2018 Archive

Mon 3rd December – “Fungi: the good and the bad” – Dr Sietse Van der Linde, 

Fungi often receive a lot of bad press and are perceived as dangerous, poisonous and parasitic organisms killing trees in our forests. Although, the number of tree pathogens is on the rise, there are also scores of fungi that are beneficial for our forest trees. Trees actually depend on those beneficial fungi (so-called mycorrhiza), for nutrition, water and pest resistance and would not survive without them. In this talk I will discuss both ends of the spectrum and show examples of both beneficial and pathogenic fungi. I will show the influence of our environment on how forest fungi are spread over the landscape and how fungi can adapt to a changing environment. Pathogenic fungi are not always introduced via a natural pathway and I would like to show what we could all do to prevent unwanted fungi to take hold in our landscape.

Sietse works at Forest Research as a molecular biologist in the tree health diagnostic and advisory service. He studied biology (BSc, MSc) at Leiden University in the Netherlands after which he received a PhD at the University of Aberdeen in 2008 for his thesis on the conservation and ecology of stipitate hydnoid fungi. Sietse previously worked as a molecular fungal ecologist at RBG Kew, Imperial College London (2013-2017), the Botanical institute of Basel (Switzerland; 2009-2013) and the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen (2004-2008).


Monday 5th November – Dr Matt Himsworth – What lurks beneath our feet?

Are there secret tunnels, diamond reserves or even a sinkhole ready to gobble us up? Surprisingly we know very little about what is below us, even the stuff that we put there! Science is coming up with increasingly clever ways to explore what lurks in the dark underground. This talk will discuss a recently developed technique that uses atomic clocks to measure the variation in gravity that dense or hollow objects produce. We aim to use this in a number of areas from helping civil engineers plan construction works to monitoring tectonic fault lines.

I started the Integrated Atom Chip Group in January 2011 after receiving a prestigious research fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering and EPSRC to explore enabling technologies for integrated atom chips. Previous to this I was a postdoc in the group of Axel Kuhn in Oxford working on atom-photon interactions, specifically tailored single photon sources from Cavity QED, slow and stored light in vapour cells and fast controllable dipole traps. I was at Southampton from an undergraduate all the way to my first postdoc position, obtaining a PhD along the ways, titled “Coherent Manipulation of Ultracold Rubidium”, in the group of Tim Freegarde

Monday 1st October – Dr.Ben Potter, Reading University – The Challenge of Moving to Electric Cars

As prices continue to drop and ranges increase, the uptake of electric vehicles is accelerating. Within a few years, at least for new or nearly new vehicles, electric vehicles are likely to be no more expensive than their counterparts with conventional engines and will come with significant benefits in terms of energy efficiency, air pollution and running costs. National Grid is now forecasting 36m electric vehicles on the road by 2040 (FES 2018) and the Government aspires to ban conventional engines on the same timescale. However, the increased electrical demand from rising numbers of electric vehicles presents a significant challenge for electricity generation, transmission and distribution. A typical domestic charger draws the power of three kettles for several hours every day. If this extra demand occurs during the wrong time of day and coincides with everyone else charging, then our existing electrical infrastructure will fail to cope. Even if upgrading all our cables and substations were technically possible, would it ever be economically viable, and could it be done fast enough to match the rise of EVs? If we don’t upgrade our infrastructure, can smart-charging and vehicle-to-grid technologies (where plugged-in EVs pump some energy back into the grid) solve the problem?

Dr Ben Potter completed his MEng degree in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford in 2001 and his PhD research in the modelling of induction machines at the University of Reading in 2005. Dr Potter subsequently managed research and development activity for several years in industry, including development work on wireless power transfer systems, before joining the University of Reading in 2009. Ben is currently an Associate Professor of Energy Systems within the School of the Built Environment at the University, and his academic research has been largely focused on energy systems of various flavours, for over sixteen years, with applications including energy storage, network planning and modelling, and the integration of electric vehicles in the grid. Ben founded the Energy Research Lab in 2010, now part of the Technologies for the Sustainable Built Environment Centre, and this lab focuses on the development of control methods and business models for the new generation of energy networks – the smart grid – to ensure that the integration of active elements such as renewable energy resources, electric vehicles and energy storage devices will have positive impacts for both network operators and end users. Dr Potter has been a member of the DECC/Ofgem Smart Grid Forum Workstream 7, a member of the steering group of the Future Power Systems Architect (FPSA) project run by the IET and commissioned by DECC, and is presently a Science Board member for the EPSRC funded ‘Energy Superstore’ – the UK’s energy storage research hub.

Monday 3rd September – Steve Cunnington –  Observing the Universe’s Dark Secret

Whilst we have been studying the night sky for millennia, it is arguably only in the last several decades that we have had instruments with sufficient sensitivity to probe beyond our own galaxy (the Milky Way) and study our Universe in any detail.  I will give a brief overview of some of our most exciting discoveries in the field of cosmology and the evidence for these. These discoveries have revealed that the large majority of our Universe is made up of energy and matter which is invisible to our telescopes and unexplainable with our current theories of physics. Explaining the so-called dark sector represents one of the largest challenges for modern science.

I am a PhD Student who started in October 2016 working with David Bacon and Alkistis Pourtsidou. I am exploring cross-correlations between radio and optical telescopes and how we can use these to test theories of gravity. In particular I’m hoping these cross-correlations can help maximise what we learn about dark energy from upcoming telescope surveys such as LSST and SKA. I graduated from the University of Southampton in 2016 with a BSc degree in Physics. My research is funded by the University of Portsmouth.

Monday 6th August – Dr Robert Attwood – A small segment of Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source – using extreme X-rays to see what happens during freezing, melting, boiling, and breaking

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron, using particle accelerator technology – not for “smashing atoms” to probe the fabric of the universe, but to generate beams of intense light of all wavelengths – teraherz, infrared, ultraviolet, soft and hard X-rays. The individual beamlines radiate like the spokes of a bicycle wheel from the accelerator ring; each beamline dedicated to a certain range of the spectrum and certain techniques – spectroscopy, diffraction, scattering and imaging. These techniques are used to gain insights in a broad variety of research areas.
Beamline ‘I-12’ specializes in the highest energy range of X-rays, which can penetrate dense materials, allowing full 3-dimensional imaging of processes taking place in metals and rocks. A three-dimensional image may be obtained in as little as 1/20 of a second. Manufacturing processes such as the development of metal crystal structures during casting and the production of tasty texture in ice-cream have been studied, and in the natural world, the build-up of gases in volcano lava that can result in explosive eruption is being studied. The problems inherent in novel 3-d printing of engineering materials have been recorded as they happen, and combining diffraction and imaging can monitor the progress of cracks and the stress around them. These studies generate some amazing movies of never-before-seen processes, but more importantly, measurement and analysis of the processes will help to improve manufacturing, eruption prediction, and even allow tastier ice-cream.

Robert Atwood obtained undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Metallurgy and Materials Science at University of Toronto, studying the patterns formed in low-melting-point two-component alloys during freezing – looking at the results with light microscopes on a cut surface. He moved to London and joined the Royal School of Mines at Imperial College, obtaining a PhD based upon the computer simulation of the three-dimensional solid and gas bubble formation during the freezing of aluminium, as used for industrial products such as automobile engines and airplane wings. Sometime in the 2000’s it began to be possible to directly observe the inner structure of such processes with X-ray micro-tomography, and since 2008 he has specialized in helping the scientific community make use of synchrotron-based imaging at Diamond.

Monday 2nd July – Professor Jakub Bijak – CPC- University of Southampton, – ‘The Uncertain World of International Migration’

Besides remaining a hot and politically-charged topic, international migration is a fascinating area of study for demographers, being one of the most uncertain, complex and multidimensional population processes.  In this talk, Jakub will sketch the current broad state of knowledge on migration, with focus on the key areas about which we do not know much, and possibly never will.  To that end, we will explore possible responses to migration, which take its uncertainty and complexity for what it is: neither something to ignore, nor necessarily to fight against, but rather an inherent feature of population mobility which needs to be acknowledged and managed.

Jakub is a statistical demographer, with 17 years of work experience in academia and international civil service. His research mainly focuses on demographic uncertainty, population models and forecasts, and the demography of armed conflict. For his work on migration modelling and forecasting he has been awarded the Allianz European Demographer Award (2015) and the Jerzy Z Holzer Medal (2007). Currently he leads an ERC project on Bayesian agent-based population studies, developing innovative simulation models of migration.”

Mon 4th June – Jediah Clark – “The driverless future: can we design vehicles to be our co-pilots?”

The ‘roadmap’ towards a driverless future remains unclear. In this talk, Jed will take you through the current challenges in autonomous vehicle technology, with a particular focus on what it means for us, as humans, to work with and trust our autonomous counterparts in the years to come.

Educated as a psychologist, Jed is now a member of the ‘Human Factors Engineering’ team at the University of Southampton working on his PhD. His research involves taking psychological concepts and applying them to driverless car in-vehicle technology. He is focusing on how to better the communication process between the automation and the driver in automated systems that require input from both human and vehicle (like that of aviation).

Monday 21st May 2018 – Dr Alan Costley – “Faster Fusion: Fact or Fantasy?”

The need for carbon free sources of energy is well established and fusion power – often billed as safe, everlasting and potentially available to all – is one possible solution.  But experimental fusion devices are large and expensive and, in consequence, fusion is taking decades to develop.  Recent re-evaluations of the underlying physics combined with new emerging technologies are opening development paths based on much smaller fusion devices which will be cheaper and faster to build.  But are they feasible, will they work?  In “Faster Fusion: Fact of Fantasy?” we explore the answers.


Dr Alan Costley has worked in fusion for more than 40 years and published extensively in the field.  He has held senior positions at the JET project, Culham, and on the international ITER project in Cadarache, France.  He is now a consultant in the field working mostly for Tokamak Energy Ltd, a private UK company developing a faster route to fusion power.

Mon 16th April 2018 – Dale Lane – IBM – “Can computers be creative? Using AI to design  new meals and dishes”

Artificial Intelligence is about whether computers can demonstrate intelligence. In this talk, Dale will look at one element of this – whether computers can be creative. This will be an introduction to our understanding of creativity, and a demonstration of some of the work that has been done to build creative computers.

Dale is a developer for IBM at the local offices in Hursley Park, working for several years on IBM’s artificial intelligence platform “Watson”.

Mon 5th March – Dr. Fayyaz Rehman – “An overview of Additive Manufacturing Technology and its applications”

Recent advancements in the field of Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology and its applications have opened exciting opportunities for the manufacturing industry to adopt this technology as the future of manufacturing. The successful application of this technology in some sectors has forced industry and academia to do research and explore its application in wide range of sectors like consumer products, automotive, aerospace, medical, engineering/construction and many more areas. This talk will give an overview of Additive Manufacturing fundamentals, some key sub-processes/technologies which are being used successfully in the industry as well as application and future of Additive Manufacturing (AM) in different sectors.

Dr. Fayyaz Rehman is an Associate Professor in the Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering at Southampton Solent University (UK) and is the lead tutor and researcher in the area of engineering design. Before joining academia Fayyaz worked as material handling equipment and supporting steel structure designer in industry for over 5 years. Fayyaz has over 15 years of experience in teaching and research in the fields of engineering design and manufacture both in UK and overseas. He worked on an internationally funded advanced engineering design and manufacture education related project in collaboration with six other universities of the world. His research interests are Concurrent Engineering, CAD/CAM/CAE, Advanced Manufacturing Techniques especially Additive Manufacturing Techniques and their applications.

Mon 5th February 2018 – Dr. Rick Stafford, Bournemouth University – “The ecology of marine fisheries and its role in a changing political landscape”

Fish are a vital part of the marine ecosystem, and understanding their ecology should play a vital role in managing the marine environment, and especially the fishing industry. This talk will examine the basics of fisheries science, but also explore new research which suggests that overexploiting fish stocks can have unforeseen consequences, such as directly contributing to climate change. It will also examine the relationship between fisheries science, ecology and politics, and explore whether political changes such as Brexit may help or hinder the recovery of UK fish stocks.

Dr Rick Stafford is a Principal Academic in Marine Conservation at Bournemouth University, working both in the natural and social science aspects of conservation. His interests are in the effective protection of biodiversity, biomass and ecosystem function in the marine environment, and has conducted work on the wider ecological issues of fishing, and the effectiveness of solutions such as marine protected areas worldwide.

Mon 15th January 2018 – Prof Tim Underwood – From genome to clinic – tales from the oesophagus

Tim will illustrate how early detection of oesophageal cancer is enabled by genome sequencing, and how large-scale sequencing of patients is uncovering the biology behind this disease, enabling life-saving surgery and treatment to be targeted to the individual.

Tim Underwood is a surgeon at University Hospital Southampton with a special interest in oesophageal cancer and minimally invasive surgical techniques, and also Professor of Gastrointestinal Surgery at the University of Southampton.

Following a Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinician Scientist Fellowship, he became a Cancer Research UK & Royal College of Surgeons of England Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellow in April 2017.

Professor Underwood leads a programme of research studying the role of the tumour microenvironment in cancer development and progression. His team develop and apply advanced technologies to understand tumour complexity in oesophageal cancer including highly parallel genome-wide expression profiling of single cells using nanoliter droplets (DropSeq) and the generation of multicellular organoid models.

Professor Underwood is a member of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Upper GI Clinical Studies Group and he is a member of the Steering Committee of the Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification (OCCAMS) consortium. He is a past Chairman of the Oesophageal Cancer Westminster Campaign and a trustee of Heartburn Cancer UK.