Category: Research Staff

Dr Diana Varaden, Research Associate, Environmental Research Group, School of Public Health

“I strive to identify how best we can communicate air pollution as a health risk to the public”

After I completed my MSc in environmental technology at Imperial, I started a job as an air quality consultant, working on projects involving monitoring and modelling air quality. Through my educational background and work experience, I was able to recognise the sources and magnitude of the air pollution problem in our city and its impact on human health.  

However, I couldn’t help but wonder how the public could understand the importance of tackling the air pollution problem if they could not see it! The opening sentence of my personal statement when applying for my PhD studentship eight years ago was – ‘Air pollution, the invisible killer, needs to be unmasked! How can we do it?’ Finding the answer to this question was and still is the focus of my research.  

My research largely involves working with members of the public, enabling them to be an active part of the research process, and helping them to design, implement and interpret their own air quality monitoring projects. I am interested in interdisciplinary work bridging natural science, social and health disciplines and in identifying the benefits of involving lay individuals in the research process.  (more…)

Phebe Ekregbesi, Research Technician, National Heart and Lung Institute

“There’s such a welcoming group of people with a healthy attitude to lunch –and the idea that breaking bread builds communities.”

I completed a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bath in 2018. This included a placement at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where I published a paper. That experience was pivotal in deciding to be an immunologist. 

In 2019, I joined Imperial as a research technician. I mainly characterise immune cells in different diseases, and also now contribute to imaging within the Inflammation Repair and Development (IRD) Section. 

Outside of the laboratory, I volunteer with organisations promoting STEM fields to underrepresented groups, including mentoring young girls and non-binary people through the Stemettes and celebrating Black voices with the Black in Immuno Hub. 

Since 2021, I have been the technician for the Lloyd laboratory where I teach users how to operate some imaging equipment, assist members with their experiments, and offer wider technical support and some general laboratory administration.  (more…)

Dr Violeta Cordón Preciado, Research Technician, Life Sciences 

“I am optimising growth conditions and working out how to maintain and store the different species of cyanobacteria”

I am a molecular biologist and the Research Technician for the newly stablished Molecular Evolution Lab. Our group is studying the origin and evolution of photosynthesis using cyanobacteria as a model system. Cyanobacteria are carbon-fixing oxygen-releasing microorganisms of major ecological impact. They played a significant role in Earth’s history by enabling the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere and the appearance of more complex life. 

My project aims to better understand the dynamics of genome evolution in diverse cyanobacteria. We have planned a long-term evolutionary experiment in which we aim to gather experimental data of the speed and process of their evolution under stable lab conditions. For this, four species of cyanobacteria will be grown under constant light and growth conditions and their genomes analysed using next generation sequencing techniques.  

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Dr Giovanni Fantuzzi, Imperial College Research Fellow, Aeronautics 

“I am developing a completely new type of computer-assisted technique that combines tools from different areas of mathematics with the latest advances in numerical optimisation”

I joined Imperial as an undergraduate back in 2010 to study Aeronautical Engineering. I found myself so much at home that after graduating I decided to stay, first as a PhD student and now as an Imperial College Research Fellow. 

My work explores new ways in which optimisation – the science of doing things as well as possible – can help engineers design technology that performs at its best, and is robust to changes in its operating environment. This is key to making industries such as energy and transport sustainable. 

To meet this ambitious goal, one must be able to answer questions like, “How much energy can a wind turbine generate?” or “In which conditions does it operate safely?”. High-fidelity computer simulations and machine learning methods can only provide partial answers because, for engineering systems of such complexity, the number of scenarios that one can simulate accurately and use to train artificial intelligence is typically very limited.  

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Tamanna Kabir, Research Nurse, National Heart and Lung Institute 

“I’m now part of the Grenfell Firefighters Study team, examining the physical health outcomes of almost 800 London firefighters who attended the Grenfell Tower fire.”

I’m a Research Nurse at the National Heart and Lung Institute, currently working with firefighters all day!  

My journey here was a bit like crossing a bridge and tunnel to reach the same destination. Intrigued by human behaviour, I completed a psychology degree but couldn’t see myself adopting its indirect approach. I then worked in charities and enjoyed building more therapeutic relationships with people, so trained as a nurse. I rarely saw people like me in either field. But when I discovered nurses could be researchers, I suddenly thought – why not me? 

I’m now part of the Grenfell Firefighters Study team, examining the physical health outcomes of almost 800 London firefighters who attended the Grenfell Tower fire. It’s undoubtedly a sensitive topic which I’m fortunate to gain insight into. I support firefighters to take part in the study, perform heart/lung function assessments and blood tests, then discuss their results. In the future, we’ll monitor medium and long-term health outcomes by reviewing their health records. 

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Dr Robin Lamboll, Research Associate in Climate Science and Policy, Centre for Environmental Policy 


“C
OP26 was about a month after I got a call informing me that I’d been matched with someone who needed bone marrow” 

After doing my undergraduate course in Natural Sciences, I continued at the University of Cambridge to get a PhD in the physics of solar cells. I enjoyed being a student, but not particularly my actual research, so I left academia for two years to work as a consultant to pay off my student loan before becoming a more interdisciplinary scientist, working on climate change.

Currently I do a variety of programming and statistical analyses on emissions data, for instance working out relationships between different types of air pollution. People often want to think only about carbon dioxide emissions, but the other gases we emit can make a big difference too.  

I calculate the amount of carbon we can afford to produce while still staying below certain temperature limits for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – something that has to take account of these other gases and also contribute to estimating the impact of recent climate pledges in the UNEP emissions gap report. You may have read in the news when we updated our conclusion during COP26 to show that if all governments stick to their promises and long-term goals, we might see less than 2C warming. It’s a significant progress milestone, though there’s still a lot of work to do. 

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Dr Marko Aunedi, Research Fellow, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering 

“One focus of my work projects us into the near future where smart appliances help us look after the climate.”

After completing my degree and Master’s in Croatia, where I grew up, I arrived at Imperial to start my long-desired PhD. My research focuses on how best to integrate technologies with a low carbon footprint into the electricity network.  

The jury is still out on what mix of energy technologies we will need to deliver affordable low-carbon energy. Should we get our electricity by building more nuclear plants, or from renewables, such as offshore wind turbines, supported by energy storage? Should we heat our homes using electricity, hydrogen or something else? How and when should we charge the batteries of our electric vehicles? 

One focus of my work projects us into the near future where smart appliances help us look after the climate. For example, smart fridges, dishwashers and washing machines could switch themselves on at night when energy demand tends to be low. This would enable more low-carbon electricity generators such as wind turbines to be plugged into the network. Due to their variable output, this is currently hard to do when half the country puts the kettle on at 1700. 

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Leila Janani, Research Fellow (Clinical Trials Statistician), Imperial Clinical Trials Unit 

“I am involved in trial design, data management and analysis and preparing reports.”

I work as a Research Fellow (Clinical Trials Statistician) at Imperial Clinical Trials Unit (ICTU). Clinical trials are a fundamental tool for investigating the safety and efficacy of treatments, and I think that during the pandemic, most people realised their important role in health.  

Before joining Imperial in January 2021, I completed my PhD at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and then worked as an Associate Professor at the Iran University of Medical Sciences, where I taught Biostatistics and undertook research.  

However as someone who’s really interested in working on clinical trial studies, I decided to change my career and start my journey to Imperial Clinical Trials Unit. I arrived in the UK at the start of the year during the big lockdown. This made it really difficult to settle in and to focus on my projects. During these challenging times I have really appreciated the help and support of my lovely manager Dr Victoria Cornelius, friends and all ICTU staff. 

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Benita Nortmann, Research Postgraduate, Aeronautics 

“From smart manufacturing to autonomous flight, I believe that control and automation will play a crucial role in the future of the aerospace industry.” 

If science is all about understanding the world around us, engineering is about using this knowledge to build systems that make our environment safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Control engineering in particular, focusses on using mathematical models to design input laws, which allow us to modify and shape the behaviour of such systems. 

My PhD project at Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics explores the role of information in control engineering and how to overcome the lack of it. Particular focus is given to networked systems, which consist of multiple interconnected parts such as power networks or satellite constellations. The aim is to develop systematic control design methods which guarantee a desired performance based only on limited available information. This challenge is addressed in my research by combining methods from dynamic game theory, which provides tools to model the interaction of strategic decision-makers, and direct data-driven control, in which unknown system information is replaced directly with measured data. 

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Dr Julia Makinde, Research Associate, Department of Infectious Disease  

“My work seeks to understand the entire system of interconnected responses that can successfully bring infections like HIV under control.”

A colleague recently described the body’s response to infections as an orchestra in which the musicians within the instrumental ensemble understand their positions well enough to do their bit when summoned by the movement of the baton. Within the context of the immune system, I would go as far as to say that the components of the body’s response to infection must appear when summoned, with the appropriate cadence and melody for the performance to be deemed successful. In this context, it is also safe to state that a single instrument does not constitute an orchestra.

My work at Imperial seeks to understand the entire system of interconnected responses that can successfully bring infections like HIV under control. I am a postdoctoral Research Associate at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s Human Immunology Laboratory which is based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Prior to joining Imperial, I completed my PhD at Cardiff University in Wales.

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