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.
Contemporary concerns about pathologising and psychiatrising ‘normal’ emotions, clear in discussions of anxiety and depression, are hardly new. From the late nineteenth century onwards, European psychiatrists across the colonial world struggled to distinguish between the ‘normal’ beliefs or behaviours of colonised subjects, and those which were ‘abnormal’ – beyond the bounds of what could be considered typical or expected. In my talk, I want to explore how the normal and the abnormal mind were identified and used in the context of British Mandate Palestine between 1920 and 1948. While this was obviously a question of importance to psychiatrists and colonial medical officers, it also had a special urgency for legal officials. If a defendant committed a crime believing that the devil had possessed them, for instance, were they to be judged insane and therefore acquitted of legal responsibility for their actions, or were they to be deemed to have been acting in a way typical of their race, class, gender, religion – and therefore held to account? The question of separating the normal from the abnormal thus became quite literally a matter of life and death for defendants.
In 1928, Alexander Fleming famously discovered what was to be the 'miracle drug', penicillin. Fast forward 90 years to the present day, we still find penicillin and its derivatives widely used in the clinic today. However, one major problem that is beginning to come to light is the widespread emergence of antibiotic resistance. As such, the World Health Organistation have declared research into novel antibiotics and diagnostic tools of paramount importance to our future. In search of a suitable drug target, Lipoteichoic acid Synthase (LtaS), an extracellular protein has been identified as a suitable candidate for a drug discovery campaign. Here, I describe our methodology for the identification and characterisation of small-molecule LtaS inhibitors that have been generated using a virtual screening approach. These compounds were able to act upon Gram-positive bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), rendering them inactive and unable to survive.
Postcolonial politics in Kenya has been dominated by protracted and tense ethnic, religious and regional divisions, brought to the fore with the contentious presidential elections in August and October 2017. Dominant discourses within the country present politics as a zero sum game, in which the same individuals and ethnic groups continually benefit. Equally, while politics appears as a zero sum and predicable game, Kenya espouses a vibrant and engaged citizenry that is knowledgeable and interested in public affairs. Debates over electoral politics and the actions of elected leaders unfold, within and outside of elections, in diverse and informal spaces in everyday life, from street corners and markets, to illicit drinking dens, to online forums such as social media groups. Thus, on one side, there appears to be an active, engaged and critical public sphere in Kenya. On the other side, these active discussions seem to do little to alter the overriding interpretation of politics along ethnic lines. Why does Kenya’s public sphere seem unable to alter the terms of political debate, despite its vibrancy and diversity across physical and online spaces? This seminar examines the nature, rhythm and people involved in daily public discussion across different media, interrogating how they relate to the potential for continuity and change in the terms of political debate. It argues for very different reasons, the features of debate in physical spaces and on social media have both developed in ways that frustrate the emergence of new and shared ideas.
The threat posed by climate change has sparked an energetic, ongoing dialogue that has permeated into nearly every academic discipline. In this short talk, I will attempt to gauge the current state of various academic, political, and social aspects of this conversation, from the vantage point of a physical scientist. For instance, I will address the possible long-term implications of the recent dramatic shift in US energy policy on global climate.
Abstract not available
Black holes are the most extreme objects found in the universe. They provide a one-way passage to the unknown, places where our understanding of physics breaks down. Pioneering work over the last century has transformed black holes from theoretical curiosities, into the domain of the observational astronomer. These gravitational monsters reside in the centre of all galaxies in the universe, and are intimately linked to the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies we observe today. Despite their enormous size, our current telescopes are unable to spatially resolve them on the sky. We therefore resort to indirect methods to zoom in on the region directly around the black hole. In this talk, I will describe current efforts to spatially map the gas in the immediate vicinity of a black hole as it spirals down the deep gravitational potential well. These observations provide us with information about the two fundamental properties of black holes: their mass and spin.