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Sci-Tech bulletin

LEC Talk: Sustainable Biofuel Production

Faculty staff are invited to a talk by Professor Steve Long of the Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Professor Long's talk, Plants Mitigating Global Change via Sustainable Biofuel Production, will examine the new challenges for fundamental plant biology research that are being posed by the need to produce crops for fuel, rather than food.

the talk will take place on Friday 20th July, in Lancaster Environment Centre, starting at 11am after coffee at 10.30am. Please RSVP by Monday 16th July to Alex Reynolds.

Changes to EPSRC Fellowships

EPSRC is introducing two new research fellowship schemes this year: Career Acceleration Fellowships and Leadership Fellowships.

Calls will be issued in August for the new schemes, and there will be no more calls for advanced research fellowships and senior research fellowships. Postdoctoral fellowships will continue this year in selected research areas.

Career Acceleration Fellowships
These fellowships provide up to five years' funding for talented researchers at an early stage of their research career. To apply, you must have a PhD or similar qualification and between 3 and 10 years of postdoctoral, industrial or equivalent experience. Time out of research for family reasons will be taken into account. More details
Leadership Fellowships
These fellowships provide up to five years' funding for researchers with the most potential to develop into the UK's international research leaders of tomorrow. To apply, you must hold a permanent academic post at a UK higher education institution. We expect institutions to give the fellow the maximum opportunity to develop into a research leader of international standing. More details

More about changes to EPSRC fellowships

Funding Roundup

Newly funded research from across the faculty:

Kinetic signatures of metal complexes in freshwaters

Bill Davison & Hao Zhang - Environmental Science - 281,726 - NERC

Ligands that bind metals strongly in freshwaters have been attributed to exudates from phytoplankton and other microorganisms, as found in marine systems. However, humic substances (HS) that dominate dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in freshwaters have sites that have a distribution of binding strengths. A small proportion of very strong sites have binding strengths consistent with those of the strong binding ligands.

We have developed a novel approach to the measurement of the dissociation kinetics of metal organic complexes, based on the accumulation of metal ions on a binding layer after diffusion through well defined layers of different thicknesses. Preliminary measurements in a river have demonstrated that a single set of in-situ deployments can provide a kinetic signature for a suite of metals. The derived kinetic constants were consistent with the established Eigen mechanism for complex association/dissociation.

This work will investigate systematically the performance characteristics of such measurements and the interpretational validity by performing a series of controlled laboratory experiments involving solutions containing up to 9 metals and various model ligands: simple chelates, fulvic acid (FA), phytochelatins (PC) and algal exudates. Measurements of kinetic signatures and, where possible, dissociation rate constants on 30 diverse freshwaters will provide the first extensive, field study of the dissociation kinetics of metals.

An evaluation of model-based partitioning of eddy covariance terrestrial latent heat observations into wet evaporation and transpiration

Andy Jarvis - Environmental Science - 232,345 - NERC

Understanding the processes that determine the rate of evaporation from the land surface is an important focus for research into the effects of climate change on weather, climate, water resources, agriculture and ecosystem stability. This project will develop a method for separating eddy covariance observations of evaporative water loss made above plant canopies into their wet evaporation and plant transpiration components.

The methodology turns on the fact that when wet, plant canopies lose water at the potential rate of evaporation whilst when dry the rate of water loss is somewhat reduced due to stomatal limitations imposed on the transpiration flux. Natural rainfall induced wetting and drying events cause the observed evaporative water loss to change between these two conditions.

This provides the necessary information to perform the partitioning if the degree of wetness of the surface can be specified. Using a simple modelling approach this wetness is determined by the difference between rainfall inputs and wet evaporation outputs.

This project will evaluate this approach using eddy covariance observations of evaporative water loss combined with satellite microwave data which contain information on surface wetness. The methodology will then be applied to a wide range of biomes for which eddy covariance evaporative water loss data are held on a central database called FLUXNET. In doing so, this will enable a study of the water use strategies of these plant canopies in relation to their corresponding climate and water budget constraints.

Infrared (IR) microspectroscopy with multivariate analysis as a novel approach tool to detect abnormal breast cytology

Frank Martin & Nigel Fullwood - Biological Science - 50,100 - Rosemere Cancer Foundation

Breast cancer is the most frequent malignancy occurring in women worldwide, accounting for 20% of all female cancers. Currently, screening involves opportunistic or controlled mammography programmes; the relative efficiency of either at detecting disease remains to be ascertained.

We have developed infrared (IR) microspectroscopy techniques for the molecular diagnosis of intracellular pathologies in single cells. We have:

  1. Validated the application to the characterisation of spectral abnormalities associated with pre-malignant cells
  2. Correlated characteristic spectral changes with specific structural metabolic alterations
  3. Developed a methodology that allows the identification of altered cells

Fine needle aspirates of the breast (FNAB) using a liquid-based cytology (LBC) system is routinely used for the diagnosis of breast carcinoma; mammography suffers from high false positive results and repeated exposure to harmful ionizing radiation. We now aim to explore the diagnostic potential of IR microspectroscopy in FNAB collected in LBC.

This project will investigate sensitivity requirements: whether one requires a relatively insensitive probe that gives an averaged spectrum of the multiplicity of intracellular workings or whether even greater sensitivity is required in order to isolate specific chemical interactions.


More NERC Peer Review College Members

Further to news from ES in the last bulletin, congratulations go to the Geography Department's Andrew Folkard, who has also been invited to become a member of the NERC Peer Review College.

Award for Physics Spin-out Company

An instrument manufactured by Anasys Instruments Ltd, a company set up in 2005 by agreement with Lancaster University Business Enterprises Limited, has won the R&D100 Award for being one of the most scientifically innovative products of 2006.

From LU News:

Cumbrian Pupils Make Waves

Fifteen students from Appleby Grammar School visited Lancaster University to try their hand at solving the world's energy problems through wave power

Nokia Praises Lancaster Developers For Creativity

An international competition to devise innovative applications for mobile phones has been won by a team from Lancaster University

University visit inspires pupil

The Head of Science at Lancaster Girls' Grammar School says a taster day at Lancaster University so impressed his pupils that some of them are considering applying here as a result

Green Lesson at South Lakes School

Pupils at a South Lakeland Primary school have turned eco warriors with the help of a Lancaster University student armed with a heat seeking camera