Describing your research – soundbites from Christchurch

By Peter Griffin 01/07/2010

Another city and another few dozen emerging researchers attempting to describe their research goals in a couple of sentences after just five minutes of thought.

One interesting thing, Dunedin-based scientists are certainly a lot more legible than their colleagues in Christchurch! I’ve had to leave out several samples of the latter group as I couldn’t decipher the handwriting.

Nevertheless, some imaginative ways of describing research. Here’s my top 10 favourites from Canterbury…

My sheep’s foot has gone gooey and fallen off. I’m finding out what bugs make this happen.

The heart of a tumour is like the heart of Auckland City, impossible to get in and out of. Angiogenesis is the process by which the tumour relieves the pressure on its core. So if we can stop the traffic, we can kill the tumour.

To predict the next invader, all we need to do is look at human nature.

Do dams damn our landscapes?

As a social anthropologist I conduct fieldwork with people, learning from them by living with them. But in the elephant stables of Nepal, I learnt that elephants are people too.

If all the world’s a stage, how do you design for small town tourism?

It’s like having a nice conversation with E.T.

The bigger you are, the bigger your poos. The bigger the poo, the more things you can find in it.

Imagine being stuck in a sauna or having cramp or muscle spasms so bad you collapsed. Sheep and cattle can get this from eating grass. So we are trying to change the grass.

Sometimes technology solves our problems and sometimes it is the problem. What makes the difference?

And some more examples from the Christchurch workshop on Communicating your Research… thanks to everyone who participated, it was a lot of fun.

* When grape genes change, you get a different wine. Are unstable genes behind some of the best Kiwi vintages?

* Altitude training for inactive folk – can periods of exposure to CO2 mimic the benefits of exercise?

* We think we know everything, but we don’t even know ourselves, the human body. I want to find out what’s hoing on in red blood cells, to shed a bit oflight into the darkness.

* Every manuscript, by definition, is a unique example of human labour. They all deserve to be studied and I’m doing what I can about that.

* How do you  know if the building that you are living in is safe or not after a huge environmental event like an earthquake? Structural Health Monitoring gives you the answer.

* We work on conserving the species we’ve accidentally almost killed off. We use genetic data to minimise extinction riskof threatened species.

* A victim of sexual abuse forgives the offender during a conference. What is the story behind it and how can other victims get there?

* I’m trying to find out how possums infect each other with bovine tuberculosis and how they give this disease to livestock.

* Not being able to stand up because your body can’t support you is a nightmare. Using robotics to overcome this is a sci-fi dream.

* Everyone is jumping onto the social media bandwagonthese days. But is it really worth it?

* Interaction between soil and structure in an earthquake event, is it going to make the damage more catastrophic?

* There’s no point in saving a building from an earthquake if all of its clothing and insides get ripped to pieces.

* People with anorexia are fighting against their body’s biological signals that are screaming at them to eat. If we can understand these signals better we may be able to devise a new treatment for this debilitating illness.

* There are strains of tuberculosis bacteria out there resistant to all known antibiotics. My research involves finding new drugs so that we can more effectively treat tuberculosis.

* Every living cell on the planet makes electricity. It’s now possible to fabricate electrodes that make capture and use of that electricity possible.

* Fish grow by eating smaller fish, but they also have a taste preference. I change these approaches to model the population dynamics in marine ecosystems.

* Minority languages are more threatened than endangered species. The race is on to document and preserve these unique vessels of human culture, history and experience.

* When the Alpine Fault ruptures every 250 – 400 years, millions of cubic metres of rock are shaken from the thousand metre plus high cliffs of Milford Sound. The result – tsunami waves up  to tens of metres.

* Changing land-use degrades stream communities in tropical highland streams in Nigeria!

* To feed a burgeoning global population, agriculture is becoming more intensive and expansive at the expense of the natural environment and the biological communities it supports. I am researching how landuse intensification via agriculture is leading to excessive sediment washing into our streams and rivers, and what effect this has on the food webs of these habitats.

* The person next to you collapses to the floor, so you move to help her. Did you have reason to do that if she was faking?

* How long can you hold your head underwater? We are trying to understand how a fish can tolerate a few hours without water.

* Children of drug-dependent parents have a bleak future. We want to understand why that happens.

* People live longer than they expect to. How can we stop them running out of money?

* By the end of this century, the ozone hole will have recovered, but ozone-depleting greenhouse gases are on the rise. What will bethe next major driver of ozone destruction?

* The Tonle Sap floodplain is a place that remains up to six months a year under 10 metres of water. Yet an entire forest that supports the largest freshwater fisheryin the world lives here. I am studying how the water in the Tonle Sap affects its flooding forest.

* Research into the ability and willingness of older workers to pass  on their knowledge may ensure that a career’s worth of experience won’t just walk out the door.

* The way you design the bridge is influenced by the way the water moves underneath it. What noone considers is that the animals that live in the water change the way the water moves and hence, how you design the bridge.

* If a possum eats a leaf, does the tree die? I’m using mathematical models to seehow leaf browse affects largescale forest die back.

* Ten clinicians may describe different treatments. Building clinicians research knowledge can help.

* A better understanding of grapevine death will  help keep wine flowing into your glass for many years.

0 Responses to “Describing your research – soundbites from Christchurch”