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

Tuesday 28 February 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Ben Raynor, Darwin College

Recent work on the formation of regional identity in the ancient world has focused on the importance of 'bottom-up' factors, such as long-term collaboration and interchange between neighbouring population groups, or cooperation to resist external interference. While such work has produced important insights, it may underestimate the importance of 'top-down' factors, particularly in the monarchic states of the ancient world where autocrats had broad capabilities to intervene in the political and social geography of a region. This talk will investigate these issues in ancient Epirus, a region in the northwest of the Balkan peninsula around the modern Greece-Albania border. It will argue that royal policy played a crucial role in the formation of a regional identity in Epirus in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

Dr Ben D. Raynor is the Moses and Mary Finley Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge.

Thursday 2 March 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Anna V. Protasio

Parasites have co-evolved with their hosts through millions of years are arguably provide some of the finest examples of adaptability to a ever changing environment. One particular flatworm parasite called Schistosoma mansoni, is responsible for infecting ~ 200 million people worldwide. Using the latest genomic and informatics technologies, such as those used for the sequencing of the human genome, we can now start to investigate what makes these parasites so adaptable and remarkably successful in surviving hostile conditions inside their hosts even for decades!

Bio: Dr. Anna V. Protasio graduated with a BSc. in Biochemistry from the University of the Republic, in Uruguay. She then moved to Cambridge to pursue a PhD in Molecular Biology at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge. During this time, Anna developed a great appreciation for parasitology and became a pioneer in the use of massive parallel sequencing applied to the understanding of gene expression in these parasites. She remained at the Sanger Institute with a Postdoctoral Fellowship for further 4 years. in 2016, she became a NCBS-InStem-Cambridge Fellow and an "awaiting" Research Affiliate at Darwin College (to join in Oct 2017)

Tuesday 7 March 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Nick Hardy, University Library

Few things seem more quintessentially English than the most widely read vernacular translation of the Bible, the ‘King James’ or ‘Authorized’ Version of 1611. But new sources for the making of the translation, presented in this talk, show that it was heavily influenced by continental scholarship. Indeed, the revision of some of its most important sections was overseen by a French emigré, the scholar and religious controversialist, Isaac Casaubon — even though Casaubon hardly spoke English. I propose to use the example of Casaubon to shed some light on the international culture of research and controversy surrounding the biblical text that animated the translators’ decisions about how to render it.

Nick Hardy took his BA in Classics and English (2008) and DPhil in English (2012) at Oxford before taking up Fellowships at Trinity College, Cambridge (2012-2016) and now at the University Library and Darwin College. His interests lie in later sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and continental humanism, biblical scholarship and translation.

Tuesday 14 March 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Michael David Clark, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

The Islamic State (ISIS) has usurped the government in swathes of eastern Syria and western Iraq. It is engaged in a brutal war against an array of state and non-state actors, many of which are also in conflict with one another. There are many theories that seek to explain why and how states go to war. We can use these extant theories to understand the whys and wherefores of state behaviour in the case of the war against ISIS, and much excellent scholarship has been conducted in this regard. However, it is far from clear that we can apply them to the war between non-state actors that is arguably the more important part of this particular conflict. Do the extant theories of war help us understand why and how non-state actors go to war? If they do not, how can we adapt them in order to synthesise an approach with more explanatory power? This paper seeks to test extant theories of war to the case study of the ongoing conflict involving the Islamic State. This is a particularly pertinent case study as many the central protagonists are non-states, and indeed the war itself is against a non-state actor. The paper specifically dismisses the role of state actors in this conflict in order to focus attention on the drivers and factors at play in non-state wars; this is a theoretical assumption rather than a statement of reality. However, in viewing the conflict through a lens that is blind to the state, the paper aims to help us understand the conflict in a novel way, as well as to reveal the contributions that different theoretical approaches can make and the potential ways in which these can be combined to synthesise a non-state theory of war.

Dr Michael David Clark is a lecturer in the department of Defence and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He gained his PhD in Politics and International Studies from Darwin College, Cambridge, in 2016. His doctoral research addressed the formulation of foreign policy in Hezbollah and the Sadrist Movement and built on prior work in the same field undertaken as part of his MSc at Bristol and MRes at Exeter. Michael's current research focuses on the application of IR theory and theories of war to armed non-state actors, particularly in the case of the war against the Islamic State. He is the author of a forthcoming monograph with Cambridge University Press.

Past Research Talks

Tuesday 21 February 2017
Amanda Roig-Marín, Darwin College

Alliteration, rhyme, and sound symbolism (i.e., the systematic connection between meaning and sound, also known as iconicity) have been widely studied as literary devices heightening the auditory and evocative power of language. However, their underlying role in the coinage of words per se has been much more neglected in linguistic studies. In this presentation, I will overview in what ways these devices – which bring the phonological make-up of the linguistic sign to the fore – operate in lexis (either single or multiple lexical units) by discussing instantiations of how alliteration is still noticeable in, for instance, onomastics, and how rhyme and sound symbolism are particularly productive in certain spheres of language such as colloquial registers and slang.

Amanda Roig-Marín is currently doing an MPhil in Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. Her main research interests include historical linguistics, language contact, and lexicology.

Thursday 16 February 2017
Paula MacGregor, Department of Biochemistry

One of the key goals in the design of new anti-cancer therapeutics is to kill the cancer cells while limiting damage to the healthy cells of the body. In pursuit of this goal, anti-cancer antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are increasingly being developed. These immunotherapeutics concentrate the drug specifically inside the cancer cell by combining an antibody that targets the cancer cell surface with a cytotoxic drug.

In parallel, one of the goals in the design of novel therapeutics against protozoan parasites is to destroy the invading cells without causing damage to the host cells. It is logical, therefore, that ADCs could also provide a new class of therapeutic agents against protozoan pathogens. Further, there is clear scope for piggy-back drug development alongside anti-cancer ADCs by varying only cell-specificity.

I will discuss the use of the African trypanosome as a proof-of- principle model for the use of anti-cancer ADCs against parasites.

Tuesday 14 February 2017
Ksenia Pavlenko, Darwin College

Sergei Diaghilev’s 1898 Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Art exemplifies how Finland’s economic prosperity and relative autonomy as a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire led to transcultural exchange. Unfortunately the Russification Programme, initiated in 1899, changed an amicable relationship between the Russian Empire and its Finnish territory to one of oppression. The Finnish Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle demonstrates how quickly Finland’s embrace of nineteenth-century nationalism transformed from a cultural blossoming to a politicised quest for autonomy. A moment of artistic potential quickly dissolved into one of oppression and resistance.

Ksenia Pavlenko is an MPhil candidate in History of Art, supervised by Dr. Polly Blakesley, researching the visual culture of Finland as a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire.

Image credit: Magnus Enckell, Death's Walk, 1896.

Thursday 9 February 2017
Juliet Griffin, Department of Psychiatry

One of the most exciting breakthroughs in recent cognitive science has been its newfound recognition of a fundamental organising principle of cognition: namely, that the brain is fundamentally in the business of inferring what’s going on around it, by predicting its own sensory inputs. At all scales of neural processing, a wealth of top-down prior expectations are brought to bear on inferentially ‘explaining away’ the pattern of bottom-up activity. Bayes’ theorem gives us a mathematical rule for optimising inference, by combining prior knowledge with new information according to the relative reliability of each – and dopamine gives us a neurochemical mechanism by which this relative reliability is coded.

Disturbances to dopamine-mediated predictive coding may cause psychosis – a condition in which the individual becomes trapped in a prison of their brain’s own inferences, which have somehow become unyoked from external reality. But since predictive coding theories of psychosis appeal to a pervasive dysfunction in a general, overarching principle of cognition, they struggle to account for the surprising regularity with which certain highly-specific themes and features crop up again and again in the phenomenological content of psychotic experience. I will describe the many explanatory successes of predictive coding theories of psychosis, before discussing how my own research attempts to tackle the pressing challenges they still face in accounting for the facts that delusions overwhelmingly tend to be unpleasant, social, and bizarre.

Bio: I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge, specialising in Experimental Psychology for my BA in 2013 and completing the MSci in History and Philosophy of Science the following year. In 2014 I applied to do a PhD investigating the development of psychotic symptoms (particularly delusions) in the context of schizophrenic illness. I received funding from the Wellcome Trust NeuroScience in Psychiatry Network, and started my PhD later that year under the supervision of Prof Paul Fletcher and Dr Graham Murray.

Tuesday 7 February 2017
Darren Harvey, Darwin College

As the UK’s Brexit wish list becomes clearer and the “triggering” of Article 50 draws closer, attention necessarily must turn to the role that the EU institutions will play in the negotiation and conclusion of any deal between the UK and EU. Contrary to the perceptions of some, the process of both negotiating withdrawal from the EU and reaching agreement on future UK-EU relations is not solely within the powers of the UK government and the governments of the EU’s remaining 27 member states alone. Instead, the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and potentially the Court of Justice of the European Union will also all play their part in the Brexit process. In light of this, the purpose of this talk is to provide a general overview of the Article 50 process once the UK has “triggered” Article 50 and assess the prospects of any deal being reached between the UK and the EU.

Darren Harvey is a PhD Candidate in Law at Darwin College, University of Cambridge.

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