2014 Talks

Mon 1st December 2014 – Danny Rees – “In your face. What does physiognomy tell us about character?

The face occupies a privileged position in relation to identity and emotional expression. But what can it reveal about the person? What combinations of features are deemed untrustworthy and why? Has science brought a new understanding to how our faces can be interpreted? The history of physiognomy (the ‘reading’ of character based on appearance) has come a long way since the time of Aristotle, proving a fascinating and often controversial journey – questioning the boundaries of science along the way.

Danny Rees is Outreach Officer at The Wellcome Library. @WellcomeLibrary

Mon 3rd November – Dr Russell Lane “Do Lobsters Get Headaches?”

Russell Lane is a Neurologist with expertise in headaches and their management. He qualified  MD at  the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and undertook specialist training at Duke University in the United States, and in London. He was Consultant Neurologist to Charing Cross Hospital, Imperial College London, and is a former President of the Section of Clinical Sciences of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the South of England Neurosciences Association. He is currently Chairman of the Anglo Dutch Migraine Association. He has written many peer reviewed papers, books and book chapters and other articles covering a range of neurological topics, notably on neuromuscular disease and headache.

Headache is a major cause of morbidity in the world and carries a significant risk of handicap. This has adverse consequences for the economy as well as the lives of sufferers. Although headache is a very common problem, the general public and their primary care doctors understand little of its mechanism. The problem is shrouded in misunderstanding and myth, and management is generally poor. We actually know a great deal about the processes that drive headaches and this will be discussed in detail, as will evidence-based treatment strategies.

Do lobsters get headaches? Come and find out!

Mon 6th October 2014 – Jon Stokes – Future Forests

Britain’s forests face an uncertain future, between disease and climate change. Jon is a Director of the Tree Council, the umbrella body for all tree-related organisations in the UK and advises government on strategy in relation to the future of our woodland, with particular reference to the Chalara outbreak that threatens our ash trees.

Jon is also leading the Hedgerow Harvest Oral History Project, capturing people’s memories of foraging for food. @TheTreeCouncil

Mon 1st September Andrew Seber – “Unravelling the mysteries of the threads of life: chromosomes, genes, DNA and all that”

The past half century has seen a huge amount of research into how living things pass on the details of their structure and function. Words like chromosomes, genes and DNA have entered our general vocabulary but many of us would like to understand a little more about their basic meaning. Advances in microscopy and biological chemistry have expanded knowledge immensely in recent years; now is a good time to take a step back to see the wood for the trees. @AWSeber

You can see a video of Andrew’s talk, alongside the slides here

Mon 4th August Claire Benson – “From coal dust to the cosmos – Forgotten stories of Victorian fire science”

Claire Benson will talk about the origins of explosives, and how it led to many lives being saved, about coal dust fires and how science denied there was a problem, the story of how one huge fire led to the London Fire Brigade being set up, Spontaneous human combustion, and how the invention of the bunsen burner led to us understanding the make-up and expansion of the universe. @PyroClaire

Mon 7th July – Dr Stuart Hogarth – “From Papanicolau to Papilloma – the corporatisation of diagnostic innovation.”

When cancer screening began in the USA in the early twentieth century it was a public health initiative driven by physicians, charities, government agencies and women’s advocacy organisations. By the late twentieth century it had become a billion dollar business dominated by large corporations. In this talk I use cervical cancer screening as a case study to show how growth in that commercial enterprise is now being fuelled by a new wave of molecular screening tests. I contrast the development of the Pap smear in the first half of the twentieth century with the development of a rival molecular technology in the late twentieth century: DNA diagnostics for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). I will describe how the changing role of industry in diagnostic innovation is linked to the adoption of new business models and to commercial strategies
characteristic of big pharma (including consumer advertising, funding of patient advocacy groups and the recruitment of key opinion leaders). This process of corporatisation poses important questions about what constitutes responsible innovation in diagnostics.

Mon 2nd June Dr Cheryl Metcalf “Hands are Handy Things

Dr Metcalf is a Lecturer in Biomechanics and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. Much of her research is working at the interface between engineering and rehabilitation. She has investigated the relationship between movement and function of the wrist and hand, focusing on investigating the differences in wrist movements and hand function between unimpaired and chronic stroke participants. @CherylMetcalf


Mon 5th May – Roger Martin – “Population and the Environment”

Roger Martin – Populationmatters.org –

It’s no use reducing your footprint if you keep increasing the number of feet. “It is self-evident that every additional person increases our impact on the environment, and reduces everyone else’s ‘share’ of natural resources. Yet a mad taboo still prevents most people saying so; so little is done about it; so the population surge continues; and all our big problems become harder to solve. What can we do about it?” @PopnMatters

Mon 7th April – Lisa Sugiura – Buying Medicine from the Web?

This talk draws on an on-going doctoral study undertaken as part of the University of Southampton Web Science Doctoral Training Centre funded by the RCUK Digital Economy Programme. The study of the Web is necessarily multidisciplinary – we need to understand the technology and the way people and society use and shape it. My work draws on sociology, criminology, law and computer science to understand a new ‘problem,’ that of people buying medicines on the Web. My interactive talk – which involves jelly bean sweets – explains some of the issues and risks this multidisciplinary research has uncovered. This work features collaboration across University faculties –Electronics and Computer Science, Health Sciences and Social Science and Social Policy, and with government agencies. Working closely with the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, my work will inform healthcare and patient safety regulation. @harajukugirl77

Monday 3rd March 2014  Dr Rene Breton – University of Southampton – “Einstein’s Theory Under Scrutiny”

Almost 100 years after its publication, physicists are still amazed by the remarkable success of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Black holes and warping of space-time are already well-established “facts” of the science fiction folklore. Yet, there is more than science fiction: astrophysicists observe and test effects of relativity on daily basis. In this presentation, I will provide a very accessible introduction to some of the marvels of Einstein’s world. I will also illustrate how we recently tested the validity of our gravitational theory to an unprecedented level using observations of pulsars. Pulsars are the ultra-compact remnants of massive stars. They spin at staggering speeds of several rotations per second and illuminate space with their radio beacon in a similar fashion as lighthouses!

Monday 3rd February 2014 – Ecologist Dr Ryan Walker –  “Bat Conservation in the UK and its links to the Building Industry.”

Few species live in such close proximity to humans as a number of UK species of bats. These species also appear to have modified their ecology to exploit human domestic infrastructure in a very rapid and dramatic way. As a result bat conservation legislation in the UK, is some of the most well regulated wildlife conservation law in the world, and UK bat protection legislation is now entwined within building legislation. In many ways this is benefiting a number of recently threatened bat species, but can also result in wildlife/human conflict.