Relevance in a Changing World

On 24 May 2016 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Professor Jonathan Seville was inaugurated as IChemE President for 2016-17. The Executive Dean of Engineering at University of Surrey delivered his Presidential Address on the subject of relevance. Jonathan challenged us all to think: how will the Institution and the profession stay relevant in a world that is rapidly changing?

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The Zebrafish solution (Day 133)

ZebrafishIf you’ve ever had a tropical aquarium there’s a good chance you’ll have owned and been delighted by the vibrant colours of a darting Zebrafish.

What you may not know is that the Zebrafish has become a firm favourite of the research community. One reason for this is that Zebrafish embryos are completely transparent making them ideally suited for studying developmental processes as they occur.

As a general introduction to why Zebrafish are so attractive to the science community, take a look at this YouTube video produced by University College London (UCL).

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Healing help for spinal injuries (Day 122)

Spinal injectionWorking as part of a multi-disciplinary team is a common feature of the modern chemical engineer.

One of the latest projects I’ve come across involves chemical engineers working alongside a neurosurgeon, materials scientist, biologist, and molecular physiologist.

One of the chemical engineers is a specialist in polymers called Andrew Spakowitz, an associate professor of chemical engineering [and much more], at Stanford University.

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The affordable kidney (Day 117)

Human kidneysIf ever you try to explain what a chemical engineer does, comparing it to human anatomy may not be your first choice. But there are some useful analogies, for instance the kidney.

The main role of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood and convert them to urine. If the kidneys lose this ability, waste products can build up, which is potentially dangerous and can be life threatening.

It’s a principle used widely by chemical engineers to manage all kinds of human and industrial waste.

I think the relationship between chemical engineers and human anatomy is set to become more common over the next few years, and will improve the quality of life for millions of people.

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It’s in our genes (Day 85)

DNAThe world of genetics is fascinating and there always seems an endless stream of findings and breakthroughs with the potential for predicting and treating health problems.

This month, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated women with mutations in the PALB2 gene face a one in three chance of getting breast cancer by age 70.

A team at the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, have shown 14 separate genetic mutations can greatly increase the odds of aggressive prostate cancers and form the basis for genetic screening in a similar way to breast cancer in women.

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‘Little-game’ hunters (Day 84)

Most of us are familiar and fascinated with ‘big-game’ animals like rhinos, elephants and tigers. Thankfully, they are now protected animals and their numbers have stabilised, but remain perilously low. For instance only around 3,000 tigers remain the in the wild.

By contrast, there are tens of millions of species of bacteria living in the wild. But even these are hard to capture and some are just as elusive as a Siberian Tiger.

Panda

Pandas are not the only animals difficult to breed in captivity – ‘wild’ bacteria pose similar problems.

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A golden age for sensors (Day 49)

Monash's new sensor has great potential for monitoring people's health anytime and anywhere.

Monash’s new sensor has great potential for monitoring people’s health anytime and anywhere.

Healthcare policy ebbs and flows on a regular basis, especially in countries where the state provides tax-payer funded services like here in the UK.

However, although medicines, equipment, communication and facilities have all generally improved over time, the basic management of healthcare services and the business models for delivering them often seem in a state of constant flux.

A good example is where healthcare is best provided – in homes, communities or large centralised hospitals. Generally, I think it is a combination of all of these, but there has been a trend over the past few decades to more community- and home-based services, especially for the elderly.

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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.

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