School power and VAT app: News from the College

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From a study into the health benefits of staying in school, to a student innovation which could help overseas visitors claim back VAT more easily, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Stay in school

More time spent in school can protect against heart attack and stroke, independent of how smart you are.

Using a clever statistical technique, researchers picked apart the complex link between years of education, intelligence and disease risk.

They found that, on average, the more years a person spent in education the lower their risk of heart disease and stroke. But when they focused on verbal and numerical ability, they were unable to show an independent protective effect, with any benefit still linked to years of education.

“Basically, we show that on average more years in school may cut your risk of heart attack and stroke. But that just being more intelligent, by itself, is not enough,” said Dr Dipender Gill from the School of Public Health, who led the work. He adds: “The public health message is if you want to reduce your risk in the long run, then stay in school.”

Read the full paper in International Journal of Epidemiology.

How plants react to the dark

During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide from the air and ‘fix’ it into food. However, when there is no sunlight available to drive the process, plants switch off carbon fixation.

Now, researchers at Imperial have determined one mechanism for how they do this. The team, from the Department of Life Sciences, mapped the structure of a molecule called the GAPDH-CP12-PRK complex.

The complex includes two enzymes, GAPDH and PRK, which are used in carbon fixation. When the plant needs to turn off fixation, the enzymes bind a third protein, CP12. CP12 adopts a new structure in the dark that enables it to bind GAPDH and PRK at their active sites, blocking them.

Knowing how this process works means researchers could try to re-engineer the process in crops, increasing productivity.

Read more in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

China entrepreneurship award

Imperial’s Dr Shengxi Shao and Dr Jianfeng Yu and colleagues have scooped first prize in the 12th CSSAUK High-level Talents Entrepreneurship Competition Final in Xi’an, part of the 2019 Euro-Asia Economic Forum held in China.

The team came up with a new method to tackle eutrophication of one of the largest lakes in China. Eutrophication is when excess nutrients from the land enter water bodies, increasing the levels of algae, which then use up all the oxygen and cause the death of other organisms like fish. The new method combines data about the relationships between organisms in the lake with physical interventions to prevent the harmful effects of excess algae.

The team presented its idea at the Science, Technology and Innovation Subforum, and took home a prize of 30k Chinese yuan (.3400).

Refund Giant wins IB Pitch

A team of Imperial College Business School students is making it easier for overseas visitors to claim back the VAT on their purchases through a new app.

Visitors from non-European Union countries can reclaim the sales tax (VAT) on purchases from many British retailers, however the process is complicated and many refunds go unclaimed.

Refund Giant - led by Business School students Alex Zhou, Shawn Du and Jil Schwarz - is an app-based service that syncs with credit and debit cards to automatically issue fast, hands-free VAT refunds for travelers by detecting purchases abroad.

Refund Giant recently won IB Pitch, an entrepreneurship programme run by Imperial Enterprise Lab which connects teams led by Business School students to coaches, sector and investment experts to advance their entrepreneurial idea.

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Andrew Youngson
Communications and Public Affairs

Hayley Dunning
Communications and Public Affairs


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