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December 2007 December 27, 2007

Posted by Anne in Uncategorized.

I can’t believe its time to begin the residency. We meet with some of the scientists who are prepared to explain some of the work they are doing and what it will mean to us on a day to day basis.

There is so much happening here and I have absolutely no idea where to begin. I don’t even know the questions that I need to ask!

I turn up for my first day’s proper work, and feeling apprehensive I use my shiny new pass to obtain access to the synchrotron and our studio. Immediately, in the giant ring for the first time on my own, I feel disorientated, but confidently stride two circuits, hoping noone will notice before I locate the studio and safety.

We have a good sized room but it feels impersonal and characterless. The sooner we get some work on the walls the sooner I will feel at home and that we have made a start.

Investigation for Treatments of Keratoconus

First taste of the science on I22 beamline!beam-on.jpg

Calibration was underway using rat collagen in preparation for Cardiff University who are looking at the treatment of keratoconus. This is a disease affecting the collagen in the cornea. The cornea is responsible for transmiting and focusing the light coming into the eye and the symptoms of this disease include glare, corneal astigmatism and increased sensitivity to light.

How simple the setup of this experiment appears compared to the complexity and sophistication of the synchrotron itself! This image shows sections of cornea wrapped protected by cheap clingfilm, apparently the most suitable material! Readings are taken in an 11 x 11 grid across each of the samples.

collogen.jpgThe cornea is made up of about 200 layers of collagen fibres, each layer has fibres lying in a different direction to give strength and rigidity, in sufferers of keratoconus these layers have slipped out of place. Cardiff are investigating the use of riboflavin (vitamin B2) which interacts with the UV light so rather than damaging the fibres it forms a glue and provide crosslinks between the fibres.

Immediately I can relate to the shared properties of a piece of textile and the fibres in a cornea and how the concept could be visualised. For more information visit http://www.nkcf.org/

Well, the end of the first month, I can now get to the studio without doing an extra circuit of the ring and have learnt more about science in 4 days at Diamond than I did in 5 years at school!

I have talked to scientists with a huge diversity of expertise. My initial impression is of how isolated each of the experiments is. The synchrotron is a circular structure, but each beamline fractures the ring. As more beamlines come on board, the more broken the structure is likely to become. An important part of the project, for me, is to provide a thread showing how all the aspects of this science fit together as part of a bigger picture.



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