2016 Archive

Mon 5th December 2016 – Roger Brugge – University of Reading – “About the Weather”

The weather affects us all to a greater or lesser extent in our day-to-day lives.

Knowing the weather that is to come is, consequently, important and, on occasions, lives can depend upon such knowledge. Weather forecasting is a major international activity, involving tens of thousands people and many billions of pounds worth of equipment worldwide.

After a brief discussion of the history of weather forecasting, Roger will describe some of the principles of a numerical weather prediction model.

He will explain how a modern weather forecast is produced, from the taking of observations and their inclusion into a previous forecast to create the analysis (i.e. the current state of the atmosphere), which then leads into the making of the forecast. Mention will also be made of the role of the human forecaster and the methods used to verify forecasts.

Roger has been interested in weather since his school days, when he first began running his own weather station – a hobby he has maintained to the present day. He obtained a PhD at Imperial College studying atmospheric convection with numerical models, and has since made a career of using and developing computer models that simulate the workings of both the atmosphere and ocean.

Mon 7th November 2016 – Prof Marika Taylor – University of Southampton – “Black holes: Unlikely sources of enlightenment”

In the last century, black holes have moved from being a disputed idea at the edge of physics to playing a central role in our understanding of the cosmos. They are also thought laboratories that illuminate theories of the fundamental laws of physics, and researchers are busier than ever trying to make sense of what they mean. Marika Taylor will present the story of black holes: what evidence we have for their existence, how they form, and what they mean for the future of physics.

Mon 3rd October 2016 – Prof. Gavin Foster – University of Southampton- “How hot will it get? Insights into climate change from our warm geological past”

US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz in a recent hearing of the US Senate on climate change said that our understanding of the climate system as encapsulated in state of the art computer models is “profoundly wrong.and inconsistent with the evidence and the data”.  This is just one example of the anti-climate change rhetoric that one can hear these days.  Much of it cherry picks the available temperature data and exploits uncertainty in model simulations.  What I want to do in this talk is go over some of the fundamentals of the science behind our understanding of climate change and illustrate how you don’t need to rely on hockey sticks, hiatus’ or hearings of the US senate to know that higher concentrations of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere = warmer temperatures.  Finally, I will show how our current understanding, imperfect as it may be, is well supported by what we know about the climate of our warm geological past.

Mon 5th September 2016 – Dr John Broughall – Antibiotic Research UK – “Are we Discovering new Antibiotics Quickly Enough?”

John Broughall, (pronounced as in a pub “brawl”), will discuss the issue of why the antibiotic development pipeline has dried up: what are the problems and why the pharmaceutical industry is not investing in research and development to produce new compounds. Multi-drug antibiotic resistance has been recognised as a global threat to health yet the solutions to this issue are not obvious, the current commercially driven pharmaceutical process does not appear fit for purpose. The charity that John is representing tonight, Antibiotic Research UK, is proposing a new approach to overcome this impasse, he will discuss their plans and the science behind their proposal.

John is a PhD microbiologist who has spent most of his career in the diagnostics industry including the development of rapid and automated methods for use in microbiology laboratories. Latterly he has worked in the medical departments of two major pharmaceutical companies focusing on both antibiotics and also new oncology compounds. He now runs his own consultancy business but is also a volunteer for Antibiotic Research UK.

Mon 1st August 2016 – Julie Wertz – University of Glasgow – “The secret chemistry of art: unravelling an age-old textile mystery

The distinctive hue and renowned fastness of Turkey red textiles fuelled a massive industry in the West of Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries, but in the 80 years since it was superseded by cheaper alternative dyes all firsthand knowledge of the process has been lost. Learn about the mysteries of Turkey red dyeing through archival research and cutting-edge chemistry.

Julie Wertz is a doctoral research student at the University of Glasgow studying and re-creating the historical textile dyeing process known as Turkey red. Her cross-disciplinary project, part of the University’s Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Scholarship scheme, is between the Centre for Textile Conservation and the School of Chemistry, with support from Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. She gave the inaugural Jacob Bronowski Award Lecture for Science and Arts at the 2015 British Science Festival and has a bachelor’s degree is in chemistry and in French.

Mon 4th July 2016 – Dr John Lapage – Evolutionary Biologist – “The Origins of Life”

In his talk John will go through the problems with trying to understand the origins of life, current research on the topic, and the best theories that propose solutions for this ancient question.

Dr John Lapage is a Developmental and Evolutionary Biologist who has recently completed his PhD on development of the skull, jaw and teeth. He is a currently researching the Zika virus at the University of Warwick.

Mon 6th June 2016 – Paul Gow – University of Southampton – “Terahertz: making the invisible visible”

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Terahertz radiation is light which sits between microwaves and infrared light in what is known as ‘the terahertz gap’. Everyday items such as clothing, paper, plastics and ceramics are transparent to terahertz. It is also non-ionising – safe – making it ideal for use in security. With more and more research into developing ways of emitting and detecting this radiation, terahertz is being used in many new fields, such as; medicine, quality control, telecommunication and art conservation.
In this talk I will introduce terahertz light and why it is so unique and interesting. I will talk about the new ways this technology is being used in industry for manufacturing and quality control. I will give an insight into the cutting edge research taking place across the world and an idea of how this technology may become common place in our lives in the future.
Paul Gow is a final year PhD student in the school of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton. He is working in the Terahertz group developing new emitters and detectors. In 2014 Paul won the University’s first ‘Three Minute Thesis’ competition and in 2015 presented his research at the House of Commons as part of ‘SET for Britain’. Paul also takes part in many outreach and engagement activities, including the Light Express roadshow.

Mon 2nd May 2016 – Dr Amelie Heuer-Jungemann – University of Southampton – “Cancer detection and treatment via DNA-gold nanoparticle conjugates.”

The ability to detect abnormalities that will lead to cancer or other fatal diseases at the cellular level is incredibly important. Additionally, being able to then selectively kill off those cells without causing collateral damage will be a tremendous advancement.

This talk will introduce gold nanoparticles functionalised with a shell of synthetic DNA strands as new potential agents for simultaneously detecting abnormal changes in cells in combination with highly targeted drug delivery.

Amelie studied for an MChem in Chemistry with Biochemistry at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh (2006 – 2011) before completing her PhD in Physics at the University of Southampton in 2014. Her PhD focussed on DNA-nanoparticle conjugates for biomedical applications. She is currently a research fellow in the ‘Laboratory for Inorganic Nanocrystals and Applications’ within Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton doing further fundamental research into using gold nanoparticles for cancer treatment.

Mon 4th April 2016 – Dr James Dyke – “What planet are we living on”

Give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day. Teach him how to establish a fossil fuelled hyper consumerist society and you will make him obese as he trashes an entire planet.

That’s the one sentence summary of this talk. The starting point is my claim that perhaps the only thing more extraordinary about our current civilisation, is that nearly everyone in it doesn’t think its extraordinary. Modern humans are about one million years old, and for 99% of that time their numbers were in the tens or hundreds of millions. In the last few centuries human populations have undergone spectacular growth so now over seven billion people live on Earth. There will be 11 billion of us by the end of this century. Where will this process end? Can it end? Is there enough food, enough stuff, to support all of humanity? If so, what would be some of the impacts of doing that? Can we avoid them? If we can’t what would happen? What triggered this spectacular rise of humanity in the first place?

How can science answer these questions? Actually, can science provide such answers? If it can’t are we doomed?

I will argue that whilst there are limits to what science can help us understand, we can know enough to muddle on through. The challenges may be planetary scale, but the required changes can be much more humble and perhaps more importantly, directly involve you.

Dr James G Dyke is Lecturer of Complex Systems Simulation within Geography and Environment at the University of Southampton. He models the Earth system in order to try to understand how it works and how humans interact with it.

Mon 7th March 2016 – Andrew Seber – “What a nerve: marvellous membranes”

The human brain and nerves make up an amazing biological computing and communication system. Molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry have led to an increasing understanding of how the molecules that form the membranes of nerve and other cells make it all work. Over half the drugs made today (legal and otherwise) act on cell membranes so ongoing research is relevant to us all. Andrew looks at the fundamental science behind it all.

Mon 1st February 2016 – Chris Warrick & Chris Waldon– UKAEA – “Fission or fusion: a nuclear future?”

Nuclear Power based on fusion or fission cycles has long been seen as the best source of sustainable, safe and affordable energy. After a promising start with fission led by Britain in the 1950s,  successfully adopted in several countries, progress in terms of actual implementation has stalled and target dates have tended to slip to the right in, or faster than, real time despite the impetus given by Climate Change. UKAEA is at the forefront of fusion development and maintains close links with fission programmes. Chris will explain the various options being explored and the scientific and engineering challenges that are still to be overcome before Nuclear Power can be widely adopted.

Mon 4th January 2016 – Dr Tony Curran – University of Southampton –  “Waste management: the bigger picture” 

The responsible management of earth’s resources has grown increasingly important in a world that is trying to reconcile improving prosperity whilst reducing impact on the environment. As the volume and complexity of waste continues to rise, so does the challenge to fuel economic development in a sustainable manner.

This talk will examine a few of the most significant waste flows and consider the bigger picture: where should waste reduction efforts be prioritised? How can we achieve improvements? Who is responsible? To what extent can society, and industry, move towards zero waste?

Dr Tony Curran is a public engagement fellow at the University of Southampton. He runs the University’s Research Roadshow and Researchers’ Café as well as talks and interactive shows with environmental themes: the burger apocalypse, the sustainability game show, the future of energy and the future of waste. Tony completed a PhD in waste prevention and recovery in 2008 then between 2009-2014 conducted post-doctoral research on a large research project to move industry towards zero waste.