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News Article | February 15, 2017

Suzanne Gage, a scientist whose podcast, "Say Why To Drugs," has received over 264,000 listens, has been chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to receive the 2016 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. Gage recently completed her post-doctoral research in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, and is now a scientist at the University of Liverpool. She also founded "Sifting the Evidence," a blog on The Guardian's website in which she examines epidemiology, mental health and substance abuse. She is being honored by AAAS for "her evidence-based approach to public engagement activities and targeting audiences who may not be actively seeking science information." Gage is a "highly talented, enthusiastic and energetic young researcher who promises to be a real star of the future," wrote Marcus Munafò, a professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, where Gage was a post-doctoral research associate until December. Through her blog and podcast, Munafò wrote, "Suzi has worked tirelessly to provide information to the general public about the scientific evidence surrounding the effects of recreational drugs." Her podcast, which she was inspired to produce after appearing on rapper Scroobius Pip's podcast, discusses a different recreational drug in each episode. Gage aims to counter misinformation and myths surrounding various substances. Munafò noted that Pip's involvement in the podcast has helped Gage reach an audience of young adults who might not otherwise receive the information. Pip emphasized that the program is not meant to condone drug use. "This is not a pro-drugs podcast, this is not anti-drugs podcast," Pip explained, "this is pro-truth and anti-myth." The podcast has topped the Science and Medicine chart in the iTunes store and has received support on Twitter, including from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. It also won the Skeptic Magazine 2016 Ockham Award for Best Podcast. Munafò wrote that the show has also been used by teachers to introduce their students to evidence-based thinking. Gage has also traveled across the United Kingdom, speaking at "Skeptics in the Pub," evening events hosted by local organizations to promote critical thinking. She has spoken at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and music festivals in the UK. She engaged with younger audiences in 2011 by participating in "I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here," an online event where students meet and interact with scientists. The scientists compete with one other, answering questions about science and their research that are provided by students, who then vote for their favorite scientist. Gage won in the "Brain Zone" category and used the winnings to start her podcast. Gage's work in public engagement was recognized in 2012, when she won the UK Science Blog Prize, and in 2013, when she received the British Association for Psychopharmacology Public Communication Award. She has also written for The Economist, The Telegraph and The Lancet Psychiatry. Gage's recent scientific work in studying the relationship between health behaviors and mental health outcomes has included investigating causal associations from observational studies, with particular emphasis on substance use and mental health. She earned a Master of Science degree in cognitive neuropsychology from University College London in 2005 and a Ph.D. in translational epidemiology from the University of Bristol in 2014. Her research also earned her the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award in 2012. More recently, she received the Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco's 2015 Basic Science Network Travel Award. The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognize "early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities." The recipient receives a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting and reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to receive the prize. The award will be bestowed upon Gage during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb. 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See http://www. . For more information on AAAS awards, see http://www. .

News Article | September 7, 2016

Herbert George Wells (1866–1946) occupies a singular place in science and culture. Practically reinventing science fiction in landmark books such as The War of the Worlds, he also wrote prolifically on science, education, history and politics: in a career spanning 6 decades, he penned more than 150 books and pamphlets, as well as numerous articles in, and letters to, the press. Living through the late-nineteenth-century burgeoning of the sciences, the societal and technological upheavals of the early twentieth century and two world wars, Wells both absorbed revelations and delivered some — foreseeing powered flight, space travel, tanks and the atomic bomb, and becoming an enthusiastic and committed popularizer of science. Behind Wells's enormous output was a desire to use writing to make the world better — by projecting either a utopian vision of a perfected future, or dystopias revealing how the lessons of his work went unheeded. Among his extraordinary achievements, Wells was one of the earliest major English writers to be a trained scientist. The word 'scientist' had been coined by historian William Whewell just 33 years before Wells's birth. Wells — the child of servants-turned-shopkeepers — escaped apprenticeships in drapers' shops to become a pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School in the south of England. A scholarship propelled him to what is now Imperial College London, where he studied biology under champion of Darwinism T. H. Huxley, graduating in 1890. He never practised as a scientist; nor did he see himself as an 'artist', preferring 'journalist', particularly later in his career, when politics became more important in his writing. Wells's brilliance as a communicator of science drew him to many friendships with scientists — not least Richard Gregory. The astronomer, who was at university with Wells, was Nature's second editor. Wells was to publish 25 pieces in the journal over 50 years, inspiring and provoking scores of contemporary thinkers into contributing a rolling tide of correspondence, book reviews, notices and other commentary on his output. Wells was also publishing inspired books at a furious pace. His first were the scientific textbooks Honours Physiography and Text-book of Biology (both 1893); the latter went into many editions. The topics rapidly ramified. The year 1895 alone saw a short-story collection (The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents), a fantastic romance in which an angel falls to Earth (The Wonderful Visit) and a volume of essays, as well as his first full-length work of fiction, The Time Machine. That book, with Wells's other late-1890s 'scientific romances' The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, would set the bar for science fiction. They are also among a number of books by Wells that had an impact on science itself. The War of the Worlds inspired Robert Goddard — inventor of the liquid-fuelled rocket, whose research led to NASA's Apollo programme — to devote his life to space travel. The book's “heat-rays” also presaged military lasers. The hero of The Island of Doctor Moreau, Edward Prendick, “had spent some years at the Royal College of Science, and had done some researches in biology under Huxley”; the book's animal–human hybrids are rough precursors to today's embryonic chimaeras. Wells's 1914 The World Set Free predicted the atomic bomb, drawing on and subsequently influencing chemist Frederick Soddy's work on radioactivity, and influencing physicist Leo Szilard in his work on the neutron chain reaction. The Shape of Things to Come (1933) foreshadows the Second World War, and its 1936 film adaptation Things to Come (produced by Alexander Korda and starring Raymond Massey) ends with humanity launching its first spacecraft. Wells was irritated by comparisons to fellow science-fiction giant Jules Verne. The feeling was mutual. Verne complained that the antigravity metal cavorite in Wells's The First Men in the Moon (1901) was pure invention, compared to the gunpowder-fuelled rocket in his own 1865 From the Earth to the Moon. But Wells's main interest was never technology. After inventing the insectoid bodies of the Selenites in The First Men in the Moon, or the mind-reading aliens of 1937's The Camford Visitation, he went on to imagine the significance of these fantastic elements for human psychology and culture, setting a template that has since been followed by the most literary of science fiction (from the likes of Margaret Atwood and China Miéville). Wells was also honing his journalistic skills. His first essay in Nature, 'Popularising Science' (Nature 50, 300–301; 1894), asks for standards to be set in popular scientific writing to promote accessibility. He would go on to publish Nature articles on a range of subjects (see John S. Partington's admirable and comprehensive H. G. Wells in Nature, 1893–1946; Peter Lang, 2008). But education, more than fiction, science or indeed science fiction, was to become the keynote of Wells's writing career. Owing, in part, to his own escape from apprenticeship into an intellectual life, Wells was driven by the conviction that education was paramount to clear thinking and efficient, happy lives. Even his most fantastic, futuristic writings contained lessons for the present, intended to lead to a more utopian ordering of the world. A lecture to the Royal Institution of Great Britain, published as 'The Discovery of the Future' (Nature 65, 326–331; 1902), offers a window on the development of these ideas, arguing for the importance of conscious forward-thinking: We travel on roads so narrow that they suffocate our traffic; we live in uncomfortable,  inconvenient, life-wasting houses out of a love of familiar shapes and familiar customs  and a dread of strangeness; all our public affairs are cramped by local boundaries impossibly  restricted and small. Our clothing, our habits of speech, our spelling, our weights and  measures, our coinage, our religious and political theories, all witness to the binding power  of the past upon our minds. For Wells, the scientific method conferred on its user the authority to rethink and challenge these stale ideas, and should underpin every area of human endeavour. (This positivistic idea of science was fairly short-lived, lasting only from Charles Darwin's dethroning of humanity as the summit of creation to the early-twentieth-century advent of quantum mechanics, which undermined claims of absolute scientific certainty.) But Britain's educational system failed to enshrine science properly, Wells felt; the privileged status of classics was a consistent target of his ire. The result was global woe: “to defective education was due the general neglect of science and 'muddling through',” as he told the 11th annual meeting of the British Science Guild (Nature 99, 186–187; 1917). His hope was that, if the intellectual enquirer were armed with the right kinds of knowledge, history might be predicted like the movements of planets and tides. Then, informed by the knowledge of humanity's shared evolutionary origins, the history of the future would see nation states dissolving in favour of a system of cooperative world government. Wells's significance over most of his career rested on his status as a public intellectual, and he relished the international audience reached by his publications. His prescience was a vital element of his popularity, and not just in science fiction. For instance, he imagined something like a World State-sponsored Wikipedia. In an address to the Royal Institution in 1936 on the “World Encyclopaedia” or “World Brain”, he described it as:  the mental background of every intelligent man in the world. It should be alive and growing  and changing continually, under revision,extension and replacement from the original  thinkers in the world everywhere. Every university and research institution should feed it.  Every fresh mind should be brought into contact with its standing editorial organization ...  its contents would be the standard source of material for the instructional side of school  and college work, for the verification of facts and the testing of statements — everywhere  in the world. World Brain (1938) amplified these ideas. This book, with the 1920 The Outline of History — a best-selling opus on the story of humanity from its evolutionary origins to his hoped-for utopia — was Wells's response to the catastrophe of the First World War. Wells lived to see the catastrophe of the second. Having witnessed such a failure to act collectively, his final contribution to Nature, in 1944, was an attempt to understand the actions and motivations of the individual. 'The Illusion of Personality' suggests that the notion of a stable personality is an illusion, because consciousness constantly flits from one moment to the next (Nature 153, 395–397; 1944). Reading the piece now, it is fascinating to see a writer so long concerned with thinking on a global scale, and over hundreds to thousands of years, preoccupied at the end of his career with the micro-impressions of a single, impermanent sensibility. Wells knew, and argued with, most of the significant writers and political leaders of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries. Two friendships were constant: one with fellow novelist Arnold Bennett, the other with Gregory. Before he became editor of Nature, Gregory had co-authored Honours Physiography with Wells; he was an assistant editor at the journal when Wells, a then-unknown teacher and jobbing science writer, published 'Popularising Science'. Gregory advised Wells on lunar gravity for The First Men in the Moon; and when Wells died in 1946, Gregory wrote the Nature obituary of the genius with whom he had first collaborated 50 years before (Nature 158, 399–402; 1946). Gregory's review of The War of the Worlds (Nature 57, 339–340; 1898) had ventured that “scientific romances are not without a value in furthering scientific interests; they attract attention to work that is being done in the realm of natural knowledge, and so create sympathy with the aims and observations of men of science”. To attract attention and create such sympathy was Wells's steadfast aim.

Yildirimer L.,University College London | Thanh N.T.K.,University College London | Thanh N.T.K.,Royal Institution of Great Britain | Loizidou M.,University College London | And 2 more authors.
Nano Today | Year: 2011

In recent years, nanoparticles (NPs) have increasingly found practical applications in technology, research and medicine. The small particle size coupled to their unique chemical and physical properties is thought to underlie their exploitable biomedical activities. Here, we review current toxicity studies of NPs with clinical potential. Mechanisms of cytotoxicity are discussed and the problem of extrapolating knowledge gained from cell-based studies into a human scenario is highlighted. The so-called 'proof-of-principle' approach, whereby ultra-high NP concentrations are used to ensure cytotoxicity, is evaluated on the basis of two considerations; firstly, from a scientific perspective, the concentrations used are in no way related to the actual doses required which, in many instances, discourages further vital investigations. Secondly, these inaccurate results cast doubt on the science of nanomedicine and thus, quite dangerously, encourage unnecessary alarm in the public. In this context, the discrepancies between in vitro and in vivo results are described along with the need for a unifying protocol for reliable and realistic toxicity reports. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Yildirimer L.,University College London | Thanh N.T.K.,University College London | Thanh N.T.K.,Royal Institution of Great Britain | Seifalian A.M.,University College London | Seifalian A.M.,Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust Hospital
Trends in Biotechnology | Year: 2012

Skin wounds are a major social and financial burden. However, current treatments are suboptimal. The gradual comprehension of the finely orchestrated nature of intercellular communication has stimulated scientists to investigate growth factor (GF) or stem cell (SC) incorporation into suitable scaffolds for local delivery into wound beds in an attempt to accelerate healing. This review provides a critical evaluation of the status quo of current research into GF and SC therapy and subsequent future prospects, including benefits and possible long-term dangers associated with their use. Additionally, we stress the importance of a bottom-up approach in scaffold fabrication to enable controlled factor incorporation as well as production of complex scaffold micro- and nanostructures resembling that of natural extracellular matrix. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Thanh N.T.K.,Royal Institution of Great Britain | Thanh N.T.K.,University College London | Green L.A.W.,Royal Institution of Great Britain | Green L.A.W.,University College London
Nano Today | Year: 2010

Nanoparticles with cores composed of inorganic materials such as noble, magnetic metals, their alloys and oxides, and semiconductors have been most studied and have vast potential for application in many different areas of biomedicine, from diagnostics to treatment of diseases. The effects of nanoparticles must be predictable and controllable, and deliver the desired result with minimum cytotoxicity. These criteria can be met by careful tailoring of the ligand shell, allowing stabilisation, specific targeting and recognition of biochemical species. For these reasons, this review is focused on the synthesis and biofunctionalisation of inorganic metal, semiconductor and magnetic nanoparticles for biomedical applications. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Crick C.R.,University College London | Bear J.C.,University College London | Southern P.,Royal Institution of Great Britain | Parkin I.P.,University College London
Journal of Materials Chemistry A | Year: 2013

A general method for the synthesis of a novel class of superhydrophobic polymer thin films with embedded nanoparticles is presented. These materials combine the superhydrophobic nature of silicone polymer matrices and the properties of the nanoparticles for photocatalysis, magnetic applications, or high surface area catalysis. The films themselves are deposited using a one-pot aerosol assisted chemical vapour deposition (AACVD) process, and are characterised using electron microscopy, X-ray dispersive spectroscopy, water contact angle and bouncing measurements and elemental mapping. We show that these materials demonstrate multifunctional behaviour through magnetic, catalytic and superhydrophobic measurements. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2013.

News Article | December 22, 2015

With the abnormal out-of-character seasons we've been seeing within the past few years, as well as the UN's recent urgent call to climate action, you'd think we'd have learned our lesson about the dangers of pollution well enough on our own planet. If so, think again: an astronomer at the University College London has created a mesmerizing minute-long video that illustrates the 60-year history of Earthlings chucking junk into outer space. Using data derived from the scientific resource, scientist Stuart Grey created the animated short from an original online interactive project hosted on Royal Institution of Great Britain's website, which captures the impact our space trash has had on a second-to-year ratio, beginning with the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik in 1957, and tracking through decades of pile-up to the present day. As the original video explains it, the typical space detritus is usually comprised of castoffs from a Chinese test missile. Of course, due to the Earth's gravitational pull, the man-made detritus remains in a stationary whorl directly above our heads. In the video, the swarm of space debris comes off as equally breathtaking as it is frightening. "If objects are high enough above the Earth's atmosphere, they could keep orbiting for centuries," cautions Grey's original project. Check out the 60-year history of space junk in less than 60 seconds in the video clip below.

News Article | December 29, 2015

You know how difficult it is to clean up the garage and throw away all the junk that relentlessly keeps piling up? Well, it is even tougher if you are a planet getting surrounded by space junk, and we are not helping. At the time of writing, NASA tracks approximately 20,000 pieces of rocket parts, out of order satellites, and larger than a softball pieces of debris. All of these pieces of junk orbit our planet at speeds that go over 17,000 mph. NASA points out that they are not the only ones, either. About 500,000 marble-sized objects also create a space rubbish barrier outside of the Earth's atmosphere, and millions more do the same but are way too tiny for the Agency to keep tabs on. Humans are notoriously bad at understanding numbers, but scientists manage to put it in visual form so that we have a better grasp at it. Thanks to a scientist from the Royal Institution of Great Britain, an interactive website presents the evolution of space debris since the first launch of artificial satellites, in 1957. Stuart Grey, a lecturer at University College London, is the author of the visualization. His aim was to demonstrate how much the aspect of space junk that floats around Earth has changed since the Sputnik launch of 1957. He managed to make it clear how the number of spent rocket parts and various different objects circling Earth surged exponentially since then. Astronomers keep tabs on big pieces of space debris to ensure a safe, clear path for when new satellites or space rockets launch. Governments, space agencies and private space explorers face the same threats when dealing with space junk. The sad news for any of the above is that the million little pieces of debris orbiting the Blue Planet could damage both spacecraft and the communication satellites launched from Earth. The danger is consistent enough that even the International Space Station (ISS) modifies its trajectory at times to avoid collision with space junk. Considering the investment of time, resources, energy and brain power that made ISS possible, it makes sense to take all measures to keep the orbiting laboratory and the people living and working inside it safe and sound. Space Station altered its orbit in July by a small amount to avoid such a danger. However, there are times when such caution does not happen in due time. In 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield observed a hole in one of the station's extensive solar panels. The damage was mendable, yet the event proves how crowded things are right above us. If you're asking yourself who is to blame, and how did we manage to get so cluttered, read on. Most rocket bodies feature expendable parts, meaning that after they completed their role in the launch of the space mission, they got aborted somewhere along the way. This caused parts of them to remain in orbit for an indefinite amount of time. Some satellites broke down and collided with other space communication gadgets, exploding into tiny little pieces trapped on Earth's orbit. Not to point any fingers, but a Chinese missile test that took place in 2007 generated over 2,000 pieces of debris on its own. Space engineers and researchers are considering ways to clean up the space debris in order to make room for functional satellites and new space missions. Private enterprises, such as SpaceX and Blue Orbit, aim to manufacture reusable rockets which will transform how we think about space missions. Another promising idea to clear the space debris is "Pac-Man" satellite, a concept that its authors claim will eat up space trash in a way reminding of the iconic video game character. If you feel like seeing for yourself exactly how fast the space debris cluttered in nearly 60 years, check out the video below.

Agency: GTR | Branch: STFC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 38.28K | Year: 2016

Particle accelerators have many varied applications and their uses in medicine and industry are transforming lives. Yet, whilst the discovery of the Higgs Boson and CERNs Large Hadron Collider captured the publics imagination like few other recent scientific developments, the public remains largely unaware that accelerators have any uses apart from particle physics research. Accelerators for Humanity will address this gap by curating a programme cutting across live events and digital video resources. The project will capture the dedication of particle accelerator researchers in STFC-funded facilities and highlight the varied ways in which their work is impacting on our lives in areas such as medicine, food safety and nuclear power. It will utilise the experience of the Royal Institution (Ri) Channel video production team, and the organisations 200-year expertise in communicating in-depth science to the public. For example, the STFC-funded Ri Crystallography collection to date has been viewed nearly 400k times. The project will include a public talk by STFC-funded Dr Suzie Sheehy and a debate featuring a panel of particle accelerator researchers. In her talk Dr Sheehy will discuss her work designing accelerators and their potential future applications in areas such as the treatment of cancer. The panel debate will focus on the challenges faced by researchers designing todays accelerators for use in answering tomorrows research questions. Both these events will be filmed and available online as part of a permanent Accelerators for Humanity digital resource. The Ri will also produce a series of short films exploring the human stories of particle accelerator researchers working in STFC-funded facilities, an animation exploring the challenges faced in building accelerators, a science demo video explaining the principle by which accelerators trap and transport charged particles, and an interactive video providing a 360 degree view inside an accelerator. The films will be developed for a general audience and will be released under a Creative Commons license. They will be hosted on the Ris YouTube channel, which currently has around 200,000 subscribers, as well as being seeded on other media and educational websites. Public discussion through YouTube comments will be encouraged, and this online discussion will be supplemented by social media discussions including an Ri Twitter quiz. A project hub will be created on the Ris own video website, the Ri Channel, which will act as home to the permanent digital resources. The resources will be distributed to teachers and educators and a project wrap-up event will help raise awareness of the project amongst science communicators and those within the UK particle accelerator research community.

Agency: GTR | Branch: STFC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 40.00K | Year: 2013

To mark the Crystallography Centenary of the Braggs Nobel Prize winning discovery in 1913, the Ri will create a unique online collection of multimedia resources telling the story of modern crystallography research and practice. Published on a specially commissioned micro-site, the Crystallography Collection will engage students of science, teachers and the science-interested general public with the subject of crystallography. Working in partnership with a range of scientists and organisations, the Ri will create and curate a suite of free-to-access digital assets that explore different aspects of crystallography in the most accessible and engaging way possible. These resources will be presented online in a micro-site built on the existing technology stack of the popular Ri Channel ( and released to coincide with activities around the 2013 Crystallography Centenary. The website will include a range of original video and audio production alongside further interactive tools allowing users to explore the development, cutting edge research and real-world applications of crystallography. Each set of online media will, ultimately, provide users with an increased understanding of what different atoms and elements are, and how they join together to make molecules. A range of original multimedia content will be commissioned and produced by the Ri team, including: - A series of short films combining high definition images from modern crystallography research with audio interviews from UK-based researchers; - A second series of short films shot on location at crystallography research facilities across the UK to showcase cutting-edge crystallography techniques across the four pillars promoted by the British Crystallographic Association (Biological structures, Chemical, Industrial, Physical); - Animated short films telling the story of crystallography and explaining the basic principles behind crystallography research; - An interactive online game enabling users to experiment with crystallography techniques by working out the position of different atoms in a molecule from a series of images. The website will include a variety of features including interactive timelines charting the development of crystallography research, image galleries, and an events calendar showcasing public events in the UK linked to the 2013 Crystallography Centenary. In addition, the site will contain a blog with posts from experts in the field, a Best of the web video playlist featuring the best online videos exploring the subject of crystallography, and social media tools allowing users to comment and share content. As new content is added throughout the life of the project, the Crystallography Collection website will become a growing online hub for Crystallography learning materials and will form a topical hub to access information, media and educational materials around both the 2013 Crystallography Centenary and the UNs International Year of Crystallography in 2014. Where possible, multimedia content will be published as open educational resources to be distributed free of charge.

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