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YorkTalks Session One 2018

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Spring Lane building auditorium

University of York

Heslington

York

YO10 5DD

United Kingdom

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SESSION ONE

Welcome and introductions - Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor

Vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts will introduce the day and open proceedings.

Burning for conservation: fire in the African savannah – Colin Beale, Department of Biology

Few images are quite as dramatic as those of fire officers silhouetted against a towering inferno of flames. Wildfires are regularly portrayed as dangerous and destructive, easily leading to the conclusion that we should do all we can, wherever we can, to prevent fires. In the savannahs of Africa, however, the opposite may be true. Ecologist Dr Colin Beale’s research in Tanzania’s Serengeti ecosystem, home to the largest mammalian migration in the world and an icon of conservation, suggests that fire could be a surprisingly subtle tool for managing African grasslands. It also asks whether the lack of wildfire in many village rangelands is contributing to poverty, and whether burning could restore both wildlife and livelihoods for pastoralists.

Filling up with water and sunshine rather than diesel or unleaded – Alison Parkin, Department of Chemistry

Life is powered by bioelectricity, the flow of electrons from one protein molecule to another. The way that photosynthesis harnesses this process to store light energy from the sun as sugars, or in special cases hydrogen, is inspirational to scientists. Drawing on that inspiration, Dr Alison Parkin and her team are working to unlock the secret of how nature does this. Their research involves drilling deep into the DNA of bacteria in a way that will enable them to find new methods of producing transport fuel from water and sunshine. This involves the subtle re-engineering of the DNA and measuring the biochemical reactivity of enzymes extracted from bacteria.

Drugs down the drain: how York research is helping industry avoid hidden environmental side effects of their molecules – Alistair Boxall, Environment Department

A wide range of pharmaceuticals and ingredients used in personal care products have been detected in the natural environment across the globe. Professor Alistair Boxall will talk about how he and his colleagues are playing a key role in a €10 million European project to help minimise the environmental impact of these chemicals. In collaboration with the drugs industry, he is developing predictive mathematical models that will help industry understand the potential impacts of new drugs on the environment, and identify those legacy pharmaceuticals that should be more closely monitored and regulated.

Bio-molecular electronics, medical diagnostics and South Pacific islanders – Steve Johnson, Department of Electronic Engineering

Advances in technology have enabled biologists and physicists to work at the nanoscale and to combine their expertise in novel ways to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems. In his YorkTalk, Dr Steve Johnson tells of his vision of a new technology that is part-natural part-electronic, and that offers great diagnostic power. This is not only scientifically and technically very challenging, but also raises questions about how we ensure that such technology achieves the desired benefits to society. To answer that question, Dr Johnson and his team are working with communities on a remote South Pacific island to co-develop appropriate technologies that will give this disaster-prone region confidence in the cleanliness and safety of their water.

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Date and Time

Location

Spring Lane building auditorium

University of York

Heslington

York

YO10 5DD

United Kingdom

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