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

Darwin Lunchtime Talks will recommence next term and the schedule posted here.

Past Research Talks

Thursday 9 May 2019
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.

Tuesday 7 May 2019
Stephanie Metzger, Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

World energy demand is rising year by year as populations increase and emerging economies continue their rapid expansion. Coal, historically a major source of energy, has continued to remain a major player in the power mix despite concerns about its greenhouse emissions and effects on global climate change. While western countries have begun to move away from coal, developing countries such as China and India are driving demand on international coal markets and increasing their use of coal for electricity generation. Balancing the often competing interests of sustainability and economic development is a difficult policy question, with political, economic, and technological factors to consider.

Stephanie is pursuing an MPhil in Public Policy. Her independent research focuses on energy and technology policy, especially in developing countries.

Thursday 2 May 2019
Dr Souvik Roy (Chemistry Department, Cambridge)

Molecular hydrogen is the ultimate clean fuel due to its extremely high energy density and its clean combustion to water. However, the challenge lies to produce it sustainably from water, which requires catalysts to lower the kinetic energy barrier. Molecular catalysts based on non-precious metals fascinates synthetic chemists the most due to their tunability which allows us to tailor the structure and control their properties. However, molecular catalysts are somewhat disadvantaged by practical consideration because they often function in homogeneous solution and display limited long-term stability. Having an effective scaffold to mount the catalyst on, representing 'heterogenisation' of the molecule, is a key part of building a practical system that brings together the benefits of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. Metal-organic framework, a type of crystalline material composed of metal clusters connected by organic linkers, offers a step further by allowing us to build tunable three-dimensional architecture by using molecules as the building blocks. In this talk, I will explore how the metal-organic framework enables us to transfer the chemistry of molecular catalysts into a solid material while still enjoying the benefits of heterogenous catalysis.

Tuesday 30 April 2019
David Durand-Delacre, Department of Geography

How we categorise migrants matters. The different implications of labelling for ‘political refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’, ‘economic migrant’ or ‘illegal alien’ are important because each label conditions the rights and conditions of the people designated. Since the mid-1980s, the ‘climate migrant’ label has gained traction among experts in academia, the press and policy-making circles. I begin by presenting the debate between ‘maximalism’ – which seeks to quantify climate-induced migratory flows and identify ‘climate migrants’ – and ‘minimalism’, which disputes the usefulness of the ‘climate migrant’ label on analytical and practical grounds. This leaves us with a tension. On the one hand, minimalism has made a convincing case for a nuanced understanding of the environment as one driver of mobility among many. On the other, the ‘climate migrant’ label retains significant appeal, and we must still contend with the inevitability of labelling, which is inherently reductive. As a potential way out of this bind, I argue that a critical study of ‘climate migrants’ should focus both on how the label is made – that is the discursive practices used to conceptualise, contest and deploy it for policy purposes – but also on how the label circulates, asking questions such as: how does it spread? How does it evolve in the process? What facilitates or hinders its movement? Why and how does the label ‘stick’ to certain people and not to others? I end with some suggestions for how we may begin to answer these questions, drawing in particular on multi-sited ethnography.

David Durand-Delacre is a 1st year PhD student in the Geography Department.

Thursday 25 April 2019
Dr Shovan Dutta (Physics Department, Cambridge)

In a 3D world, all fundamental particles fall into one of two categories: those that behave like photons which make up light, and those that behave like electrons which make up matter. However, more exotic particles can arise in 2D, called anyons, which could form the hardware of future quantum computers, thanks to their fractional exchange statistics. Directly observing anyons is a major challenge of contemporary physics. In this talk, I will present a newly-developed protocol for preparing anyons in an optical cavity built by carefully aligning a set of high-quality mirrors. I will explain how one can drive the cavity with lasers to inject photons one by one, building up a “fractional quantum Hall” state. Additional lasers are used to create anyonic “hole” excitations and move them around one another. The resulting phases are measured by interferometry. I will discuss the challenges of implementing the protocol by analyzing experimental constraints.

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