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UCL events news and reviews


The Science of Tea

By news editor, on 14 June 2013

Cup of tea by Simon Cocks on Flickr

Cup of tea, by Simon Cocks on Flickr


Written by Holly Holmes, reporting on a session at this year’s Times Cheltenham Science Festival.

Tea: the nation’s favourite beverage and a drink synonymous with British culture.

As one of the 40 million Britons who enjoy a cup a day, “Science of Tea” immediately caught my eye in the festival programme – ‘an evening dedicated to the chemistry and pharmacology behind the nation’s favourite beverage’ – what better way to spend a Friday night in Cheltenham?


Exoplanets, alien atmospheres and life, Jim…but not as we know it!

By news editor, on 12 June 2013


Exoplanet by NASAblueshift on Flickr

Artist’s impression of the exoplanet Tau Boötis b from
NASAblueshift on Flickr.

Written by David Robertson, who attended a lecture by Dr Giovanni Tinetti (UCL Physics & Astronomy) at the Cheltenham Science Festival, entitled ‘Exoplanet explorers’.

1992, was the year it hit me! As I entered the brave new world of primary education, I remember being startled with the knowledge that we lived on a ball of rock, travelling some 67,000 miles per hour around a massive burning ball of fire. Naturally, this was a pretty terrifying turn of events!

As the shock subsided, and my terror turned to awe, I was told that the Earth was one of a small group of planets orbiting our local star.

There was more.


Is my immune system normal?

By news editor, on 12 June 2013


Man sneezing, by Placbo on Flickr

pencil-iconWritten by Maeve McMahon, who attended a lecture by Professor Arne Akbar (UCL Immunology) at the Cheltenham Science Festival, entitled ‘Is my immune system normal?’

I usually succumb to three bouts of the common cold a year – once over Christmas, once during exams and the final wild-card infection usually manages to time itself to ruin a holiday.

Is that normal? Hundreds of people who wanted to know the answer attended an event at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival. Vivienne Parry, host of BBC Radio 4’s Am I Normal?, chaired a panel of researchers who investigate immunity.

Imagine, suggested Professor Arne Akbar (UCL Division of Infection and Immunity), that you are a pork chop left out in the sun. You might just smell a little on the first day. But over the course of a few days, you would begin to stink and turn to mush as your tissue broke down.


Regenerative medicine: is the grow-your-own organ era just around the corner?

By news editor, on 10 June 2013

pencil-iconWritten by Emily Burns, who attended a lecture by Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute) at the Cheltenham Science Festival, entitled ‘Regenerative Medicine: Where will we be in 50 years?’

Mouse heart showing position of coronary arteries

Mouse heart showing position of coronary arteries.

What happens if a newt’s leg is cut off? Or a gecko’s tail auto-amputated?

The cells simply multiply to grow back into exactly what was missing. If a flatworm were cut in two, the two halves would both become new flatworms.

Unfortunately for humans, this incredible ability to self-regenerate was lost several branches ago on the evolutionary tree. As such, we definitely don’t have the ability to grow a new leg, or a new heart.

We have to rely on skin grafts and organ transplants, with common risks of rejection, infection and multiple complications. However, according to Professor Mark Birchall and Dr Felicity Mehendale, our regenerative future is just around the corner.