A second Panel member reflects on last week’s meeting

Students interested in the Science and Medicine field were recently granted the special opportunity to be a part of the King’s Muscle Lab advisory student panel which took place down the road from King’s College Hospital. Many of those were Year 12 and 13 students who like myself were from the ‘Harris Experience Advanced’ scheme along with some other students from JFS, Burntwood and Graveney schools who were lucky enough to be invited with us! This was the first gathering of the upcoming few for many of the students.

Upon arrival, we met 6 professionals in various fields including Doctors, Physiologists, Physiotherapists and Researchers. Each one gave a helpful presentation about their journeys into their professions and the various routes they took. Some were not panel presentation 010317as successful as others in their initial attempt. However, this broadened my insight into the very many similar pathways I could take other than Medicine including biomedical research. Our day was based around the broad topic of ‘Physiology’, the study of the functioning of the body, and specifically ‘Paediatrics’.

Soon after, we were assorted into groups with people we’d never met and each group was assigned a speaker to work with for 15 minutes. Here, we had the beneficial opportunity of asking questions that we were curious about. We discussed the differences between adults and children and their lung capacities. We then answered the question “Are children mini adults?” To my surprise, the answer was no. We also got the chance to share our future aspirations with them and gain useful tips and advice including upcoming work experience offers with the team which I am thrilled by! panel notes sheet 010317

As an aspiring neurologist, my favorite thing which we spoke about was the topic of brain diseases such as epilepsy, a neurological disorder which causes recurrent seizures in an individual. Also, learning about what causes the irregular brain wave signals which a sufferer experiences was fun. We deduced how factors such as other health conditions, race and age make developing epileptic seizures much more likely. Dr Harris also informed us about children he previously worked with in Uganda where the rate of death caused by open-fires is exceptionally high. Along with this, we brain-stormed the many difficulties a modern family with an epileptic child could face and the future issues which could arise.

Altogether, the experience was fascinating and a great success. Dr MacBean and her team organized it very well for us to feel welcomed and comfortable with one and other despite it being the first time seeing each other. (Side note: the snacks we panel meeting 010317munched on whilst being fascinated by the works of the respiratory system were lovely and a great aid for helping us absorb the new scientific content we learned.) It was not at all as difficult and fact-heavy as I initially expected it to be and turned out to be one of my favorite experiences so far this year. I will definitely be including this experience on my personal statement in future when I apply for Medicine, which I feel more content in doing after the Muscle Lab!

Special thanks to everybody who worked hard to provide us students with such an amazing experience!

Written by Sarah Ezzeddine, Year 12 Harris Academy Peckham

A new Student Panel member writes about our Panel meeting on March 1st

For those, like me, who love science it is natural to consider becoming a doctor. However, many students have very little idea what this involves and there are limited opportunities to find out more. So I was very grateful to be invited onto the King’s Muscle Lab panel. I went for the first time today and loved it. I have done the usual volunteering and work experience but this gave me a genuine insight into real life inside the NHS – how the moving parts all work together to produce better outcomes. Our panel were able to properly talk to the doctors and other healthcare professionals about their work which was a particularly valuable experience.

I’d never 20170303161836been on a student panel and had no idea what it involved but when I was sent the itinerary with a list of guest speakers I started to get excited! I arrived at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (is there anything they don’t do?!) with a few other keen scientists from my school. We were welcomed by Dr Vicky MacBean who introduced us to the ‘Muscle Lab’ and the visiting professionals and then we were off!

Each professional, a mixture of doctors, physiologists and physiotherapists, had fifteen minutes with their group of five to discuss a topic that incorporated everything from child physiology to ethics to care plans to early intervention. I was fascinated to see that so many professionals with such varied backgrounds were all working in the field of respiratory studies whether it was research or clinical. To see how all the healthcare professionals’ work fit together was particularly interesting and very reassuring for those on the panel who are trying to narrow down what they might want to do in the future. Whether you’re the person 20170303161741holding the spirometer measuring vital capacity or the person in the lab examining lung tissue you are part of a wider system that works with the primary focus of caring for patients. All the professionals that we met were at different stages of their career and yet all of them were genuinely enthused to be sharing their experiences with us.

The focus of the session was paediatrics and specifically how this differs to adult healthcare. It was emphasised that children are not just ‘mini adults’. Although all the students attending learnt a great deal it wasn’t like being in a class at school. The small group environment created an easy atmosphere for discussion where every idea was valued and we felt able suggest something that we weren’t necessarily sure was correct. We were guided by our experts but given the ability to be free thinkers.

I had an20170303161810 encouraging and inspiring experience at the ‘Muscle Lab’. It opened my eyes to the complexity of our comprehensive healthcare system which is particularly topical. Instead of leaving fearful for the future of the NHS I left energised by the passion and enthusiasm of those who are working to keep it going. Their desire to include the next generation in their work is admirable and I’m extremely lucky to have met such wonderful people with such passion for the respiratory system!

 

 

Post written by Tilly Roberts, Year 12 student at Graveney School, London

Our students’ summer contributions to the lab

It’s time for a well overdue thank you to all of our student volunteers for their contributions to the lab over the summer.  This year, instead of offering standard work experience to two or three students, as we have done in the past, we decided to ask our Student Panel members for help with a number of tasks that would be beneficial to both them and us.  An experimental approach but it worked even better than we had hoped!  So, many thanks to:

Lottricia Millett, Lily Groom, Morgan Walker, Reef Ronel, David Launer, Casril Liebert and Ashleigh Francis for writing summaries of published research papers from the lab.  All of these summaries (which were of a very high quality!) are published here on the blog as well as being displayed in the patient waiting area of the department.  A number of them have also been sent out to the patients and healthy volunteers who took part in those studies to inform them of the findings of the research to which they contributed.  Feeding back results of studies to participants is really important, and it’s great to be able to send these summaries out to people. 14222263_1788954434721939_5703414665885109122_n We also hope that the students will be able to use these summaries to demonstrate their skills when attending for university interviews and suchlike.

Kiki14088424_1787637261520323_4645596235687183587_n Riad-Forbes and Banke Faboyede for revamping the display board in our patient waiting area.  The display has photos of the researchers in the department and information about the different types of research everyone does, plus links to this blog and our Facebook & Twitter accounts.  We see a lot of people reading the information while they’re waiting so the eye-catching display is definitely doing its job!

14021567_1784513418499374_5875016027988625499_n14054994_1784058621878187_1578551485653647537_n

13906611_1778805805736802_1603152345208128348_nMiki Friend, Asha Omar, 14045962_1784058648544851_3183321450250707211_nKiki Riad-Forbes, Banke Faboyede and Muska Yarzi for putting together a database of all of Alan and Vicky’s previous research participants and sending a huge mailshot to them all with the summaries of the studies for which they volunteered.  This wasn’t the most interesting of jobs, involving lots of typing, printing, sorting piles of paper, and stuffing envelopes but was a task that probably just wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  After some delays with a new postal system at King’s we’ve just sent out 216 A4 envelopes, with a few more to go out in due course.

Neta Fibeesh, Abi Mincer and Ma’ayan Dee, for writing a summary of Arietta Spinou’s PhD thesis studies, which again will be sent out to her patient participants to inform them of the outcome of the research.  The nature of Arietta’s research is a bit different to the types of studies that most people are familiar with, so Neta, Abi and Ma’ayan did very well to summarise these studies in a way that’s accessible to people with no scientific background.

Ibtissam Adem and Deeqa Mohamed, for producing a great video of the SkinSuit study being undertaken at the KCL London Bridge campus with PhD student Phil Carvil and MSc student Alex Sehgal under Ged’s supervision.  Not only did they film it in 13892088_1778805789070137_4994973215050727729_ngreat detail, they took a lot of time to ensure they understood all of the complex science of both the suit (designed to mimic the some of the effects of gravity when astronauts are in space) and the measurements being made.  The video will be a great resource for a lot of people.

So we think that’s a pretty decent summer of work!  It has been wonderful to partner with our Student Panel members and we have been very impressed with the quality of the work they’ve all produced.  We’re already looking forward to what achievements next summer will bring!

A summer with the King’s Muscle Lab

Sasha is a KCL student who is working with Dr Joerg Steier, a former King’s Muscle Lab researcher who is still part of our wider research group.  Here she tells us how she has found her research ‘taster’ summer so far…

My name is Sasha and I am a 2nd year Neuroscience student at KCL. The Neuroscience course,Sasha much like other Biomedical Science courses at King’s, aims to coach you in to a research career. For ages I was never really sure whether I wanted to pursue a career in research. I couldn’t see myself stuck in a lab with pipettes in a white coat, but after a few months of working as a summer student alongside researchers, I have learnt research is nothing like that at all!

I decided to get work experience over the summer because I knew I wouldn’t be sure to pursue a career in research unless I actually had some experience of doing the job. I saw a project online through King’s called ‘the Multiple Dimensions of Sleepiness’ and after having a few lectures on sleep physiology and medicine and thoroughly enjoying them, I decided to email the supervisor, Dr Steier, and share my interest in his project. It was agreed that I would help Dr Steier throughout the summer in collecting and analysing data, attending research meetings, and writing up the paper.

On the first day of helping Dr Steier I was super nervous – I really wanted to make a good impression! We were meeting at his office at 11am so I got there at 10.40am with plenty of time to spare. I knocked on the door and there was no answer. Not to worry I thought – it’s just because I’m early. I stood outside the office for 45 minutes with no one answering the door. I decided at this point to email Dr Steier as maybe he had forgotten we were meeting. He speedily replied saying “Ah I wondered where you were, today I am at my other office in the Lane Fox Unit (Westminster) not at Nuffield house (London Bridge).” So I spent my first day on the job running across London to the other campus arriving sweaty and breathless. Already I had learnt something very important – researchers may have multiple offices in different locations (and I must check beforehand which office I need to go to)!

The next few weeks went smoothly, I attended research meetings where researchers of the King’s Muscle Lab shared their ups and downs of their projects. From these meetings it became clear that research isn’t always smooth sailing, there are set backs and hurdles you need to get through but you have your colleagues, who have often been through the same thing, to support you. Attending these meetings I gained a really good insight in to the different projects that take place in the King’s Muscle Lab. At first it was difficult as I noticed researchers seems to abbreviate EVERYTHING, they are either discussing what happened in ICU or they’re gathering data from EEG’s, MSLT’s and PSG’s… It took me a few meetings to get the hang of it but after that there is nothing cooler than abbreviating everything and having your housemates think you’re an actual genius!

So far, my favourite part about helping on the project has been the data collection. This is because our data is questionnaire based so I have been able to interview patients from the sleep clinic. I have really taken to patient contact and I feel that it is the best way to really get down to the problem you are researching. It’s also really helped with my confidence and I have learnt to approach different patients in different ways based on their needs.

After data collection was completed, we needed to do some analysing. This was done using SPSS [statistical software]. Having never using this software before I was a bit overwhelmed. It seemed so confusing and Dr Steier could do everything on it so quickly. I honestly thought I would never get the hang of it. But after several YouTube videos and a couple of hours in the library I seemed to be producing means, standard deviations, correlations and linear regressions with ease! Alike to the abbreviations, it was tough at the beginning but it felt so good to actually understand how it worked.

We are now at a point in our project where we have sent off an abstract to a journal and we are waiting for it to be accepted. I have prepared myself to not be too disgruntled if it doesn’t get accepted because, like I said, there are many setbacks in research – you just need to let your passion for the subject keep you going. In only a couple of months I have learnt so many research skills that will help me in my career, but I think most importantly I have learnt many skills that will help me through life. I would say the TOP career skills I have learnt are to be a Team player, be Open minded and to Persevere!

A poem by Athos Athanasiou about the SpaceUp:UK conference

A wintry Friday in June we came to SpaceUp UK, bright eyed and keen, and this is what we heard.

If we age in space like we do on earth, but quicker
then we can raise our healthspan by making muscles thicker.
So move your muscles frequently, don’t be a floatanaut.
If you want to keep your health in age train like an astronaut.

Your skeleton aint static
cos blood runs through your bones.
We need high-res schematics
to map resulting holes.

Cardiac stem cells will senesce in Microgravity.
But there are ways around it for they go stochastically.
Cardiovascular degradation; we can’t get round that fact.
So run in the Space Station, yes that is how you act.

Low gravity in space could cause disks to expand.
It makes your back quite painful, whether you sit or stand.
In Heavy G they could contract and this is painful too.
But we don’t know a lot of why this will happen to you.

Our children will be living in a very different world,
so they should be our focus from a very early age.
Don’t teach them hocus pocus
and don’t just teach them STEM
Add A for Art
and make it steam.
Engage imagination, enthusiasm, dreams.
For the skills they need are lifewide.
And what we show them now will shape the world we leave behind.

Increase their science capital by reaching out to schools.
Show them that there’s a reason why we do the science we do.
Put pictures of a person looking down a microscope.
Knit a set of lungs or hearts. Knit dreams. Knit joy. Knit hope.
But get them involved
in the work you do.
Interviewing patients
and making posters.
They can bridge the communication gap.

Our brains evolved through gravity.
If you take that away,
the water pressure then builds up
and gives our heads a pain.
And if this pain is constant
you could become depressed.
But space is quite exciting now
so astronauts feel it less.

Standing still on earth, in bright light, on a flat surface,
We balance using 10% visual, 20% vestibular system in the ears and 70% proprioception.
If one is affected we undertaking sensory reweighting.
In astronauts the vestibular system gets messed up.
In a few days this reweighs
increasing dependence on the visual.
But visual quality also decreases.

If your dreams of bein’ an astronaut you don’t get to fulfill,
then set up the biggest space life science centre in Brazil.

In the stratosphere there is a sweet spot
where the air is warm and the water is liquid.
Test for life.
Not on the ground.
Up there
in the sky.
Do it independently.
Use Helium.
Send your project up there suspended on a string.
It might crash down,
but you would still have useful science.

On a flight to Mars, there’s greater risk of medical events.
And some are big so make sure the mission is medically capable.
How do you automate medicine, well an early warning system.
But beware, astronauts as soon as they get called astronauts believe they are infallible.

(To the tune of the Wombles’ theme)
Upstream market, downstream market, UK Space agency free.
They got involved in Tim’s mission to bring it back to you and me.
Making good use of experiment time they find.
Circadian rhythm the astronauts oft leave behind.
(Apologies Wombles)

Two superpower worked apart on Soyuz and Apollo
with duplicating problems and duplicating science.
They had to come together, there were far too many mistakes,
an unprecedented international collaboration in the ISS.
But that’s a start, the next step is
to work with other areas and fields cooperatively.

Homeostasis maintains the status quo.
In temperature, pressure, light and gravity.
It goes from -100o to 260o in 45 minutes.
Phew, that’s hard.
We need to help these astronauts stay well.

Puffy faces
Chicken legs
Spinal fluid
Pushes on the eye
The axial length is shortened
It makes it hard to get to Mars
We need to look to tests

Bob, he wears a spacesuit, it keeps his pressure even.
It mimics the loading we get right here on Earth.
It works by increasing tension in the vertical elastic fibres.
The fitting was quite intimate.
You can simulate the gravity in a Micro-G lab.
Then put it on and take it off in parabolic flight.

Influence policy. Use space tech for food and water shortage.
We can get a lot of data but it needs to be shared.
For those that need it most don’t have the access to it.

In 2018 James Webb Space Telescope will hopefully unfurl.
We’ll bite our nails for then, there’s lots that can go wrong.
And later WFIRST and LUVOIR.

Space tourism. DEBATE!
Space entertainment. DEBATE!
Space law. DEBATE!
There is much we need to think about.

So do we go by rocket or do we take the lift?
An elevator could give us payload as long as it don’t drift.
The price is prob’ly cheaper so that will help with thrift.
And so it seems that this would be a most fantastic gift.

And then? What then? Where should we go?
Let’s reach for the stars.
Don’t limit our thoughts, think beyond our technology.
Tweak some laws of Physics and then you can set sail.
But it’s all about the money and so about the time.
And will we get there before humanity may fail.

XCor does commercial space.
Get to Sydney in 2 hours.

Now we should thank those that worked hard to get this done.
Cheers and be jolly.
For Charles and Phil and Stephanie and Kate and Vicky and Molly.
And all those that I’ve missed.
And you the people taking part.
Who talked and listened.

So off you go with lots of facts re-join the Human Race.
And go and do exciting things that have to do with Space.

Athos Athanasiou
June 2016 at SpaceUpUK
@athosfolk
More space poems here: http://www.worldspaceweek.org/news/space-poem-day-world-space-week-day-1/
More Poems here http://athspoemaday.blogspot.co.uk/

Max Thomas’ journey to clinical physiology

Max Thomas was a student on the MSc course in Human and Applied Physiology in 2012-13, some of which is taught by Ged, Vicky, Alan and Caroline.  He is now a trainee Clinical Scientist in Birmingham and recently contacted us for some advice about respiratory muscle testing.  Here he tells us about his career path to date.

 

What made you decide to study physiology at King’s?

Prior to arriving at King’s, I studied Biology. Science had always been the only subject that could keep my focus and attention. I knew my passion was within the field of biological science, but was clueless as to where. My first year reflected this lack of uncertainty with the modules I selected ranging from microbiology and comparative physiology, to forensic biology and pharmacology.

As the years progressed I found myself more drawn to subjects involving health, disease and physiological function. My final year research project looking at age-related muscle decline was what sold me on the MSc in Human and Applied Physiology. My project supervisor was Dr Jamie McPhee, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable physiologist, who suggested the course as one of the best in the country.

I’ll be perfectly honest, at that point I had no career goal at the end of the MSc; I studied because I was truly passionate about the science and knew that interest would take me forward. That fact is something I am more proud of myself for every time I reflect on it.

 

What did you think of the course?

What would you think of a course that teaches about the physiology in health, disease, extreme temperatures, space, the deep sea and fighter pilots? Also throw in some lectures about the astronaut selection process given by astronauts, a lecture on blast injuries, and the chance to contribute to some really interesting research. It was awesome. Although, it was equally as challenging as it was fun.

Its broad content suited my uncertainty about the aspect of the science I most enjoyed. We were exposed to everything physiological science can offer from micro, such as staining muscle biopsies for microscopy, to full body physiology in health, disease and extreme environments – with some excellent in-house experiments and research project field trips. Being exposed to so much allowed me to really determine what I was interested in and where I wanted to focus.

 

Tell us your one favourite thing about the MSc.

On top of the course programme, the guest lectures we had throughout the year were fantastic. However, the field trips were hands down the best part about the course. My particular favourite was the trip to an RAF station in Henlow where we helped out with a research project there using the hypobaric chambers. The team there were looking at the efficacy of two breath-actuated breathing devices used by Chinook helicopter crews who can be exposed to altitudes of 10,000 feet. We were able to participate in and operate the experiment for a week, and it is still one of the coolest things I’ve done to date.

…and one thing you really didn’t like.

Douglas bags

 

What have you been up to since you left King’s?

I spent a year getting as much exposure to clinical science as I could (mostly observational experience in cardiac and respiratory physiology) whilst applying to graduate schemes.

I’m currently in year 2 of a highly competitive graduate scheme called the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP). The STP is a 3 year clinical scientist training scheme where you work in a hospital and develop competence in performing diagnostic tests and clinical assessment whilst undertaking an MSc in your relevant field – mine is Respiratory and Sleep Science.

The MSc in at King’s is definitely the reason why I was a cut above the rest when applying. There were 7 positions for Respiratory and Sleep Science when I applied, and this graduate scheme has thousands of applicants.

 

Can you tell us what your job involves now?

I spent the last year rotating around cardiology, vascular sciences, pathology and radiology learning incredible amounts and getting to see some really interesting procedures and surgeries. Now I am back in my Respiratory and Sleep department I perform lung function tests on patients (including respiratory muscle function which Dr MacBean must be super proud of me for), and help with sleep studies, consultations and issuing treatment for sleep apnoea. We work with a range of patients and diseases i.e. COPD, neuromuscular disorders (like Duchenne muscular dystrophy), lung cancer, etc.

Next year I will move on to performing cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPET) in a clinical setting, and blood gas analysis for the issuing of oxygen therapy.

Whilst working, I am also able to perform clinical research and I am currently in the midst of a project looking at two different forms of occupational asthma.

 

Do you have one favourite geeky physiological fact?

Aren’t they all inherently geeky? My favourite fact comes from someone asking me if the human body is seven years old, or if that is a fabricated pub-fact. My research lead me to the answer: there are tissues in the brain that never regenerate and are as old as us. However, the interesting part of this story is not that Dave at the pub was blowing hot air, but how we’re certain of this fact. This all relies on the nuclear bomb.

Testing of nuclear bombs in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s vastly increased atmospheric concentrations of an isotope of carbon, carbon-14 (C14). C14 is used along with other forms of carbon by plant matter during photosynthesis, the plant matter is eaten by animals, and humans eat either the animals or plants, or both. The C14 is incorporated into the tissues formed and the concentrations in the tissues are remarkably accurate of atmospheric concentrations around that date.

Max Thomas, Trainee Clinical Scientist, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital

Engage 2015

On 2nd and 3rd December, Vicky and Alan headed off to Bristol for ‘Engage 2015′, which is the annual conference of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.  The conference is attended by people from all sorts of areas of work:  many working within Universities and Colleges (both doing academic – teaching and research – jobs, and those in roles such as public engagement, outreach, marketing and diversity), but also people from funding councils, charities and social enterprises.  The conference was much more interactive and discussion-based than the scientific conferences we normally go to, so was a great opportunity to share ideas and opinions with people from really varied backgrounds.

We presented our poster about how we’ve developed our public engagement approach over the last year with the help of you – our audience!  Our main focus was the fact that we had started the blog as a means of reaching out but without really knowing who we wanted to reach.  Our Student Panel in particular has been absolutely vital in developing what we do, and we are so grateful to all the Panel members for their honest feedback.  We are particularly grateful to Kabilan Parameswaran from the Panel who worked with us to decide what were the key things to go on the poster.  Below is the poster we displayed, which has since been brought back and put up on the wall in our patient waiting area.  We also showed some of our videos on an iPad alongside the poster, which got people interested!

So here’s to further progress and collaboration with our most valuable assets – YOU!

Engage poster

A visit from Leicester physiologists

Yesterday we had a visit from Dr Caroline Beardsmore, a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester, and her PhD student, Nidhal Gharbawi.  They are about to start work on a large research project looking at differences in respiratory muscle strength between white children and children from Indian backgrounds.  They had come to our lab to get some Leicester visithints and tips about the best way to make these measurements, and exactly what measurements to make.  We had a very useful couple of hours discussing various tests and how to encourage young children to perform the tests to the best of their ability.  It sounds like Nidhal has a lot of hard work ahead of her, but the data will be really useful to other researchers using measurements of breathing muscle strength – there are some published studies that have examined respiratory muscle strength in healthy children (including some done in King’s Muscle Lab) but we don’t know if someones ethnic background makes a difference.  It’s important to know what ‘normal’ is so that we can accurately interpret data from patients.  We wish Nidhal the best of luck with her PhD and hope to see her and Dr Beardsmore again – perhaps at a conference with them presenting their results.  Thanks also to Nidhal and her selfie stick for the photo!

A Panel member reports on our recent meeting

We recently gathered again at Guy’s Hospital for our third student advisory panel meeting.  The theme this time round was Extreme Physiology – the branch of physiology that focuses on mechanisms of living systems under extreme conditions.

We were joined by Ms Fleming, Ms Attias and Mr Carvil – PhD academics from the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological sciences at King’s.  Also with us was Dr Elliott, a lecturer in physiology at the University of Westminster.  We began with introductions from each of them where they outlined their journeys through science as well as some of their recent work.

They then joined us in our small group discussions.  Here we were presented with the following points which we subsequently discussed:

How to research extreme physiology:  We brainstormed the different ways in which research in this area can be done; evaluated the pros/cons of using simulators in comparison to real conditions and considered some ways to obtain accurate and reliable findings.  We also looked at some of the practical applications.  Common examples are with extreme conditions in space but others range from the post incident cooling of firefighters to the changes of body temperatures during prolonged swimming.

How the research should be funded:  Here we thought about the different ways to gain funding for the research, with common sources being charities and the government.  A key discussion was whether or not research in extreme physiology is worth funding at all.  Some argue that more funds should be going towards the arguably more beneficial areas of research like the development of pharmaceuticals.

The use of the research in other populations:  We discussed some potential applications of extreme physiology research to other fields.  For example, it could facilitate developments in nutrition and bone fracture healing.  Furthermore, some pointed out that the research could have applications that we are not yet aware of.  This links to the fact that many of the world-changing scientific discoveries were not deliberate. An example given was of Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin.  If Fleming’s contaminated bacterial cultures led to the development of a widely used antibiotic, then perhaps research in extreme physiology could one day impact the world on a similar scale.

When the small group discussions ended, I bravely took to the stage to summarise the points that my group came up with.  I was shortly joined by the panel members from the other groups and we ended the meeting by bringing together all of our points.

All in all, the meeting was insightful and I found it interesting discussing what seems to be a rather exciting branch of physiology.  Even if research in extreme physiology doesn’t change the world, I think we should still continue with it just for the thrill of gaining knowledge.

Anthony Butale, Year 13, Harris Academy Falconwood

NASA needs you!

You’ve probably heard about the idea of humans potentially travelling to Mars one day, and maybe even living there.  You might not know, however, that NASA want to hear your ideas about how the elements and compounds found on Mars could be used to support life. They have estimated that by using what’s already there, rather than transporting it to Mars from Earth, could save about $100,000 per kilo!  We don’t know much about using basalt compounds to build launch pads, but maybe we could come up with some way of creating the right gas mix to allow Martian visitors to breathe…?  It’ll be quite the task though, as the atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 0.6% of Earth’s, and the “air” is made up of 96% carbon dioxide, 1.9% nitrogen, 1.9% argon! and just a smidge of oxygen.  The air on Earth is 20.9% oxygen, 78.1% nitrogen, 0.9% argon and just 0.03% carbon dioxide. The winner of the challenge will be awarded $10,000 so it’s worth a go!  Do post a comment and let us know if you enter the ‘NASA in situ materials competition’