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Boys Nominated as UCLan Young Researchers

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Over the summer holidays, three Sixth Form boys were nominated to become research assistants on projects at the University of Central Lancashire. Myles Blackwell, Surya Prasad and John Yates were each involved with a different research project, and directly contributed to the work done by UCLan’s researchers.

Dr Holland, Boys’ Division Director of Higher Education Applications and teacher, was very pleased with the opportunity UCLan has given to pupils this year. He said, “The university usually invites schools with whom it has contact to provide two such assistants. Bolton School Boys’ Division has been invited to make a third nomination because of the excellent impression made last year by Zuhayr Adia and Joel Dalton.”

Myles Blackwell was involved in a research project with Lancashire Law School, looking at the legal regulation of modern maritime piracy. This project examines the extent to which the existing legal framework for the international legal regulation of acts of maritime piracy is shaped by two contrasting, even incompatible, interpretative and policy frameworks. It will culminate in a book, aiming to explain the tensions in the existing law.

As Myles is particularly interested in international politics, this was a really interested subject for him to delve into as his research involved looking at the ways that piracy is linked to politics. He particularly spent his time studying the implications of when acts of piracy are not for personal gain, but rather for political gain, and the difficulties of defining when an act is piracy and when it is not.

“It was good to have first hand research experience, looking at the legal database and getting a better insight into the political side of things,” he said. “It felt like I got a lot done. It was really interesting to look at these documents, but it was hard – spending long hours trying to find examples of what you’re looking for – but it will be great to see the end product that I in part helped to produce.”

Surya Prasad took part in UCLan’s study of novel mesoporous materials with antimicrobial activity, which are essential for water purification and both biomedical and domestic disinfection treatments. The aim of the project is to develop a new generation of these materials.

Working with the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences in UCLAN’s well-established facilities, Surya replicated the work of the researchers in order to create a new batch of nanoparticles. This involved synthesising the mesoporous materials by reacting tetraethyl orthosilicate in the presence of a bioactive compound. He then went on to analyse the material created alongside the team. This involved investigating at the morphology of the particles by Scanning Electron Microscopy and Transmission Electron Microscopy, and an assessment of the diffusion rate by Ultra Violet spectroscopy and Thermal Gravimetric Analysis.

As well as needing excellent laboratory skills, Surya was also asked to use the Stokes-Einstein equation with a high degree of technical accuracy to help to complete the analysis.

Surya, who is planning to study Medicine at university, was really enthusiastic about his experience. He said, “It was really good to be able to work with UCLan, and especially with the head researcher on this project.”

John Yates worked alongside UCLan staff and PhD students, as well as collaborators in Australia, Spain, and Switzerland, on a project which asks the question, ‘How many Earth-like planets exist?’ He joined the School of Computing, Engineering & Physical Sciences in looking at the mineralogy of terrestrial planets and the elemental ratios involved.

Informed by recent developments in the simulation of terrestrial planets and the statistics of planet-host star chemistry, the project is working to model the evolution of the Milky Way and trace the spatial and temporal distribution of carbon-to-oxygen and magnesium-to-silicon, identifying the fraction of the stars in the Galaxy that lie within the Galactic Terrestrial Zone. John’s work on this project will help researchers to determine what fraction of stars should have different types of planets, categorised by their mineral composition. The project builds on UCLan’s world-leading role in determining the locations in the Milky Way most likely to harbour complex biological life.

All three boys thoroughly enjoyed their time working with UCLan on the different projects, and their hard work has assisted the university in forwarding its research in a variety of disciplines.

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Myles Blackwell and Surya Prasad

Myles Blackwell and Surya Prasad

John Yates