Solving single-use plastic waste with a dynamic duo

Science plays a vital part in all our lives. But what if Science were to suddenly be seen as, not a solver of climate change but as one of the significant polluters of planet Earth? Single-use plastic is the dilemma that faces every student and scientist working in labs today.

Even a small lab can get through vast stocks of single-use plastics. Gloves, pipettes, tubes, Petri dishes and vials are disposed of because they are contaminated and considered unrecyclable.

In 2018 lab technician Lisa McMillan and Technical Assistant Jo Brown decided they had to try to make the SAS labs’ plastic recyclable.

Like many groundbreaking ideas, Lisa and Jo’s research and development started in their own time; they began to formulate their approach on days off and after work.

At the start of 2019, they were ready to present to the University’s Staff Sustainability Network Group.

From this initial in-house presentation, Lisa and Jo moved on to share their work with colleagues from other universities across the UK. They started by presenting At the HeATED Regional Network Event held in Belfast. Some of the universities present included St Andrew’s, QUB, Edinburgh, Sheffield and Ulster.

Many more presentations and networking events are continuing to provide momentum for Lisa and Jo’s work. Their influence continues to grow, and in 2021 another impressive array of UK universities and institutes were present to hear about Lisa and Jo’s protocol at the EAUC Zoomscot share. The interest in their method had begun to widen to include the labs of Kings College London, the Institute for Cancer Research and the National Oceanography Centre. And the duo has also recently contributed an article on their work to Microbiologist magazine.

Back at their homes in Scotland, Lisa and Jo continue to fine-tune their protocol and work on new ideas. Every day in the labs of Napier University, they put into practice their first-ever safe recycling method.

Since they introduced the system in the SAS labs, they have sent an impressive 1500KG of single-use plastic that would otherwise have been sent to landfills to be recycled instead. If you have trouble visualising exactly how much plastic 1500Kkg represents, just think of 40 large external dumpsters.

Every year, a new cohort of students join Napier University. Every year, those students become increasingly aware and angry about the damage that plastics are doing to the planet. But one thing Napier students can be reassured about is that somewhere in the labs of the University a dedicated Lisa and Jo will continue to build upon their success and work towards creating more methods to make single-use plastics recyclable and ultimately to work towards reducing Science’s impact on the environment.

Contact

l.mcmillan@napier.ac.uk

j.brown5@napier.ac.uk

Pitch perfect. Falkirk’s visit to Sport Exercise Science Labs

In line with the Edinburgh Napier’s commitment to students gaining valuable first-hand experience, two postgraduate Sports & Exercise Sciences students were recently scheduled to work with Falkirk FC’s squad, to produce a pre-season assessment.

The Club’s players assembled at the state-of-the-art laboratories at Sighthill in June, to take part in a series of tests designed to record everything from their percentage body fat to their counter movement jump height.

The session was run by Laboratory Technician, Russell Wilson, and two Sport Performance Enhancement MSc students, Kieran McManus and Jack Brennan. They soon had the squad working hard:

  • Using the School’s new SECA portable body composition analysers to measure variables such as overall body fat percentage, resting energy expenditure, sectional skeletal muscle mass measurements and visceral adipose tissue.
  • Performing counter movement jumps and squat analysis using Kistler force plates. These provide information on jump height, relative maximal power and time spent in each phase of the jump/squat.
  • The club’s physio also requested hamstring force measurements, to establish pre-season baseline hamstring strength.

Falkirk players in ENU Sports labs

The following day, Kieran and Jack attended Falkirk’s stadium to assist with some additional testing. There, the students ran the players through some speed and agility drills, including straight sprint speed testing and the 5-0-5 agility test, using Witty timing gates to provide accurate velocity information.

Graeme Henderson, Head of Performance at Falkirk FC, was delighted with the sessions, which were also attended by Falkirk’s head coach, Paul Sheerin, and the club’s head physiotherapist, Rachel Gillen.

“The data will prove invaluable over the course of the season,” said Graeme. “It gives us an ability to provide a comparison throughout the season in relation to the physical levels we expect of our squad. It also helps with return to play protocols, should any player unfortunately suffer from injury, as we can compare to the baseline scores we now have.

“Throughout the process, the support we received from Edinburgh Napier has been excellent and highlights their ability to assist elite level athletes. The Master’s students provided insight in interpreting data, further underlining the world class level of academic learning provided at Edinburgh Napier.”

These interactions underline the University’s commitment to strengthening its existing relationship with the Scottish FA, who accredited a new undergraduate degree in Football Coaching, launched in 2019.

A degree designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes

My name is Eoin Flemming and I am a full time international Judo player, fighting for Ireland, and I plan on competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2024 Olympic Games.

I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier University as it was the only university that offered a course that was designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes.

The degree course is online and is very flexible when it comes to sitting our modules. This is essential for me, as Judo is a full-on sport with no off season like other sports. I mostly train two or three times a day for six days a week, so knowing this degree is there and understands these demands is great. I was able to complete one recent assignment for university whilst I was on a five-week training camp in Japan. Having the flexibility to study and complete assignments from anywhere in the world is very helpful, especially as my sport requires me to travel a lot.

Edinburgh Napier University has supported me tremendously. They are one of very few universities that truly understand the needs and demands placed on professional athletes. The creation of the course is huge for people like me who want to get a degree without the normal time constraints of normal degrees. I understand the importance of having a degree and furthering my knowledge in today’s society. I have to be prepared for what I am going to do after judo and this degree will give me greater opportunities for when that time comes. It is such a highlight to be given the opportunity to achieve this without it affecting my sports performance.

I have already recommended the BA Business and Enterprise Sport to some of my training partners as I feel this is the perfect course for athletes. The modules are specific to elite sport so I find them really interesting. I’d absolutely encourage other athletes to do the course and enjoy the unique experience of studying whilst being an athletes. You will be opening new opportunities for yourself for life after sport. The university has plenty of support systems in place for us if you ever were to need any help.