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  • 04/2021: Plant Roots (A Galloway)

    Time: Thursday 15 April 2021 at 19:30

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will be delivered online. More details can be found here.

    Title: Plant Roots: A Ground-Breaking Perspective

    Plants are incredible. They use a greenhouse gas to constructure their parts, are the basis of most food and medicine on Earth, and release a proportion of the oxygen that we depend on. In this talk I will focus on roots, which are a crucial organ that extract resources needed for growth and to anchor plants to soil. As well as extracting resources, they secrete molecules that can attract fungal partners to boost their growth. This fungal relationship has been shown to connect whole ecosystems such as forests. This network forms a protective buffer against hardship. The key molecules within this secretion are carbohydrates, and of particular interest polysaccharides (complex long-chain sugars) that can glue surrounding soil to the root surface. By maintaining this interface plants can secure resource uptake during drought. Some plants can even regulate this interface by tightening and loosening their grip on soil through polysaccharides

    Speaker: Andrew Galloway

    Andrew is a plant scientist, botanist and horticulturist. Andrew studied his undergraduate degree in horticulture at a Harper Adam University. During his time at university, he managed to get sponsored by a commercial grower to conduct research on growing tomatoes under polytunnel films that could enhance yield. Andrew also received his masters degree and decorate, as well as completing his first postdoc at the University of Leeds. His research specialised in plant-soil interaction. Andrew also completed a postdoc at the University of Tromsø, Norway studying plant-plant parasitism. At present Andrew works as the Research Coordinator for the Neuroimaging Centre at the University of Oxford.

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  • 05/2021: Artificial Intelligence (N Hawes)

    Time: Thursday 20 May 2021 at 19:30

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will be delivered online. More details can be found here.

    An Uncertain Mission: Decision Making for Robots

    Autonomous systems such as robots and voice assistants are becoming increasingly capable of performing useful actions such as moving between two locations or looking up information from a website. To go beyond single actions, an autonomous system needs an algorithms that can produce sequences of actions which allow it to achieve a user-specified goal (such as collecting then delivering a package, or booking a holiday).  Within the field of AI, such a capability is often referred to as mission planning. Creating mission planning algorithms to control robots is particularly challenging because the effects of robot actions are often uncertain, i.e. they only achieve the desired outcome with some probability. In this talk I’ll present our recent work on mission planning algorithms that model the uncertainty of robot actions, and talk about how we’ve applied the algorithms to controlling robots in a range of domains from greeting people in a hospital, to inspecting nuclear waste stores.


    Professor Nick Hawes completed a BSc (1999) and PhD (2004) in Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Birmingham, before completing post-doctoral positions at MIT’s Media Lab Europe in Dublin, and in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. From 2009, he led a research group around AI applied to robotics at Birmingham, progressing to the title of Reader in Autonomous Intelligent Robotics. Nick moved to Oxford in September 2017, joining the Oxford Robotics Institute as an Associate Professor and Pembroke College as a Tutorial Fellow.

    Nick was selected to give the Lord Kelvin Award Lecture at the 2013 British Science Festival. This honour is given to an active researcher who has demonstrated outstanding communication skills to a general audience.


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