Extract of Professor Paul Weaver talking about his research
Professor Eric Thomas - Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol [ET] Technologies are driven out of universities into the economy. I am absolutely clear that this is a knowledge economy. I am absolutely clear that what is needed is high added value intellectual creative skills and those are the kind of graduates that come out of universities like this. We are producing the skilled people that this economy needs.
There is a very large range of research here. We have six doctoral training centres; there are 22 areas that EPSRC has recognised that we have special skills in. The strength of being a framework university is that there is a planning relationship with the research council which gives more confidence for me to make big investments in engineering and physical sciences on the basis of the fact that EPSRC is a partner in this venture.
Professor Mervyn Miles - Professor of Physics, University of Bristol
My name is Mervyn Miles. I’m a Professor of Physics at the University of Bristol. I’m very interested in the structure and manipulation of matter and living cells at the micron and nano-scale.
The machine you see here is called the dynamic holographic assembler and this uses dynamic holograms to focus laser beams in order to trap very small particles on the micron scale such as living cells. We can use this machine to look at the interaction between these living cells and to manipulate them with nano tools that we can also build in this dynamic holographic assembler. So this is useful in medicine for two reasons. One is just simply to use the cells as the trapped particle and bring two cells together, a killer cell and a leukaemia cell for example. Another would be to be able to feel the cell which would allow a micro surgeon to test for disease.
Dr David Carberry - Research Associate, Nanophysics and Soft Matter, University of Bristol
This is the Cyber 4 system. I am just putting my hand into what is a standard animator’s glove. What you can see is actually my hand is now starting to feel the forces. So I’ve got the cell and I am moving it to where it needs to be, or I just start squeezing it and then we can feel the elasticity and determine whether that cell is healthy or not.
One of the most eye opening aspects has been how important the National Composites Centre has been for reciprocating much closer relationships with multiple and varied businesses. The idea was to co-locate industrial R&D in composites, not just aeroplanes but wind turbines and cars with very strong academic interest in composites.
Professor Paul Weaver - Professor of Lightweight Structures, University of Bristol
Our vision for the future of 20 years, maybe 30 years’ time, is structures are going to be sentient multi-functional, they are going to respond to their environment in an intelligent way and alter their performance. So my work is actually trying to exploit composites of novel ways in terms of morphing structures, stiffness tailoring and actually bringing added functionality to their performance. The latest thing we are working on is really exciting and is getting the whole team buzzing. This is a bi-stable helix made from high carbon strips. If I leave it in this position its stays like a ladder formation, or it can be in a helix. You can imagine going to B&Q in five years’ time and buying ladders like this which coil up and stay in a closed state. But possibly more important, this could be the internal structure of an aircraft wing and it is just the same as a bird wing being able to twist in flight or a feather.
We have placed £70 - £80 million alone in chemistry, for example, and therefore the knowledge that there is a relationship with EPSRC that identifies that investment, recognises it and recognises the quality that it is actually producing means we can go forward confident that that relationship will continue.
Dr Carmen Galan - EPSRC Early Career Acceleration Fellow, University of Bristol
My name is Carmen Galan. I’m a synthetic organic chemist and we are interested in understanding the processes that happen in the C cells. My area of expertise is to look at the carbohydrates on the surface of cells and we want to look at what processes are involved in the C cells. In particular we are looking at all glycans which are basically involved in cystic fibrosis, several types of cancer, inflammation and HIV - there are a lot of diseases out there that are mediated by these carbohydrates. What we are trying to do is to use chemistry as a tool to manipulate the biological systems. We want to synthesise molecules that you find on the surface of cells and then use them as bio tracers and try to identify what are the specific roles of these specific molecules. If we can make the chemistry accessible to everybody, then it opens up huge opportunities in the medical research for vaccine development and direct discovery and even industry.
It is fantastic that we are in a position where we have a substantial world class science and science research base in this country. People like Jeremy O’Brien, who is leading the team, that have actually created a photonic computer. It took a while I gather, but they have actually used the quantum state of a photon to do a computation. Should they be able to scale that up, you’re talking about computing speeds that are hundreds to thousands of times faster than we have now.
Professor Jeremy O’Brien - Director, Centre for Quantum Photonics, University of Bristol
I set up the Centre for Quantum Photonics here at Bristol several years ago and primarily I used an EPSRC Challenging Engineering award and that has allowed us at Bristol to establish a research centre that is specifically focused on translating research into real technologies. We aim to put all of the components necessary for these technologies onto a chip. We’ve made several significant steps in that direction by miniaturising the sort of circuits, sources and detectors etc that are required for these. The potential of these technologies I think is extremely far reaching, there have been predictions about a so called second quantum revolution in this century and of course the benefits for that could be tremendous.
My visual analogy of the economic problems we are in is of a stage coach stuck in the mud and I like to identify the horses that are going to pull the stage coach out of the mud. And the point is everybody would agree that one of those horses are the universities and their research base.