Author: Graduate School

From the lab to the ward, and back again

by Dr Sonia Wolf, Department of Infectious Disease

In January 2020, talk of a new virus in Wuhan emerged. As whispers spread about what it was and where it had come from, my curiosity was only that of an interested PhD student in the Department of Infectious Disease. As the epidemic grew and spread, however, I became increasingly aware that, as a medical doctor, my skills on the frontline were going to be needed. As college shut down, my research samples sat sadly in the freezer, while I tried (and failed) to write from home. The email came at the end of March; I was going to Newham Hospital, as an Acute Medical Registrar.

1st MRC Centre for Environment and Health’s Sustainability Workshop

by Aina Roca Barceló

On the 29th of January 2020, a group of students and staff members from Imperial College London gathered with one objective: to identify the barriers to a more sustainable workspace. This was part of the 1st MRC Centre for Environment and Health’s Sustainability Workshop, organised by the MRC Researchers Society’s co-chair Aina Roca Barceló (1st year President PhD Scholar), supported by the MRC Centre for Environment and Health, within the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department (EBS), represented by Drs Fred Piel and Eduardo Seleiro. This was kindly funded by the Graduate School’s Research Community Fund.

My experience at the ‘Careers Talk with a Difference’

My name is Niamh Sayers and I’m a third year PhD student based at Hammersmith Hospital in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, and also a Student Rep for this cohort. As I am nearing the end of my PhD (as are many of the friends I started with) I realised we may all be looking for things we want to do after our PhD, therefore I decided to organise this ‘Careers Talk with a Difference…’. We attend many scientific talks during our PhDs, from Work in Progress’ to conference seminars, but I realised we do not have access to many talks outside of the realms of science.

Exploring London’s Hidden Tunnels

On 28th February, the researchers from the Geotechnics Section explored some of London’s hidden tunnels in a fascinating tour run by the London Transport Museum. With the financial support from the Graduate School cohort building fund, we were able to enjoy this social event and get closer as a group while also learning more about the tunnels that many of us study as part of our research projects.

On Friday afternoon, we all made our way to Euston station and joined the brilliant team from ‘Hidden London’ who first gave us a presentation on the history of the London Underground. Once we all had our high-vis jackets on, we were led down into the tunnels, past the busy crowds of commuters into the parts of the station that are normally hidden from the public.

The PG Leap Year Ball

On Saturday 29th February 2020, the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) held its second annual Graduate Students’ ball, an event which aims to bring together postgraduate students from across each campus, each department and either research or taught Masters’ or PhD courses for a night of fun, and relaxed socialising. The Leap Year Ball was held at the Under the Bridge venue in Fulham and was a roaring success for both the GSU organising committee and attendees alike.

The first of these GSU Postgraduate Balls’ ran last year and was well-received, with just under three-hundred students attending. This year, the GSU team were more ambitious.

SPIKE Goes Karting

After weeks of online SuperTuxKart championships, it was time for the PhD members of the SPIKE research group to race in real life. On Sunday, 8 March, 2020 (just before a pandemic took over the world), SPIKE members enjoyed an eventful evening of go karting followed by a group dinner.

The evening was a chance to help foster the team spirit of the research group, and enable collaboration that goes beyond the day to day activities of each member’s individual research journey. As one PhD student put it:

“Karting was an unequalled experience: the wind on my face, the speed making the kart almost fly… It would have been that, if I had not worn a helmet, and I had not driven as slow as a stroll in the park (cit.).

London Malaria ECR Network Launch Event

In their effort to establish an Early Career Research (ECR) community for all malaria researchers based at London research institutes, PhD students organized a launch event at the Crick Institute to bring everyone together. Research assistants, research technicians, PhD students and junior postdocs who work under either computational or laboratory settings were encouraged to interact with researchers outside their own social/departmental circles and suggest their ideas about the future of this network. None missed the chance to also show-off their ‘Knowles-it-all’ expertise on a malaria-based pub quiz, while enjoying nibbles and drinks.

Over 50 people from four different London-based institutes registered for the event, with a turnout of 30.

4Cs Science Communication Writing Competition – People’s Choice Award

by Clavance Lim, MSc Student in the Department of Computing

Translating words to numbers

As humans, one way in which we are unique is our ability to communicate with complex language (arguably, science students possess this skill too). In contrast, computers ‘think’ not in language, but in binary numbers. Instead of the decimal system we count with, which uses the ten unique digits ‘0’ to ‘9’, computers ‘think’ only in ‘0’s and ‘1’s. This is because their hardware is controlled by tiny switches, which turn electrical current on or off. As it is difficult to control electrical current at such a microscopic level (switches can be as small as only 10x the size of an atom!),

4Cs Science Communication Writing Competition – 1st Place

by Michelle Lin, MRes Student in the Department of Life Sciences

Cryptococcosis: The Silent Killer

The young patient presented to the hospital with a fever, headache, seizures, and both eyes bulging out of their sockets. Suspecting an infection, doctors first treated the boy with a common antibiotic, Penicillin, presumably to knock out whatever bacterial agent they believed was causing his symptoms.¹

With the boy’s condition failing to improve, doctors kept the boy hospitalized as they searched for a diagnosis and administered various antibiotic and antiviral medications.

As his hospital stay dragged on, the boys condition continued to deteriorate until, after 52 days of ineffective treatments in the hospital, the boy succumbed to his illness.

4Cs Science Communication Writing Competition – 2nd Place

by David Ho, PhD Student in the Department of Physics

A really strong magnet can dissolve Everything

One wrong thing everyone knows about the universe is “conservation of matter”. It seems obvious: if you have a chair, you can move it, or turn it around, and you still have one chair. If these were the only experiments you did, you might proclaim that the number of chairs in the universe always stays the same.

Of course, it doesn’t take much thought to counter this: with a hammer you can easily change the number of chairs in the universe. But if you collect every splinter of leftover wood, you’ll find the same amount before and after the destruction.