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

Tuesday 2 May 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Professor John Rust (University of Cambridge)

Historically psychometrics has a chequered history, from its beginnings with IQ testing one hundred years ago to the current controversies on privacy and psychological micro-targeting on the internet. Often in spite of the best intentions, the field has been beset with a host of unintended consequences. The vision behind IQ and meritocracy turned all too easily into eugenics and bell curve thinking. We didn't see it coming then, but can we now - is it too late for history to help us? Social networks has given us communication, but big brother is hovering in the wings.

Professor John Rust is the Director of the Psychometrics Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School.

Tuesday 9 May 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Karoliina Pulkkinen

Abstract not available

Tuesday 16 May 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
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.

Tuesday 23 May 2017
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
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.

Past Research Talks

Tuesday 21 February 2017
Amanda Roig-Marín, Darwin College

Alliteration, rhyme, and sound symbolism (i.e., the systematic connection between meaning and sound, also known as iconicity) have been widely studied as literary devices heightening the auditory and evocative power of language. However, their underlying role in the coinage of words per se has been much more neglected in linguistic studies. In this presentation, I will overview in what ways these devices – which bring the phonological make-up of the linguistic sign to the fore – operate in lexis (either single or multiple lexical units) by discussing instantiations of how alliteration is still noticeable in, for instance, onomastics, and how rhyme and sound symbolism are particularly productive in certain spheres of language such as colloquial registers and slang.

Amanda Roig-Marín is currently doing an MPhil in Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. Her main research interests include historical linguistics, language contact, and lexicology.

Thursday 16 February 2017
Paula MacGregor, Department of Biochemistry

One of the key goals in the design of new anti-cancer therapeutics is to kill the cancer cells while limiting damage to the healthy cells of the body. In pursuit of this goal, anti-cancer antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are increasingly being developed. These immunotherapeutics concentrate the drug specifically inside the cancer cell by combining an antibody that targets the cancer cell surface with a cytotoxic drug.

In parallel, one of the goals in the design of novel therapeutics against protozoan parasites is to destroy the invading cells without causing damage to the host cells. It is logical, therefore, that ADCs could also provide a new class of therapeutic agents against protozoan pathogens. Further, there is clear scope for piggy-back drug development alongside anti-cancer ADCs by varying only cell-specificity.

I will discuss the use of the African trypanosome as a proof-of- principle model for the use of anti-cancer ADCs against parasites.

Tuesday 14 February 2017
Ksenia Pavlenko, Darwin College

Sergei Diaghilev’s 1898 Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Art exemplifies how Finland’s economic prosperity and relative autonomy as a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire led to transcultural exchange. Unfortunately the Russification Programme, initiated in 1899, changed an amicable relationship between the Russian Empire and its Finnish territory to one of oppression. The Finnish Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle demonstrates how quickly Finland’s embrace of nineteenth-century nationalism transformed from a cultural blossoming to a politicised quest for autonomy. A moment of artistic potential quickly dissolved into one of oppression and resistance.

Ksenia Pavlenko is an MPhil candidate in History of Art, supervised by Dr. Polly Blakesley, researching the visual culture of Finland as a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire.

Image credit: Magnus Enckell, Death's Walk, 1896.

Thursday 9 February 2017
Juliet Griffin, Department of Psychiatry

One of the most exciting breakthroughs in recent cognitive science has been its newfound recognition of a fundamental organising principle of cognition: namely, that the brain is fundamentally in the business of inferring what’s going on around it, by predicting its own sensory inputs. At all scales of neural processing, a wealth of top-down prior expectations are brought to bear on inferentially ‘explaining away’ the pattern of bottom-up activity. Bayes’ theorem gives us a mathematical rule for optimising inference, by combining prior knowledge with new information according to the relative reliability of each – and dopamine gives us a neurochemical mechanism by which this relative reliability is coded.

Disturbances to dopamine-mediated predictive coding may cause psychosis – a condition in which the individual becomes trapped in a prison of their brain’s own inferences, which have somehow become unyoked from external reality. But since predictive coding theories of psychosis appeal to a pervasive dysfunction in a general, overarching principle of cognition, they struggle to account for the surprising regularity with which certain highly-specific themes and features crop up again and again in the phenomenological content of psychotic experience. I will describe the many explanatory successes of predictive coding theories of psychosis, before discussing how my own research attempts to tackle the pressing challenges they still face in accounting for the facts that delusions overwhelmingly tend to be unpleasant, social, and bizarre.

Bio: I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge, specialising in Experimental Psychology for my BA in 2013 and completing the MSci in History and Philosophy of Science the following year. In 2014 I applied to do a PhD investigating the development of psychotic symptoms (particularly delusions) in the context of schizophrenic illness. I received funding from the Wellcome Trust NeuroScience in Psychiatry Network, and started my PhD later that year under the supervision of Prof Paul Fletcher and Dr Graham Murray.

Tuesday 7 February 2017
Darren Harvey, Darwin College

As the UK’s Brexit wish list becomes clearer and the “triggering” of Article 50 draws closer, attention necessarily must turn to the role that the EU institutions will play in the negotiation and conclusion of any deal between the UK and EU. Contrary to the perceptions of some, the process of both negotiating withdrawal from the EU and reaching agreement on future UK-EU relations is not solely within the powers of the UK government and the governments of the EU’s remaining 27 member states alone. Instead, the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and potentially the Court of Justice of the European Union will also all play their part in the Brexit process. In light of this, the purpose of this talk is to provide a general overview of the Article 50 process once the UK has “triggered” Article 50 and assess the prospects of any deal being reached between the UK and the EU.

Darren Harvey is a PhD Candidate in Law at Darwin College, University of Cambridge.

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