VC's Research Day presentations

The Vice-Chancellor’s Research Day drew in early career researchers from across the University to showcase their areas of work with succinct presentations and quick-fire questions and answers.

Dr Susanne Gebhard from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry spoke about how bacteria use sensory systems to perceive their world, particularly antibiotic drugs. Their resistance to antibiotics often starts with their detection of the antibiotic and understanding how this process works may allow us to ‘jam the radar’ of resistant bacteria to restore antibiotic effectiveness. View the research presentation.

Dr Ufuk Güçbilmez, Senior Lecturer in Finance at the School of Management discussed his experiments using a bespoke trading platform to test whether investors’ decisions are affected by ‘realisation utility’ - the joy or pain at the moment of realising a gain or loss - and whether this could explain the ‘disposition effect’ - the tendency to realise gains too early and ride losses too long. View the research presentation.

Dr Louisa Enria, from the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, outlined her findings from recent research in Sierra Leone on young people’s experiences of the response to the Ebola epidemic. This response was characterised by community engagement to modify behaviours such as traditional burials, but also coercion by the militarised response that was triggered by the declaration of an international crisis. Her research explores how moments of crisis shape ideas of what it means to be a citizen and influence negotiations between the state and marginalised communities. View the research presentation.

Dr Chris Dawson from the School of Management, spoke about his research in the areas of empirical labour and behavioural economics, particularly in how optimism influences occupational choice and labour performance. His study found that women underestimate their earnings prospects, leading to lower expectations and little inclination to push for higher wages or promotion, or seek a better paid position. Conversely, men consistently overestimate their prospects. When reality fails to live up to their optimistic expectations they are dissatisfied and more likely to try to engineer a pay rise or promotion, or change jobs in the pursuit of better pay. View the research presentation.

Dr Alborz Shokrani, Lecturer in Engineering Design and Manufacturing talked through his research on manufacturing processes. Most critical parts in advanced industries, such as aircraft chassis, are made by machining parts from a block of material, however this is accompanied by high costs and low productivity. Alborz showed how additive manufacturing such as 3D printing coupled with modelling and artificial intelligence can revolutionise manufacturing of parts using high performance materials. View the research presentation.

Dr Josh Nunn, Department of Physics, spoke about ‘Catching photons for the future of computing’ and his work on optical memories that can catch, hold and release individual photons that could enable quantum computers based on light. Quantum computing is currently in the headlines with groups such as Google and IBM exploring the technology which could be more transformational than electronic computers. View the research presentation.

Dr Matthew Lennox, Department of Chemical Engineering, spoke about separation of chemical mixtures to recover a valuable product or remove a harmful one, a key chemical engineering challenge accounting for 10-15% of global energy use, from chemical production to dairy farming. Matthew’s research uses computer simulations to help understand absorption-based separation as an alternative and to guide development of new materials, or tune existing ones, to optimise them for these processes. View the research presentation.

Dr Antoine Buchard, Department of Chemistry, spoke about living in the ‘plastic age’, the benefits of the material but also the challenges of environmental persistence and the reliance on depleting fossil of fuels. His research investigates the development of new sustainable polymers using sugars from fruit and food waste, with the aim of increasing their take-up from the current 1% by increasing quality and reducing price. View the research presentation.

Dr Kate Button from Department of Psychology ran through her investigations into the cognitive mechanisms underlying anxiety and depression. Positive self-concept is the bedrock of mental health, whereas negative self-beliefs characterise anxiety and depression. Kate talked about reinforcement learning as a mechanism to maintain positive self-concept during social interactions and how a negative bias may contribute to anxiety and depression. View the research presentation.

Dr Despina Moschou, Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering talked about her work to develop disposable lab-on-a-chip systems for point-of-care diagnostics. Shrinking biomedical laboratories onto microchips would prevent people from having to go into hospital for diagnostics and their portable, user friendly nature would mean they could be used by range of people with minimal technical knowledge. View the research presentation.

Dr Lizzi Milligan from the Department of Education discussed her research into the learning of primary school children in Rwanda and Cameroon where the curriculum is delivered in English. Lizzi looked into the question of how children learn if they don’t understand English and discussed how her research has sought to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of these children. View the research presentation.

Concluding the event, Professor Glynis Breakwell, President and Vice-Chancellor, said: “Thank you for an exceptional and fascinating series of presentations. It is great to see research to identify solutions to real world problems that will have an impact. It makes me very proud, thank you for everything you are doing for the University.”

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