Tag Archives: applications

Graphene – Does it matter to vets?

graphene sourceWhy has there been all this fuss lately about a substance that many of us have never even heard of and yet have probably all created each time we use a simple pencil, and was isolated using nothing more elaborate than strips of Scotch tape? What relevance could it possibly have to our lives and to those of us in practice? Well, it seems that the answer to this is potentially “quite a lot.” In fact, graphene is a material that is being touted as possibly leading a brand new industrial revolution, with multiple uses in everything from energy, computing and medicine.

What is graphene?

It is a form of carbon that is arranged in a 2D single sheet, with the atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. Discovered in 2004 by two Nobel Prize-winning scientists working out of Manchester University (UK), Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, it has some pretty incredible properties, which are getting lots of people quite excited across a whole swathe of industries.

What properties does graphene have?

1. It is a crystal lattice of only 1 atom thickness
2. It is about 300 times stronger than steel
3. It conducts electricity much better than copper
4. It is transparent
5. It is flexible and take any form imaginable
6. It can be combined with other single-atom 2D lattices to create a whole range of unique materials, with properties useful to a variety of industries
7. It is the thinnest and lightest material ever obtained
8. It is harder than diamond
9. It is a perfect thermal (heat) conductor
10. It is very stretchable and can be stretched up to 20% of it’s original length

It is basically a SUPER MATERIAL!

These properties make graphene potentially useful in the following applications:

Flexible DisplayFlexible screens – the idea of a foldable, bendable touchscreen is possible with the use of graphene, given it’s properties of flexibility, transparency and conductivity. Imagine your own pair of barely perceptible clinical ‘glasses’ that enable you to access all of the clinical information that you could need instantly and in front of your eyes. Never again will you forget the name of Mrs Thing’s dog or cat, and MRI images will be beamed to your eyes the moment they are taken.

Computer ChipNext generation computer chips – the days of bulky computer stations in vet practices will be a thing of the ancient past, with super fast, ultra mobile, impossibly thin computing power transforming our consult rooms into clean, comfortable, quiet havens of solitude in which our clients and their animals will feel much happier. They will be so much easier to keep spotlessly clean as well.

Graphene the wonder materialNew composite materials – from advanced implants to fabrics with incredible properties, including the ability to sense changes in local tissue conditions, for example at a resolving wound or fracture site, the potential applications for graphene in medicine and surgery seems limitless. An inert substance, graphene could offer huge opportunities for the development of super strong, lightweight, yet non-reactive surgical implants, enabling us to successfully treat and manage a host of different conditions.

Chemical sensorsBiological and chemical sensors – graphene can adsorb and desorb various atoms and molecules, with this property lending graphene to the development of various chemical sensors. Being able to more readily and acurately detect even trace amounts of various biological compounds and agents, especially when combined with super fast, micro-electronics, makes the future for medical sensor technology a fascinating and truly exciting one. Simple implantable biological sensors could very easily make it from the pages of science fiction into medical fact, with the potential benefits, especially in managing and treating animal conditions, many and varied.

So there you go. The next time you scribble some notes down using a bog-standard pencil, just remember that the material you have probably just created is one that is poised to transform the very world as we know it. Imagining where it is going to take us in veterinary, and life in general, is an incredible thought.

For more information on graphene, including how it is actually made, follow the links to these sites:
Making graphene
The Story of Graphene
Graphene: Patent Search Reveals Global Race

To Blog or Not to Blog: That is the Vetty Question.

Chris the Nerdy Vet & his laptopI was recently asked about blogging by a prospective vet student and whether it is something that is advised to do in the lead-up to an application to vet school. A number of students, for whom I have been reviewing UCAS statements for vet school applications, have included a link to a blog of their experiences during work experience placements and their thoughts on a variety of matters relevant to their application. The questions that instantly spring to mind are:



1. Will it increase your chances of successfully being called for interview?

2. How can you go about contributing to ‘the blogosphere?’

The answer to the first question is, in my opinion, NO. I do not for a second believe that including a link or address to an online blog about anything in your UCAS statement will impact in any way on your being selected by the admissions tutor to attend an interview or be offered a place. This is for two main reasons:

a) The vast majority of admissions tutors that I know barely have enough time to stop for loo breaks between reading one statement after another, especially as they all come streaming in towards the October 15th deadline, and so the notion that they are going to have the time to indulge in clicking through or otherwise navigating to and reading additional material not directly included in your statement is hugely optimistic. All you are likely to achieve is to waste your precious character limit when you could use it to reflect on a lesson learned during one of your experiences. It is this sort of information that vet schools want to see in statements; not hyperlinks and computer code. Incidentally, the UCAS website makes no reference to including hyperlinks in your statement in their guide to writing yours. I suggest that this is because it is not worth doing so and in fact the system may even inactivate hyperlinks before statements are sent out to universities as a security precaution, again rendering an inclusion of one pointless.

b) Although the universities access your submitted statements electronically, many admissions tutors will choose to read yours in printed form. Can you imagine spending hours per day staring at a screen and reading page after page of small text? It would wreck your eyes! You can see, therefore, why the admissions tutors would be more likely to want to read printed statements. The immediate problem with this of course is that your fantastically well written link to your wonderfully interesting and insightful blog is, well, just a line of inactive text. It is very very unlikely in this situation that a tutor would then manually type out your link to view its contents.

The take home message here is that if you are under the impression that starting, writing and then providing a link or reference to a blog is going to give you an edge over other applicants then I suggest you think again and instead focus on writing a really strong, reflective, well structured and grammatically correct statement that does not rely on external content to support it.

If, of course, you just want to start a blog for your own interest and those who are likely to view it, then by all means go ahead and get blogging. The fact is that blogging is great fun and a really effective way of communicating ideas and sharing content with others. As a means of recording your experiences whilst on veterinary placements then it is, I guess, the modern day equivalent of the classic diary, albeit with the ability of the world to peer into its pages. One note of caution, however, on recording the details of your various experiences on placements: be certain that you are not going to be compromising data protection or the trust of the vets, nurses and clients that you are gaining privileged access to by publishing information online. This could get you into hot water and, in all seriousness, wreck any chance you have of being offered that coveted place at vet school that you want. If you apply careful thought, however, then blogging can be an awesome activity so go for it.

How do I start blogging?

Good question. There are numerous blogging options available to you from simply writing and sharing notes on, say, Facebook, to signing up for a ‘proper’ blog, such as WordPress, which is free to use*. Other services include Tumblr, Blogger, TypePad, and many many more – a simple search for ‘blogging services’ reveals the plethora of options.

Happy blogging and I hope you have found this post helpful. Feel free to leave any comments below (another advantage of blogging) 🙂


* WordPress.com is where you can get yourself a free, hosted blog, meaning that you do not have to worry about paying for, hosting and setting up the software on a dedicated domain (eg ‘i want to be a vet.com’). The alternative option is to go to WordPress.org, where you can download the software for free, but you will then have to put your hand in your pocket to get yourself a domain, as described above. This blog, for example, runs on WordPress hosted on my own dedicated domain, which I pay for each year.

It’s a Dog’s Tweet

Toby Morris Tweet DogIt is rare that something crops up on Twitter that makes you sit up and say “Hey! That is truly awesome!” Today, however, was one of those days. I was casually flicking through my Twitter feed glossing over the usual fare of celeb announcements and product plugs when lo-and-behold this cracking story made itself known… True genius on an epic scale!

Nat Morris, an IT consultant and dog owner from Wales, put his technology skills to legendary use by rigging up a fun system that provides his Border Terrier, Toby, with a treat every time a message is tweeted to @FeedToby. The system, which incorporates a mini-computer, that receives the tweets and drives the funky device, sounds a buzzer to alert Toby of the imminent arrival of a tasty snack, and a camera that snaps a pic of Toby and tweets it back to Nat so that he can see that Toby has eaten the food. There are, however, self-imposed limits on the system to prevent Toby get overfed as a result of being the recipient of loads of well-meaning tweets!

The full story can be viewed here.

Veterinary still a very popular career choice

An interesting article caught my attention recently that suggested that in spite of the increase in university tuition fees this year to £9,000 per year, which includes veterinary science courses, application numbers to study to become a vet have actually risen, thus bucking a general trend. Data from UCAS revealed that in spite of a 12.9% drop in year-on-year applications for all degree subjects, veterinary courses actually saw a rise of 6.7%. Why, I wonder, would that be the case?

It has always been known that a degree in veterinary science is an incredibly good degree to have, regardless of whether the holder eventually enters, or indeed stays in, clinical practice, due to it’s high standards of training across a multitude of subjects and skillsets. It could be expected that with degrees becoming significantly more expensive, and graduates facing being saddled with such debt for many many years, a lot of students are looking a lot more carefully at which degrees they actually apply to in the first place. It may be simply that a veterinary degree, and subsequently a career in veterinary, is valued as a good, professional option as opposed to some other degree options available. I am sure such students are going into their applications with a good understanding and appreciation of the huge costs involved, with the projected cost of tuition fees for a standard 5-year course alone coming to £54,000. If they are not then that needs to be addressed, especially when you then factor in the total likely cost of completing a veterinary degree which, with living costs and the fact that much of the vacation time other students are able to use in order to work in paid employment is occupied with compulsary, and necessary, work placements, is very high. Latest figures put such a final figure at around about £78,000. A truly staggering amount of money!

Of course, the fact that students are not being put off veterinary as a career option is a wonderful thing as it is a truly unique and rewarding career, in many ways, but one concern is that students applying for and studying veterinary medicine have a clear and realistic appreciation and expectation of the salaries, and earnings that they can expect as a vet. I know for a fact that many students have wildly unrealistic expectations about veterinary remuneration and have heard of students even halfway through their courses expecting to start their careers commanding salaries of £60,000 per year. If they know of graduate vet jobs that are paying that then I would love for them to get in touch with me as I will be sending my CV over immediately!

Another ongoing concern for the profession is the issue of widening access, with the RCVS and the vet schools actively engaging in ongoing activity to broaden the appeal of and access to veterinary as a career option among the under-represented demographics. Are we seeing a rise in application numbers from such students or are the increases coming from the more traditional camp? These are interesting questions and do have ramifications for the future of the profession as a whole.

The main point, however, is that veterinary is clearly still a popular career option, and rightly so, and the buck in the general trend should be applauded and celebrated as a sign of the veterinary profession’s bright future.