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Montage showing a wolf, starry sky and chickpeas

Christmas and New Year are traditionally periods for reflection, so what better time to look back at some of our achievements of 2022?

From tracing the ancestry of domestic dogs, to investigating the impact of climate change on Antarctica, our pioneering researchers have certainly had a fruitful 2022.

Mapping the Universe, emotion in music and pain relief from tick saliva

We started the year with the news that a telescopic instrument designed with the help of our Physics department is being used to help produce the most detailed 3-D map of the Universe ever.

Once complete, the map created by the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will give scientists a better understanding of dark energy – the mysterious substance that accounts for 70 per cent of the content of the Universe.

Observation tower under a starry sky

Meanwhile, our Music researchers were busy investigating how we can convey emotions through music. 

They created an interactive computer interface called ‘EmoteControl’, allowing users to control six cues - tempo, pitch, articulation, dynamics, brightness, and mode – to reflect specific emotions through music.

From music to mites, we announced in March that researchers in Biosciences were working on a new drug based on a protein found in tick saliva that could ease chronic pain and itching in humans.

The research, involving Newcastle University and pharmaceutical company Akari Therapeutics Plc, could lead to a replacement for potentially addictive opioid painkillers.

Climate change, chickpeas and the history of dogs

Spring brought research from our Geography department into the potential impact of recent climate change on Antarctica.

Researchers used over 2,000 satellite images from a seven-year period (2014-2020) to study the size and volume of meltwater lakes forming on top of the ice sheet - the first time that a year-on-year comparison of these lakes has been undertaken.

Back at our highly-rated Biosciences department, experts working with international partners discovered that flowering time in chickpeas is influenced by one to three major genes.

Their pioneering research is providing new insights to improve chickpea farming and has already generated locally-adapted varieties to support agriculture in Turkey and Syria.

Summer 2022 also saw Durham’s archaeologists bring us a step closer to understanding where humans first domesticated dogs.

Our researchers joined academics from 38 global institutions to analyse ancient wolf genomes.

They discovered that the ancestry of dogs can be traced to at least two populations of ancient wolves; an eastern source that contributed to all dogs and a more westerly source that contributed to some.

Now read the second part in our review of 2022.

Find out more