2023 Archive

Our YouTube Channel has recordings of past talks.

Monday 4th December “Seagrass Conservation and Restoration in a WILDER Solent” Dr Tim Ferrero

Ocean floor covered in lush green swaying seagrass. Shafts of light shine down from the surface of the water.

Photo by Geoff Trodd on Unsplash

Seagrass meadows are vital marine habitats, important for supporting biodiversity, storing “Blue Carbon” and providing many more ecosystem services. The Solent supports internationally important seagrass meadows, but over 90% have been lost in the last 100 years and they are still under threat. Dr Ferrero will introduce these fascinating habitats, their conservation and ongoing efforts at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to restore seagrass meadows to their former extent.

Image shows Dr Tim Ferrero, who is a white bearded man with a friendly expression. He is wearing silver-coloured eyeglasses and a beige bucket-style sunhat. Dr Ferrero is holding what appears to be a shark or ray egg case.

Dr Tim Ferrero

Dr Tim Ferrero is a marine biologist and conservationist working at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT), raising awareness of the marine life, habitats and protected areas of the Solent. Tim’s work at HIWWT contributes to delivery of the HIWWT’s “Wilder Solent” vision, marine data collection and dissemination, citizen science and marine education and engagement. Tim is currently leading HIWWT’s efforts to restore seagrass habitats through our “Solent Seagrass Restoration Project” and “Solent Seascape Project”. Tim also runs volunteer-led survey work on the EU Life recreation ReMEDIES project, seeking to reduce recreational impacts on seagrass.

Prior to his move to HIWWT in 2013, Tim worked for over 23 years at the Natural History Museum in London as a researcher and consultant on the ecology and taxonomy of marine free-living nematode worms.

Tim’s work has taken him all over the world, including five memorable trips to Antarctica and by way of contrast, he once undertook fieldwork in Kuwait in temperatures of 54°C, but he is very happy to be back on the Hampshire coast where he grew up in the late 60s and 70s.

Monday 6th November “Look At Ourselves” Andrew Carnie

A talk about Andrew’s science-inspired art, to coincide with his exhibition at Winchester University.

In a complex and rapidly changing world, we seek to find our location. We delve to understand ourselves, from our birth, and before, from our genetic history, our family story and our community, if we have one. From the media, the mirror, through our friends’ ideas of us, and importantly and increasingly through the world of science, it’s images and ideas.

The arts too give us a complex picture of how we are and how we think, especially as they can conjure ideas we cannot spell out or voice, blending elements difficult to consciously think of; subtleties beyond words. We construct our notion of self and our fellow travellers through the ideas that come to us. The arts are an important one in a sense because they deal with the subjective experience; much more complex than really anything else out there.

Andrew’s talk will show how his art practice reflects on ‘how we see ourselves through science’ and cover his methodology for producing work on this topic, referencing a number of different projects: one with a heart transplant team in Toronto, Canada and another at Newcastle University about neural implants. He’ll link this work to recent socially engaged projects and how he is developing art for the West Downs Gallery in Winchester around circadian rhythms.

Monday 2nd October 2023 “Aurora, Wandering Compasses and Radio Blackouts: Space Weather for the Amateur”

The spectacle of aurora in the night sky is the most bewitching manifestation of Space Weather. Less welcome are disturbances to the Earth’s geomagnetic field, magnetic compasses may wander to and fro, and radio communications may be completely lost. Signals from GPS satellites may be affected and precautions are in place to prevent damage to the National Grid.

In this introduction to Space Weather and its effects I’ll show why this winter may be the best in a decade for sighting aurora, what causes aurora, and how their occurrence is forecast. Shock waves to the Earth’s magnetic field are readily measured with inexpensive amateur magnetometers – I’ll bring one along. As a radio amateur fascinated by Space Weather disturbances to short-wave digital communications I can measure noise bursts originating from solar flares on the sun’s surface and blackouts from X-rays, extreme ultraviolet radiation and particles travelling at 600 km/s from Coronal Mass Ejections as they disturb the Ionosphere 50 km to 500 km above us. With the next two years likely to see the sun more active than for twenty years, and our ever-increasing dependence on space and terrestrial systems for communications and navigation, severe space weather is now firmly on the UK’s national risk register.

Gwyn Griffiths has been a licensed radio amateur and a student of space weather from over fifty years. He is part of the US-led Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSci) initiative and his studies have been awarded the Pat Hawker Trophy and Bennett Prize by the Radio Society of Great Britain and the Ulrich Rohde Award from the German national amateur radio society. His professional career was in ocean technology, retiring as Chief Technologist at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton and Professor of Underwater Systems Engineering at the University of Southampton in 2012. His research interests included acoustic methods to measure ocean currents and the behaviour and abundance of zooplankton. His group developed the Autosub autonomous underwater vehicle that has made noted contributions to marine science, from discovering new deep-sea hydrothermal vent sites to gathering information under floating glaciers in Antarctica. A past President of the Society for Underwater Technology, he was awarded the MBE for services to ocean technology in 2015.

Mon 4th September “30 million redshifts: hunting dark energy with galaxy surveys”
Dr Seshadri Nadathur

One of the biggest observational efforts in modern cosmology is to use large telescopes to perform “surveys”, measuring the positions and properties of millions – or even a billion! – galaxies at a time. One such effort is the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, which uses the Mayall telescope in Arizona and can measure up to 140,000 galaxies in a single night, every night for 5 years. Another is the Euclid space telescope, recently launched from a Falcon 9 and due to survey the sky from orbit. I will describe how these surveys operate, and what they can tell us about the Universe and the dark energy that is ripping it apart. I will focus on a particularly exciting observation with DESI that uses the extraordinary energy emitted by supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies as backlights to illuminate the intervening Universe.

I was born in India and came to the UK as a Rhodes scholar after completing an undergraduate degree in Delhi. I completed my PhD at Oxford and then moved to Germany and Finland for postdoctoral research before returning to UK on a research fellowship. I am currently Ernest Rutherford Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth. My research has covered topics such as the very early universe, the nature of dark matter and the formation of giant voids in space, but at present I focus primarily on analysing data from the largest telescopes, mapping the positions of millions of galaxies.

Mon 7th August “Dear NHS, where’s my robot hand?” Dr Alix Chadwell

In June, the Science Museum in London opened a new gallery, the Engineers Gallery. One of the exhibits was a prosthetic hand developed at the University of Southampton in the second half of the 20th century. The Southampton Hand was one of the earliest attempts to introduce a computer controller into a prosthetic hand. The introduction of microcontrollers completely changed what we can do with prosthetic hands. Nowadays with this technology getting smaller, cheaper, and more readily available we see countless examples of open access prosthetic hand designs. With the NHS often perceived only to prescribe hands fit for a bygone era, it’s not unusual for us to see Fred in his shed, equipped with an Arduino and a 3D printer, building a ‘life changing’ prosthetic hand for little Bobby. But more advanced hands are out there, and have been since the late 90s, so why has it taken so long for the NHS to routinely prescribe them? In this talk Dr Alix Chadwell will discuss the different types of prosthesis available, will explain how some of the more advanced devices (so-called bionic hands) work, and will talk about some of the challenges faced by the NHS in determining the impact these advanced prostheses can have for those who use them.

Dr Alix Chadwell trained in Medical Engineering at the University of Bath before going on to complete a PhD in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Salford. She has since held postdoctoral roles at the Universities of Salford and Newcastle all within the field of upper-limb prosthetics. Her research focusses on measuring the realities of prosthesis use. At the start of July, Alix joined the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton as an Anniversary Research Fellow. Alix is heavily involved with the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO). She is Vice-Chair of the UK members society and sits on the International Scientific Committee. Her expertise in upper-limb prosthetics, experience of both the clinical and technical challenges, and involvement in ISPO has led to her taking a key role in guiding the national implementation of the new NHS policy (launched at the end of 2022) to commission multi-grip prosthetic hands. Alix has also been involved in the organisation of several international prosthetics conferences.

Mon 3rd July “Creative or Dangerous? Exploring the Pros and Cons of Fake Audio” – Dr Jennifer Williams

It was only a few years ago that anyone could tell when a voice was machine-generated. But things have changed rapidly during the past few years in speech science and AI. These days, it only takes 3 to 5 seconds of your voice to create a fake, and it can be used to trick a voice password system like those used in telephone banking in the UK. At the same time, speech technology is opening up new creative outlets like re-constructing a person’s voice in Hollywood after death or due to illness. This talk examines the polarizing topic of fake speech and looks at ways that it is both creative and dangerous. After this talk, you will come away with a new sense of where the technology is currently, and where it is headed in the future.

Dr. Jennifer Williams is an Assistant Professor at University of Southampton, and joined the Agents, Interaction, and Complexity (AIC) group there in 2022. She received her PhD in Data Science from the University of Edinburgh, where she specialised in representation learning for speech signal disentanglement and applied it to a variety of domains including deepfake detection, speech synthesis, and privacy. She is serving a 2-year term as Chair of the special interest group on Security and Privacy in Speech Communication for the International Speech Communication Association (ISCA SPSC-SIG). She is also PI for the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) Hub Agile project on Trustworthy Audio, the TAME Pain project, and Perceptions of Trust for Voice Anonymization Systems – leading international interdisciplinary teams of researchers and multiple industry advisors. Her research also includes comfort-resource trade-offs and energy management in smart buildings. She holds an additional part-time role in industry as a Senior Speech Scientist at MyVoice AI, a London-based start-up that specialises in voice identity biometrics on ultra-low power devices. She is a member of IEEE, ISCA, ACM, and has served various roles with reviewing and organizing international conferences and workshops.

Mon 5th June “Why it is mathematically impossible to understand other people’s code?” – Dr Yury Savateev

Why it is so hard to understand other people’s code? It turns out, that not only it seems hard, but it is also in the strict mathematical sense impossible, due to Rice’s theorem which states that such problems are undecidable. We will talk more generally about what is undecidability and what is the limit to what computers can do.

Yury Savateev got his Ph.D. from the Department of Logic and Theory of Algorithms of Moscow State University. He has since worked in mathematical logic and computer science in Switzerland, Russia, and the UK. Currently, he is a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Electronics & Computer Science, University of Southampton where he is trying to make search respect privacy.

Mon 15th May “Rapid Carbon Dioxide Capture & Storage via Mineralisation & Enhanced Weathering” – Prof Juerg Matter

Limitation of the global average surface temperature to 1.5°C, as stated in the Paris Agreement, requires deep decarbonization of the global economy. This can be accomplished by aggressive carbon emission reductions, including carbon avoidance and removal. Carbon removal (CDR) combined with permanent solid carbon storage via enhanced rock weathering and CO2 mineralization in mafic and ultramafic rocks have the potential to remove substantial amounts of CO2 on a decadal timescale. My presentation focuses on two different CDR approaches: In-situ CO2 mineralization in geologic reservoirs and enhanced rock weathering of industrial mineral waste. Recent pilot and commercial CO2 injection tests into subsurface reservoirs in Iceland (www.carbfix.com) and Oman (www.4401.earth) demonstrated rapid CO2 mineralization in basaltic and peridotitic rocks. A second promising CDR approach is the enhanced weathering of alkaline mineral waste from the global mining industry. Alkaline waste, such as mine tailings from diamond, platinum group element and chromium mining, reacts with CO2 in an exothermic reaction to form carbonate minerals, resulting in permanent carbon storage. Using the mineral waste production data of the global mining industry illustrates the gigaton scale CO2 capture potential of these waste material

Juerg M. Matter is Professor of Geoengineering and Carbon Management at the University of Southampton, UK since spring 2013. Matter was previously an Associate Research Professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, New York. A key focus of his research is on developing novel methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to mitigate global warming. He is working on field trials for CO2 removal by direct air capture and by enhanced rock weathering and mineral carbonation. He is one of the co-founders of the startup company 44.01, which is the 2022 recipient of the Earthshot Prize from the Royal Foundation. He received his MSc and PhD from ETH-Zurich in Switzerland.

3rd April 2023 7.30pm  “The Mobile Ocean, and why it matters” Professor Robert Marsh

Unlike the land, the ocean is highly mobile, and this matters a lot for the world around us. Seawater cannot be pinned down, but it can be followed. Thus we understand the many ways that ocean currents shape the natural world, affect people far and wide, and are central to climate change. More tangible examples of ocean currents can be found in the drift of various floating objects, including turtle hatchlings, icebergs, volcanic pumice and sargassum seaweed. Thinking with the flow, we can better predict where objects drift, where they come from, and the greater consequences of all this ocean mobility for our changing world.

Professor Robert Marsh has extensive experience of observing and modelling the oceans and climate. In current projects and collaborations, he applies knowledge of ocean state (e.g., temperature), ocean currents and surface weather to pressing environmental challenges. In previous work, he has studied the drift of turtle hatchlings in their early life stages, the drift and melting of icebergs that calve from Greenland and Antarctica, and the fate of buoyant pumice that periodically appears at the ocean surface after submarine volcanic eruptions. Most recently, he developed ways to forecast the seasonal drift of sargassum seaweed that is now found extensively across the tropical Atlantic. This work is designed to inform decision-makers and local communities who have been recently challenged by extensive beaching of sargassum at coastlines around the Caribbean and west Africa – a likely consequence of climate change.

Mon 6th March 2023 “Preserving immunity with ageing: can nutrition play a role?” – Prof Philip Calder

The talk will cover the following:

  • The immune system: what is it, what is its role and how does it work?
  • The immune system in health and disease
  • How the gut microbiota is involved in immunity
  • Immune decline with ageing
  • Why good nutrition is important for a heathy immune response – which nutrients are important?
  • Our current research in this area

Philip Calder is Professor of Nutritional Immunology and Head of the School of Human Development and Health in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton. He has a PhD in Biochemistry (1987) from Massey University in New Zealand. He spent 8 years (1987-1995) at University of Oxford where he began his research on nutrition and immunity and on fatty acids. He was appointed at the University of Southampton in 1995. Professor Calder is an Internationally recognised researcher on a) nutritional immunology; b) the metabolism and functionality of fatty acids with an emphasis on the roles of omega-3 fatty acids. He has received many awards and prizes including the Normann Medal (German Society of Fat Science; 2009), the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award (American Oil Chemists’ Society; 2015), the prestigious Danone International Prize for Nutrition (2016), the DSM Lifetime Achievement Prize in Human Nutrition (2017) and the European Lipid Science Award (2021). He was President of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (2009-2012), Chair of the Scientific Committee of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (2012-2016), President of the Nutrition Society (2016-2019) and President of the European Branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (2019-2021). He is currently President of the Federation of European Nutrition Societies. Professor Calder was Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Nutrition (2006-2013) and has served on many other Editorial Boards, He is currently Associate Editor of Clinical Science, Journal of Nutrition and Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.

Mon 6th Feb 2023 “Chemistry: Solving the World’s Problems” – Prof David Read

Humankind faces many challenges including the climate crisis, plastic pollution and healthcare among others.  Chemistry lies at the heart of many potential solutions, but only in partnership with a wide range of other disciplines.  Chemists need to collaborate with others, including biologists, engineers, politicians and economists, to implement these solutions at scale and in short timeframes.  This interactive talk will discuss some of the solutions to the challenges facing society, including some of the potential problems they bring, and links to a range of other disciplines, including chemistry, biology, geography, economics and many others.  Bring your phone to participate in interactive voting during the presentation.

David Read is Professorial Fellow in Chemical Education at the University of Southampton.   David was previously a schoolteacher at a secondary school and has led on the development of innovative teaching methods and the use of learning technology in chemistry and more widely at Southampton. David is currently admissions tutor for the Science Foundation Year and Director of Outreach in Chemistry, and works closely with those involved in public engagement in the department.  David is partly seconded to the Centre for Higher Education Practice (CHEP) at Southampton, where he is Education Collaborative Lead (Partnership with Faculties), supporting the development and delivery of training activities for academics and organising the University’s  Festival of Learning and Teaching.  David works closely with teachers in the local area on the development of teaching resources and research projects, and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2017.


Mon 16th Jan 2023 7.30pm “Science by Simulation – A Mezze of Mathematical Models” Andrew French – Winchester College

A Mezze of Mathematical Methods is Volume 1 of Science by Simulation. It is a recipe book of mathematical models that can be enlivened by the transmutation of equations into computer code. In this volume, the examples chosen are an eclectic mix of systems and stories rooted in common experience, rather than those normally associated with constrained courses on Physics, Chemistry or Biology which are taught in isolation and susceptible to going out of date in a few years. Rather than a ‘what’ of Science, this book is aimed at the ‘how’, readily applied to projects by students and professionals. Written in a friendly style based upon the author’s expertise in teaching and pedagogy, this mathematically rigorous book is designed for readers to follow arguments step-by-step with stand-alone chapters which can be read independently. This approach will provide a tangible and readily accessible context for the development of a wide range of interconnected mathematical ideas and computing methods that underpin the practice of Science. Dr Andrew French has taught Physics and Mathematics at Winchester College since 2011. Previously he taught at Sherborne School, and worked in industry for eight years as a Radar Systems Engineer on a wide range of projects, from meteorological sensors and wind farms to signal processing algorithms associated with marine and land-based systems. While in industry, he completed a PhD with University College London on aspects of phased-array radars in 2010. He also holds a postgraduate Master of Philosophy in Fluid Dynamics from the BP Institute in Cambridge and a PGCSE in Secondary Mathematics teaching from Southampton University. Dr French is currently working on a number of educational research projects: The Eclecticon resource website, the Science by Simulation series, and he has also co-authored several recent papers in Physics Education relating to epidemiology and numerical methods in introductory calculus teaching.