School Winner: Machines and the Essence of Healing

Winning Entry Sherborne (Tiffany Chan)10C Tiffany Chan (Sherborne)SchoolWhat will medicine be like in the future?  The first thing that comes to mind is that patients will no longer need to travel to hospital as doctors would be able to diagnose them remotely. Operations will, perhaps, be performed by robotic surgeons instead of doctors.  Patients will be able to self-diagnose by the applications on their smartphones and get prescriptions from ‘digital doctors’. However, the obvious question is whether computerisation will only have a positive effect on our health care system.

In recent years, there has been a surge in gadgets and devices developed in the medical field. At the push of a button, we are able to keep track of our health at the molecular level, with devices such as The Cue and Scanadu ScoutTMallow allowing us to monitor our blood pressure level, testosterone level and other vital information by simply taking a sample. Moreover, a programme called DXplain, has been designed to differentiate diseases for doctors by just entering the symptoms.  Needless to say, these innovations have brought us into a whole new world of medicine.

The revolutionary age of medicine seems to be flawless at first glance, however, are there any drawbacks?   Firstly, these devices can possibly invade the patients’ privacy. Being able to track who is sick and carrying a virus in a community is certainly a ‘hack’ into one’s life. No one can guarantee that the medical records will stay confidential in such a system. Secondly, whose responsibility is it if there is a misdiagnosis? The complete absence of the patient-doctor relationship seems to have been completely forgotten with such advances.

Finally, I was asked a question in a career aptitude test, which rather took me aback and got me thinking far more seriously about pursuing a career in medicine. What is the most important skill that a doctor should have, that cannot be replaced by any advanced technology? In my opinion, communication is and always will be the first step of diagnosis.

Patients need not only the physical healing, but also reassurance.  A machine can never interact with patients.

Sympathy and encouragement are the basic elements of healing and the human component is essential to the healing process. Technology can aid the diagnostic process but the complex decision-making requires an analytical, empathetic approach which can only be offered by a skilled and experienced practitioner.

Tiffany Chan
Sherborne Girls

Science issue: Fluids – Volcanoes, Infection Control and Instabilities

Fluids: Volcanoes, Infection Control and Instabilities
UniversityFluid Mechanics is a subject that deals with the study of many astounding phenomena in fluids (gases or liquids), and it has applications in a vast number of fields such as Environment, Climate, Geology, Engineering, and Biological Fluids, its versatility is surprising.

The apparently unrelated studies of volcanoes and infection control can be studied using the same plume theory of fluid mechanics, and in recent years, researchers have used the study of plumes (a plume is one fluid going into another fluid because of the density difference between them) to understand the behavior of volcanoes.

They have run experiments using a salt water plume going down into fresh water (since salt water is more dense than fresh water) and into water which has been stratified (i.e., it has been set up such that it has an increasing or decreasing density with height) so as to resemble the atmosphere. These experiments have given them deep insights into conditions at the source of the volcano – which cannot be found using direct measurement.10B Neerja (2)

Researchers in the area of Environmental Fluid Dynamics are now using laboratory experiments to understand how to prevent air-borne infection spread in hospitals. It is estimated that about 2 million people in the United States are affected each year by air-borne infections – and this number is expected to be worse in countries with a lack of good health care facilities. Therefore, the study of the prevention of air-borne infection by understanding how the pathogens propagate in air, using fundamental Fluid Mechanics, is an important ongoing research problem.

Fluid Mechanics also helps researchers study the climate by observations of winds, among other things, and using theoretical models derived using mathematical equations. Scientists also use Fluid Mechanics to study the mechanics of blood circulation and flows in blood vessels. Thus, the study of Fluid Mechanics enables one to engage themselves in a vast number of fields, each of which has a direct application to real-world situations.

Another rather seemingly fundamental problem encountered in Fluid Mechanics is the Rayleigh-Taylor instability. The atmospheric pressure (i.e., the pressure exerted by air on anything surrounding it), as we know, is approximately about 105 Pascal (1 Pa = 1 N/m2). This pressure is also equivalent to the pressure exerted by a column of water that is about 10 meters in length. Now, one might ask: what does this mean physically? Well, it means that if you had a very long glass filled with water that is about 10 meters in length, and you suspended it upside down, the water would not fall out of the glass since the pressure in the atmosphere is sufficient to keep it in. However, as we notice in our everyday life, the atmospheric pressure can’t keep the water in even a very short glass – say one that is about 10 centimeters in length. The moment we reverse the glass, the water falls straight out and onto the floor. This, and many other such phenomena, can be explained by what is known as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which is one of the many astonishing instabilities encountered in fluid mechanics.

Neeraja Bhamidipati
Postgraduate Student

Career Path: BioBeat – inspiring the next wave of bioentrepreneurs

10A Miranda Weston-Smith - ClareCareerStudying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and being part of Murray Edwards was transformational. I’ve worked in publishing, seed capital, technology transfer, and now consult with companies, entrepreneurs and universities on growing biotech businesses and getting them ready for funding.


I founded BioBeat in 2012 to bring energy and growth to the bio sector and open a new chapter. As the world found its way out of the recession, and the biobusiness sector underwent massive transformation, I believed fresh strategies would help us to bring better health to people in a sustainable way.  One way to bring this about is for us all to engage with the inspirations of successful women entrepreneurs and leaders.  Looking on the podium or in the media, we often see half the world. I thought we needed to change that.

My experience of working with women bio entrepreneurs, and research too, suggests that they adopt different strategies for success – from building companies, working in teams and communication to raising funds and attitudes to risk. Understanding these success factors offers opportunities to develop business models that more effectively engage talent in broader, more inclusive and more dynamic ways.  The idea is to show fresh pathways to success and the people who are making an impact.

Porosity and elasticity is at BioBeat’s heart to be a platform for biotech innovation. The feedback from people coming to events is that they make useful connections to grow their business.

The Entrepreneurship Centre at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and the Innovation Forum are wonderful partners. BioBeat’s base is Cambridge, however its reach is UK wide with some international connections.

Growing BioBeat

In 2014, I launched the 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness report. This annual report identifies 50 inspirational women in biobusiness in the UK who are challenging the status quo to bring better health to people around the world. The report includes women in companies, research, hospitals, finance and advisory roles.

The 2015 report, which provides insights into the career paths of progressive scientists, reveals that 23 of the 50 women profiled are founders or co-founders of their own companies. The majority of the remainder run their own research labs or are in service functions such as finance or public affairs.


We are looking for 25 Rising Stars to include in the 2016 report. Rising Stars are women under 40 with at least one tangible biobusiness success who are challenging the status quo to bring better health to people around the world. They are the young leaders, the ones to watch, who are inspiring the next generation and making a global impact.   Please contact me if you would like to make a nomination.

I am working with MedImmune, the biologics arm of AstraZeneca, on the BioBeat16 event in Cambridge in November. If you would like to come along please get in touch.


Miranda Weston-Smith

Related topic: Jelena Aleksic – Out of the Lab: from Science to Business