Michelle Dickinson

Dr Michelle Dickinson has degrees in both science and engineering. She teaches materials engineering at the University of Auckland but also studied biomedical engineering and loves how science in the biological world is being combined with engineering in the artificial materials world to create novel solutions to age old diseases. By day she runs a nanomechanical research laboratory where she pushes, prods and breaks all sorts of materials including gold nanoparticles for antimicrobial treatments, zinc oxide nanowires for solar cells and biological cells for disease research. By night she fills her life with adventure sports (mostly kitesurfing and snowkiting), flying planes, her dog and reading about or building new technologies. Michelle is on Twitter @medickinson

Exhausted parents – your children are basically endurance athletes! - Nano Girl

Apr 30, 2018

Talk to any parent and they will tell you how exhausted they are feeling. The endless running around with their children never seems to end and no matter how much parents do, their children never seem to tire. This endless energy that children seem to have has been the subject of a new scientific study and the results show what every parent already knows – the energy levels of children are greater than those of even professional endurance athletes. Published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology the research compared the energy output and post-exercise recovery rates from children aged 8-12, untrained adults, and endurance athletes aged 19-27. The children and untrained adults had not been participants in regular vigorous physical activity before. The endurance athletes were all national-level competitors in triathlons or long-distance running and cycling … Read More

How tattoos stay put thanks to a war with your immune system - Nano Girl

Mar 16, 2018

Humans have marked their bodies with permanent tattoos for thousands of years to show off their social status, religious beliefs, declarations of love or just an appreciation of art.  For years tattoos were thought to stay in the skin because a dye was injected deep into the dermal layer of the skin staining the skin cells or fibroblasts located there.  Research published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine sheds new light on how tattoos stay stationary in the skin and it’s much more of an active process than previously thought. Contrary to popular belief, tattoo needles don’t actually penetrate very deep into the skin and instead of injecting like a syringe needle they act more like a fountain pen.  The pen-like needle is dipped into an ink well and used to create a superficial puncture in the … Read More

The importance of celebrity scientists - Nano Girl

Jul 13, 2017

Last week, I was honoured to have been able to join Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson on stage during his New Zealand cosmic perspective tour. As the only American to have been awarded the Stephen Hawking Medal for science communication, Dr Tyson has been called the American face of science. I was astounded and inspired at the ability of a scientist to fill stadiums and arenas as thousands of members of the public came to learn more about astrophysics. It made me think about how, after leaving formal education the public rely on the media, social media and search engines as their science information source.  Science communicators like Dr Tyson are crucial for helping to empower people to connect with the ever-changing world of science. Yet, traditionally scientists strive towards a conventional pathway to earning scientific and public attention which goes … Read More

‘Potentially toxic’ nanoparticles in baby formula – why the sensationalist headlines do nothing but scare parents - Nano Girl

Jul 02, 2017

Wow, now this is a new headline that would scare the bejeebers out of you if you were currently using baby formula: The Sydney Morninig Herald goes on to say: A world-leading team in nanotechnology at Arizona State University tested seven off-the-shelf baby formula products and found two – Nestle’s NAN HA 1 Gold and Nature’s Way Kids Smart 1 – contained needle-shaped hydroxyapatite nanoparticles. Hydroxyapatite nanoparticles – those sound scary right? Hydroxyapatite – the main mineral found in bone (source) Well, lets start with the long word – hydroxyapatite. This is a naturally forming mineral made from calcium and phosphates.  It is the main material that your bones and teeth are made from and exists in a colloidal form in milk. When you dry milk to make baby formula, the water is removed and … Read More

An open letter on fluoride, science and kindness - Nano Girl

Apr 17, 2017

Dear Lorraine, I see that last week you decided to send this message to Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter: After reading your e-mail I decided to create a flowchart for you to follow for the next time that you decide to interact with another human being.  This should especially be used when communicating with people that you don’t know.  I’ve called it Lorraine’s flow chart as it was written with you in mind, but feel free to share it with others. Lorriane’s Flow Chart For Future Communications With Other Humans.   Now, in response to the message that you sent I would like to clarify a few things. You wrote: “People don’t realise how toxic fluoride is, even at low levels” As you don’t offer any form of reference to your statement, firstly I don’t know who … Read More

How your daughter’s future doors may already be closed by the time she is six - Nano Girl

Mar 17, 2017

Imagine you are reading a story to a child; the story goes something like this:   “There is one person at work who is really, really smart. They can figure out how to do things quickly, they come up with answers much faster and better than anyone else.  Now imagine telling this story: “There is one person at work who is really, really nice. They like to help others with their problems, they are friendly to everyone.” At the end of the story, you show pictures of adult males and females to the child and ask them which person they think was being described. What gender do you think they would pick for each story? This exact experiment was carried out alongside a series of others as part of a recent study published in the journal Science. The … Read More

Why detox diets don’t work – the science behind how your body removes toxins - Nano Girl

Mar 17, 2017

The health store shelves are filled with optimistic claims of weight loss products. It’s tempting after what may have been weeks of “I’ll start the diet tomorrow” to think about cleansing out your system to kick start your new body. Quick fix detox teas, juices and supplements are heavily marketed, enticing you to drink a magical natural potion which will rid you of your over-eating and partying sins so you can start afresh. Combinations of cayenne pepper, lemon juice and honey taste so disgusting, you might be convinced that they must be good for you, but the truth is in the scientific evidence for which there is none. In fact a 2015 review of clinical evidence about detox diets published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics concluded that there is no compelling evidence to support … Read More

How microbeads in your bodywash could be helping chemicals enter the foodchain - Nano Girl

Sep 06, 2016

In 1976 chemical engineer John Ugelstad invented a technique on earth that other scientists believed could only be carried out in the weightless conditions of space. His discovery enabled the mass production of monodisperse spheres, tiny microscopic spherical plastic beads. The beads were typically 0.5 to 500 micrometres in diameter, about the width of 1 to 5 strands of human hair. These little beads enabled new advances to be made in cancer treatments and helped create alternative methods for HIV, bacteriology and DNA research. Tiny latex beads still form the basis for some home pregnancy tests today and thanks to Uglestad’s discovery the medical use of microbeads has helped move drug treatments forward. More recently, microbeads have moved from medical additives to exfoliators found in face washes, toothpaste, body scrubs, and other everyday beauty products. The non-biodegradable solid plastic beads are … Read More

The science behind Rio’s green Olympic pool - Nano Girl

Aug 15, 2016

The green swimming pool has been one of the big mysteries of this year’s Rio Olympics. Why would one pool turn murky and green when the adjacent pool was still clear and blue? The first official line from Olympic officials was that after extensive tests, they had finally pinpointed the reason to be a chemical imbalance caused by too many people using the water. Mario Andrada, a Rio 2016 spokesman, said last Wednesday morning that “mid-afternoon, there was a sudden decrease in the alkalinity in the diving pool, and that’s the main reason the color changed,” His interview with the NY Times stated that “He noted that a lot of people had been in the pools in the past week at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, and that their presence had touched off changes in the water’s chemical balance.” … Read More

Nanotechnology helps milk bottles double the shelf life of milk! - Nano Girl

Aug 07, 2015

We have already seen milk bottles get a nanotechnology upgrade with the titanium dioxide filled Lightproof bottles used to extend the life of UV sensitive vitamin B2 in the milk.  Now Brazil is solving the problems of the low shelf life of fresh milk through nanotechnology of a different kind – Nanosilver. Fresh milk has […]