CoMPLEX news 2011

8 December 2011 - Prof Tom Duke featured on The Guardian
Professor Tom Duke's recent developments on lab-on-a-chip nanotechnology have been recently published in an article on The Guardian by the journal's science correspondent Alok Jha.

Professor Duke, a key member of CoMPLEX at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, has been working on technology that can perform HIV tests on a chip, as opposed to current tests which require large laboratories staffed by skilled clinicians, a hindrance in resource-poor countries where the disease is rife.

However, the approach is not limited to HIV. "This platform can be used for pretty much any viral or bacterial disease," says Professor Duke.

Read the full article on The Guardian.

2 September 2011- EPSRC Doctoral Prize awardees
We are very happy to announce that two CoMPLEX Alumni, Kevin Lau and Andrew Newell, have been awarded with EPSRC Doctoral Prizes. Under a new scheme, UCL received direct funding from EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) to award postdoctoral fellowships. Applicants for these awards were required to submit original research applications building upon the work of their PhDs, which were assessed both on academic merit and the strength of a longer term career strategy. In 2011, only eight of these prestigious awards were made to first-class doctoral researchers. Congratulations to Kevin and Andrew on their outstanding achievements!

Read more at:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1110/111027


7 July 2011- Sam Tazzyman dazzles the media
Congratulations to Sam Tazzyman, who came first in the Evolution Zone in "I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!", the award-winning science enrichment and engagement activity funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Also, as part of the Bright Club, London’s clever variety night, Sam was featured in the weekly Guardian podcast. Sam's stand-up routine was all about sperm, his field of study at CoMPLEX. 

Useful links:
I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here! (UCL recording):http://soundcloud.com/uclsound/im-a-scientist
The Guardian podcast:http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/audio/2011/jun/27/science-weekly-podcast-tim-harford


19 June 2011- Announcing a series of engagement activities by Sam Tazzyman
We are excited to announce a series of engagement activities by one of our CoMPLEX students, Sam Tazzyman, who is currently investigating the evolution and the consequences of mate choice. Sam is participating in "I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here!", an award-winning science enrichment and engagement activity, funded by the Wellcome Trust. It has been described as "an X Factor-style competition for scientists, where students are the judges". In the show, scientists and students talk online, break down barriers, have fun and learn (but only the students get to vote).

Also, on Tuesday June 21st, Sam is taking part in Bright Club, London’s clever variety night where all sorts of people get to make jokes about their work. Then, on June 27th, Sam will be guesting on the Bright Club podcast. The Podcast features some of the researchers who have performed at live events, alongside comedians and anchor Steve Cross. Way to go Sam!

Useful links:
I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here! website: http://imascientist.org.uk/
Bright Club website: http://www.brightclub.org/
Bright Club's podcasts: http://brightclub.wordpress.com/podcasts/


14 June 2011- CoMPLEX gets involved in discussions on the future of doctoral funding
The European University Association is currently involved in a consultation project about the future of collaborative doctoral education. As part of this they are holding five workshops across Europe consulting with universities and business partners to find models of best practice for university-industry relations. UCL was invited to participate in the 4th such workshop at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. CoMPLEX was chosen as the representative UCL DTC to provide a contrast to the strong industrial partnership at NTNU. 


(*there is a big push to drop the “PhD student” label by EURODOC, the umbrella organisation supporting those studying for PhDs). 

The workshop took the form of presentations from the host university, the European University Association and business partners, followed by two independent case study presentation sessions. Alan and Gwenan presented at one of these as a comparative case to a doctoral scheme where a STATOIL (Norwegian oil company) employee of 10 years studied for his PhD jointly with NTNU. The following discussion focused on how to get the right balance between supervisors, with the industry candidate describing that having a boss and a supervisor means you always have to be aware of the “moment of tyranny”. There was much interest and approval of the cohort approach taken by CoMPLEX, with the recognition that industry sponsored PhD candidates often become isolated. The afternoon of the workshop was filled with further presentations by the Norwegian Research Council and EIRMA, followed by a wide ranging discussion. This covered many issues ranging from IP ownership to the problems faced by SMEs (small to medium enterprises) – how can they combat the lack of specifically trained PhD level recruits given few resources.

The main focus of the workshop was on trying to decide what model of doctoral education works best within an industrial-university partnership. A current proposal on the table at the EU is to fund PhD projects with 50-50 industry-university support. This wisdom of this was questioned, as although public funding was deemed key for the success of doctoral projects, in an equal partnership there is a danger that no one side takes the lead in data rights, supervision or overall responsibility. Shared projects between industry (or research institutes) and universities are thus complicated, with structured agreements from the start required for doctoral success - something which NTNU seems highly proficient at! Overall, it was agreed that the university should be responsible for the academic quality of the thesis, but through collaboration it gains a context or focus for its research, while the industrial partner provides support and experience to gain potential employees with the correct skill set. All projects must focus on the PhD candidate as an individual, with a wide range of supporting courses and training for each to choose from. There is also a leaning now towards a supervisory team rather than a single primary supervisor. It was refreshing to see that these latter points, as well as the problem of doctoral candidate isolation, are being addressed by CoMPLEX and UCL. In conclusion, there is no one model for doctoral education, but the CoMPLEX/UCL model is up there with the best.  

More information is available at the EUA news webpage:

http://www.eua.be/News/11-06-09/Fourth_EUA_DOC-CAREERS_II_Workshop_held_at_the_Norwegian_University_of_Science_and_Technology_NTNU_Trondheim.aspx


9 May 2011- Winners of Kaggle Competition announced
Andrew Newell (UCL CoMPLEX) and Lewis Griffin (UCL Computer Science) recently came first in a competition on the Kaggle website involving identifying authorship of handwritten Arabic script. Writer identification is important for forensic analysis as it helps experts to deliberate on the authenticity of documents. This Kaggle competition aimed to further the science of writer identification and it required for the participants to develop algorithms that could identify handwriting. This is a difficult problem because a writer never reproduces exactly the same characters. 

Writer identification usually requires two steps. The first is an image-processing step, where features are extracted from the images. The second step is a classification step, where the document is assigned to the “closest” document in the dataset according to the “difference” between their features. According to the researchers: "At the core of our method was a system called oriented Basic Image Feature columns (oBIF columns). This system has shown good results in several character recognition tasks, but this was the first time we had tested it on author identification". Our most heartfelt congratulations to Andrew and Lewis!

You can find the competition page at:
http://www.kaggle.com/c/WIC2011 

and a description of the research method at:
http://blog.kaggle.com/2011/05/04/andrew-newell-and-lewis-griffin-on-winning-the-icdar-2011-competition/


11 April 2011- CoMPLEX visits Collyer's sixth form college
Four PhD students from CoMPLEX visited Collyer's sixth form college in Horsham, Sussex, on Wednesday 6th April, to talk to A-level students there about their research. The event, co-ordinated by the Science Faculty Head Joe Brock, and CoMPLEX Head Alan Johnston, was designed to give students taking A-levels in maths and sciences a glimpse of the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research going on at UCL, as well as some idea of what doing a PhD involves. An attentive audience of around 60 students (and science teachers!) heard talks from Gwenan Knight on antibiotic resistance in MRSA; from Dorothy Kuipers on epithelial cell death; from Lorette Noiret on ammonia in liver disease and from James Muir on neurotransmitter receptor movement. Each talk was very well-recieved, with both students and teachers asking intelligent questions. The speakers explained how their background training motivated their choice of PhD, and how they have applied maths and physics to tackle biological problems. Each CoMPLEX student enjoyed the challenge of explaining their work to a younger audience, and found the experience rewarding – well done to them for keeping such a big group engaged for two hours on a hot afternoon! It is hoped that the Collyer's students will now see how concepts from the different sciences they study can be used in a wide range of research fields – and in areas they may not have expected! And who knows, maybe some of them will apply to CoMPLEX in a few years' time?

4 April 2011- Female fruit flies tune in to the love songs of courting males

We are pleased to announce a new CoMPLEX publication. In order to impress a virgin female and persuade her to mate, a male fruit fly sings a courtship song. The amorous insect creates its serenade by extending one wing and beating it to generate a sequence of sound pulses. Different species have evolved their own characteristic version of the song, and this system of acoustic communication has long been a favourite subject of researchers investigating the evolution of behaviour.

Mingjie Dai, a CoMPLEX summer student, and scientists at the UCL Ear Institute (London Centre for Nanotechnology) have discovered that the ears of female fruit flies have evolved to be species specific, too. The fly's hearing organ is the antenna, which pivots due to the movement of the air in sound waves and excites mechano-sensory neurons located at its base. Using laser Doppler interferometry, the researchers measured the antenna's motion and found that it vibrated spontaneously, driven by a micro-mechanical system that is unidentified, as yet, but is most likely associated with the transduction apparatus of the sensory neurons. The system appears to be designed so that a female fruit fly can listen out for the right mate, while turning a deaf ear to the advances of inappropriate suitors.

Read the full press release at:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1103/31031102

and
http://www.london-nano.com/research-and-facilities/highlight/female-fruit-flies-tune-in-to-the-love-songs-of-courting-males


3 March 2011– CoMPLEX features in New Scientist
A recent careers feature in New Scientist proposes that “the most exciting research is happening at the interface of the disciplines”.  The article, entitled ‘Open your mind to interdisciplinary research’, explains the success of PhD programmes such as CoMPLEX.  It discusses both the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research and features an interview with Dorothy Kuipers, a final year PhD student from CoMPLEX.

Read the full article at:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928002.100-open-your-mind-to-interdisciplinary-research.html?full=true

21 February 2011- Tracking Neural Stem Cells
We are pleased to announce another UCL sceintific breakthrough. Dr Nguyen TK Thanh and colleagues have developed hollow biocompatible cobalt-platinum nanoparticles and have successfully attached them to stem cells. The nanoparticles are stable for months and have a high magnetic moment - tendency to align with a magnetic field - so that low concentrations can be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Magnetic nanoparticles could be used to track neural stem cells after a transplant in order to monitor how the cells heal spinal injuries. The team of scientists labeled stem cells with their nanoparticles, injected them into spinal cord slices and took images of their progress over time. They found that low numbers of the nanoparticle-loaded stem cells could still be detected two weeks after transplantation.

Read the full press release at:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1102/11021402

19 January 2011- Professor Andrew Pomiankowski honoured as AAAS Fellow
We are thrilled to announce that Professor Andrew Pomiankowski, Head of the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment (GEE), has been awarded Fellowship of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. AAAS also publishes the journal Science.

Election as a Fellow is an honour bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Professor Pomiankowski's Fellowship was awarded for distinguished contributions in evolutionary genetics, theoretical and experimental, in particular in the fields of sexual selection, the evolution of mate preference and sexual signals. Professor Pomiankowski is a founder member and keen supporter of CoMPLEX, UCL’s inter-disciplinary research centre for mathematical biology. Our warmest congratulations and best wishes to Professor Pomiankowski on his election.

AAAS news release: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2011/0111fellows.shtml
UCL news release: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/gee/news/repository/13012010

Director of CoMPLEX, Prof Alan Johnston, and Doctoral Candidate* Gwenan Knight made the trip to Norway to present the CoMPLEX model. NTNU is a university with extensive links to industry and a strong Jazz department! The campus is in the centre of Trondheim, with a mix of old and new, as well as industrial and academic buildings. The town itself is situated right on the waterfront, with a beautiful cathedral and a nice, but expensive, microbrewery! EUA logo


8 December 2011 - Prof Tom Duke featured on The Guardian Professor Tom Duke's recent developments on lab-on-a-chip nanotechnology have been recently published in an article on The Guardian by the journal's science correspondent Alok Jha.Professor Duke, a key member of CoMPLEX at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, has been working on technology that can perform HIV tests on a chip, as opposed to current tests which require large laboratories staffed by skilled clinicians, a hindrance in resource-poor countries where the disease is rife.However, the approach is not limited to HIV. "This platform can be used for pretty much any viral or bacterial disease," says Professor Duke.Read the full article on The Guardian.2 September 2011- EPSRC Doctoral Prize awardees We are very happy to announce that two CoMPLEX Alumni, Kevin Lau and Andrew Newell, have been awarded with EPSRC Doctoral Prizes. Under a new scheme, UCL received direct funding from EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) to award postdoctoral fellowships. Applicants for these awards were required to submit original research applications building upon the work of their PhDs, which were assessed both on academic merit and the strength of a longer term career strategy. In 2011, only eight of these prestigious awards were made to first-class doctoral researchers. Congratulations to Kevin and Andrew on their outstanding achievements!Read more at:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1110/111027 7 July 2011- Sam Tazzyman dazzles the media Congratulations to Sam Tazzyman, who came first in the Evolution Zone in "I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!", the award-winning science enrichment and engagement activity funded by the Wellcome Trust. Also, as part of the Bright Club, London’s clever variety night, Sam was featured in the weekly Guardian podcast. Sam's stand-up routine was all about sperm, his field of study at CoMPLEX.  Useful links: I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here! (UCL recording):http://soundcloud.com/uclsound/im-a-scientist The Guardian podcast:http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/audio/2011/jun/27/science-weekly-podcast-tim-harford 19 June 2011- Announcing a series of engagement activities by Sam Tazzyman We are excited to announce a series of engagement activities by one of our CoMPLEX students, Sam Tazzyman, who is currently investigating the evolution and the consequences of mate choice. Sam is participating in "I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here!", an award-winning science enrichment and engagement activity, funded by the Wellcome Trust. It has been described as "an X Factor-style competition for scientists, where students are the judges". In the show, scientists and students talk online, break down barriers, have fun and learn (but only the students get to vote). Also, on Tuesday June 21st, Sam is taking part in Bright Club, London’s clever variety night where all sorts of people get to make jokes about their work. Then, on June 27th, Sam will be guesting on the Bright Club podcast. The Podcast features some of the researchers who have performed at live events, alongside comedians and anchor Steve Cross. Way to go Sam! Useful links: I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here! website: http://imascientist.org.uk/ Bright Club website: http://www.brightclub.org/ Bright Club's podcasts: http://brightclub.wordpress.com/podcasts/ 14 June 2011- CoMPLEX gets involved in discussions on the future of doctoral funding The European University Association is currently involved in a consultation project about the future of collaborative doctoral education. As part of this they are holding five workshops across Europe consulting with universities and business partners to find models of best practice for university-industry relations. UCL was invited to participate in the 4th such workshop at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. CoMPLEX was chosen as the representative UCL DTC to provide a contrast to the strong industrial partnership at NTNU.  Director of CoMPLEX, Prof Alan Johnston, and Doctoral Candidate* Gwenan Knight made the trip to Norway to present the CoMPLEX model. NTNU is a university with extensive links to industry and a strong Jazz department! The campus is in the centre of Trondheim, with a mix of old and new, as well as industrial and academic buildings. The town itself is situated right on the waterfront, with a beautiful cathedral and a nice, but expensive, microbrewery! (*there is a big push to drop the “PhD student” label by EURODOC, the umbrella organisation supporting those studying for PhDs).  The workshop took the form of presentations from the host university, the European University Association and business partners, followed by two independent case study presentation sessions. Alan and Gwenan presented at one of these as a comparative case to a doctoral scheme where a STATOIL (Norwegian oil company) employee of 10 years studied for his PhD jointly with NTNU. The following discussion focused on how to get the right balance between supervisors, with the industry candidate describing that having a boss and a supervisor means you always have to be aware of the “moment of tyranny”. There was much interest and approval of the cohort approach taken by CoMPLEX, with the recognition that industry sponsored PhD candidates often become isolated. The afternoon of the workshop was filled with further presentations by the Norwegian Research Council and EIRMA, followed by a wide ranging discussion. This covered many issues ranging from IP ownership to the problems faced by SMEs (small to medium enterprises) – how can they combat the lack of specifically trained PhD level recruits given few resources. The main focus of the workshop was on trying to decide what model of doctoral education works best within an industrial-university partnership. A current proposal on the table at the EU is to fund PhD projects with 50-50 industry-university support. This wisdom of this was questioned, as although public funding was deemed key for the success of doctoral projects, in an equal partnership there is a danger that no one side takes the lead in data rights, supervision or overall responsibility. Shared projects between industry (or research institutes) and universities are thus complicated, with structured agreements from the start required for doctoral success - something which NTNU seems highly proficient at! Overall, it was agreed that the university should be responsible for the academic quality of the thesis, but through collaboration it gains a context or focus for its research, while the industrial partner provides support and experience to gain potential employees with the correct skill set. All projects must focus on the PhD candidate as an individual, with a wide range of supporting courses and training for each to choose from. There is also a leaning now towards a supervisory team rather than a single primary supervisor. It was refreshing to see that these latter points, as well as the problem of doctoral candidate isolation, are being addressed by CoMPLEX and UCL. In conclusion, there is no one model for doctoral education, but the CoMPLEX/UCL model is up there with the best.  More information is available at the EUA news webpage:http://www.eua.be/News/11-06-09/Fourth_EUA_DOC-CAREERS_II_Workshop_held_at_the_Norwegian_University_of_Science_and_Technology_NTNU_Trondheim.aspx 9 May 2011- Winners of Kaggle Competition announced Andrew Newell (UCL CoMPLEX) and Lewis Griffin (UCL Computer Science) recently came first in a competition on the Kaggle website involving identifying authorship of handwritten Arabic script. Writer identification is important for forensic analysis as it helps experts to deliberate on the authenticity of documents. This Kaggle competition aimed to further the science of writer identification and it required for the participants to develop algorithms that could identify handwriting. This is a difficult problem because a writer never reproduces exactly the same characters.  Writer identification usually requires two steps. The first is an image-processing step, where features are extracted from the images. The second step is a classification step, where the document is assigned to the “closest” document in the dataset according to the “difference” between their features. According to the researchers: "At the core of our method was a system called oriented Basic Image Feature columns (oBIF columns). This system has shown good results in several character recognition tasks, but this was the first time we had tested it on author identification". Our most heartfelt congratulations to Andrew and Lewis! You can find the competition page at: http://www.kaggle.com/c/WIC2011  and a description of the research method at: http://blog.kaggle.com/2011/05/04/andrew-newell-and-lewis-griffin-on-winning-the-icdar-2011-competition/ 11 April 2011- CoMPLEX visits Collyer's sixth form college Four PhD students from CoMPLEX visited Collyer's sixth form college in Horsham, Sussex, on Wednesday 6th April, to talk to A-level students there about their research. The event, co-ordinated by the Science Faculty Head Joe Brock, and CoMPLEX Head Alan Johnston, was designed to give students taking A-levels in maths and sciences a glimpse of the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research going on at UCL, as well as some idea of what doing a PhD involves. An attentive audience of around 60 students (and science teachers!) heard talks from Gwenan Knight on antibiotic resistance in MRSA; from Dorothy Kuipers on epithelial cell death; from Lorette Noiret on ammonia in liver disease and from James Muir on neurotransmitter receptor movement. Each talk was very well-recieved, with both students and teachers asking intelligent questions. The speakers explained how their background training motivated their choice of PhD, and how they have applied maths and physics to tackle biological problems. Each CoMPLEX student enjoyed the challenge of explaining their work to a younger audience, and found the experience rewarding – well done to them for keeping such a big group engaged for two hours on a hot afternoon! It is hoped that the Collyer's students will now see how concepts from the different sciences they study can be used in a wide range of research fields – and in areas they may not have expected! And who knows, maybe some of them will apply to CoMPLEX in a few years' time? 4 April 2011- Female fruit flies tune in to the love songs of courting males We are pleased to announce a new CoMPLEX publication. In order to impress a virgin female and persuade her to mate, a male fruit fly sings a courtship song. The amorous insect creates its serenade by extending one wing and beating it to generate a sequence of sound pulses. Different species have evolved their own characteristic version of the song, and this system of acoustic communication has long been a favourite subject of researchers investigating the evolution of behaviour.Mingjie Dai, a CoMPLEX summer student, and scientists at the UCL Ear Institute (London Centre for Nanotechnology) have discovered that the ears of female fruit flies have evolved to be species specific, too. The fly's hearing organ is the antenna, which pivots due to the movement of the air in sound waves and excites mechano-sensory neurons located at its base. Using laser Doppler interferometry, the researchers measured the antenna's motion and found that it vibrated spontaneously, driven by a micro-mechanical system that is unidentified, as yet, but is most likely associated with the transduction apparatus of the sensory neurons. The system appears to be designed so that a female fruit fly can listen out for the right mate, while turning a deaf ear to the advances of inappropriate suitors.Read the full press release at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1103/31031102and http://www.london-nano.com/research-and-facilities/highlight/female-fruit-flies-tune-in-to-the-love-songs-of-courting-males 3 March 2011– CoMPLEX features in New Scientist A recent careers feature in New Scientist proposes that “the most exciting research is happening at the interface of the disciplines”.  The article, entitled ‘Open your mind to interdisciplinary research’, explains the success of PhD programmes such as CoMPLEX.  It discusses both the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research and features an interview with Dorothy Kuipers, a final year PhD student from CoMPLEX. Read the full article at: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928002.100-open-your-mind-to-interdisciplinary-research.html?full=true 21 February 2011- Tracking Neural Stem Cells We are pleased to announce another UCL sceintific breakthrough. Dr Nguyen TK Thanh and colleagues have developed hollow biocompatible cobalt-platinum nanoparticles and have successfully attached them to stem cells. The nanoparticles are stable for months and have a high magnetic moment - tendency to align with a magnetic field - so that low concentrations can be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Magnetic nanoparticles could be used to track neural stem cells after a transplant in order to monitor how the cells heal spinal injuries. The team of scientists labeled stem cells with their nanoparticles, injected them into spinal cord slices and took images of their progress over time. They found that low numbers of the nanoparticle-loaded stem cells could still be detected two weeks after transplantation. Read the full press release at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1102/11021402 19 January 2011- Professor Andrew Pomiankowski honoured as AAAS Fellow We are thrilled to announce that Professor Andrew Pomiankowski, Head of the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment (GEE), has been awarded Fellowship of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. AAAS also publishes the journal Science. Election as a Fellow is an honour bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Professor Pomiankowski's Fellowship was awarded for distinguished contributions in evolutionary genetics, theoretical and experimental, in particular in the fields of sexual selection, the evolution of mate preference and sexual signals. Professor Pomiankowski is a founder member and keen supporter of CoMPLEX, UCL’s inter-disciplinary research centre for mathematical biology. Our warmest congratulations and best wishes to Professor Pomiankowski on his election. AAAS news release: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2011/0111fellows.shtml UCL news release: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/gee/news/repository/13012010

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