What’s on : Lectures

Science for all – technology innovation with South pacific islanders

30 Apr 2019
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Dr Steve Johnson, Reader in Bionanotechnology, The University of York
Science for all - technology innovation with South pacific islanders

Event Information

Science for all – technology innovation with South pacific islanders
Dr Steven Johnson, Reader in Bionanotechnology, The University of York

Advances in technology have enabled biologists and physicists to work at the nanoscale and to combine their expertise in novel ways to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems.

In this talk, Dr Steve Johnson will present his vision of a new technology that is part-organic, part-inorganic, and that offers great diagnostic power. This is not only scientifically and technically very challenging, but also raises questions about how we ensure that such technology achieves the desired benefits to society. To answer that question, Dr Johnson and his team are working with communities on a remote South Pacific island to co-develop appropriate technologies that will give this disaster-prone region confidence in the cleanliness and safety of their water.

Presentation of the Malden Owen Award before the lecture. This lecture is in honour of Alan Owen, past YPS Chair

Member’s report

New biologically-inspired technologies are in development, in particular hybrid systems merging the functions and properties of biological systems with the world of electronics. This involves integration, detection and manipulation of biological materials such as DNA, peptides and proteins with electronic devices. Much of this is at the research stage, but diagnostic tools have been created already and one such tool, to analyse water quality, has been developed and may be introduced to the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu is probably the most disaster-prone country on earth. Active volcanos and regular cyclones affect supplies of clean fresh water, particularly in rural and remote areas, where water often becomes unsafe to drink. Remedying the problem is high on the Government priority list. When the team visited a remote area in the islands to test the water sensor’s effectiveness, they involved the islanders at every stage in discussing how best to introduce the equipment – a unit in each home or centralised facilities? In a society where village chiefs often have more influence than government officials, the team concluded that teaching them the technology, without dumbing down, and providing necessary training would give local people the ability to monitor water quality themselves. Work continues on producing the simplest-possible low-cost, low-power-consumption solution.

Ken Hutson