We’d like to give a very warm welcome to our newest team member Aboli Sanjay Vavle!
Aboli is an international student from India. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology in India. During her course, she was a part of a seminar on DNA Fingerprinting and studied modules like Toxicology and Biotechnology Techniques in Forensic Science which influenced her a lot to choose Forensic Science as her subject for Masters degree. For her Master’s final semester project she worked on Secondary transfer and persistence of fibres, which is now submitted to Science and Justice and will be published soon – watch this space. She completed her Masters in Forensic Science from Northumbria University, Newcastle. Following completion of her degree her passion for research in fibres remained and thus, enrolled onto a PhD program to continue this area of research. She is currently a full time PhD student at Teesside University. With good background knowledge in fibres on surfaces, she will now be investigating fibres in buried environment, mainly focusing on degradation of the dyes and how this study can be useful in forensic and archaeological context. Besides science, she is very passionate about singing, reading, travelling, new gadgets and photography. She is a foodie and loves trying out new and different cuisines.
On top of the need for speed, two members of this research group found themselves in need of a course in spectroscopy this month. Luckily, ThermoFisher Scientific came to our aid, and so new PhD student Aboli and I (hi, this is Helga!) were able to take a trip up to Paisley, Scotland, to be showered with spectroscopic knowledge this week.
Aboli and I took a seat at the back of the room closest to the morning pastries, with direct access to the tea station. Luckily, we both remembered to bring our glasses!
It has been a great couple of months for Bioarchaeology research group, we have seen a wide range activities, we presented posters at RAC/TRAC, including winning the student prize – a great showcase for our work with Vindolanda – many congratulations to Rhys Williams, we have welcomed a new started Aboli Valve – whom will be starting work on archaeological fibres, we presented at the annual School research day, successfully completed 10 undergraduate projects, again including one which was awarded the school poster prize, so it is time for a rest!! Not at all, the planning of the instrumentation for the National Horizons Centre is continuing and there will be some exciting news on this in the coming months ahead, if you do want to work with us in the field of proteomics, metabolomics, bio-imaging, chemical characterisation using Raman, FTIR and many more, please do get in touch.
One of my conference highlights this year as group leader, is my attendance at ASMS in San Diego. What a fantastic conference, great location and I just love the American hospitality.
This week, TUBA attended the Roman Archaeology and Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (RAC/TRAC), dubbed the “premier international event devoted to Roman archaeology”. Some may wonder, what have the Romans ever done for us? Well, the conference featured no conspirators in a darkened room, no masked activists, although there was a Matthias (and probably a Reg, Stan and Francis too), and certainly an ominous mist coating the city. Despite the absence of Monty Python sketches, the RAC/TRAC did enlighten the audience on many aspects of Roman life, many of which still influence life today. And here, we’re going to share with you just a snapshot of our time there!
This year, RAC/TRAC was held at Edinburgh, a truly fascinating city with a wealth of knowledge and hidden treasures. There are also some questionable “treasures”, that is, if you consider a pocketbook made out of the tanned skin from the buttocks of the late William Burke as a treasure. If that, and the other pathological displays housed in the Surgeon’s Hall Museum sound a bit too morbid for you, then just round the corner is the marvellous and deceptively massive National Museums Scotland.
This week, the TUBA team visited Vindolanda to carry out some analysis ready for the RAC/TRAC conference next month. After a drive through the roads waving over the hills, past the remnants of snow refusing to melt away, we arrived with instruments in hand ready to power through bundles of fabulous artefacts. We had attempted the voyage two weeks ago but Vindolanda was snowed in for EIGHT DAYS!
Now, we can’t give away too many details, or we’ll spoil the surprises for our conference post. But how about this for a sneak peek? First, Rhys was using the 3D scanner to model skulls and arrows. Thanks to him, the room had to be plunged into darkness all day. Fortunately the sun wasn’t shining, or that would have been a shame to miss!
Next, we have Helga using the X-ray Fluorescence analyser on a wealth of artefacts rich in vivianite. Her ability to concentrate and precisely balance the scanner all day was more than impressive!
And finally, TUBA members Caroline and Gillian enjoyed a great discussion with visitor Dr Elizabeth Greene over posters for the conference, Vindolanda discoveries, and leather preservation.
We hope you’re satisfied with that sneak peek. Look out for our conference-special post coming next month!
P.S. what Sunday blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning food? If you’re visiting Vindolanda, definitely visit the café, it’s delightful!
Our project students are getting started with their intensive semester of lab work, progressing toward their final piece of work. Ollie is using SEM to look at the condition of leather after being buried in the trial microcosms laid last year, and comparing it against various different animal leathers. Kirsty is using FTIR to look at changes in the wood samples after burial.
Recently, the TUBA team has been investigating how best to analyse soil at Vindolanda. This is very important- I mean, it IS what makes up the site. And so, Helga and myself have been trialling ICP-MS and XRF. But before any of that, we donned our chef hats and got to cooking, though by cooking, we were heating up soil to remove the moisture and determine how much organic matter is lost after heating.
Doesn’t sound so tasty, I know. But look at the lovely array of brown, like looking at a student’s first attempt at a dinner party! Continue reading “Starting to See What the Soil Says”→
This week, I had the utmost pleasure of going to the ‘8th Bone Diagenesis Meeting’ conference. Founded by Robert Hedges in Oxford in 1988, the Bone Diagenesis Meeting has been held every four years across Europe and Africa, with the eighth meeting back in (temporarily) sunny Oxford. Pop the kettle on and put your feet up, because today I’m going to share my experience there with you!
As the summer rolls on and it seems to go quicker every year, it gives me time to spend some time outside the lab. I need proof that I do indeed spend sometime outside, as currently, the PhD students do not think I venture out into the field so here are some pictures to prove that I can do more than laboratory work!
In a boat last month – disguised by a silly hat!
ok so this one is a little older.. but I am getting my feet wet!
The research team have a broad remit of understanding bone diagenesis and decomposition, mostly this relates to archaeology, but also to forensic and biomedical applications. check out our sister site of https://blogs.tees.ac.uk/tuhumbugs/, This summer so far has meant learning new techniques, setting up microcosms in the laboratory, developing methods in the laboratory, catching up current research and more importantly writing.. watch this space.
For myself the laboratory is really where I am at home, since working in the Biomedical Mass Spectrometry Unit, Newcastle University, my passion has always been the development of new methods, especially towards the measurement of amino acids and organic compounds. I spent three fantastic years in Leipzig, Germany at http://www.eva.mpg.de/evolution/index.html where I worked with one of the first LC-IRMS instruments. Since coming to Teesside University, I have built up a research team that investigates bone diagenesis, decomposition and amino acid metabolism for a range of applications. Our department has a strong forensic and biomedical focus and thus the instruments I work with are also applied to drug analysis. The unique opportunity to work on material at Vindolanda, Northumberland has allowed the research team to grow and use our expertise to aid the understanding of preservation mechanisms in waterlogged environments and importantly provide knowledge as to how to preserve and manage these important World Heritage Sites.
As the summer ends and the new term starts we will be bringing you a snapshot of what research we are doing, where we are presenting, what we are publishing and all the great stuff that our research team does.. we may also post some pictures of our holidays!
Graduation week is always a special occasion in the academic calendar, one of my personal highlights towards this goal occurs in the final year as the science research project – students building confidence through development of laboratory skills and engaging with academic literature. One of the main research areas is decomposition, understanding bone diagenesis and factors which impact on this.
This year one of the Forensic Science students studying the decomposition of blood was Lucy Fox. Lucy investigated the chemical changed that occur in blood once it has been deposited on a surface, comparing different types of animal blood, such as dog, horse and sheep. Understanding the chemical changes in blood is important to aid investigations in biomedical science and forensic science.
The best part in this report was the comment ‘I loved being in the labs and particularly the chemistry side of the course.’ if only we could convert everyone to the love of decomposition chemistry..