University rankings
Research indicators conflate the ability of a university to acquire money with the quality of education and research. Source: Shutterstock

University research is responsible for much more than airy-fairy academia. It has fundamentally impacted all of our lives, from our conceptions of society to the light we use to experience it.

Universities are particularly influential in science and social progression due to their position as hubs of knowledge.

This research is now more crucial than ever as the 21st century brings a tirade of challenges, issues and hurdles to overcome to prevent global collapse – without universities investigating how the world is expected to change environmentally, politically and socially over coming years, we are left blind as the clock ticks on.

And if the ways in which research has impacted our lives so far is anything to go by, these discoveries and progressions in thought will be monumental to how we view the world around us and experience the future.

If you still don’t believe the value of university research in enlightening our lives, explaining our place in the world, progressing technology and medicine, and ultimately shaping our world views, check out the five most significant research breakthroughs that impact our lives everyday…

That feel-good feeling

The sudden flood of endorphins when you see your crush or do some exercise is now a well-documented phenomenon, all thanks to research from the University of Aberdeen.

Hans Kosterlitz and John Hughes were the first to discover that endorphins naturally occur in the body back in 1975. This led to many studies on what causes endorphins to be released and how they influence mental health.

Brain imaging and research papers allow us to understand the brain better. Source: Giphy

Researchers are still investigating the human body and what causes neural reactions in the brain to produce physical responses to this day, and it’s likely these studies will reveal even more insight into how we manoeuvre through our daily lives.

Genetic fingerprinting

Every individual is unique – or at least our fingerprints are.

This is all thanks to Alec Jeffreys’s research at the University of Leicester in 1985. He discovered that each person’s fingerprint is totally unique, making it a reliable and foll-proof identification technique.

Fingerprints are now commonly used in crime investigations and border controls. They are even being implemented for everyday identification needs like unlocking smartphones and replacing household keys, all thanks to technological advancements.

Genetic fingerprints have revolutionised identification models. Source: Giphy

The world’s first computer

You wouldn’t even be reading this if it wasn’t for Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn’s research at the University of Manchester in 1948.

They created the world’s first stored-program computer, and while it was almost unrecognisable from the smartphone, laptop or slim desktop you’re likely reading this article on, it paved the way for video games, the internet and instant communication, things that are so central to our lives today.

The earth as a living organism

In 1995, James Lovelock proposed the theory that the earth is more than just a stagnant rock we inhabit, but rather a living organism that’s constantly reacting and adapting to its circumstances at Yale University.

Research showed us the earth is alive. Source: Giphy

The ‘Gaia hypothesis’, as he called it, changed attitudes towards the earth and revived the notion of stewardship towards the environment. His research showed that our world is a self-regulating entity in its own right instead of inanimate land we live on.

This research paved the way for environmental concern that is so central to protecting humanity and the quality of life as we move towards the future.

The universe is expanding

It’s now common knowledge that the universe is infinitely expanding, starting from a single explosion in the Big Bang – but this wasn’t always the case.

Until Edwin Hubble’s research and the University of Chicago in 1924, there was a whole host of hypotheses about the universe – not many based in science.

The mysteries of the universe still remain out there. Source: Giphy

From Aristotle’s conception that the earth is the centre of the universe overseen by God, to Buddhist monks believing we exist on the back of a cosmic turtle’s back, there have been many theories about the universe throughout history.

While universities all over the world continue to research the mysteries of the universe to this day, it was Hubble who first uncovered the biggest mystery of all – the universe is expanding.

This has sparked infinitely more questions about the nature of the universe: what is it expanding from? What is it expanding into? Is there life elsewhere? How and why is there life on earth? The list goes on…

Among these incredible university research breakthroughs are hundreds of others that help fill in the gaps of our existence and beyond – but there’s still an infinite amount of discoveries and progressions to be made.

Faculty and graduate students play a central role in seeking out and exploring these research areas – and it’s them who will continue to push the frontiers of knowledge as we move through the rocky terrain of the 21st century.

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