Tag Archives: University of Huddersfield

Why do objects feel solid when atoms are mostly empty space?

Roger Barlow (professor at University of Huddersfield, UK) has written a Feb. 16, 2017 essay for The Conversation explaining why objects feel solid (Note: A link has been removed),

Chemist John Dalton proposed the theory that all matter and objects are made up of particles called atoms, and this is still accepted by the scientific community, almost two centuries later. Each of these atoms is each made up of an incredibly small nucleus and even smaller electrons, which move around at quite a distance from the centre.

If you imagine a table that is a billion times larger, its atoms would be the size of melons. But even so, the nucleus at the centre would still be far too small to see and so would the electrons as they dance around it. So why don’t our fingers just pass through atoms, and why doesn’t light get through the gaps?

To explain why we must look at the electrons. Unfortunately, much of what we are taught at school is simplified – electrons do not orbit the centre of an atom like planets around the sun, like you may have been taught. Instead, think of electrons like a swarm of bees or birds, where the individual motions are too fast to track, but you still see the shape of the overall swarm.

In fact, electrons dance – there is no better word for it. …

Electrons are like a swarm of birds. John Holmes/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Here’s one more excerpt from Barlow’s essay,

So why does a table also feel solid? Many websites will tell you that this is due to the repulsion – that two negatively charged things must repel each other. But this is wrong, and shows you should never trust some things on the internet. It feels solid because of the dancing electrons.

Do enjoy!

Nanoparticles for infections delivered via hair follicles and Syrian refugee scientists are being welcomed

Hair follicles, nanoparticles, and infections

This first story does mention a Syrian researcher in a subtle fashion which suggests that immigrants (and I imagine refugees too) are welcome as they can be a huge boost to a country, in this case, the UK.

A Dec. 15, 2015 news item on ScienceDaily announces some research focused on using hair follicles to deliver nanoparticles carrying medication,

Many surgery patients develop infections and are a major source of prolonged illness and significant cause of death. Now, a research project is investigating the use of nanoparticles as a way to disinfect wounds. It could prove to be much more effective than existing techniques because the particles would be tiny enough to enter the skin via hair follicles, ensuring much better penetration of the area affected by surgery.

Here’s a close up of some hairy skin,

Courtesy: University Huddersfield

Courtesy: University Huddersfield

A Dec. 14, 2015 University of Huddersfield (UK) press release, which originated the news item, expands on the theme (Note: Links have been removed),

Infections contracted during surgical operations are a serious healthcare problem, leading to death in some cases.  Now, a research project at the University of Huddersfield is investigating the use of nanoparticles as a way to disinfect wounds.  It could prove to be much more effective than existing techniques because the particles would be tiny enough to enter the skin via hair follicles, ensuring much better penetration of the area affected by surgery.

The University’s Head of Pharmacy, Professor Barbara Conway (…), has developed the nanoparticle concept and it will now be further refined during a doctoral programme that she supervises.  Syrian-born [emphasis mine] researcher Khaled Aljammal has begun work on the project and receives funding via a new scheme, which means he is part of a network of bioscience and health researchers at go-ahead universities around the UK.

The issue addressed by Professor Conway’s project is that of surgical site infections, or SSIs.  It is estimated that every year, five per cent of patients who undergo surgery in England and Wales develop one of these infections and they are major source of prolonged illness and a significant cause of death in patients.  Also, they add strain on healthcare resources and fighting the infections is becoming more difficult because of growing resistance to antibiotics.

More effective use of antiseptics to treat the area affected by surgery is vital.  Professor Conway’s strategy is to develop a system of delivering the antiseptic drugs via minute particles less than a billionth of a metre in dimension.

“Making them nanoparticle size will help them to carry things into the skin better than current antiseptic regimes,” said the Professor.  “We think they will penetrate the skin better by the hair follicle route – and that is the site where bacteria will sit in the skin.”

Professor Conway – who is a member of the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention – has been working for several years on methods for improving the delivery of antiseptics to reduce the incidence of SSIs.  Now, she is exploring the use of nano-sized formulations that have an antiseptic drug incorporated into them.  They could be administered in the form of a liquids, gels or even creams.

Khaled Al-Jammal (…) will be carrying out lab-based research aimed at developing and demonstrating the practicality of nanoparticle drug delivery.  He has been awarded full funding through the recently-launched Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA), an initiative of University Alliance, the organisation that unites UK universities with a mission to provide high-quality teaching and research that makes a real-world impact.

The Syrian researcher is one of two University of Huddersfield researchers who have begun their doctoral programmes under the DTA.  His gained his first degree in his native Syria before relocating to the UK four years ago for a Master’s in Pharmaceutical Technology.  This was followed by a spell working as a formulation scientist for the company Lena Nanoceutics.

His passion for research then led him to apply for the DTA project supervised at Huddersfield by Professor Conway.  As the project progress, it is intended that scientific articles and presentations will reveal its findings and these will be used to inform improved strategies to reduce the incidence and severity of such infections.

While the UK seems to be opening up its arms to scientists and researchers from Syria in an understated way, the Germans are being more direct.

A welcome mat for Syrian scientists

A Dec. 17, 2015 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; German Research Foundation) press release on EurekAlert describes an initiative developed for refugee scientists,

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) plans to help scientists and academics who have fled their home countries to participate in DFG-funded research projects and thus contribute to the integration of refugees in research and society. DFG President Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider has presented a package of measures to the Joint Committee of Germany’s largest research funding organisation. The basic aim of these measures is to allow supplemental proposals to be submitted for existing funding projects which would enable the participation of qualified researchers or those in training.

“The integration of people who have been forced to flee in fear of their lives is a duty for all groups in society. The academic and research community, which has always been based on openness and plurality, can and must do its part,” said Strohschneider. “Although we cannot say for sure how many, it is certain that the people now coming to us as refugees include researchers at the training stage or people already established as researchers. We know this from enquiries that have already been sent to the DFG regarding funding opportunities.”

To use DFG funds to help improve the situation at least a little for refugee scientists and academics, there is no need to set up new funding programmes, the DFG President continued. In fact, there is already scope within existing project funding to integrate qualified individuals into funded projects. In particular, this can be achieved through supplemental proposals for existing projects, which the original applicants are free to submit in certain circumstances – for example if additional researchers, whose participation would bring additional benefit to the research, become available after the project is approved.

“We want to expressly encourage all higher education institutions and project leaders to make use of these additional opportunities,” said Strohschneider.

Various concrete options are available to refugees with an academic research background. For the short-term integration of refugees at all academic qualification levels, supplemental proposals can be submitted for guest funding. For the longer-term integration of established researchers, the Mercator module is a suitable option. This can be used to cover accommodation and travel costs and also provide remuneration at a level which, as with guest funding, is based on academic qualification. Both guest funding and Mercator funding can be applied for in all DFG funding programmes. The budget for this will be dependent on the number of people who can be integrated in funded projects in this way.

Refugee scientists and academics can also participate in Research Training Groups, Collaborative Research Centres and other DFG-funded coordinated projects. The financial resources for this do not have to be specially requested with a supplemental proposal; appropriate measures can also be financed from previously approved funds. For example, refugees with a bachelor’s degree or comparable qualification can receive a qualifying fellowship for later doctoral research in a Research Training Group or be accepted directly into such a group.

Project leaders and higher education institutions are responsible for deciding how researchers should be integrated in a project, said the DFG President. It is also up to the higher education institutions to work out the legal details, such as appraisal of academic qualifications or the signing of fellowship or employment contracts.

Strohschneider concluded: “We as the DFG want to create the financial and organisational framework needed for participation in the projects we fund in an efficient, flexible way. We are confident that this will make a positive contribution to the integration of refugees in our research system and our society.”

I have yet to hear of any other countries specifically focused on refugee scientists but perhaps this is just the beginning.