After Storm Doris ruined our birthday plans, we rescheduled for the following month and how ourselves a Science Bonanza!
Photo L-R: Jack, Ben, and Josh
Our first speaker is Ben Rendle who is in the 2nd year of his PhD in astrophysics at the University of Birmingham:
"The Milky Way has been our home for billions of years. It provides us with stunning star scapes and the materials for our very own existance, but what do we actually know about it? The current state of our Galaxy is well documented, but how exactly we came to the structure and conditions that are present today is less well known. Galactic Archaeology is a newly emerging field investigating this very topic though the fossil remants left behind in our galaxy. The focus of my research is to use these remnants to determine the nature of the vertical structure of the Milky Way and whether or not it formed as distinct components at specific times, or as a gradual process all together. Solving this conundrum help us to better understand not only the evolution of the Milky Way, but of spiral galaxies across the Universe!"
Josh Miller is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham who is currently trying to make a jet engine from snowflakes...
"Snowflakes are amazing. You can build snowmen, igloos, and jet engines from them. Well almost… The metals used to build jet engine blades solidify in a very similar fashion to the way snowflakes form and grow. They exhibit a similar microstructure called a 'dendritic microstructure'. The only real difference comes from the fact that the entire jet engine blade is grown from the arm of one snowflake. This results in a microstructure like a forest, with each of the trees a single arm of a snowflake all pointing upwards. The focus of my research is to examine the effect that gravity has on these trees packing together. The closer they get packed together, the stronger the resulting component. We believe that by increasing gravity using a centrifuge during solidification of an alloy we will pack the dendrites closer together resulting in the production of harder, stronger, lighter, and most importantly greener materials."
Our final speaker is Jack Pearce, also from the University of Birmingham who is researching how to turn off genes in tumour blood vessels with nanoparticles:
"We have developed very tiny spheres that are about 200 nanometers in size (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter). These spheres are a mesh of a chemical called chitosan which can be collected from shrimp shells. We incorporate a molecule into the mesh of these nanoparticles which is delivered to the tumour blood vessels inside the nanoparticle. When it reaches the tumour blood vessels this molecules turns off a gene that causes the tumour to stop growing new blood vessels and so stop it growing any bigger."
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