How does research impact your everyday life?

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.” – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

What would the modern world look like without the bedrock of research?

First and foremost – without research, there’s no way you’d possibly be reading this right now, as the Internet was pioneered and developed (via a whole heap of exhaustive research…) by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, the same association that produced the Large Hadron Collider.

Without research, we’d likely also be utterly defenceless to the brutal forces of nature. For example, without meteorology, we’d be unable to predict the path of violent storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, while a lack of volcanology research would leave a huge proportion of the world susceptible to the destruction of volcanic eruptions.

And it doesn’t end there.

Medical technology and discovery would be non-existent – no MRi, no anaesthetic, no birth control, no X-Ray machine, no insulin, no IVF, no penicillin, no germ theory, no DNA, and no smallpox vaccination – which, by the way would have wiped out one out of every nine babies had Jenner not researched and found a cure.

Source: University of Surrey

So not only is research an invaluable tool for building on crucial knowledge, it’s also the most reliable way we can begin to understand the complexities of various issues; to maintain our integrity as we disprove lies and uphold important truths; to serve as the seed for analysing convoluted sets of data; as well as to serve as ‘nourishment’, or exercise for the mind.

“…Aside from the pure pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, research is linked to problem solving,” John Armstrong, a respected global higher education and research professional, writes for The Conversation. “What this means is the solving of other people’s problems. That is, what other people experience as problems.

“It starts with a tenderness and ambition that is directed at the needs of others – as they recognise and acknowledge those needs,” he continues. “This is, in effect, entry into a market place. Much research, of course, is conducted in precisely this way beyond the walls of the academy.”

Ultimately, when we begin to look at research for what it truly is – a catalyst for solving complex issues – we begin to understand the impact it truly has on our everyday lives. The University of Surrey, set just a 10 minute walk from the centre of Guildford – ranked the 8th best place to live in the UK in the Halifax Quality of Life Survey – is a prime example of a university producing high-impact research for the benefit of our global society.

In fact, Surrey’s pioneering research is inspiring direct, positive improvements across multiple sectors, including health, communications, business and the environment. One of their most recent studies, crossing the boundaries of civil and environmental engineering as well as health, sought to uncover the effects of air traffic pollution levels on individuals caught in traffic jams.

Surrey’s experienced research team found that pollution levels inside cars were found to be up to 40 percent higher while sitting in queues, or at red lights, when compared to free-flowing traffic conditions. And with the World Health Organisation (WHO) placing outdoor air pollution among the top 10 health risks currently facing humans, linking to seven million premature deaths each year, Surrey took on the research challenge of finding an effective solution…

…And boy, did they get the results!

“Where possible and the weather conditional allowing, it is one of the best ways to limit your exposure by keeping windows shut, fans turned off and to try and increase the distance between you and the car in front while at traffic jams or stationary at traffic lights,” says Dr Prashant Kumar, Senior Author of the study. “If the fan or heater needs to be on, the best setting would be to have the air re-circulating within the car without drawing air from outdoors.”

Researchers actually found that closed windows or re-circulated air can reduce in-car pollutants by as much as 76 percent, highlighting how Surrey’s research outcomes could bring a wealth of invaluable global benefits.

As further testament to Surrey’s impactful research success, a study that uncovered high levels of Vitamin D inadequacy among UK adolescents has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and has now been used to inform crucial national guidance from Public Health England.

Source: University of Surrey

“The research has found that adolescence, the time when bone growth is most important in laying down the foundations for later life, is a time when Vitamin D levels are inadequate,” says Dr Taryn Smith, Lead Author of the study. The study forms part of a four-year, EU-funded project, ODIN, which aims to investigate safe and effective ways of boosting Vitamin D intake through food fortification and bio-fortification.

“The ODIN project is investigating ways of improving Vitamin D intake through diet,” continues Dr Smith, “and since it is difficult to obtain Vitamin D intakes of over 10ug/day from food sources alone, it is looking at ways of fortifying our food to improve the Vitamin D levels of the UK population as a whole.”

But the impact of Surrey’s research is broad and all-encompassing, with on-going projects into things like radiotherapy, dementia, blue light and human attentiveness, disaster monitoring, sustainable development, digital storytelling, and beyond. And benefits of research produced at the University of Surrey is not meant for the UK population alone; these are the issues that face us as an increasingly international and interconnected society, making research produced by world-class institutions like Surrey the tools to pave the way to bigger, brighter and healthier global future.

Find out more about studying for a postgraduate degree at Surrey by registering for one of Surrey’s Webinars.

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Feature image via Shutterstock

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