Fighting lung cancer with personalised medicine (Day 93)

DNA and RNARecently I wrote about twins who were creating a better mechanism to release cancer-fighting drugs and about researchers using epigenetics to identify the best treatments for cancers.

Now I have more good news about chemical engineers working to combat lung cancer.

Researchers at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have successfully used RNA therapies to shrink and slow the growth of lung cancer tumours.

Continue reading Fighting lung cancer with personalised medicine (Day 93)

Five things you need to know about journal Impact Factors (Day 88)

Pencil writing impactI have made it my quest throughout my presidency to shine a light on chemical engineering.

So it made me very proud to see the latest Impact Factors for IChemE’s journals.

Not only have the Impact Factors of IChemE’s three leading journals trebled since 2003 but Food and Bioproducts Processing (FBP) also recorded an annual increase in Impact Factor of 23 per cent.

These improvements in journal Impact Factors follow the high quality research work being performed by chemical engineers.

However most people don’t understand what Impact Factors are, how they should be used, nor how they are calculated.

Here are five simple ways to use and understand Impact Factors:

Continue reading Five things you need to know about journal Impact Factors (Day 88)

Not just any old bioenergy (Day 74)

energy calculatorTen per cent of the world’s primary energy supply in 2009 came from biomass. Demand for bioenergy is expected to grow three-fold by 2050. But does it matter where this bioenergy comes from?

Bioenergy generated from biomass comes from a range of sources; e.g. corn, sugar, sugar beet, soy, energy grass, organic waste and wood etc. to name but a few.

But how can we be sure that these renewable sources are any better than traditional energy producing methods?

Continue reading Not just any old bioenergy (Day 74)

It’s a sell out (Day 72)

C0145_13-slider-CEMThe first edition of IChemE’s technical strategy, Chemical Engineering Matters, was a sell out. There are no more copies left.

So I’m pleased to announce that a second edition has been published and you can find the new version of Chemical Engineering Matters here.

The simple statement that is ‘chemical engineering matters’ is not a cliché. It is the truth.

Continue reading It’s a sell out (Day 72)

Feeding the fish… fish (Day 71)

Fish in ocean75 per cent of world fish stocks are fully-exploited, over-exploited or depleted.

Consumers and farmers are turning to farmed fish as a source of food, with fish farms aiming to produce nearly two thirds of the global fish supply by 2030.

 

However, 81 per cent of the fish caught in the wild are currently used to feed farmed fish, making fish farming just as unsustainable.

Eating fish offers huge health benefits; they provide neurodevelopment benefits to women of child rearing age and have been shown to reduce the risk of mortality from coronary heart disease. We need to find a way of farming fish sustainably to continue receiving these health benefits.

Chemical engineers are investigating various avenues to make the aquaculture industry more sustainable and reduce the use of wild fish in farmed fish feed.

Continue reading Feeding the fish… fish (Day 71)

Ten differences between chemistry and chemical engineering (Day 66)

Element cubesWhen I talk about my work I find the common problem that people do not understand the difference between chemists and chemical engineers.

Both fields are becoming increasingly important and deserve greater public recognition, but they are distinct.

Although I now work as a chemical engineer I originally studied chemistry, and so feel I should be well placed to highlight the key differences and dispel common misconceptions.

However, this list is in no way definitive and there are huge overlaps in the work of chemists and chemical engineers.

Here are ten differences between chemists and chemical engineers:

Continue reading Ten differences between chemistry and chemical engineering (Day 66)

The real guardians of the brand (Day 64)

 

Supermarket aisleIf you ever want to tease your colleagues in the marketing department, tell them they wouldn’t have a brand without chemical engineers.

Chemical engineers provide all the necessary building blocks of a successful brand such as consistency, standardisation, safety, quality and sheer volume.

This is certainly the case in the food industry. Just look what happens when it all goes wrong.

The European horse meat scandal, false advertising of farmed salmon as wild salmon in the US, 1,700 tonnes of manuka honey being produced in New Zealand but 10,000 tonnes being sold globally, meat suppliers in China distributing meat past its expiry date and in Italy the passing off of substandard olive oil as extra virgin; are all examples of where brand consistency has been lost.

Continue reading The real guardians of the brand (Day 64)

Doing the right thing (Day 48)

Climate ChangeThe right thing to do is not necessarily the cheapest when it comes to saving our planet.

That’s certainly the case for mitigating climate change.

Recently, in my monthly poll, I asked the question – Are people willing to pay more for energy to mitigate climate change? (you can vote at the bottom of this blog too).

So far the poll is indicating that nearly 60 per cent are happy to pay more.

Continue reading Doing the right thing (Day 48)

Will diet foods ever become the norm? (Day 47)

Chocolate BubblesTake a walk down any supermarket shopping aisle and you’ll find carefully arranged products positioned by ‘merchandisers’ to ensure your favourite foods are easy to find and always on sale.

‘Diet’, ‘healthy’ or ‘reduced calorie’ foods are often given their own special sections, and in many cases the amount of space given to them is growing.

But for many consumers ‘diet’ products are a compromise – they don’t quite taste the same…do they? But if they did, it could make the battle against obesity much easier.

Continue reading Will diet foods ever become the norm? (Day 47)

Getting ready for the sugar wars (Day 37)

Diabetes indicatorSmoking, passive-smoking and tobacco-related products like ‘chewing tobacco’ still kill around six million people a year. Despite all the education, controls and stigmatisation of smokers over many decades, the casualty rate is expected to rise even further to eight million by 2030.

But humanity is likely to face an even bigger killer in the future – obesity.

Worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980. Current estimates suggest 3.4 million adults die every year as a result of being overweight.

Continue reading Getting ready for the sugar wars (Day 37)

Everyone should have a human right to water (Day 33)

Water well
Image copyright: Africa924 / Shutterstock.com

In the UK we rarely think about our water supply. It is relatively easy to turn on a tap and have an instant and clean drink of water.

But this is not the case in all parts of the world.

Currently about a quarter of the world’s population do not have clean water to drink, despite the UN designating the last decade (2005-2015) as the international decade for action, ‘Water for Life‘.

When you consider that water is essential to survival it is staggering that around 1.8 billion people still face the daily challenge of contaminated water.

Continue reading Everyone should have a human right to water (Day 33)

A most frustrating of professions (Day 29)

Question markThere is always a good and lively debate about the definition of chemical engineering. Not in technical and academic terms, but in words that most people can understand and relate to. At the moment it often feels like a debate without end and probably needs marketers to help tease out the values, words, benefits and phrases that encapsulate our profession.

So does it matter if we can’t explain our profession simply and collectively, nor have a simple set of images that bind us all together? Romantically, most chemical engineers would answer yes to this question.

In practice too it is an awkward situation to be in – the lack of clarity and subsequent communication problems result in misunderstanding, poor awareness and, most importantly, less value attached to the profession. If nothing else this is a substantial barrier to higher education, skills and recruitment.

Continue reading A most frustrating of professions (Day 29)

The images of a profession (Day 27)

Woodside petroleum’s Pluto LNG plant
Woodside petroleum’s Pluto LNG plant (Copyright Woodside Energy Ltd)

Chemical engineers work in some of the most image-conscious organisations where reputations are hard-won and easily lost. In all likelihood you’ll have a team of people somewhere carefully monitoring social media, news outlets, what your customers are saying and what the future holds in terms of legislation, trends and policy changes.

It’s also fair to assume that chemical engineers don’t always have the best of images. For one, people generally don’t know what we do. And when they do, it’s often associated with negative images and disasters. Often these images and events are ingrained into the public consciousness like Piper Alpha or Bhopal.

Continue reading The images of a profession (Day 27)

Looking into the crystal ball (Day 13)

Electric carAs a professor of energy engineering at Imperial College London I am often asked about the future. What we know for sure is that there is going to be major change with climate change, dwindling fossil fuels and an extra two billion people on the planet all playing their part in the various scenarios and possibilities.

There are other factors too, but it’s always interesting to look into the crystal ball through the eyes of some of the various stakeholders in the chemical and process industries.

Continue reading Looking into the crystal ball (Day 13)