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Science Week 2015

Watch our videos and read our blogs from past events.

Monday 23 March 2015

  • Film screening with Q&A: Dr Tim Smith: 'Attention machine: The science of cinematic perception' (blog). While the audience watched a screening of The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006) they were both scientist and subject in a live experiment to demonstrate the cognitive processes involved in film viewing. They were asked to report (using their smartphones) the letter and number pairs that appeared whenever the film image was replaced with a flashing grid of letters and numbers. In addition, one volunteer wore a portable eye-tracker to allow their eye movements to be captured.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

  • Electron Microscopy Lab tour: Electron tomography is used to view the internal structures of cells and tissues in 3D. During the lab tour attendees were shown how macromolecular machines are imaged, either on their own or in their cellular environment, to reveal their movements and mechanisms of action.
  • Women in science lectures:
    • Professor Helen Saibil: 'Protein machines in the arms race between man and pathogen.' Pathogens, viruses, bacteria and micro-organisms that infect us have evolved weapons to invade and damage our cells. In turn, our immune system has evolved defences against these attacks. Both sides use proteins that can punch holes in cell membranes. In this lecture, Professor Helen Saibil showed how these proteins are used by both sides in the fight between infection and resistance.
    • Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards: 'Water: precious, polluted, protected.' Although water occurs almost everywhere on Earth, only a very small proportion is available to humans for drinking and other uses. Water can become polluted with potentially toxic elements such as arsenic and lead by both natural and anthropogenic processes. This lecture examined examples of these processes and discussed ways in which precious water resources can be protected.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

  • Professor Martin Eimer: 'How the brain recognises faces.' We encounter many different faces every day and most of us can easily recognize the faces of familiar individuals. In fact, face recognition is a complex achievement which involves several different cognitive and brain mechanisms. In this lecture Professor Eimer examined how the brain processes faces and discussed why some people find face recognition very difficult.
  • Dr Alan Lowe: 'Visualising the inner workings of the living cell.' One of the most striking features of living cells is their ability to self-organise. Dr Lowe's lecture examined how state-of-the-art dynamic microscopy enables us to probe the molecular environment of the cell and all its parts in real-time, giving unprecedented insight into the molecular mechanisms of life.

Thursday 26 March 2015

  • Birkbeck-UCL Centre for NeuroImaging (BUCNI) lab tour led by Dr Iroise Dumontheil and Dr Fred Dick. Functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an extraordinary tool for human neuroscience because it allows us to image the activity in the brain, as well as its structure, without any kind of invasive surgery or radioactive materials. This lab tour demonstrated the basics of how MRI works and demonstrated how we can visualise and understand neural activity in relation to perceptual, motor, and cognitive processes.
  • Talks from Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD):
    • Dr Esha Massand: 'What can babies possibly tell us about dementia?' Down syndrome involves three copies of chromosome 21, on which the APP-gene is located. This gene contributes to the development of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s dementia. By age 30-40, all individuals with Down syndrome have Alzheimer’s brain pathology, yet not all go on to develop dementia. Dr Massand's lecture showed how by studying babies with Down syndrome researchers can uncover both risk and protective factors for dementia, with key implications for early intervention.
    • Katarina Begus: 'The development of human curiosity.' Why do children never stop asking questions and some adults struggle to find anything interesting? How do we develop and nurture a curious mind? In this talk Katarina Begus presented recent research which investigated the first expressions of curiosity in babies, what happens in babies’ brains when they explore their environment and how this affects what they learn.
    • Dr Caspar Addyman: 'The surprisingly serious science of baby laughter.' The laughter of little babies is infectious, enchanting and may play an important role in their early development, yet it's largely been overlooked by science. Dr Addyman has conducted a large global survey of new parents to discover what makes their babies laugh and in this talk he presented the results of his research and how it reveals a serious and important purpose to this delightful behaviour.