Research Talks

All members of Darwin are encouraged to present their research at informal seminars held on Tuesdays and Thursdays during term. Everyone is welcome, whatever your degree or discipline.

Darwin members pick up lunch from 12:00, taking it into the Richard King Room (on the left at the top of the stairs leading to the dining hall) or 1 Newnham Terrace (straight through at the far end of the dining hall). Wine is served. Non-Darwin members are welcome to attend, although lunch is only available to guests of members. The talk begins at about 1:15 and lasts for about 20 minutes and is followed by questions over coffee. We adjourn at 2:00pm at the latest.

Upcoming Talks

Darwin Lunchtime Talks will recommence next term and the schedule posted here.

Past Research Talks

Thursday 25 May 2017
Shehar Bano, University College London

Censorship of online communications threatens principles of openness and freedom of information on which the Internet was founded. In the interest of transparency and accountability, and more broadly to develop scientific rigour in the field, we need methodologies to measure and characterize Internet censorship. Such studies will not only help users make informed choices about information access, but also illuminate entities involved in or affected by censorship; informing the development of policy and enquiries into the ethics and legality of such practices. However, many issues around Internet censorship remain poorly understood because of the inherently adversarial and opaque landscape in which it operates. As details about mechanisms and targets of censorship are usually undisclosed, it is hard to define exactly what comprises censorship, and how it operates in different contexts.

My research aims to help fill this gap by developing methodologies to derive censorship ground truth using active and passive data analysis techniques, which I apply to real-world datasets to uncover entities involved in censorship, the targets of censorship, and the effects of such practices on different stakeholders. In this talk, I will provide an overview of my work on Internet censorship from multiple perspectives: (i) measurement of the Great Firewall of China that shows that inference of the censor’s traffic analysis model can enable systematic identification of evasion opportunities that users can exploit to access restricted content, (ii) analysis of network logs collected at an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Pakistan over a period of escalating censorship to study how censorship affects users’ browsing habits with respect to circumvention, and its economic effects on content providers and ISPs, and (iii) investigation of differential treatment -- an emerging class of censorship where websites (rather than the government) block requests of users they don’t like -- in the context of Tor anonymity network and users of adblocking software.

Tuesday 23 May 2017
Pablo Salas (University of Cambridge)

Collaboration between researchers and policy-makers has perhaps never been as crucial as it is today, in view of the many critical issues that countries, particularly Brazil, face in the context of the Water-Energy-Food (FEW) nexus. A perfect storm of complex interactions, dependencies and vulnerabilities is most likely to be expected in Brazil, given its current environmental and economic situation. On the one hand, climate change is highly likely to change weather patterns, which will detrimentally affect agriculture and biodiversity in Brazil. On the other hand, Brazilian economy relies heavily on exports of natural resources for prosperity, and global changes in demand for commodities will put pressure on the Brazilian economy. In this talk, I will present the main aspects of the complex nexus system, with special focus on the challenges associated to create policy to improve the resilience of the Brazilian FEW Nexus.

Dr Pablo Salas is an Economist and Electrical Engineer by training, with a PhD in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG), Department of Land Economy. Dr Salas' wider research examines how interactions among energy, environmental and economic systems can be used to improve global strategies for climate change risk reduction and sustainable economic development. As part of his fellowship, he is also leading the development of various outreach activities at C-EENRG, actively connecting academics with policy makers and innovators.

Thursday 18 May 2017
Shahin Tavakoli

Dialect sound variation is of considerable interest in linguistics and other social sciences. However, traditionally it has been studied using proxies (transcriptions) rather than acoustic recordings directly. We introduce novel statistical techniques to analyse geolocalised speech recordings and to explore the spatial variation of pronunciations continuously over the region of interest, as opposed to traditional isoglosses, which provide a discrete partition of the region. Data of this type require an explicit modeling of the variation in the mean and the covariance. We then propose spatial smoothing for these objects which accounts for the possibly non convex geometry of the domain of interest. We apply the proposed method to data from the spoken part of the British National Corpus, deposited at the British Library, London, and we produce maps of the dialect variation over Great Britain. In addition, the methods allow for acoustic reconstruction across the domain of interest, allowing researchers to listen to the statistical analysis

Tuesday 16 May 2017
Guy Williams (University of Cambridge)

China's banking sector has undergone a remarkable transformation since the establishment of the socialist market economy in 1993. This sector, which previously struggled with bad debt, is now home to four of the five largest banks in the world. The orthodox view of reform in China's banking sector evaluates change as conformance with a Western, neoliberal model of banking. This paper argues instead that this reform is best understood as an evolution of institutions that reflect historical patterns of political and economic organisation in China.

Guy Williams is a PhD student at the Centre of Development Studies. His research examines the evolution of China's banking sector since the establishment of the socialist market economy in 1993. As part of his research he interviewed officials from the China Banking Regulatory Commission, which has regulated China's banking sector since 2003. Guy has spent four years studying and working in China.

Thursday 11 May 2017
Daniele Biasci

Crohn’s disease (CD) is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract, thought to arise from a dysregulated interaction between the host immune system and the gut microbiota. Symptoms may be debilitating and usually require a lifetime of care.

Some patients experience frequent relapses and require treatment with increasingly potent immunosuppressants and/or surgery, whereas others achieve prolonged remission without any additional therapy. Such variability in prognosis occurs in other immune-mediated diseases and can make the difference between an excellent long-term outcome or progressive disability. Yet, the causes of such variation remain largely unknown.

The inability to predict disease course consequently affects clinicians and patients, leaving them with a choice between two unsatisfactory options: proactive treatments which may be unnecessary, or reactive therapies which may arrive too late. Solving this challenge would not only enable doctors to tailor treatment appropriately, but also help them design better treatments, which could specifically target the biological processes responsible for frequent disease flare ups.

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