Science showcase in Parliament

Posted by er134 at Mar 11, 2014 12:05 PM |
University of Leicester researchers take part in SET for Britain

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 11 March 2014

Researchers from the University of Leicester are attending Parliament to present their science to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of SET for Britain on Monday 17 March.

They were shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament.

The University of Leicester exhibitors, entered into the Chemistry section of the competition, are:

Dr Adrian Boatwright, from Nottingham. Adrian’s poster is about a new technique using quantum liquids to manufacture tiny super-strong magnets with potential uses in medicine. Adrian is a postdoctoral research assistant with Dr Shengfu Yang

Adrian said: “SET for Britain is an excellent opportunity to showcase this novel research and demonstrate how nanoscience is advancing in the 21st century.

"Our research is focusing on the synthesis of novel nanoparticles using superfluid helium droplets as the growth medium. In contrast to conventional synthetic methods, using helium droplets nanoparticles are grown by the addition of atoms one by one in a very cold environment (0.38K). In the case of magnetic nanoparticles, we have observed significantly enhanced magnetisation in core-shell magnetic nanoparticles (containing a magnetic material as the core and a gold shell) when compared with bare magnetic nanoparticles."

Gemma Geary, 25, a PhD student from Worcester. Gemma’s poster is on research into developing novel fluorinating reagents designed to improve the synthesis of pharmaceuticals. Gemma is a 3rd year GTA and she is presenting a poster on "Electrophilic fluorination using a hypervalent iodine reagent derived from fluoride" (Authors: G. C. Geary, E. G. Hope and A. M. Stuart).

Gemma said: “I applied for SET for Britain because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to present my research to the wider scientific community, including politicians who are in a position to make decisions about the future of chemistry in our country.

"The easiest way to introduce fluorine into an organic molecule is to use the fluoride anion because it is the cheapest source of fluorine. However, this method will not work for electron rich molecules and an electrophilic fluorinating reagent is required.  Since most electrophilic fluorinating reagents are either too hazardous or too expensive, we have developed a new strategy for the synthesis of an electrophilic fluorinating reagent from a cheap and readily available source of fluoride. The synthesis of the fluoroiodane reagent is simple and requires no complicated purifications. We are currently testing the efficacy of the new reagent and have obtained excellent results with 1,3-dicarbonyl compounds."

Naomi Allaway, 25, a PhD student from Kington in Herefordshire. Naomi’s poster is on research into stapled peptides which help regulate protein-protein interactions in an enzyme that increases in quantity in some cancers. Naomi  is a 2nd year PhD joint student with Dr Andrew Jamieson (Chemistry) and Prof. John Schwabe (Biochemistry) and will be presenting a poster on the “Design and Synthesis of Stapled α-Helix Peptides: New Synthetic Tools to Investigate the Epigenetic Role of HDACs in Cancer".

Naomi said: “Being part of SET for Britain and being able to communicate my research to those in government is a brilliant opportunity for me. Not only can I show them novel science, but I can also introduce my research to a much wider audience.”

"Histone deacetylase enzymes (HDACs) are now emerging as important biological targets particularly because they are upregulated in Alzheimer's disease and some cancers, such as cutaneous T-cell lymphomas. Regulation of HDACs by small molecules, such as Zolinzaand Istodax, is a validated strategy. However, selectivity of these small molecules towards different HDAC isoforms is poor. Class I HDACs (1, 2, and 3) must be recruited to large multisubunit corepressor complexes before they become catalytically active. We aim to disrupt the protein-preotein interactin between HDAC3 and its corepressor, the deacetylase activation domain (DAD), using conformationally constrained stapled peptides, which will facilitate HDAC isoform selectivity."

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said, “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.

“These early career engineers, mathematician and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

Judged by leading academics, the gold medalist receives £3,000, while silver and bronze receive £2,000 and £1,000 respectively.

Tom Crotty, Director of INEOS Group AG, sponsors of the Gold Medal in the Chemistry Section, said: "It is crucial that there continues to be investment in skills to provide the next generation of engineers and scientists, particularly as the age profile of highly skilled engineers continues to increase.

“For manufacturing to thrive, the UK needs a large and growing reserve of people with the knowledge and skills to deliver world-class manufacturing and research & development.

“We’re delighted to support SET for Britain as an opportunity to celebrate the success of our early career scientists and we hope it will convince politicians to invest even greater effort to ensure the next generation of engineers and scientists come to the fore.”

Professor Lesley Yellowlees, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Scientific research and innovation are fundamental to the UK’s future and communicating the value of what scientists do is also fundamental. SET for Britain is a fantastic opportunity for talented young chemists to talk to our politicians and show them how their research has the potential to impact on our future. We have thirty chemistry students doing that this year and I’m really looking forward to hearing all about their exciting discoveries.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee run the event in collaboration with the Council for Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, The Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from BP, the Clay Mathematics Institute, Essar, INEOS, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Germains Seed Technology, Boeing, the Bank of England and the Institute of Biomedical Science.


1.  Contact

For further information about the event, images, or interview opportunities, please contact Victoria Steven:

2.  SET for Britain
SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons - involving approximately 210 early stage or early career researchers - judged by professional and academic experts.  All presenters are entered into either the engineering, the biological and biomedical sciences, the physical sciences (chemistry), the physical sciences (physics) session, or the mathematics session, depending on the researcher’s specialism. 

Each session will result in the reward of Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates.  Bronze winners will receive a £1,000 prize; Silver, £2,000; and Gold, £3,000.  There will also be an overall winner from the four sessions who will receive the Westminster Wharton Medal.

SET for Britain was established by Dr Eric Wharton in 1997.  Following his untimely death in 2007, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, with support from The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, The Royal Society of Chemistry, The Physiological Society and the Society of Chemical Industry, is working to further his legacy. 

The event is made possible this year by the prize sponsors, who are BP, the Clay Mathematics Institute, Essar, INEOS, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Germains Seed Technology, Boeing, the Bank of England and the Institute of Biomedical Science.

The competition is open to early stage or early career researchers, which includes university research students, postgraduates, research assistants, postdocs, research fellows, newly-appointed lecturers, part-time and mature students, returners, those people embarking on a second career, and their equivalent in national, public sector and industrial laboratories, and appropriate final year undergraduate and MSc students, all of whom are engaged in scientific, engineering, technological or medical research.

Share this page: