Author: FoNS News

From student labs to outer space: a day in the life of a Physics technician

A photo of Paul Brown in a Physics workshop
Paul Brown MBE – Mechanical Instrumentation Workshop Manager (Physics)

Paul Brown is Mechanical Instrumentation Workshop Manager in the Department of Physics. He’s worked on projects such as the Solar Orbiter and the Interstellar Mapping Acceleration Probe (currently being built), was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Higher Education in 2017 and has recently been shortlisted for the Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the prestigious Papin Technical Prizes.

In this blog post he reflects on his experiences as a lab and instrumentation technician within an academic environment, and gives us insight into the projects he’s been involved in from a technician’s perspective. (more…)

FoNS at COP26: Patrick Walkden

Photo of Patrick WalkdenPatrick Walkden is a PhD student in the Department of Life Sciences, and part of the Imperial delegation heading to COP26.

My area of research focuses on biodiversity responses to environmental change, including land use and climate change. Currently I am working to develop a biodiversity indicator that measures and tracks the functional intactness of an ecosystem compared to a baseline. That is, looking at the amount of functional diversity – the aspect of biodiversity that is related to ecosystem functioning, and ultimately Nature’s Contributions to People – retained in ecosystems since human influence. An indicator like this would allow us to identify areas of conservation priority, to project into the future under different potential climate or land use mitigation scenarios and identify what actions would yield the greatest biodiversity outcomes in these scenarios. (more…)

FoNS at COP26: Paloma Ortega Arriaga

Photo of Paloma Ortega ArriagaPaloma Ortega Arriaga is a PhD student at the Grantham Institute, and also affiliated to the Department of Physics. She’s also part of the Imperial delegation heading to COP26.

My research is on energy access focusing on off grid renewable systems, specifically solar energy. My research project is mostly related to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, which is to provide universal access to affordable, reliable and clean energy by 2030. However, there are currently millions of people who don’t have access to energy, mostly in rural areas of sub Saharan Africa and Asia. I investigate the techno-economic feasibility of off grid systems to provide them access using renewable sources instead of using, for example, diesel generators that some of these communities often rely on, which are generally more expensive and polluting. I also consider the economic and environmental implications of different electrification options. (more…)

FoNS at COP26: Galina Jönsson

A photo of Galina JönssonGalina Jönsson is a PhD student in the Department of Life Sciences, and part of the Imperial delegation heading to COP26.

In the broadest possible terms, my research is about biodiversity trends – specifically, I extend biodiversity time series backwards in time by using Natural History Museum specimens to cover the whole period of accelerating human pressures. This includes climate change effects (such as rising average temperatures and increased frequencies of extreme weather events), as well as land use changes. I focus on butterfly specimens collected over the past two centuries to develop novel statistical ‘time-travelling’ methods.   (more…)

FoNS at COP26: Courtnae Bailey

A photo of Courtnae BaileyCourtnae Bailey is a PhD student at the Centre for Environmental Policy, and part of the Imperial delegation heading to COP26.

My research is on climate change adaptation finance, more specifically, trying to increase private investment in climate change adaptation solutions.

This focus stems from more of a personal background – I’m from the Caribbean, from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. For us, climate change isn’t something on a future horizon, it’s what we’re experiencing now, yet small island developing states are responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. My work looks specifically at mobilising private finance to adapt; a lot of countries facing the biggest immediate threats from the climate crisis don’t have the capacity to both deal with development issues locally, and also adapt to climate change. (more…)

FoNS at COP26: Krista Halttunen

A photo of Krista HalttunenKrista Halttunen is a PhD student at the Centre for Environmental Policy, and part of the Imperial delegation heading to COP26.

I’m an interdisciplinary social scientist working in energy and looking at the transition to sustainable energy. Specifically, I’m asking, if we do meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, what does that mean for the global oil industry? So, tangibly, how do we ramp down our oil use? What happens to companies and all those stakeholders that rely on them? (more…)

Krill, climate change and COP26

Dr Emma Cavan
Dr Emma Cavan

Dr Emma Cavan is a Fellow in the Department of Life Sciences at Silwood Park. Her research focuses on the vital role that Antarctic krill (small ocean crustaceans) play in biogeochemical cycles (where biological, geological and chemical aspects of a natural cycle are considered). 

Emma will be heading to Glasgow, taking the case for krill to the COP26 climate conference this year as part of Imperial’s delegation. As well as taking the opportunity to share her research and hear from other delegates, she’ll attend the release of a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) short animation, which explains the connection between krill and sinking carbon. She was involved behind-the-scenes in the making of the animation as an advisor, and looks forward to presenting her field of research to UN delegates via this creative collaboration. Plus, she’s on a panel at an event outside of the main COP on climate action and fishing, with the NGO Our Fish. (more…)

Untangling climate change and health from a political perspective

A photo of Leonardo Zea Reyes wearing a navy coloured suit with a pink tie and a background of green trees.

Leonardo Zea Reyes has an educational background in urban management and development, urban environment and climate change, and architecture. He’s just about to start his second year as a PhD student at Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy (CEP), and his first co-authored peer-reviewed paper was published in July 2021. 

In this post he tells us more about how his postgraduate research is evolving and what his first experience of the peer-review process has been like.

By Leonardo Zea Reyes

My research focuses on exploring why the application or implementation of joint climate change and public health projects is so challenging on the ground in many cities, and why it takes so much time to realise, even though there is a huge amount of knowledge about the benefits and co-benefits of implementing these kinds of projects. Literature suggests that this is linked to politics, vested interests, structural challenges and the economic system, but we need to be more specific. So, I’m looking at both climate and health from these perspectives, untangling it: what are the specific political influences on project implementation, and what can bring political traction? (more…)

The DigiFAB Hackathon 2021: our challenge and how we hacked it

Selfie in the Red Room
Selfie in the Red Room

Undergraduate students, Jiayue Feng and Sandeepa Tuladhar (both Chemistry with Molecular Physics) and Shannan Huang (Chemical Engineering) teamed up in the DigiFAB Hackathon to build a low-cost automated liquid handling platform. Here they tell us more about the challenge, their solution and why it was such a valuable experience.

By Jiayue Feng, Shannan Huang and Sandeepa Tuladhar

Learning more about the tools of our trade

Digital chemistry can potentially revolutionise the industry due to the rate at which discoveries can be made. An automated pipetting system can be accessed in the Molecular Sciences Research Hub (MSRH) but is not suited for all types of chemicals and large volumes of liquids. Digitalising reduces the need for manual labour and time, but still maintains high precision. Therefore, such an automated platform can save scientists from tedious and repetitive benchwork to focus more on designing experiments and analysing data. (more…)

Hack it! Reflecting on the 2021 DigiFAB Hackathon

The three members of team Turbidimeter in the Hackspace working on their projectUndergraduate students Kin Weng Chao and Yuchen Lou (both Chemistry) and Way Gene Hoo (Chemical Engineering) took part in this year’s DigiFAB Hackathon Challenge. Here they tell us more about the challenge, how they hacked it and what they learnt along the way.

By Kin Weng Chao, Yuchen Lou and Way Gene Hoo

Exploring beyond the undergraduate lab

As undergraduate Chemistry students we’re usually based in South Kensington. This Hackathon looked interesting because it presented an opportunity to get involved in the new DigiFAB Institute and Advanced Hackspace, and explore our Department’s space at White City. The challenge also looked very cool, allowing us to learn about and play around with new techniques, like 3D printing. (more…)