Professor Lord May of Oxford
Throughout his career, Sydney-born scientist Professor Robert May (Lord May of Oxford, OM, AC, Kt) has pursued ideas in theoretical biology whose understanding has practical consequences of the utmost importance, notably in preserving biodiversity and controlling the spread of infectious disease.
Currently President of Britain’s Royal Society, Lord May was chief scientific adviser to the UK Government for the five years to September 2000, and head of its Office of Science and Technology. He holds a Professorship jointly in the Department of Zoology, Oxford University and at Imperial College, London. Knighted in 1996, he was elevated to Britain’s House of Lords in 2001.
May is a world leader in mathematical biology, but his PhD, and his first chair, at the University of Sydney, were in theoretical physics. In 1973, however, with the burgeoning movement towards social responsibility in science, he moved to Princeton as Professor of Zoology.
He described the "boom-bust" cycles of some animal populations as examples of chaotic dynamics, in which the initial conditions— numbers of animals, rates of reproduction and so on—can never be described accurately enough to predict the outcome.
Soon afterwards he began applying his models of population biology to the interaction between parasites and their hosts, and particularly, on the role of infectious diseases in the regulation of natural populations of plants and animals.
This led to research on the interactions between populations of viruses and immune system cells and, in particular, why there is so long and so variable an interval between infection with HIV and the onset of AIDS – a problem as yet unsolved. It is work that has been of critical importance in understanding the spread of HIV.
Lord May's current research deals with factors influencing the diversity and abundance of plant and animal species, and with the rates, causes and consequences of extinction.
May believes that societies should engage the full range of views in the debate about what kind of world we want to live in, and has has worked to achieve this both during his tenure as Chief Scientific Advisor and in his present position as President of the Royal Society.
"Once we can agree on the values that motivate us as members
of our societies, we then need to ask how best to pursue those values….
Our values will indicate what questions we should be asking about the
natural world and humanity's impact on it; our science will ensure that
the answers have a solid foundation.”
Prof Carlo Montemagno, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Beyond Carbon Nanotubes and Single Molecule Devices: Engineering Next Generation Embedded Intelligent Systems
Montemagno, professor and chair of the UCLA Department of Bioengineering
and a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UCLA, first
engineered nano-sized devices in 2000 when he altered the molecular motor
protein ATPase by attaching tiny metal propellers to it. ATPase, which
occurs in all living cells, consists of six molecular structures forming
the equivalent of a three-cycle motor, with a seventh molecule in the
middle acting as the rotor. The motor draws its energy from the high-energy
fuel molecules that power living cells in the human body, adenosine triphosphate,
or ATP. Consumption of three ATP molecules is required to complete one
rotation of the motor.
Montemagno’s group has now developed a chemical switch that gives them control over the motor, using metal ions such as zinc. This brings them a step closer to the eventual goal – to use such devices to repair cellular damage, manufacture medications, and attack cancer cells.
Montemagno has also recently been appointed co-director of the NASA-sponsored Institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration (CMISE), which will focus on development of systems that use nanoscale sensors, actuators, and energy sources to mimic a cellular system.
His research spans nanoscale biomedical systems, micro-robotics, directed self-assembly, hybrid living/nonliving device engineering, pathogen detection, and tissue engineering. Current research projects include development of muscle powered MEMS devices, and the engineering of on-chip detectors for pathogens.
Prof Richard Kitney OBE, FREng, DSc(Eng), FRCPE, Imperial College, London
The Double Helix, and the Role of Engineering
and Physical Science in the Post Genomic Age
Starting with the work of Norbert Wiener on Cybernetics and Claude Shannon on Information Theory, the lecture will consider how computing, information and communication technology have developed, and how they played a seminal role in molecular biology. Over the past 20 years systems analysis and signal processing, based on the work of Wiener and Shannon, have played an important part in the analysis of physiological systems.
The New Medicine, which will be deriving from molecular biology, is based upon the assumption that it is possible to provide a continuum from the physiological system, to the organ, to tissue, to the cell, to DNA. Current work and trends in biology show that engineering and physical science are - and will continue to be - very important in the future development of molecular biology. Examples are systems theory, in relation to systems biology; imaging and visualisation; web based medical information systems; and broadband telecommunications networks will all be key to the development of the New Medicine.
Kitney’s group have spent many years developing advanced clinical information systems. Over the last few years they have developed web-based systems which are capable of handling the full range of medical information. Their technology was commercialised via an Imperial College spinout company, ComMedica, which won the 2002 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovations Award. One example of the application of the technology is in the Department of Radiology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles - where one of their systems currently handles, fully automatically, all the medical information for 1.6 million people (including 8,000 new images a day).
Kitney is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the
World Technology Network, co-director of the Imperial College/MIT International
Consortium for Medical Information Technology, and was awarded an OBE
for his work on healthcare technology in 2001. His research spans medical
information systems, medical imaging, visualisation and a number of other
Prof Peter A. Lewin, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA
Biomedical Ultrasound: A Glimpse into the Future
This talk is designed to address the interests of all engineering disciplines and all interested in recent advances in ultrasound technology. The presentation will focus on the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical ultrasonics, in particular on the engineering and medical science background needed for a state-of-the-art design of an imaging system. The last three decades of development in diagnostic ultrasound imaging and technology will be briefly reviewed and the crucial link between the two apparently independent developments, that is the discovery of piezoelectric PVDF polymer and the ongoing quest for understanding the interaction between ultrasound and biologic tissue, will be explored.
It will be demonstrated how these two research efforts eventually converged a few years ago with the implementation of harmonic imaging modality. This modality revolutionized the diagnostic power of clinical ultrasound and brought along images of unparalleled resolution, close to that of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) quality. The nonlinear propagation effects and their implications for both diagnostic (tissue characterization) and therapeutic (non-surgical removal of kidney and gall stones) applications of ultrasound will also be briefly addressed.
Finally, the most likely developments and future trends in ultrasound technology, including remote palpation, image enhancement using contrast agents and merger of diagnostic and therapeutic applications by introducing ultrasonically controlled targeted drug delivery, will be discussed.
Professor Peter Hunter, University of Auckland, New Zealand
The Electromechanics of the Heart and the Physiome Project