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Food for Thought

by YPU Admin on November 29, 2016, Comments. Tags: e-Agri Sensors Centre, PhD, Research, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Charles, and I have been interested in electronics since high school. Being able to build a solution to a problem, with my hands has always appealed to me. Because of this I went down a scientific path through GCSE’s to A-levels and eventually university. There I learnt the wider impact that my interests could have, and the importance of sharing such knowledge and expertise beyond our realms. Today I am an engineer, and this is my research…

In Depth


With the huge availability of food today in the United Kingdom, it is very easy to forget that this is not the case across the globe. Farmers in developing countries, such as India, lack the fast-evolving knowledge required to manage their crops efficiently, and also the technology required to implement it. This means that small issues such as pests and disease, have a significant impact on their livelihood. This is an age old problem that requires new age technology to help. At the e-Agri Sensors Centre, we are developing a solution that will bring the power back into the hands of local farmers, and reduce the current destruction to their crops. This solution comes in the form of a low-cost attachment to their phone, which will be able to scan for disease signatures. In the field it can be put in the hands of field workers and charities.


Going Further

e-Agri Sensors Centre Website:

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-groups/sisp/syngenta-sensors-uic/

My research project:

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-groups/sisp/syngenta-sensors-uic/projects/e-agri-india/

Related research:

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-groups/sisp/syngenta-sensors-uic/projects/nutrient-sensors/

Radio 4 interview with myself and the centre’s Director:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0306gmn

 

Multilingualism among Roma in Kosovo

by YPU Admin on November 11, 2016, Comments. Tags: Kosovo, Multilingualism, PhD, Roma, Social Anthropology, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Amelia Abercrombie and I am currently in the final year of my PhD in Social Anthropology. My research is about multilingualism among Roma in Kosovo. I aim to understand the way they speak four languages (Albanian, Serbian, Turkish and Romani), and how this is influenced by their ideas about these different languages.

How I got here

I studied Serbian & Croatian studies at UCL for BA. This is a language degree, which also included modules in literature, history and other areas, and as part of the course I studied in Belgrade for one year. This sparked my interest not just in learning languages and cultures, but also in travelling to places to learn first-hand how people live. I went on to study East European studies with Romanian language for Masters, and attended a summer school in Transylvania. This course focused on area studies research and methods.  After that I spent some time working as a support worker for people with severe learning disabilities before coming to Manchester to start my PhD in Manchester in 2012. I decided to research ideas about language among Roma in Kosovo as this group speak several languages from childhood, and I was already familiar with some of the languages from my previous studies.

In Depth

My research is an ethnography, which means that I spent an extended period (18 months) living with the people I am studying. My method involved living and working with these people, and also learning to speak Romani language. As a result my work focuses on a wide variety of issues ranging from the language used in drama, to language standardisation in schools and media. I also look at other issues which affect Roma in Kosovo, such as poverty, ethnicity and multiculturalism.


Going Further

Farrah Jarral has made a series of short radio programmes about anthropology. They provide a good background to the discipline with interesting examples. www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06zjhfx

The RAI (Royal Anthropological Society) has website with Lots of details about the discipline of anthropology, and various academic resources. https://www.therai.org.uk/

The RAI also have a film on YouTube which introduces anthropology, and has been made by lecturers from Manchester, as well as other universities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF51Ma1Voo4

 

Engineering meets Medicine!

by YPU Admin on October 27, 2016, Comments. Tags: aerospace engineering, Aneurysm, PhD, Research, simulation, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Ben and I'm a 2nd year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester.  I have always been interested in aeroplanes and space for as long as I can remember so studying Aerospace Engineering at University was an easy choice for me having studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths at A-Level.  I completed a four year integrated Master's at the University of Manchester in 2014 before beginning my PhD in 2015.  My research concerns the simulation of characteristics of blood flow through diseased arteries.  By modelling these characteristics we can begin to understand why these diseases, such as the growth of aneurysms, occur. 



In Depth

The main focus of my research is improving the criteria for when preventative surgery should take place for patients with an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA).  An aneurysm occurs when the artery begins to expand and swell, weakening the artery wall and can lead to a rupture.  Due to the amount of blood travelling through the aorta, 90% of patients who have a ruptured AAA die.  As a result, it seems sensible to perform the preventative surgery even if there is only a low risk of rupture.  However, AAAs mostly occur in men over the age of 65, for who surgery is more dangerous than the average person and shouldn't be taken lightly.  Therefore a compromise must be found between the two risks.

The current criteria for surgery is based upon the maximum diameter of the aneurysm, found using ultrasound similar to that used for pregnancy scans, is greater than 5.5cm for men and 5.0cm for women.  However, this isn't patient specific as it does not take into account the weight, height or family history of the patient.  My research, working with Wythenshawe Hospital and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester, is looking to improve this criteria by taking the images obtained from the ultrasound, building a 3D geometry from them and then simulating the blood flow through the aneurysm to assess the risk of rupture for the patient.  The aim is to have the entire process automated so that it can be done quickly by the doctor to give a very fast decision which will hopefully reduce the number of patients who have unnecessary surgery while also reducing the number who die from the aneurysm rupturing.  We have a lot of work to do before it becomes clinical practice but the results so far have been promising.

The research I have been working on during my PhD isn't what is normally associated with an Aerospace Engineer at first glance.  However, I am able to use a lot of the same theory I learnt during my first degree and apply it to a new application, showing the diversity of career available to an Engineer.

Going Further

For updates on my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @b_owen92

Or visit my website www.about.me/benowen

More information on Aerospace Engineering can be found at www.aerosociety.com

Or general engineering at www.theiet.org/

Here is a fun video of the type of projects you will be involved in if you study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZUHunTmMV8

 

Searching for a cure: Hunter syndrome and gene therapy

by YPU Admin on October 24, 2016, Comments. Tags: Gene Therapy, Health, Hunter Syndrome, medicine, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Helene Gleitz and I am a 2nd year PhD student in Medicine. After getting my international baccalaureate in Switzerland, I studied Biomedical Materials Science in Manchester and graduated in 2013. I then applied for a research master’s degree (MRes) in Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine, where I spent 8 months working in a gene therapy lab. In fact, I enjoyed my master’s project so much that I applied for a PhD in the same lab to study gene therapy.

My PhD investigates a rare paediatric genetic disease called mucopolysaccharidosis type II, or Hunter syndrome, that occurs almost exclusively in males. I am looking to develop a gene therapy through the use of haematopoietic stem cells, which are cells involved in the immune and blood systems.


In Depth

Hunter syndrome is caused by mutations in the IDS gene present on the X-chromosome and different mutations affect the severity of the disease. Mutations in the IDS gene affect the IDS enzyme, which is involved in the degradation of complex sugars called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). When degradation and recycling of large molecules are altered, complex sugars accumulate in every organ in the body and things start to go haywire.

In the most severe form, young children show signs of neurodegeneration, behavioural problems and cardiorespiratory complications amongst many other symptoms. Lifespan is also significantly reduced, with most patients dying in teenage years. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the severe form and replacing the missing enzyme (known as enzyme replacement therapy) has no impact on the brain.

The goal of my PhD is to design a therapy that will replace the missing enzyme through a single procedure and provide a long-term cure for the brain. We currently do this by modifying the patient’s own haematopoietic stem cells, which are the cells that differentiate into your blood and immune systems. Haematopoietic stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow, modified in the lab and re-infused into the patients. This process is known as a bone marrow transplant. 



During the first year of my PhD, I developed a lentiviral vector, which is a therapeutic virus derived from HIV-1, to carry the correct ‘version’ of the IDS gene. The lentivirus can be added to the haematopoietic stem cells in the lab, where the virus integrates into the genome and delivers the correct gene. This method allows haematopoietic stem cells to produce the right enzyme.

By correcting the cells and infusing them back into patients, we expect blood cells to be able to reduce the amount of complex sugar molecules that are stored throughout the body. Most importantly, we know that certain blood cells called monocytes can cross into the brain and have an impact there.

The rest of my PhD will involve evaluating this therapy in the mouse model of severe Hunter, where I analyse enzyme levels in the brain, sugar accumulation, neurodegeneration and behaviour 6 months after the transplant. Ultimately, we are hoping to put this through to clinical trials and get the therapy to Hunter patients as quickly as possible!

Going Further

If you’d like to know more about our research lab and the work that we do, visit our page: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/brian.bigger/research

If you are keen to know more about gene therapy in general, visit: http://www.bsgct.org/ or http://www.asgct.org/

For updates on MPS disorders in the UK, please visit: http://www.mpssociety.org.uk/en/

 

Searching for Transcendence: Research into Music and Religion

by YPU Admin on September 29, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, music, Religion, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Hannah Burton and I’m currently studying for a PhD in theology and music. As an undergraduate I studied Music at the University of Liverpool, and then moved back to Manchester where I completed a Masters in Religions and Theology. I enjoy the diversity of this subject – especially in a city such as Manchester where a people from a wide variety of religious backgrounds live, work, and have an impact upon the city’s culture. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which people feel they experience religion, or God, in their lives, and my research tries to understand how music can enable this experience for individuals.


In Depth

Music plays a prominent and important role in many religions as part of prayer and worship, and so it seems reasonable to explore how it might create an experience of and a direct connection with something transcendent, or God. To do this, it is useful to have a case study of attitudes toward both religion and music, and examine the similarities and differences therein. Therefore, my research analyses the writings of several early nineteenth-century scholars from the fields of theology, philosophy, and music criticism. Most prominent are FDE Schleiermacher and ETA Hoffmann.


Schleiermacher was a theologian writing at the turn of the nineteenth century. His ideas about religion were radically new at that time – he encouraged his readers to concentrate less on religion’s rituals and doctrine (the in-depth beliefs and ‘rules’ of religion) and to focus instead on having a religious intuition and feeling. He rejected the idea that having a great knowledge of religion was key, and argued, on the other hand, that the essence of religion is being able to perceive, recognise, and feel and presence of the transcendent (or God) in the world around us. However, because the transcendent is not of our world, we can never fully reach or understand it. Nevertheless, Schleiermacher maintains that we must continue to strive to intuit and feel transcendence by engaging closely with everyday objects and experience in our lives.


ETA Hoffmann was a theatre director, composer, and music critic writing at around the same time as Schleiermacher. Some of his best-known writing about music includes interesting ideas about how music reveals an ‘unknown realm’ of ‘spirits’ that is outside of our world. Though music creates a glimpse of this realm, Hoffmann claims that it does not reveal it completely, and so music’s listeners often feel a sense of ‘yearning’ for what Hoffmann notably calls ‘transcendence.’

So there are certainly parallels between these two theories of religion and music! I hope to be able to show, through my research and by looking at some musical examples, that there are particular features in music that enable us to experience, intuit, feel, and yearn from, transcendence. I also hope that this case study might shed some light on how music might continue to evoke an experience of God and transcendence today, particularly across different genres and contexts.


Going Further

Some faith communities and organisations blog about their perspective on the place of music within religion and theology, such as these examples:

https://www.rca.org/resources/theology-and-place-music-worship

http://www.theworshipcommunity.com/theology-of-music-part-one/

To find out more about how music affects us, have a look at this blog post written by a neuroscientist: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-graziano/why-is-mozart-a-religious_b_875352.html

If you want to know more about studying Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester, have a look at our department’s webpage: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/religionstheology