Monday 18th May 2015 – This Is Your Research On Drugs

Well, this was an interesting night, for lots of reasons.  The event is called “PubhD”, and the “pub” part of that is kinda important.  So when we turned up to our usual venue to find it closed, it was a little awkward.  After the initial panic, we did find another venue and the evening went very well.  We still had a good turnout, in spite of the sudden venue change.  We found that Twitter and Facebook were excellent means of getting the word out to people (so follow us @PubhDManchester and join the Facebook group – it could save you getting stranded in the rain like those of us who turned up early!), and as far as we know, no-one got lost or left behind (we’re so, so, sorry if you did).

On this occasion, we had two speakers, both talking about drugs.  “Ooh, that sounds exciting”, I hear you say!  Well, it was.  James Gilburt spoke about his research on synthesising proteins for use in medications that the modern world takes for granted.  Insulin, for example.  His work is mainly focused on getting synthesised proteins to fold correctly, to be usable.  Lots of use of the whiteboard in this talk, and James spoke for the full 20-minutes during the Q&A.  Closely related to the first talk, Xavier Just Baringo recently completed his PhD on synthesising natural compounds for use in drug manufacture.  Many chemicals are formed in nature under conditions that cannot be easily replicated in a lab, and so the ease with which they can be produced in bulk depends on different factors than if we were just farming the raw materials.  Part of Xavier’s research was on studying the viability of synthesising certain chemicals found in the natural world – how complex is it, how much will it cost, what sort of yield can we get? And so on…  And yes, someone asked the obligatory question about cannabis.  No, there’s not much point in synthesising THC – you can harvest it naturally in large enough quantities.

Well, like all our other events, discussion continued in the bar downstairs (did we mention the bar staff were kind enough to provide us with a private room?).  This was great, as it gave everyone an opportunity to engage further by conversing with the speakers while not on the clock.  But it leaves us with a dilemma for next time: where do we go from here?  Quite literally, where are we going to go?  We need a new venue.  Keep checking the site, Twitter and Facebook for news on this.  We will be returning in September, location TBC.

DigiLab Manchester

Information for this guest post provided by DigiLab Manchester.

DigiLab is a place for students to interact with new technology. We run events where students can try out equipment or software, workshops where students can learn in more detail, and panel discussions with those involved with the industry.

DigiLab passionately believes in technology for all, which is why we’re a library initiative. The library is accessible to anyone with a student card, and we believe that just because you don’t do a tech-related course, doesn’t mean you can’t learn about new and interesting happenings in the field.

What we need is help. We need creators, makers and enthusiasts. Including, but in no way limited to:
– anyone who has made something technology related that they would be happy to showcase
– people who are good with electronics to help teach basic electronics skills to students
– people with 3d printing experience
– anyone who can program
– anyone who has made an app, game, robot, drone, oculus rift environment, anything that people can interact with
– people with animation skills
– anyone with previous experience of visual projections
– games designers

If you’re interested, please let us know. There is no minimum commitment, we’re just looking for people who are passionate about technology and want to get others involved. Our previous DigiLab events have seen hundreds of students and are always really popular, this year we’re looking to be even bigger.

If you have any questions, please get in touch: digilab@manchester.ac.uk

Speakers: Monday 18th May 2015

In no particular order, the evening’s speakers are:

Xavier Just Baringo, Chemistry:
Xavi is a PostDoc in the School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester. He did his PhD in Barcelona, were he designed a new way to synthesize a family of naturally occurring antibiotics, the thiopeptides. This also allowed him to produce non-natural analogues with improved properties otherwise impossible to obtain.

He will talk about the various ways of synthesizing both natural and artificial drugs based on natural products, with an emphasis on those of marine origin. Producing these molecules in the laboratory and in industry gives chemists a tool to obtain better drugs, but also to preserve the environment!

James Gilburt:
James’s research is also about drugs! More information to follow.

Matt Barnard, Philosophy:
Matt Barnard is a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University researching the 20th Century Philosopher Martin Heidegger’s concept of Freedom. In contrast to most debate around freedom, Heidegger does not consider freedom to be a matter of the amount of control we have or a feature of our will. Rather, his concept of finite freedom implies that, while free, any sense of gaining control of our destiny is mere illusion. Matt is also Membership Secretary to the British Society for Phenomenology, and runs a philosophy and politics blog, www.mattoffact.co.uk.