Sight loss in focus, and awarding women in science: News from the College

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

From research into preventing blindness in glaucoma, to a women in science fellowship for an Imperial chemical engineer, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Eyes on research

Imperial bioengineers are teaming up with MIT and Duke University to focus on factors in sight loss.

Drs Darryl Overby and Sam Au , from the Department of Bioengineering , will use new ‘organ-on-a-chip’ technology to study the effects of changing eye pressure, as well as the effectiveness of new drugs. The device, which will contain human eye cells, mimics the flow of fluid as it drains from the eye and could help to investigate the drivers of glaucoma.

Dr Overby said: “This will ultimately allow us to develop better drugs that more effectively lower eye pressure and prevent blindness in glaucoma.”

Funder, Fight for Sight, which will provide 100,000 to support the project, says the approach “could offer solutions for this leading cause of sight loss”.

Read the full story on the Fight for Sight website.

Ammonia win

Ammonia is one of the most widely used chemicals, playing a key role in making fertilisers, plastics, explosives, textiles, pesticides, dyes and other chemicals.

However, making ammonia via the Haber Bosch process consumes colossal amounts of fossil fuels and emits more than one percent of the world’s carbon dioxide - so scientists are working towards making ammonia production sustainable.

The Technical University of Denmark, Stanford University and Imperial have now published a paper that confirms that electrochemical processes can produce ammonia at room temperature and ambient pressures.

Co-author Dr Ifan Stephens , from Imperial’s Department of Materials , said: “Our protocol provides unequivocal and quantitative evidence that ammonia synthesis is possible using electrochemistry, without the high temperatures and pressures needed for the Haber Bosch process. We are now looking for ways of making the reaction work efficiently. Should we be successful, we could produce green ammonia on a large scale, using water, air and renewable electricity.”

Read the protocol and paper in Nature: A rigorous electrochemical ammonia synthesis protocol with quantitative isotope measurements.

Women in Science award

Imperial’s Dr Sepideh Khodaparast received the L’Oreal-Unesco Women in Science Fellowship (FWIS) 2019 at a ceremony in the Houses of Parliament on 15 May.

Dr Khodaparast, of the Department of Chemical Engineering won the award for her work on developing new tools to address the global threat of antimicrobial resistance.

She said: “It’s an honour to receive this award and recognition for my research.”

The award will help her to establish the scientific collaborations and develop the technical tools that are essential to her interdisciplinary research.

The Fellowship, worth 15,000, is awarded annually to five early career researchers from across the globe. It is designed to provide flexible and practical support to enable recipients to further their research and careers.

Dr Khodaparast’s supervisor Professor Joao Cabral added: “This award recognises Sepideh as an outstanding researcher, who combines vision with hard work, and leadership with generosity.”

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Ryan O’Hare
Communications and Public Affairs

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