Today chemistry@brighton welcomes 21 schools from Sussex, Kent, Surrey and London for the Salters’ Institute Festival of Chemistry. Teams of year 7 and 8 children undertake two practical challenges one set by Salters and one by the university with the opportunity to compete for prizes along the way. chemistry@brighton staff are involved in judging, technical assistance, chemistry quiz and the teacher programme for the day. This is an annual event which we host each year enabling students to gain practical experience in our laboratories whilst having fun competing against other schools in the South East.
We’re recruiting for next year’s PASS leaders. It’s a great confidence booster and good way to meet the new first years, looks great on your CV and makes sure you remember all of that stuff you did in the first year. Email Dr Willows by end of May to register your interest.
This month has seen the launch of a new widening participation initiative by chemistry@brighton. STEP UP has been designed to inspire students at 16-18 level and work with their teachers to provide opportunities for those students who show promise but are perhaps not so good at the traditional exam. Working with local schools in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex our aim is to show that chemistry@brighton is a real possibility for them. We have activities lined up to supplement their current studies including a lab experience day, taster lectures, study skills and work experience. Teachers are able to highlight to us students who have potential to succeed but for whatever reason might not see that result at A level. Working with the teachers we can then offer preferential admission to select students.
We’ve had a very busy summer here in chemistry@brighton and are looking forward to the return of students next week. Some exciting staffing news that has happened over the last few months.
Professor Lizzy Ostler has been promoted to the university professoriate as Professor of Chemical Biology. This reflects her fantastic research into the ageing process at the intersection of chemistry and biology and major contributions to the university.
We are delighted to welcome Dr Graham Pattison as lecturer in Organic Chemistry. I’m sure he’ll receive a warm welcome from all of the students when they return and already has some looking to undertake undergraduate research with him. He’s settling in well to the team and we wish him every success here with us. Stay tuned for more details.
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Today chemistry@brighton welcomes students in the middle of their A level studies from across Sussex for a day of practical work and advice about next steps. We’re really looking forward to welcoming them into our labs and showing them what the big instruments do. They’ll get hands-on experience of instruments they have been learning about and get a flavour of what it is like being a chemistry@brighton student. The day consists of a scenario where they are testing samples from the (unfortunately fictional) Huxley vineyard to find out why there is a problem with the taste. Is it contamination? Did someone use the wrong preservative? Hopefully the students will use their scientific skills to figure out what is wrong so the vineyard can get back on track.
Many students on the Chemistry and Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences courses at Brighton will already be familiar with the exciting world of small molecule therapies designed to slow ageing –through Dr Ostler’s (in)famous CH210 group consultancy report. The joys and difficulties of sorting anecdotal life extensionist optimisim from genuine scientific discoveries brought to life in this second year assessment gained a new twist this week.
Exciting new research conducted in a collaboration between Dr Ostler, Professor Faragher (also at the University of Brighton) and Prof Lorna Harries at Exeter University was recently published in BMC Cell Biology.
The discovery showed that novel small molecule analogues of the stilbene resveratrol (found naturally in red wine and chocolate) could “rejuvenate” senescent cells. The treated cells began to grow again and took on many features of “young” cells. The team also showed that this was because of changes in RNA splicing factors, the cellular machinery that allows cells to make many different kinds of protein from a single DNA sequence. The ability to use small molecules to intervene in this previously unexplored mechanism provides new possibilities for the development of anti-degenerative compounds that could allow people to remain heathier well into old age.
Earlier this week the mainstream press became interested in these discoveries, leading to some great headlines including the Sun’s “Wine’s end of the lines, Red wine and chocolate are secret to beating wrinkles, study says” and the Daily Mail’s “Chocolate and red wine ‘are the secret to beating wrinkles’: Scientists find both help rejuvenate old cells as well as the less dramatic “Reversing Aging: Scientists Make Old Human Cells Look And Act Younger in Breakthrough Discovery” from Newsweek and “Breakthrough: Scientists reverse aging in human cells” from Medical News Today. Our thoughts on the subject will be appearing soon in The Conversation.
All of this was made possible by chemistry and biology researchers working together – something we prize in our undergraduate degrees and that is reflected in our multidisciplinary School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. Whatever your conclusions about red wine and chocolate, it is clear that our researchers and students will keep generating much food for thought!
Update of publications from our chemistry staff and research students
New for 2017/18 a monthly round-up of publications from staff and students in the chemistry area here at Brighton. Suscribe to the blog and get regular updates on what we are doing here at brighton
Dr Ostler and Dr Vishal Birar (ex-PhD student) are co-authors on the open access article “Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence” in BMC Cell Biology.
Recent work by Dr Marcus Dymond (Division of Chemistry, PABS) and Prof. George Attard (University of Southampton) with collaborators at the MAX IV synchrotron/ University of Lund, SE has been selected as a prestigious American Chemical Society Editor’s Choice article.
The ACS is the world’s largest scientific society, which publishes 51 research journals across the chemical sciences. Each year the ACS chooses 365 articles (one per day) from across its many journals to make open access as part of the ACS Editor’s Choice program. On the 29th of October 2017 new research by Dr Dymond and colleagues was chosen.
The paper, published in ACS Langmuir, looks at the membrane disrupting properties of aliphatic aldehydes. Aliphatic aldehydes are a class of chemicals that are used by algae as part of a defence mechanism however aliphatic aldehydes have also been implicated in a range of health related problems and disease mechanisms in humans. Notably aliphatic aldehydes are produced in cells as a response to reactive oxygen species (oxidative stress) interacting with lipids and there is an increasing body of evidence linking oxidative stress to global health challenges such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and many other health conditions. Aliphatic aldehydes are also produced when some fats are heated to high temperatures for frying food, raising concerns about their incorporation in the human diet.
The researchers used X-ray diffraction facilities available at the MAX IV synchrotron SE to show that aliphatic aldehydes destabilise the flat structures formed by some of the most prominent lipids found in cell membranes. Typically cells contain large numbers of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine lipids, which form flat lipid bilayer membrane structures that contain protein. The most widely known example is the plasma membrane, which encapsulates the cell and allows it to control chemical conditions inside its interior. However lipid bilayers are like microscopic springs that store elastic energy and it is thought that by controlling the composition of their membranes cells can regulate the elastic stress stored within. This enables cells to regulate the function of some proteins, which respond to elastic stresses in the membrane.
In the particular case of aliphatic aldehydes the researchers found that as the concentration of these molecules increases the lipid mixtures form curved aggregates, which cannot form flat bilayers. These results strongly suggest that aliphatic aldehydes cause high levels of elastic stress in membranes. It is already known that high elastic stress can disrupt the activity of membrane bound proteins and the research suggests that the negative health effects of aliphatic aldehydes might be linked to this property as summarised in Fig 1.
The second new student to give us some insight into the first few days as a chemistry student here at Brighton is Issy Wright. Getting used to new routines and new ways of learning is part of the experience of going to university. We hope we make the transition as smooth as possible with some of the activities in the first week. Here’s what Issy has to say about it.
It was my first day commuting from the Falmer campus, where I am living, to the Moulsecoomb site. I have always lived close enough to my school and college to walk so having to monitor the train and bus schedule and deal with delays was relatively stressful because I did not want to be late on my first day. First was the welcome talk from the head of school, I was quite nervous because there were so many people there and I didn’t know anyone on my course so I was looking around the lecture hall trying to see any students who had the chemistry timetable in front of them.
I then had to try and find the Watts building for the course talk from Dr. Willows, after the talk I felt more excited about starting the course.
In the afternoon I met my personal tutor and the tutor group. Then as a group, we had to go on a scavenger hunt which ended up being more fun than I had originally expected although there were a lot of stairs since we got lost a few times. We really worked together as a group and it was quite a good bonding activity; by the end, I felt as if I knew them really well already.
The day started with a welcome talk from the vice chancellor and the SU. I understood the formality of the vice chancellor’s speech but the talk from the students’ union was more engaging and I learned more about what they do inside and out of the university. I then had to go to a lab coat collection session which I was dreading since I am very short and have never been able to get a well fitting lab coat. However It was fine, I found one that fit but the university didn’t have any more xs sizes so I had to ask for one to be ordered which on reflection was quite entertaining. I then had to complete my in-person enrolment, which was really quick especially as there was virtually no queue for those with surnames in the latter half of the alphabet. The last session of the day was the lab activity where we had to identify simple health and safety issues and it was a nice opportunity to meet the lab technicians.
We started the day with a welfare talk providing more information about the support network at the university and within the school. Then I attended a study skills session which was quite relaxed and had a mini-lecture to help familiarise ourselves with what lectures will be like and to re-enforce the importance of attendance and good note-taking, making me feel more prepared and more comfortable with the change in teaching style. I wasn’t too interested in the fresher’s event that evening so I ended up going to a Jazz club in Brighton centre to watch the Peter Edwards trio with a couple of friends.
The societies fair was held at the AMEX stadium. The society leaders were really friendly and I got signed up to a variety of groups, from hockey to film and music. I don’t think I will have any trouble meeting new people.
I had a later start which was nice for the end of the week, had a CPD talk filled with quite a lot of information and resources related to building our professional profiles and tracking our progress and growth in knowledge over the three years which considering my interest in doing a placement year was a very useful starting point for me and I am sure will help when it comes to putting together a CV. In the RSC talk, I was made more familiar with how much you get from an RSC membership and how much cheaper the student offer is than the regular fee. I got to meet a few second year students who were friendly and put some of our worries to ease.
We’ll catch up with our new first years a little later in the year to see how they are getting on. If you are interested in coming to see what we do here at Brighton then we have an open day coming up on Saturday 21st October. Staff and students will be available to talk to you about the course and facilities here. You can sign up on our website.
For this post we have a guest piece by one of our new first year students Alexander Ludlow. Alex has just started on the BSc(hons) Chemistry course here at Brighton and has kindly recorded his experience of the Welcome Week here which culiminated in a social event in collaboration with the Royal Society of Chemistry, followed by ChemSoc’s first social event of the year (without the staff present!).
My first day studying chemistry at Brighton had a light start, we were welcomed by the Head of School who put into context what studying in Brighton meant and how we can get the most of it. The day mainly consisted of activities to familiarize yourself with the Campus and online student learning environment. To finish the day off we competed against other tutor groups for a scavenger hunt, which I was sceptical about, but ended being a very enjoyable task, where I not only got to know people in my tutor group, but also got to know the buildings where I’d be taught.
Today was some administration before we can get into the Chemistry laboratories. Later in the day we had a fun lab activity, where there was a simulation of typical hazards and bad practise in the lab. We had to explain to the technician the hazards we had found and how we would deal with them.
My Wednesdays are not very busy because the University likes to keep this day open for you to do sports, should you choose to. We had our first Course related talk today, detailing how we should study, which was helpful. Our lecturer, the Inorganic chemist named Ian Gass, whom is a fan of Iron, and sounds like Frankie Boyle, created a light and fun environment, whilst still speaking in a very detailed manner allowing me to follow what he was saying easily. For an example on note making and the importance of attendance he taught us about Crystal field theory, I found it very difficult and almost hypocritical the idea that a ligand forming a dative covalent bond with a central metal ion, can be considered to have an ionic interaction with the central metal ion. I said to one of my peers “I’ve just realised chemistry isn’t black and white” they replied “have you only just realised?”. Chemistry is so beautiful and complex so it needs to be explained via a model that can represent the main features in a simplistic way, because to be able to understand chemistry you need a broad understanding of how many things work. It’s only now I realise I was being taught the ‘lite’ version of chemistry in previous education and the simplified version. I am excited for the year ahead but also a tad scared about the content, and the only thing I can do is be proactive and work as hard as I can and seek support when I need it.
Thursday was a late start, not much chemistry involved, because today was freshers fair, 6000 students piled into AMEX stadium to sign up for the 116 societies Brighton university had to offer. A good day and was a surprising sight.
Friday was a fun day. Whilst the 5 sets of stairs in the Watts building weren’t fun, the talk on keeping your online image positive and working on describing your weaknesses and strengths was helpful. Next, we had a small talk from the Royal Society of Chemistry which was interesting, and found out the results to Monday’s scavenger hunt. My team only got a silver, but I’ll take that. Monday was also ChemSoc’s first social. I really enjoyed meeting 3rd years and hearing their experiences and tips for first year, chemistry at UoB seems to be a tight knit group that all seem to know and support each other.
Thanks Alex for giving us an insight into your first week. We’ll catch up with the new students later in the year.
Our next Open Day is Saturday 21st October. You can visit the main University of Brighton website to sign up.