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Science Week 2016

Watch our videos and read our blogs from past events.

Monday 11 April 2016

  • Dr Anthony Roberts: 'Walking molecules: Marching to a mechanism for biological movement' (blog). Movement is one of the defining features of life. Much of the motion that distinguishes living organisms originates from the action of 'motor proteins': specialised enzymes that have the remarkable ability to walk along filaments within our cells. This lecture examined how these molecules are able to produce walking motions, and why failures in their movement give rise to human diseases.
  • Film screening and discussion: 'Life story: The race for the double helix.' This BAFTA award-winning drama documentary explored the myriad personal and institutional rivalries that fuelled one of the 20th century’s most important scientific discoveries. Dr Tracey Barrett (Biological Sciences) and Dr Richard Hamblyn (English and Humanities) provided an introduction and context for the film. 
  • Professor Ian Crawford: (U3A Talk) 'The search for life in the universe: The new science of astrobiology.' The talk described the planetary and evolutionary context of life on Earth and then discussed the implications of this perspective for the science of astrobiology. Professor Crawford also considered the prospects for finding life, or evidence for past life, elsewhere in our Solar System, for example on the planet Mars and icy moons of the outer solar system.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

  • Petrology Lab tour led by Steve Hirons: 'The beauty of petrology: From microscopes to mountains.' Participants used microscopes to discover the beauty of metamorphic, igneous and sedimentary rocks.
  • Dr Peter Grindrod: 'Selecting the landing site for 2018 ExoMars Rover.' The search for life on Mars is a cornerstone of international solar system exploration. The European Space agency planned to launch the ExoMars Rover in 2018 and Dr Grindrod's lecture examined how the choice of landing site had to balance engineering constraints with scientific goals.
  • Professor Hilary Downes: 'Lost worlds of the Solar System.' The early Solar System was a violent place. Before the familiar planets were formed, several earlier generations of small planets and asteroids were formed and destroyed by impact and collisions. One planet is thought to have smashed into the growing Earth and formed the Moon. This talk presented evidence for the existence of these lost worlds, from which only tiny meteor fragments remain.
  • Dr Louise Alexander: 'Analysing the Moon: What can we learn from the Apollo samples?' The Moon is our closest neighbour in the Solar System but unlike the Earth, which has an active surface, a magnetic field and a dense atmosphere, the Moon presents an ancient surface which can give us insights about the history of the Earth and the Solar System, as well as the Moon itself. This talk investigated how analysing samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts can help unlock this information.
  • Natasha Almeida, PhD student: 'Looking inside: Extraterrestrial material in 3D.' Missions that bring back meteorites and extraterrestrial samples offer rare opportunities to examine the most primitive material in our Solar System. Traditional techniques require destructive sampling, however micro-computed tomography can provide a glimpse into their three-dimensional structure. This talk demonstrated the potential of this technique using case studies from the Natural History Museum.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

  • Inaugural Rosalind Franklin Lecture: Professor Elspeth Garman: 'From Chocolate to Drug Discovery.' What has the art of the chocolatier got to do with drug discovery and Rosalind Franklin? Professor Garman examined the science behind crystals and crystallography. Crystals help scientists to define the three-dimensional shapes of molecules, from the small chocolate molecule to the DNA that carries genetic information. The technique of crystallography can identify new drug treatments by revealing the shapes of biomolecules in the human body which can be effectively targeted by drugs to fight disease.
  • Professor Maya Topf: 'Computational modelling in structural biology.' Structural biology aims to understand how cells function by providing three-dimensional pictures of biological macromolecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids. This talk showed how the use of computational modelling combining spatial data from various experimental techniques and evolutionary patterns can lead to important scientific discoveries.
  • Panel discussion: 'Inspired by science: Women tell their stories '(Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon with Dr Iroise Dumontheil, Dr Clare Sansom,  Dr Diane Horn and Professor Hilary Downes). Birkbeck scientists, with very different backgrounds and lives, tell their stories of how they became inspired to puruse a career in science and how it's influenced the work they do now at Birkbeck.

Thursday 14 April 2016

  • Mace Experimental Research Laboratories in Neuroscience (MERLiN) lab tours led by Professor Anne Richards and Dr Marie Smith: This tour gave short demonstrations of the experimental techniques used to investigate perceptual, motor, cognitive and emotional processing. For example, we measure brain activity to different stimuli by using EEG (electroencephalography), record what people are looking at by tracking eye movements and we measure how long people take to make simple decisions/choices.
  • Professor Nazanin Derakhshan: 'How can adaptive cognitive training improve resilience and mental wellbeing?' Resilience, the ability to bounce back and recover from difficulties, is a much needed ingredient in our daily lives as well as for our future goals. Recent research shows that this ability is dependent upon cognitive functions such as cognitive flexibility and working memory, as well as the openness to experience emotions such as anxiety, fear and sadness. This talk will discuss cutting-edge work on how training cognitive flexibility can help improve resilience in the face of life's stressors with benefits for our mental wellbeing.
  • Dr Adam Tierney: 'The speech/song illusion.' Certain spoken phrases, when looped, begin to sound like song. What are people hearing when they perceive this transformation? What causes this illusion, and what is happening in the brain when it takes place? And what can this phenomenon tell us about the relationship between speech and music perception?