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Boosting the magnetosensitivity of recombination reactions by radical scavenging

Call 2018
Chemistry

Scientific question: Can quantum effects in three-spin systems be used to vastly amplify the sensitivity of radical reactions to weak magnetic fields? Synopsis: Radical pair reactions are sensitive to weak magnetic fields. Remarkably, this is the result of truly quantum effects, which operate under conditions where the corresponding classical effects would be entirely negligible. This phenomenon likely underlies animal magnetoreception and has been discussed in the context of potentially adverse health effects related to weak magnetic field exposure. Often these effects are small, particularly for the magnetic field intensities encountered in our everyday surroundings. Understanding how these effects can be inherently amplified is the most pressing puzzle of quantum biology. Hypotheses: Recently, one of us has proposed an additional reaction pathway as part of the avian magnetic compass that acts to vastly amplify magnetic field effects (MFEs). This new mechanism relies on the spin-selective reaction of the usual radical pair with another, external, radical, which we refer to as a scavenger. As a consequence of the chemical Zeno effect, this process could provide unparalleled magneto-sensitivity. This project aims to afford the first experimental evidence of this amplification process. To this end, we will adapt a transient absorption spectrometer in Geneva to accommodate magnetic field-dependent measurements. This will allow us to detect directly the predicted peculiarities of MFEs in self-assembled three-radical systems. While we will only be able to realize a proof-of-principle realisation within this project, our efforts will allow us to collect pilot data for larger grant applications.

projects
Participants
Prof. Eric Vauthey
University of Geneva
Dr. Daniel Kattnig
University of Exeter

Climate extremes and hazards

Call 2018
Earth and Environment

This project aims to develop research and postgraduate teaching collaboration between staff in the Exeter Climate Systems (XCS) research centre (led by Prof. Stephenson) and the The Climate Change Impacts and Risks in the Anthropocene (C-CIA) team at U. of Geneva (led by Prof. Stoffel). The two climate centres are world-renowned for their work on climate hazards and extreme events, which are addressed using different disciplinary skill sets: mathematical modelling of weather and climate at XCS and climate change impact assessments at C-CIA. There is therefore much synergy to be gained by closer interdisciplinary collaboration between the two centres.The benefit of such collaboration was clearly evident in the very high impact publications created when Profs. Stephenson and Beniston last collaborated in EU projects PRUDENCE and ENSEMBLES from 2002-7 (in which Prof. Stoffel was a senior researcher back in time). Several ongoing projects at C-CIA have already been identified which could benefit from mathematical involvement from XCS: atmospheric rivers (and impacts over the Iberian Peninsula), polar vortex splitting and flooding over Europe, extreme rainfall events over Pakistan and Indian Kashmir in 2010/4, plus some more local, radar-based assessments of heavy precipitation and hail events in the Bernese Alps, reconstructions of volcanic cooling over the CE, in addition to climate change impacts in the Alps.

projects
Participants
Prof. David Stephenson
University of Exeter
Prof. Markus Stoffel
University of Geneva
Dr. Juan Antonio Ballesteros-Cánovas
University of Geneva

GEREx

Call 2018
History
Humanities
Literature

The Geneva-Exeter Renaissance Exchange (GEREx) will provide a forum for collaboration between the two universities in an area of mutual strength: the literature and culture of early modern England. More specifically, it will build on shared specialisms in early modern drama, the digital humanities, and book history. At the heart of the exchange will be a pair of events held six months apart. In November 2018, a delegation from Geneva will travel to Exeter to share both their current research and ideas for future projects under the umbrella of the Centre of Early Modern Studies, who will organise a symposium. In May 2019, the same will happen in reverse. Each delegation will include both junior and senior scholars, from doctoral students to full professors, and will deliver its message in a variety of forms—from short academic papers to lectures and workshops. The aim of the exchange will be to lay the groundwork for more sustained collaboration in the future, in teaching as well as research, and in print as well as in person. The first tangible outcome of this collaboration will be a joint proposal for a panel or seminar at a major international conference, with the topic to be agreed at the first symposium in November. The second symposium, in May 2019, will focus on exploring possible sources of funding for joint future projects.

projects
Participants
Dr Oliver Morgan
University of Geneva University of Neuchâtel
Prof. Pascale Aebischer
University of Exeter
Prof. Lukas Erne
University of Geneva University of Neuchâtel
Dr Johanna Harris
University of Exeter

Study of coordination and dynamics in pathological gait

Call 2018
Medicine
Health

Our understanding of human gait (the manner of walking and running) has been predominantly developed through biomechanical analyses using linear mathematics. However, both experimental and robotics fields have identified that an epistemological shift towards understanding the nonlinear dynamics inherent to our biological system is mathematically, theoretically and practically more fruitful. Specifically, nonlinear dynamics methods are used to explore and understand pattern stability, transitions between states, and deterministic and stochastic processes at different spatio-temporal scales during gait. It is likely that alterations in these nonlinear characteristic of biology are particularly pertinent in pathological movement, and provide more relevant indicators of health than classic mechanical measures. Therefore, in understanding human movement disorders and improving the management of these disorders, a nonlinear approach is key. The aim of this study is to quantify characteristics of the determinsitc properties of oscillations during walking in pathological states, in order to inform translational research. The purpose is to further understanding of the nonlinear characteristics of gait for pathological populations in order to underpin theoretically underpinned diagnoses and interventions. This project is a collaboration Dr Genevieve Williams (UoE), a biomechanist with an specialism in non-linear dynamics, Dr Stephane Armand (UNIGE), a clinical human movement scientist, and Dr Richard Pulsford (UoE) who has a specialism in physical activity monitoring. The team will bring together expertise in nonlinear dynamics analysis, clinical gait, and physical activity monitoring to progress clinical gait analysis and develop world leading translational research in this field.

projects
Participants
Dr Genevieve Williams
University of Exeter
Dr Stéphane Armand
University of Geneva
Dr Richard Pulsford
University of Exeter

Digital Financial Services: Law, Regulation, and Governance

Call 2020
Digital Studies
Business and Economics
Law

The project will be built on the existing research network investigating AI and data governance. The network involves Prof A Darbellay (AD) of the University of Geneva, Prof J Vananroye (JV) of the University of KU Leuven, and Prof J Lee (JL) of the University of Exeter. The first workshop was convened on 8 January 2020 at the University of Geneva. https://www.unige.ch/droit/numerique/fintech/

Applicants will work with experts in and from exchanges, banks (ie retail, investment), payment services, and corporate actions data services which have been using AI to process data, produce analysis, make decisions, and interact with other machines equipped with AI. AI and machine learning can have impacts on financial consumers and investors’ behaviour, individual autonomy, and democratic values. The machines store such personal data and make decisions about the user (data subject) with or without their knowledge (e.g. profiling). The problem is heightened when data are transferred to other machines (from robo-advisers to other e-commerce algorithms) which then make decisions for very different purposes with or without the user’s knowledge. For instance, a user may want to exercise control over the data stored and shared (i.e. the right to be forgotten) or claim compensation for harm done (i.e. being prevented from accessing a service due to wrongful use of AI). When AI’s legal status is unclear (a legal person, a product, or a service), users may face difficulties in identifying those responsible and obtaining redress from them. The research will address a current knowledge gap in the legal literature on artificial intelligence and data governance in the financial markets.

projects
Participants
Dr Joseph Lee
University of Exeter
Prof. Aline Darbellay
University of Geneva

Histories of Child-Saving in Africa: (Mis-)Understanding Childhood in Humanitarian Aid and Developmental Programmes, c.1935-2014

Call 2020
History
International Relations
Health

Since the 1950-60s, Africa has become a key site of humanitarian aid and developmental interventions. Children have been primary subjects of these actions, serving as universal icons of suffering across humanitarian campaigns. This project will establish an historical geneaology of ‘child-saving’ in Africa, from the first NGO child welfare clinic in 1935 in Addis Ababa to the 2014 #BringBackOurGirls campaign that spread globally from Nigeria. It will interrogate the political, cultural and emotional calculus of compassion that determines which children are adjudged befitting of concern and rescue. It asks how contemporary campaigns are shaped by legacies of (post-)colonial child-saving efforts, and by Western-originated, now globalized, notions of ‘childhood’ and racialized conceptions of ‘Africa’. It traces histories of Sustainable Development Goals custodian indicators on children. Such historical approaches will strengthen strategic thinking and effective practice within child-focused NGOs, delivering impact through helping organizations to better understand how context and temporality affect campaigning and how mis-readings of socio-political and cultural norms across Africa can inhibit effective interventions.

This project connects Exeter & Geneva researchers with archivists and practitioners from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC, National Red Cross, FICR, Geneva), Save the Children International (London, with archives in Birmingham), Save the Children Switzerland (Zurich), the archives of the Union Internationale de secours aux enfants (Geneva) and UNICEF (Geneva, New York) for three joint archival research sessions and academic-practitioner dialogues in Geneva, Birmingham and London culminating in a Geneva-based workshop to present pilot findings and develop future grant applications.

projects
Participants
Dr Stacey Hynd
University of Exeter
Dr Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps
University of Geneva

Nonlinear dynamics of walking in clinical populations 2020

Call 2020
Medicine
Health

Understanding the characteristics of impaired walking, in comparison to that of healthy individuals, is the key to developing and prescribing effective and efficient gait retraining interventions. Improving walking performance and quality has a high impact on the quality of life of the patients. The current project leverages UniGe’s world class facilities for collecting gait data on clinical populations in a hospital environment, alongside Exeter’s expertise in the application of non-linear dynamics analysis of gait. Combining these attributes, the aim of this project is to analyse the gait of clinical populations (e.g. children with cerebral palsy) using nonlinear dynamics analysis. The purpose is to underpin the development of gait retraining interventions to improve walking in patients with impaired gait.

Funded by the Seed Corn round of the GenEx fund, our first collaboration in 2019 has led to the development of methods to assess the nonlinear dynamics of constrained healthy gait collected at the UniGe facility. With this Seed Award, we will apply the methods developed to analyse the walking pattern of patients with gait impairments. This new application will provide pilot data to support an application for Wellcome Trust funding to apply this knowledge to underpin the development of a contemporary gait retraining and assessment protocol.

This research is at the forefront of a step-change in the analysis and subsequent understanding of impaired gait. By bringing together our two universities and research groups, outputs will be of internationally excellent, and strengthen our applications for external funding.

projects
Participants
Dr Genevieve Williams
University of Exeter
Dr Stéphane Armand
University of Geneva

Policies for decarbonising residential heating in Switzerland and the UK at the time of a climate emergency

Call 2020
Earth and Environment

Heating contributes to around 50% of the final energy consumption in Switzerland and in the UK. About 75% of the heat supply in both countries is from fossil fuels leading to large CO2 emissions. The UK’s net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050 and the Swiss target of lowering 50% emissions by 2030 (relative to 1990) mean that heating in both countries must be rapidly decarbonised. Although technical solutions exist, there are many hurdles in decarbonising residential heating. The required changes are transformative with improvements to buildings, replacement of existing heating technologies and addition of new infrastructure. Policy measures therefore have a very important role to play in overcoming these hurdles.

This project looks to increase research power and create impact by building on nationally recognised expertise around sustainable heating policy at both Exeter and Geneva in order to build a new research relationship based around teaching and knowledge exchange alongside collaborative policy workshops in each country.

The project will analyse the existing policy measures (financial, fiscal, legislative) for decarbonising residential heating. Uptake of these measures and their impact on decarbonisation will be examined. The project will involve key policy actors and institutions to identify the success factors, problems and the lessons learnt around heat policies in both countries.

projects
Participants
Prof. Martin Patel
University of Geneva
Dr. Kapil Narula
University of Geneva
Dr. Richard Lowes
University of Exeter
Dr. Bridget Woodman
University of Exeter

Public History and the Geopolitics of Memory in Russian, Chinese and Korean Frontier Museums

Call 2020
History
Area Studies
International Relations
Humanities

The frontier encompassing Russia, China and the Korean peninsula is a region of political and economic competition, ethno-cultural diversity, mobile populations and shifting borders. Present-day narratives of cooperative development coexist with historical memories of imperial conflict. These states balance the rhetoric of regional integration to international audiences with the enhancement of domestic patriotism. Public history becomes a battleground where these tensions are played out.

This project analyses how public history is presented in frontier museums of the Russian Far East (RFE), Manchuria and South Korea, benefitting from the linguistic and fieldwork expertise of both researchers, who have considerable experience in the region. It examines how historical narratives of 17th to 20th-Century imperial competition are selectively packaged for domestic visitors or transborder tourists. Furthermore, it explores how conflict over territory and cultural inheritance is read back even into the pre-modern history of Goguryeo and Balhae. It therefore contributes significantly to geopolitical discussions on Sino-Russian relations as an “Axis of Convenience”.

Initial research was conducted in the RFE and Heilongjiang in 2019. It revealed deliberate ambiguity, even factual manipulation, in Russian state museum narratives of border demarcation and colonial settlement. Manchurian museums combined a celebration of Russian influence with anti-Russian, nationalist messages. Funding is sought to expand fieldwork into Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Korea. The Russian findings have been solicited by Eurasian Geography and Economics; Chinese and Korean material will yield at least two further publications. The project culminates in a joint Exeter-Geneva workshop on historical memory and public history.

projects
Participants
Mr Iacopo Adda
University of Geneva
Dr Yuexin Rachel Lin
University of Exeter

Quantum thermal machines

Call 2020
Physics

Quantum mechanics has enabled fascinating advances in fundamental and applied science in the past decades, from quantum computation to the miniaturisation of technologies and the detection of gravitational waves. Within the research field of quantum thermodynamics, one main question is whether quantum mechanics clearly provides an advantage for operating nanoscale thermal machines.

With this collaborative research grant, we want to take a concrete step towards this goal by investigating the time-resolved dynamics of a thermal machine that generates quantum correlations. The model of the device comprises two artificial atoms placed within a cavity. Remarkably, this device is highly versatile, being a promising platform for quantum thermal machines but also a building block for quantum computation. By analysing the dynamics of the electro-magnetic field leaving the cavity within the framework of stochastic thermodynamics, we will determine 1) the energetic quantities associated with the functioning of this quantum machine, and 2) whether this field carries information about the presence of quantum correlations. The experimental feasibility of this device will be assessed based on these results, providing key insights about nanoscale heat managing and energetic costs of quantum computations.

The Exeter and Geneva lead applicants are internationally recognised specialists in quantum thermodynamics theory with a complementary expertise that will benefit this project. The project will involve two newly recruited members of staff and two existing PhD students from either side. The project will allow the two internationally visible groups to team up, establish collaborations and do ground work for lager future research projects.

projects
Participants
Dr Géraldine Haack
University of Geneva
Shishir Khandelwal
University of Geneva
Prof. Nicolas Brunner
University of Geneva
Prof. Janet Anders
University of Exeter
Dr Luis Correa
University of Exeter
Stefano Scali
University of Exeter