• Question: What is your favourite topic in science

    Asked by Jonty and Elsie on 16 Jan 2024. This question was also asked by axes499bed, rung1pub, step499eve, team1apt, bath1wry, gest1she, nada1tag.
    • Photo: Georgia Lambert

      Georgia Lambert answered on 16 Jan 2024:

      It’s hard to pick just one but I’ll give it a go! I think it is probably social behaviour in animals. By that I mean any interaction between two or more animals. You having a chat with your friends during lunchtime is an example of social behaviour in humans! I love this topic because I find it very relatable since I myself am a social animal, I can see it happening with my own eyes all the time (its as simple as going to the park and listening to bird song 🎵 – thats birds talking to each other 🦆) and it is responsible for a lot of the silly noises/jazzy colours/funny movements animals make!

    • Photo: Lisa Russell

      Lisa Russell answered on 16 Jan 2024:

      Biology – ever since studying Biology at A ‘level. The human body and how it functions blows my mind. Getting to studying what happens when it goes wrong gets me out of bed in the morning!

    • Photo: Zoe Vance

      Zoe Vance answered on 16 Jan 2024:

      I’m very biased because it’s my own broad area that I study, but I really love evolutionary biology. It’s so cool to see how a living thing’s surroundings both now and in the past can shape everything about it. It also still feels like magic to me to be able to trace back what happened in the distant past based on features left behind in species that exist in the present. I work on evolution at the DNA level now but more obvious adaptations to the environment were what made me want to work in this topic. I saw some succulents at a uni open day that have evolved to look like pebbles to avoid being eaten and just thought it was the coolest thing ever. They’re called lithops and they’re probably a lot of the reason I’m in this job now!

    • Photo: Neil Guthrie

      Neil Guthrie answered on 16 Jan 2024:

      As a Sport, Exercise and Health Science Technician, I have to say, Sport, Exercise and Health Science! :

    • Photo: Margaret Laurie

      Margaret Laurie answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I really enjoyed Chemistry at school, I remember getting excited when the bunsen burners came out and we would boil salt from water. Seeing those physical changes and going through that rigorous process was really fascinating to me. That process, planning, and observation is something that I’ve carried with me across all my studies and I skill that I still very much use today.

      I did more social sciences in my later phases at school, and I enjoyed Geography (especially human geography, i.e. how places and spaces are designed for and influenced by people) and Psychology (which is what I eventually ended up specialising in).

    • Photo: Jayne Roberts

      Jayne Roberts answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      Great question and it’s hard to pick just one thing! When I was at school I loved anything to do with biology, particularly human biology. At university I remember doing a module on behavioral neurobiology which basically involved studying the brain and how it influences our characteristics for example if you are left handed, the right side of your brain is in charge and vice versa. In my job as an environmental scientist I use more chemistry than biology however there are many times when I have to use both and love being able to link the two together.

    • Photo: Michael Capeness

      Michael Capeness answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      Well I really like biology, and specifically microbiology; the study of very small organisms. I think it’s fascinating to learn about how something so small can carry out very complex tasks, and how we can use this to help real world problems.

    • Photo: Arun Patel

      Arun Patel answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      As a physics nerd I’d have to say anything to do with physics or space, especially quantum physics which never fails to blow my mind! But honestly it’s equally fun to hear about topics I’m less familiar about, like psychology or biology – basically anything that gets me thinking and sparks a debate is a good topic for me!

    • Photo: Daniel Friedrich

      Daniel Friedrich answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I did an undergrad in maths with a focus on application to engineering and computer science and that’s what I am still doing and enjoying tremendously today. I like that maths can give you an exact answer which makes decisions easier. However, I am working with a lot with social scientists on societal problems to bring in some extra challenges and uncertainty.

    • Photo: Rachel Edwards

      Rachel Edwards answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I love how well physics and maths work together – you can do some maths, and explain a lot about how the universe behaves. At the moment I’m teaching how to put materials together, looking at where the atoms sit relative to each other and how that tells you how the material is going to behave, for example how well it will conduct electricity. It’s fascinating :).

    • Photo: Tom Kitching

      Tom Kitching answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I went into chemical engineering, because I liked maths, physics and a bit of chemistry. As chemical engineering is a lot to do with forces and energy, which you cover in physics, and thermodynamics and chemical reactions, which you cover in chemistry, I’d say those topics.
      Forces are all about understanding how things pushing, pulling, pumping, compressing etc. impact on solids, fluids and gases.
      Thermodynamics is about understanding how heat flows between substances.
      Chemical reactions make everything a bit more interesting as an engineer as you have to think about how those reactions produce heat or gases or new substances and how your process handles those.

    • Photo: Li Xuan Sim

      Li Xuan Sim answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      Definitely my area of study: cancer! There’s so many different types of cancer and there’s also different patient differences that makes it so difficult to understand. There’s always new things to learn and it’s especially exciting when a team has made a breakthrough in understanding how we can better kill cancers and improve quality of life.

    • Photo: Ben Dryer

      Ben Dryer answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I love physics, it has always resonated with me, and I find it gives you the tools to provide insights into other sciences such as engineering, chemistry, biology. It teaches you the very fundamentals of how the world works, along with experimental and problem solving skills that apply to many different fields. I apply my love for physics to materials and space science. However I love to learn about all forms of science, and I find the more I learn, the more that there are links between the science I do for work, and other science I learn about out of interest.

    • Photo: David McGonigle

      David McGonigle answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      An interesting question, Jonty and Elsie – thank you!

      My answer may surprise you: I’m a neuroscientist (someone who studies the brain and nervous system), but I have to say mathematics, as bad as I am at it.

      Maths is a topic that influences everything I do, although it may not be obvious! To produce lovely pictures of brains using MRI (a brain imaging technique used in hospitals and research), the machine has to use scarily complex maths. To work out where my brain stimulation current is going (yes, I do inject electricity into peoples’ brains!), again, I need some very complex maths to help.

      I don’t fully understand a lot of the equations that work ‘under the hood’ (we can all drive cars – when we’re the right age! – without having to write a 2000 word essay on internal combustion), but I can, with effort, appreciate the different steps.

      I’m not suggesting you drop everything and take up maths (!), but I would say that, in a lot of sciences, it’s a great help – particularly as ‘big data’ methods (using lots and lots of individual experiments or observations to work out general results) are now common in everything from bird migration in zoology to human decision making in psychology.

    • Photo: Katie Wood

      Katie Wood answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      As a psychologist, I would have to say psychology! I love learning about people, how they make sense of the world, and what is going on in people’s brains.

    • Photo: Erin Pallott

      Erin Pallott answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      My favourite topic in science is parasitic diseases. This includes worms like tapeworms and hookworms, and other single-celled parasites that cause diseases like malaria. It is so interesting how they evolved alongside us, finding new ways to live off our own bodies, instead of being free-living creatures. I have always loved gross science topics since I was a kid, so it is not surprising I grew up to research parasites!

    • Photo: Fergus McKiddie

      Fergus McKiddie answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      Obviously my own topic of medical physics, but if I had to choose another area, I would be very interested in the behaviour of black holes. It is an area that is constantly moving forward as we get new data and observations from new telescopes and satellites.

    • Photo: Philippa Harding

      Philippa Harding answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I think DNA and genetics are incredible! It always amazes me that we all carry around this code which tells all the cells of our body what to do, and the same code can make cells of the eye see, and also cells of the tongue taste!

      I also love that your DNA is part of what makes you unique, from the colour of your eyes to what food you enjoy, it is all influenced by your genes.

    • Photo: Stephanie Foster

      Stephanie Foster answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      I have always loved learning about how the human body works. We are amazing, there are such complex and clever things going on inside us all the time.

    • Photo: Charles Douch

      Charles Douch answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      Biomimetics is really interesting, looking at ways nature can solve complex human problems. A great example looks at how whales move so efficiently in water and utilising learnings from their fin design to make wind turbines more efficient.

    • Photo: Adam Washington

      Adam Washington answered on 17 Jan 2024:

      My favourite topic is one I rather stumbled into in my career – Structural Colour. We’re used to thinking of colours as coming from a material. Copper is reddish, milk is white, and glass is clear. When we want to change the colour of something, we add a dye or a paint to change the material. However, was if we wanted to change something’s colour without brining in anything new.

      I’m going to stop for a second here to ask you to look at your finger nails. Unless you’ve painted them, they’re likely a rather translucent whitish colour. Your finger nails are made of keratin, just like your hair and the feathers on a bird. I mention birds because of the bright white feather or a swan or the blue feathers of the Indian roller. How does keratin come in all of these different colours?

      The answer is that, in the bird feathers, there are tiny little holes in the keratin. These holes are so small that they are about the same size as visible light. The light bounces off of these holes, so, instead of being mostly transparent like our fingernails, all the light bounces off of the swan’s feather and it looks a brilliant white. For the Indian roller, the holes are very specifically sized so that only the blue light is scattered (actually, they mostly reflect ultraviolet light, but we don’t see that like the birds do, so humans only notice the blueness).

      Part of what makes Structural Colours so fascinating is that it can cross into so many different domains of science. There’s the physics of how the individual light particles scatter off of the holes in the material. There’s the chemistry of how these materials build the tiny holes. There’s geology and biology in learning about the various rocks and living creatures that have these colours. There’s mathematics in understanding the connections between the geometry of the material and the colour that comes out. There’s even a little bit of psychology in understanding how our minds process the colours from the lights that connect to the eye.

      It even comes into medical issues. The lenses of your eyes contain collagen to provide support. If you do a quick calculation of the amount of light one collagen fibre will scatter and multiply that by the number of fibres in your eye, the math will tell you that you should be blind! The reason that you’re not is because the fibres are arranged in a very specific structure that cancels out all of the scattering and the lens becomes clear again. However, as we get older, we lose some of those fibres, creating holes in the pattern. As the number of holes increases, the structure loses its cancelling power and the lens of the eye becomes opaque. This is where cataracts come from.

    • Photo: Hannah Fawcett

      Hannah Fawcett answered on 17 Jan 2024: last edited 17 Jan 2024 5:43 pm

      I loved psychology at college and that is now definitely my passion as a psychology lecturer! I love using my knowledge of psychology to understand what is happening in the criminal justice system – how do jurors reach their decisions and are they always fair? – and using this knowledge to help make the justice system more effective and more fair for all involved.

    • Photo: Penny Timpert

      Penny Timpert answered on 18 Jan 2024:

      I really enjoy looking at the physical properties of materials and exploring how we can influence them using chemicals or heat or pressure (or maybe all three). I find it fascinating that coal and diamonds are both made of carbon and yet so very different. Add in some hydrogen and oxygen and you can make an enormous variety of things.

    • Photo: removed scientist

      removed scientist answered on 18 Jan 2024:

      I like many subjects but I think that is true of most of the people here. I read a lot around the subjects I work in but probably enjoy animal and artificial intelligence the most.

    • Photo: David Bremner

      David Bremner answered on 18 Jan 2024:

      For me it has to be the human body. My work involves how to keep a person healthy through what we eat but when you start thinking about the body and all its complex processes it needs to function then i am truly in awe at just how amazing a machine it is.

    • Photo: Lisa Hursell

      Lisa Hursell answered on 18 Jan 2024:

      I love space exploration, and I love anything to do with new data science techniques like machine learning & AI

    • Photo: Esra Hassan

      Esra Hassan answered on 18 Jan 2024:

      im going to be super cheeky here – I actually cant pick. Theres so many interesting things out there in the world. One morning im like wow the brain is just so cool and complex. Another day im finding out trees communicate with each other and water has memory and im like wow mind blown. Then im watching tv shows like the traitors and then im like this is so social psychology. So basically im just an over enthusiastic scientist all round.

    • Photo: Liam Herringshaw

      Liam Herringshaw answered on 19 Jan 2024:

      Ichnology – the study of fossil tracks, trails, burrows and borings. It helps us understand ancient plants and animals as living things, rather than dead things.

    • Photo: Emma Weir

      Emma Weir answered on 23 Jan 2024:

      I think the brain is the coolest thing to study, it does so many complex things and literally keeps us alive but there’s still so much we don’t know about it!

    • Photo: Sharon Madzorera

      Sharon Madzorera answered on 24 Jan 2024:

      I just love anything biology to be honest. I have studied viruses a lot, and I am fascinated by virology and immunology and the race between the two during infection.

    • Photo: Lauren Graham

      Lauren Graham answered on 24 Jan 2024:

      I really liked my degree subject which was Biochemistry!!

    • Photo: Kirsty Ross

      Kirsty Ross answered on 31 Jan 2024:

      My career has changed so much (microbiology>immunology>public engagement with research (chemistry)>industry liaison (computer science) that it is hard to pick a favourite.

      I do feel like I’ve found a comfortable and interesting niche in understanding Wikipedia and her sister projects. At the moment the space isn’t too busy with researchers, so I can have more of an impact. I’ll always have a soft spot for vaccine research though.

    • Photo: Clara Ferreira

      Clara Ferreira answered on 15 Feb 2024:

      Radiation – I did a project work in my last year in secondary school, which made me understand more about radiation and that was what made me follow Nuclear Medicine just one year later.

    • Photo: Martin McCoustra

      Martin McCoustra answered on 13 Mar 2024:

      I guess my favourite topic at the moment is the focus of my research group… trying to understand the chemical evolution of universe.