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Science Honours Academy

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Science Honours Poster Symposium: from weather models to HIV transmission

The second Science Honours Academy Poster Symposium of this year was held on June 18th, 2015. Nine interdisciplinary groups had been working on a subject of their choice for two months and attended the symposium to present their findings.

The organising committee opened the evening by welcoming everyone present. A special mention was given to students of Junior College Utrecht who were also present. The new chair of the Honours Student Board Rieneke Gordijn, introduced herself. Finally, Willem Kegel, professor of Physical Chemistry, gave a presentation about the statistical mechanisms of gene regulation and the Boltzmann genome.

After the opening, the evening was divided into five rounds of presentations. Each group was given ten minutes to talk about their subject and answer questions. Afterwards everybody was free to roam around and study the other posters.

There were presentations on nine different subjects:

  • Dendritic cells and HIV infections.
  • Dynamical systems in weather forecasting.
  • Effectivity of vancomycin.
  • Parallel molecular dynamics simulations.
  • Transhumanism.
  • DNA ejection from bacteriophages.
  • Adenylyl cyclases as target for antimycotica.
  • Effects of hibernation to help against neurodegeneration.
  • Environmental risks of oxazepam.

The symposium helped to gain a better understanding of these topics. The numerous enthousiastic presenters made it an enjoyable evening. To get a taste of the event we have highlighted two of the presentations below.

Transhumanism

The research was divided in three sections. Cybernetic prostheses are prosthetic limbs that transmit signals to the nervous system and thus allow the user to sense in real time. An example is Project Cyborg 2.0, for which an electrode array was implanted in the arm of Professor K. Warwick, which allowed him to control a robotic hand that relays information back into his nervous system. 3D Bioprinting is used to create structures that contain actual living cells, which can be used as substitutes for, or as improved versions of, original body material. Examples are 3D printed kidneys, ears and finger bones, or the 3D printed skull that replaced the skull of a Dutch woman who suffered from Van Buchem disease. Photographs of this surgery went viral on the internet. Genetic Engineering modifies the genes of a person to enhance humanity. Because of the ethics that go with this subject most experiments are done on mice. An experiment in 2015 that was conducted on human embryos unfortunately failed, but who knows what the next ten years may bring?

Dynamical systems in weather forecasting

This presentation was about merging weather models together to create more accurate predictions of the weather, which is called supermodelling. Our current weather models are already starting to contradict each other after a small period of time, but just averaging their predictions is not a good solution. Because some of the parts of these models are very chaotic we get drastically different results if we slightly change a parameter. This chaotic behaviour is a problem in weather models and the supermodelling approach using coupled systems and machine learning tries to combine the strengths of different systems in the hope to get more accurate predictions.