May 20th Big data, routine data: insights from research using electronic medical records. Professor Tom Marshall, University of Birmingham

NHS General Practices have used electronic medical records for over 20 years and many general practices contribute anonymised patient records to research databases. On the one hand these offer huge opportunities for research into the epidemiology of diseases, pharmacoepidemiology, prescribing and use of laboratory tests. On the other there are challenges to using data where information may be missing or incorrectly recorded. This talk will give three examples of health services research using electronic medical records which have important, immediate and in some cases potentially life-saving implications.

Tom Marshall is Professor of Public Health & Primary Care at University of Birmingham. He trained in General Practice and Public Health Medicine and has been an academic for over 20 years. His research is largely on how to improve the functioning and efficiency of health services and it makes extensive use of electronic medical records for primary care.

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April 15th 2019 Fil Fernandes-Duarte, University of Warwick : Interdisciplinary Biomedical research.

“How to make a human: organisation of the information that makes us what we are”

The same way houses are made out of bricks, all humans are made out of cells. And these basic units form the building blocks for all the organs and systems that compose us (digestive, circulatory etc.). However, unlike building a house, where the necessary information is introduced into the building process from the outside, through engineers and builders, cells hold all the necessary plans within them. Through communication between cells it is possible to form a complex multicellular organism that has different and complementary functioning parts.It is not surprising, therefore, that the complex enterprise of building a Human requires copious amounts of information. The way cells communicate, where to build each organ, which organs to build first; all this information must be stored within each and every single cell. To hold such volumes of information in a nuclear compartment of only a hand full of micrometers, and being able to retrieve it when necessary requires a level of organisation to rival those of the most extensive libraries in the world.I will be speaking about how instructions are organised, stored, and retrieved from the nuclei of cells in order to allow for the building of a human being.

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March 18th Patrick Caple of University of Warwick

“Cell Out – Taking Protein Biosynthesis Outside of the Cell”

“Proteins have long been the focus of study, from biosynthetic enzymes, viral shells (capsid), cell surface receptors and antibodies. Producing such proteins for study can be challenging using traditional methods, however Cell Free Transcription-Translation could allow for expedited study of proteins as well as provide a platform for their rational engineering with a synthetic biology mindset.”  

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Feb 18th 2019 Professor Richard Aspinall, Coventry University

“I’d like to be immortal, but…..”

Immortality has held us fascinated throughout history and there are many examples of individuals searching for the elixir of life or the fountain of youth because they wished to live forever. There are even reports that some like the Comte de St Germainhave succeeded. More recently the goals have been modified or even shifted slightly with reports that rather than being immortal we will soon be able to live to be 1000 years old, that’s if we start treating the body like a machine and replacing those bits that wear out with time. All of this seems to some to be plausible and the problems seem to be associated with how do we cope with overcrowding or how do we pay for the treatments. This skips over the first problem which is when do we make the decision to adopt any therapies directed at lifespan extension? At what age do we decide that we wish to maintain ourselves and live forever or at least a thousand years? I would like to discuss this and propose that we give up all hope for immortality and eternal youth and accept out fate and our allotted span, but making the best of what we have been given.

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Jan 21st 2019 Dr Felicity Boardman and Dr Rachel Hale, University of Warwick 

Genetic screening, Disability and the Future of Society?

With the advent of genome sequencing techniques, screening the whole population for genetic conditions is now possible. Indeed, genomics is increasingly being incorporated into mainstream healthcare, e.g. the 100,000 Genomes initiative, which aims to sequence 75,000 genomes by the year 2020. 

However, little is known about what families affected by genetic conditions think about the potential introduction of genetic screening of the population for the condition they live with. This is in spite of the fact that these families and adults are important stakeholders and have expertise in the lived reality of the candidate conditions. Moreover, such families are likely to be directly affected by the introduction of screening, for example by a reduced birth rate of other people with the disorder, as the condition comes to be re-defined in the public eye as something preventable. 

Since 2017, Dr Felicity Boardman and Dr Rachel Hale from the University of Warwick have been conducting a study exploring the views of such families living with various different genetic conditions, as well as participants in the 100,000 Genomes Project, to capture reactions to this shifting landscape of genetic testing. 

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Dec 10th 2018. Protein Engineering of Lignin. Dr. Sharon Mendel Williams;  Senior Lecturer and Course Director of Analytical Chemistry and Forensic Science at Coventry University. 

Sharon joined Coventry University as a lecturer in the School of Life Sciences in November 2014. She worked as a post doctoratl research fellow in both the Chemistry and the Biology departments of Warwick University for 8 years. Sharon’s research focuses on the biophysics and biochemistry of proteins and understanding the mechanisms of enzymes. She has a wide range of depth and experience in molecular biology, biochemistry, and chemistry. Sharon is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Biochemical Society and very active in outreach at Coventry area.

 Sharon will give us an insight into an important developing field of protein engineering, describing her work on ways of modifying the polymer Lignin (found in the walls of plants) into more useful compounds such as bio-fuels. Sharon describes the work here:

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Nov 19th 2018 What the Cell! How do you keep your chromosomes in order?

Professor Andrew D. McAinsh Head of Division, Biomedical Sciences, University of Warwick

You and I are each built from several trillion cells and, remarkably, all these cells originate from one single cell – a fertilised egg. Each cell, including this first one, contains the entire blueprint for a human being. These instructions are encoded in your DNA and organised in packages called chromosomes. Life is only possible if we look after this DNA and ensure all cells contain the right amount. The wrong amount is associated with human diseases, including cancer. This evening we will explore the amazing nanoscale machines that make this possible, and how we may harness this knowledge to improve human health.

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RICHARD III – CSI – Professor Sarah Hainsworth   (University of Aston)

Professor Sarah Hainsworth is Pro Vice Chancellor and the first female Executive Dean of Aston University’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and has held this position for the last 12 months.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and is proud to hold the position of Deputy Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity and Inclusion committee

Prior to joining Aston, Sarah was at the University of Leicester for almost 20 years, where latterly she was Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering and also the University’s Head of Engineering.

It was whilst working in Leicester in 2013 when her expertise was called upon to help to establish the manner of Richard III’s death, after his skeletal remains were found in Grey Friars Car Park in the City, the previous year.

Sarah is a leading forensic science expert on stabbing, dismemberment and knife sharpness and in this discussion she will show how modern methods, throw light on the death of a King some 500 years ago.

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Sept 17th 2018 Sophie Hardy, PhD researcher, Birmingham University 

When it’s just on the tip of your tongue: What causes word-finding failures in old age?

As promised here are the details for people to contact if any of your members are interested in joining an ageing participant panel.

Contact: Elizabeth Maylor

Email: e.a.maylor@warwick.ac.uk

www.sophiehardy.co.uk An invitation to see more of her work.

(see also this telegraph article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/04/30/exercise-old-age-helps-words-past-tip-tongue-scientists-say/)

Sophie Hardy is currently completing a PhD at the University of Birmingham, having previously studied at the University of Warwick. Sophie’s PhD is focused on understanding changes in language production with age, and how this affected by other cognitive and physical functions. At the Cafe Scientique talk, Sophie will focus on the causes of word-findings difficulties in old age (when you know you know a word, but just can’t access it) and discuss some emerging evidence that suggests physical fitness may be an important factor in preventing word-finding difficulties in old age. Sophie also plans to include some interactive elements in which the audience can try out some of the measures and tasks that are typically used in language and ageing experiments.

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On July 16 2018 we welcomed Two student prize winners from Coventry University’s School of Biomedical Sciences

Nicole Ball’s winning project that was concerned with monitoring toxicity during therapy for the management of inflammatory diseases.

Matthew Lamaudiere and Igor Morozov Antibiotic Treatment for Livestock: A preventative measure against bacterial infections or aiding in the spread of resistance?

Many types of antibiotics which are used in humans are also commonly used in farms to treat and prevent disease, or to promote growth, despite the rapid development of human multidrug resistant pathogens originating from livestock. Their antibacterial spectrums are similar and may significantly increase the possibility that clinical pathogens will develop cross-resistance to drugs used in human medicine. The intestinal microbiota is known to be the epicentre but underexplored source for antibiotic resistance. However, one important overlooked aspect of the wide use of antibiotics is that they affect the composition of the bacterial community in the gut, a critical determinant of health and disease in animals and humans. This may lead to the emergence of bacteria that carry transferable resistances on mobile elements. Our recent work on a standard preventive antibiotic therapy of calves, housed in a West Midlands farm, namely Moreton Morrell College Farm, Warwickshire College, revealed some interesting but alarming findings. Antibiotic treatments of healthy animals led to selection of energy harvesting bacteria in the gut which implies antibiotic therapy may contribute to gaining of weight and hence obesity. We also found a reduction in bacteria which protect animals and humans against fungal and bacterial pathogens, thus making the host more vulnerable to other diseases. Critically, our data shows that the antibiotic treatment promoted proliferation of a potential human pathogen, this beingE. coliwith mobile elements carrying clinically significant resistance genes against antibiotics used to treat multidrug resistant bacterial infections. We will discuss the potential implications of antibiotic use in agricultural settings with respect to the spread of resistance within farm and human populations. 

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May 21st. 2018 Marine Anchors Images and reality. What are they for? How do they work? What do they look like?

Dr Bill Craig from Manchester Univeersity School of Engineering

You probably all know what a ship’s anchor looks like, but have you ever thought why they are the shape they are, and how modern designs evolved? The perception/recall of the so-called man-in-the -street is often uncertain as evidence given in the courts has demonstrated.

We will examine anchor development over the millennia through images in art and literature as well as through physical relics, including the anchors of the fleets of Julius Caesar, Kings Harold and Henry VIII, Lord Nelson and of the Titanic and the great WWII battleships in the 20thcentury and in the 21stcentury of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Only relatively recently have the formal principles of the science of mechanics and later soil mechanics been applied to the anchoring aspects of marine security. This may seem surprising when the large sea-going vessel was for a long time the most complex piece of equipment found in many cultures.  

Have you noticed the anchor at the stern of the Empire Windrush in 1948, which has featured in the news recently? All is not as it seems.

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April 16th 2018, Infrastructure For Sustainable Energy: 

Robin Cathcart 

In his seminal 2009 book, Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air, Professor David MacKay sets out a number of plans which if implemented straight away would have totally decarbonised UK energy by 2050. No plans were initiated then and ten years later nothing comparable is being implemented. In his presentation, Robin will set out the infrastructure needs to decarbonise UK energy to meet climate change targets and contrast them with current strategies and progress.

Robin is a retired civil engineer, who came to understand the significance of climate change whilst a visiting research fellow at Westminster University. He has continued to research climate change and actions to alleviate its impact.

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Monday March 19 2018;  Robert Dallmann, Assistant Professor, Warwick Medical Schools

Biological clocks are found in all organisms – from single cell cyanobacteria to complex multicellular organisms like mammals. They are found in all cells of our body, and all of these clocks together are called the circadian timing system (CTS), which modulates most behaviours and physiological processes in our bodies. For example, the CTS determines when we are active and when we rest, but also that we have highest blood pressure just before we wake up. Disruption of the CTS has been shown to have negative health consequences. Understanding – on a mechanistic level – how these daily oscillations influence diseases and treatment will be discussed. The perspective of his work includes to improve already existing treatments and to aid in the development of new drugs.

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Monday Feb 19th 2018

John Guelke from University of Warwick,  Politics and International Studies

“The Last Days of Privacy?: CCTV, the Internet of Things and Metadata”.

By way of introduction, John says: ‘Massive technological advances and counterterrorism policy have put privacy under pressure like never before.  Headlines tell us that the UK “Is the most spied on nation in the world” or that we are witnessing “the end of privacy”.  Technology executives declare “you already have zero privacy, get over it!” and asks ‘have reports of its demise been greatly exaggerated?’

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Monday January 15th 2018

Prof Nick Dale, University of Warwick;

The evolution of air breathing, molecular insights and implications for human health.

About 400 million years ago (MYA), in the Devonian era, air-breathing fish took to the land and became the ancestors of all land-based vertebrates. Water- and air-breathing impose very distinct physiological requirements on animals. I shall consider what these are, why in air-breathing animals there is a need for new molecular systems to sense CO2 and regulate ventilation, and how these molecules arose some 400 MYA at the very start of air breathing. I shall then fast-forward to the present day and consider how mutations in the key CO2 sensor affect human health in unexpected ways and how much more we still have to learn.

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Monday December 11th, 2017

Jan Gillett,

Electric cars: a revolution to be welcomed?

Jan has been close to the energy sector for nearly 50 years and has owned a Tesla Model S since early 2016. The forthcoming revolution is about much more than the car itself and he will take us through the wider system and the benefits and challenges the face us as individuals and society across the world. He hopes that attendees will be able to better participate in the often ill informed and partial debates and to make better decisions for themselves.

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Monday November 20th, 2017

Sylvester Arnab;  Serious Games

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Monday 16th of October 2017

Sweet lies about meditationMiguel Farias https://miguelfarias.co.uk

Psychologists have been feeding the public a range of ideas about meditation: it’s supposed to help us become more compassionate, to heal various mental health problems in adults and children, to work for the mind like going to the gym works for the body, to very rarely have side effects, and to be a recipe for a happy life according to most spiritual traditions. It just seems to be good to be true. In this talk, I will unpack these beliefs, trace their development, and tease out what is fact from fiction about the effects of meditation.

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Monday 18th of September 2017

Synthetic Biology and the Future of Modern Medicine

The University of Warwick’s iGEM Team for 2017

When some people hear “genetic engineering”, they think of designer babies and mutant crops of killer cabbages. This talk will hopefully dispel some of these myths and misunderstandings, whilst giving an insight into the Warwick iGEM Team’s project for 2017.

iGEM is a synthetic biology competition, which was established by MIT in 2003. 300 teams from around the world are currently spending their summer building and testing their projects, and will gather to present their work and compete at the annual Jamboree in November. The Warwick iGEM team is made up of 10 undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of Warwick. There are 5 engineers, 4 from life sciences and a chemist, highlighting the fact that synthetic biology is a truly interdisciplinary field. 

A bit about their project: 

By providing a well-defined, biocompatible surface coating, the risk of bone and dental implant failure will be greatly reduced. They aim to accomplish this by controlling the spatial production of extra-cellular cellulose with light. The team’s modified E.coli builds on work from previous iGEM teams, utilising a transmembrane protein complex, which upon exposure to red light, phosphorylates a promoter and begins the synthesis cascade. Using this technology, the team will be able to build a 3D printer where living bacteria act as the ‘bio-ink’. They will then be able to produce cellulose structures, featuring micrometer pores, which mimic the surface of broken bone for implants. This structure has been shown to induce the body to produce new bone, helping the implant fuse efficiently and thus reduce overall failure rates.

Thanks to advances in synthetic biology, both tissue engineering and regenerative medicine are becoming some of the fastest growing and exciting fields of science. The iGEM team will give examples of current applications in use today, along with an overview of some of the innovative ongoing research from around the globe. 

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 July 17th 2017

Compton Verney. Penny Sexton, curator

Visual perception goes beyond sight as it involves the brain. Penny will explore the ways in which artists have engaged our brains, as well as our eyes, in the act of seeing. It isthe subject of the forthcoming exhibition at Compton Verney: ˜The Art of Perception” More at www.comptonverney.org.uk 

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Monday June 19th, 2017

Living Landscapes: the challenges and the benefits

led by Gina Rowe, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

This month we welcome Gina Rowe, Living Landscapes Manager for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. Gina will prime our discussion on the impact that changes in farming practices and land management, and the increasing land take for construction of new infrastructure, industries and homes has had on our natural environment. In particular the impact on wildlife in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. She will outline the Wildlife Trusts’ approach to working at a landscape scale  as a solution, creating ˜Living Landscapes”, and identify the challenges of this work.

Our discussion will cover the issues to be tackled re loss of habitat and the need to enable connectivity for species in both urban and rural areas, including some of the national and local report findings. We’ll aim to discover the benefits that accrue for both people and wildlife from this work. 

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Monday April 10th 2017

“Old ways of Learning from New Ways of Making”

The achievements, challenges and prospects of a three-year (2014-17) EU Erasmus+ project (CONSTRUIT!) based in Computer Science at the University of Warwick with 6 EU partners

Steve Russ, Computer Science, University of Warwick

Investing wisely in educational technology has become a huge challenge for teachers and managers at schools and colleges. This challenge is due in part to a profound duality in the use of computing to support learning. On the one hand computers, and their programs, still generally display the rigidity and the formality of machines. On the other hand people, in their learning, exhibit and need the flexibility and informality of human experience. 

We shall briefly describe a long-running research and teaching project at Warwick, the Empirical Modelling (EM) Group, which could be construed as directly addressing this duality. Principles and tools were developed in EM that reflected a broader view of computing than that found in conventional programming. The thinking and methods of EM have been adopted, and given some practical exposure, in a recent EU Erasmus+ project (CONSTRUIT!). 

The main part of the talk will be the story of achievements, challenges and prospects of the three-year (2014-17) CONSTRUIT! project based in Computer Science at the University of Warwick with 6 EU partners. This is a practical project developing a new way of using computing to support learning – through a practice we call ‘making construals’. This is what we claim is a ‘new way of making’ and will be demonstrated and shared – hopefully! – through audience participation. No knowledge of programming will be assumed!

If anyone likes to bring a laptop – ideally running a recent version of Chrome or Firefox – then we hope they will be able to follow, and explore, some of the construals being shown. (Our tools are not, unfortunately, yet able to offer service on tablets or smartphones.) 

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Monday March 20th 2017

 Dr Sara Kalvala, Department of Computer Science

University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

Microbial communities: models and applications. 

Micro-organisms are all around us – usually forming rich multi-speciescommunities  where hundreds of thousands of individuals interact, whether to cooperate, compete, or feed on each other. These communities of micro-organisms affect many aspects of our day-to-day life, and are the focus of experimental research by biologists, biochemists, bio-engineers and environmentalists. There is also significant interest by mathematicians, computer scientists and even social scientists and philosophers in studying microbial communities, as concepts of cooperation and competition are relevant not only at the micro-organism level but everywhere – between nations, between animals, between mobile phone users, and so on. A Multi-Agent System is an abstract, computational model of how individuals interact to form communities, and the use of this abstraction allows research as well as application in the development of nature-inspired computational tools.   

In this session Sara will introduce the general concept of a Multi-AgentSystem, from a computational perspective. She will then discuss how she uses abstract models to understand more about how microbes organize themselves into colonies and work together, and on the flip side how this understanding of how microbes work together inspires new technologies.  

Sara Kalvala is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at theUniversity of Warwick. She works broadly in the area of Computational Biology, and more specifically she collaborates with biologists in developing useful bacterial communities, within the interdisciplinary

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Understand facial expressions

Jen Wathan

Faces are rich sources of social information for humans and some primates; however whether this is true in other animals is largely unknown. Investigating communicative abilities can offer insights into the cognition of non-human animals, and studying a range of species can help us to understand the evolution of these abilities.

Jen completed a PhD at the University of Sussex investigating social cognition and communication in horses, an MSc Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of York, and a BSc Psychology at Bangor University.

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Monday 16th January 2017

How should learning be facilitated and assessed at universities in the 21st century? 

Paul Roberts, WMG, University of Warwick

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Monday December 12th 2016

The techniques of eye surgery and implant design

Shehzad Naroo

Presbyopia is the natural process of the eye ageing and losing its ability to focus at near. This means a person would need to rely on reading glasses or bifocals.  But what about before reading glasses were invented, what did people do?

Nowadays there are surgical alternatives to spectacles. One of the surgical techniques is essentially combining cataract surgery with different designs of lens implants. This talk will highlight the techniques of surgery and the implant design.

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Monday November 21st 2016

The Power of Water

Linda Forbes

Water has powered our activities for centuries: from simple foot-operated systems to pumped hydro systems at Dinorwig in north Wales. Humankind’s latest attempts to access the power of water is in the marine sector: from harnessing wave energy and tidal streams, through means as diverse as sea snakes, turbines, barrages and fences, to taking advantage of temperature differences, using heat pumps and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). 

Linda’s practical experience at Orkney’s internationally renowned European Marine Energy Centre includes test site development, environmental monitoring, and marine deployments. She talked about the engineering, environmental, and economic challenges facing the industry in delivering electricity from the sea, and progress so far.

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Monday October 17th 2016

Brain imaging: Promises and Pitfalls

Tom Nichols

Can we peer into the human brain, and see what a person is thinking?  Modern techniques using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can in fact show incredible detail of the brain’s anatomy and, with some less detail, how hard each part of the brain is working at any instant. 

Tom sketched how these techniques work and how functional MRI (fMRI) can be used to track brain activity. 

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Monday July 18th 2016

Science research in the NHS  

Roberta Bivins

Research has been a part of the National Health Service since its very early years; two examples of such research will be discussed – the hearing aid developed specifically with NHS patients in mind, and evidence of how one General Practitioner studied his own practice for clues about child health and illness.

 The role of the NHS in shaping health research in relation to the genetic blood disorders sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia will be examined. UK genetic researchers were swift to recognise that the arrival of new ethnic communities in the 1950s and 1960s also brought new opportunities for cutting edge research.

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Monday June 20th 2016

Photovoltaic Tree: re-imagining a solar future

Yorck Ramacher

Imagine there was a more beautiful way to capture energy from the sun, to power our homes, cars and communities. Imagine an alternative to the large, shiny, flat photovoltaic (PV) panels retro-fitted to buildings or laid out en masse in fields.

Research aims at delivering an alternative solar future where solar PV cells can move beyond their current form of flat structures into something aesthetically more interesting and attractive whilst yielding enhanced power production.

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Monday May 16th 2016

Imagining the Future with Synthetic Biology

Scientists from the the University of Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology centre

Terms such as gene editing, personalized medicine, and artificial life have entered the popular arena, with news outlets reporting many implications of ways in which the functioning of the fundamental units of life.

Cells, can be modified, whether to `correct’ cells that do not work in an ideal way and therefore result in illnesses such as cancer or diabetes, or to provide  efficient alternatives to produce chemicals such as medicines, fuels, and other industrial products.

An umbrella term for many of the techniques is Synthetic Biology, where engineering and computational approaches are brought to bear in the more effective use of laboratory techniques for manipulating biological entities.

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Monday April 18th 2016

Can large IT Projects ever Succeed? 

Peter Haine

There have been almost unbelievable developments in computing and information processing tools. Now we have solid state electronics almost beyond the capacity of systems engineers to utilise to its full potential. 

But, how often to we hear about IT projects that are late, way over budget and ultimately fail? The answer is, far too often; and all too frequently it is ambitious projects by public sector organisations that hit the headlines. Are they alone or is there something about the way systems people work that far too often leads to failed projects?

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Monday March 21st 2016

Why do we need heritage scientists and/or conservation scientists? 

Joyce Townsend

Heritage science is a relatively new term covering the application of scientific principles and research to the management, preservation and public appreciation of cultural heritage in its widest sense. In recent years, it’s become possible to obtain a PhD or a Masters degree in this area.

‘Conservation scientist’ has been used to describe scientists working in museums for over 40 years, and these staff all trained in the physical sciences, and then developed the profession. What do such people do, and what would become of cultural heritage worldwide if they weren’t doing it?

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Monday February 15th 2016

Taking safe decisions – the application of science in delivering safety improvement in the railway

Paul Kirk

An overview of the challenges faced by the GB railway in delivering improved safety performance against a backdrop of growth, investment and increased utilisation; demonstrating how a scientific approach delivers safety improvements.

The presentation covered a range of issues including how do accidents happen and understanding System safety; and analytical approach from data collection through to pre-cursor analysis and cross checking data integrity.

It covered the Impact of Technical analysis, control and innovation with empirical evidence; people expertise, competence and behavioural science; and safety Performance Results with benchmarking. Paul concluded with a look into the future challenges of the Rail Technical Strategy and the Rail Industry Health & Safety Strategy.

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Monday January 18th 2016

Comfort Zone

Trevor Keeling

We all know that buildings should be 21C (or at least one hopes we do!). But what evidence is there behind this and what does it mean for global and national energy consumption?

It turns out that the evidence behind this is substantial but not without fault. The consequences of designing all the buildings and infrastructure around this number on the other hand are climatically devastating.

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Monday December 14th 2015

Preserving Vision after Eye Injury

Richard Blanch with Julian Jackson

Eye injuries cause sudden, unpredictable and catastrophic loss of vision.  After eye injury and head injury, the death of nerve cells in the eye is responsible for permanent blindness and scarring inside the eye directly damages vision and presents a barrier to regeneration.  Multi-faceted research approaches are needed to define the underlying mechanisms in the eye by which cells die and scarring develops and to guide potential ways to prevent and treat cell death and scarring.  

When vision is lost and the eyes are damaged beyond repair, alternative routes are needed to restore visual function.  Sensory substation is a novel way to replace lost vision without using the eyes and offers some function to those most severely affected.

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Monday November 16th 2015

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease – Flies degenerate for a good cause    

Kevin Moffatt

Ever since 1910 when Emil Kraeplin termed Auguste Deter’s condition “Alzheimer’s Disease” we have struggled to understand the causes of this devastating disease. Her death in 1906 and the initial analysis by Lois Alzheimer, then a research work in Kraeplin’s laboratory, has under-pinned much understanding of the pathology and the progression of this most common senile dementia. Indeed we have been able to develop some pharmacological treatments based on the last 100 years of research.

Nonetheless progress has been slow and with our ageing population the need for progress is perhaps more obvious than ever.  Using organisms such as the fruit-fly, we have been able to demonstrate that the pathological signatures of the human disease are likely not the toxic components that lead to disease.  Using morphological, electrophysiological and behavioural assays we can propose new disease mechanisms and gain insights into potential causes that are worthy of investigation in humans.    

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Monday October 19th 

Organisation theory and the evolutionary origins of consciousness

Mike Waller

Research over recent decades into human consciousness seems to have revealed a major discrepancy between the way in which we experience decision-making and what is actually going on in our brains.

We have evolved to think that the conscious mind is the arbiter in respect of matters requiring considered judgement; but put “consciousness” plus the names Libet, Grey Walter and/or Pinker into Google and you will find details of experiments and observations seeming to show the reverse.