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

Thursday 18 January 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Leon Kapetas, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

In 1950 only 30% of the worlds population used to live in cities. This figure has gone up to 55% today and is expected that by 2050, 2 in 3 people will live in cities. This rapid and intense urbanisation process can have significant adverse effects on quality of life, particularly for low income households. Also, vulnerability to natural disasters can be critically high if planning of these urban environments is not well-conceived. Ecosystems are also particularly vulnerable to the urban expansion and densification process.
Flooding is the top natural risk in several developing and developed countries, including the UK. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of flood events. Till recently, traditional engineering has dealt with flooding by giving a very narrowly focused solution: to capture the runoff and convey it somewhere downstream. In doing this, the role of stormwater in the environment has been decontextualized. A series of benefits that sustainable urban water management can offer are, therefore, lost in this process. In addition, this has increased risk for communities downstream.
In my presentation I will intend to present some of the underlying connections of the different components of resilient water systems. I will focus on urban flood management that treats stormwater as a valuable resource. I will finally present appraisal methods for determining the right mix between “water sensitive urban design” and traditional piped infrastructure options in the context of climate change adaptation.

Tuesday 23 January 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Nathaniel Miller, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Significant research has been done on the ideological dimension of the Christian side of the Crusades in the Holy Land (the first through ninth Crusades, 1095-1291). In calling for the First Crusade, Urban II is reported to have called for the extermination of the non-Christian unbelievers as a means to ameliorate the internecine conflicts of twelfth-century Europe, offered remission of sins to Crusaders, and, presumably, hoped to shore up the authority of the papacy. Institutions resulting from the Crusades, such as the Knights Templar, reshaped the social landscape of Europe.

On the Islamic side, the advent of Saladin's Ayyubid dynasty, which gained prominence after his reconquest of Jerusalem in 1187, is said to have marked a resurgence of a traditionalist militant Sunnism, marked, for example, by an increase in the _Virtues of Jerusalem_ (_Faḍāʾil al-Quds_) hadith collections. Saladin also drew to a large extent on mystical Sufi figures for ideological support.

My talk examines an unpublished document that sheds light on a Sufi favoured by Saladin, the Egyptian poet Ibn al-Kīzānī (d. 1166). Several as-yet unpublished texts of Ibn al-Kīzānī are preserved in Judeo-Arabic (Arabic transcribed into Hebrew) in Cambridge's undated Geniza document T-S AS 161.50. Elsewhere, Ibn al-Kīzānī is reported to have held heterodox opinions, and to have had a 'sect' of lower-class followers in Egypt and the Levant. In presenting T-S AS 161.50 in translation, I will discuss how this document sheds light on and complicates the image of resurgent Sunnism associated with Saladin. T-S AS 161.50 unequivocally demonstrates that Ibn al-Kīzānī possessed a readership among Egypt's Jewish community, and suggests that Saladin (a native speaker of Kurdish), drew on an eclectic mix of Arabic cultural elements in order to construct an image of himself as a legitimate Islamic leader. These elements were not limited to the works of traditional and 'orthodox' Islamic scholarship, as represented in the _Virtues of Jerusalem_ texts, but included socially peripheral figures such as the charismatic Ibn al-Kīzānī, whose readership was inter-confessional and whose texts circulated outside of the scholarly milieu that produced most of the manuscripts shaping our view of the period.

Thursday 25 January 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Laura Buck, University of Cambridge

Homo sapiens has a global distribution, a remarkable achievement for a tropical ape. Adaptations enabling this colonisation are intriguing given suggestions that humans exhibits high levels of physiological and behavioural malleability associated with a ‘colonising niche’. Differences in body size/shape between members of the same species from different climates are well-known adaptations in mammals; could relatively flexible size/shape have been important to human species adapting to novel habitats? If so, at what point did this flexibility arise? To address these questions, a base-line for adaptation to climate must be established by comparison with suitable outgroups. Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) are the most northerly living non-human primates. They have great latitudinal spread and overlap with the historical distribution of prehistoric Jomon foragers, allowing matched latitude comparisons within monkeys and humans and making them an ideal outgroup for this study. We compare skeletons of M. fuscata from four different latitudes, including the most northerly and most southerly extremes of the species’ distribution. Initial results show inter-group differences in M. fuscata postcranial and cranial size and shape. Size varies more than shape, showing a strong, positive relationship with latitude. However, the very small size of the southern-most (island) sample may be affected by resource availability. Allometry-free shape shows geographic patterning and perhaps echoes some trends seen in human groups at high latitudes. These insights begin to provide a comparison for human adaptation to climatic diversity and the role of colonisation in shaping the evolution and dispersal of human species.

Buck, L. T.1, 2, De Groote, I.3, Hamada, Y.4, Stock, J. T.1

1 Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge
2 Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum
3 School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University
4 Section of Evolutionary Morphology, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University

Funding: This work was supported by the European Research Council (ADaPt Project: FP7-IDEAS-ERC 617627).

Tuesday 30 January 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Zach Lenox, Faculty of Law

In many industries today, such as air travel, banking, internet search or social networking, there are only a few major competitors in any domestic market. Those large companies’ shares are often held by a few prominent investment companies like Blackrock, State Street, or Fidelity. Recent econometric research suggests that this market structure: oligopolistic industries owned by oligopolistic investors, leads to monopolistic behavior. What should we make of this econometric research? How has ownership of oligopolistic companies become so concentrated in the first place? And, what can we do about these modern monopolies?

Thursday 1 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dario Bressan, University of Cambridge

Location matters in biology. Both the inner workings of tissues and organs and their dysregulation, which leads to disease, depend on the tight web of relationships between different cell populations, and on the concerted regulation of their function mediated by genetic and environmental effects. In the last 10 years and more, it has become clear that many biological phenomena cannot be studied by analyzing cells in bulk and outside of their natural environment, but their underlying mechanisms can only be mechanistically investigated if observed both at the single-cell level and in situ. While technologies allowing either the former or the latter of these features are now available, combining both is extremely challenging, at least with the throughput necessary to obtain reliable results.
In our laboratory, we have recently launched a project, named IMAXT (Imaging and Molecular Annotation of Xenografts and Tumours), that aims to produce a comprehensive tri-dimensional map of breast tumours in which each cell is annotated by measuring the expression of hundreds of different genes and proteins. We are doing this by combining several microscope-based techniques with automated image analysis and mass spectrometry. The results are used to build an integrated computer model of the tumour, which can be explored using a natural interface in a virtual reality environment, literally “immersing oneself” into the tissue and observing its features. While the project is still in its early phases, early results on tumour samples are showing how powerful this method could be not only for cancer biology, but for many other fields as well, such as developmental biology.

Tuesday 6 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Speaker to be confirmed

[Darwin Humanities Seminar placeholder]

Thursday 8 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr William Alston, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Abstract not available

Tuesday 13 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Tom Maguire, Department of Politics and International Studies

One of the several research projects Tom is currently pursuing is assessing the influence of the UK on the development of state security sectors in the Global South - in particular but not exclusively the Commonwealth - through training, equipment and other forms of assistance since 1945. This is intended to better inform understanding of, on the one hand, the UK’s post-colonial legacies and foreign policy and, on the other, contemporary debates regarding upstream conflict prevention, human rights, and security sector reform why security sectors develop in similar and different ways. This talk will present preliminary findings from one case area of the project: Cold War Southeast Asia, placing it in the context of British overseas security assistance and foreign policy across the Global South in this era.

Thursday 15 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Eva Agapaki, Engineering Department, University of Cambridge

The cost of modelling existing industrial facilities is currently considered to counteract the benefits
of the model in managing and retrofitting the facility. 90% of the modelling cost is typically spent
on labour for converting point cloud data to the final model, hence reducing the cost is only
possible by automating this step. Previous research has successfully validated methods for
modelling specific object types such as cylinders. Yet modelling is still prohibitively expensive.
During this talk, the most important object types of industrial facilities will be identified by ranking
them according to their frequency of appearance and the man-hours required for modelling in a
state of the art software, EdgeWise. This work is the first to rank objects according to their priority
for automated modelling. These are straight pipes, electrical conduit and circular hollow sections
and constitute more than 80 % of industrial plants on average. This is significant because state-ofthe-
art practice has achieved semi-automated cylinder detection saving 64 % of their manual
modelling time for the case studies investigated. Automated detection and semantic classification
methods for the recognition of the abovementioned objects will be analyzed.

Tuesday 20 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Emily Ward, Faculty of History

Children succeeded to the thrones of medieval kingdoms with remarkable frequency, in spite of the many social, political, legal, and even biblical impediments to underage (‘minority’) rulership. Examining child kingship from a comparative perspective reveals wider developments over the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries which influenced a boy king’s succession, and the arrangements made for his care and the rule of his kingdom. This talk will focus on changing perceptions of age and maturity which altered the rites of passage between childhood and adulthood. Understanding how these developments affected even kings suggests interesting avenues of future research into adolescence and youth in the Middle Ages.

Thursday 22 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Jessica Hitchcock, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge

The fundamental role of the mammary gland is to produce milk to feed young. Considering this is only required for a certain length of time, the mammary gland must undergo substantial preparatory remodelling during pregnancy, and, similarly, the architecture of the gland must be restored to its pre-pregnant state when milk production is no longer required. This post-lactation regression of the mammary gland (Involution) has a distinct inflammatory signature, whereby immune cells are recruited to the gland to assist with the remodelling process. I am an immunologist and I am interested in how this post-pregnancy inflammation of the mammary gland can be tumourigenic. I am particularly interested in how this process is exacerbated in older first-time mothers, as this may be of great importance in today’s society, where starting a family is often delayed.

Tuesday 27 February 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Speaker to be confirmed

[Darwin Humanities Seminar placeholder]

Thursday 1 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Mr Rohan Eapen, Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge

The Anaphase promoting complex/ cyclosome (APC/C) is a 1.2 MDa multi-subunit E3 ubiquitin ligase that encodes broad substrate-specificity via its two co-activators Cdc20 and Cdh1 and three principal degrons: the D-box, KEN box and ABBA motif. The regulation of mitotic exit is tightly controlled by the expression and degradation of these two co-activators through stages of the cell cycle. The upregulation of Cdc20 is associated with many cancers including pancreatic,  breast and cervical cancers and hepatocellular carcinomas. However, to date,  no specific inhibitors of the APC/CCdc20 exist in the clinic. Only two APC/C specific compounds have been discovered: TAME/pro-TAME, which disrupts the C-terminal IR tail of Cdc20 binding to APC3, and Apcin, which disrupts substrate D-box degron binding to Cdc20. Recent studies have highlighted the need for a combination strategy to achieve full inhibition of the APC/CCdc20. We propose a new approach involving the design of constrained peptides to inhibit key oncogenic protein-protein interactions with the APC/CCdc20,for the treatment of a wide range of cancers.

Tuesday 6 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Stephanie Diepeveen, Department of Politics and International Studies

Postcolonial politics in Kenya has been dominated by protracted and tense ethnic, religious and regional divisions, brought to the fore with the contentious presidential elections in August and October 2017. Dominant discourses within the country present politics as a zero sum game, in which the same individuals and ethnic groups continually benefit. Equally, while politics appears as a zero sum and predicable game, Kenya espouses a vibrant and engaged citizenry that is knowledgeable and interested in public affairs. Debates over electoral politics and the actions of elected leaders unfold, within and outside of elections, in diverse and informal spaces in everyday life, from street corners and markets, to illicit drinking dens, to online forums such as social media groups. Thus, on one side, there appears to be an active, engaged and critical public sphere in Kenya. On the other side, these active discussions seem to do little to alter the overriding interpretation of politics along ethnic lines. Why does Kenya’s public sphere seem unable to alter the terms of political debate, despite its vibrancy and diversity across physical and online spaces? This seminar examines the nature, rhythm and people involved in daily public discussion across different media, interrogating how they relate to the potential for continuity and change in the terms of political debate. It argues for very different reasons, the features of debate in physical spaces and on social media have both developed in ways that frustrate the emergence of new and shared ideas.

Tuesday 13 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Dan Jones, British Antarctic Survey

Abstract not available

Thursday 15 March 2018
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Dr Jenna Dittmar, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

Abstract not available

Past Research Talks

Tuesday 17 October 2017
Sam Ottewill-Soulsby, Faculty of Classics

The idea of a mythical first city appears in most societies that possess urban settlements, and medieval Europe was no exception. This talk will discuss the way medieval writers approached the origins of urban living, a subject which acquired importance in a wide variety of areas of study, including history writing, philosophy and legal theory. People who engaged with the problem had to reckon with both the Biblical first city of Cain and anthropological models inherited from the Classical world. Examination of how these writers solved these issues sheds light not just on their understanding of the primordial past, but also their views of the city and human civilisation as a whole.

Thursday 12 October 2017
Giancarlo Soavi (Cambridge Graphene Centre)

Laser sources producing nanosecond (10-9 s) to sub-picosecond (10-12 s) pulses (i.e. ultrafast lasers) are deployed in a variety of applications ranging from scientific research, laser surgery, material processing and telecommunications. Regardless of the output wavelength, the majority of ultrafast laser systems employ a mode-locking technique, whereby a nonlinear optical element - called Saturable Absorber (SA) - turns the laser continuous wave output into a train of ultrashort optical pulses. The SA absorption (or optical loss) decreases as the incident light intensity increases. Thus, the SA works as an intensity-dependent optical switch. The key requirements for SAs are fast response time, high modulation depth, broad wavelength range, low optical loss, low-cost and ease of integration into an optical system. Graphene, a one atom thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice, can simultaneously meet all these needs with better performances and lower cost compared to current technologies. In this seminar I will introduce the basic concepts of ultrafast lasers and mode-locking and their importance for technological applications. I will then review the fundamental physical properties that make graphene the ideal candidate as saturable absorber for ultrafast lasers on an extremely broad energy range from visible to THz.

Tuesday 10 October 2017
Daniel H. Weiss, Polonsky-Coexist Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies in the Faculty of Divinity

Many scholars today view the causing the death of innocent civilians in warfare as an established part of historical Western tradition of just war, so long as those deaths are 'merely foreseen, but not directly intended'. This attitude towards 'collateral damage' or 'double effect' is often traced back to Thomas Aquinas. However, I argue that, contrary to received scholarly assumptions, Aquinas in fact sharply rejects the legitimacy of such forms of killing. Accordingly, premodern Western thought regarding just war may stand in a much sharper discontinuity with modern just war ethics than has previously been recognized, with significant potential implications for contemporary public debates and ethical dilemmas.

Thursday 5 October 2017
Dr. Peter Murray-Rust (Unilever Centre, Dept. Of Chemistry, University of Cambridge)

Peter Murray-Rust, ContentMine [1] and University of Cambridge

Public funding of science and medicine generates 1 trillion dollars of public knowledge per year but most of this is inaccessible to most people. Working with the Wikimedia Foundation we have developed tools for collecting over 6 million of the world's open scientific articles and extracting the facts from them into WikiFactMine (WFM) [2] . We use Wikidata [3] which, with over 40 million "items" from Wikipedia or world authorities, is based on modern Open Web technology. WFM reads every new Open scientific article (starting with biomedicine) and indexes the terms against WikiFactMine. It thus becomes a "knowledge prosthetic" or "amanuensis" so that everyone can immediately find the accumulated knowledge in Wikimedia resources.

We believe that with WikiFactMine the scientific literature becomes accessible to a wide range of people and machines. Data in articles can be automatically indexed on fulltext and diagrammatic content creating the base for a new generation of scientific search engines. We have created a wide range of "dictionaries" from Wikidata, allowing multidisciplinary search of articles (e.g. chemistry, diseases, drugs...) . WikiFactMine can expand "find all chemicals produced by conifers" to 500 phytochemicals and 2000 conifers and search for all of them. "What viral diseases have been reported in West Africa" might inform public health policies in a new manner.

The talk will cover the technology (which anyone can use; ContentMine already has a 15-year old contributing) and the politics of academic publication where revenue is often generated by artificial scarcity. Can we find a better way? Everyone can participate in WikiFactMine.

I thank Charles Matthews and Tom Arrow who created WikiFactMine.

[1] http://contentmine.org [2] https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:WikiFactMine [3] https://www.wikidata.org

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.

Close menu
Site navigation mobile menu