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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04/2018: Sustainable Diets (M. Springmann)

Place and Time: Abingdon, Thursday 19 April 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: Challenges and Controversies in Sustainable Diets

There is general agreement that predominantly plant-based diets are healthier and more environmentally sustainable than diets with high portions of meat and dairy. However, some controversies persist and country-case studies have shown instances where plant-based diets can double pyramidbe higher in emissions, water use, land use, price, and lead to increases in micro-nutrient deficiencies. In my talk, I address those issues by using a harmonised global dataset with country-level detail for emissions, land use, water use, prices, and nutrient content of food consumption. I find that selective specification of plant-based diets and inclusion of extreme data points, as well as misspecified optimization approaches can explain the apparent contradictions. I suggest that controversies in sustainable-diet research can best be addressed by integrated analyses based on consistent and publicly available global datasets with regionally comparative detail.

Speaker: Marco Springmann

Marco Springmann is a senior researcher in the Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention in the Nuffield Department of Population Health, and leads the Centre’s programme on environmental sustainability and public health. He is interested in the health, environmental, and economic dimensions of the global food systems. He often uses systems models to provide quantitative estimates on food-related questions. He is currently working on a multidisciplinary project focused on the analysis and management of animal products and their substitutes called “Livestock, Environment and People” (LEAP). (http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/project/future-meat-and-dairy-fomad)

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03/2018: Atom Festival

Atom Festival of Science and Technology

Our regular meeting coincides with the Atom Festival of Science and Technology 2018. We will not have our standard evening, but a full week of Science and Technology. Members have free entry on the Thursday, March 15 event.

More details are or will be available on the festival web page.

We are also looking for volunteers to help running the festival. Please consider signing up at http://www.atomfestival.org.uk/volunteers/

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02/2018: Archeobotany (J. Meen)

Place and Time: Thursday 15 Feb 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: Using Science to Reveal the Environments of the Past

Archaeology is often perceived as taking place mostly out in muddy trenches, with no technology more sophisticated than a trowel. However, excavation is only the start in the journey to understand an archaeological site, and techniques with their roots in the scientific world play a vital role. Archaeobotany is the study of ancient plant remains. These may be grains of pollen, assemblages of seeds, or fragments of charcoal; all provide clues to what the environment was like in the past. Most interestingly for archaeologists, they can show us how people in the past were interacting with, modifying and exploiting the natural world. This talk will explore what archaeobotany is, how it is carried out and examine what it can be used to discover. In particular, the talk will look at how excavations in Abingdon have produced archaeobotanical data that can help piece together the environmental history of the town from prehistory to the present day.

Speaker: Julia Meen

Julia Meen has worked for Oxford Archaeology, a commercial archaeological unit, for over 10 years. As an archaeobotanist, she analyses the remains of plant tissues that have been preserved on archaeological sites, and uses this evidence to help interpret what the environment was like in the past. She has worked on sites across England and also in France, and her most recent projects have included studying waterlogged plant remains from the Oxford floodplain in advance of the new flood alleviation channel, and analysing kitchen remains from the Franciscan Friary uncovered during recent excavations on the site of the Westgate shopping centre. Julia studied for her BSc in Archaeology at the University of Reading before heading to Bristol University to undertake a Masters in Landscape Archaeology. In the past couple of years, she has returned to Reading to complete a part-time Masters by Research, as part of which she had the chance to explore her interest in how archaeobotanical remains can be used to identify brewing.



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