Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.
From a research-inspired ballet, to Imperial’s research showcased in parliament, here is some quick-read news from across the College.
Dance your PhD
Eleonora Moratto, a PhD student in the Department of Life Sciences, is a finalist in the Dance your PhD global competition. A trained ballet dancer, Eleonora choreographed the dance based on her research.
“Each movement is reminiscent of the actual biological process that can be seen under the microscope. When the seed germinates at the beginning of the video the primary root emerges first (leg) followed by the embryonic leaves (hands and arms),” explains Eleonora. “Similarly the dancers interpreting the spores swim around in a chaotic pattern like the Phytophthora palmivora spores do.”
Organised by Science magazine, the competition Dance Your Ph.D. is an annual contest where scientists explain their research through dance. Submissions are assessed according to scientific merit, artistic merit, and creative combination of the science and art.
“I have always wanted to use dance to explain my scientific work,” said Eleonora. “I am thrilled to be one of the finalists! When people ask me what there is in common between ballet and science I always answer: storytelling! Ballet is a beautiful way to tell stories, usually human stories, through movement while science tells stories through investigative work and describes in papers how nature works. Why not use ballet to tell a story typically told by science?”
When male mosquitos no longer have to compete with other males for mates, their genetic makeup changes. This can happen really fast – a population brought into a lab from nature can experience genome changes in only five generations. A team from Imperial and the University of South Carolina has discovered that the changed genes are related to how males perceive the world – and males that have decreased expression in these genes are terrible at mating.
The results suggest that males likely rely on their ability to detect females and respond to them appropriately to mate. First author Claudia Wyer, from the Department of Life Sciences, said: “The mosquito species we studied mates in mid-air, so it was thought males mostly relied on sound. However, our results show they may also need to perceive chemical signals from the females.”
Dr Lauren Cator, also from Life Sciences, added: “The mosquitos studied can carry many viruses that infect people, so the discovery could be an exciting avenue for identifying new ways to disrupt mating behaviour in nature to control disease. It also suggests that control tools that rely on the mass-rearing and release of male mosquitoes need to consider how their males may fare in the wild if raised without competition.”
Read the full paper in Current Biology.
Net zero aviation
Professor Bill Rutherford and Dr Andrea Fantuzzi were part of a recent policy briefing on 28 February at the Royal Society setting out resource and research requirements for the UK to achieve its net zero aviation ambitions.
Producing sustainable aviation fuel to supply the UK’s ‘net zero’ ambitions would require enormous quantities of UK agricultural land or renewable electricity to keep flying at today’s levels, the briefing warned.
UK aviation (international and domestic) accounted for 8% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 and the UK has committed to make domestic flying ‘net zero ‘by 2040.
The Net zero aviation fuels: resource requirements and environmental impacts report warns there is no single, clear, sustainable alternative to jet fuel able to support flying on a scale equivalent to present day use.
Research in parliament
Eleven Imperial researchers were STEM for Britain finalists and showcased their research posters in parliament on Monday 6 March.
- Dr Matthew Bidwell presented his research poster on unlocking the potential of biomass waste to produce fossil fuel substitutes.
- Katherine Davis presented her poster on improving health-related quality of life among people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Jose Antonio Duran-Mota's poster described a novel approach to treating diabetic foot ulcers.
- Dr Yubing Hu, presented their poster on wearable microneedle sensors for continuous glucose monitoring.
- Dr Gunjan Tyagi’s poster covered light-activated surfactants for fast anti-microbial/viral action.
- Sarat Alabidun’s poster explored mass spectrometry on a chip elucidating the degradation mechanisms in sodium ion batteries.
- Jack Hayes’ poster evaluated the adaptation of amputee skin due to prosthesis use.
- Ioanna Itskou’s poster showcased a new line of multifunctional nanomaterials for CO2 capture and photoreduction.
- Morgan Kerhouant’s poster was on machine learning optimisation of flow in alkaline water electrolyser.
- Dr Reshma Rao’s poster showed improving oxygen evolution catalysis to enable terawatt scale hydrogen production by water electrolysis.
- Kleio Aikaterini Zervidi’s poster showed a hybrid system for capturing co2 directly from the air.
STEM for BRITAIN is a major scientific poster competition which has been held in Parliament since 1997 and is organised by the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee. Its aim is to give members of the Houses of Parliament an insight into the outstanding research work being undertaken in UK universities by early-career researchers.
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