6B - Space University of Warwick and Monash University Australia
The recent ground-breaking discovery of seven temperate planets within the TRAPPIST-1 system has been hailed as a milestone in the development of exoplanetary science. Centred on an ultra-cool dwarf star, the planets all orbit within a sixth of the distance from Mercury to the Sun. This remarkably compact nature makes the system an ideal testbed for the modelling of rapid lithopanspermia, the idea that micro-organisms can be distributed throughout the Universe via fragments of rock ejected from a meteoric impact event. We perform N-body simulations to investigate the timescale and success-rate of lithopanspermia within TRAPPIST-1. In each simulation, test particles are ejected from one of the three planets thought to lie within the so-called ‘habitable zone’ of the star into a range of allowed orbits, constrained by the ejection velocity and coplanarity of the case in question. The irradiance received by the test particles is tracked throughout the simulation, allowing the overall exposure to radiation to be calculated for each one at the close of its journey. A simultaneous in-depth review of space microbiological literature has enabled inferences to be made regarding the potential survivability of lithopanspermia in compact exoplanetary systems. We find that life could hop between the TRAPPIST-1 planets on a much faster timescale than within our Solar System, with most particles completing their journey well within constraints imposed by experiments that have tested micro-organisms in space-like conditions.
Although recent testing and deployment of extraplanetary sample acquisition systems has seen progress, no previous Mars rover has successfully drilled to a depth greater than 7cm in soil or rock. It is likely the extent to which ultraviolet radiation and oxidizing soil chemistry influences potential subsurface soil communities reduces with depth. In the search for life on Mars, there is therefore a need to develop an in-situ scientific instrument cluster capable of reaching depths relevant to putative Martian organisms. In response to the lack of vertical access to preserved sedimentary assemblages and potential microbial communities, this paper outlines the design, integration and performance of the Endeavour scientific payload on the Sandstorm rover. Developed by the Nova Rover Team from Monash University, Sandstorm will represent Australia and the Southern Hemisphere for the first time at the 2018 University Rover Challenge (URC) which simulates a manned mission to Mars at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Building upon the Athena payload on the Mars Exploration Rovers, Endeavour is capable of retrieving soil cores that preserve lithostratigraphy down to a depth of 20cm - almost 3 times that of any previous Mars rover. This article primarily aims to serve as a documented resource for other student projects and/or academic groups employing similar technology designed for in-situ drilling on terrestrial or extra-planetary rover missions. Combined with limited access to the advanced tools, materials and manufacturing processes required, this research intends to promote the link between space technology and its most important resource, students.
The melting and subsequent quench-crystallisation of I-type (iron) micrometeorites during atmospheric transit provides a wholly unique method of sampling mesospheric gases, though there remains a paucity of research utilising this novel approach. A landmark 2016 study revealed fossilised Archaean micrometeorites could be used to study mesospheric oxygen concentrations and infer atmospheric stratification at ~2.7 Ga (Tomkins et al. 2016). More recently, Î´17O abundances of the upper atmosphere have been successfully extracted from modern I-type micrometeorites (Pack et al. 2017). The isotopic composition of atmospheric oxygen is largely determined by biological respiration, a mass-dependent fractionation process. Atmospheric Î´17O abundances can thus be used to make predictions of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.Using samples obtained from the Ediacaran GSSP (~635 Ma), this study aims to extract and analyse the Î´17O of fossilised micrometeorites in order to predict the atmospheric CO2 levels during this period of rapid climate change. The pervasive distribution of micrometeorites both spatially and temporally suggests that this experiment may be replicated throughout all of geological history, providing a new proxy for ancient atmospheric CO2, and potentially constraining global primary production rates.
6D - Organic & Biological Chemistry University of Warwick and Monash University Malaysia
Nitrogen is the main limiting nutrient for plant production, and although it is one of the most abundant elements on earth, it is often unavailable to plants. As an evolutionary adaptive strategy, some plant species (such as the legume Medicago truncatula) have developed the ability to interact with specialised bacteria in a symbiotic relationship, overcoming the lack of nitrogen availability in soil. In this partnership, the rhizobia fix nitrogen from the air and supply it to the plant in exchange for carbon compounds. Intriguingly, some of the genes required for nodulation are also conserved in non-nodulating species such as Arabidopsis thaliana. In previous work, we have identified an A.thaliana gene (orthologue of a key nodulation gene in M.truncatula) that controls lateral root development. In this project, we aim to study the regulation of this gene under different nitrogen conditions, the subcellular localization of the protein encoded, and its putative function in A.thaliana. Nodulation and lateral root formation have been suggested to be linked from an evolutionary point of view, this project aims to provide feasible links between these processes. The techniques we will use will be cloning, bacterial and plant transformation, microscopy, Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) and RNA extraction. Understanding the function and regulation of nodulation-like genes in non nodulating species will help understanding the approaches required to achieve the wider scientific goal of transferring the nodulation gene-toolkit to non-nodulating species, ultimately reducing human dependence on fertilizer usage.
In mammals CO2 provides the respiratory drive. For a long time it has been thought that the body detects CO2 only via pH changes as CO2 makes the blood more acidic. However, it was shown that increasing blood CO2 concentration results in increased ventilation even when the pH is kept constant. This suggests that CO2 is directly sensed by a chemoreceptor. Recently, the CO2 chemoreceptor in mammals has been identified: connexin 26 (Cx26). Six Cx26 units form a pore (hemichannel) in neurones (primarily in the medulla oblongata) which allows transmitter release (ATP - Adenosine triphosphate). But where did Cx26 arise from? Here we assess the sensitivity of Cx26 hemichannels of Xenopus tropicalis, Chelonia mydas, and Gekko japonicus to CO2 via an established dye-loading protocol (in HeLa cells). When the Cx26 hemichannels open, a fluorescent dye enters the cell rendering it luminescent, allowing us to quantify the sensitivity of the hemichannels to CO2. The reptile Cx26 hemichannels (Chelonia and Gecko) opened in response to increases in PCO2; the Xenopus channels (amphibian) were unresponsive. The difference between reptile and amphibian Cx26 is that the latter contains a long amino acid tail and shortening of this tail confers CO2 sensitivity. The data indicates that Cx26 CO2 sensing is highly conserved across reptiles, mammals and birds. Furthermore, the results show that Cx26 has evolved as early as amphibians with possible fish ancestral origins. The retention of Cx26 over millions of years of evolution further suggests its critical role for life in air breathing organisms.
1,2,4-Triazoles have found numerous applications in organic, agricultural and medicinal chemistry. This scaffold can be found in several pesticides and drugs with diverse therapeutic applications. 5-Amino-1,2,4-triazoles have been proved to be useful building blocks for the construction of triazole-fused bioactive heterocycles. We developed an effective approach for the synthesis of 3-(5-amino-1,2,4-triazol-3-yl)propanamides using succinic anhydride reacting with aminoguanidine and amines in the sequence depending on the amine nucleophilicity. Thus, the first pathway started with the preparation of N-guanidinosuccinimide from succinic anhydride and aminoguanidine followed by its reaction with aliphatic amines (primary and secondary), which nucleophilicity was sufficient to initiate the succinimide ring opening. For the less nucleophilic aromatic amine, which failed to react in the first pathway, an alternative synthetic route was designed. This pathway involved an initial synthesis of N-arylsuccinimides from succinic anhydride and anilines. Aminoguanidine hydrochloride effectively opened the succinimide ring affording intermediate amidoguanidines, which were converted by the treatment with a base in the one-pot manner to the targeted triazoles. These two pathways complemented each other allowing preparation of a diverse library of 3-(5-amino-1,2,4- triazol-3-yl)propanamides suitable for further derivatization in our program on the synthesis of bioactive molecules.
6E - Understanding Cultures University of Warwick and Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
My research project assesses how and why twenty-first century literature is becoming increasingly auto-fictional. In auto-fiction, or ‘fictional autobiography', authors use the medium of the novel to both explore their role as a writer and document their writing process. As the author is present in their own fiction, the boundaries between fact (the author's real biography) and fiction (the plot of the novel) become indistinct; the novel exists in a space which is neither fiction nor autobiography. My project will explore why this trend of auto-fiction is emerging now, and whether this literary trend has been influenced by the prevalence of social media.
In order to begin to answer the questions I have outlined above, I will read and analyse a selection of critically acclaimed auto-fictional novels published since 2000, such as those by Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti and Karl Ove Knausgaard. I will read these texts against postmodern media theorists such as Donna Harroway and Friedrich Kittler. These theorists focus on the digitalisation of society, the resultant instability of what it means to be human, and the fear that humanity is becoming obsolete. It is with these theories in mind that I will consider why authors are both distancing themselves from fiction and duplicating themselves within their works. I am expecting to argue that auto-fiction reflects an increasing need to assert oneself and define one’s role within a society which is increasingly detached and digital, and which demands a constant presentation of the self on social media.
The concepts of "modernity" (specifically, what is often called "late" modernity) and "postcolonialism" have both been important ideas in the field of literary criticism in the past half century. While generally treated as disparate concepts, there are also significant and massive overlaps between both critical frameworks: theorists of both often focus on a similar sense of disillusionment and exile from an unattainable past.
In spite of these parallels, however, there have been few attempts to bring them together in explicit ways: for example, critical analysis on how disillusionment in the modern world feeds into the postcolonial experience of displacement and exile. I believe that there is significant untapped insight and knowledge to be gained from drawing critical links between these two concepts, which remains under utilised.
This paper will attempt to fill this epistemic gap in a Southeast Asian context, by closely reading Tash Aw's Harmony Silk Factory, a novel set during the Japanese Invasion of Malaya in 1941. Taking place against the backdrop of 2 major imperialist projects: the "Pax Britannica" of British colonialism, and the Nanshin-ron strategy of the World War Two era Japanese Empire, as well as the modernity of 20th century Malaya, the novel can serve as a useful nexus for analysing how these two concepts intersect. By analysing this novel in detail, I will attempt to demonstrate how The Harmony Silk Factory blends and synthesises ideas of both postcolonialism and modernity into a new paradigm of understanding disillusionment and exile in the world of Southeast Asia.
Travel bloggers make the unknown known and as every storyteller does, they assume certain identities. Blogging about their (mis)adventures, one identity assumed is that of the hero, the brave one who meets and overcomes dangers and lives to tell the tale. The perceived credibility of the travel blogger builds their social capital as more readers follow them, which in turn allows them to fund their next travel professionally. This project examined the types of risks travel bloggers experience and how the image of a hero is constructed for the reader. Using a cultural studies approach, the project focused on the representation of the writer and their destination as a place to conquer and boast of. Two main research questions were critically pinpointed in the project. The first was an examination of how travel bloggers narrate the challenges they face as external (eg. bad weather, poor living conditions and other unfortunate events) or internal (lack of self-confidence, fear of heights or others). The classification of external and internal loci for risk/danger drew relationships to how travel bloggers represent themselves in answer to the second research question: which of the three identities is assumed to make themselves and their adventures heroic – the Gift Giver, Transformed Traveller or Easy Rider. Following the results of the inextricable links between the two research questions, the project hopes for future studies on how the heroic image of travel bloggers enables a conversion of social to economic capital, leading to a sustainable professional income.
Thoreau's essay "Walking," is an early and influential work of American environmental writing, which works to emphasise the emotional and societal value of wilderness, and to politicise walking as an act. The ideas that Thoreau explores in Walking, and other essays such as “Civil Disobedience,” have impacted the development of our perspectives on environmentalism and protest, and have had a lasting influence on environmental thought, which is evident even today. But if the act of walking is considered an essential aspect of the demonstration of environmental concern, how are the physically disabled to interact with, and participate in, environmental thought? This presentation will identify the ways in which the language and ideology of Thoreau’s work, and transcendental thought more broadly, has reinforced the problematic relationship between the environment and the physically disabled- or 'crippled'- body. I will then discuss how biases in Thoreau's writing have been propagated into the present in the form of American adventure culture, and in the more recent work of Bill McKibben. Finally I will explore the common ground that environmentalism and disability studies share, in the form of anti-capitalism and radical existence, and imagine what a form of environmentalism that fully embraced the concerns of the physically disabled might look like.