Announcing ‘The Beauty of Being British Asian’ art exhibition

All, The Beauty of Being British Asian, writing

I’m excited to announce that my latest blog post, ‘The Beauty of Being British Asian’ has inspired an art exhibition – taking place in a London gallery this summer in collaboration with Burnt Roti Mag. The exhibition will look at dual identities and how British Asians curiously navigate theirs.

Burn Roti Mag is a South Asian print and online lifestyle magazine, concentrating on publishing essays about race, colourism, mental health and assimilation. They are curating the exhibition by bringing together over 20 British Asian artists from around the country. Each artist will create a piece of art from their chosen line of the piece and together, will form the Beauty of Being British Asian exhibition.

Watch me talk about why this project means so much to me, alongside the artists taking part in the promo video below:

burntroti(Burnt Roti Mag)

I’m really proud of this piece and am looking forward to seeing the ways in which my writing is interpreted into art by the British Asian talent that will be on show. There are already some amazing artists that have been confirmed and more will be announced very soon. They will create art in the form of paintings, graphics, photography, installations and any other mixed media formats.

The exhibition still needs funding –  visit our crowdfunder to pledge your support, get tickets for the opening night (including free drinks) and signed British Asian artwork goodies.

Save the Date: coming soon.




Geosciences Column: Meshing models with the small-scale ocean

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The latest Geosciences Column is brought to you by Nikita Marwaha, who explains how a new generation of marine models is letting scientists open up the oceans. The new technique, described in Ocean Science, reveals what’s happening to ocean chemistry and biology at scales that are often hard to model…
Diving into the depths of the ocean without getting your feet wet is possible through biogeochemical modelling – a method used by scientists in order to study the ocean’s living systems. These simulated oceans are a means of understanding the role of underwater habitats and how they evolve over time. Covering nutrients, chlorophyll concentrations, marine plants, acidification, sea-ice coverage and flows, such modelling is an important tool used to explore the diverse field of marine biogeochemistry.

Barents Sea plankton bloom: sub-mesoscale flows may be responsible for the twisted, turquoise contours of this bloom (Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC)

There is one outstanding problem with this technique though, as the very-small scale or sub-mesoscale marine processes are not well represented in global ocean models. Sub-mesoscale interactions take place on a scale so small, that computational models are unable to resolve them. Short for sub-medium (or ‘sub- meso’) length flows – the smaller flows in question are on the scale of 1-10 km. They are difficult to measure and observe, but their effects are seen in satellite imagery as they twist and turn beautiful blooms of marine algae.
Sub-mesoscale phenomena play a significant role in vertical nutrient supply – the vertical transfer of nutrients from nutrient-rich deep waters to light-rich surface waters where plankton photosynthesise. This is a major area of interest since the growth of marine plants is limited by this ‘two-layered ocean’ dilemma. But the ocean is partially able to overcome this, which is where sub-mesoscale flows come in. Sub-mesoscale flows are important in regions with large temperature differences over short distances – when colder, heavier water flows beneath warmer, lighter water. This movement brings nutrient-rich water up to the light-rich surface. Therefore, accurately modelling these important small-scale processes is vital to studying their effect on ocean life.

Global chlorophyll concentration: red and green areas indicate a high level or growth, whereas blue areas have much less phytoplankton. (Credit: University of Washington)

A group of scientists, led by Imperial College’s Jon Hill, probes the technique of biogeochemical ocean modelling and the issue of studying sub-mesoscale processes in a paper recently published in the EGU journal Ocean Science.  Rather than simply increasing the resolution of the models, the team suggests a novel method – utilising recent advances in adaptive mesh computational techniques. This simulates ocean biogeochemical behavior on a vertically adaptive computational mesh – a method of numerically analysing complex processes using a computer simulation.
What makes it adaptive? The mesh changes in response to the biogeochemical and physical state of the system throughout the simulation.
Their model is able to reproduce the general physical and biological behavior seen at three ocean stations (India, Papa and Bermuda), but two case studies really showcase this method’s potential: observing the dynamics of chlorophyll at Bermuda and assessing the sinking detritus at Papa. The team changed the adaptivity metric used to determine the varying mesh sizes and in both instances. The technique suitably determined the mesh sizes required to calculate these sub-mesoscale processes. This suggests that the use of adaptive mesh technology may offer future utility as a technique for simulating seasonal or transient biogeochemical behavior at high vertical resolution – whilst minimising the number of elements in the mesh. Further work will enable this to become a fully 3D simulation.

Comparison of different meshes produced by adaptive simulations: (a) Bermuda, taking the amount of chlorophyll into account (b) the original adaptive simulation at Bermuda, without taking chlorophyll into account (c) adaptive simulation at Papa, taking the amount of detritus into account (d) the original Papa simulation, without taking detritus into account. (Credit: Hill et al, 2014)

The fruits of this adaptive way of studying the small-scale ocean are already emerging as the secrets of the mysterious, sub-mesoscale ocean processes are probed. The ocean holds answers to questions about our planet, its future and the role of this complex, underwater world in the bigger, ecological picture – adapting to life and how we model it may just be the key we’ve been looking for.
By Nikita Marwaha
Hill, J., Popova, E. E., Ham, D. A., Piggott, M. D. and Srokosz, M.: Adapting to life: ocean biogeochemical modelling and adaptive remeshing. Ocean Sci., 10, 323- 343, 2014


#ESOUltraHD, #Scicomm, astronomy, Chile, Daily Life, ESO, ESO Ultra HD Expedition, European Southern Observatory, internship, journalism, life, Munich, science communication, Telescopes, work, writing

It’s been a month and a half since I moved from London to Munich on New Years Day. Time has flown past and I’m already finding myself giving people (wrong) directions around town!
Occasionally, I look back to my first few days at work when everything that seems so clear to me now was all new information and realise how much I’ve already learnt in this short time. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a wonderful place to grow professionally and I can only imagine the perspective I’ll have on my last day — leaving as a better writer than before.
Sitting at the forefront of cutting-edge astronomical research of the Southern skies incredible new discoveries, exciting projects and magical images of the Universe are ESO’s forté. One such project that I’m working on is the ESO Ultra HD Expedition, which is the journey of four world renowned astrophotographers to Chile in order to capture the magnificent ESO sites in all their grandeur . A week or so ago, Christoph Malin, one of the talented ESO Photo Ambassadors embarking upon the trip paid a visit to the office where he took some photos of us hard at work 🙂
Living in a sleepy village outside Munich city centre means that I am always a tourist whenever I visit town. The weather has been unusually warm, but I’m not complaining!
I thought I’d share these snippets of my daily life as a short glimpse into working and living in Munich 🙂

Lost In Space

#Scicomm, astronomy, editing, ESO, European Southern Observatory, Garching Bei Munchen, germany, internship, January, journalism, Munich, press releases, science communication, Space, Winter, writing

January has been a flurry of snow, early nights, getting lost, astronomy, writing and most of all learning.

 From learning how to write succinct yet compelling European Southern Observatory (ESO) press releases to navigating the U-Bahn, using Euros and recalling my GCSE German lessons— I’m getting more settled into life in Munich and will be posting more regularly in February. For now, here’s a photo of what is getting me through these icy winter months: 


  Hi, my name is Nikita and I’m a Nutella-holic.



Getting to the Root of Debris Predictions with Terminal Velocity Aerospace

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The Space Act Agreement provides for Arc-jet testing of thermal protection system materials at NASA Ames Research Center in which the conditions experienced by a vehicle during atmospheric reentry are approximately created (Credits: NASA)
On October 28, Terminal Velocity Aerospace (TVA) signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Ames Research Center to collaborate on evaluation, testing, and technology transfer of newly-developed thermal protection system (TPS) materials.
“The Space Act Agreement mechanism offers a great way for companies to partner with NASA,” said Dominic DePasquale, the company’s CEO. “I’m excited that we have an opportunity to collaborate with the premier TPS technologists at NASA to transition this TPS material out of the laboratory for use in real missions that deliver value.”
This new development is a multi-year non reimbursable Space Act Agreement and presents both manufacturability and cost saving advantages for customers of TVA’s Reentry Devices (REDs), which collects data during the fiery conditions of spacecraft reentry.
“The chief benefit of the conformal thermal protection systems materials developed at NASA Ames is their manufacturability, especially for small reentry probes like TVA’s REDs. By employing the Ames TPS technology, TVA will be able to produce heat shields at lower cost, and those savings can be passed on to customers,” DePasquale said.
The basketball sized ReEntry Device (RED) joins the journey of a de-orbiting vehicle as it relays data on the physics behind atmospheric breakup (Credits: TVA).

The basketball sized ReEntry Device (RED) joins the journey of a deorbiting vehicle as it relays data on the physics behind atmospheric breakup (Credits: TVA).

TVA began operations in 2012 and is dedicated to improving reentry safety and furthering the utilization of outer space. The company offers a family of small REDs for data collection and cost-effective small payload return through an ongoing relationship with The Aerospace Corporation, and a research and commercialization partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology.
With the goal of advancing the understanding of reentry and breakup incidents, TVA is working towards addressing the present lack of high quality data on the subject. Atmospheric breakups are the best method for removing spacecraft from orbit. However, TVA reports that 10-40% of spacecraft mass survives reentry. Such debris usually has a high melting point and poses a danger to the public since the location of its landing is currently unidentifiable in advance.
The first device in this line of products, RED-Data, records data during the reentry of its host vehicle to provide a unique insight into the physics behind atmospheric breakup. DePasquale describes it thus:
Our RED-Data device provides a first-hand account of what occurs during reentry and breakup. The basketball-sized device rides aboard a host vehicle to collect pressure, temperature, acceleration, and other engineering data during the actual reentry event. This high fidelity reentry data is very useful for scientists and engineers for calibrating prediction models and designing for survivability or intentional demise.
The newly signed Space Act Agreement with NASA Ames provides for arc-jet and other ground testing of the new TPS materials at NASA Ames in preparation for flights on TVA’s REDs. With a line of RED-Data devices and Space Act Agreement with NASA Ames under its belt, the next step for TVA involves utilizing the TPS material developed at Ames in the next generation of RED devices, RED-Data2.
“TVA plans to implement the Ames TPS material for RED-Data2, and the entire family of TVA’s next generation RED devices that accomplish missions such as small payload return, reentry flight testing, and ’black box‘ safety recording for crewed space vehicles,” says DePasquale. “RED-Data2 is closer to the size of a softball as opposed to a basketball. It is also more than 50% lighter, autonomously initiated, and capable of passive in-space operations for several years as opposed to months. These characteristics of RED-Data2 allow for reentry data collection from an extended set of host vehicles including launch vehicle upper stages and small Earth orbiting spacecraft.”
These development brings humanity one step closer to gaining a fully comprehensive understanding and greater ability to predict the characteristics of uncontrolled spacecraft reentry and breakup incidences so that accurate safety precautions can be put into place in advance.
Image caption: The Space Act Agreement provides for Arc-jet testing of thermal protection system materials at NASA Ames Research Center in which the conditions experienced by a vehicle during atmospheric reentry are approximately created (Credits: NASA).
Written for Space Safety Magazine by Nikita Marwaha

Could A Vegetable Compound Protect Against the Effects of Radiation?

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One of the study’s author Dr. Eliot Rosen of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the US describes why this new development holds great intrigue and significance: “I find it fascinating that a known cancer preventive agent (DIM) has powerful radiation protection properties and wonder if there is a relationship in the case of DIM between its radioprotection and cancer prevention mechanisms.”The compound, called 3’3-diindolymethane or DIM, is under investigation as a cancer preventative agent. Used as a potential medical countermeasure, DIM may be able to prevent or mitigate acute radiation syndrome due to whole body exposure.
Previously studied as a cancer prevention agent, this is the first instance in which DIM has been considered as a radiation protector.
DIM could be used to protect astronauts during space travel (Credits: NASA)

DIM could be used to protect astronauts during space travel (Credits: NASA).

The early stage laboratory study administered DIM to rodents in a multidose schedule in order to identify whether DIM could protect against the effects of exposure to radiation.
Results from the experiment demonstrated that the compound protected the animals against lethal doses of body irradiation up to 13 Gy. This was the case whether DIM dosing was initiated before or up to 24 hours after radiation exposure. The irradiated rodents injected with DIM survived longer than those left untreated.
This suggests that DIM may be useful in protecting against the effects of radiation. Rosen commented “DIM could potentially be used to protect normal (non-tumor) tissues against radiation therapy treatments for cancer.”
The compound functions uniquely from other radioprotectors and mitigators. ”DIM works in part by amplifying the normal DNA damage response that occurs when cells and tissues are irradiated. DIM also acts to prevent radiation-caused apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death. The first mechanism is novel among radiation protectors, though other protectants might also act to block apoptosis.”
DIM could protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer (Credits: CTCA).

DIM could protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer (Credits: CTCA).

The experimental evidence collected thus far supports DIM as a potential radioprotector and mitigator. In terms of the direction of future research, Rosen added: “We will work toward FDA approval of DIM as a radioprotectant and mitigator. This is a complex process that will involve determining the best way to deliver DIM (e.g. oral, subcutaneous, intramuscular) and other animal testing studies.”
It is uncertain whether an outcome similar to the irradiated rodents treated with DIM is possible in humans. However if so, the potential applications for DIM may venture into orbit as a radioprotector for astronauts exposed to the harsh environmentof space.
“Although speculative at this time, DIM could be used to protect against radiation received by astronauts during space travel (eg., cosmic radiation). One has to be careful because there are different types of radiation, and we don’t yet know whether DIM protects against all forms of radiation.”
With the duration of time that astronauts spend in space set to increase with future Mars and asteroid missions, DIM may provide a method of radiation protection that is sustainable and that can be grown in-situ due to its vegetable origins.
The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Image credits: Charles Smith
Written for Space Safety Magazine by Nikita Marwaha

Detecting Heartbeats : NASA Technology Used to Rescue Disaster Victims on Earth

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A revolutionary radar device that can detect the heartbeats and breathing patterns of disaster victims trapped under rubble has been developed by NASA in conjunction with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Aptly named Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), the radar technology has the ability to locate individuals buried as deep as 9 meters and from a distance of 30 meters, according to NASA.
The FINDER team unveiled the technology on September 25 at a demonstration for members of the media at the DHS Virginia Task Force 1 Training Facility in Lorton, Virginia.
Time is of the essence in the civilian response world, in which there is a limited time following a traumatic event when a victim’s odds of survival are highest. This time, called the Golden Hour, can range anywhere from minutes to a few hours. When finding the victims in need of rescue is its own challenge, FINDER can help.
“The ultimate goal of FINDER is to help emergency responders efficiently rescue victims of disasters,” said John Price, program manager for the First Responders Group in Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate in Washington.
The device works by sending out a continuous, low powered microwave radar signal into the rubble, through which reflection patterns are analyzed and human life is detected.
FINDER utilizes the space technology used in remote sensing of the Earth and spacecraft detection in order to ensure that those trapped in rubble have the greatest chance of survival following a disaster.
“Detecting small motions from the victim’s heartbeat and breathing from a distance uses the same kind of signal processing as detecting the small changes in motion of spacecraft like Cassini as it orbits the Sun” said James Lux, task manager for FINDER at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
An outgrowth of NASA’s remote sensing technology, FINDER analyzes radar signals using advanced data processing algorithms developed by JPL. Within the chaotic, post-disaster environment this technology can distinguish the tiny signals from a person’s moving chest from the surrounding signals such as moving trees and animals nearby.
This technology has potential applications in NASA’s future human space flight missions, reducing the need for wires when monitoring astronauts’ vital signs.
Weighing less than 20 pounds, the device looks like a plastic briefcase and fits in the overhead compartment of aircraft.  Testing has been in progress for a year and its predicted commercial release is as soon as the spring of 2014.
Future developmental phases of FINDER will focus on a more specific locater function that can detect not only the existence of a victim but more precisely where in the rubble the person is located.
John Price, program manager from the DHS’ First Responders Group called FINDER “probably the greatest advance in the last 30 years.”
Watch video from the FINDER test, below:

Written for Space Safety Magazine by Nikita Marwaha

Nikita’s News

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We’re well and truly into Autumn here in the UK and the time I usually spend starting a new academic year has now been replaced by time spent planning my time in 2014! Turning 23 next week, I’m now back in London with a few ideas up my sleeve for what the year ahead may hold. One of these is the newly released daily, online newspaper that goes by the name of Nikita’s News (I’m a sucker for alliteration). It has a nifty way of sourcing my favourite online posts via twitter into one beautiful place for you to read easily and conveniently, allowing me to select and edit daily content as I please. Covering sources from my favourite astronaut Cmdr Chris Hadfield, to the life-changing International Space University and my favourite writer & comedian Mindy Kaling, Nikita’s News has a range of information for everybody to enjoy. Whether you want an update from the European Space Agency (ESA), the magazine I’ve just begun writing for Space Safety Magazine, inspirational businesswoman and role model Sheryl Sandberg or even from little old me via my twitter account Nikita_, then Nikita’s News is the place to be!
Take a look for yourself at:

Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button 🙂


p.s I’ve been asked if I can really make apple pie from scratch. Find out soon whether I can invent the universe/my cooking skills and make Carl Sagan proud!