Monthly Archives: December 2015

Animals are evolving faster than you think – here’s the living proof

Galapagos finch: evolution in action? Paul Krawczuk/flickr, CC BY-SA

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Hugo Dutel, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Medical and Biological Engineering Research Group

Biological evolution, the changes in living organisms over time, is often considered an elusive and long process that cannot be observed during a human lifespan. But is that really the case? And is there evidence that we can see it happening right before our eyes?

Evolution is a process that occurs at a different pace in different organisms. For instance, paleontologists have shown, thanks to the fossil record, that it took a million years for whales to evolve from their land-dwelling mammalian ancestors.

But evolution can also be observed and monitored in living organisms within a human lifetime. This is true for infectious agents, such as bacteria and parasites, that can evolve extremely quickly to resist the drugs we use to fight them. But it is also the case for larger organisms, such as vertebrates – the back-boned animals. Read more

Can we really prevent floods by planting more trees?

Cycling man/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Roland Ennos, Professor of Biomechanics

As heavy rain continues to contribute to the devastating flooding in Cumbria, there have once again been calls – notably from the environmentalist George Monbiot – for the reforestation of our uplands, to help tackle rural flooding. The government has stated that it is funding the planting of 11m trees over the next five years to this end. It has also been suggested that trees could help reduce the number and severity of flash floods in cities, such as those that devastated Hull in June 2007.

To determine whether the humble tree really can provide such robust defences, we first need to understand the role they play in soaking up excess rain water. All floods, whether fluvial (when rivers burst their banks) or pluvial (when rainfall overwhelms drainage systems before it reaches rivers), are caused because the rain cannot soak into the soil fast enough. Instead, it runs rapidly over the surface of the land.

And while climate change is causing bigger and bigger storms, our alterations to the environment – especially to the ground surface – have been one of the major causes of the increased frequency of flooding events in modern times. Read more

PhD student wins first prize at international medical conference

Hannah Moody

A cancer research PhD student has won first prize at the 12th International Medical Postgraduate Conference at the renowned Charles University Medical School in the Czech Republic.

Hannah Moody, a third year PhD student in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hull, presented her research on microRNA mediated regulation of chemotherapy sensitivity in malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Following two days of competitive presentations, Hannah beat off competition from 32 other students from 10 different European institutions to attain first prize.

Following her win Hannah was commended by the panel, who noted that this was the first time in the history of the competition that five sets of full marks were given for an individual presentation.


Hannah Moody at the 12th International Medical Postgraduate Conference

Hannah Moody (centre) with the 2nd and 3rd prize winners and Prof Miroslav Červinka, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (left) and Prof Vladimír Palička, Vice-Dean for International Relations (right) at Charles University. Copyright: International Medical Postgraduate Conference


Hannah is studying for her PhD in the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Laboratory, led by Dr Stephen Maher.

Dr Maher said “Hannah is a great asset to my research group and has done a tremendous job in showcasing her excellent research, the School and the University at European level”.

Another PhD student, Becky Bibby, from the same group won the prestigious prize last year.

Competing PhD students, chosen to represent their university and department through local contests, presented their research to a large panel of respected international clinicians and scientists.

The students were assessed on the overall style of their presentation, scientific content and the defence of the research.

Hannah received a personal financial bursary and a diploma from ORPHEUS (Organisation for PhD Education in Biomedicine and Health Sciences in the European System) in recognition of her achievement.