CSAR PhD Student Awards - 2017

2017 Awards

The Cambridge Society for the Application of Research is pleased to announce that 12 PhD students from the University of Cambridge have been given the 2017 CSAR PhD Student Awards for Applied Research.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, met with the 2017 CSAR PhD Student Award winners in his office together with several CSAR Council members.

The tweleve CSAR PhD Student Award winners received their awards from Lord Rees on 12 June 2017

Saif Ahmad, a 4th year student with The MRC Cancer Unit.

Approximately 5.5 million people worldwide carry inherited mutations in the BRCA2 gene leading to greatly increased risks of cancer. For instance, 85% of women with BRCA2 mutations develop breast cancer. Why these people get cancer is not fully understood. My research has identified a protein that helps BRCA2 ensure cells do not divide with damaged DNA – a potential cause of cancer development. I have also shown that inhibiting this protein in combination with chemotherapy drugs preferentially kills BRCA2 deficient cells, thus highlighting an exciting potential drug target for cancer sufferers with BRCA2 mutations.

Michael Coto, a 4th year student with The Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.

10% of the world’s population lack access to a clean drinking water supply, that’s more than the entire population of Europe. My PhD research has been focused on developing highly active catalytic materials that are able to oxidise biological and chemical water contaminants by utilising the energy of the sun. I have validated my promising lab-based findings with a field trial to Tanzania in which I compared the efficacy of new generation photo-catalysts to other common point-of-use water purifiers in an informal settlement. My work indicates that new highly efficient photo-catalytic materials can provide a sustainable, off-grid and cheap method of water treatment.

Petro Giannaros, a 4th year student with the Department of Engineering.

Concrete, the most widely used man-made material, is susceptible to cracking. Cracks allow corrosive substances to enter the concrete which corrode the steel reinforcement. In extreme cases, this can lead to catastrophic structural failure. For this reason, continual inspection, maintenance and repair is required to close cracks in order to maintain acceptable levels of structural performance.

In self-healing concrete, microcapsules are added into the concrete that disperse throughout the material. When a crack forms, it propagates and ruptures the capsule thereby releasing its contents. The encapsulated material subsequently reacts with the environment to create sealing or healing of the crack.

Michael Hart, a 3rd year student with The Department of Neurosurgery / Psychiatry.

Surgical resection of brain tumours improves survival, but only if function is maintained. Maximising resection while minimising harm is complicated by poor delineation of the tumour and limitations in mapping brain function. I led a pilot study that demonstrated how connectomics – a contemporary method to map ‘brain wiring diagrams’ – could create a protocol for connectomics-assisted surgery, and was subsequently awarded funding as a Principal Investigator for CAESER: Connectomics and Electrical Stimulation for Augmenting Resection. This longitudinal study will assess if connectomics can provide feedback during surgery on particular resection margins that improve patient recovery rates and cognitive and functional outcomes.

Edmund Kay, a 3rd year student with The Department of Engineering.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality worldwide, causing 31% of all deaths in 2012. Valvular heart diseases are usually diagnosed by echocardiogram (an ultrasound scan of the heart). This, however, is not readily available in low income countries. A less expensive way of diagnosing valvular heart diseases is by listening to the heart using a stethoscope. However, in low income countries, patients often do not have access to a doctor to listen to their heart. We are building an intelligent stethoscope, capable of automatically analysing heart sounds, to improve diagnosis worldwide.

Sarah Madden, a 1st year student with The Department of Pharmacology.

Omomyc is a man-made protein that causes massive tumour regression in mice without the emergence of resistance unlike many other therapies. Omomyc has the potential to treat 70% of human cancers. However, Omomyc cannot be used as a drug itself as it is easily degraded by the body. My work focuses on creating a stable form of Omomyc to act as a new cancer drug. I conceived the idea for the project. The drug was designed in collaboration with a group in Singapore, and I am now testing the drug in cancer cells in a collaborator’s laboratory in Cambridge.

Lewis Owen, a 4th year student with The Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy.

Metallurgy often assumes that mixing multiple types of atoms in an alloy results in a random arrangement. This is an over-simplification and ignores many of the more subtle effects that occur due to local variations. My work is focused on developing a technique called total scattering for the analysis of alloys. Using this technique we can build up a description of a material’s structure as if sitting on an atom. By understanding local structure and how it affects properties, we can start to explain observed physical phenomena and, importantly, exploit this knowledge in the design of new alloys.

Advait Sarkar, a 4th year student wth The Computer Laboratory.

How can humans best interact with machine intelligence? My work makes important and positive contributions to this (often apocalyptic) discourse. My interdisciplinary approach blends social and computer science to show how machine learning can empower people, even non-experts, to powerfully analyse data. One such system, built in collaboration with Microsoft, employs human-machine co-operation to facilitate state-of-the-art multiple sclerosis assessment, and is in active use by Novartis. Another has been applied to time series analysis at British Telecom, is being applied in a research collaboration with Papworth Hospital, and was presented in an award-winning paper at the premier conference on visual programming.

Himansha Singh, a 4th year student with The Department of Pharmacology.

Although antibiotic resistance is a global health threat, combating it is limited because we don’t fully understand its progression. Drug efflux pumps/Multidrug-resistance-proteins (MDRPs) present in cell membrane are one of the contributory factors. They export drugs across cells rendering them resistant but their mechanism is elusive. My research describes a novel transport mechanism of drugs by one of the classes of MDRPs. The findings provide us state-of-the-art options for the development of inhibitors for these pumps. These inhibitors will help further understand resistance and aid in designing new antibiotics. Additionally, they could be used in combination therapy with existing antibiotics

Andrea Strakova, a 4th year student with The Department of Veterinary Medicine.

Canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) is an infectious cancer which is transmitted between dogs by an unusual route - living cancer cells themselves. My work focuses on understanding how this cancer arose in the first place, and what genetic mutations it acquired that enabled it to become transmissible and avoid rejection by the immune system. Through genetic analysis of over 1000 samples from 52 different countries, my research has already provided novel mechanisms in cancer biology, which may not be detectable during the life span of normal cancers, but can help us to understand and prevent cancer in humans.

Edward Tan, a 2nd year student with The Department of Engineering.

Technological advances have allowed electronic systems to be fully implanted in humans for a range of life-saving applications. However, most of these devices are based on stiff materials such as silicon which present several challenges in terms of biocompatibility. Efforts have been made to fabricate electronic circuits on soft polymers. These methods proposed are limited in either resolution, scalability or toxicity. I have recently filed a patent with Cambridge Enterprise to overcome the stated problems. This invention will enable me to develop a miniaturized in-vivo sensor of high biocompatibility for continuous disease monitoring at the end of my PhD.

Teng Zhao, a 3rd year student with The Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy.

How could batteries fuel the next revolution in communication and transportation systems? By exploring new materials and chemistry, my research is focused on a new type of high energy density lithium-sulphur batteries. To make them practical, a chemically functional layer with a villi-like nano-architecture has been proposed to trap and reuse the dissolved active materials during battery charging and discharging. By taking inspiration from the natural world, I am coming up with new solutions that I hope will accelerate the development of next-generation batteries. My first publication is in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.

Previous award winners

Find out about the winners awarded in previous years: