Welcome to the first edition of ‘In Abstract’, where we invite you to share our excitement about our newest research findings.
In these pages you will find our pick of the latest journal papers from every part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Manchester.
The selection here is certainly diverse – ranging from simulations of huge neural networks to the discovery of room temperature nanoscale magnetic ‘skyrmions’ (localised spin windings). The collection ranges through the length scales from the discovery of km-scale spiral iceberg scours in the North Atlantic – echoes of Pleistocene glaciations – to the creation of the components of a molecular ‘nano-assembly line’ and a molecular light switch inspired by the biochemistry of vision.
So what do these papers have in common? Well, one factor that unites them is that we are proud of them and their authors! We think these papers reflect what research in our Faculty is about – multi-facetted, contributing to real global challenges and at the forefront of world research.
It’s increasingly the case that we need to pool our expertise to tackle the big challenges before us. Many of the papers presented here deliver a deep insight through combining theory or simulation with experimental data – resulting for example in an improved model for predicting avalanches, and new methods to model (thankfully rare) strong earthquakes in Northwest Europe.
We are proud of our interdisciplinary work, and it features strongly in this collection. It often produces results that we don’t expect, or provides strikingly simple explanations for complex phenomena. A good example in this edition is a collaboration between our earth scientists and mathematicians which yielded a simple explanation for the low abundance of iron-containing meteorites in Antarctica – they heat up and sink! Another example hit the news in Nature recently. Our computer and life scientists used text-mining techniques to carry out the largest-ever analysis of the quality of mouse studies, which revealed that as recently as 2014, only around 50% of research papers recorded both the sex and age of the animals used — key details needed for others to assess and reproduce the research.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Manchester without a mention of the ‘G – word’ – and you will find a number of illustrations of how the wonder material graphene stimulates our research. These range from its use to sieve hydrogen isotopes (recently published in Science) to applications in terahertz lasers, photodetectors and nano-rectifiers. Meanwhile, our fundamental research into graphene and other 2D materials continues apace – illustrated here by the first measurements of the electrochemistry of a single layer of molybdenum disulfide, and (again from Science) startling measurements of the kinematic viscosity of the electron liquid in graphene – apparently it’s larger than honey! Now there’s a thought to conjure with…
We hope you will enjoy this celebration of the very best of our research. We will be adding new editions several times each year – so watch this space for more!