Student research success

Yesterday our final year MChem students had a day trip to London to the home of UK chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry‘s Burlington House base. The event was an early career research conference on environmental chemistry hosted by the RSC Environmental Chemistry Interest Group

MChem students outside Burlington House

An event of this sort welcomes research presented by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, a smaller friendlier way to present your work and gain valuable experience as well as find out about a wide range of topics in the area. In this case though, we showcased how undergraduate research can be every bit as important and that it is never too early to start your research career.

The day started with a warm welcome and some interesting talks from early career researchers from several different institutions.
Good time was given to the poster session which allowed the presenters time to speak to everyone about their work. The worthy winner of the poster prize certainly had a good talking point with acetate overlays for her mapping project of lead in Glasgow. Interactive posters, a great idea. Our students got to talk to PhD students about their work and what it was like to do a PhD, the real life version from the coal-face.

 

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Lunch provided additional networking opportunities, and a free lunch which students always seem to enjoy! Though for one of our students the nerves were setting in as her talk neared.

Sarah Chandler presented her work from her third year research project on developing autonomous electrochemical sensors to analyse metals in the marine environment. It’s quite unusual for third year students to undertake real research but here at Brighton we feel it’s the best way of developing their practical skills and ability to think about more than what is presented for examination. Starting in the third year also means they are already skilled researchers by the time it comes to their final year projects and their can use this experience when applying for PhD positions.

Sarah’s project was very successful and she worked hard to understand a new area and add her own ideas during the process. Ultimately she managed to develop a sensor that could detect sub-ppb levels of As in real samples, and with a little more development should work well in the field without additional reagents. During the talk she impressed with her knowledge and ability to convey the intricacies of her work with clarity and interest. That she is still to complete her first degree only added to the impact of her presentation.

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The day ended with a great keynote explaining one very varied career path with some interesting tales and some great advice for the students starting out. Not least that often what seems like a disaster at the time can turn out to be great interview fodder when you explain how you dealt with it.
The final act of the day after thanking all the presenters was the oral presentation prize. Much to her surprise Sarah was awarded the prize, testament to her talents and proving that you don’t have to be doing a PhD to undertake great research. I’m sure she’ll go far.

All the students got so much out of the day, from hearing research from people not far from where they are in their careers, to the great career advice from the two keynotes and the networking opportunities provided so well throughout the day. We’d like to thank the RSC Environmental Chemistry Group organising committee for a successful day, we’ll definitely be back.

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Novel compounds designed and made by Chemistry@brighton researchers in the news

 

Stilbene synthesisportrait of Dr Lizzy OstlerMany 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.

 

portrait of Professor Richard FaragherExciting 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!

ACS Editor’s Choice for Brighton’s chemistry research

ACS Editor’s Choice for recently published Chemistry Research;

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.

Final year research project submission day

Jaspreet (BSc(hons) Pharmaceutical & Chemical Sciences) and Lorraine (BSc(hons) Chemistry) submitting their dissertations for binding

Charis and Emily (both BSc(hons) Chemistry) submitting their projects to our friendly school office staff member Matt

This morning our final year BSc and third year MChem students are submitting their research project dissertations. They have been working hard in the lab all year doing some fantastic innovative and challenging research.  The final challenge is a defence of their work by oral viva voce exam, but we’ll give them a couple of weeks break before that!

In the meantime they will enjoy ChemSoc’s night out in celebration of submitting their work (and the second year’s analytical validation report) and continue to work hard on their other modules. The end is in sight now though, well done to all of you!

Medal winners discuss their research

On Tuesday we were fortunate to hear two Royal Society of Chemistry medal winners discuss their award winning research. Professor Christine Cardin (University of Reading) and Dr Susan Quinn (University College Dublin) were awarded the Rita & John Carnforth Award, alongside Professor John Kelly (Trinity College Dublin) for their structural work on DNA – transition metal complexes, proof of the origins of the “light-switch” effect and its implications for mechanisms of DNA damage.

Students and staff gathered to hear the advantages of working in collaborative teams across the chemistry and life-science interface with an example of research that could not be done any other way. This is reflective of the research that is done here at Brighton and many of the final year students are starting their path on this type of collaboration already in their final year projects.

PABS Friday Seminar – Chemistry Session

This week’s school research seminar is hosted by Chemistry. We are delighted to welcome Dr Mark Sambrook from Dstl Porton Down. Mark will be giving a talk entitled “Supramolecular chemistry and Chemical Warfare Agents: From molecular recognition to functional supramolecular systems”

The seminar will be in H400/1 on friday 21st October 1-2pm.

undergraduate research

One of the great things about the chemistry courses at Brighton is the opportunity to do some real research in the third and fourth years. Students get a full day a week plus an intensive full week in the lab during the year allowing them to really get to grips with some novel chemistry. Quite frequently those students will help obtain data which is written into a research article. This year one of our final year students was given an idea and some guidance from her supervisor and turned that into a successful project of her ideas. This has now been accepted and will soon be published as a paper in Analytical Biochemistry.

So today we’ve handed over the rest of the blog to Jelena to tell us a little about her project.

Jelena Pisaruka

My final year project module was the most interesting piece of work that I had to do during my degree. I felt very independent and was able to share my own ideas with my supervisor – Dr. Dymond, but at the same time had regular meetings, helpful advice and support from him during the whole year. From the great variety of themes available for the final year project I have chosen one from physical chemistry – Miniaturized chemistry: 3D printed temperature controlled cuvette for UV/vis chemical processes. It was very interesting for me because 3D printing technique is relatively new and I never had a chance to use a 3D printer in my life before. Although 3D printers are used in different sectors already, it is new in chemistry and at the beginning I was worried that my project is more related to design or engineering and had not enough chemistry in it. But everything worked out and a paper was written based on my final year project and will be published shortly. 

The aim of my project was to design, print and test a cuvette with a temperature control system in aim for studying temperature dependent reactions. To achieve my goal I had to break it into smaller steps. The first part was to design the cuvette using Autodesk 123D software. It is design software that I have never used before so it took some time to learn how to do it. After the final design was done I have printed the cuvette using 3D printed and 2 different materials for comparison. The next step was to test the cuvette for any leakages and prepare it for the UV/spectrometer testing and finally test if the cuvette performs well for the temperature dependent reactions analysis. Of course, at every stage of the project I had different problems and had to do changes to my work to achieve the best performance of the cuvette. For example, for a very long time I could not solve the leakage problem and had to change my design, printing parameters and come up with new ideas how to prevent the leakage but all the problems were solved and final aim was achieved.

From the final year project I have gained confidence in myself and understood that I can apply my theoretical knowledge in chemistry in real life to solve problems. I also improved my presentation skills because I had to present my work to the university staff. And finally I have learned how to listen to other people’s advice and take criticism without taking it personally. All these experience will help me in my further studies because I am doing masters degree next year and in my future career.

IMG_9315 cuvette CAD

We’d like to wish Jelena every success with her Master’s course and congratulate her on her results and on having a paper published from her work.

 

Edit: You can download Jelena’s paper for free until 14th September

Student successes

Royal Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Research Bursary

One of our MChem students has successfully gained a bursary to undertake some research at the university with Dr Irina Savina and Professor Sergey Mikhalovsky during the summer. Lorraine will spend 7 weeks within the research laboratories at the University of Brighton developing novel macroporous gels based on lignin. Lignin is currently attracting attention for its low cost and eco-friendly properties and is produced as a by-product of the wood and paper industry. Lorraine will be synthesising and characterising polymers made from lignin taking advantage of the adsorption ability to remove metals from water.

 

Salter’s Graduate prize shortlist

Congratulations also go to one of our final year chemists, Lois, who was nominated by us to compete for the Salter’s graduate prize for chemistry and chemical engineering. Whilst not quite gaining the final prize we are very pleased that she was shortlisted for interview. The prizes are awarded based on assessment of the candidate to occupy leading positions in public life and we are certain that Lois will do will in her career once she graduates.

This week’s journal club – a journal article to discuss

For the journal club on Thursday this week our very own Dr Ian Gass (Senior Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry) University of Brighton will be discussing the following interesting paper ” Highly Practical Copper (I)/TEMPO Catalyst System for Chemoselective Aerobic Oxidation of Primary Alcohols” by Jessica M. Hoover and Shannon S. Stahl J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 16901-16910.

Ian is well known for making the papers understandable and brings to the club thought provoking articles which have something to offer everyone even if it is out of your own field. Well worth coming along to join in the discussion or just listen. Location is E33 Galileo once again, starting at 12pm

First Journal club of 2015/16

We’re into the scond week of term now and with all the fun of induction week over everyone is back to work. The first journal club of the year takes places tomorrow and all are invited. It will take place in E33 Galileo at 12-1pm. Galileo is the room above the 3D design area in engineering (on the route through from Cockcroft level 2 to Huxley). Take the metal stairs and it is immediately on your left.

Professor Vladimir Y. Smorodin

The Institute for Sustainable Environment,  Clarkson University, USA
“Influence of surface/interfacial heterogeneity of solids and membranes on their effective properties and interfacial phenomena in colloid systems”

The Institute for Sustainable Environment
Clarkson University
PO Box 5708
Potsdam, NY 13699-5708, USA
Web Page: http://www.clarkson.edu/ise/Affiliate_profiles/index.html

It should be a good talk, we look forward to seeing you there