Imperial College London

Strategic sport and tiny tail evolution: News from the College

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An illustration of a red american football ball flying through the air

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From using mathematical tools for fantasy football success, to new insight into evolution of microbe ‘tails’, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Strategic sport

Fantasy sports are big business and, in the US, where participants play for money, a source of considerable income for the most successful players. In a new article for IB Knowledge, Dr Martin Haugh, Associate Professor of Analytics and Operations Research, explains how he and a colleague used mathematical tools to make a 350 per cent return playing fantasy American football.

“This compares to a return of 50 per cent for a benchmark portfolio that did not take opponents’ team selections into account but was otherwise selected in a near-optimal fashion. Clearly, approaching the problem scientifically can pay dividends.”

Read the full article on IB Knowledge: ‘How to play fantasy sports strategically (and win)’.

STEM for BRITAIN

MPs visit STEM for BRITAIN
MPs visit STEM for BRITAIN

PhD student Oliver Street took his research to Parliament this week for the annual STEM for BRITAIN event. Oliver, from the Department of Mathematics, presented a poster on his research into the development of mathematical tools to describe the advection (transport) of plastic in the ocean.

He said: “It is a rare and exciting opportunity to present your work to politicians and bridge the gap between scientists and policymakers. The abstraction of mathematics often creates a barrier between our research and the general public, however there are many problems facing the world today for which mathematical research should be at the heart of the national discussion. I feel very privileged to have been invited to Parliament to highlight one of these problems.”

Read more on the STEM for BRITAIN website.

AI in R&D

Dr Adam Celiz of Imperial and Dr Nicole Li-Jessen of McGill University, Canada, have won funding from the UKRI to help integrate AI in the manufacturing of biomaterials for biomedical implants and devices.

At present, research and development (R&D) for biomaterials in healthcare is expensive and laborious. The overarching goal of this new project is to use AI in the R&D pipeline to reduce cost and accelerate the discovery of new biomaterials for medicine.

Dr Celiz, of Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said: “I look forward to working with our Canadian counterparts to help boost efficiency of R&D by using AI. Thanks to the UKRI’s funding, we can investigate how AI can be leveraged to identify new biomaterials for medical devices and accelerate the translation of these materials to the clinic.”

The UK-Canada project is one of ten announced by the UKRI to support the responsible development of AI and ensure all members of society trust AI and benefit from it.

Read more on the UKRI website.

Tiny tail evolution

Microbe tail familyResearchers from Imperial have published a comprehensive review of the evolution of the three types of ‘tails’ that help microbes move – ‘archaella’ from archaea (single-celled organisms that resemble bacteria), ‘flagella’ from bacteria, and ‘cilia’ from eukaryotes (complex organisms that include both unicellular microbes and large multicellular organisms).

The three tails represent ‘convergent evolution’ – where different types of life have independently evolved similar solutions to the same problem, in this case by waving, whipping, or rotating to propel themselves into new environments.

However, each tail is powered differently, and constructed using different protein ‘building blocks’. This gives researchers clues as to how each tail evolved from pre-existing molecular machinery and provides insights into the fundamentals of evolution of life on earth.

Read more in FEMS Microbiology Reviews: ‘Propulsive nanomachines: the convergent evolution of archaella, flagella, and cilia’.

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Madeleine Stone

Madeleine Stone
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Michael Mills
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Hayley Dunning
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Caroline Brogan

Caroline Brogan
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