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Issue 482, 20 May 2002

Leeds success in £1m research fellowships

Four University researchers have secured prestigious fellowships with a total value of just under £1m.

Drs Alison Tomlin, Joanne Tipper (pictured left) and Alexei Likhtman have been awarded EPSRC advanced research fellowships, each worth around £250,000. Dr Ruth Wilcox has received a £150,000 fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Tomlin's research will look at ways to create accurate computer models for determining urban air quality in relation to traffic management, by taking into account variables such as emission levels, changing weather and atmospheric conditions. Current systems make it difficult for governments to accurately assess which measures will be most effective in reducing pollution to the levels required under international agreements.

The long-term effects of a procedure called vertebroplasty, which offsets the effects of oesteoporosis on the spine, is the subject of Dr Wilcox's research. Using keyhole surgery, a special bone cement is injected in to stiffen the damaged vertebra and reduce pain. Dr Wilcox (pictured right) will be looking at the biomechanical aspects of the procedure, and the effectiveness of the bone cement.

Nearly 800,000 patients have joints replaced each year worldwide, but many require a second operation, when particles worn off from the joint cause an immune response, affecting the bone and loosening the joint replacement.

By using an immunologial assay on blood cells, Dr Tipper hopes to identify patients who are more likely to react to the polymer from which the joints are made. These patients can then be fitted with joints made of alternative materials, so reducing their discomfort, and lessening the number of operations required.

Dr Likhtman (pictured left) is developing a theory for understanding the dynamics of polymer melts and their applications to industrial processes, such as injection moulding and extrusion, enabling scientists and industry to predict the behaviour of polymers, and helping to provide the public with better and cheaper products.




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