What's happening with Science at the University of York?


See a snapshot of the latest findings from University of York research

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Image by Patrick Hook-Willers

By Patrick Hook-Willers

The enforced closure of the University of York campus to students and staff alike as a result of COVID-19 has meant that university life as normal has been on hold, but not in every department.

Many of York's scientists have remained in post throughout lockdown both commencing and concluding significant research projects and continuing to advance the long list of discoveries made at the university. Keeping this research going amidst these circumstances is essential for a great many reasons, financially as well as scientifically, and has offered some much needed progress at a university that is otherwise in limbo.

Much has been achieved over the past few months by York researchers, and much looks to be on the near horizon also, read below to see three examples of what some of York's world-renowned research has been contributing to, or will be in the near future.

The new role of quantum physics in cyber security

The University of York will be starting out on a major project to increase the reliability and accuracy of Random Number Generators (RGNs) through the use of quantum physics.

As things stand, RGNs are a fundamental element of cyber security protecting all forms of accounts, be it Xbox Live or Barclays, but currently lack a process of their own to ensure that the numbers generated for security are truly random. RGNs that utilise quantum physics are thought to be an answer to this problem, given the ability of quantum RGNs to produce undoubtedly random numbers each time they are required, on any device in the world.

As part of an interdisciplinary project funded by the UK government's International Strategy Challenge Fund, the York contribution to this project aims to "bring together the expertise and knowledge of partners" within the field to create a process to verify the accuracy of these RGNs to promote their use and commercialisation.

New COVID-19 treatment system for young cancer patients

The Low-risk Febrile Neutropenia Programme was jointly developed by researchers based in York, Switzerland, and Australia serves the purpose of identifying young cancer patients with COVID-19 related symptoms who can be treated at home.

The heightened risk of developing febrile neutropenia, a fever that prompts a low number of white blood cells, among many cancer treatments in young children makes this a highly important move amid the global pandemic that could prevent many young patients from being exposed to the potentially fatal COVID-19 virus.

Trials of the system have already taken place in Leeds, London, and Newcastle. In Leeds Teaching Hospital, from the 32 children with febrile neutropenia, nine have been sent home with a full support plan and antibiotics course in just a day, reducing the usual hospital admissions time by a third.

New greenhouse gas monitoring technology developed

York researchers have developed a new system, named SkyLine, intended to help scientists and researchers fully gauge the effect of humans on climate change. This new system removes the limitations of existing technologies relating to landscape and habitat meaning that wider, more accurate data can be collected.

The system was developed jointly by York's Biology and Environment & Geography departments and uses soil and water samples from key locations with a series of cylindrical chambers suspended on a wire, which periodically drops to collect data. The new system uses low-cost, sustainable materials and is highly cost-effective and low-maintenance, and offers scientists working in remote and harsh conditions the ability to record in all real-word conditions 24 hours a day.

The SkyLine 2D system has already been trialled on a range of different European landscapes in the UK and Europe, and has paved the way for a larger version to be developed, named SkyLine 3D. Over the next 12 months, the systems will be used extensively and potentially form the basis of a new company to better meet the significant demand for their use.