• Question: what research interests you the most?

    Asked by kmahon to Meeks, Pete, Stephen, Steve, Tom on 16 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 13 Jun 2010:


      My own mostly (being selfish and egotistical!) – I am fascinated by the structures of biological molecules and spend my life trying to reveal what they look like because that helps to explain how they work. For example, how enzymes cut up other proteins, how proteins that stick to DNA or RNA control how genetic information is used, or how viruses cause disease.

      It astonishes me that all these molecules sloshing around inside a cell be organised to give rise to the phenomenon known as life (or, in the case of viruses, sickness and death). It’s a massive puzzle and, although I’m only working on a few of the pieces, it gives me great satisfaction.

      There are many areas that I wish I knew more about, e.g. stem cell research (which looks very exciting) and nuclear fusion.

    • Photo: Marieke Navin

      Marieke Navin answered on 14 Jun 2010:


      I love love love studying the smallest things – all of the particles in our universe, especially neutrinos. They are so awesome because they are so weird. They travel at nearly the speed of light and have nearly no mass and can just pass through anything. If you had a piece of the metal lead and it was one light year long (the huge distance light can travel in a year) then a neutrino could still pass through it as if it wasn’t there. I love that.
      Particle physicists have built up this picture of the universe called the standard model. The model contains all of the particles and forces that we know about. For example quarks, electrons, neutrinos…the strong force (that keeps protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom) the weak force (the force that causes radioactive decay), electromagnetism (electric and magnetic fields) and gravity. Unfortunately we can’t fit gravity into our model! so we’re working on that right now. We also have another particle in the model that we have never seen any evidence for – the Higgs boson. This is in the model to explain where mass comes from…but we don’t know if the model is right. The large hadron collider will hopefully find it. otherwise we need to re think the model!

    • Photo: Steve Roser

      Steve Roser answered on 15 Jun 2010:


      I like doing research that i don’t know the answer to. That might sound obvious, but in some fields you can know where you’re heading, for example ‘in my PhD I shall work towards the synthesis of this molecule…’ whereas I tend to go…’oooh lets try that and see what happens..’
      This sort of split is a big talking point between scientists and the people who fund them – its obvious that you shouldn’t give people like me shedloads of cash just so we can play about, but at the moment lots of money for research is highly directed, and ‘blue-sky science’ the type I like is really hard to fund. The reason this is a problem is because lots of the things that really change our lives spring unexpectedly out of experiments, and were not planned. You probably know of some like lasers and teflon, and viagra (a heart drug that put a happy smile on the faces of some old gents…)

    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 16 Jun 2010:


      Hi kmahon,

      I am most interested in research that investigates how the brain is organized, what different parts of the brain do and ideally shed light on any patterns or principles that might exist. I am particularly interested in research on spatial memory and navigation in humans (for example, how we know where we are and how we figure out how best to get to another place). But I am always drawn to the bigger picture – is there any pattern to the way the brain is organized; it certainly doesn’t seem random – parts that do similar things are usually near to each other. Unfortunately we only have a dim idea of what some of those things are, so the pattern, if there is one, seems rather complicated. Nonethe less, I would like to identify any simple patterns that could help us predict and explain what different parts of the brain do. I suppose this is a bit like the periodic table that Mendeleev came up with for Chemistry: he spotted a pattern that helped chemists predict the properties of new undiscovered elements. I am interested in research that would help us predict what a part of the brain does, based on what its neighbours do. I am not comparing myself with Mendeleev, but I think the overall organization of the brain is a neglected problem in my area of science, and I think we should try a bit harder.

      I think you might be interested in another answer I gave:

      what sorts of science do you like doing? x

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