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Sir Derman Christopherson/Sir James Knott Foundation

Fellowships

The Sir Derman Christopherson/Sir James Knott Foundation

Fellowships enable gifted Durham University researchers to take a

term’s leave from teaching in order to concentrate on their research.

Recipients are welcomed to the IAS to engage with its Fellows and

programme of activities.

Dr Mike Church

Archaeology

Dr Mike Church is a Reader and specialises in the environmental

archaeology of the North Atlantic islands, including Atlantic

Scotland, Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. His key research theme

addresses the interaction between humans and the environment in

these islands through reconstructing and analysing: 1) trajectories

of environmental change, 2) the impact of human settlement on

palaeoenvironments, 3) palaeoeconomies in different island settings

and 4) cultural adjustments to environmental marginality. This

research theme provides time-depth for understanding human

societal response to rapid environmental change that represents

one of the global challenges of the 21

st

century.

The Christopherson Knott Fellowship will allow Dr Church to focus

on his project

Contextualising the earliest settlers of the Faroe

Islands: an inter-disciplinary analysis of the archaeology at Á Sondu

whereby he aims to complete the post-excavation analysis and

monograph publication of the archaeological excavations at the

Late Iron Age / Viking farm mound at Á Sondum in the Faroes. The

remains include the first archaeological evidence for pre-Viking

human occupation of the Faroes, a Viking longhouse and medieval

structural and occupation deposits.

His proposed monograph will have resonance beyond the discipline

of Archaeology, with relevance to historians, environmental

scientists and the Faroese nation.

Dr Kasper Peeters

Mathematical Sciences

Dr Kasper Peeters is a Lecturer in Mathematical Sciences. His main

research interests are in particle and gravitational physics, but he

has also worked on problems in biomathematics. He will spend

his time as a Christopherson Knott fellow to work on his software

project “Cadabra”. This software aims to explore new ways in

which computer tools can help applied mathematicians manipulate

mathematical formulae, a topic known as “symbolic computer

algebra.” Over the past few years, the new approach taken with

“Cadabra”, which has already shown to be successful in physics,

has attracted the attention of other scientific areas, such as earth

sciences, as well as educators and students, who use “Cadabra” for

mathematical explorations not otherwise easily possible. The goal

will be to deepen these collaborations with other fields and bring the

power of the software to a larger group of researchers, educators

and students.

Dr Ehmke Pohl

Biosciences

Ehmke Pohl is Reader in Protein Crystallography, a position shared

by the Department of Chemistry and the School for Biological and

Biomedical Sciences at Durham.

His Christopherson Knott Fellowship will allow him to focus on

his research project entitled ‘

The development of Vitamin A

based fluorescent chemical probes.

’ Vitamin A refers to a group

of small lipophilic molecules that are essential nutrients for all

chordate animals including humans. These molecules possess a

myriad of functions from the immune system to vision, cell growth

and development. One major metabolite of Vitamin A, all-trans

retinoic acid (ATRA), plays key roles in embryo development as

well as cell differentiation and is strongly implicated in diseases

ranging from Alzheimers to cancer. Due to the enormous potential

of synthetic analogues as therapeutic, a research group lead

by Durham’s Professor Andy Whiting has designed, developed

and commercialised a number of synthetic ATRA analogues in

collaboration with High Force Research Ltd.

However, one major obstacle for specific use is the fact that ATRA

and its derivatives target multiple proteins and pathways in the

cell and the interplay of these pathways is poorly understood.

Therefore, via collaboration between Whiting and Pohl, fluorescent

derivatives were designed and synthesized that can be used as

direct probes for super-resolution microscopy in the Durham Centre

for Bioimaging Technology. In order to design compounds with

enhanced biological activity the molecular basis of ligand-target

interaction is currently being investigated by a range of experimental

biophysical and structural methods involving a joint project

supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

For further details about the Christopherson/Knott Fellowships,

and the 2017/18 Fellows and their projects, please visit:

www.dur.ac.uk/ias/christopherson_knott/

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