• Question: How have science and technology been able to work together over the years in projects like genome sequencing and what impact has this partnership had on the world?

    Asked by simisimisimi to Daren, Jenny, Lynne, Phillip on 25 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Daren Fearon

      Daren Fearon answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      Technology very much enables science and makes experiments possible today that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago but basic science makes developing these technologies possible.

      Genome sequencing is a good example. By sequencing the human genome we were able to identify the genetic causes of many diseases allowing drug discovery to focus on targeting the proteins that these genes encode for.

      Some scientists are now working on developing technology which can sequence an individual persons genome for much cheaper, with some companies claiming they can do this for less than $1000. This information could tell you how likely you are to contract certain diseases (if you have a genetic predisposition) and help you avoid things that may increase your risk of contracting it. This information could also help doctors customise what drugs to treat diseases you have based on your genetics using an approach called personalised medicine.

      Science and technology is a pretty solid partnership – together they are greater than the sum of their parts.

    • Photo: Lynne Thomas

      Lynne Thomas answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      The development of technology in all areas of the world has had a dramatic influence on our lives – it has made us all much better connected across the world and able to share our results much more freely. It has made some tasks in life take a lot less time – imagine how long it would take you if you were to wash your clothes by hand! Technology has helped us to automate large parts of scientific discoveries and so it has sped things up tremendously. In particular, computers have allowed us to build more advanced instruments to do experiments with and to speed up our data analysis. In fact there have been some projects where people in their own homes can install effectively screensavers which means that scientists can use their computer power when the user isn’t using it like overnight!

      My field of research has revolutionalised the world over the last 100 years too and most people aren’t aware of it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqQlwYv8VQI). To reflect this, 2014 has been designated the UNESCO International Year of Crystallography. The area was discovered 100 years ago by William and Laurence Bragg (father and son) and they got the Nobel prize for the discovery in 1915. Laurence Bragg is still the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Prize at the age of 25! They discovered that if we shine X-rays on crystals, the beam is split in a very particular way and we can use this information to determine the way atoms are connected together in the solid in three-dimensions. Without this discovery, we wouldn’t know many things about how the world around us works including what DNA looks like and also how a Lithium ion battery works.

      But it is technology that has helped us to make use of this discovery including the building of Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire which allows us to do state of the art measurements in our own country! And the computers have allowed us to look at more and more complex molecules which allows Daren to look at his protein molecules and to use the information to help him tackle antibiotic resistance. It also allows Jenny to see how her MOFs are able to hold gas molecules which might one day power your car! And it helps me to understand how my materials could be developed into better devices for things like your mobile phone! Or maybe even one day, colour changing paint for your car!