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Queen's University Belfast
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1,940 Projects, page 1 of 388
  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: 2442516

    "The alarming extinctions of species worldwide pose unprecedented challenges for wildlife and human wellbeing [1]. But, what factors drive species to extinctions? Why do some species face extinction risks while others seem to be thriving? Do some species benefit from the extinctions of other species? Just like medicine and the insurance industry do, can we identify the 'profile' of features that define threatened species, and the profile of species that are thriving with climate change? These are all critical questions that we are only starting to elucidate. Traditionally, conservation agendas around the world have estimated extinction risks based on the 'conservation status' that is assigned to each individual species - these are static 'labels' used to class species within either threatened or non-threatened categories [2]. However, while this classic approach has shaped our understanding of the modern extinction crisis, it largely neglects whether species are currently undergoing population decreases, increases or stability. Estimating extinction risks based on these 'population trends' is a critical pending challenge, given that ongoing population declines lead to extinctions (even in species currently classed as non-threatened), while ongoing population increases can indicate progressive recovery (even in species currently classed as threatened). Only a handful of studies have attempted to advance our understanding of biodiversity declines based on population trends at global scale [3]. This project addresses this gap with the aim of influencing conservation agendas, by implementing a global-scale research program investigating the drivers of population declines and increases in the world's amphibians - one of nature's most endangered animal lineages. The project is part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity Project (GABiP), a scientific initiative investigating the diversification, distribution, and extinctions of amphibians worldwide. Using a global dataset spanning population trends, reproduction, morphology, ecology, and distribution for >4,000 species, and a range of state-of-the-art phylogenetic and spatial computational techniques, this project will (1) elucidate the 'profile' of traits shared by species in decline and of those with increasing/stable populations, (2) combine multiple environmental variables to establish the geographic areas hosting high concentrations of declining and succeeding species, to ultimately (3) develop quantitative predictions about geographic areas of threat and of success around the globe, to inform conservation action and policy. The PhD candidate will gain a range of critical skills, including (i) an advanced conceptual understanding of climate change biology and conservation sciences for competitive progression in a career spanning these fields; (ii) advanced expertise in management and analysis of large-scale datasets using the software R; (iii) expertise in ecological and spatial modelling using techniques such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS); (iv) expertise in phylogenetic methods for comparative analyses of data; and (v) advanced expertise in scientific writing gained through leadership/participation in the preparation of publications for leading journals."

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/I00713X/1
    Funder Contribution: 524,778 GBP

    Electrical current flow interacts with the atoms in a conductor and causes a variety of effects. The most familiar is Joule heating: this is how a lightbulb and a toaster works. Another example is electromigration: current exerts forces on atoms, much like a river pushes rocks in its way. These current-induced forces can make atoms migrate, leading to the formation of defects in the conductor that can ultimately cause it to break down.In recent years experimentalists have been able to produce conductors of truly atomic dimensions - the smallest possible in nature - such as an atomic chain or a molecule between two electrodes. The excitement of these novel structures is the vision of molecular-scale electronics: electronic devices and circuit elements down on the size scale of individual atoms and molecules.But the current densities in these tiny wires can be very large - up to ten to the power of fifteen amps per square metre - many orders of magnitude larger than in an ordinary lightbulb for example. Under these huge current densities everything is big: both Joule heating and current-induced forces in nanowires can be very large, and can blow the conductor to pieces. We have worked for years on the theory and modelling of these effects in atomic-scale devices, and recently we have made a discovery: interatomic bonding forces in atomic wires under current are non-conservative, meaning that they can do net work on the atoms when they are taken on a closed path. We demonstrated the consequences for the simplest possible geometry: an atomic chain with a bend. There, the current drives and accelerates the bend atom in an expanding orbit, creating an elemental, single-atom waterwheel.This discovery found an immediate resonance within the science community through two News-and-Views articles in the Nature journals, and immediately opens up two new directions for research. (i) The non-conservative forces are a new mechanism for energy transfer from the current to the atoms, quite distinct from Joule heating. We have already given reasons, in our original Nature Nanotechnology paper, to believe that this mechanism can be more powerful than Joule heating. Therefore, it could be the new non-conservative effects, and not ordinary heating, that are the key factor limiting the stability and functionality of molecular electronic devices. (ii) Our atomic waterwheel shows that these forces can also be used constructively to drive atomic-scale engines.Our present project will develop new simulation tools to investigate these two possibilities from first principles and model the effects of the non-conservative forces in nanoscale conductors. We will model and understand how much effective heating these forces can produce, and whether they have the ability to destroy atomic wires. We will explore another novel idea: that the non-conservative waterwheel effect, and not Joule heating, could serve as the activation mechanism for electromigration of atoms on surfaces and in interfaces. Finally, together with experimentalists in Leiden, we will investigate a possible device that can act as a current-driven atomic-scale motor: a molecule on a current-carrying surface with a freely rotating side group, with the surface current driving the rotor like a watermill. In addition to the experimental group in Leiden we have joined forces also with a leading theory group in Denmark, who have taken up our discovery and have started their own long-term programme of research into it. Although the goal is shared, our theoretical approaches are mutually complementary and, together with our experimental friends, we aim not only to explore these new phenomena, but also to create a new direction of research in our dynamic field.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: BB/P022758/1
    Funder Contribution: 448,385 GBP

    This proposal is to improve the lot of the subsistence farmers of Bangladesh by giving them sustainably higher yields of rice, through recycling of agronomic and natural environment wastes, primarily as ash from household cooking fuels. Bangladesh agronomic soils are over cropped as they tend to be harvested twice a year, with the heavily application of NPKS and Zn fertilizers to maintaining this cropping intensity. This leaves the nutrients not fertilized (B, Ca, Co, Cu, Mg, Mo, Ni, Se, Si) being removed year on year in the crop. In Bangladesh rice straw is fed to cattle and the resulting cattle dung used for fuel in the home. Only sporadically is household ash added back to land. Domestic fuel is also collected from the interspersed semi-natural forests and orchards that typify the Bangladesh agronomic landscape, with this ash providing additional mineral resource. Along with composted household waste, rice-mill waste, animal bedding and horticultural crop waste, there are many nutrient rich waste streams to be tapped with respect to use as paddy field fertilizers. If these streams are redirected back to the land enhanced yields of rice can be obtained sustainably, giving more wealth and resources to subsistence rice farmers throughout Bangladesh. This recycling approach developed for Bangladesh can be used throughout the world, adapting to local rice growing management and societal practices. The proposal has four stages. The first is to characterize the nutrient content and quantity of waste streams flowing through Bangladeshi substance rice farming villages. The second task is to maximize ways in which to redirect these waste-streams back to the land. The third is to trial, through both wet and dry season rice cultivation, across 20 geographically separated Bangladeshi villages, the utility of these wastes for building up soil health and increasing rice yields, testing common Bangladeshi rice cultivars. Fourthly, and finally, a management protocol will be derived for dissemination across the rice farms of Bangladesh to educate what are the best ways to sustainably manage paddy fields using local recycled resources.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: 2635806

    My research focuses on the Irishwomen's paramilitary group, Cumann na mBan, and its campaign for state-awarded military pensions and service medals between 1924 and 1958. Exploring ways in which self-perception and notions of equality influenced Cumann na mBan's decision to campaign, my dissertation will analyse why its members resolved to campaign for the part they played in the Irish Revolution (1916-1923). Using the recently released Military Service Pensions Collection (MSPC), my thesis will use pension applications, along with government debates, documents, and personal papers, to understand why Cumann na mBan was initially excluded from receiving compensation and recognition, why compensation and recognition was so important to Cumann na mBan, and the organization's decision to fight for inclusion in the Irish Free State's pensions and service medals scheme. I will also explore how Cumann na mBan's campaign challenged notions of Irish nationalism, military traditions, and the new Free State itself. Did gender play into Cumann na mBan's initial exclusion? Or was Cumann na mBan's exclusion from the legislation in 1924 for more practical reasons? What role did gender, identity, and equality play in Cumann na mBan's decision to campaign? Was monetary compensation more important for some members than service recognition? Why did the Fianna Fáil government include women in the pensions and service medals scheme in the early 1930s? Was Cumann na mBan a threat to the Fianna Fáil government and thus needed to be placated? How did Cumann na mBan's campaign disrupt the government's ideas regarding women's relationship to nationalism, military service, and to the state itself? Literature focused on the post-conflict experiences of female veterans is scarce. There are even less studies on the experiences of female veterans after a guerrilla conflict. Lack of scholarship on the post-conflict life of guerrilla female veterans has been primarily due to a lack of source material. However, the MSPC provides the resources needed to conduct research concerning female veterans' post-conflict experiences. Thus, although the MSPC has only been used to track Cumann na mBan's activities between the years of 1916 and 1923, the collection has the potential to shed light on Cumann na mBan's post-revolution experiences. My dissertation will therefore become one of the first major studies to use the MSPC to focus on the post-revolution experiences of Cumann na mBan. It will occupy a space in the historiography of the Irish Revolution, the Free State, and Irish women's history that has yet to be filled. Further, a particularly relevant study to be conducted during the decade of Irish centenaries, my research will not only enhance scholarship's knowledge concerning female veterans' post-conflict experiences in Ireland. While the MSPC is an extremely unique collection and unparalleled internationally, by examining the experiences of female veterans after the Irish Revolution, I intend to structure my thesis so it will lend to a wider understanding of state's treatment of female veterans and serve as a case study for similar studies in other locations.

  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/K013459/1
    Funder Contribution: 18,068 GBP

    Many technological advances in modern day life are dependent upon the development of new materials or better control and understanding of existing materials. Understanding the detailed properties of materials has therefore never been more important. The development of high quality computer simulation techniques has played an increasing significant role in this endeavour over recent years. The UK has been at the forefront of this new wave, and the UKCP consortium has played an important part, in both developing computer codes and algorithms, and exploiting these new advances to increase our understanding of many industrially relevant materials and processes. The preferred mechanism for providing computational resources on HECToR is via HPC Consortia, and UKCP is onesuch, containing 19 different nodes. Each node is a different University Department and is represented by one key academic - see the "Linked Proposals" or the Track Record for a complete list of current members of UKCP. This proposal seeks computational support for a large body of research (see "Other Support") with a substantial allocation of HECToR resources and also the support of a named PDRA. The PDRA will assist with training and supporting different members of the consortium in using the principle codes used within the consortium (e.g. CASTEP), and also develop some of the new code features required to complete some of these projects. The research described in this proposal will make significant impacts on many areas of future technology, such as the development of improved materials for battery electrodes, solar cells and hydrogen-storage materials, each of which will help the move towards zero-pollution cars in the future. Some very applied parts of the proposal will study superalloys for use in engine turbine blades, or the properties of glasses used for storing nuclear waste materials. Other parts of the proposal will study the structure of materials with high accuracy, including subtle effects like dispersion forces and quantum nuclear effects, which may lead to better materials in the future. Other projects focus on a better understanding of existing materials, such as the interaction of proteins and DNA, or the operation of ligand-gated ion channels in cells. As part of this proposal, the researchers will have to develop new algorithms and theoretical improvements that will increase our simulation abilities, either by increasing the accuracy and reliability of calculations, or by enabling us to simulate bigger systems for longer. These will enable the next generation of simulations and further widen our computational horizons. The research proposed does not easily fit into any of the traditional categories of 'physics' or 'chemistry' etc. Instead, the UKCP is a multi-disciplinary consortium using a common theoretical foundation to advance many different areas of materials-based science which has the potential for significant impact both in the short and long-term.


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