Welcome to Edition 8 of ‘In Abstract’ showcasing world leading research from across the Faculty of Science and Engineering. In this edition we focus on research covering a broad range of topics, from the development of graphene for printed electronics, to the search for sterile neutrinos.
Biotechnology studies from the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering have shown how the use of enzymes can uncover potential new routes to synthesise medical and industrial products. A new pathway for making antibiotics has been identified, which is urgently needed to combat emerging drug-resistant pathogens. In addition, a recently discovered class of enzymes has been shown to be capable of effectively producing compounds that can be utilised as biofuels.
Understanding our changing environment has been the focus of studies using both large scale field techniques and lab-based approaches. Seismic studies of the Greenland ice sheet have revealed that during 11 periods in the past 2.7 million years, the sheet extended over 120km beyond its present-day position. This knowledge can help us understand how this ice sheet might evolve in response to future climate warming. Moving into the atmosphere, an unexpected link between air pollutants from plants and man-made emissions has been discovered. An international team has shown that the formation of fine particles (secondary organic aerosols), which are a major contributing factor to premature deaths, is significantly reduced when vapours from natural and man-made sources are mixed.
Health sciences is often a theme of our interdisciplinary research projects, with new studies published by groups in Mathematics and Computer Science. Using colour to visualise electrocardiogram (ECG) data, has been shown to support the rapid detection of serious heart problems. This is important because it shows the potential for patients to self-monitor for certain conditions, which could be lifesaving. Nutrient exchange in the human placenta has also been investigated via mathematical approaches, demonstrating how complex features within the placenta can be analysed to provide new insights into its function in health and disease.
The development of analytical techniques and approaches can provide new tools for researchers to gain insights into chemical processes and the properties of materials. A nanoscale technology originally developed to image biological materials has been used to provide 3D chemical images of nanoparticles, which could aid the design of better catalysts with lower costs and higher efficiencies. If you are looking for something a little closer to home, researchers from Chemistry have developed a virtual scalpel, which can be used to dissect and analyse complex chemical mixtures. A technique which they demonstrate using a British stout beer!
Finally, if you have ever wondered how robots and humans can learn to trust each other. A Theory of mind computation model has been developed to allow robots to estimate the trustworthiness of humans they are interacting with. This work will allow autonomous robots to evaluate the trustworthiness of information for joint tasks where people and robots must work together.
We hope you enjoy reading about these and the other studies In Abstract. Keep a look out for the next edition later in the year.