Unusual areas of university research according to the BBC

Laurence Cawley (BBC News) wrote a piece for the BBC website called Seven of the more unusual areas of university research. It makes for some interesting reading and does provoke the question about financially sustaining research in UK universities.

However there is one clear mistake here. The work of Dr Barry Denholm at Cambridge is good science clearly motivated by medicine. Denholm studies cells called nephrocytes found in the excrement of flies and these cells are very similar to podocyte cells found in our kidneys.

Drosophila melanogaster, or common fruit fly.

Fruit flies have been used for a while now as a model organism as they are easy to care for and breed quickly. They give us way to preform experiments when it would be unfeasible or unethical to preform the experiment on a human.

The hope is, that due to the similarities of the certain cells found in flies and humans, kidney research could be conducted much quicker and cheaper than today. In particular studying the roles of genes in kidney disease becomes much easier.

The potential benefits to mankind are clear.

I will let other people defend the remaining six…

Dr Barry Denholm’s webpage at Cambridge

LMS 2014 Prizes – call for nominations


The London Mathematical Society welcomes nominations for the 2014 prizes, to recognise and celebrate achievements in and contributions to mathematics.

In 2014, the LMS Council expects to award:

The Polya Prize – in recognition of outstanding creativity in, imaginative exposition of, or distinguished contribution to, mathematics within the United Kingdom.

The Fröhlich Prize – for original and extremely innovative work in any branch of mathematics.

The Senior Berwick Prize – awarded in recognition of an outstanding piece of mathematical research actually published by the Society during the eight years ending on 31 December 2013.

The Senior Anne Bennett Prize – for work in, influence on or service to mathematics, particularly in relation to advancing the careers of women in mathematics.

The Whitehead Prizes for work in and influence on mathematics.

For further information and nomination forms, please visit the LMS website.

Or contact Duncan Turton, Secretary to the Prizes Committee at the Society (tel: 020 7927 0801, email: prizes@lms.ac.uk).

The Prizes Committee is keen to increase the number of nominations it receives and, in particular, the number of nominations for women, which are disproportionately low each year. The prize regulations refer to the concept of ‘academic age’—rather than date of birth—in order to take account more fully of broken career patterns.

Closing Date for Nominations: Monday 20th January 2014

The original message is from Duncan Turton

Fundamental Physics Prize Finalists and Winners of the New Horizons Prize

Higgs event The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation announced the 2014 winners of the Physics Frontiers Prizes and New Horizons in Physics Prizes on the 5th of November 2013.

2014 Physics Frontiers Prize
The laureates of the 2014 Physics Frontiers Prize are:

  • Joseph Polchinski, KITP/University of California, Santa Barbara, for his contributions in many areas of quantum field theory and string theory. His discovery of D-branes has given new insights into string theory and quantum gravity, with consequences including the AdS/CFT correspondence.
  • Michael B. Green, University of Cambridge, and John H. Schwarz, California Institute of Technology, for opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces.
  • Andrew Strominger and Cumrun Vafa, Harvard University, for numerous deep and groundbreaking contributions to quantum field theory, quantum gravity, string theory and geometry. Their joint statistical derivation of the Bekenstein-Hawking area-entropy relation unified the laws of thermodynamics with the laws of black hole dynamics and revealed the holographic nature of quantum spacetime.

Laureates of the 2014 Frontiers Prize now become nominees for the 2014 Fundamental Physics Prize. Those who do not win it will each receive $300,000 and will automatically be re-nominated for the next 5 years.

2014 New Horizons in Physics Prize
The laureates of 2014 New Horizons in Physics Prize are:

  • Freddy Cachazo, Perimeter Institute, for uncovering numerous structures underlying scattering amplitudes in gauge theories and gravity.
  • Shiraz Naval Minwalla, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, for his pioneering contributions to the study of string theory and quantum field theory; and in particular his work on the connection between the equations of fluid dynamics and Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity.
  • Vyacheslav Rychkov, CERN/Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University, for developing new techniques in conformal field theory, reviving the conformal bootstrap program for constraining the spectrum of operators and the structure constants in 3D and 4D CFT’s.

The New Horizons Prize is awarded to up to three promising researchers, each of whom will receive $100,000.

2014 Fundamental Physics Prize
The winner of the 2014 Fundamental Physics Prize will be announced on December 12, 2013 in San Francisco, along with the winners of the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Fundamental Physics Prize