Research Talks

All members of Darwin are encouraged to present their research at informal seminars held on Tuesdays and Thursdays during term. Everyone is welcome, whatever your degree or discipline.

Darwin members pick up lunch from 12:00, taking it into the Richard King Room (on the left at the top of the stairs leading to the dining hall) or 1 Newnham Terrace (straight through at the far end of the dining hall). Wine is served. Non-Darwin members are welcome to attend, although lunch is only available to guests of members. The talk begins at about 1:15 and lasts for about 20 minutes and is followed by questions over coffee. We adjourn at 2:00pm at the latest.

Upcoming Talks

Thursday 9 May 2019
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Adrian Weller (Machine Learning Group, Cambridge)

Algorithmic systems are increasingly deployed in ways that affect millions of lives. How can we be sure that we can trust them? We’ll discuss this theme and describe technical work on effective measures of trustworthiness, including fairness, transparency and privacy, which we should require in order to ensure beneficial outcomes for society.

Past Research Talks

Thursday 21 February 2019
Ms Alice Fairnie (Sainsbury Laboratory, Botanic Garden Cambridge)

Flowers show a huge diversity of colourful patterns on the surface of their petals which are thought to act as visual signals to animal pollinators. My research is exploring flower patterns: their evolution, development, and function. I work with Hibiscus which has a bullseye pattern created by combining contrasting cell types and pigmentation in the basal and distal regions of the petal. The talk will cover the work carried out in my first six months of my PhD which focused on understanding how flower patterns form, creating Hibiscus flowers with modified patterns, and observing bumblebees interacting with flowers with different patterns.

Tuesday 19 February 2019
James Beringer

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the world’s greatest health threats. At present, 700’000 people die annually from infections that are resistant to first-line antibiotics. Global action however, has been fragmented and asymmetrical. The EU for example, has outlawed the use of certain anti-biotics in livestock, but it remains a common practice in the US – where an estimated 70% of antibiotics administered to livestock are done so in the absence of any disease, India – who’s poultry industry is notoriously unregulated, and China – the world’s largest consumer of anti-biotics. This project attempts to investigate why collective action to address the AMR issue has lacked cohesion, and to pinpoint areas that are causing the biggest obstacles to progress. It will do so by reducing AMR to its structural features, using game theory as the theoretical lens through which to frame the issue. This project combines two methodologies. Firstly, it will use data collected from the official publications of various actors involved in tackling AMR. These include the WHO, the EU, health ministries in states particularly at risk from AMR, pharmaceutical companies, and representatives from the meat industry. Secondly, it will collect data through conducting elite interviews with key individuals in various capacities in the above organisations, as well as in key pressure groups looking to raise awareness of the AMR issue.

Thursday 14 February 2019
Dr Stefan Gräf

By definition a rare disease affects less than 5 in 10,000 people. An estimated 80% of these to date known 7,500 diesease are likely to have a genetic cause. Very often, however, an explanation at molecular level is missing. As part of the NIHR BioResource - Rare Diseases consortium, the pilot study of the Genomics England 100,000 genomes project, we sequenced the genomes of more than 13,000 patients diagnosed with one of 15 rare diseases. Examplified by pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare form of high blood pressure measured in the arteries of lungs, I will take you on a brief journey from the blood sample through to a molecular diagnosis which can inform clinical decision making and lead to novel treatment.

Tuesday 12 February 2019
Luca Messerschmidt

Do donor countries react to aid flows of others? Are economic and political competitions between donors a reason for this strategic interaction? Through ongoing trends of Globalization and the emergence of new economies, developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are enabled to cooperate with traditional western but also new donors like BRICS countries and specifically China. In the manner of a South-South narrative, non-DAC countries have used foreign aid to gain a significant influence and challenge the ancient foreign aid architecture. This paper aims at explaining underlying patterns of how donors react in a globalized foreign aid market. In order to measure the responsiveness of aid allocators to external pressures, we develop a spatial lag panel model by including spatially competition-weighted lag aid shares of other donors to the same recipient country. The analyses conducted provide evidence in favor of a positive relationship between a donor’s engagement in a specific recipient country and other donors for which this recipient is of similar strategic importance. For political competition no significant effect could be measured. The research shows heterogenous reactional patterns for different countries and might provide useful information to understand donors behavior in times of an increasingly competitive aid market and give a further clue about how donor countries interact when allocating their foreign aid resources.

Thursday 7 February 2019
Colleen Rollins (Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge)

Hallucinations involve perceptions of stimuli that do not exist in the physical world, such as hearing voices or seeing visions. Hallucinations occur not only in schizophrenia, but are experienced by people with other psychiatric disorders, neurological and neurodegenerative conditions, and among the general population. Advances in neuroimaging technology have given insights into the brain structures and functions that are associated with hallucinations, but our understanding of why people experience hallucinations remains incomplete. In this talk I will explore the brain mechanisms underlying hallucinations, the role of reality monitoring - the cognitive capacity to distinguish between internally- and externally-generated information, and how understanding the brain basis of hallucinations can contribute to theoretical accounts of hallucinations, optimize treatment strategies, and inform how we perceive our external world and determine what is real.

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