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Guest Speech for UCL Engineering Faculty Graduation – Wed 9th March 2022, Dr Ranna Eardley-Patel

Kim Morgan10 March 2022

Thank you for the opportunity to address you on this joyous day, and to be able to express my gratitude to UCL, especially my former EngD supervisor, the fabulous Prof. Nigel Titchener-Hooker.

As UCL engineers, we have been given world-class training in how to understand the fundamental nature of things and to apply that knowledge to create technology and harness resources. Basically, we have the power to make our planet a better place.

I agree with Jeremy Bentham – it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong. It was the highest privilege to use my training directly in the efforts to get the AZ Covid-19 vaccine manufactured and deployed, and then go on to be a technical advisor within the UK Vaccines Taskforce, and soon as part of CEPI. All of us here will need the skill to condense and communicate complex information, so that others can understand and use it to make the “right” decisions going forward.

Our UCL science and engineering network includes heroes such as Sirs Nadhim Zahawi, Patrick Vallance, Benjamin Hodgkinson, Professors Suzy Farid, Martina Michelleti, Vaughan Thomas, Drs Matthew Cheeks, Ines Hassan and many more; we could, and we did, contact and work with each other to combat the pandemic, in part due to our existing connection as alumni. It is an honour to be part of this incredible, global community, that has repeatedly stepped up in times of great need.

Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy or modest about your abilities to tackle hard things. We can do hard things together. My guest today is Dr Elizabeth Petrie. We met via the UCL Karate Club, where she taught me how to kick and be kicked! Almost 20 years on, we are still friends, supporting each other through the tough times, as well as celebrating the happy ones, together. To paraphrase Dr Maya Angelou, modesty is a learned affectation that is no good. Humility is better, because it says “there was someone before me, I am following in somebody’s footsteps”.

As educated humans, we need to continuously question ourselves and our peers. Studies show that the more powerful and successful a man becomes, the more people trust and like him. Unfortunately, the inverse has generally been the case for self-assured, happy women who are viewed as “entitled”. It wasn’t until I identified this unconscious bias in myself that I unlocked how to become confident and be a better mentor to others.

Our beliefs determine how we experience the world. Our boundaries deliver our beliefs to us. We identify our boundaries when they are crossed, and we are upset by the incursion. I purposefully chose a career path in vaccines manufacturing because deaths in my community by preventable diseases feels wrong me.

To discover your purpose, find out what makes you angry, and pursue it. Identify what it is that affects you so deeply that whenever you encounter it, you initially feel the need to look away. Focus there. You will know you have found it when you feel energized and free, yet still held.

So, for those of you with a new title, be it Bachelor, Master, Doctor – well done. Own it, and be rightly proud of your letters as they are bestowed upon you by this amazing institution, because you earned it.

Ensure that your legacy is to make our world a safe, sustainable place of equality and freedom. Trust yourself, for you know what you know, and you have great ideas. I, we, believe in you. Congratulations and thank you!

13 February 1633 On this day in 1633 Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory

Vasos L Pavlika2 March 2022

This was a crucial day for the History of Experimental Physics, this is to be distinguished from Theoretical Physics first propagated by the Giant Aristotle (384-322BCE) who was not opposed to experiments, but it was Galileo that spawned the dawning of experimental Physics. There are so many great experiments in Physics/Science that one could discuss, in fact, a great course to teach must perhaps include Galileo’s cannon-ball experiment, Rutherford’s (1871-1937) gold leaf experiment, the Michelson-Morley experiment, Mendel’s (1822-1844) experiment with peas (that I was fortunate to discuss this week at UCL when introducing Statistics to our researchers and considering the “goodness of fit” of his results and the claim that Mendel doctored his results), Penzias(1933-) and Wilson’s (1936-) experiment on background radiation, and Eddington’s (1882-1944) eclipse experiment along with many others, but this is for another post.

Galileo the great Italian Mathematician/Physicist left his hometown without a degree, just a reference but rose to the dizzy height of Professor of Mathematics at Padua University. Of course, he is also well known today for the Galilean transformations that are the limiting case of the Lorentz-Fitzgerald transformations which were instrumental in the development of Special theory of Relativity under the directorship of Albert Einstein (1879-1855).

Returning to Galileo, during his hearing with the church he was forced to recant his views supporting the Copernican (1473-1543) theory that the sun is at the centre of the solar system and not the earth as was proposed by Aristotle and Ptolemy (100AD). One may ask, how did he know this? Well, Galileo was one of the first to use the telescope (which by the way he greatly improved on the design of Hans Lippershey (c1570)) for non-military purposes (recall it was invented so that the location of an invading army could be determined from afar), thus he pointed the telescope at Jupiter and observed the orbits of its moons and determined that they orbited Jupiter and not the earth. Galileo thus had scientific/numerical evidence to verify this. However, when he (Galileo) recanted his views to the church and was then subsequently put under house arrest he uttered the now immortal words:

“E pur si muove” or “Eppur si muove”

Which can be translated as “And yet it moves”, referring to the earth orbiting our nearest star.

Galileo was certainly a man that changed the way that Physics/Science is advanced and ushered into the world the so-called Scientific Method that one suspects all “good” experimenters are instinctively familiar with.

But I recall the words of Karl Popper (1902-1994) and my “old friend” Richard Feynman (1918-1988), during one of his interviews saying that

“One can never verify a theory but one can only falsify it” which I think encapsulates it.