PhD Summer Showcase
Wednesday 10 July 2024 | 11:00-14:45 | Queens Tower Rooms

This annual event is organised by the Graduate School to celebrate the research being carried out by our PhD community.

The challenge for this year’s competition was for students to communicate their research via a three-minute presentation pitch at our in-person Showcase event.

Competitors were assessed on their ability to explain their research in a way that can be shared with the public. Our judges also assessed the visual impact & creativity of each presentation.

Prize Winners 2024

We are delighted to announce the results of the PhD Summer Showcase 2024 were as follows:

  • 1st Prize - Zain Ahmed (Department of Chemical Engineering) - Multiplexed microfluidic approach for sustainable cleaning (Entry Number: CHEM ENG 8)

  • 2nd Prize - Melanie Herpels (Department of Bioengineering) - Under the radar: the disguise pancreatic cancer cells use to escape immunotherapy (Entry Number: BIO 3)

  • 3rd Prize - Miguel Martinez Pañeda (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) - All buildings move (Entry Number: CIV ENG 12)

  • People's Choice Prize - Beatrice Ope (School of Public Health) - Beyond the Doctor’s Office: Exploring Women’s Experiences with Maternal Healthcare in Nigeria using the Patient’s Journey Mapping Approach (Entry Number: SPH 39)

Entries (by Faculty)

Department of Bioengineering

Mengyao Lu - Future Foods: Harnessing Alternative Proteins

Entry Number: BIO 1

Protein is an essential part of critical body processes. As the demand for high-quality protein increases, the need to seek alternative protein sources becomes crucial. Producing alternative protein through precision fermentation is a low-carbon, cost-effective, and healthy way to feed our growing global population. Yarrowia lipolytica is the non-conventional yeast strain that excels as a host for alternative protein production. It has a robust protein secretion system and the capability to metabolize a broad range of substrates. This allows it to utilize industrial and agricultural waste, thereby transforming waste resources into high-quality products. By engineering the protein synthesis pathway in Y. lipolytica, protein production can be further increased, thus enhancing the economic efficiency of alternative protein production. Utilizing Y. lipolytica as a host strain for producing alternative proteins through precision fermentation represents an innovative technology that will play a crucial role in advancing the sustainability of future food systems.

Jingqi Hong - Microscale Marvels: Unlocking Cancer Metastasis Through Microfluidics

Entry Number: BIO 2

Metastasis, the spread of cancer to new areas in the body, is the primary cause of cancer-related deaths. A key factor that plays a crucial role in metastasis is the extracellular matrix (ECM), a network of proteins and large molecules assembled around our cells. The ECM prepares new sites in the body for cancer cells to settle and grow, giving rise to the development of a secondary tumour.

To better understand how the ECM affects cancer disease progression, this project recreates the environment of cancer cells by controlling tiny volumes of matrix gels with a microfluidic device. Studying this metastasis model at a microscale level will allow the identification of specific ECM components that contribute to metastasis, consequently leading to new therapeutic avenues and improved patient outcomes

Melanie Herpels - Under the radar: the disguise pancreatic cancer cells use to escape immunotherapy

Entry Number: BIO 3

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive cancer type with very poor survival rates. Our immune system is normally capable of recognising and killing cancer cells. This killing is enhanced by immunotherapy with the aim of eradicating the tumour. However, pancreatic cancer cells bear a change in their genetic code which encourages them to grow uncontrollably and disguises them from the immune cells. This means that the immune system, with or without immunotherapy, is unable to fully eliminate the pancreatic tumour. Throughout my PhD, I attempted to suppress this genetic change in the cancer cells prior to treatment with immunotherapy. Since the genetic change promotes cancer cell growth, suppressing it on its own reduced tumour size in mice to an extent, but not fully. By suppressing the change in combination with immunotherapy, the cancer cells were unable to escape the immune cells. Therefore, the pancreatic tumours vanished completely.


Department of Chemical Engineering

Xinyu Lu - The precise control of self-assembly of sequence-controlled multifunctional polyesters

Entry Number: CHEM ENG 6

A library of novel multifunctional biodegradable polyesters with controlled block sequences, hydrophilicity-hydrophobicity balances, and molecular weights were synthesised. Their self-assembling behaviours in aqueous phase were compared using the nanoprecipitation and solvent switch methods. The resulting polymeric nanoparticles with the specific self-assembled nanostructures, including spherical micelles, rod-shaped micelles, vesicles and lamellae, were identified using dynamic light scattering, small angle X-ray scattering, and transmission electron microscopy. The morphology, morphology transition, and stability of these nanoparticles were found to be manipulated by the block sequence, hydrophilicity-hydrophobicity balance, and molecular weight of the polyesters, as well as the self-assembly method employed. The stimuli-responsive polymeric nanoparticles self-assembled from these sequence-defined multifunctional polyesters represent a platform for drug delivery owning to their excellent biocompatibility and biodegradability.

David Büchner - Accessing the hidden: The application of X-ray CT to carbon capture processes

Entry Number: CHEM ENG 7

Adsorption-based carbon capture processes are attributed to a vital role in the net-zero pathway. However, only a limited range of their governing physics can be studied with conventional experimental methods, while many, especially internal dynamic processes, have remained inaccessible. In this work, we utilize the characteristic of X-ray computed tomography (CT) to measure changes in density inside a lab-scale carbon capture reactor. This allows us to access and study for the first time experimentally a wide range of transient processes taking place inside the reactor. Ultimately, the newfound insights can guide the design of novel reactor geometries with improved efficiency and performance, bringing us one step closer to a net-zero scenario. 

Zain Ahmed - Multiplexed microfluidic approach for sustainable cleaning

Entry Number: CHEM ENG 8

We present experimental approaches to design more efficient and sustainable surfactant formulations, aiming to reduce water and energy consumption and lower environmental impact. By examining the emulsification abilities of model surfactants and mixtures on complex hydrophobic films (blends of triglycerides), we utilize microfluidic techniques to control thermal and flow fields, and quantify the removal process. Our study focuses on the removal of triglycerides within a single microfluidic channel, advancing to a multiplexed setup that incorporates multiple channels in a single chip. This enables simultaneous comparative experiments on the chip. The multiplexed setup, with a single input pump and multiple output reservoirs, allows for efficient screening of surfactant formulations under various conditions. This method optimizes molecular structure, mixtures, and concentrations for specific water hardness and process temperatures with minimal material usage. 


Department Civil & Environmental Engineering

Miguel Martinez Pañeda - All buildings move

Entry Number: CIV ENG 12

Tall buildings shake during large wind or seismic events. These movements often govern their design. They dictate how large the structure needs to be to ensure that the building moves within acceptable comfort levels. However, once we accept that a bit of movement is okay, the question we asked is: can we depart from the traditional conception of buildings as a single rigid entity and break them down into parts that interact with each other to mitigate their dynamic response? Starting from that idea, we proposed an innovative damping system that allows a portion of the building to move differentially from the rest. Numerical and experimental tests of the concept, including wind tunnel tests, enabled us to show that, thanks to the large mass that we can mobilize, and by connecting both parts with springs and viscous dampers, the system drastically improves tall buildings' response with minimal differential displacements.

Hsuan-Yi Li - Unsupervised Winter Crop Mapping with Sentinel-1 and -2 temporal analysis

Entry Number: CIV ENG 13

Regenerative farming is a strategy for smart agriculture to maintain a sustainable ecosystem. This strategy can be applied to areas of arable farming to maintain stable food production. To achieve this, fields in which different crop types are growing will be identified and analysed. With enhanced understanding of multiple crop type phenology, the management of irrigation, fertilisation and pesticide application can be improved, to provide improved land management whilst maintaining maximum yields for food production. Earth Observation satellite image analysis, including supervised machine learning (ML) methods, have been applied to land cover classification and crop mapping, but the supervised ML algorithms are highly reliant on manual labelling and ground control data. To avoid these limitations, this research integrates Synthetic Aperture Radar data with multi-spectral image products to achieve more reliable and accurate land cover classification and crop type mapping with the proposed unsupervised ML model requiring zero ground truth.

Ashraf Nayel - Shielding Historical Buildings from Unusual Forces

Entry Number: CIV ENG 14

Blasts are extreme events that can happen due to accidental or malicious actions. In both cases, their effects endanger many important structures including historical buildings which have not been built to survive such extreme events. However, they need to be protected and preserved to stand for next generations as ambassadors of their nation's history. The aim of this research is to protect historical structures built from unreinforced masonry against blast actions without impairing their heritage value. To this end, an innovative lightweight sacrificial cladding is developed to shield existing vulnerable historical buildings against potential blast threats.  A combination of numerical simulations and experimental investigations is adopted to ensure effective protection for the invaluable historical masonry structures. 

Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Faraz Kaiser Malik - Flexible Microelectrodes for Electrochemical Detection in Microfluidic Samples

Entry Number: EEE 17

Continuous real-time monitoring of health profiles—important for identifying consistent chronic aberrations from reference intervals and prompting preventative intervention for improved prognosis—requires highly sensitive detection elements capable of autonomously and accurately measuring the concentration of analytes in small quantities of human biological samples. This research focuses on the fabrication of microelectrode-based electrochemical transduction elements on flexible polymeric substrates for the measurement of analyte concentration in microfluidic quantities of sweat collected non-invasively. Conventional fabrication protocols are modified and optimized to replace corrosive and/or toxic chemicals with safer, organic, alternatives for electrode patterning while maintaining high yield. Furthermore, 300 nm-thick silver/silver chloride reference microelectrodes are integrated on the same substrate as working and counter electrodes made with either gold (100 nm-thick) or multilayer graphene (<3 nm-thick), with fluid containment wells patterned using a femtosecond laser in a second encapsulating polymer layer to make the sensors fully self-contained.

Sadia Sharmin - Tensor Decomposition-Based Anomaly Detection

Entry Number: EEE 18

An anomaly refers to unusual data patterns that may indicate errors, unexpected events, or unusual behaviors in a dataset, depending on its context. Detecting anomalies, especially in high-dimensional data, is challenging due to the large number of variables/samples, computational complexity, irrelevant data, and complex structures involved. One effective way to address these challenges is to utilize tensors, which are multidimensional extensions of matrices, and decompose them to better understand and analyze the data. Tensorization, the process of transforming data into tensors, is crucial for effectively capturing the complex relationships within datasets. My research focuses on exploring and refining tensorization and tensor decomposition methods to enhance anomaly detection systems, aiming to improve their accuracy and efficiency.



Maciej Makuch - The kitchen cutlery and atomic energy – can a teaspoon hold nuclear waste?

Entry Number: MAT 30

Stainless steel is essential for the safe operation of nuclear power plants and storing the resulting waste. The 300-series grades are the most commonly used type of corrosion-resistant steel. Everyone should be familiar with some of them used as kitchen cutlery and food containers in the food industry. The popularity of this type of steel comes from its relatively low cost and the quality of corrosion protection that it offers. However, stainless steel is not indestructible, and under severe environmental conditions, it does corrode. This project aims to create a computer model capable of describing corrosion damage propagation in stainless steel and determining the conditions needed for its initiation. The outcome of this study can help establish new corrosion prevention methods. It can also inform the design and longevity of dry nuclear waste storage.

Susannah Lea - Materials Modelling to Make Nuclear Fuel go Further

Entry Number: MAT 31

As we transition to a clean energy landscape nuclear fission power emerges as clear candidate to reliably meet needs. However, currently there are conservative limits of how long nuclear fuel can remain in a reactor, which if extended could improve reactor efficiency and drop energy prices. These limits are due hydrogen entering into zirconium cladding around the fuel and then precipitating out as hydrides, which are stress concentrators. This leads to cracks which could cause unwanted fission gas release. The hydrogen ingress had been linked to the formation of an oxide layer on the zirconium cladding and hence understanding the oxide formation mechanism could help us design against hydriding.

Therefore, this work aims to create a computational model of the oxidation of zirconium, using a microscale technique called peridynamics. This allows us to input different physical phenomena individually and together to work out what causes the oxidation we see experimentally.


Mechanical Engineering

Arshad Kalathil Ashik - Is fidgeting really good?

Entry Number: MECH 33

Cartilage degeneration is the main cause of osteoarthritis, which affects over 300 million people worldwide. One significant factor in cartilage degeneration is improper lubrication at the joint interface. This research aims to study cartilage lubrication in detail to identify activities that can improve or worsen it.

Cartilage can be visualized as a sponge filled with water. During stationary activities like standing and sitting, the cartilage (sponge) is compressed, causing the fluid (water) to drain out. It is widely understood among researchers that unloading, such as lifting a leg momentarily or lying flat, will rehydrate cartilage. However, our recent study found that it is not necessary to remove the load completely for cartilage to rehydrate; small movements (fidgeting) are sufficient. This is due to the wedge-shaped cartilage geometry, which builds up fluid pressure and rehydrates the cartilage.

Animesh Agrawal - Marangoni Effect: Refining Bubble Dynamics in Flow-Induced Electrolysis

Entry Number: MECH 34

In the realm of electrolysis, generation of hydrogen bubbles although being integral to the process, still impede efficiency by obstructing active sites and escalating resistance. The key to reclaiming energy conversion efficiency lies in producing smaller bubbles and expediting their removal. Among the forces acting on bubbles, Marangoni forces (FM) generated by thermal and concentration gradients emerge as a primary obstacle to prompt detachment.

A significant research gap exists in examining the single bubble nucleation, growth and detachment within an electrolyzer setup, particularly when a counter flow field traverses the electrodes, which define the research project aim.

The results from the initial test phase gave insights about the role of electrode designs on nucleation, electrochemical parameters on growth in addition to schlieren imagining of thermal intensity ratio on bubble detachment. With results conforming to the literature, the forthcoming stage will focus on the advancement of the flow field.

Yuankai Ren - Seeing batteries’ inside using coded ultrasound

Entry Number: MECH 35

Lithium ion batteries serve as an essential energy storage device and have been widely used in consumer electronics and traffic electrification. To produce better batteries and extend their lifetime, it’s essential to develop non-destructive measurement tools to probe battery dynamics. Apart from the external evolution indicated by electrical probing, complicated physical-chemistry processes that occurs inside batterie also needs to be seen in a more direct manner.

In this work, a physical-acoustic tool, named coded ultrasound, is developed to probe and visualise the physical-chemistry evolutions inside battery cells in real time. Firstly, the continuum-scale acoustic model is built to reveal the acousto-battery characteristics which are required for optimal coding of battery state. Then, ultrasonic maps are created to decode the state and reflect the material properties of the battery at the cell-leve. Finally, physics-based algorithm is developed to further decode the structural changes of the battery at the layer-leve. The proposed methods are validated on both simulaitons and experiments with the co-measurement of material properties and internal structures achieved in real-time, which can provide theoretical and practical understandings for the physical-chemistry dynamics inside batteries.

Immunology and Inflammation

Ilia Leontari - Immune Cell Superheroes Battling Cancer

Entry Number: I&I 19

Every year, 6,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with myeloma, an incurable cancer of blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and form tumors in our bones. To fight these faulty blood cells, scientists are leveraging our body’s fighters, immune cells. My PhD project is focused on editing a very unique type of immune cells, iNKT cells, to recognize and kill blood cancer cells. By adding a receptor called CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) to the iNKT cells, I am giving them the ability to identify and attack cancer cells. CAR-iNKT cells are highly effective at killing cancer cells and can travel to tumor sites, such as the bone marrow, efficiently. My research aims to transform these enhanced immune cells into a potent weapon against blood cancer, offering hope for a powerful and effective treatment that can help many patients.


Infectious Disease

Joey Fu - Characterising the role of activating receptor LILRA5 in innate immunity

Entry Number: ID 21

The innate immune system is our body's first defense against infections, with cells like neutrophils and monocytes playing a crucial role in killing invading pathogens. These cells express activating receptors to detect pathogens and initiate immune responses, while inhibitory receptors regulate these responses to prevent excessive tissue damage. Despite advancements in understanding these receptors, many remain poorly characterised. My research focuses on studying the expression patterns and biological roles of leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors (LILRs), which has closely related activating and inhibitory receptors. Specifically, I am investigating the poorly characterised activating receptor LILRA5. Recently, LILRA5 was identified as a marker for sepsis, a serious condition where the body's response to infection damages its own tissues and organs. By understanding how LILRA5 functions in innate immunity, we can improve our knowledge of the immune system and develop better treatments for infections.


Institute of Clinical Sciences

Luminita Ruje - Outwitting the great escape artists

Entry Number: ICS 22

Blood cancer cells can become true escape artists, evading drug treatments meant to stop them from growing. First, cells may be sensitive to cancer treatment, but over time, they learn how to cope with it. Therefore, my project aims to track the journey of blood cancer cells through this process and to find how they gain the ability to escape. I will investigate this by tagging cells responsive to treatment, challenging them with a cancer drug and identifying which ones escape and multiply. By comparing the escapees to those that die in the process, I will find differences crucial for their evasion strategies. If successful, these differences could act as targets for therapeutic approaches in the fight against cancer.


National Heart and Lung Institute

Shubha Talwar - Attacking self – investigating the role of autoantibodies in Long-COVID

Entry Number: NHLI 37

Long-COVID affects 65 million people worldwide, with the numbers steadily increasing. There are no effective treatments, and vaccination is only partially protective. The pathophysiology remains unknown, but there is increasing evidence of immunological dysregulation in long-COVID patients.

Under certain conditions, the immune system can be “tricked” into producing autoantibodies – or antibodies against self-antigens. These autoantibodies can cause inflammation and, in some cases, autoimmune disease.

We profiled lung fluid and blood samples from patients with persistent respiratory symptoms post-COVID-19. Several autoantibodies which target immune mediators and components of the lung correlated positively with increased lung damage. These autoantibodies in the lung fluid did not correlate strongly with autoantibodies in the blood, suggesting tissue specific pathology.

We are currently studying differences in B-cells (antibody-producing immune cells) between individuals with long-COVID and those who feel fully recovered. This would enable better understanding of the underlying immune mechanisms for long-COVID and potentially guide treatments.

Valentina Quintero Santofimio - Silent airways, silent danger: the impact of work exposures on lung health

Entry Number: NHLI 38

People spend countless hours at work throughout their lifetime. During this time, it is likely that workers are exposed to harmful substances affecting their health. High income countries implement policies to regulate these exposures in the workplace, however this is not always the case in low- and middle-income countries, where occupational health may not be a priority. My research focuses in investigating the impact of occupational exposures on the lungs across different world regions. In particular, the small airways of the lungs are most susceptible to damage by the inhaled particles at work leading to inflammation and damage which can result in serious respiratory diseases. I aim to inform and adapt research tools which will ultimately help to identify those at risk, influence policies and intervene early to limit disease progression.


School of Public Health

Beatrice Ope - Beyond the Doctor’s Office: Exploring Women’s Experiences with Maternal Healthcare in Nigeria using the Patient’s Journey Mapping Approach

Entry Number: SPH 39

Background: Nigeria accounts for 28% of global maternal deaths, with 225 women dying daily from pregnancy-related complications. Understanding patient experiences is vital for improving care quality and birth outcomes. This study explores women’s maternal experiences in Nigeria.

Study Novelty: Moving beyond the traditional treatment focus, this study uses patient journey mapping to examine five key care touchpoints: awareness, consideration, access, treatment/care, and recovery, offering a comprehensive view of maternity healthcare.

Methodology: The study used a longitudinal qualitative research approach with a sample size of 12 women, incorporating in-depth interviews and patient journey mapping.

Results: The study reveals key maternal healthcare challenges: information gaps, late pregnancy detection, costly healthcare options, irregular checkups, and insufficient postpartum support.

Conclusion and Research Implications: By mapping the entire patient journey, this research offers fresh insights, highlights systemic improvement needs, and provides a practical call to action to enhance care experiences and birth outcomes in Nigeria.

Fernando Guntoro - Matchmaker, Matchmaker: Finding the Perfect Match in Observational Studies

Entry Number: SPH 40

Imagine you want to study the effect of COVID-19 on asthma using medical records or population surveys. However, there’s a problem: individuals who got COVID-19 might differ from those who did not get COVID-19 in ways that could affect the results, like their age or lifestyle. This is known as confounder effect, which is common in observational studies.

To address this issue, matching and propensity score analysis are techniques used to create comparable groups by pairing individuals with similar characteristics. This ensures that meaningful differences are only due to COVID-19 status.

To bridge existing gap in the literature, one of my PhD objectives involves systematically evaluating different methods of matching using dataset which simulates large observational study. Using these results, we can provide better guidelines for using matching and propensity score, and enhance the reliability of our analysis of post-COVID-19 health outcomes in the UK population.

Jack Elkes - How does the way we use an app change how well it works?

Entry Number: SPH 41

Mental health apps help individuals access mental health support that would otherwise not be available. With over 10,000 mental health apps available it’s hard to know which one will work best for you. Knowing how to use the app to receive benefit is important, but this is poorly understood. How someone uses the app is called engagement. In apps, engagement is captured through many different measures (e.g. number of logins). Data from all measures should be assessed to know how individuals engage with the app. However, to assess how engagement changes benefit received, currently researchers only look at thresholds on a single engagement measure, e.g. benefit in those who logged in at least twice compared to those who didn’t. But this approach misses important interactions with the app on other measures. We need a better way to understand how engagement changes the benefit received by using all available engagement data.


Surgery & Cancer

Nora Al Hannoush - Perioperative inflammation and clinical outcomes in surgical patients for non-small cell lung cancer

Entry Number: S&C 42

Among cancer, lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020, with approximately 85% having non-small cell lung cancer.

Surgery is important and it is the primary treatment to remove the cancer mass, but because of the surgical inflammation and other perioperative factors, it also sets the scene for cancer recurrence in those patients. Most of the factors that have been identified so far focussed on the effect of surgery. But one of the emerging areas relates that some of the patient factors, especially frailty, are important and the conduct of anaesthesia which used to be taken for granted, influences these responses.

Thus, my thesis sets the stage for a deeper exploration of the relationship between cancer and factors that affect perioperative inflammation, delving into the molecular and cellular processes, clinical implications, and potential protective measures paving the way for targeted approaches to mitigate the risk of cancer recurrence in the postoperative landscape.

Maxime Giot - Lights, Cancer... Action!

Entry Number: S&C 44

Optical spectroscopy is a technique that allows to make the difference between different types of human tissue by shining visible light onto it and analysing how the light is absorbed and reflected. This differentiation of tissue exercise is crucial to cancer surgeries in which surgeons must ensure that all the cancer is removed while leaving enough healthy tissue, both of which impact greatly the outcome for the patient.

In my research, I investigate how spectroscopy can be used in the operating theatre for surgeries of upper gastrointestinal cancers (oesophagus and stomach) in the hope that shining some light onto cancer may change surgery and better patient outcome.

Centre for Environmental Policy

Laila Kasuri - Participatory Approaches to Water Governance: Principles for Indigenous peoples' participation and inclusion

Entry Number: CEP 4

There have been increasing calls to adopt participatory approaches in water governance at local, national and international levels (Akhmouch and Clavreul, 2016). Despite these calls, certain communities, such as Indigenous peoples have often been excluded from such participatory or collaborative processes (OECD, 2015, Sarna-Wojcicki et al., 2019). The exclusion of Indigenous peoples has resulted in the suppression of their values and ways of knowing water (Wilson & Inkster, 2018; Jackson 2005). There is both intrinsic and instrumental benefit in engaging Indigenous peoples in decisions around water, as they have been stewarding water from time immemorial, and can contribute to our current technocratic approaches to managing water. My interdisciplinary research aims to develop principles for meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples and their values in water governance processes at multiple levels, through qualitative research, including a systematic review, document analysis, interviews, case study and focus group discussion.

Elsy Milan - Winning the NetZero 2050 Race: How to decarbonise industries with CCS policies?

Entry Number: CEP 5

Picture a world where smoke plumes from factories conceal the azure sky, suffocating slowly the environment. This is the current state of the world we are living in and the constant struggle of governments: decreasing emissions and reaching NetZero goals by 2050. Currently, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is presented as a mature technology that can reduce emissions from key end-use sectors, mainly ammonia, methanol, iron & steel, and cement. Nonetheless, this vision is hindered by the lack of policies to enhance the competitiveness of the technology. The following research project focuses on conceptualising a novel policy framework to de risk investments in CCS by generating a sufficient demand pull to trigger cost reduction and reaching a tipping point. This study places CCS at the heart of the energy transition through clear policies, economic efficacy, and increased stakeholder participation, turning the dream of a carbon-neutral world into a living reality.



Natalia Swiatek - Developing New Small Molecules to Overcome Drug Resistance in Advanced Prostate Cancer

Entry Number: CHEMI 9

Prostate cancer affects many lives with 1 in 8 men being diagnosed during their lifetime. While current treatments initially hinder the growth of tumours, the onset of resistance means that many patients progress to advanced disease for which there are few treatment options. Our research has focused on the development of a new small molecule which could overcome this resistance by blocking the activity of the androgen receptor protein, which drives cell replication in tumours, in a mechanism that is different to that of current therapies. We designed the structure of our compound to mimic that of proteins which naturally bind to the androgen receptor to achieve those same interactions but stop the cell replication process. The designed compound was first made and then tested in several biological assays which proved that it was able to bind to the androgen receptor and slow down the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Adi Sahay - Enantioselective synthesis of spiro-oxindole azetidines

Entry Number: CHEMI 10

Spirocyclic molecules have emerged as exciting frameworks for drug development. Spirocyclic molecules are highly 3-dimensional, can improve metabolic stability and enable access to un-patented design space. Within this class of molecules, spirocyclic oxindoles (spiro-oxindoles) are particularly attractive as lead candidates against diseases such as prostate cancer, diabetes and pain.

However, efficient syntheses of spiro-oxindoles are underdeveloped. Additionally, spiro-oxindoles are chiral molecules - they can exist in two forms called enantiomers which are mirror images of each other. For medicinal chemistry applications, synthesis of spiro-oxindoles must be able to selectively make one form over the other.

This presentation showcases the development of an enantioselective synthesis of spiro-oxindoles azetidines. Extensive screening leads to the design of a novel catalyst that furnishes products in high yield and enantioselectivity. Overall, the method uses readily available starting materials, features rapid assembly and broad scope serving as a platform to explore and elaborate drug development applications.

Yichao Cai - Unlocking Solar Efficiency: Infrared Activation of Trapped Electrons in PHI Films

Entry Number: CHEMI 11

Photoelectrochemical cells (PECs), employing semiconductors as both solar light absorbers and energy converters to facilitate the storage of solar energy as hydrogen, represent a promising methodology. Among semiconductor materials, poly(heptazine imides) (PHI) has garnered significant attention due to its outstanding environmental resistance and wide absorption across the solar spectrum, among other benefits. However, long-lived trap electrons in PHI, which remain trapped by defects or impurities in the material for extended periods, have limited the performance of PHI-based PECs. Here we demonstrate that infrared light irradiation directly activates these localized carriers, making them active for catalytic reactions. Additionally, we studied the pathway of these reactivated electrons. The successful control of trapped electrons with IR suggests an easy way to utilize trapped electrons and provides guidelines for designing trap states in PHI films.


Life Sciences

Scott Tytheridge - How does a mosquito’s sweet tooth affect its lifetime success?

Entry Number: LS 24

When not seeking out a host to suck blood from, mosquitoes feed on plant nectar. Female mosquitoes are the only ones that blood feed to lay eggs but both sexes require nectar as a primary energy source to perform basic functions. The composition and quality of this nectar can have effects on mosquito reproduction and host-seeking behaviour. All organisms need to strategically invest energy from their diet into physiological systems. A poor-quality diet could therefore contribute to poor performance and effectiveness of the immune system which for some mosquitoes defends against pathogens such as dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. It’s therefore of public health importance to understand this complex aspect of mosquito nutritional ecology. My research aims to characterise how nectar resources impact a mosquito’s ability to be a disease vector, including how many young it can produce, and its susceptibility to viral infections.

Agnes Szwarczynska - Do early birds catch the worm?

Entry Number: LS 25

People say that the early bird catches the worm. They also say that birds are what they eat*. But is it true? We don’t quite know, and this is what my research is about! In a deciduous forest, birds that hatch early tend to grow up when there are plenty of fat and juicy caterpillars around. Late-hatched birds miss the peak of caterpillar abundance and instead have to settle for skinny spiders and other insects. In my work, I am comparing the gut microbiome of these two groups. Micro…what? The community of teeny tiny wiggly things called microbes that we carry in our stomachs and share our meals with. Since a stable and diverse microbiome helps us stay healthy, I am exploring whether an early-life diet can impact the gut microbiome and, thus, the host’s health.

*… or something like that

Audrey Peters - Bacterial viruses, the unsung allies of our gut

Entry Number: LS 26

Bacteria are increasingly becoming resistant to antibiotics. This is especially concerning for bacteria causing disease, as it means it is harder to treat infections. It is therefore necessary to find alternative tools to combat resistant bacteria. Luckily, just like us, bacteria can be infected and killed by small viruses called bacteriophages. My project focuses on bacteria that cause gut infections, leading to disease that ranges from mild diarrhoea to death. The aim is to look for viruses in the environment that can kill the bad bacteria infecting the gut. So far, I found four different viruses, amongst which one is very effective at infecting and killing the bacteria. I am currently using them to treat infected mice and see if they can be used as an alternative to antibiotics to treat bacteria-associated diarrheal diseases, thus giving us an additional treatment for bacterial infections.

Daniella Pretorius - Into the Darkness: Exploring and Expanding the Solenoid Protein Universe

Entry Number: LS 27

My research focuses on designing a type of repeat protein called solenoids using structure based machine-learning techniques and experimental validation. I address 4 key questions in the presentation:

  1. Why is it Exciting to Design Solenoid Proteins?
    ‏Solenoid proteins are shaped like springs and have potential applications in biotechnology and materials science.
  2. Can We Design Solenoid Proteins?
    What is my method for design.
  3. Are These Solenoid Proteins Novel and Diverse?
    I investigate the novelty and structural diversity of the solenoids, enhancing their potential for groundbreaking applications.
  4. Can We Use These Proteins for Novel Materials?
    Solenoid proteins can create fibers, leading to new applications in biomedicine and nanotechnology.

Elisa Roberti - CELLOIDS: cell-inspired microrobots for the medicine of tomorrow

Entry Number: LS 28

Can you imagine tiny microrobots moving inside your body, precisely identifying diseased cells, and treating them? It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie, right? Well, you'll be pleased to discover that we are not so far from this utopian future. However, if you’re imagining robots with tiny wheels and little batteries, you're completely off track. Our microrobots use chemical reactions as sensors and actuators, and soft materials for their fabrication. They closely resemble a particular type of cell in our body. I am referring to macrophages, a type of cell in our immune system that can move through tissues and sense the presence of bacteria or diseased cells. If we succeed in fabricating such robots, we hope to treat severe pathologies like cancer, avoiding the side effects of current therapies, which can be almost as damaging as the pathology itself.

Serafima Davydova - Engineering fruit fly population control strategies

Entry Number: LS 29

Fruit flies are some of the most vicious and abundant risks to the agricultural industry as they directly damage fruit and vegetables. The Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly), for instance, has a worldwide distribution and a vast host range of over 200 species. Its populational control traditionally relies on mass production of sterilised flies at factories across the globe. Ideally, only sterilised males are then released which temporarily reduces the population. In my project I aim to use genetic engineering tools such as CRISPR/Cas9 to modify the medfly as means of more efficient male selection and production. This work will not only increase the health of sterilised flies due to elite precision of CRISPR/Cas9 tools, but also allow for cost-effective and efficient male production on an industrial scale.



Ilteber Ozdemir - Biofilaments Unveiled: Complex Dynamics and Pattern Formation in the Microscopic World

Entry Number: MATH 32

Biofilaments are thin, elastic, slender rods commonly found in nature. They are actuated by cargo-carrying motor proteins that climb along the filament, making them active filaments. These proteins exert compressive forces on the filament, creating a flow over its surface. Active filaments play crucial roles in various cellular processes, such as fluid transport, mixing, and swimming.

Our aim is to analyse filament dynamics in biological settings using a numerical model. Through simulations, we explore the complex patterns exhibited by the filaments. Employing various computational tools, we identify self-sustaining states, detect transitions between these states, and quantify their stability in response to external effects.

Imperial College Business School

Asad Tariq - Lines of Inequality: How Political Redistricting Shapes Education in Indian Villages

Entry Number: ICB 20

In India, the distribution of public goods like schools is skewed, especially in areas dominated by religious minorities and marginalised castes. Why do these areas have fewer schools, and how does political representation play a role? My research delves into this question by analyzing 2011 census data, revealing intriguing results: Muslim villages in non-Muslim dominated constituencies have fewer public schools compared to those in Muslim dominated constituencies. Does this indicate a form of "political punishment"? To further explore this, I studied the impact of the 2008 delimitation, which redrew constituency boundaries. How do these changes in political boundaries influence resource allocation? What mechanisms drive these disparities, and what does this mean for the future of equitable development in India? These questions guide the next steps of my research

Competition Information

  • The competition is open to all current Imperial College PhD students.
  • All competitors are required to present their research at the Showcase event on Wednesday 10 July 2024 from 11:00-13:00 in the Queen’s Tower Rooms, Sherfield Building.
  • All competitors will be allocated a 1m x 1m poster board or a table.
  • Competitors can use their poster board or table to display anything that will assist them in communicating their research. This could be a research poster, a selection of images/artwork or any other visual aids/props; this is your chance to be creative!
  • Competitors will be assessed by a selection of judges which will include Imperial staff and students (full details to be confirmed before the event).
  • Competitors will be asked to present their research individually to each judge; the pitch should not exceed 3 minutes and must be aimed at a layperson.
  • Competitors will be judged on their ability to explain their research in a way that can be shared with the general public and also on how well they visually & creatively communicate their research (see judging criteria below)
  • Judging will take place between 11:00-13:00 followed by the Reception and Prize Giving Ceremony from 14:00-14:45.

**Applications are now closed**


Category Considerations Maximum Score



  • Ability to explain clearly & concisely - Was the presentation easy to follow and understand? Did the presenter explain any jargon?
  • Pitched appropriately - Was the research communicated in a language appropriate to a lay audience?
  • Important points coveredDid you understand what the important parts of the research are? Did the presentation emphasise the main points?
  • Engaging – Did the presenter convey enthusiasm/passion for their research? Did the presentation hold your attention? Were you curious to find out more?
 10 pts


  • Visual appeal are the visual aids eye catching? Do they help to highlight the key parts of the presentation?
  • Originality – Did the presentation stand out? Was the presenter creative with their use of visual aids?
  • Clarity – Did the use of visual aids complement and enhance the presentation pitch?
 10 pts

The following prizes will be awarded:

  • 1st Prize - £500
  • 2nd Prize - £250
  • 3rd Prize - £150
  • People's Choice - £100
  • 09:45 - 10:30 - Student Registration
  • 11:00 - 13:00 - Judging Session & Open Exhibition
  • 14:00 - 14:45 - Reception & Prize Ceremony