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Securing ground-breaking science projects on a global scale

8th April 2019

Nine innovative and cutting-edge science projects between the UK and the developing world will soon be brought to life – and will tackle global challenges such as access to healthcare, protecting ecosystems and food sustainability.

STFC has given £3million to these projects through the Global Challenges Research Fund, with each project running until 2021.

STFC’s Director of Programmes, Professor Grahame Blair, said: “These are nine truly innovative projects that will utilise the very best of UK science and expertise in collaboration with teams in the partner countries to make a difference to the people living there.

“Each of these projects will have a real, tangible impact, either by enabling the countries to participate in the global science community or by providing a novel solution to a real challenge they face.”

Dr Tzanka Wheldon of the University of Birmingham will be training staff and students of Armenia in nuclear science so that a recently commissioned cyclotron facility can be safely operated and used in various applications including medical physics.

Students in South Africa will also be trained in running simulations and designing novel radiation detectors under the grant awarded to Professor David Jenkins of the University of York. At the facility already set up using STFC and GCRF funding, the Modern African Nuclear DEtector Laboratory, they will use this latest funding to design a new and cheap PET scanner for use in medical imaging.

Also in southern Africa, Professor Garret Cotter of the University of Oxford hopes to increase the number of Namibians using the High Energy Stereoscopic System observatory, sited in their own country. He will be training staff and students from the University of Namibia in the science and operation of the gamma-ray observatory so that they can join in the study of relativistic jets in active galaxies – with the long-term goal of helping Namibia become active participants in global astronomy research.

A project by Dr Gareth Thomas, based at RAL Space, will look to improve air quality measurements in Indonesia, particularly at the time of landscape burning, by enhancing monitoring techniques to help forecast problem areas and track levels of pollution. Also in Indonesia, Professor Steven Longmore of Liverpool John Moores University will be using thermal infrared sensors on drones to create an automated detection and monitoring system for peat fires, to try to reduce the number of and scale of fires.

In Thailand, Dr James Mullaney of the University of Sheffield will be using astronomical data to train Thai students to manage and analyse ‘big data’ – skills that will be adapted to suit local businesses in an attempt to increase employability and alleviate poverty.

Dr Bryan Shaughnessy from RAL Space will be part of a team developing cryogenics technology to support the cold food supply chain in India, to help reduce the amount of fresh produce that goes to waste and support the economic development of local farmers.

Fellow RAL Space colleague Dr Hugh Mortimer will be using remote sensing to monitor biodiversity and assess ecosystem quality with the aim of protecting seasonally dry tropical forests of Brazil and prevent desertification, local poverty and migration to urban areas.

Professor Sarah Bridle of The University of Manchester will also take her research to Brazil, where she will be studying past food trends in the country, in a bid to improve the environment, health and economy of the nation by making dietary recommendations which would be healthier and more sustainable than previously possible.

Last updated: 12 April 2019

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