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Changing the Climate, Changing the Planet!

by YPU Admin on March 1, 2018, Comments. Tags: Climate Change, PhD, Research, and STEM

Introduction

My name is Zainab Bibi, and I am doing PhD in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the University of Manchester. As a well-rounded student, my interests span across Climate Change, Sustainability and Atmospheric sciences. The topic of my research is new methods for studying atmospheric soot. I want to introduce new processes of using the existing instrumentation and develop novel instruments to further explicate the major properties of Black Carbon and provide new insights and progress into its major processes.

Following my research on Global Universities, I came to conclusion that work being done in School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester is the perfect match for my research interests. My passion is to learn about emerging technologies in the field of Atmospheric sciences and use them to reduce climate change effects.


 

In Depth

The warming impact of BC is 460 to 1500 times stronger than CO2 and having a varied from few days to few weeks life time. BC, when placed on the snow and ice, causes both increase in melting rate and warming of the atmosphere. BC is produced from the assortment of combustion procedure and is accessible all over the earth system. It has the unique part in the climate system of earth because it influences the cloud processes, absorbs solar radiation and alters the ice cover and snow melting.  Another product of incomplete burning is soot under the hot and air starved conditions. It is also a part of atmospheric aerosol particles that has received the attention of health care and climate research communities because of its adverse impacts and increasing the disease susceptibility leading to cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems diseases in humans. For measuring some of their properties various instruments are being developed for example light absorption and scattering at variable wavelengths and elemental and organic carbon concentrations. On the other hand, new technologies are on their way which allows us to study about them on the next level, which has not been done in the past. Therefore my research focuses on new methods for studying atmospheric soot.

This research work is of the critical importance because emissions from Black carbon are the 2nd major cause of current global warming, after CO2 and it affects the atmospheric content of heat directly and indirectly. By measuring the soot particles we will attain a full picture of how the soot and other atmospheric pollutants are affecting the climate and by characterizing how the atmospheric particles scatter the light and quantifying the particle size and concentrations. Moreover this type of research work will help the scientists to understand the impacts of BC towards climate change and what mitigation strategies would be adapted to reduce its impact on the climate in future.

Going Further

You can read about my research center here: http://www.cas.manchester.ac.uk/

You can read about my school here: http://www.sees.manchester.ac.uk/

 

 

Intern Journey: From Student to Staff at the University of Manchester

by YPU Admin on November 2, 2017, Comments. Tags: internship, Physics, STEM, and Students

Introduction

My name’s Jake and I went to school in a small sleepy town in North Wales, followed by sixth form where I studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry A-levels.  After this I was accepted onto the Physics course at the University of Manchester, is one of the most exciting, friendly and liberal cities in the U.K. - a really exciting change compared to the slow pace of life in Wales!  After a jam-packed few years of study, work, fun and travel, I’ve fallen in love with Manchester and now work as a Student Recruitment and Widening Participation (SRWP) Intern at the University.

In depth…

I began university with absolutely no idea about what I wanted to do in terms of a career.  I knew that I liked science, helping people and travel, but there was no particular job that took my interest, so I decided to do an MPhys Physics degree as my science grades were good, I liked Brian Cox documentaries and the idea of academic research, as well as this Physics is a very well respected degree with broad career prospects.

I assumed that over the course of the following four years that I would have an epiphany moment – that everything would fall into place and I would exclaim ‘Eureka!  I’ve found my life’s passion!’, and start doggedly pursuing an exciting career to eventually become a world-leading researcher in an exciting and dynamic field.

To my dismay, this career revelation never occurred, and actually as my degree went on I became more and more unsure about a career in scientific research.  For my MPhys research, I investigated the effect of graphene upon bacteria, in the hope that one day graphene could be used in a new generation of antibiotics.  However, despite the amazing applications of this research I learnt that a career in research is not for me (at least not yet), as I’m not cut out for long hours in the lab and fiddling with computer codes.

But by all means doesn’t mean that my degree was a waste of time.  On the contrary, my time as a student was the best in my life – I’ve made fabulous life-long friends, gained extremely employable skills, travelled to amazing places, and my self-confidence has sky-rocketed.

One of the most important things that I’ve gained is that I’ve learnt much more about myself, and what I like and what I dislike.  I’ve discovered that I’m hugely passionate about science communication, helping people, and spreading public awareness about science, education, and social issues.  I also love working with people, using my creativity to blog and solve problems, and enjoy variety in my work.

I’ve recently began work as a Student Recruitment & Widening Participation Intern at the university and love it!  In this role, I coordinate the University’s Aspiring Student Society (UMASS), which helps people considering higher education to think about their options and gives application and career guidance.  I represent the University of Manchester at UCAS fairs, help organise Open Days, and give talks to young people to help them make more well-informed decisions about their futures.  I work with the public on a regular basis, every working hour is different and I feel proud working for such a prestigious institution for which social responsibility is one of their core values.  As term starts again soon I’m hoping to get back involved with science and LBGTQ+ outreach too!

I’ve got no idea what’ll I’ll do after my internship, but I’m sure as I carry on learning more, getting involved with more things and get to grips with the job, I’ll have a clearer idea of what my next step will be.

Going further…

http://www.umass.manchester.ac.uk/ : The University of Manchester Aspiring Students’ Society – a good resource for anyone who’s considering applying to any academic institution.

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/connect/teachers/students/secondary/widening-participation/ : The Widening Participation programmes at Manchester, which encourage students of all educational backgrounds to apply to Manchester.

http://www.manchestersciencefestival.com/ : Manchester’s hugely popular annual science festival – a great opportunity to learn about different areas of science, its importance and impact.  You can also speak to world-leading scientists!

https://manchesterstudentblogs.wordpress.com/category/jake/ : The University of Manchester’s Student Blogs.  These give a valuable insight into university life and offer tips covering all parts of student life.

 

Can we cure back pain in the future?

by YPU Admin on September 21, 2017, Comments. Tags: Engineering, masters, medicine, and STEM

Introduction

Hey, my name is Farah Farzana and I am a medical student at the University of Manchester. Last year after I completed my third year, I decided to take a year out of medicine to do a Masters in Research degree in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.  This is known as an intercalated degree, that many medics opt to do if they have further interests in research or any subject in general.  After completing this Masters, I will go back to medical school to complete my final remaining two years and hopefully graduate and become a doctor.

I never imagined or really anticipated during the first few years of Medicine, that I have any interest in research. To be honest, I was always scared by the prospect of going into research and imagined it to be pretty intense and hard. However during my third year I started becoming more interested in regenerative medicine, especially cell based therapies and the potential of regenerating tissues. The growing area of research that focuses of regenerating damaged organs or tissues, so in effect you are giving them a new life every time they are damaged intrigued me. So I decided to look into regenerating the structures within our spines known as the intervertebral discs.



In Depth

What is the intervertebral disc and how does it cause back pain?

The intervertebral discs are structures that make up our spine, and helps in overall mobility. With progressive age the spine goes through trauma and increase pressure due to many factors such as obesity, because of which these discs slowly starts to breakdown gradually. This causes severe pain and discomfort for suffers and is known to be one of the major causes of back pain. The pain occurs mainly because the discs are no longer mobile enough to support our range of movements, such as twisting and turning or even sitting which puts pressure on our spine. It is estimated that approximately 60-80% of people will at some point in their lifetime experience back pain. Despite the condition not being life threatening, it imposes a huge economic burden on our health care system, as well as being one of the foremost causes of disability due to chronic pain between the ages of 45 and 65 worldwide. Current treatments are costly and only offers symptomatic relief for the patients and most treatment available are a temporary fix to the underlying problem. Therefore research is now focussing on understanding the disease process itself of why the breakdown of the discs occurs and what cells are involved in such disease. Identifying the exact cells involved in the process that leads to breakdown of the discs will allow researchers to target such cells and stop them from causing the breakdown.

What does my research focus on?

Researchers have discovered that some cells act to maintain the discs health, which can be also targeted to restore the damaged disc. My research is looking to find out more about the types of cells present within the innermost layer of the disc. Some cells within this layer of the disc have the ability to stimulate rejuvenation of the damaged disc, when given signals. These findings of how these cells function and what signals they need to remodel the damaged disc will further guide upcoming research that will look at developing treatments by manipulating such cells to regenerate the discs. Such treatments will target the underlying disease itself in order to give patients suffering from back pain a permanent cure to back pain caused with progressive age. Such discovery in the future can even lead to developing treatments that can potentially cure back pain forever and change millions of lives.

Going Further

I made a video on studying medicine and how it is like to be a medical student, if you would like to have a look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LgGrc6182g

This research is a hot topic now and we even managed to somehow feature on the daily mail a few years back!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1267326/Growing-new-disc-help-relieve-pain.html

Feature on medical news today about future and techniques of regenerating the spine:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263496.php

Interested in studying medicine here is a good website to look at:

https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/career/studying-medicine/becoming-a-doctor/introduction

Interested in becoming a scientist? Look at this website for a step by step explanation:

http://study.com/articles/How_to_Become_a_Biological_Scientist_Education_and_Career_Roadmap.html

A detailed scientific paper explaining disc degeneration and processes of regeneration:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3008962/


 

Working on a smarter future

by YPU Admin on September 7, 2017, Comments. Tags: Computer Science, PhD, Research, science, sensors, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Hashir Kiani and I am a PhD researcher at the School of Computer Science. My research is titled “Wireless Sensor Networks in Smart Grids”. I work on designing algorithms which can be used to make an electrical grid smarter by analysing the data collected from the grid through wireless sensors. These algorithms are used to detect faults in the grid and then employ appropriate measures to prevent those faults. The end goal of my research is to develop methods for a more efficient and smart electricity network.


Hashir

In Depth

I did my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan. After my bachelor’s degree I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study for a Master’s degree in Communications Engineering and Networks from the UK. The main motivation behind going for a PhD after the completion of my Master’s course was the worsening situation with respect to electricity generation and distribution in my home country, Pakistan. Pakistan is facing a huge shortage of electricity and people have to go without electricity for multiple hours each day. The situation worsens in the summers as demand for electricity peaks due to cooling requirements as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius. According to a report by USAID, Pakistan has suffered a loss of 10% of its GDP due to power shortage. The long power outages have caused great distress to the public with people resorting to rioting on a number of occasions. The distribution losses are above 20% which is more than double the global average. Therefore if distribution losses are brought down close to the global average Pakistan can solve its energy crisis.

The main objective of my research on smart grid systems is to find ways to make the electrical grid more efficient and thus considerably reduce the distribution losses. My research is focused on using wireless sensor networks in order to monitor the electrical grid so that timely decisions can be made to increase the efficiency, reliability and robustness of the grid network. Therefore my research will be very helpful in solving the energy crisis Pakistan is currently facing. 

After completion of my PhD I have plans to work at a reputable engineering university of Pakistan as an academic and a researcher. One of my objectives would be to introduce a course on smart grid technologies at the MS level and develop interest among the students in this area. I will use the knowledge I gained during my research to form a research group responsible for doing high quality research in the field of smart grid systems. The research group would strive to work in partnership with national bodies and distribution companies to facilitate the transition towards a smart electrical grid which will not only be efficient but also cost effective as it will be able to detect electricity theft and thus prevent losses of millions of dollars each year. 

Going Further…

Further information about smart grid technologies can be found at the following links:

https://www.smartgrid.gov/  : A good resource on information about smart grid technologies

http://www.smartgrids.eu/ : Details the smart grid initiatives taken by the European Union

https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/smart-future/britains-smart-grid : A cool video showing Britain’s future version of smart grids

http://www.cs.manchester.ac.uk/mlo/ : A link to my research group (Machine learning) at the University of Manchester.


 

Mimicking Nature to Create a Chemical Sensor

by YPU Admin on June 14, 2017, Comments. Tags: Electronic, Engineering, PhD, Polymers, Research, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

Hi! My name is Chris Storer, I’m a fourth (and final) year PhD student here at the University of Manchester. I’m originally from Warrington, in the North of England, and I came to Manchester to study an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Materials Science.

I find the interaction between nature and science to be fascinating, especially the way that new, cutting edge technologies take inspiration from biology. Evolution has already provided ingenious solutions to challenges that engineers face every day.

This led me to pursue my PhD in polymer sensors, where I try to understand how the sense of smell and taste work in nature. The aim is to use this knowledge to create a portable chemical sensor – just like the hand-held sensors you see scientists using to scan things in Sci-Fi movies!

How I got here




At school, I studied biology, chemistry, physics and geography at A-level. I really enjoyed all the different aspects of the sciences and didn’t want to specialise too much early on.

This led me to studying Biomedical Materials Engineering at university – an interdisciplinary science that gave me a lot of freedom to study a range of topics and keep my options open.

Following this I started my PhD in Polymer Sensors, in the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering here at Manchester. It really does go to show that you’re never stuck in one area of science – quite the opposite!

In Depth

My research takes inspiration from the binding sites found in the olfactory cells of the human nose. These very specialised receptors allow us to detect chemicals in the air and give us the sense of smell.

I recreate these receptors by imprinting the chemical molecule that I want to detect into a plastic material, called a polymer. You can imagine this is a bit like pressing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a piece of play dough, but on a microscopic level. When I take the chemical molecule out, only that unique shape will fit back in place. And hey-presto, you’ve got a chemical receptor!


The tricky part is how you then turn this into an electrical signal to send to a computer to measure – like how a nerve cell sends information to your brain. For this I use a capacitor to measure the build-up of charged molecules on my sensor. This acts as a transducer – changing the chemical information into electrical information for measuring the chemicals in the environment.

Going Further

A great video clip by Brian Cox on how animals use chemical sensors to navigate their environment through sight, smell and taste (BBC, “Wonders of Life” documentary):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGcBaXobEh4&list=PL50KW6aT4Ugy7sAKZGa4o4J39Os5L5tTl&index=3

A link to some of our research here at the University of Manchester involving chemical sensors for use in Agriculture:

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/newe-agri/

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/newe-agri/people/