Ask a Scientist
This year the University of Manchester are sharing scientists with you. As part of the Great Science Share for Schools, the scientists and engineers you see here are ready and waiting for your questions.
They'll be live on Twitter on 19th June to answer the great questions you ask. Wonder around what they tell you and let us know the questions that spring to mind! Email your questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org - don't forget to include your Twitter handle so we can tag you in the response!
Dr Robert Sansom
Role: Lecturer in Palaeobiology
My everyday: As a palaeontologist I am interested in answering questions about how life on earth came to be as it is. To do this I look at information from fossils in terms of their anatomy, preservation and evolutionary relationships. This can scale from directly studying fossils of early vertebrates in the lab to larger projects using data from across sorts of different groups of animals to understand their evolutionary relationships and the nature of evolution itself.
My dream solution: The Cambrian explosion was a major event in the history of life on earth; about 500 million years ago, complex life sprang into action and lots of different groups of animals appear as complex and interesting fossil forms for the first time. I would love to be able to provide a satisfactory answer as to how and why this happened when it did.
Role: PhD student
My everyday: I am investigating how the healing process works differently in healthy and diabetic wounds, and how the immune system is involved. To do this, I am using 3D imaging to watch what happens inside wounds in real-time.
My dream solution: I think one of the biggest problems our world is facing is the population problem. Our global population has quadrupled in the past 100 years, but we haven’t quite accelerated the same way in technology to deal with this capacity. One of the key issues arising from this is food and water security – and It would be incredible to be part of a team that comes up with an efficient and greener way to farm enough food and maintain clean water supplies for our growing population.
Dr Richard Unwin
Role: Research Fellow
My everyday: I use special machines called mass spectrometers to count and weigh the molecules (proteins) in patient samples to see how diseases of ageing, such as dementia, develop.
My dream solution: To find a way to stop, or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Role: Post-Doctoral Research Assistant
My everyday: I build and program robots to explore places where humans can't go. Most days I am either tinkering with tools and electronics, playing with robots, or I am writing computer code to allow the robots to perform the tasks we want them to do
My dream solution: Producing clean and plentiful energy using Fusion power (the way stars like our sun make energy)
Dr Sue Taylor
Role: Lecturer in Biomedical Science
My everyday: As a biologist I’m very interested in the stuff between the cells in our body, the extracellular matrix (ECM) and in particular how it is made and what it does. My real passion lies in understanding why some patients become unwell due to breathing problems or suffer from organ damage because the body produces too much ECM. The hope is that one day these patients could be treated and be healthy again.
I also teach students about ECM and encourage them to discover more about many other aspects of biological sciences whilst developing important lifelong scientific skills and aptitudes.
My dream solution: As we age, over the years, we will probably have X-rays, scans, blood tests, genetic tests and body height and weight measurements. This is a lot of information about your body and your health. Could we find a way to exploit this’ Big Data’ to forecast our future health and offer us all a unique personalised treatment plan to stop us from ever getting ill?
Dr Roger Harrison
Role: take your pick from the jobs below!
My everyday: My work is so varied it’s crazy at times. My primary responsibility is to lead several courses on a large, online distance learning, masters programme in public health. I’ve got students all over the world, but rarely see them unless it’s through a Skype call or webinar. Lots of the course material is run through an online programme, and I work with other tutors and a specialist in technology enhanced learning to bring this all together. I love it to be honest, and I get to find out about work and life for students in other countries.
I’m also doing some research into how people learn through online technology, and my focus is on differences in people from different countries of origin – I’m working with a colleague who’s an expert in data analytics, but it involves some theoretical research too. In the past three years I’ve also become known as ‘the bug man’ because of my work on engaging with students and the public to protect our precious antibiotics – this is because of increasing antibiotic drug resistance. We’ve won several national awards for this already. It’s exhausting, fun, but serious underneath.
My dream solution: Making sure everyone in the world has access to a proper, clean toilet.
Role: Researcher, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow.
My everyday: I am a particle physicist, and my day to day work can be quite diverse. I usually analyse data from two big particle experiments - BESIII in Beijing, and LHCb at CERN. The topics that interest me above all are matter-antimatter asymmetries in decays of mesons containing beauty and charm quarks and studies of quantum-correlated neutral charm mesons. I am also interested in the operation of the detectors and in the data taking process. I have been involved numerous times in detector tests, maintenance interventions, quick repairs, calibration scans etc.
Another aspect of my work is the organisation of meetings of other scientists, and reviewing the work of other scientists as work in big collaborations which requires good coordination.
My dream solution: Why has the antimatter disappeared from our Universe but the matter has remained
We appreciate the support of all the scientists and engineers offering their time to sharing science with each other and with the young people of the Great Science Share for Schools campaign.