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INSIGHTS Virtual Lectures: New voices on science, agriculture and engineering

Date/Time: Thursday 26 November 2020, 17:30 - 18:15

On Thursday 26 November, three Postgraduate students from the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering at Newcastle University will be have the opportunity to deliver a 10 minute public lecture, describing their cutting-edge research.

Following a public vote, the winning entries are:

Engineered in vitro models of osteochondral tissue in healthy and pathological conditions
Annachiara Scalzone, PhD in School of Engineering

My research aims to develop and evaluate scalable process for the production of in vitro healthy and pathological models representative of articular cartilage and subchondral bone as platforms for testing novel therapeutics treatments. Osteochondral tissue is structurally complex: it is made of different zones differing for their extracellular composition, cells morphology and density and mechanical properties. In order to obtain an in vitro model which aims to recapitulate osteochondral heterogenous features I am exploring an emergent approach based on the manufacturing of zonal-engineered in vitro models, demonstrating that each zone plays a different role in contributing to the overall functional properties of the osteochondral tissue in healthy and osteoarthritic state.

Development of Realistic Human Behaviours for Evacuation Simulations
Beth Barnes, PhD in School of Engineering‌

To be effective there is a requirement to test these plans, so potential outcomes can be understood. This can be performed through table-top exercises (often unrealistic or oversimplified) or real-life simulation (which is costly and resource intensive). One alternative is to use computational simulation, however, to utilise simulations it is necessary that human behaviours are accurately represented. Current models are often bespoke and can only address specific problems, making it difficult to keep software future-proofed. Models also tend to oversimplify human behaviours, modelling these as homogeneous populations, rather than creating unique populations capable of making independent decisions.

To improve this, quantitative data must be sought to form new robust human behaviour rulesets, alongside seeking examples of behaviour traits in real-life.  This can be particularly challenging as behaviour is complex and there is also an element of unpredictability regarding human responses to an unknownevent.  This lecture will explore how the inclusion of representative human behaviour has the potential to revolutionise computational simulation and the testing of plans, potentially leading to life saving decisions and large economic savings.

Can virtual landscapes help us sustain living landscapes?
Daryl Hughes, EngD in Engineering

Climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth are putting pressure on the environment. In order to sustain living landscapes, we need to understand their pasts, presents and futures. Clearly, we cannot see the past, nor the future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we even struggle to travel to see the present landscape. One possible solution is to create virtual landscapes. My research has involved developing a virtual landscape of the Crummock Water and Buttermere valley in the Lake District, incorporating natural and human history. My computer models can predict how climate change and land management affect rivers and lakes, including during floods and droughts. Can this virtual landscape help stakeholders to better understand the evolution and functioning of the valley?

In this lecture, we will travel through 14,000 years of evolution of the Crummock Water and Buttermere valley. We’ll learn how Ice Age glaciers melted, leaving a rocky tundra that developed into extensive woodland. We’ll see how centuries of farming produced an awesome, but denuded landscape that inspired Romantic poets and painters. We’ll witness the ingenuity of Victorian reservoir engineers who modified Crummock Water to provide clean water to West Cumbrian towns. Pausing at the present day, we’ll consider the legacy of river and lake engineering. Finally, we’ll glimpse how rivers and lakes might look in future if returned to a more natural state.

Live Q&A:

The lectures will be followed by a live Q&A with the speakers. You can submit a question in advance by sending an email to or during the event using YouTube Live Chat or via Twitter @InsightsNCL.

This event will be hosted on YouTube, registration is not required.