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 29 November 2018
Dr Nanna Kaalund (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)

As the reduction in polar ice turns the Northwest Passage into a viable trading route and a lucrative fishing area, the legal status has become a key concern, with several nations claiming its ownership. Upon discovery of John Franklin’s wrecked ship HMS Erebus in 2014, the Canadian Prime Minister at the time Stephen Harper stated that “Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.” Harper’s assertion that Franklin’s expedition was the beginning of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic – however flawed – shows the long-lasting influence of nineteenth-century Arctic explorations on the geopolitical landscape. The lost Franklin expedition generated international interest, collaboration, and financial assistance for search missions. With reference the Fox expedition under Captain Francis Leopold McClintock, one of the many nineteenth-century search missions for the lost Franklin expedition, this presentation examines the nineteenth-century tensions surrounding international Arctic collaborations. The intersection of imperial competition, national tragedy, and scientific observation, invites discussion concerning the role of science in the national construction of the Arctic.

Tuesday 27 November 2018
Dr Nancy Highcock, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

Nearly seventy years of scientific excavations at Kültepe have yielded a remarkable assemblage of material reflecting the rich and fluid daily lives of the Anatolians, Assyrians, and others who inhabited such a dynamic and cosmopolitan city. A diverse category of objects, metal dress pins, has been recovered from burials at Kültepe and other Middle Bronze Age Anatolian sites, providing tangible connections to the ancient people who wore them. Previous scholarship has focused on the style and origin of these pins, generally associated with female adornment, but both the cuneiform and material records also allow for glimpses into the economic power they held for women during this period. Pierced clothing pins originating in the Mesopotamian sphere, called tudittu in the texts, were often gifted to women upon transformative life events such as marriage or consecration into a religious order. The Old Assyrian mercantile texts record such social transactions but also indicate that tudittu could function as working capital in times of need. Non-pierced Anatolian dress pins have also been recovered and the survival of their impressions on crescent-shaped loom weights across Anatolia also speak to their importance to the economic agency of women. Through a study of the various types of pins and their associated objects within the contextual framework provide by the texts, this paper will explore the multiple roles of these personal objects and analyze how both Anatolian and Assyrian women used pins to mediate the social, religious, and economic worlds in which they navigated.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Information is arguably the most pervasive metaphor that has borne of scientific research over the past 50 years. It is the core notion in many fields of science, including genetics, neuroscience, and the ever-expanding world of ubiquitous digital connectivity provided by the internet, the world-wide wide web, and our wireless networks. It is also important in economics, sociology, musicology, the study of animal (including human) communication, even in the fundamental understanding of black holes. I will try to outline some of the basic ideas behind the answers to the following questions: Is information a physical commodity? How can it be precisely understood and described mathematically? How is it measured? How does it relate to randomness, structure, noise and context?

Tuesday 20 November 2018
Valentina Ausserladscheider, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge

Right-wing populism experiences unprecedented success on the European political landscape. Illustrative of such success are the UK Independence Party´s Brexit campaign and the Austrian Freedom Party in the last general elections. The first played a major role in the UK´s decision to exit the European Union, and the latter presents Austria´s current government in coalition with the conservative party. My research explores the communication of these parties to the public and the way in which their economic policy proposals changed over the past decades. In doing so, I seek to understand how economic ideas, such as trade tariffs and renationalizing industries regained popularity; more specifically, how are these mobilized to condemn European integration, world markets and globalization and support cultural values such as nationalism, nativism and cultural conservativism. This research thereby contributes to the understanding of how the rise of right-wing populism is not just a cultural backlash against progressive values such as cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism, but also a reaction to neoliberal economic policies that shape the current economic system.

Valentina is an economic sociologist who is interested in socio-political ideas of elites shaping economic integration in Europe. Currently, she is a PhD student at the Sociology Department of the University of Cambridge. Her thesis investigates the rise of economic nationalist ideas in political elite´s discourse. This entails analyzing policy proposals such as the advocacy of monetary nationalism and protectionist trade tariffs in Austria and the UK. For this, she was awarded the Adam Smith Fellowship for research on political economy by the George Mason University, US.

Thursday 15 November 2018
Robert Kupp (CRUK Cambridge Institute / Oncology)

Ependymomas are tumors of the central nervous system, arising within the ependymal lining at the ventricle-parenchyma interface. Molecular profiling studies suggests ependymomas in different anatomical compartments are distinct and disparate diseases, with unique cells of origin and genetic drivers. We have recently described a highly recurrent 11q structural variant, producing a fusion translocation between the C11orf95 gene of unknown function and RELA, the principal effector of NF-kB signaling. C11orf95-RELA Fusion proteins, when introduced into neural stem cells, rapidly transform to form ependymoma. Furthermore, recent studies analyzing the genomes and transcriptomes of 500 primary ependymomas have reinforced these findings, showing that C11orf95-RELA fusion proteins are found within ~70% of forebrain (supratentorial) ependymomas and correlated with negative overall survival. However, the molecular events preceding and following Fusion transformation remain largely unknown. In this study we will present our recent efforts integrating transcriptome, proteome, interactome, and genome wide mapping of Fusion proteins (as well as their individual components) to understand the mechanisms by which neural stem cells transform to form ependymomas.

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