02/2022: Circadian Rhythm (R Foster)

LIFE TIME: The New Science of the Body Clock, and How It Can Revolutionize Your Health

Thursday 17th February 2022 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

The entrenched arrogance of being human means that most of us assume that we are above the grubby world of biology, and that we can do what we want, at whatever time we choose. This assumption is wrong. Our biology is governed by a 24-hour biological clock that advises us when it is the best time to sleep, eat, think, and undertake a myriad of other essential tasks. This daily internal adjustment allows us to function optimally in a dynamic world, “fine-tuning” our biology to the profound demands imposed by the 24-hour day. For our bodies to function properly we need the correct materials in the right place, in the right amount, at the right time of day. Thousands of genes must be switched on and off in a specific order. Proteins, enzymes, fats, carbohydrates, hormones and other compounds have to be absorbed, broken down, metabolised and produced at a precise time for growth, reproduction, metabolism, movement, memory formation, defence and tissue repair. All this requires a biology that is prepared and ready for action at the correct time of day. And without the precise regulation by an internal clock – a circadian clock – our entire biology would drift into chaos.

Progress in understanding the fundamental nature of circadian biology has been astonishing, and certainly, this knowledge has added to our wonder and appreciation of the biological world. However, in parallel with this appreciation there has been an emerging realisation of the fundamental importance of circadian rhythms to our health and wellbeing. What we do when really matters. The time of day will influence our: Decision-making skills and the chance of making a mistake; Our vulnerability to infection – we are more vulnerable to infection at night; The chances of having a stroke or heart attack – There is a 50% greater chance of having a stroke between 6am and 12 noon than any other time of the day; Circadian rhythms will also influence how our food will be processed and whether we burn calories or turn them into fat. Because our body changes so profoundly over the day, the effects of our medications and treatments also change. Taking heart medications at a particular time can halve your chances of having a stroke. And the time of delivering anti-cancer drugs can mean the difference between life and death. In this talk I will unpack the science of body clocks and circadian rhythms, and how this new biology can be used by each of us to make more informed decisions to improve our lives.

Speaker: Professor Russell Foster

Professor Foster is the Head of Oxford’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, the founder and Director of the Sleep and Circadian Research Institute and is a Fellow of Brasenose College Oxford. His research addresses how circadian rhythms and sleep are generated and regulated and what happens when these systems fail as a result of societal pressures, ageing and disease. A key finding has been his discovery and characterisation of an unrecognised light-detecting system within the eye that regulates circadian rhythms and sleep and, most recently, the translation of these findings to the clinic. For his work, Professor Foster was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 2008, the Royal Society of Biology in 2011 and the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2013. Russell was honoured by being appointed as a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2015 for services to Science. He has been a member of the Governing Council of the Royal Society and he established and led for six years the Royal Society Public Engagement Committee. He was the Chair of the Cheltenham Science Festival for six years and is currently a Trustee of the Science Museum. Professor Foster has published over 280 scientific papers and has received multiple national and international awards, including most recently the “Daylight Prize”. He has co- written four popular science books and his fifth for Penguin will be published in March 2022.

01/2022: Medical Ethics (D Wilkinson)

Sleep softly: Schubert, Ethics and the Value of Dying Well

Thursday 20th January 2022 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

Ethical discussions about medical treatment for seriously ill babies or children often focus on the ‘value of life’ or on ‘quality of life’ and what that might mean. Professor Wilkinson looks at the other side of the coin—on the value of death, and on the quality of dying. In particular, he examines whether there is such a thing as a good way to die, for an infant or an adult, and what that means for medical care. To do that, he calls on philosophy and on personal experience. However, there will also be references to art, poetry and music. This is partly because the topic of mortality has long been reflected on by artists as well as philosophers and ethicists. It is also because, as we will see, there may be some useful parallels to draw.

Speaker: Professor Dominic Wilkinson

Professor Dominic Wilkinson is Director of Medical Ethics and Professor of Medical Ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford. He is a consultant in newborn intensive care at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. He is a senior research fellow at Jesus College Oxford.

Dominic has published more than 200 academic articles relating to ethical issues in intensive care for adults, children and newborn infants. His co-authored books include ‘Medical Ethics and Law, third edition’ (Elsevier 2019); ‘Ethics, Conflict and Medical treatment for children, from disagreement to dissensus’ (Elsevier, 2018) (BMA President’s Award in 2018 British Medical Association Book Awards). He is also the author of ‘Death or Disability? The ‘Carmentis Machine’ and decision-making for critically ill children’ (Oxford University Press 2013) (“the best book of the decade in bioethics… this is a book that must be read by everybody who is seriously interested in the bioethical issues that arise in neonatal intensive care or, more generally, in decision making for children with chronic, debilitating or life-threatening conditions.” (John Lantos, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews). He was Editor and Associate Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics from 2011-2018.

Twitter: @Neonatalethics

11/2021: AGM & Seabirds (A Fayet)

Time and Date:
Abingdon, Thursday 18 November, 2021 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

This event will probably be delivered in person. Please check closer to the time. Anyone who was an active member of the society prior to the pandemic halting our in person talks, or who have joined this year, will have their membership honoured until January next year (2022). This means that for any members, this event is free! For guests, our original costs will be reinstated at £3 per person, free for under 18s. No booking required. See home page for COVID restrictions.

The event will start with a short annual general assembly of the society followed by a presentation.

Title: Spying on Seabirds – using tracking technology to study declining seabirds

In this talk, Dr Annette Fayet, seabird biologist at the University of Oxford and National Geographic Explorer, will discuss how she uses miniature tracking technology to follow the movements of seabirds at sea and investigate what is causing the declines of seabird populations. She will use examples from her long-standing research programme on the charismatic Atlantic puffins on Skomer Island in Wales, as well as recent work she has been doing in the western Indian Ocean on tropical seabirds.

Speaker: Dr Annette Fayet

Dr Fayet grew up in France where she studied Physics, Chemistry and Engineering up to Master’s level at the ESPCI Paris before deciding to focus on biology. She now is a junior research fellow in the Oxford Navigation Group, part of the Animal Behaviour Research Group. Her investigates the at-sea behaviour of pelagic seabirds on long-distance movements and their potential life-history consequences, with Atlantic puffins and Manx shearwater currently her main study species. She is interested in expanding her research to encompass the whole breeding range of species and address questions at a global population scale.

10/2021: Quantum Weirdness (M Weber)

Time and Date:
Abingdon, Thursday 21 October, 2021 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

This event will probably be delivered in person. Please check closer to the time. Anyone who was an active member of the society prior to the pandemic halting our in person talks, or who have joined this year, will have their membership honoured until January next year (2022). This means that for any members, this event is free! For guests, our original costs will be reinstated at £3 per person, free for under 18s. No booking required. See home page for COVID restrictions.

Title: Quantum Weirdness

At the smallest scale the world behaves very differently to our every-day expectations; a particle may be at two different places at the same time or Schrödinger’s cat may be dead and alive. This behaviour is described by quantum mechanics, which was developed in the 1920s, but that puzzles even the experts 100 years later.

This talk will be a beginner’s guide to the quantum world. We will explore how even the act of looking at something changes that very system. We will explore how this behaviour on very small scales contradicts our every-day experience. But without this quantum weirdness, many of today’s technologies would not be possible. Reality at the smallest scales may force us to re-evaluate how we see the world around us.

Speaker: Marius Weber

Marius Weber studied the Natural Science Tripos at Churchill College, Cambridge concentrating on Physics. He is now a PhD student at the University of Oxford at the Quantum Computing group of Professor Lucas. He is working on trapping single ions and manipulating them with lasers and microwaves to make a better (more reliable) quantum computer. He is also a non-stipendiary lecturer at Oriel College, Oxford.