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 15 November 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Robert Kupp (CRUK Cambridge Institute / Oncology)

Ependymomas are tumors of the central nervous system, arising within the ependymal lining at the ventricle-parenchyma interface. Molecular profiling studies suggests ependymomas in different anatomical compartments are distinct and disparate diseases, with unique cells of origin and genetic drivers. We have recently described a highly recurrent 11q structural variant, producing a fusion translocation between the C11orf95 gene of unknown function and RELA, the principal effector of NF-kB signaling. C11orf95-RELA Fusion proteins, when introduced into neural stem cells, rapidly transform to form ependymoma. Furthermore, recent studies analyzing the genomes and transcriptomes of 500 primary ependymomas have reinforced these findings, showing that C11orf95-RELA fusion proteins are found within ~70% of forebrain (supratentorial) ependymomas and correlated with negative overall survival. However, the molecular events preceding and following Fusion transformation remain largely unknown. In this study we will present our recent efforts integrating transcriptome, proteome, interactome, and genome wide mapping of Fusion proteins (as well as their individual components) to understand the mechanisms by which neural stem cells transform to form ependymomas.

Tuesday 20 November 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Valentina Ausserladscheider, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge

Right-wing populism experiences unprecedented success on the European political landscape. Illustrative of such success are the UK Independence Party´s Brexit campaign and the Austrian Freedom Party in the last general elections. The first played a major role in the UK´s decision to exit the European Union, and the latter presents Austria´s current government in coalition with the conservative party. My research explores the communication of these parties to the public and the way in which their economic policy proposals changed over the past decades. In doing so, I seek to understand how economic ideas, such as trade tariffs and renationalizing industries regained popularity; more specifically, how are these mobilized to condemn European integration, world markets and globalization and support cultural values such as nationalism, nativism and cultural conservativism. This research thereby contributes to the understanding of how the rise of right-wing populism is not just a cultural backlash against progressive values such as cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism, but also a reaction to neoliberal economic policies that shape the current economic system.

Valentina is an economic sociologist who is interested in socio-political ideas of elites shaping economic integration in Europe. Currently, she is a PhD student at the Sociology Department of the University of Cambridge. Her thesis investigates the rise of economic nationalist ideas in political elite´s discourse. This entails analyzing policy proposals such as the advocacy of monetary nationalism and protectionist trade tariffs in Austria and the UK. For this, she was awarded the Adam Smith Fellowship for research on political economy by the George Mason University, US.

Thursday 22 November 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College

Information is arguably the most pervasive metaphor that has borne of scientific research over the past 50 years. It is the core notion in many fields of science, including genetics, neuroscience, and the ever-expanding world of ubiquitous digital connectivity provided by the internet, the world-wide wide web, and our wireless networks. It is also important in economics, sociology, musicology, the study of animal (including human) communication, even in the fundamental understanding of black holes. I will try to outline some of the basic ideas behind the answers to the following questions: Is information a physical commodity? How can it be precisely understood and described mathematically? How is it measured? How does it relate to randomness, structure, noise and context?

Tuesday 27 November 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Nancy Highcock, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

Nearly seventy years of scientific excavations at Kültepe have yielded a remarkable assemblage of material reflecting the rich and fluid daily lives of the Anatolians, Assyrians, and others who inhabited such a dynamic and cosmopolitan city. A diverse category of objects, metal dress pins, has been recovered from burials at Kültepe and other Middle Bronze Age Anatolian sites, providing tangible connections to the ancient people who wore them. Previous scholarship has focused on the style and origin of these pins, generally associated with female adornment, but both the cuneiform and material records also allow for glimpses into the economic power they held for women during this period. Pierced clothing pins originating in the Mesopotamian sphere, called tudittu in the texts, were often gifted to women upon transformative life events such as marriage or consecration into a religious order. The Old Assyrian mercantile texts record such social transactions but also indicate that tudittu could function as working capital in times of need. Non-pierced Anatolian dress pins have also been recovered and the survival of their impressions on crescent-shaped loom weights across Anatolia also speak to their importance to the economic agency of women. Through a study of the various types of pins and their associated objects within the contextual framework provide by the texts, this paper will explore the multiple roles of these personal objects and analyze how both Anatolian and Assyrian women used pins to mediate the social, religious, and economic worlds in which they navigated.

Thursday 29 November 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Nanna Kaalund (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)

As the reduction in polar ice turns the Northwest Passage into a viable trading route
and a lucrative fishing area, the legal status has become a key concern, with several
nations claiming its ownership. Upon discovery of John Franklin’s wrecked ship HMS
Erebus in 2014, the Canadian Prime Minister at the time Stephen Harper stated that
“Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions,
which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic
sovereignty.” Harper’s assertion that Franklin’s expedition was the beginning of
Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic – however flawed – shows the long-lasting influence
of nineteenth-century Arctic explorations on the geopolitical landscape. The lost
Franklin expedition generated international interest, collaboration, and financial
assistance for search missions. With reference the Fox expedition under Captain Francis
Leopold McClintock, one of the many nineteenth-century search missions for the lost
Franklin expedition, this presentation examines the nineteenth-century tensions
surrounding international Arctic collaborations. The intersection of imperial
competition, national tragedy, and scientific observation, invites discussion concerning
the role of science in the national construction of the Arctic.

Past Research Talks

Thursday 8 November 2018
Emma Garnett

Health and sustainability concerns have led to calls to reduce meat consumption in rich countries but very few studies have long-term data on which strategies are the most effective at shifting eating patterns. I have been working with four Cambridge University college cafeterias (including Darwin!) to run experiments on whether changing the presentation order of main meals (whether the vegetarian option is encountered first or last when entering the cafeteria) and the availability of vegetarian options (the number of vegetarian options divided by total options) could alter sales of vegetarian meals. Data on over 200,000 main meals purchased from 2017 and 2018 have produced some expected and unexpected results.

Tuesday 6 November 2018
Dr David Pearson, Senior Member, Darwin College

A project is under way at the University Library to map Cambridge bookbindings from the 15th to the 18th century, to help us to recognise them, and see how that knowledge can be useful. Historical and literary researchers handle early books all the time but they don't always know much about their bindings. Research culture around books is increasingly focusing on questions of use and value, and bindings can tell us many things in that context: knowing where and when a book was made tells us a lot about where it was circulating, and understanding how much was spent on it can help with interpreting its contemporary worth.

David Pearson retired in 2017 as Director of Culture, Heritage & Libraries at the City of London Corporation, after a career spent in libraries and collections. He has lectured and published extensively on book history, with particular interests in the ways in which books have been owned and bound. He teaches regularly at the Rare Book Schools in London and Virginia, is a Past President of the Bibliographical Society, and was Lyell Reader in Bibliography at Oxford, 2017-18. He is a senior member of Darwin.

Thursday 1 November 2018
James Macdonald

In the field of surface engineering, nature reigns supreme. Natural examples of functional surfaces combine aspects of physics, chemistry and engineering which are attracting significant research attention to understand and artificially reproduce their properties.

The first half of this talk highlights examples of plant and animal surfaces with extreme wettability and presents some of the experimental approaches used to reproduce their properties. I discuss the water collecting mechanisms of the rice leaf and Namib desert beetle. This is contrasted with the self-cleaning water repellence of the lotus leaf. The Nepenthes pitcher plant and the placoid scales of shark skin are highlighted as interesting examples of surfaces which prevent the adhesion of organisms or bacteria.

Following from this review, I discuss the development of a laser processing technique which modifies the surface structure and chemistry of stainless steel to produce a self-cleaning superhydrophobic surface. The experimental work carried out so far in my PhD is outlined, sharing the insight gained into the hierarchical surface structure and laser-induced chemical reaction which enable the superhydrophobic effect. The use of a nanosecond-pulsed fibre laser coupled with post-process heat treatment is shown to provide a scalable and cost-effective route to wide area manufacture. Finally, the value of the laser processing technique to produce patternable control of wettability is explored with initial results reported for applications in microfluidic and water harvesting devices.

Tuesday 30 October 2018
Professor Dean Hawkes, Emeritus Fellow, Darwin College

Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, built between 1590-1597, is one of the greatest houses to be built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. It was a collaboration between a remarkable owner, Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, familiarly referred to as ‘Bess of Hardwick’, and her architect Robert Smythson. The talk will outline research that has constructed a description of the environment within the house In the first years of its inhabitation. The work has referred to the surviving building accounts for the house, an inventory of its contents made in 1601 and contemporary descriptions of the climate of England at that date during the so-called ‘Little Ice Age’. It is suggested that the complex internal planning of the house within its strictly symmetrical exterior plays a key part in its environmental design.

Dean Hawkes taught and researched at Cambridge from 1965 to 1995. He was a founder member of the Martin Centre, the research division of the Department of Architecture, and was its Director from 1979 to 1987. He was elected a fellow of Darwin in 1976. He was professor of architectural design at Cardiff University from 1995 to 2002. Following his retirement, he returned to Cambridge and was re-elected a fellow of Darwin. His books include The Environmental Tradition (1996), The Environmental Imagination (2008) and Architecture and Climate (2012). His buildings, in partnership with Stephen Greenberg, won four RIBA Architecture Awards. In 2010 he received the RIBA Annie Spink Award in recognition of his contribution to architectural education.

Thursday 25 October 2018
Stuart Macpherson (StranksLab, Optoelectronics group, Physics, University of Cambridge)

Organic-inorganic halide perovskites (OHPs) are the rising stars of photovoltaic (PV) and optoelectronic research [1]. With power conversion efficiencies surging from 3.8% to 22.7% [2,3] in the last 9 years, perovskite solar cells may form fierce competition to the incumbent silicon-based technology in the coming years. OHP materials possess many of the properties needed for efficient solar energy conversion including strong absorption coefficients, high carrier mobility and a tuneable direct bandgap [1]. Solution-processed perovskite inks are deposited as polycrystalline thin films using facile methods (spin coating, spray coating, printing), at low temperature. This ease of manufacturing provides a pathway to large-scale printable cells.

Nevertheless, the performance of state-of-the-art OHP solar cells is still limited by defects, which introduce parasitic non-radiative recombination (NRR) pathways through which energised charges lose their energy to heat [4]. This premature recombination of charge restrains the open-circuit voltage, and hence the efficiency of devices.

After an introduction to perovskite materials, I will discuss current research including the cutting edge science being investigated at the Cavendish Laboratory. Finally, I will explore the potential of perovskite PV in the context of future global energy needs.

[1] Stranks, S. D. & Snaith, H. J. Metal-halide perovskites for photovoltaic and light-emitting devices. Nature Nanotechnology 10, 391-402 (2015). [2] Kojima, A., Teshima, K., Shirai, Y. and Miyasaka, T. Organometal Halide Perovskites as Visible-Light Sensitizers for Photovoltaic Cells. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 6050-6051 (2009). [3] Green, M. A. et al. Solar cell efficiency tables (version 51). Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 26, 3-12 (2018). [4] Stranks, S. D. Nonradiative Losses in Metal Halide Perovskites. ACS Energy Letters 2, 1515-1525 (2017).

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