Future Talks

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We are returning to the newly renamed and refurbished Winchester Arc (formerly the Discovery Centre) in Jewry St. 

Our YouTube Channel has recordings of past talks.

We will also attempt to live stream the event on YouTube. Please bear with us as the sound quality may not be as good as purely online events. We will not be giving access via Zoom to this event.

Mon 6th June 7.30pm “I Contain Multitudes’ – The surprising world of microscopic biofilms” – Dr Joe Parker

If I ask you to imagine a bacterial colony, you’d probably picture some jellybean-looking bacterial cells, floating about in an unspecified liquid, or possibly spreading out on a Petri dish. We readily picture these occurring in human habitats, or animals, or toilets (but rarely petrol tanks, or icecaps, or mineshafts). It’s a common image but as misleading as the idea that planets orbit in perfect circles. Nearly two decades of research have revealed the truth, and we’re still uncovering more surprises.

In fact, most of the ~1030 bacteria on Earth live, not floating in fluids in humans or a toilet or water-pipe but in bacterial biofilms, with the vast mass resident in the deep oceans, soil, sediment and rocks of the Earth. Within these biofilms, bacteria for dense, specialised, three-dimensional communities  comprising many species capable of pooling resources and communicating. Even closer to home, bacterial biofilms offer their residents protection from many of the antibiotics and cleaning agents we try and dislodge them with, causing deaths and disease, spoiling food, and wrecking or contaminating industrial processes.

I’ll give you a whistlestop tour through this fascinating, unseen world, and explain how our newest work is rewriting the rules for biofilms again, offering tantalising hints at a level of bacterial communication we never even imagined.

Dr. Parker joined the National Biofilms Innovation Centre’s Southampton University group in 2018 shortly after its formation. He is developing lab techniques, statistical methods, and software to exploit portable, real-time DNA sequencing for biofilm microbial community analyses. These will enable non-experts with minimal equipment to explore these ubiquitous microcosms’ composition, evolution and ecology, rapidly, anywhere on the planet. During the COVID-19 pandemic he served on secondment to the Department for Health & Social Care, designing and commissioning a novel, highly-automated testing lab capable of processing tens of thousands of samples daily.

Previously he has held an independent Early-Career Research Fellowship at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (where he published the first-ever demonstration of congeneric species ID by genome-scale DNA sequencing in the field), and Queen Mary, University of London, where he published the first-ever detection of adaptive molecular convergent evolution (in Nature).

He is a Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute, and Stipendiary Lecturer in Statistics and Modelling at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.

Mon 4th July 7.30pm “Setting course for zero-carbon shipping” – Dr Laurie Wright – Southampton Solent University


Mon 1st August 7.30pm “Learning from accidents: railway signalling in the UK” – Dr Robin Wilson

Trains are one of the safest ways to travel, but it hasn’t always been like that. In this talk I will introduce the basics of railway signalling, and look at how it has evolved over time – often in response to accidents and near-misses. You will find out how a single stray wire caused an accident that killed 35 people, why leaves on the line cause such a problem for the railways, and how signalling systems are designed to deal with the inevitable human error. Examples of accidents from the 1870s to the 2010s will be used, and signalling in the local area will be described.

Dr Robin Wilson has a PhD in satellite imaging and complex systems simulation from the University of Southampton, during which he developed a new method for monitoring air quality from high-resolution satellite images. After completing his PhD, he worked as an academic for a number of years, on projects including extending his PhD work, and monitoring population movement after disasters from mobile phone data. He is now a freelancer in geographic data analysis and related software development, currently working with clients including Anglo American (a multinational mining company), Satellogic (an Argentinian satellite company) and the UK Navy. He gives talks on a range of topics to schools and science groups around the country, and has been given multiple ‘best talk’ awards. He has a wide range of interests and expertise alongside his professional area of specialism, including UK railways (particularly their signalling systems), nuclear power and space missions.

Mon 5th September 7.30pm TBC

Mon 3rd October 7.30pm Dr Shelley Duncan “The relationship between electrical activity of the brain and behaviour”