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 14 November 2019
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Maude E Phipps, Monash University Malaysia

The indigenous populations Orang Asli (OA) of Peninsular Malaysia are divided into three major communities or tribes, namely the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. These tribes can be further divided into further sub-tribes based on unique linguistic, morphological and cultural characteristics. Many of these communities live in rural and forest fringes whilst the rest live in urban areas. Despite modernization, some groups such as Mah Meri, Temiar and Jakun still observe unique cultural practices including rituals music, dance, animism, herbalism and spiritual rituals. Previously, hunter gathering, fishing and swiddening were main activities but rapid development in recent years have caused many changes. Throughout the centuries, numerous anthropological and linguistic investigations have informed our knowledge about these populations but genetic histories of these populations remained obscure. We investigated the genomics of these 3 major groups and discovered that although all OA groups are genetically closest to East Asian (EA) populations, they are substantially distinct. Evidence indicates that these peoples are the descendants of the earliest human migrations out of Africa into South East Asia. Genetic affinity between Andamanese and Malaysian Negritos suggest an ancient link. Formal admixture tests provided evidence of gene flow between Austro-Asiatic speaking OAs and populations from South East Asia and South China suggesting a widespread presence of these people in SEA before the Austronesian expansion. Estimates indicate OAs diverged from East Asians probably during the late Pleistocene (14.5 to 8 YBP). The continuum in divergence time from Negritos to Senoi and Proto-Malay in combination with ancestral markers provides evidences of multiple waves of migration into SEA starting with the first Out-of-Africa dispersals followed by Early-train and subsequent Austronesian expansions. We also investigated the effects of socio-demographic change and urbanization on the cardio-metabolic risks and found variable prevalence of obesity, cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes in various tribes.

Thursday 21 November 2019
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Lucy MacGregor - MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

Abstract not available

Thursday 28 November 2019
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Arthur Davis - Centre for Gender Studies

Abstract not available

Thursday 5 December 2019
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Anna Maria Ranzoni - Wellcome - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute/Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Abstract not available

Past Research Talks

Thursday 16 May 2019
Dr Chrispin Chaguza (Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge)

Bacterial evolution is a never-ending process and such innovation can lead to adaptation to clinical interventions such as antibiotics and vaccines thereby making them less effective. Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is a human-adapted opportunistic pathogen once assigned the moniker “Captain of the men of death” by Sir William Osler because of its high death toll globally. Despite significant reduction of the invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPD) over the last two decades due to the introduction of effective higher-valent pneumococcal vaccines (PCVs), IPDs continue to kill hundreds of thousands of people globally. In this talk, I will describe colonisation dynamics, genomic diversity and evolution of the pneumococcus during persistent colonisation episodes in infants from a low-income and tropical Sub Saharan African setting with high carriage and disease burden during the first year of life.

Tuesday 14 May 2019
Alev Sen, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge

In 2013, the four UK health departments launched a collaborative UK Strategy for Rare Diseases, which included outlining a shared vision ‘to ensure no one gets left behind just because they have a rare disease’ (Department of Health, 2013). At the time, this formal recognition of concerns about equity and social justice in UK healthcare for patients with rare diseases was heralded as a ‘landmark’ by campaigners. Since then, whilst some changes have been welcomed as improvements, the persistence of problems, such as delays in diagnosis, restricted funding of medicines, and patchy local provision, remain on the agenda. This talk will explore the formation and impact of campaigning on rare diseases in contemporary UK healthcare. Questions considered will include: How are ‘rare diseases’ defined and constituted? And what forms of systematic disadvantage are they associated with? Rare diseases, as an emergent site of activism, may illuminate new and pressing factors effecting the distribution of healthcare in the UK today.

Alev Sen is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge.

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.

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