bring sustainable energy to off-grid communities.

Neuron cells system - 3d rendered image of Neuron cell network on black background
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Genomics findings shed light on Covid-19 transmissibility

As one of the first teams nationally to publish sequenced genomes of the Covid-19 virus, researchers from the Sheffield Covid-19 Genomics group revealed new findings which could shed light on why the UK variant of Covid-19 is more infectious. Led by Professor Thushan de Silva, Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Diseases (IICD), the researchers found that an additional mutation in the nucleocapsid gene could affect the viruses subgenomic RNA production. This change would make it more effective at evading our immune systems and allowing more replication, resulting in the higher-viral load and increased transmissibility of this variant.


Pandemic effect on education in Argentina

Investigating the consequences of the pandemic on education in Argentina, Dr Lauren Rea, School of Languages and Cultures and colleagues in Argentina have been awarded funding under the British Academy Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The project will generate reports for educational authorities and government ministries in Argentina, and pilot classroom and teacher training materials in childhood diversity, and aims to ensure that addressing the existing structural inequalities and understanding the diversity of lived childhood experience are at the forefront of the post- pandemic response.

Our research tackling Covid-19


Robotic engineering transporting us across the world

Researchers from the Faculty of Engineering have joined the spinout Cyberselves to develop a new app that could enable people to transport themselves into the body of a robot located anywhere in the world. The technology allows people to experience what the robot sees, hears and feels. It is able to connect with any commercial VR headset and is accessible through a computer browser. It can help people visit relatives, explore tourist attractions across the world and has the potential to deliver personalised healthcare, address social isolation and help with the clean-up of hazardous environments.

Explore how a telepresence app can transport us across the world.


A tractor pulls a trailer across a field of dry grass spreading rock dust in a long cloud

Assessing the use of rock dust to capture greenhouse gases

A team of scientists led by Professor David Beerling FRS, Director of our Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, has been awarded £4.7 million to develop a large multi-partner research project looking at the scientific, economic and social acceptability of using rock dust in agriculture to capture greenhouse gases. This project will provide the first integrated whole system assessment of the opportunities and challenges of using rock dust in UK agriculture. The results will be used to shape longer- term government decision-making on the most effective technologies to help the UK tackle climate change.


New Centre for Adult Social Care to promote independence and wellbeing

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and Birmingham are developing a Centre for Adult Social Care called, IMPACT (Improving Adult Care Together). Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, and the Health Foundation, the centre is set to be the first of its kind in the UK. The centre will lead the way in supporting innovation in adult social care, by using evidence gathered from across the UK including lived experience, the expertise of people working in social care and findings from the latest and best research, to improve these services for carers and the people they support.


Ancient Scottish Tsunami could destroy towns today

A study led by researchers at the Universities of Sheffield, St Andrews and York has revealed that the Storegga tsunami that hit Scotland’s coastline 8,200 years ago could devastate entire towns if it happened today. Although the tsunami is considered to be the largest natural catastrophe to happen in the UK in the past 11,000 years, this is the

first time that researchers have been able to model the inland impact of the ancient wave. The findings suggest that should an event of the same magnitude happen on the coastline again today, many of our coastal towns and cities could be completely devastated.


A field of solar panels aligned in rows of 10
Image credit: Chloride Exide Ltd.

Harvesting the sun twice

An £1.4m UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund initiative led by Vice-President for Research Professor Sue Hartley with Dr Richard Randle-Boggis is developing a way to bring renewable energy to rural communities in East Africa.

The research team is investigating the implementation of agrivoltaic systems, which unlike traditional ground- mounted solar power arrays, are constructed several meters high, with gaps between the arrays, enabling crops to be grown underneath so the same land produces both energy and food. Improved growing conditions under the panels means higher-value crops can be grown in locations previously unsuitable. The research team is collaborating with local stakeholders at implementation sites in Tanzania and Kenya.


Mozart’s liberal approach to performing his string quartets

Mozart’s autograph manuscripts reveal how he prioritised the practical considerations of performance over compositional authority. Comparing Mozart’s autograph manuscripts with the first published editions, research by Professor Simon Keefe, Department of Music discovered that the composer made surprisingly drastic changes to many passages, revealing a significant reconception of both the compositional fabric and the sonic world of the quartets. The findings were brought to light in an inaugural collaborative event featuring musicians from the world- class Manchester Camerata.


A composite image representing the work of our Flagship research centres: a baby's hand on top of an elderly person's hand; a computer generated image of a neural network; two long beds of grass and a city scape at night

Our flagship research institutes

Our four flagship research institutes bring together the strengths of all our academic disciplines to tackle the greatest issues facing humanity, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions. Here are just some examples from over the past year.

Neuroscience Institute

A pioneering study led by Professor Dame Pamela Shaw and Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock from our Neuroscience Institute represents a significant step towards unravelling the link between high levels of physical activity and the development of motor neuron disease (MND). The findings show frequent strenuous exercise increases the chance of developing MND in genetically at-risk individuals. Complex diseases such as MND are caused by an interaction between genetics and the environment, and understanding this interaction could pave the way towards discovering therapies and preventative strategies for this cruel and debilitating disease.

Healthy Lifespan Institute

A research team led by Professor Ilaria Bellantuono, Co-director of the Healthy Lifespan Institute, is investigating a drug called Zoledronate, which is currently used to treat Osteoporosis. The team are investigating the ability of Zoledronate to decelerate biological ageing and improve physical resilience of older organisms so that they are healthier and more able to recover from adverse events. Drugs such as Zoledronate signal a new era of medicine that could boost resilience and help us delay or even prevent the onset of multimorbidity so we can improve quality of life, and reduce the costs of care.

Institute for Sustainable Food

For the first time, researchers in The Institute for Sustainable Food mapped food insecurity at local authority scale and revealed the areas in the UK where residents most struggle to afford or access food. The study, led by Dr Megan Blake and Dr Adam Whitworth, should provide a valuable resource to help local authorities and government agencies address the problem at local levels.

Energy Institute

Researchers at The Energy Institute are examining the prospect of sustainable aviation fuel to reduce the environmental impact of aero-engines. The researchers are part of an £8 million programme that aims to reduce the environmental impact of aviation and power generating gas turbine engines. Utilising our new Auxiliary Power Unit testing facilities and sustainable aviation fuel production pilot plant at the Translational Energy Research Centre - the first of its kind in the UK - we are supporting the development of low emission engine designs and the evaluation of new low emission fuels.

Our vision

We are the University of Sheffield. And this is our vision.