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 27 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Chris Wilson, Faculty of History

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.

Thursday 1 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Mr Rohan Eapen, Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge

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.

Tuesday 6 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Stephanie Diepeveen, Department of Politics and International Studies

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.

Tuesday 13 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Dan Jones, British Antarctic Survey

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.

Thursday 15 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Jenna Dittmar, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

Abstract not available

Thursday 10 May 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr William Alston, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

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.

Past Research Talks

Thursday 15 February 2018
Eva Agapaki, Engineering Department, University of Cambridge

The cost of modelling existing industrial facilities is currently considered to counteract the benefits of the model in managing and retrofitting the facility. 90% of the modelling cost is typically spent on labour for converting point cloud data to the final model, hence reducing the cost is only possible by automating this step. Previous research has successfully validated methods for modelling specific object types such as cylinders. Yet modelling is still prohibitively expensive. During this talk, the most important object types of industrial facilities will be identified by ranking them according to their frequency of appearance and the man-hours required for modelling in a state of the art software, EdgeWise. This work is the first to rank objects according to their priority for automated modelling. These are straight pipes, electrical conduit and circular hollow sections and constitute more than 80 % of industrial plants on average. This is significant because state-ofthe- art practice has achieved semi-automated cylinder detection saving 64 % of their manual modelling time for the case studies investigated. Automated detection and semantic classification methods for the recognition of the abovementioned objects will be analyzed.

Tuesday 13 February 2018
Dr Tom Maguire, Department of Politics and International Studies

One of the several research projects Tom is currently pursuing is assessing the influence of the UK on the development of state security sectors in the Global South - in particular but not exclusively the Commonwealth - through training, equipment and other forms of assistance since 1945. This is intended to better inform understanding of, on the one hand, the UK’s post-colonial legacies and foreign policy and, on the other, contemporary debates regarding upstream conflict prevention, human rights, and security sector reform why security sectors develop in similar and different ways. This talk will present preliminary findings from one case area of the project: Cold War Southeast Asia, placing it in the context of British overseas security assistance and foreign policy across the Global South in this era.

Tuesday 6 February 2018
Nailya Shamgunova, Faculty of History

This paper explores the relationship between the emotional ecologies of early modern England and the Ottoman Empire. It focuses on establishing two distinct ways of conceptualising male to male affection and love in these societies and explores parallels and direct connections between them. The emotional ecology of early modern male English friendship is an under-explored topic. Focusing on friendship manuals published in England between the 1580s and the 1670s, I argue that early modern friendship, far from merely giving a language of expression for hidden male to male love, was the very centre and focus for that love. Extensive debates about the possibility of male to female friendship, the importance of friendship in marriage and the competition between conjugal marriage and male to male friendship, ‘the marriage of souls’, all point to the central emotional importance of friendship between men, a category which encompassed far more than ‘being just friends’ does nowadays. Equally, the culture of the beloveds in early modern Ottoman Empire, explored by Walter Andrews and Mehmed Kalpaklı, was a distinct emotional ecology of male to male relationships. Andrews and Kalpaklı drew parallels between early modern Ottoman Empire and Renaissance England, showing that both cultures included a relationship between an older and a younger male. I want to take that a step further and draw connections rather than parallels, and to try to answer the question of why early modern English observers of the Ottoman Empire seemed incapable to capturing the relationship between Ottoman men despite the complete acceptability of close male to male bonds in English culture at the time. Using the example of Sir John Finch and Sir Thomas Baines, lifelong companions bonded in ‘holy matrimony’ (according to their Cambridge mentor) who lived in the Ottoman Empire for more than ten years, I will explore the role of religion and cultural prejudice in constructing early modern Anglo-Ottoman encounters in relation to emotions and sexuality.

Thursday 1 February 2018
Dario Bressan, University of Cambridge

Location matters in biology. Both the inner workings of tissues and organs and their dysregulation, which leads to disease, depend on the tight web of relationships between different cell populations, and on the concerted regulation of their function mediated by genetic and environmental effects. In the last 10 years and more, it has become clear that many biological phenomena cannot be studied by analyzing cells in bulk and outside of their natural environment, but their underlying mechanisms can only be mechanistically investigated if observed both at the single-cell level and in situ. While technologies allowing either the former or the latter of these features are now available, combining both is extremely challenging, at least with the throughput necessary to obtain reliable results.
In our laboratory, we have recently launched a project, named IMAXT (Imaging and Molecular Annotation of Xenografts and Tumours), that aims to produce a comprehensive tri-dimensional map of breast tumours in which each cell is annotated by measuring the expression of hundreds of different genes and proteins. We are doing this by combining several microscope-based techniques with automated image analysis and mass spectrometry. The results are used to build an integrated computer model of the tumour, which can be explored using a natural interface in a virtual reality environment, literally “immersing oneself” into the tissue and observing its features. While the project is still in its early phases, early results on tumour samples are showing how powerful this method could be not only for cancer biology, but for many other fields as well, such as developmental biology.

Tuesday 30 January 2018
Zach Lenox, Faculty of Law

In many industries today, such as air travel, banking, internet search or social networking, there are only a few major competitors in any domestic market. Those large companies’ shares are often held by a few prominent investment companies like Blackrock, State Street, or Fidelity. Recent econometric research suggests that this market structure: oligopolistic industries owned by oligopolistic investors, leads to monopolistic behavior. What should we make of this econometric research? How has ownership of oligopolistic companies become so concentrated in the first place? And, what can we do about these modern monopolies?

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