10/2018: Deciphering the Past with Accelerators (J. Dopke)

Place and Time: Abingdon, Thursday 18 October 2018 from 19:00 for 19:30

King Charles Room, King’s Head and Bell, (10 E St Helen St, Abingdon OX14 5EA)

TITLE: Deciphering the Past with Accelerators

In 1709, digging of a well near Mount Vesuvius brought up some old statues at large depth. This discovery led to major excavations happening around what was discovered to be the city of Herculaneum, covered during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Particular interest fell onto a library discovered within the excavation site, holding hundreds of carbonised scrolls from the time of the volcanoes eruption. These well preserved artefacts may well hold secrets, we cannot otherwise know of, as few other libraries from the time are preserved to this day. 

Though much effort has gone into physical or “metaphysical” opening of these scrolls, to date there seems to be no viable method of making these objects accessible to scholars without destructive action. Within my presentation I will give insight into what has been done so far, and what is currently being looked at to make these objects readable through use of modern day physics and computing, as well as some of the unexpected challenges one faces when trying to make 2000 year old material readable.

Speaker : Jens Dopke

A physicist by trade I started studying at the University of Wuppertal, Germany in 2001. Given an interest in particle physics, I started early on development of electronics and systems providing for particle physics related measurements. This led on to me being considered an expert in design/installation/operation and after finishing my PhD on detector electronics development, I moved on to CERN, Geneva, to support operation and upgrade of the ATLAS Detector through the years of 2011-2014.

Currently I hold a staff position at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Chilton, working on future tracking detectors for the ATLAS experiment, as well as general technology R&D for future detector systems. On the side I invest time into my pet project, making ancient scrolls readable through use of modern day, non-destructive imaging.

In my spare time I like to teach maths at St. John’s College, Oxford, and demonstrate in undergraduate electronics labs. When all that is over, I tend to my relationship which usually involves a lot of hiking, favourably in the Scottish highlands, followed by a glass of single malt.

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08/2018: Geo Survey (B. Robbins)

Place and Time: Abingdon, Thursday 16 August 2018 from 19:00 for 19:30

King Charles Room, King’s Head and Bell, (10 E St Helen St, Abingdon OX14 5EA)

TITLE: Geophysical Survey Challenges in Adverse Weather Conditions

For more than five decades, geophysical surveys have been undertaken at sites across the world in diverse and challenging weather conditions. Objectives are typically to derive the Earth’s subsurface characteristics by measuring physical differences between rock types or physical discontinuities. Geophysics represents a class of non-invasive subsurface investigations, many of these technologies are traditionally used for hydrocarbon exploration. However, geophysical methods are also used in a variety of other engineering applications often at remote locations open to the elements such as construction sites for wind farms, power plants, airports and bridges.
With reference to a number of case studies Benedict will outline challenges presented by Mother Nature and site conditions by typical field operatives when collecting data and some of the considerations taken into account in overcoming them.

Speaker: Benedict Robbins

Benedict Robbins is a Project Engineer / Geophysicist in the Ground division based in Fugro’s Wallingford office focusing on non-intrusive onshore geophysical surveys. Benedict is a Geophysics BSc (Hons) graduate with MSc Carbon Capture and Storage, Edinburgh University. He has been one of the lead geophysicists for the Heathrow Airport Expansion site works currently being undertaken. Benedict has experience working in a diverse range of Fugro’s exciting site investigations across the UK and further afield.  Projects include:  High Speed Two Rail, Race Bank offshore Wind Farm, Sirius Minerals Mine, Anadarko’s LNG facility, (Mozambique) & Sinop Nuclear Power Plant, (Turkey).

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07/2018: Heart Plumbing (G. Douglas)

Place and Time: Abingdon, Thursday 19 July 2018 from 19:00 for 19:30

New Location: King Charles Room, King’s Head and Bell, (10 E St Helen St, Abingdon OX14 5EA)

TITLE: Plumbing problems – A heart story

In 1961 more than half of all deaths in the UK were due to diseases that affect the heart and circulation (cardiovascular disease). Improvement in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, such as lipid lowering therapies and new surgical interventions, have reduced this number by over three quarters. However, cardiovascular disease still accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK hence there is a pressing need to identify new treatments. Large population based studies comparing the DNA from healthy individuals with those who have cardiovascular disease have enabled us to identify new genes that have a role in this disease for the first time.  We are interested in new genes which have no known function as these genes have the potential to identify new ways to prevent or treat coronary artery disease. In my talk, I will walk you through the process we have used at the University of Oxford to identify candidate genes for cardiovascular disease from large genetic population studies and how we validated these findings using cell and animal models.

Speaker: Gillian Douglas

Gillian Douglas is a University Research Lecturer at the University of Oxford in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine; she is also a Lecturer in Physiology and Pharmacology at Jesus College, Oxford. Coming from Glasgow, which has one of the highest incidences of cardiovascular disease in the country, Gillian has always had an interest in the mechanism behind this condition. She is currently working on understanding how two genes of previous unknown function affect the development of atherosclerosis (ie when arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaque or atheroma).


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06/2018: Dyslexia (J. Stein)

Place and Time: Abingdon, Thursday 21 June 2018 from 19:00 for 19:30

New Location: King Charles Room, King’s Head and Bell, (10 E St Helen St, Abingdon OX14 5EA)

TITLE: Wobbles, warbles and fish – the ‘magnocellular’ theory of developmental dyslexia

Learning to read is more difficult than learning to speak because it requires very rapid visual analysis of letters and their order, together with rapidly translating them into the phonemes of which word sounds are composed, and this background ‘phonological’ skill also has to be learnt.  The difficulties that developmental dyslexics have with acquiring these skills may be caused by abnormal development of large, ‘magnocellular’, nerve cells in the brain; these mediate the deployment of visual, auditory and motor attention which underlies the visual, eye movement and auditory sequencing skills required for reading.  The magnocellular hypothesis suggests that the many different visual/orthographic, auditory/phonological, articulatory/motor features of dyslexia may be due to impaired development of these magnocellular neurones throughout the brain. The talk will be about the mounting evidence in favour of this hypothesis together with how recent genetic, molecular and nutritional findings shed light on why these brain anomalies occur and how they can be alleviated.

Speaker: John Stein

John is Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience, Dept. Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.  After medical studies at New College, Oxford, he trained as a clinical neurologist.   From 1970 – 2008 he was Fellow and Tutor in Medicine and Physiological Sciences at Magdalen.  In theory ‘retired’ he still teaches neuroscience to medical and psychology students and his research still focuses on the role of vision and nutrition in the control of movement and behaviour in neurological patients, dyslexics and young offenders.  John doesn’t cook fish; his brother TV fish chef, Rick Stein, doesn’t do neuroscience!

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05/2018: Biomedical Imaging (K. Fisher)

Place and Time: Abingdon, Thursday 17 May 2018 from 19:00 for 19:30

New Location: King Charles Room, King’s Head and Bell, (10 E St Helen St, Abingdon OX14 5EA)

TITLE: Biomedical Imaging

Biomedical imaging has become vital in modern day medicine and is used in the diagnosis of many diseases such as cancers and cardiac diseases. The lanthanides, also known as the rare earth metals, are used widely in biomedical imaging, for example in MRI (medical resonance imaging) to obtain images with greater contrast between different types of tissue. Whilst biomedical imaging techniques are well established in the hospitals, they all have limitations. This has led to research into new types of MRI and multi-modal imaging where multiple imaging techniques can be used at the same time.
Theranostic imaging is another area under development where a disease is diagnosed and then immediately treated rather than waiting for follow up appointments. This could have revolutionary impact, for example, using luminescence guided surgery for the identification and immediate removal of cancerous tissue. The unique properties of the lanthanides have the ability to aid us in these challenges. Research into biomedical imaging is essential for the future of diagnosis and treatment of disease for this generation and the many to come.


Speaker: Katherine Fisher

I am currently undertaking research in the lab of Stephen Faulkner in the Chemistry Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. I am reading for a DPhil (PhD) in Biomedical Imaging and I obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Chemistry (MChem) in 2015 from the University of Oxford. I am the Organic Chemistry tutor to the first year Biochemistry Students and John Hopkins University visiting students for St. Anne’s College. In the academic year of 2016-2017 I also taught Biophysical Chemistry to the Exeter College and St John’s College first year Biochemistry students. I completed a Masters Research Project in the Veronique Gouverneur group using chemistry to be applied to PET Imaging as well as two 11 week projects working in the Eleanor Stride group on development of micro-bubbles for use in Ultrasound and in the Damien Tyler group using DNP MRI for the study of cerebral tumours.

Outside the world of academia I actively volunteer at St. Aldates church in central Oxford including being on the welcome team to welcome newcomers into church, working with vulnerable people once a month during the ACT community meal and I have been logistics manager of the St. Aldates Postgraduate Society. I am also a member of the Women’s ministry team organising events to encourage and empower women in today’s society. I also enjoy painting, playing board games and going for nice scenic walks with friends.

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