Four students and academics from Manchester Metropolitan University will be presenting research at the STEM for BRITAIN event at the Houses of Parliament.
STEM for BRITAIN aims to raise the profile of Britain's early-stage researchers at Westminster by engaging Members of both Houses of Parliament with current science, engineering and mathematics research being undertaken in the UK.
Dr Marloes Peeters, Jane Wood, Lauren McNeill and Ryan Wimbles will be taking their research to the House of Commons on Monday 13 March.
Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”
Detecting antimicrobial resistant infections
A lecturer in Chemical Biology, Dr Peeters’ research focuses on the development of sensors for hospitals to detect antimicrobial resistant bacteria, which currently can only be detected by expensive genotypic tests.
She said: “The World Health Organization has declared that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat to human health – the ‘bugs’ are outrunning us and are becoming resistant faster than we can develop new antibiotics.”
Alongside Prof Mark Enright and Prof Craig Banks, Dr Peeters uses Molecularly Imprinted Polymers or plastic antibodies, inks and electrodes to develop a ‘plastic’ sensor that determines bacterial concentration based on the temperature.
She added: “With the sensors I have developed, screening patients for dangerous AMR infections would be a very simple and is a low-cost method that hospitals can use.”
Jane Wood, a Senior Lecturer Textile Technology at the Manchester Fashion Institute, will be presenting her research into growing bio-fabrics, exploring the possibilities of the material in science and fashion. Inspired by the work of Brooklyn based fashion designer Suzanne Lee, who used microbial cellulose –composed of millions of tiny bacteria grown in bathtubs of sweet green tea - to produce clothing, Jane explores the properties of similar bio-fabrics.
She said: “The ability to grow fabric has lots of potential in the apparel industry as these bio-fabrics are sustainable in production and biodegradable. The large amounts of waste produced by traditional textiles could potentially be avoided in the future.”
The particular bio-fabric Jane is studying, bacterial cellulose, is already used to some degree in other industries, especially in medicine, with varying applications including wound dressings.
She added: “When considering the different applications, the properties of the fabric need to be tailored to the function. It is important to consider how the organic materials perform – Are they waterproof? Do garments made from them absorb moisture when worn? Is it malleable? – and so on. My research involves using different methods when growing the fabric and recognising how that impacts the final product and the properties.”
Detecting New Psychoactive Substances
Lauren McNeill, a PhD researcher and Postgraduate Teaching Assistant at the University, will be presenting research about developing a device for the rapid and cost-effective detection of the New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) mephedrone.
Lauren said: “I look forward to highlighting the current need for new research into a portable, disposable, cost-effective, quick detection method for mephedrone.
“Such a device could be used for mandatory drug testing in prisons and A&E departments throughout the world by non-specialists. My research is still in the early stages, but intriguing results offer an insight into its potential.”
Lauren’s research will be presented in the biosciences session of the competition.
DNA analysis for conservation work
Ryan Wimbles, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University, will be presenting research on the development of a tool for DNA analysis, to use for conservation work in the field.
On presenting his research in Parliament, Ryan said: “STEM for BRITAIN represents an exciting opportunity to present my work to the wider community, while competing for the prestigious medals.
“I hope learn about exciting research going on in other areas from fellow peers at the event, as well as gain knowledge in how parliament deal with the science subject.”
The academics will be presenting their research to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of STEM for BRITAIN on Monday 13 March. Each session will result in the award of Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates. Bronze winners will receive a £1,000 prize; Silver, £2,000; and Gold, £3,000 and a medal. There will also be an overall winner from the four sessions who will receive the Westminster Wharton Medal.