The podcast is presented by Gareth Mitchell, a lecturer on Imperial's Science Communication MSc course and the presenter of Click Radio on the BBC World Service, with contributions from our roaming reporters in the Research Communications group.

If you have feedback that you’d like to share or ideas for future editions, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Hayley Dunning or +44 (0)20 7594 2412, or tweet us @ImperialSpark.

You can also find the podcasts on YouTube, iTunes or Stitcher.

Steering UK space, healthier commuting and animal research numbers

In this edition: A new role in the UK Space Agency, making healthy transport decisions and finding out how we use animals in research.

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News: Reaching new heights and going for gold – New research reveals which nations are the tallest in the world and we cheer on Imperial athletes competing at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Steering UK space – Professor David Southwood, Imperial physicist, has been appointed the Chair of the Steering Committee for the UK Space Agency. He talks about his new role, building a UK spaceport, and the Tim Peake effect.

Healthier commuting – A huge Europe-wide survey has already found that car drivers are on average four kilograms heavier than cyclists, so what do they hope to uncover as they recruit more volunteers in London?

Animal research numbers – Imperial recently released its annual statistics on animal procedures in research. But what do these numbers really mean? We visit the facilities and talk to a researcher to find out.

(10 August 2016)

Previous editions

Summer science, farming shipping containers and a biological field trip

In this edition: Imperial at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, putting empty shipping containers to use and a visit to Silwood Park.

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News: a robotic rectum and the Big Bounce – Imperial researcher have developed a robotic model that will help nurses and GPs practise rectal exams for the diagnosis of prostate cancer, and physicists have theorised a new beginning to our universe – with a bounce instead of a bang.

Summer science – We report from the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, where Imperial researchers have been asking crowds to sniff a comet and come up with solutions to the problem of plastic in the oceans.

Farming shipping containers – Can we make better use of empty shipping containers making return journeys to China? One design engineering student has invented a collapsible hydroponic farm that can be set up inside the containers, providing food for the Chinese market and profit for the shipping company.

Silwood Park field trip – We visit Imperial’s rural campus, where researchers focus on ecology, evolution and conservation There we meet scientists working on species extinction, the differences between males and females, and who our oldest ancestors are.

(20 July 2016)

Visions of the future, a crowning ceremony and a wall of knowledge

In this edition: imaging innovations at the World Economic Forum, a 3D-printed crown for Queen Victoria and audio science stories on the Know It Wall.

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News: a spider silk violin and a science exhibition preview  - A design engineering student has created a violin from a composite material impregnated with spider’s silk, giving it unique resonating qualities, and we look ahead to the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, where Imperial researchers will be presenting their work on ocean plastics and galactic physics.

Visions of the future – Four Imperial researchers spoke to a distinguished crowd at the World Economic Forum in China about their work at the forefront of imaging science – including better brain scans for diagnosis and surgery, and using lasers to understand chemical reactions and to map plant health for farming.

A modern crowning ceremony – Imperial’s Queen Victoria statue had been missing her crown for decades, until one professor decided to launch a competition for students to design and 3D print a new one. Queen Victoria was crowned again this month.

Wall of knowledge – Imperial and UCL students have launched Know It Wall – a place where academic research is brought to life as an audio article outlining scientists’ research, from blast injuries to Antarctic science and looking for life in the universe.

(29 June 2016)

A case of the plague, innovating China and diamond solar cells

In this edition: new insights from an old disease, how China is getting ahead in innovations, and using diamonds to improve solar cell efficiency.

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News: Philandering sparrows and materials made from tea – New research shows that male sparrows can tell is their wife is prone to infidelity, providing less food as a result, and a bacteria found in tea has been coaxed into fabricating new materials that could take us to Mars.

A case of the plague – Modern analysis of an unusual plague outbreak that occurred in Derbyshire 350 years ago could shed new light on contemporary disease outbreaks, such as Ebola.

Innovating China – In his new book, the Business School’s Professor George Yip explains how China is becoming more innovative, thanks to their flexibility in meeting customer needs, and a trial and error approach to development.

(8 June 2016)

Sounds from the Imperial Festival 2016

The latest edition is a Festival special as our reporters get involved in research, take you on a tour and play along with some performances.

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News: Psychedelics for depression and bio-glass for re-growing cartilage – a small pilot study shows early promise for using the active compound in magic mushrooms to treat depression and a bouncy bio-glass that could help repair damaged knees.

Festival report – From trackers in Hyde Park to the impact of music in the operating theatre, researchers were out in force at the Imperial Festival in early May. But it’s not all straightforward science – the community also flexed their performing muscles with music, dance and much more. Our reporting squad was out and about to capture a flavour of it all.

(19 May 2016)

Ice giants, climate diplomacy and Earth’s flipping magnetic fields

In this edition: the next big mission to Neptune or Uranus, a diplomat’s response to COP21 and the unsteady history of the Earth’s magnetic field.

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News: Festival preview and a marathon for a neglected disease – We look forward to getting hands on with everything from robots to DNA at the Imperial Festival 7-8 May, and we talk to Dr Mike French who ran the London marathon, raising £52,000 for schistosomiasis treatment and research.

Mission to the ice giants – Dr Adam Masters had an unusual Easter, helping to define the next big planetary mission to Neptune or Uranus, planets no missions have visited for more than 25 years.

Climate diplomacy – Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, delivered the 2016 Grantham Institute annual lecture. In a chat with the Grantham’s co-director Jo Haigh and two PhD students, she talks about the impact of the COP21 agreement and her hopes for the future.


Flipping magnetic fields – By studying the properties of tiny magnetic minerals billions of years old, Dr Adrian Muxworthy can tell when the Earth’s magnetic field has flipped – north becoming south and vice versa.

(27 April 2016)

Set for Parliament, better commuting and Atoms Family values

In this edition: presenting research at Parliament, winning awards for tracking tube trains and having fun with chemistry at the latest Fringe event.

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News: Biggest ever obesity study and renaming Imperial – Figures from nearly every country in the world reveal that for the first time there are more overweight than underweight people, and a campaign to rename Imperial College London.

SET for Britain – Two early career researchers from the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial talk about their experience presenting their work at an event at Parliament, including engaging with MPs, Lords and policymakers.

Real-time tubes – An undergraduate in the Department of Computing has also been hobnobbing with Lords at a luncheon where he received an award from the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. He was honoured for his work on an app that makes better use of TfL data to give commuters real-time tube updates.

Atoms Family values – We examined things at the molecular level for the most recent Imperial Fringe event, including testing out next-generation fuel cells, designing solvents to extract carbon dioxide, and making clothing super water repellent.

(06 April 2016)

Meltdown lessons, future food and hunting the Northern Lights

In this edition: Radiation research five years on from Fukushima, food research at the latest Fringe event and aurora adventures.

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News: Baby formula false claims and dinosaur discoveries – A huge new study concludes baby formulas marketed as reducing allergies actually make no difference, and a forgotten dinosaur bone in a museum leads to a big find.

Five years since Fukushima – In the five years since the Great Tohoku earthquake in Japan and subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, what have we learned about the radiation released?

Future food – At the latest Fringe event we caught up with researchers tackling obesity with a chemical that acts like fibre to make you feel full; combatting malnutrition at the level of schools and communities in rural Africa; and making the ultimate cookie using models of mouth sensation.

Searching for the Northern Lights – Dr Melanie Windridge set off on a journey to discover the science and soul of the Northern Lights for her latest book Aurora. Hear about some of her adventures and what she learned along the way.

(9 March 2016)

Drone builders, hacking for good and ebola vaccine trial concludes

Drone swarms that could print buildings, exploring the Advanced Hackspace and getting the final vaccination in an Ebola trial.

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News: Gravitational waves, pollution and drones for good – Imperial physicists get excited about the detection of the first gravitational waves, a huge pollution study finds the effects stay with us for decades, and drones win prizes.

Drone-printed buildings  – Dr Mirko Kovac is creating swarms of drones that can build emergency shelters and make the cities of the future smarter.

Room to hack – We visit the Imperial College Advanced Hackspace demo day to find out what the space is all out and how students can set their ideas free.

Ebola vaccine diaries episode three – what happens during a clinical trial for a new ebola vaccine? Our reporter has her second vaccination, experiences a few side-effects, and reflects on her journey.

(17 February 2016)

Sci-fi astrophysicist, Imperial at Davos, and ebola vaccine trial continues

A physics researcher who writes science fiction, talking up the future of materials at the World Economic Forum, and part two of a clinical trial diary.

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News: Cleaning up the oceans and investigating cravings  – research shows the best way to clean up ocean plastics is to focus on the coasts, not on the Great Pacific garbage patch, and a trial is launched to see if gut hormones can influence cravings for food, alcohol and cigarettes.

Science fiction astrophysicist  – Dr Dave Clements researches galaxies far, far away, but also turns his creative mind to writing science fiction.

Imperial at Davos  – Imperial academics showcase the role of materials at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, from Professor Natalie Stingelin’s efficient windows to Professor Neil Alford’s maser technology.

Ebola vaccine diaries episode two – what happens during a clinical trial for a new ebola vaccine? Our reporter has had her first vaccination – were there any side effects?

(27 January 2016)

Rocket science, climate deals and treating sepsis

Revisit our event all about space, learn about a novel treatment for a deadly disease and hear reactions from experts on the Paris climate agreement.

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News: A look ahead and astronaut celebrations – We look at some of the major events and milestones coming up for Imperial in 2016 and recapture the excitement of Tim Peake’s launch to the ISS in December.


Treating sepsis – Dr James Leiper from the Department of Medicine talks about his innovative new treatment for sepsis, a condition that kills around 40,000 people in Britain each year. Dr Leiper is hoping to take his new method, which focuses on the response of blood vessels rather than the immune system, into human trials soon.


Climate deals – Ajay Gambhir and Alyssa Gilbert from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment give their insider’s view on the recent Paris climate agreement. Do they think the deal is enough, what were the sticking points during the negotiations, and what happens next?


Rocket science – To celebrate Tim Peake’s launch, Imperial hosted a Fringe event called It Is Rocket Science that included everything from a pop-up planetarium to researchers fresh from the launch of a major new space experiment that very morning.

(6 January 2016)