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Get the lowdown in a Life Sciences Master Class

Published: 30 January 2023 at 15:33

Women in a laboratory

New online series begins by looking at potential dangers of artificial sweeteners

Topics ranging from the environmental impact of cigarette butts to the potential dangers of artificial sweeteners will be covered during a new Life Sciences Master Class series at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

The series of online evening talks, which are open to the public, begins on Thursday, 2 February and runs until Thursday, 2 March, and will feature experts from ARU’s School of Life Sciences discussing their current research. All talks are free to attend but places must be reserved in advance.

The series kicks off with Dr Havovi Chichger, Associate Professor in Biomedical Science at ARU, providing an overview of how research into artificial sweeteners is changing how we think about gut health. 

In her talk on 2 February (7pm), Dr Chichger will discuss new research in her laboratory, carried out by ARU students, which demonstrates the way that certain sweeteners found in food and drink can affect how our gut bacteria work.

On 9 February (7pm), the focus will turn to ARU’s research into cigarette butts, which are the most common plastic litter item worldwide with around 4.5 trillion littered each year. They make up 66% of litter collected in the United Kingdom. 

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and take up to 14 years to break apart. They also shed microplastics and leach toxic chemicals into the environment. During her talk, Dr Dannielle Green, an ecologist at ARU, will give an overview of her latest research, including studies showing how cigarette butts can damage plants.

Forensic anthropologists are often called to help with the identification of human skeletal remains from buried sites or identify victims of mass disasters, and Dr Samantha Tipper, Lecturer in Forensic Science at ARU, will discuss the important role that teeth can play in this process during a talk on 23 February (7pm).

Teeth, which are the hardest part of the skeleton and so survive well, can provide information about age at death, sex, as well as daily habits, which can help investigators identify victims.

On 2 March (7pm), ARU microbiology experts will explain how we are currently losing the fight against bacteria as they learn to overcome the effects of antibiotics, and how antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is threatening to become a “silent pandemic”.

During their talk, Dr Caray Walker and Dr Christopher O’Kane will discuss how the transmission of resistant bacteria in the environment and in wildlife may impact public health, and why a “one health” approach is needed to tackle AMR.