Last week brought excitement and disappointment in approximately equal measures for my research on tracking nanoparticles [see ‘Slow moving nanoparticles‘ on December 13th, 2017 and ‘Going against the flow‘ on February 3rd, 2021]. The disappointment was that our grant proposal on ‘Optical tracking of virus-cell interaction’ was not ranked highly enough to receive funding from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Rejection is an occupational hazard for academics seeking to win grants and you learn to accept it, learn from the constructive criticism and look for ways of reworking the ideas into a new proposal. If you don’t compete then you can’t win. The excitement was that we have moved our apparatus for tracking nanoparticles into a new laboratory, which has been set up for it, so that we can start work on a pilot study looking at the ‘Interaction of bacteria and viruses with cellular and hard surfaces’. We are also advertising for a PhD student to start in September 2021 to work on ‘Developing pre-clinical models to optimise nanoparticle based drug delivery for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy‘. This is an exciting development because it represents our first step from fundamental research on tracking nanoparticles in biological media towards clinical applications of the technology. Diabetic retinopathy is an age-related condition that threatens your sight and currently is managed by delivery of drugs to the inside of the eye which requires frequent visits to a clinic for injections into the vitreous fluid of the eye. There is potential to use nanoparticles to deliver drugs more efficiently and to support these developments we plan that the PhD student will use our real-time, non-invasive, label-free tracking technology to quantify nanoparticle motion through the vitreous fluid and the interaction of nanoparticles with the cells of the retina.
At the end of last year my research group had articles published by the Royal Society’s journal Open Science in two successive months [see ‘Press Release!‘ on November 15th, 2017 and ‘Slow moving nanoparticles‘ on December 13th, 2017]. I was excited about both publications because I had only had one article published before by the Royal Society and because the Royal Society issues a press release whenever it publishes a new piece of science. However, neither press release generated any interest from anyone; probably because science does not sell newspapers (or attract viewers) unless it is bad news or potentially life-changing. And our work on residual stress around manufactured holes in aircraft or on the motion of nanoparticles does not match either of these criteria.
Last month, we did it again with an article on ‘An experimental study on the manufacture and characterization of in-plane fibre-waviness defects in composites‘. Third time lucky, because this time our University press office were interested enough to write a piece for the news page of the University website, entitled ‘Engineers develop new method to recreate fibre waviness defects in lab‘. Fibre waviness is an issue in the manufacture of structural components of aircraft using carbon fibre reinforced composites because kinks or waves in the fibres can cause structural weaknesses. As part of his PhD, supported by Airbus and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Will Christian developed an innovative technique to generate defects in our lab so that we can gain a better understanding of them. Read the article or the press release to find out more!
Image shows fracture through a waviness-defect in the top-ply of a carbon-fibre laminate observed in a microscope following sectioning after failure.
Christian WJR, DiazDelaO FA, Atherton K & Patterson EA, An experimental study on the manufacture and characterisation of in-plane fibre-waviness defects in composites, R. Soc. open sci. 5:180082, 2018.