SciTech Christmas Conference Talks
Talk times are subject to change
2014 Christmas Conference Talks
- Dr Barry Porter: Can computer software build itself?
- Professor David Leslie: Are random decisions best?
- Dr Trevor Davies: Big Data: It's the small things that count
- Talks from Science and Technology PhD students
- Dr Sally Linkenauger: The perceptual homunculus: The perception of relative bodily proportions
- Dr Emma Sayer: Microbial priming of soil carbon - does it really matter?
- Dr David Cheneler: Monitoring cell behaviour and how to go deeper
- Dr Nick Evans: 3D interlocked molecules as selective hosts for nanoscale guests
- Dr Leonid Ponomarenko: Graphene superlattices
Can computer software build itself?
Dr Barry Porter, School of Computing and Communications
The ever-increasing complexity of modern computer software requires huge teams of software developers working in multi-year development cycles to deliver software that is often behind schedule, error-prone, and which suffers from poor performance.
In response to this, a new initiative is currently examining whether software can partially or fully construct itself to meet our needs. In this talk we show how the confluence of machine learning, computational reflection, and seamless runtime software adaptation is beginning to make this a reality - and how ongoing work at Lancaster is powering a key part of this vision.
We present work from several different perspectives in this research space (including abstract goal specification and parametric exploration approaches) and we compare this work to the way in which Lancaster-based research is helping to shape the field.
We also present a sample of real-world success stories from this initiative and we outline a possible future of highly-automated "self-developing" computer systems that analyse, learn and reason about their purpose and how to best serve that purpose. In addition to the technical elements of this talk, philosophical debate on the topic is highly encouraged!
Are random decisions best?
Professor David Leslie, Mathematics and Statistics
Animals and machines are continually making decisions. Every time a decision is made, the decision-maker uses the information they currently have to select an action.
Classically, economists and biologists have built models in which individuals will select a unique 'optimal' option given information, while psychologists have embraced the randomness generally observed in humans.
Machine learners, including those at firms such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesco, now use artificial decision-makers to recommend products and services to consumers.
However, there is always a dilemma between exploiting the knowledge already gained to maximise immediate reward, and exploring less well-understood options in order to perform better in the future. While finding the best action to trade-off exploration vs exploration is usually impossible, one can use some heuristics that introduce randomness to solve the problem.
We have shown mathematically that these heuristics perform well in the long term. Hence our work, as well as being useful in machine learning, begins to tell a story that the randomness observed by psychologists can be considered as a near-optimal solution to the meta-problem of performing well over time, instead of on each immediate decision.
Big Data: It's the small things that count
Dr Trevor Davies, IBM
Big data has become an overused phrase very quickly, yet there is genuine substance in many of the claims. Already there have been breakthroughs in areas as diverse as oncology, material science and marketing from the application of techniques such as machine learning.
The recent emergence of weak artificial intelligence systems, such as IBM Watson, offers the prospect for a step change in our ability to extract value and insight from data, but also creates ethical and legal challenges for which there are no neat solutions.
In this talk, Dr Trevor Davis will use examples from IBM work on computational creativity and the rise of cuteness online to illustrate how small steps forward in the world of big data are adding up to a revolution in the world at large.
Talks from Science and Technology PhD students
A collection of three-minute talks from final-year Science and Technology research students:
Lancaster Environment Centre
- Robin Frost (Supervisors: Professor Nick Hewitt and Mike Berners-Lee) - Climate change and consumption
- Anne Toomey (Supervisors: Dr Rebecca Ellis, Dr Jos Barlow and Dr Saskia Vermeylen) - Impact for whom? Indigenous people's perspectives on scientific research
- Holly Butler (Supervisors: Professor Frank Martin and Dr Martin McAinsh) - Tackling food security by optimising crop production
- Nicholas Kay (Supervisor: Dr Oleg Kolosov) - Measuring electromechanical phenomena in graphene on nanosecond timescales
- Xi Chen (Supervisor: Dr Ed McCann) - Butterfly, symmetry and the 'future material' of electronic devices
- Ezekiel Anyebe (Supervisor: Dr Qiandong Zhuang) - Monolithic integration of InAsSb nanowires on graphite for ultra-sensitive, high performance and flexible optoelectronic devices
School of Computing and Communications
- Jayson Turner (Supervisors: Professor Hans Gellersen and Dr Jason Alexander) - Cross-device eye-based interaction
- Haris Bin Pervaiz (Supervisors: Professor Qiang Ni and Dr Leila Musavian) - Green networks for future generation communication systems
- Yanzia Zhang (Supervisor: Professor Hans Gellersen) - Eye tracking in the wild
- Emmy Sharples (Supervisor: Dr Rosa Letizia) - Metamaterials for particle accelerators
- Minghan Yan (Supervisor: Dr Sergio Campobasso) - Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) v wind tunnel
- Audrius Zidonis (Supervisor: Dr George Aggidis) - Application of computational fluid dynamics in hydropower development
- Matt Hilton (Supervisors: Professor Gert Westermann and Professor Padraic Monaghan) - When Santa got stuck up the cheem-ney: individual differences in word learning
- Aine Ni Choisdealbha (Supervisors: Dr Vincent Reid and Professor Gert Westermann) - How infants learn to use tools
Mathematics and Statistics
- Hugo Winter (Supervisor: Professor John Tawn) - Assessing the risk of heatwaves under climate change
The perceptual homunculus: The perception of relative bodily proportions
Dr Sally Linkenauger, Psychology
Given that observing one's body is ubiquitous in experience, it is natural to assume that people accurately perceive the relative sizes of their body parts. This assumption is mistaken.
In a series of studies, we show that there are dramatic systematic distortions in the perception of bodily proportions, as assessed by visual estimation tasks, where participants were asked to compare the lengths of two body parts.
These distortions are not evident when participants estimate the extent of a body part relative to a non-corporeal object or when asked to estimate non-corporeal objects that are the same length as their body parts.
Our results reveal a radical asymmetry in the perception of corporeal and non-corporeal relative size estimates. Our findings also suggest that people visually perceive the relative size of their body parts as a function of each part's relative tactile sensitivity and physical size.
Microbial priming of soil carbon - does it really matter?
Dr Emma Sayer, Lancaster Environment Centre
Priming effects occur when additional inputs of fresh organic carbon (C), such as leaf litter or root exudates, stimulate the microbial decomposition of soil organic matter. The mechanisms underlying priming effects are still uncertain but a number of studies have demonstrated that priming effects can release substantial amounts of soil organic C as carbon dioxide (CO2) in response to increased inputs of plant-derived C.
The potential importance of priming effects under climate change is clear: predicted increases in plant-derived C inputs may not necessarily result in greater soil C storage. Despite this, priming effects have rarely been studied at large scales or under realistic conditions in the field. Consequently, our current understanding of priming effects is shaped by small-scale, controlled lab experiments and it is debatable whether microbial priming of soil C constitutes an important feedback in intact ecosystems under climate change.
I present the current knowledge of priming effects, highlight some of the issues involved in translating laboratory studies to real-world situations, and show how my current research aims to address these issues.
Monitoring cell behaviour and how to go deeper
Dr David Cheneler, Engineering
It is well known that a cell's behaviour, i.e. whether it proliferates or it dies, is affected by its environment. In the lab, the response of isolated cells to stimuli such as radiation or presence of a certain chemical can be observed using various techniques.
In real tissues, the cell's environment is complex and is comprised of an extracellular matrix formed of an organic polymer network filled with an interstitial fluid containing many ionic species and other complex molecules.
This polymer network, fluid and solute will apply mechanical and electrochemical stresses and hence influence the cell's behaviour whilst being the conduit through which the cell communicates. But how do we observe how a cell is behaving in such a complex medium? Direct observation or even contact of the cell is precluded by the surrounding medium and any perturbation of this medium during measurement could change the cell behaviour and give an erroneous result. Also, is it the behaviour of a single cell that needs to be understood or the collective response of the whole interacting population?
This talk will cover some of my research on biological materials and the impact it may have in the biomedical field.
3D interlocked molecules as selective hosts for nanoscale guests
Dr Nick Evans, Chemistry
The creation of efficient, selective receptors has vast potential in real-world chemical applications such as extraction, sensing, transportation and catalysis. Supramolecular chemistry (literally "chemistry beyond the molecule") has generated numerous molecular receptors, starting with the cyclic crown ether molecules capable of binding alkali metal cations, which were prepared and studied by the Nobel laureate Charles Pedersen.
Nature provides us with many examples of receptors with exceptional affinity and selectivity for a particular ionic or molecular guest, for example, the potassium ion selective molecule valinomycin or the active sites of enzymes such as carboxypeptidase A. Despite their considerable achievements, synthetic supramolecular chemists have, to date, fallen short of matching nature's proficiency in binding chemical guest species.
To meet this challenge, our approach is to use interlocked molecules known as rotaxanes and catenanes. These molecules have the potential to selectively bind a particular chemical guest, by virtue of their unusual 3D topologies. This talk will present research on the selective binding and electrochemical sensing of chloride anions, before discussing our current receptor targets that we hope may be used for the binding, sensing and transmembrane transportation of a range of ionic and molecular guests.
Dr Leonid Ponomarenko, Physics
Recent advances in the fabrication of heterostructures based on two-dimensional (2D) atomic crystals have opened up several new directions in graphene research1. One of the most exciting and highly debated subjects, which was initiated with direct involvement of the speaker2 and has been recognised by Physics World as one of 2013 breakthroughs of the year, is graphene superlattices.
These novel structures are made by aligning crystallographic axes of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride, which serves as the substrate. A small lattice mismatch between two materials results in a moiré pattern and leads to dramatic changes in the electronic properties of graphene.
The behaviour becomes even more interesting when the superlattice is placed in strong magnetic field. The electron spectrum starts to develop a fractal structure known as the Hofstadter butterfly, predicted almost four decades ago by American physicist Douglas Hofstadter3 and only now observed experimentally.
"Catching" of the Hofstadter butterfly is not easy. The magnetic field required for the experiment is 30 Tesla and it is available only at a handful of dedicated facilities across the globe. Established collaboration with the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Grenoble (France) will allow me to answer open questions about nature and behaviour of Hofstadter butterfly in graphene superlattices.
 A. K. Geim and I.V.Grigorieva. Nature 499, 419 (2013)
 L. A. Ponomarenko et al., Science 497, 594 (2013)
 D. R. Hofstadter, Phys. Rev. B 14, 2239 (1976)
2013 Christmas Conference Talks
- Dr Greg Holland: Understanding the fluids beneath our feet
- Dr Robin Hillier: Stories about Positivity
- Dr Adrian Grocott: Probing near-Earth space with ionospheric radars
- Talks from Science and Technology PhD students
- Dr Vilius Franckevičius: Drug Discovery and Development: Challenges to the Synthetic Chemist
- Dr Michelle To: One rule to bind them all: A general rule for feature integration
- Dr Chris Lingwood: Future of High Energy Colliders at CERN
- Dr Matthew Rowe: From Mining to Understanding: Investigating the Evolution of Social Web Users
- Professor Charles Spence: Gastrophysics: The new Science of the Table
Understanding the fluids beneath our feet
Dr Greg Holland, Lancaster Environment Centre
Noble gases are inert, unreactive elements which are therefore excellent as tracers for physical conditions and processes in the aqueous, particularly subsurface, environment. This is because the 'fingerprints' they provide are not complicated by chemistry.
In the first part of this presentation, I shall outline some recent work using noble gases to date ancient water trapped within the crust for ~2 billion years, using some of these 'fingerprinting' techniques. I will also discuss the wider important implications of these findings for a variety of science issues, including cycling of volatiles on a global scale, controls on the evolution of the atmosphere over time, implications for the temporal and spatial extent of a deep biosphere and wider implications for life on Mars and other planets.
Noble gas research forms part of a larger grouping within LEC, focused on geochemical research into energy and the environment. Therefore, in the second part of this presentation, I will also briefly discuss the new facilities available in LEC and the range of relevant geoscience, environmental and engineering applications. These include the global carbon cycle, groundwater and water resource studies, the viability of subsurface carbon capture and storage as a means of reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, tracing fluids during 'fracking' and commercial oil/gas reservoir exploration.
Stories about Positivity
Dr Robin Hillier, Mathematics and Statistics, Lancaster University
Positivity is about much more than the set of positive numbers. This talk is intended as an illustration of how the concept of positivity is playing a fundamental role in several areas of mathematics and science. I will then focus on its meaning in some of my own research, which lies in the theory of operator algebras. Some special cases of the latter have applications in the young and influential research area of quantum information theory.
Probing near-Earth space with ionospheric radars
Dr Adrian Grocott, Physics, Lancaster University
The Earth's magnetosphere is a highly dynamic region of magnetic and electric fields that mediates the interaction between our planet and its Sun. Invisible to the light and heat which give us life, the magnetosphere protects us from many of the more harmful elements, which emanate from the Sun in the form of a solar wind of energetic particles.
Although much of this wind is deflected safely around us, some penetrates into the magnetosphere leading to space weather phenomena such as the radiation belts, geomagnetic storms and the aurora. This inflow of solar wind energy also drives a large-scale circulation of plasma in the magnetosphere and ionosphere. In this talk I will discuss how we use ground-based radars to observe this ionospheric circulation, and how our understanding of magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling enables us to trace these observations back into near-Earth space to elucidate the origins of the phenomena they describe.
Talks from Science and Technology PhD students
New for 2013: a collection of three-minute talks from final-year Science and Technology research students.
Lancaster Environment Centre
- Matt Barnes (Supervisors: Nick Hewitt & Duncan Whyatt) - If London is a whale, Lancaster is a rabbit
- Obinna Anejionu (Alan Blackburn & Duncan Whyatt) - Satellite detection of gas flares in Nigeria and estimation of flaring volumes
- Ellen McGowan (Hugh Tuffen, Mike James & Peter Wynn) - Degassing magma via fractures and foams
- Jake Surman (Jackie Pates & Hao Zhang) - A rapid method for measuring Sr-90 in environmental waters for post-nuclear accidents and nuclear monitoring schemes
- Gemma Lancaster (Aneta Stefanovska) - Quantification of alterations in blood flow dynamics as a diagnostic and investigative tool in malignant melanoma
- Riccardo Mazzocco (Oleg Kolosov) - Investigating the influence of application-specific environments on the properties of graphene: paving the way for the next generation of energy storage devices
- Matthew Reeves (Peter Ratoff) - How do you find nature's ghosts?
School of Computing and Communications
- Michael Watson (Andreas Mauthe & David Hutchison) - Novel Methods for Malware Detection in the Cloud
- Muhammad Aurangzeb Khan (Costas Xydeas & Hassan Ahmed) - Multi-Model AAM Framework for Face Image Modeling
- Rachel Keller (Mark Rouncefield & Paul Coulton) - Tell Tale Textiles
- Aaron Aboshio (Sarah Green & Jianqiao Ye) - Application of inflatable structures in offshore security
- Andrew Parker (Malcolm Joyce & Colin Boxall) - The Electrokinetic Remediation of Saturated Radioactive Concrete: Britain's Most Polluted Building
- Sabrina Ammi (Kate Cain & John Towse) - Making sense of text: How insights from reading times and eye movements can inform both theory and practice
- Calum Hartley (Melissa Allen & Charlie Lewis) - Symbolic understanding of words and pictures in children with autism
Mathematics and Statistics
- Alice Parry (Thomas Jaki) - Why are two mistakes not worse than one?
Drug Discovery and Development: Challenges to the Synthetic Chemist
Dr Vilius Franckevičius, Chemistry, Lancaster University
Most of the contemporary blockbuster medicines are small organic molecules. The process of bringing a drug compound from the point of its discovery to the convenient tablet we as consumers are so used to taking is both a long and an expensive one.
Within the pharmaceutical industry, once the biological target of the disease has been identified, the task often involves the design, synthesis and screening of thousands of molecules to achieve the desired medicinal response. Having identified the lead compound with optimal activity and low toxicity, large quantities of the active pharmaceutical ingredient have to be made to facilitate numerous clinical trials, eventually, leading to the manufacture of the drug on multi-kilogram scale to satisfy the market.
Crucially, right from the very beginning to the end of this journey, synthetic chemists play a key role: they assemble molecules by utilising a range of chemical reactions. However, in search of new and improved drugs to treat a variety of illnesses, chemists find themselves increasingly in need of pioneering, cutting-edge chemical tools to be able to construct novel and diverse molecular structures in a more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable manner.
This lecture will explore the exciting role of synthetic chemistry in drug discovery and development, and discuss some of the challenges that medicinal chemists currently face. In this context, our research in the development of new catalytic reaction methods as a means of addressing some of these challenges will also be presented.
One rule to bind them all: A general rule for feature integration
Dr Michelle To, Psychology, Lancaster University
Our interactions with the environment require the ability to accurately interpret a rich variety of perceptual cues. Several models have been proposed to describe how features are combined, including linear (city-block) addition, Euclidian (energy) summation, and the maximum rule. Interestingly, these rules are examples of a more general Minkowski summation (Cue1m+Cue2m)1/m, where m = 1, 2 and ∞, respectively.
In this talk, I will describe several experiments that examined how sensory cues are combined in complex natural stimuli such as photographs, musical sequences, phonetic utterances, and cross-modal stimuli. I will also demonstrate that a Minkowski summation with power m = 2.5-3 outperforms all three classical models. I suggest that this feature integration rule reflects the degree of correlation between neuronal responses. This would be consistent with electrophysiological research that demonstrates signal correlations (r = 0.1-0.2) between sensory neurons when these are presented with natural stimuli.
Future of High Energy Colliders at CERN
Dr Chris Lingwood, Engineering, Lancaster University
The confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson by the LHC is far from the end for high energy physics. The next step will be an upgrade to the LHC to increase its luminosity by a factor of 10 to allow physicists to probe the mysterious world of supersymmetry and dark matter. But the LHC can only take us so far.
To allow physicists to push the frontiers of human knowledge, engineers need to push boundaries of what is possible. The LHC challenged the world's scientists, but there are even bolder plans for what follows. Whether to build a 100km ring, a 50km linear accelerator or something else remains an open question. One thing is certain, the future of particle physics lies at much higher energies and engineers are the ones who will make it happen.
From Mining to Understanding: Investigating the Evolution of Social Web Users
Dr Matthew Rowe, School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University
Social web systems are all around us, be it social networking sites like Facebook, video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, and question-answering systems such as StackOverflow. Common across such systems is their inherent social functionalities that allow users to communicate with one another, create relationships, develop communities, and form an identity within such systems over time.
In this talk I will examine the evolution of users within a range of social web systems by explaining how users evolve relative to systems' social norms, and what one can do from understanding user evolution: namely, churn prediction (i.e. forecasting who will leave such systems); and building recommender systems, by accounting for the evolution of users' tastes over time.
Gastrophysics: The new Science of the Table
Professor Charles Spence, Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Oxford University
In this talk, leading food sensory expert and Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford Charles Spence will demonstrate how we process smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch and the resulting implications for the way in which we design experiences.
Professor Spence's research focuses on how a better understanding of the mind of the consumer, and, in particular, the interactions between the senses can be applied to the design of better products and multisensory experiences.
Currently, he is working with chefs such as Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal on utilizing the latest insights from brain science to help develop more engaging, memorable, and sensorially stimulating dishes.
Charles will demonstrate with edible examples how the multisensory perception of flavour works, and how technology is increasingly being brought to the dinner table, of many of the world's top restaurants such as The Fat Duck, El Bulli, and The House of Wolf. Expect a sensually stimulating and interactive session of illusions, experiments, and tastings.
Professor Charles Spence
Professor Charles Spence is the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University. He is interested in how people perceive the world around them. In particular, how our brains manage to process the information from each of our different senses (such as smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch) to form the extraordinarily rich multisensory experiences that fill our daily lives. His research focuses on how a better understanding of the human mind will lead to the better design of multisensory foods, products, and environments in the future. His research calls for a radical new way of examining and understanding the senses that has major implications for the way in which we design everything from food and drink products to the places in which we eat and drink. He is currently working on problems associated with the design of foods that maximally stimulate the senses with a number of the world's foremost food and beverage providers, including both international chefs (Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, Denis Martin, Charles Michel) and food companies (Unilever, Diageo, Nestle, Mars, Kraft, Britvic, Neal's Yard Dairy, Starbucks, McDonalds). His research appears regularly in the international press.
Charles has acted as a consultant for a number of multinational companies advising on various aspects of multisensory design, flavour perception, packaging, branding, marketing, and atmospherics/experience design over the past decade, including Elopack, Firmenich, Takasago, Procter & Gamble, Quest, ICI, Mother, JCPR, Thorntons, The Communications Group, JWT and VF Corporation.
Charles has published over 500 articles in top-flight scientific journals over the last 15 years. He has been awarded the 10th Experimental Psychology Society Prize, the British Psychology Society: Cognitive Section Award, the Paul Bertelson Award, recognizing him as the young European Cognitive Psychologist of the Year, and, the prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany.
2012 Christmas Conference Talks
- Professor Gordon Walker: The Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand: introducing a new cross-Faculty, RCUK funded research centre
- Professor Claudio Paoloni: Filling the THz gap: new technologies and applications
- Dr Matthew Sperrin: Clinical Outcome Prediction: Decision support at the right time, using the right timescale
- Professor Peter R Fielden: Chemistry at Lancaster - A vision for the future
- Professor Jonathan Butterworth: Science in public: finding a Higgs boson in the media spotlight
- Professor Qiang Ni: Towards Future Intelligent Green Wireless Communications Networks
- Dr Vincent Reid: Progress Towards Early Detection of Autism
- Dr Robert Young: Communicating with almost nothing - the future's secure
- Dr Andrew Jarvis: One internationally agreed framework, one (and a half) international legal protocols, 18 rounds of international negotiation, 5 expert assessment reports, and no change
The Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand: introducing a new cross-Faculty, RCUK funded research centre
Professor Gordon Walker, Lancaster Environment Centre
Reducing and managing energy demand is a crucial objective for energy and climate policy. In this presentation I will introduce the objectives and distinctive focus of a new cross-Faculty, RCUK funded research centre to be based at the University which will pursue a 5 year interdisciplinary research programme in collaboration with 7 other University partners and EDF R&D's European Centre and Labs for Energy Efficiency Research based in Paris.
The DEMAND Centre (Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand) will take a distinctive approach to end use energy demand, recognising that energy is not used for its own sake but as part of accomplishing social practices at home, at work and in moving around. In essence the Centre focuses on what energy is for. This approach generates an ambitious research agenda that is crucial for organisations involved in demand management and in radically reconfiguring infrastructures, buildings and transport systems in line with greenhouse gas emissions targets. While greater efficiency is important, the trend is often towards more resource intensive standards of comfort, convenience and speed. The problem is that we lack a sophisticated understanding of how these trends take hold and of the underlying dynamics of demand itself. In focusing on how demand is made and met, the Centre will work across the sectoral boundaries of mobility and building-related energy use to take forward a wide-ranging agenda for future research and policy.
Filling the THz gap: new technologies and applications
Professor Claudio Paoloni, Engineering Department, Lancaster University
The terahertz region of the spectrum has unique properties to enable outstanding applications in many different fields ranging from medicine to security, from imaging to telecommunications. At the same time the THz region represents a true challenge for designers, fabrication technologies and measurements systems.
Formidable technological obstacles to realise compact and low cost THz sources have inhibited a widespread of THz applications, already proved in laboratory environment. Many of the applications in the THz frequency range require a level of power not achievable by optoelectronic devices at room temperature or by solid-state technology. The recent introduction of different micro-fabrication techniques has stimulated the realisation of miniature vacuum electron devices operating in the THz regime, to achieve the level of output power to enable applications at these frequencies.
This talk will describe the great challenge of the realisation of vacuum electron tubes for THz applications, the most recent advancements and the activity of the E-MIT group of Engineering Department in the field.
Clinical Outcome Prediction: Decision support at the right time, using the right timescale
Dr Matthew Sperrin, Mathematics and Statistics, Lancaster University
A clinical prediction model (CPM) estimates probabilities of outcomes based on the observable characteristics of an individual, possibly under different hypothetical interventions. A clinician-patient partnership may use CPMs to support their decision-making; for example, for a patient with a blocked coronary artery, a decision is made between angioplasty and coronary artery bypass graft. CPMs can also be used at a service level to target healthcare resources effectively, by determining population strata that will receive different care plans in management of long-term conditions.
'Using the right timescale' in CPMs is critical: this can be expressed as the deceptively simple question: 'when is time zero?' I will describe some recent work that demonstrates just how carefully time zero needs to be chosen.
The advent of electronic patient records raises opportunities and challenges for clinical outcome prediction. I will describe the early stages of multi-disciplinary work to exploit this. Decision support tools can, in principle, update in real-time to reflect the latest evidence, use information from a very large bank of patient and environmental characteristics, and randomise patients to different treatments when there is genuine uncertainty about which would lead to the best outcomes, in order to generate evidence. Robust, principled statistical methodology is needed to make this a reality.
Chemistry at Lancaster - A vision for the future
Professor Peter R Fielden, Head of Chemistry, Lancaster University
The renaissance of Chemistry at Lancaster presents exciting new opportunities to construct a department that has at its core the ability to lead and innovate as well as collaborate and generate impact in new fields of application.
In his talk, Lancaster's new Head of Chemistry will present the strategic vision for the new department, and will explore the associated opportunities to stimulate vibrant interdisciplinary research at Lancaster and beyond.
Analytical Science, the Measurement Science of Chemistry, pervades all our lives from the cradle to the grave. Our modern lives depend on measurements for healthcare, environment, food, water, and security.
Micro-fabrication techniques have enabled the generation of miniaturised analytical techniques, popularly described as 'lab-on-a-chip'. Diverse applications range from explosives residue analysis for security to DNA assays for early cancer detection.
Nano-droplets are minute, individual 'test-tubes' for analysis paving the way towards a new generation of techniques for drug discovery and new approaches to life-science measurements. Such technologies offer great potential for the future.
Professor Fielden comes to Lancaster from Manchester University. He graduated in Chemistry from Imperial College, London, and was later awarded a PhD at UMIST. Professor Fielden chairs the Royal Society of Chemistry Electroanalytical Sensing Systems Group and is a Scientific Advisor to the UK government.
Science in public: finding a Higgs boson in the media spotlight
Professor Jonathan Butterworth, University College London
Science, the media and the public have a complicated relationship, often fraught with misunderstanding. Particle physics is in an odd position since public interest is very high, but unlike many frequently-discussed scientific fields the results do not directly make money, cure diseases or affect the environment.
Nevertheless, many issues are common between all areas of science; these include the need to discuss the scientific process, caveats, funding issues, errors and uncertainties and evidence, and the nature of scientific knowledge itself, are all key.
Professor Butterworth will talk through some of this using examples from his own experience, including the role of social media, and also speculate how this might have any impact on impact, in the REF sense.
Professor Jonathan Butterworth is head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London, and a member of the Atlas experiment at Cern's Large Hadron Collider.
Before this, he grew up in Manchester, did his doctorate in Oxford and worked on the electron-proton collider in Hamburg. He is a member of STFC's Science Board. He also writes the Life and Physics blog for the Guardian.
Towards Future Intelligent Green Wireless Communications Networks
Professor Qiang Ni, School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University
It is reported that the total energy consumed by the ICT infrastructure of wireless and wired networks takes up over 3 percent of the worldwide electric energy consumption that generated 2 percent of the worldwide CO2 emissions nowadays. It is predicted that in the future a major portion of expanding traffic volumes will be in wireless side. Furthermore, future wireless network systems (e.g., 4G/B4G) are increasingly demanded as broadband and high-speed tailored to support reliable Quality of Service (QoS) for numerous multimedia applications.
With explosive growth of high-rate multimedia applications (e.g. HDTV and 3DTV), more and more energy will be consumed in wireless networks to meet the QoS requirements. Specifically, it is predicted that footprint of mobile wireless communications could almost triple from 2007 to 2020 corresponding to more than one-third of the present annual emissions of the whole UK. Therefore, energy-efficient green wireless communications are paid increasing attention given the limited energy resources and environment-friendly transmission requirements globally.
In this talk I will overview our research work on novel cognitive and intelligent communications techniques to achieve energy-efficient green wireless communications networks.
Progress Towards Early Detection of Autism
Dr Vincent Reid, Psychology, Lancaster University
Our understanding of the developing brain has advanced substantially over the past 15 years. This knowledge is on the verge of providing us with the basis for detecting autism during early infancy.
Current practice is to evaluate children for autism at around 36 months of age via labour intensive behavioural tests. But what are the potential benefits and drawbacks of early screening using brain-based measures of information processing abilities? How could it be implemented nationwide and would it ultimately be desirable?
This talk seeks to initially present our current understanding of early social cognition via cognitive neuroscience methods. Following this, a brief sketch of technical barriers will be outlined, together with how these issues can be overcome. Finally, the implications of early screening will be raised together with a proposed timetable for the realisation of universal screening for autism in early development.
Communicating with almost nothing - the future's secure
Dr Robert Young, Physics, Lancaster University
Protecting communication against eavesdropping has remained an unsolved problem since the dawn of information exchange. Nowadays, public systems tend to base their encryption on mathematical complexity, but this is vulnerable to intelligent attacks, and the ever-increasing power of computers.
Recent advances in physics have offered a novel solution to this problem. Quantum physics tells us that we cannot measure a system without altering it; so if ultra-weak pulses of light are used to communicate a secret, then we can detect the presence of someone snooping, through the unintentional changes they must make.
In future the security of all information exchange could be guaranteed by basic principles of physics. In this talk I'll discuss quantum information, and explain the work that's going on at Lancaster to build the components required to create a quantum internet.
One internationally agreed framework, one (and a half) international legal protocols, 18 rounds of international negotiation, 5 expert assessment reports, and no change
Dr Andrew Jarvis, Lancaster Environment Centre
Efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions to mitigate climate risks have yielded little or no return and responsibility for this lack of effective action is commonly levelled at political institutions. However, it is possible that the growth in emissions is beyond the control of these institutions as currently constituted because the processes driving emissions are adaptive.
This talk presents an analysis of global energy use and CO2 emissions data 1850 - 2010 which reveals important adaptive biophysical processes operating within industrial society. These processes mean reducing CO2 emissions will prove nearly impossible within the current norms of human behaviour.
2011 Christmas Conference Talks
- Dr Ian Dodd: Reconciling food security with water availability
- Professor Brian Francis: Modelling the development of fetal facial expressions from 4-D ultrasound scans
- Dr Sarah Green: Powder metallurgical processing of stainless steel alloys
- Professor David Southwood: What's the Use of Space Science?: Space Science in a Modern Society
- Professor Mark E Smith: Multinuclear solid state NMR - an introduction to a versatile spectroscopic characterisation approach of atomic scale structure and dynamics of materials
- Dr Coral Dando and Professor Tom Ormerod: How to apply psychology in developing security screening processes that are effective, efficient, equal and enjoyable
- Dr James Faulconbridge: Disrupting mobility, lowering carbon: the challenge of changing everyday travel practice
- Dr Manfred Lau: Sketch-based 3D Modeling, Design, and Fabrication
- Dr Mick Denton: The Earth's radiation belts: What we know and what we don't know prior to the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission
Reconciling food security with water availability
Dr Ian Dodd, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Lancaster Environment Centre
To produce food, crop plants trade water (transpiration, E) for carbon (photosynthesis, A). While carbon footprinting has entered public (if not consumer) consciousness, water footprinting has drawn far less public attention, even though crop production is frequently (and sometimes catastrophically) constrained by insufficient water.
The dry April experienced by much of the UK this year resulted in major grower concerns (and parliamentary committees) over the availability of water to irrigate crops, which may carry environmental penalties of decreased stream flows within ecologically sensitive catchments.
Supplementary irrigation, which can stabilise crop yields from year-to-year, has conventionally aimed to meet the crop's full water requirements. However, changes in climate (rainfall patterns) and/or resource management (irrigation quotas) will mean that future crops, either unintentionally or deliberately, will receive less water than their full requirements (termed "deficit irrigation").
Consequently, much research effort has aimed to improve crop water use efficiency (WUE), which can be conveniently measured as the instantaneous ratio of A to E, or seasonal measurements of crop biomass to water use. I will discuss several current projects aiming to enhance "crop per drop" in both rainfed, and irrigated, agriculture:
- EU-DROPS (Drought Tolerant Yielding Plants) which aims to identify genetic variation in the WUE of major cereal crops (maize, durum wheat) grown throughout Europe
- EU-SIRRIMED (Sustainable use of irrigation water in the Mediterranean Region) which aims to optimise the WUE of crops grown with partial rootzone drying irrigation (a technique based on fundamental research at Lancaster !)
- EU-ROOTOPOWER (Empowering root-targeted strategies to minimize abiotic stress impacts on horticultural crops) which exploits the surgical technique of grafting (which allows the plant to have different root and shoot genotypes) to improve WUE, and which offers the possibility of using lower quality irrigation water
Modelling the development of fetal facial expressions from 4-D ultrasound scans
Professor Brian Francis, Mathematics and Statistics
Fetal facial movements are essential not only for the normal development of oral-motor function after birth (e.g. the ability to feed) but also facial expression (e.g. the ability to communicate after birth). However, there is little research on the development of fetal facial expressions in the womb.
This talk presents preliminary findings from recent interdisciplinary research using 4-D ultrasound scans on a number of fetuses. We examine whether or not there is evidence that fetal facial movements becomes more complex over time in terms individual muscular movements combining into more complex movements, and whether such movements coalesce into "gestalts" or particular form of facial expressions such as a cry-face or a smile-face. The presentation will focus on statistical and methodological issues such as the measurement of movement, the definition of gestalts and the appropriate statistical analysis to detect developmental change.
Powder metallurgical processing of stainless steel alloys
Dr Sarah Green, Engineering
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is an emerging technology with significant potential as a near-net-shape, rapid manufacturing technique capable of producing solid metallic and non-metallic parts from digital prototype 3D CAD data.
However, there remain issues with the technology that prevent this potential from being commercially realised. The surface finish of SLM manufactured components typically require additional manual finishing and post-processing, which increases manufacturing time and complexity. The presence of manufacture induced porosity and sub-surface defects can also place limitations upon the applicability of the technique for high integrity components destined for some structural applications, which is a particular problem for some alloy systems.
Reviewed are the results of experimental investigations into the microstructural development of stainless steel alloy samples produced by SLM methods under a range of processing parameters. In addition to modification of base alloy composition, results discussed extend to post-processing studies of SLM manufactured components, with the aim of increased understanding of the mechanisms contributing to manufacture induced defects within SLM processed materials.
What's the Use of Space Science?: Space Science in a Modern Society
Professor David Southwood
Space Science, looking out into our universe and even travelling to the nearer places, the planets and bodies nearby is an unavoidable aspect of the popular idea of what space is for. The vicarious exploration offered by robots on Mars or spacecraft returning samples from distant objects, grabs the imagination, makes one dream of going oneself. The process inspires and challenges young people, indeed most people. However is there a value beyond inspiration and excitement? There is and the rationale for science being at the base of any national space activity is described. Space science has often by intention or accident been a forcing ground for new ideas and technology development.
David was until recently the Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency in Paris. Before that he worked in Earth Observation at ESA, moving to space science in 2001.
Previously, he had been a space scientist at Imperial College, London, becoming head of the Physics Department there. He is an expert on magnetospheres of Earth and other planets. A magnetometer he built at Imperial still operates in orbit around the planet Saturn aboard the NASA Cassini spacecraft.
As ESA science director, he launched spacecraft to Venus, Mars and the Moon as well as several space telescopes. He led the team that landed a European probe on Titan in 2005.
A member of MIST Council, he becomes president of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2012. He is also a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in light of his work on a plan for long-term cooperation in Mars exploration between Europe and the United States and won the 2011 Sir Arthur C. Clarke award for space achievement for his work in shaping the present European Earth Observation programme and his work in the European space science and exploration programme over the past decade.
Formally retired, he retains a position at Imperial College, London, is a member of the Steering board of the new UK Space Agency and is also a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, USA.
Multinuclear solid state NMR - an introduction to a versatile spectroscopic characterisation approach of atomic scale structure and dynamics of materials
Professor Mark E Smith, Lancaster University
The physical background and foundations of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) as a spectroscopic technique will be presented to be accessible to a general audience. NMR has had a profound effect on a wide range of science with four Nobel prizes being awarded based on it. Solid state NMR is one aspect that still continues to show significant progress in the development of new capability. NMR is an element specific spectroscopy which opens up a whole range of exciting new applications including bone minerals and battery materials. Magic angle spinning (MAS) and double angle rotation (DOR) are the techniques of choice for enhancing NMR spectral resolution from solids which, when combined with theory, give a comprehensive methodology to understand complex materials. Dynamic nuclear polarisation (DNP) is an electron-nucleus double resonance technique that offers the potential for very significant NMR signal enhancement. The construction of two new DNP spectrometers and recent progress of DNP will be described.
Mark Smith was born and brought up in Suffolk. He read Natural Sciences at Churchill College, University of Cambridge and then a PhD (Physics) at the University of Warwick. He left academia being an application scientist for Bruker Analytische Messtechnik, Germany, and then research scientist CSIRO Division of Materials Scientist. He returned to the UK as first lecturer and then reader in solid-state NMR, University of Kent before becoming reader in physics at the University of Warwick where he went on to be a professor of physics. He is a former secretary of the British Radiofrequency Spectroscopy Group and Royal Society of Chemistry reporter on solid-state NMR. He has wide ranging research interests in developing and applying solid-state NMR techniques to inorganic materials. In terms of senior management Mark was also Director of the Centre for Magnetic Resonance.
His research interests are solid state NMR of inorganic materials, particularly those showing disorder and he collaborates broadly including with industry. Smith has published more than 260 papers and has written a research monograph on solid state NMR of inorganic materials.
Mark Smith was previously the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick looking after all academic resourcing issues. Mark has extensive experience of senior committees and has previously been Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Chair of the Faculty of Science.
He holds external roles as chair of the CLRN (West Midlands, South), is on the Board of the UK Research Reserve, is a member of EPSRC's Strategic Advisory Team on Infrastructure and is a member of the West Midlands Innovation and Technology Council.
How to apply psychology in developing security screening processes that are effective, efficient, equal and enjoyable
Dr Coral Dando and Professor Tom Ormerod, Psychology
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 and 7/7/05, policies and procedures have been put in place to protect the travelling public. Many rely on detecting cues in behaviour and appearance that are thought to be indicators of deception or malintent.
However, there is a lack of theoretical grounding and empirical data concerning the effectiveness of current approaches, which typically are invasive experiences that allow biases of ethnicity, religion, age and gender to affect screening decisions.
Researchers at the Lancaster SCORPIO Centre (Social and Cognitive Research in the Public Interest) have developed a new approach to security screening, applying cognitive and social theories of memory and decision-making to determine the optimal conditions for detecting deception.
The new method, Controlled Cognitive Engagement, is a face-to-face interview procedure that is conversational in nature and designed for use in a customer-focused security environment. In this presentation, we describe the method and its empirical evaluation in a trial funded by the US Transportation Security Administration, and we outline how the project serves as an exemplar for applying theoretically-informed and empirically-grounded social and cognitive research in the public interest.
Disrupting mobility, lowering carbon: the challenge of changing everyday travel practice
Dr James Faulconbridge, Lancaster Environment Centre
Governments around the world recognise changes to the way people travel to be an essential part of strategies to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and counter the risks of climate change. Technological innovations such as electric cars may go some way towards reducing the carbon impact of travel. But it is also acknowledged that changes in travel practices - how people travel (modal shift), how often they travel, and expectations about access to mobility - will have to occur in parallel.
In this presentation I outline the remit and vision of a new £1.2 million Research Councils funded project designed to deal with the challenge of changing travel practices.
Two main arguments are put forward: First, that travel practices are inextricably bound up with everyday life in ways that make them hard to alter using the kinds of behaviour change strategies often employed by government, or by simply introducing new technologies. Instead, effort needs to be put into systemic level change that alters the normalised role of travel in everyday life and which embeds alternative technologies into new ways of living.
Second, it is claimed that we can learn much about travel practices and about the challenge of changing them by studying how people respond when normal practices are disrupted. Disruption thus becomes a lens for revealing the way society has to change if new technologies are to be useful in addressing the challenge of reducing transport related CO2.
Sketch-based 3D Modeling, Design, and Fabrication
Dr Manfred Lau, School of Computing & Communications
The products that we use every day are typically designed and produced for mass consumption. An emerging alternative approach is personal fabrication: the end-user participates in the entire process of creating a customised product, from the initial concept stage of sketching and designing a 3D shape to the testing and manufacturing of the final product. In this talk, I describe various sketch-based tools that takes this approach.
First, an image-based sketching tool allows the user to sketch on top of a single photo to create a new personalised object that fits well with the existing objects and environment in the photo. Second, a 2D sketching system allows novice users to sketch, design and simulate their own unique chairs. Third, a 3D augmented reality based system allows the user to draw and visualise customised furniture and other household products directly in the real-world.
The problem of converting virtual 3D models into physical objects is challenging as such models are originally intended for graphics applications. I will end the talk by describing a novel framework to solve this problem with a formal grammar, and demonstrate results of converting furniture models found online to individual parts and connectors suitable for fabrication.
The Earth's radiation belts: What we know and what we don't know prior to the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission
Dr Mick Denton, Physics
The existence of highly energetic electrons and ions orbiting the Earth has been known since the early space age. These particles form the radiation belts and although our knowledge of the region has improved during more than fifty years of investigation, there are still fundamental questions to answer.
The processes which contribute to electron acceleration and loss are generally assumed to involve wave-particle interactions, transport, and/or collisions with the upper atmosphere. However, current theory has not proved able to explain how the electron flux in the outer radiation belt may change by up to five orders of magnitude within around 24 hours.
The upcoming NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission, scheduled for a 2012 launch, aims to answer many of the outstanding questions. This talk will focus on a brief history of radiation belt research, current understanding, and an overview of recent research results.
2010 Christmas Conference Talks
- Dr Gillian Lancaster: Assessing child development in rural African settings
- Dr Frank Martin: Biospectroscopy to characterise the stem cell lineage within complex tissue architectures
- Professor Garik Markarian: Video Distribution Over Wireless Networks - Challenges and Requirements
- Julian Ellis: Future and emerging technologies - pathfinder for ICT research in the EU
- Professor Rachel Cooper: Why does the EPSRC fund design?: putting the D in STEM
- Professor Xi Jiang: Advanced Numerical Simulations and Modelling of Challenging Problems in Energy Systems
- Dr Sandra Sunram-Lea: Metabolic fuel, hormones and mental performance: from benefit to damage
- Professor Hans Gellersen: Eye-based Activity Recognition
- Dr Evgeni Burovski: Ultracold atoms: emulating high-temperature superconductors, neutron stars, and more
- Dr Saskia Vermeylen: Building bridges between traditional and scientific knowledge to alleviate poverty
Assessing child development in rural African settings
Dr Gillian Lancaster, Mathematics and Statistics
Although 80% of children with disabilities live in developing countries, there are few culturally appropriate developmental assessment tools available. Assessment of development for research purposes is done using tools developed for Western societies eg. the Griffith's Developmental Assessment, Denver II. These tools have been used to assess such things as the effect of malnutrition on development. Since most of these developmental tools are designed and validated in Western countries, they often include tasks and materials that may be completely alien to children from another culture.
We have developed a simple, validated and reliable method of monitoring child development in a rural African setting that is extremely useful for community health workers in checking that children are developing normally. Locally-derived questions were conceived in consultation with local paediatricians, research midwives, parents and villagers. Issues regarding pilot work, item selection and modification, creation of 'norms', validity and reliability are discussed. The Malawi Development Assessment Tool (MDAT) tests a range of skills including gross motor, fine motor, language and social skills.
Biospectroscopy to characterise the stem cell lineage within complex tissue architectures
Dr Frank Martin, Lancaster Environment Centre
The building blocks of a tissue's architecture are multiple cell types that are at various points in lineages towards differentiation or their useful lifespan. Cell-specific functionality will determine chemical composition of bio-molecular structures. However, even similar cells with common functionality would be expected to differ in their chemical fingerprints.
In general, tissues with a regenerative capacity (e.g., the GI tract) are believed to contain stem cells (SCs) that divide symmetrically or asymmetrically to give rise to transit-amplifying (TA) cells that are then committed to generating terminally-differentiated (TD) cells. Especially in human-derived tissues, application of conventional methodologies such as antibody-labelling of single epitopes has failed to result in convincing SC markers.
In contrast, application of biospectroscopy methods generates an integrated chemical signature in the form of a spectrum; this can then be related to structure and function. Given the number of data points within such a signature (typically 200 to 300) and the differing cell dynamics in a given tissue, large and complex datasets are generated.
Extracting the vital cell-specific discriminating variables can initially be approached using exploratory approaches such as principal component analysis and/or linear discriminant analysis. There is already compelling evidence that such an approach can segregate putative SCs from TA cells from TD cells in different tissues. Ultimately, this could allow one to identify the spectral profile considered normal; deviations from this would point to various pathological states. In the future laboratory setting, biospectroscopy methods will shed novel microscopic insight into the function and role of the stem cell.
Video Distribution Over Wireless Networks - Challenges and Requirements
Professor Garik Markarian, School of Computing and Communications
In this presentation we will address the most challenging problem of wireless communications - distribution of multiple real time video streams over a network with limited capacity.
We address the limitations of the existing algorithms and describe novel Cross Layer Cross System Optimisation technique introduced in our Department.
The advantages of the developed technique will be illustrated by means of real time case studies and integration in the emerging international standards. The presentation will be supported by life demonstration and a number of real case scenarios will be addressed.
Future and emerging technologies - pathfinder for ICT research in the EU
Julian Ellis, European Commission, Future and Emerging Technologies
Why does the EPSRC fund design?: putting the D in STEM
Professor Rachel Cooper, Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts
Professor Rachel Cooper of the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts, speaking at the Science and Technology Christmas Conference in December 2010.
Advanced Numerical Simulations and Modelling of Challenging Problems in Energy Systems
Professor Xi Jiang, Engineering
Flow and combustion problems are central to many energy systems, which often affect the efficiency of the system and emission of pollutants. An in-depth understanding of the flow and combustion problems is essential to their effective control.
Besides experimental studies, advanced numerical simulations and modelling can provide physical insight into the problems. In many cases, direct numerical simulation (DNS) can provide results that are not possible by using any other means, while large-eddy simulation (LES) is being adopted by industry as a more practical tool.
In this presentation, the applications of DNS and LES to challenging multi-phase, multi-scale and multi-physics problems will be discussed, including fuel injection and spray combustion in combustion engines. The presentation will then focus on some important research topics related to future energy systems such as the study of carbon capture and storage (CCS) using multiscale modelling.
Metabolic fuel, hormones and mental performance: from benefit to damage
Dr Sandra Sunram-Lea, Psychology
Over the past decades, there has been increasing interest in the neurochemical regulation of cognition. This field received considerable attention in the 1980's with the identification of possible cognition enhancing agents or 'smart drugs'. Even though many of the optimistic claims for some agents have proven premature, considerable progress has been made in recent years in characterizing biological systems and processes underlying the regulation of cognition.
Latest evidence obtained in our laboratory suggests that metabolic agents may prove to be effective in improving and preserving cognitive performance and may lead to better cognitive aging through the lifespan. Glucose is the brain's principal metabolic fuel. Therefore, it is not surprising that transiently increasing blood glucose levels improves cognitive performance. Conversely, chronically high levels of blood glucose, as seen in diabetes, may increase the risk for cognitive impairments, especially in older adults. In this talk I will present a series of studies exploring the role of glucose on cognitive performance.
Gaining more in-depth understanding of the major metabolic components of cognition, and more specifically how glucose levels affect cognition, will not only provide a better framework for understanding the neurobiology of cognitive processes, but also increase our knowledge concerning the effects of abnormalities in brain glucose/energy metabolism on cognition, both in adults and in children. The interaction between nutrition and behaviour is currently very much on the public agenda. Nutritional interventions aimed at the maintenance of good glucose regulation may aid preservation of cognitive performance - something of increasing concern to most "ageing" societies.
Eye-based Activity Recognition
Professor Hans Gellersen, School of Computing and Communications
If only computers knew what we do, they might support us better (or not get as much in the way). Activity recognition is a research field in computer science that investigates sensor systems and computing methods for automated inferences about human activity. Early work in this field has developed methods that classify body movements and locomotion modes from analysis of inertial sensors worn by the user; in turn, this data can be used to reason about what the user is doing. This work has application in many domains, from assisted living where the focus is on monitoring of activities of daily living to support of industrial tasks such as aircraft maintenance.
A rich source of information, as yet unused in activity recognition, is the movement of the eyes. The movement patterns our eyes perform as we carry out specific activities have the potential to reveal much about the activities themselves - independently of what we are looking at. In this talk we report results from initial studies on activity recognition using a wearable electrooculography (EOG) system.
Ultracold atoms: emulating high-temperature superconductors, neutron stars, and more
Dr Evgeni Burovski, Physics
In recent years, ultracold atomic systems have emerged as a controlled and tunable toolbox for studying a variety of many-body quantum phenomena. Amazingly, dilute vapours of alkali metals (typically several million times thinner than air) at microkelvin temperatures may yield insights into topics as diverse as high temperature superconductivity or physics of neutron stars.
In this talk I will try to give an overview of several avenues of research where a combination of cold atom experiments, theoretical efforts and large-scale computer simulations are used for tackling some of the hardest fundamental problems of the many-body physics.
Building bridges between traditional and scientific knowledge to alleviate poverty
Dr Saskia Vermeylen, Lancaster Environment Centre
The mounting loss of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of local communities in the 'South' presents environmental as well as developmental issues. Fundamental among these is the sustainability of local communities and their ecosystems.
Together with other stakeholders, such as national governments and international institutions, local communities must address interlinked challenges concerning development and the environment. The conventional environment-development discourse represents TEK as the opposite of scientific knowledge but I will argue that the static opposition of local and scientific knowledge must be challenged if we if we want to respond effectively to ecosystem change and how this impacts human (and non-human) well-being.
The purpose of this presentation is to analyse the role of knowledge production in the current debate about ecosystem services and poverty alleviation by drawing on a case study in Zambia which is led by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC).
Building further on current and previous research, I will demonstrate that local and scientific knowledge share common characteristics and therefore can be regarded as complementary or parallel systems. Crossing the divide between TEK and scientific knowledge is an important strategy in a process that promotes the well-being of particular types of ecosystems.
To conclude, I will argue that this process of building bridges between the imagined, perceived or invented different knowledge domains requires an interdisciplinary research approach. It is only when the divide between the natural and social sciences has been 'dismantled' that we can start understanding the plurality and complexity of the environment-development discourse and practice.
2009 Christmas Conference Talks
- Dr Nigel Paul: Plants, people and ultraviolet light: from ozone depletion to better nutrition
- Dr Laura Kormos: Catching Neutrinos! A detector for the T2K experiment
- Professor Stephen Power: Geometric Constraint System Stories: Evariste Galois, CAD and Crystallography
- Dr Karen Mattock: Put yourself in my shoes! Baby steps to becoming bilingual
- Dr Graeme Burt: Impact of Accelerator Engineering at the Cockcroft Institute
- Dr Nick Race: The Wray Broadband Project - 5 Years On
- Dr Lesley Thompson: The EPSRC's views of impact
- Paul Hubbard: HEFCE's views of impact
- Professor Nick Hewitt: Tropical land use change and atmospheric composition - a case study in Borneo
- Dr Jim Wild: Weathering solar storms
Plants, people and ultraviolet light: from ozone depletion to better nutrition
Dr Nigel Paul, Lancaster Environment Centre
Stratospheric ozone depletion has been one of the major environmental problems of the past three decades. Through the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, stratospheric ozone depletion also represents the greatest success for global action in response to a global environmental problem. That success is founded on high quality science, both in relation to the causes of ozone depletion and its effects, which are mediated by increased ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B: 290-315nm) reaching the biosphere.
Increased UV-B affects many organisms and biological processes, from human skin cancer, through changes in plant growth to biogeochemical cycling. Prior to the 1980s UV-B was barely recognised as a having any effect on plants, and subsequent research initially used unrealistic treatments leading to substantial misconceptions over the potential effects of ozone depletion.
My work at Lancaster has concentrated on UV-B treatments based on realistic ozone depletion scenarios and under conditions as close as possible to the field.
I will describe how such experiments reveal a range of significant effects on plant growth, morphology and chemistry, understanding that has contributed to the balanced assessment of the impacts of stratospheric ozone on crops and natural ecosystems.
I will also describe how, by focussing on environmentally-relevant conditions, our ozone-related research has placed Lancaster in a unique position to explore the application of UV responses and how, working with growers and manufacturers, we have shown that UV-B responses, far from being damaging, are often highly desirable in horticulture, with benefits for growers and consumers.
Catching Neutrinos! A detector for the T2K experiment
Dr Laura Kormos, Physics Department
A few million neutrinos pass through every square centimeter of you every second leaving no trace. What does this tell us? Human beings are not very good neutrino detectors. So how do we detect neutrinos, why is it so difficult, what do we know about them, and why do we care?
Lancaster's involvement in the international T2K experiment is allowing us to further our
understanding of these elusive, fundamental particles.
Geometric Constraint System Stories: Evariste Galois, CAD and Crystallography
Professor Stephen Power, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Geometric constraint systems are large systems of equations that arise from a configuration of geometrical objects and which feature in many structural models in applied science. I will outline three stories which have at their heart the analysis of the flexibility and rigidity of bar-joint structures. A bar (= strong bond) is inextensible while a joint (= weak angular bond) can swivel. For a 3D example imagine a telegraph pylon with all the joints loosened (and whether it will fall down).
James Clerk-Maxwell noted simple counting rules that hold when typical bar-joint systems in 2D or 3D are rigid structures. Nevertheless it is still an open problem to determine what exactly determines rigidity and in what manner bar-joint structures can flex or deform.
Evariste Galois, "revolutionary and geometer", died in a dual in 1832 before at the age of 21. The night before, the story goes, he wrote down his profound theory on the solvability of polynomial equations. In my second story I will explain how "Galois' Obstacle", as I call it, is relevant to the geometric constraint systems within core CAD software.
Max Born and Theodore von Karman developed the classical theory of crystallography. This theory incorporates infinite periodic bar-joint structures as mathematical models in the analysis of the low energy spectrum. Can the mathematics of such models shed light on the physics of crystals or, for that matter, more amorphous materials?
Put yourself in my shoes! Baby steps to becoming bilingual
Dr Karen Mattock, Department of Psychology
It is vital for language acquisition that infants learn to recognise their native language(s) and the respective repertoire of speech sounds. Most studies of infant speech processing have assessed monolinguals. Studying bilingual infants provides another way to learn about speech processing and is essential for the development of a comprehensive model of language acquisition.
Our steps to understand bilingual speech processing are currently very limited because bilingual performance is typically compared to the 'monolingual gold standard' and research findings highlighting that bilinguals take longer to reach language milestones has led to the conclusion that bilinguals have delayed language development.
Certainly, bilingual infants face an added measure of complexity with respect to speech processing - two languages, two sets of speech sounds, and reduced exposure to each language.
In this talk I challenge the view that bilinguals are delayed and highlight that when speech-processing tasks are designed to reflect the kind of speech input that bilinguals receive, bilingual infants are keeping pace with their monolingual peers.
I will discuss how the challenges of acquiring two languages may require and promote linguistic or cognitive skills that have a global positive impact on infant development. Two studies will be presented comparing monolingual and bilinguals infants in relation to two key language milestones: preference for the native language in year 1, and word-object associative learning in year 2.
These will be discussed from two perspectives: the development of speech processing in early bilingualism and the impact of early bilingualism on the development of cognitive control.
Impact of Accelerator Engineering at the Cockcroft Institute
Dr Graeme Burt, Engineering Department
The Cockcroft Institute was set up 5 years ago as a centre of excellence in Accelerator Science and Technology. Since then it has had a major impact in the design of accelerators and the interaction between universities and national laboratories.
Lancaster University Engineering department is the only Engineering group in the UK involved in accelerator Engineering and hence plays a unique role in the design of future accelerators.
There are many types of impact in accelerator engineering: Impact on the design of accelerators, Impact of large international accelerators, applications of industrial accelerators, impact of knowledge exchange with industry and impact of spin-off technology.
In this talk an example of each of these will be given and hence show how Lancaster engineering's accelerator research is having a major impact within the UK and beyond.
The Wray Broadband Project - 5 Years On
Dr Nick Race, Computing Department
Over the last 5 years the Internet has become increasingly regarded as a 'utility' service. However, despite technological enhancements, access to the Internet in rural areas continues to present major challenges - and a 'Digital Divide' has opened up between town and country.
Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNs) are seen as a potential solution to this imbalance; offering a scalable, low-cost, autonomous platform capable of delivering an access network without the need to utilise any previous infrastructure.
This talk, by Nick Race of Computing/ISS, will outline how Wireless Mesh Networking technology has been used within the local village of Wray, providing Internet access to villagers and a networking test-bed to researchers. Five years on from the initial deployment, he'll reflect on some of the groups that have been impacted by the work, and outline the current research activities that have been built around the Wray "Living Lab".
The EPSRC's views of impact
Dr Lesley Thompson, Director of the Research Base, EPSRC
Lesley Thompson, Director of the Research Base at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will talk about impact as understood by the EPSRC and particularly the role of impact statements in grant applications.
Lesley was previously Director of Research and Innovation at the EPSRC, and currently has responsibility for the delivery of research programmes, liaison with the academic community, career development and the support of researchers, and capacity building and peer review, so she is very well placed to discuss impact from the research council perspective.
HEFCE's views of impact
Paul Hubbard, Head of Research Policy, HEFCE
Paul Hubbard, Head of Research Policy at HEFCE, will talk about impact from the perspective of the Research Excellence framework exercise (REF).
HEFCE is currently consulting on the proposals for the REF, with impact and how it is to be assessed playing a large part, and is also running a pilot exercise on impact in which Lancaster Physics will take part.
The outcome of the REF, like the outcome of the RAE, affects both the way in which we are rated for research and the funding we receive from HEFCE.
As Head of Research Policy at HEFCE, Paul is immersed in the pilots and the consultation and will be able to give us insights into the way in which HEFCE is approaching the issues of measurement of the impact of research.
Tropical land use change and atmospheric composition - a case study in Borneo
Professor Nick Hewitt, Lancaster Environment Centre
More than half the world's rainforest has been lost to agriculture since the Industrial Revolution. One of the most widespread tropical crops is oil palm (Elaeis guineensis): global production now exceeds 35 Mt y-1.
In Malaysia, for example, 13% of land area is now oil palm plantation, compared with 1% in 1974. There are enormous pressures to increase palm oil production, for food, domestic products and, especially, biofuels.
Expansion of oil palm for biofuel production is predicated on the assumption that palm oil is an "environmentally friendly" fuel feedstock.
Here we show, using measurements and models, that oil palm plantations in Malaysia directly emit greater quantities of the oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds than the rainforest they are replacing.
These compounds lead to the production of ground-level ozone (O3), an air pollutant that damages human health, plants and materials, reduces crop productivity and has effects on the Earth's climate.
Our measurements show that, at present, O3 concentrations do not significantly differ over rainforest and adjacent oil palm plantation landscapes.
However, our model calculations predict that if NOx concentrations in Borneo are allowed to reach those currently seen over rural North America and Europe, ground-level O3 concentrations will reach 100 ppbv and exceed levels known to be harmful to human health.
Our study provides an early warning of the urgent need to develop policies that manage nitrogen emissions if the detrimental effects of palm oil production on air quality and climate are to be avoided.
Weathering solar storms
Dr Jim Wild, Department of Communication Systems
Space isn't quite as cold and empty as you might first think. The Earth is embedded within the outer atmosphere of the Sun and is constantly buffeted by the solar wind and bathed in the remnants of the Sun's massive magnetic field. While generally imperceptible to humans here on Earth, changes in the space environment, so-called "space weather", can have an impact upon man-made technologies under, on and above the surface of the Earth.
Over 150 years ago, English astronomer Richard Carrington observed a massive solar flare and the geomagnetic storm that resulted was the most powerful on record. Although Victorian technologies were temporarily disrupted, some fear that a similar event today could disable the high-tech infrastructure that underpins modern society.
Dr. Jim Wild, from the Department of Communication Systems' Space Plasma Environment and Radio Science Group, looks at the science behind space weather and considers some of the implications of living with a star.
2008 Christmas Conference Talks
- Research Seminar 'DIGITAL OBESITY addressed by Fuzzy Information Management' by Prof T. Martin (Bristol University and BT)
- Phase Noise and Suppression Method in the 3G-LTE Uplink Communication System
- SciTech Christmas Conference 2008
- Where Galaxies Really Come From
- Engineering Challenges of Particle Accelerators
- Using statistical methods to analyse environmental extremes
- Learning motor actions by observing others: The roles of the mirror neuron system and prefrontal cortex
- Evolving Intelligent Systems - Concept, Applications and Opportunities for Security Systems of the Future
- Firefly: Highlighting future trends in computer systems
- Why should scientists bother getting involved in public affairs?
- Soil-water systems and the future of civilization
- Is there too much 'water' in water research? Bringing the social dimension into sustainable water management
Research Seminar 'DIGITAL OBESITY addressed by Fuzzy Information Management' by Prof T. Martin (Bristol University and BT)
The phrase "digital obesity" summarises a range of problems arising from our propensity to generate and retain a rapidly growing volume of data, at web-scale as well as at corporate and personal scales. Much of this data is effectively wasted unless we can find and use the "right" data when needed.
Statistical methods help to a degree with numerical data, although they sometimes "average out" useful information. Textual data is less amenable to formal treatment. To a large degree, the problem arises from a mis-match between the precisely defined terms used by formal models of data storage and retrieval and the far more subtle and expressive terms used in human communication. We are adept at communicating in a language where the majority of concepts are fuzzy, defined by common usage rather than by necessary and sufficient conditions. It is only when we interact with computers that we adapt our way of thinking to artificial precision. We need to redress this balance, so that computers adapt to our way of thinking.
The success of fuzzy control is one example of the way in which fuzzy set theory enables computers to work with commonly understood terms such as "hot" and "slow" rather than with precise numerical values.
This talk describes some ways in which fuzziness enables computers to work with ill-defined concepts, leading to more effective use of text- based information in business and other situations.
Trevor Martin is Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bristol. Since 2001 he has been funded by BT as a Senior Research Fellow, researching soft computing in intelligent information management including areas such as the semantic web, soft concept hierarchies and user modelling. In addition, he has investigated the use of intelligent data analysis for extracting information from home sensor networks.
He is a member of the editorial board of Fuzzy Sets and Systems, and has served on many conference programme and organising committees, including programme chair for the 2007 IEEE Fuzzy Systems Conference.
He has published over 200 papers in refereed conferences, journals and books, and is a Chartered Engineer and member of the BCS and IEEE
Phase Noise and Suppression Method in the 3G-LTE Uplink Communication System
seminar by Prof. Heung-Gyoon Ryu from Chungbuk National University, Korea
Position: Professor in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, Chungbuk National University, Republic of Korea
Prof. Ryu is the recipient of the "2002 ACADEMIC AWARD" from the Korea Electromagnetic Engineering Society (Institute)
His fields of Interest include:
- New next generation mobile communication, B3G/4G
- MIMO system with OFDM for next generation mobile communication
- Low Power communication for Satellite and HAPS
- Spread Spectrum System , AJ and LPI Technology
- Communication Signal Processing.
- GPS, WLAN, Mobile Ad-hoc Network, Wireless Sensor Network.
- High performance PLL Design and Application
- CDMA System Design and Adaptive Modulation System
- PLC(power line communication) and Home Networking, etc . . .
From 1988 until now, Professor Ryu has published over 230 papers IEEE and Korea domestic journals, over 50 papers in international and domestic conferences. He has finished or now proceed over 35 research projects from Korea government, ETRI, ADD and Samsung, LG, etc. paper review, book publication, . . .). He graduated 13 Ph.D students and 77 M.S students (2 from Vietnam and 2 from China). Now, He is advising professor of 4 M.S. students and 6 Ph.D students
Publication Lists (within recent 5 years):
- 24 IEEE and IEE Transaction papers
- Submitted papers to IEEE (under review): 32 papers
- International conference papers: over 25 papers
- Domestic regular journal papers: about 55 papers
- Domestic conference papers: about 12 papers
- Submitted or registered Korea patents: 16 patents
- USA patent : 1
- Canada patent : 1
- European Patent : 3
SciTech Christmas Conference 2008
This year's SciTech Christmas Conference will include a poster session for PhD students and contract researchers, together with talks from all departments.
Arrive at 9am in the Lancaster Leadership Centre for coffee and pastries!
Where Galaxies Really Come From
Modern cosmology concludes that structure in the Universe, such as galaxies and galactic clusters, is due to a tiny perturbation in the density of the gaseous content of the Early Universe. This perturbation is thought to be of quantum mechanical origin and it is generated during a period of ultra-rapid expansion of space, called cosmic inflation.
This talk, by the Physics Department's Kostas Dimopoulos, will give a descriptive summary of how this perturbation is created and then discuss what kind of fundamental fields can be involved in its formation and whether they correspond to particles that are observable in colliders, such as the Large Hadron Collider in CERN.
A new scenario involving vector boson fields, with its distinct observational signatures in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, will be briefly outlined.
Engineering Challenges of Particle Accelerators
Engineers seek to respond to human needs and aspirations. They do this by drawing on the vast accumulated knowledge of the profession and by engaging in research to meet new challenges. An example of this process is found in the design of particle accelerators for advanced scientific research.
Particle accelerators are essential research tools in many fields of science and technology. The use of machines such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to probe the fundamental secrets of the universe is well-known. Other, less familiar, machines are used to make progress in life sciences, surface and materials science and nano-technology. All accelerators employ high power radio waves to accelerate tiny bunches of charged particles to speeds approaching that of light. The particle bunches may be used directly in scientific experiments or to generate other particles or intense light for that purpose. The development of these machines provides great challenges for the engineers who design and build them.
This talk, by Richard Carter of the Engineering Department and Cockcroft Institute, will describe some of the engineering challenges involved in developing accelerators and illustrate them from research being carried out in the High Power Microwave Research Group in the Engineering Department.
Using statistical methods to analyse environmental extremes
Statistical methods for the analysis of extreme values are used when trying to predict properties of unusually large (or small) events. A key aspect is how to predict future extreme events when only a relatively short series of historical data is available.
Applications can be found in areas as diverse as structural engineering, hydrology, finance, insurance and communications. For example, in the construction of sea walls, we may be interested in estimating the wave height exceeded only once every 100 years when only 20 or 30 years of historical data are available.
In the first part of her talk, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics' Emma Eastoe will discuss the issues that arise when the underlying physical process from which the extreme data are produced is itself subject to change, either from other environmental variables or due to climate change; for example a model for high surface-level ozone levels would need to take into account that ozone levels vary through the year (in the UK they are higher in the summer when there is more sunlight).
The talk will go on to focus on a case study in hydrology, with the discussion of a model for the number of floods per year at a site on the river Thames. Prediction of floods is of interest to many people, including home owners, local councils, planners, rescue services and insurance companies. This part of the talk will use some of the ideas from the first part, since the probability of a flood on a given day varies, e.g. due to differing soil conditions and quantities of rainfall, in a way which is not what we would expect from the basic assumption that the probability of a flood is equal on any day.
Learning motor actions by observing others: The roles of the mirror neuron system and prefrontal cortex
Mirror neurons become activated both during performing actions and whilst observing another individual performing a similar action. Two main functions of these neurons are understanding the actions of others, and, predominantly in humans, imitation. Mirror neurons are thus a crucial building block for social interaction and communication. Are these neurons also involved when novel actions are learned via observing others?
This talk, by Psychology's Stefan Vogt, will outline a series of brain imaging studies employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which have explored the role of the mirror neuron system in learning novel actions by observation.
Participants were scanned whilst they imitated unfamiliar hand actions (guitar chords). It was found that:
- The mirror neuron system is indeed involved in imitation learning
- It is involved more strongly for novel actions than for familiar actions
- The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was activated during imitation of novel actions.
The DLPFC is a high-level control system which was likely engaging in restructuring the represented motor elements into a complete finger configuration.
A further study demonstrated that chords can also be learned by pure observation. Participants who benefitted most from this observational practice showed stronger activations in DLPFC as well as in posterior parietal cortex, which most likely engaged in transforming the observed actions into motor and tactile signals. This opens up an interesting avenue for optimising observational learning procedures in sport and rehabilitation of motor function.
Ongoing research contrasting the imitation of hand postures with imitating sequences of finger movements and rhythms. Whereas the sequences largely engaged the same cortical regions as the hand postures (mirror neuron system), the rhythms mainly activated the human expressive speech region ('Broca's area').
Thus, the primary cortical representation system can vary according to the type of action observed. In addition, DLPFC tended to be less activated for the rhythms than for the sequences and hand postures: one possible explanation is that rhythms are encoded in a specialised system which does require less supervisory control than spatially oriented actions such as postures and sequences.
Evolving Intelligent Systems - Concept, Applications and Opportunities for Security Systems of the Future
Research into innovative computational intelligence methods to deal with data streams in real time will be presented by Plamen Angelov of Communication Systems.
By using fuzzy rule based systems to capture knowledge from the data streams by on-line learning of both their parameters and structure a series of powerful computational engines were pioneered at Lancaster - evolving clustering (eClustering), classifiers (eClass family), predictors (eTS family), controllers (eControl). They can be seen as fuzzy blends of locally valid Gaussian filters and also as self-developing neuro-fuzzy systems. They possess a high level of adpativity to unknown environments and have been applied to a range of practical problems:
a) intelligent sensors in oil refining (CEPSA Total) and chemical industry (Dow Chemical);
b) on-line machine health monitoring and prognostics (Ford);
c) autonomous systems for passive sense and avoid algorithm (BAE Systems);
d) landmark recognition and self-localisation of robots;
e) cyber security (hacker attacks and intruders detection, user behaviour modelling);
f) surveillance: object detection and tracking.
This approach possesses significant potential to be used in the security systems of the future for the following reasons:
a) evolving intelligent systems are convenient and rigorous tool for integration of expert knowledge and learning from data and experience; b) they can integrate the behavioural and psychological aspects of a security system and technological (engineering, mathematical, statistical);
c) they can deal with uncertainties and linguistic variables such as Anxiety, Fear, Hesitation which are hard to be quantified otherwise;
d) they tolerate imprecision. Interest to this original methodology for designing innovative in-flight security systems has been expressed by companies such as ULTRA and Thales.
Such research can be a building block in the new Centre on Behavioural Security Technologies (CBEST) that combines the efforts across the Faculty (led by the Psychology Department, Prof. T. Ormerod it also involves Communication Systems, Computing, and Engineering Departments) and is currently in its infancy.
Firefly: Highlighting future trends in computer systems
Project Firefly is an ongoing research and development project within the Computing department at Lancaster that is investigating ways of building coherent, self-organizing display surfaces. In other words, bringing the pixels off a computer screen and into the real world. A public deployment and field trial of Firefly is already underway in Dalton Square, Lancaster, and was recently featured on BBC1 North West.
Using Firefly as a case study, this talk by from Computing's Joe Finney will provide a conceptual overview of how the technology operates, the advantages it brings, and through this will highlight some future trends, challenges and opportunities in computing.
Computers have now become commodity items. Most people now treat the presence of a computer in the home or at work with about the same enthusiasm as a washing machine, and they cost about the same amount too. In fact, home computers can now often be found on sale in supermarkets somewhere between the cheese crackers and last year's Easter eggs...
Some people believe the commoditisation of computing spells the end of the recent boom in the development and utilisation of innovative computer systems and applications. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth. Computing is being applied to an increasingly diverse range of new and exciting scenarios, and this is resulting in the development of new and novel technologies, many of which we use every day without giving them a second thought. By using Firefly as a worked example, this talk will highlight how we are slipping into a whole new era of computer systems.
Why should scientists bother getting involved in public affairs?
The invited speaker for our 2008 conference is Peter Cotgreave, Director of Public Affairs, The Royal Society.
Why should scientists bother getting involved in public affairs? What influence can they have collectively or individually? How can we overcome the cultural differences between science and policy-making and the timescales on which they operate? How can scientists change the terms of debates that they have an interest in? How important is indirect influence, such as working through the media, relative to direct influence on policy-makers and politicians? What opportunities exist to get involved?
Good recent case studies that illustrate some of the answers to these questions are the stem cell legislation that is going through Parliament at the moment, and the funding furore over STFC that blew up earlier this year.
Soil-water systems and the future of civilization
Soil and water systems provide a critical interface for the earth's biogeochemical cycles and platforms for supporting human activities.
This presentation by Phil Haygarth of the Centre for Sustainable Water Management, Lancaster Environment Centre will explore how soils provide a 'junction box' for a range of ecosystem services. Special focus is given to the provision of clean and plentiful water for society, particularly in context with management of agricultural land. Historically, the relationship between agricultural soil and water has been on a substance by substance basis, with interest in nitrate, phosphorus, sediment/colloids, pathogens and organic substances. Diffuse substance transport can be conceptually broken into sources, their subsequent mobilisation, transport and finally impact on receiving water body. Issues of flood and water management are also influenced by land management. A new paradigm is emerging akin to 'systems biology of the landscape' that is growing from our ability to measure and sense soil-water systems at multiple scales and in high resolution. We must embrace the complexity this reveals by adopting the best mathematical techniques, working towards multiple spatial and temporal models for prediction.
New advances in observation can help refine our empirical understanding across all scales and can, in turn, help feedback on hypotheses tested, setting new challenges for reductionist approaches. Thus we must grasp soil and water system science, addressing issues across multiple scales and disciplines (from 'plant to planet'). Whilst soils are relatively resilient and underpinning, water is a more temporally dynamic and thus a more sensitive barometer of pressures and responses. We must work towards a new vision for sustainable water management in context with today's needs that embody multiple-media and multiple quality indices, in context with changes in climate and societal pressures for land use and secure water and food supplies.
This provides some exciting challenges for the Centre for Sustainable Water Management and will help contribute towards our future strategy in Lancaster Environment Centre and the University.
Is there too much 'water' in water research? Bringing the social dimension into sustainable water management
There is arguably too much focus on 'water' in research on sustainable water management - sustainable water management (SWM) is not just a question of getting the science and technology right.
SWM is inherently social, cultural, economic, political. There has been growing recognition in SWM that social science research, in its broadest senses, has to be more than an interdisciplinary 'add-on' to more natural science questions. Social science has fundamental contributions to make to SWM, from developing our understanding of the routines and habits of everyday water consumption to how we can better understand the potential for building resilience to future flood impact.
Using the examples of research projects on the social dimensions of both flood and drought this presentation by Lancaster Environment Centre's Will Medd will give a flavour of the potential of the social science contribution to an interdisciplinary research agenda on SWM.
2007 Christmas Conference Talks
- Transport Energy - Research in the Political Spotlight
- Planetary Volcanism
- Language Design for Language Learning
- Computing Research
- Trees, Rings and Climate
- Ecohydrodynamics: The Physics of Ecological Engineers in Aquatic Environments
- Beams: Inner and Outer Dimensions!
- Wireless Sensor Networks for Time Critical Applications
- The Search for the Higgs Boson
- Exploiting Natural Plant Defence Systems as New Tools for Sustainable Pest Management
- Engineering Reliability into Miniature Systems - The Design-for-X Challenge
Transport Energy - Research in the Political Spotlight
Over the past 3 years Roger Kemp has written a number of papers on the energy use of transport, two of which were quoted in July's White Paper on sustainable railways. His work has featured on the front page of The Telegraph, formed the basis of a Times editorial and has been misquoted by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. He will talk about the research and the experience of working in an intensely political area.
Trees, Rings and Climate
A talk from David Lucy of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
Ecohydrodynamics: The Physics of Ecological Engineers in Aquatic Environments
A talk from Geography's Andy Folkard.
Beams: Inner and Outer Dimensions!
Beginning with the "splitting of the atom" by late Sir John Cockcroft in 1932, progressive innovations in charged particle acceleration, storage and manipulation have led to major discoveries in molecular, atomic and sub-atomic sciences throughout the twentieth century. It has been a glorious past. As we enter the twenty-first century, the scientific and technological challenges to science-driven innovations are enormous - production of bright, energetic and ordered charged particle and light beams that focus energy and information in brilliant bursts at nanometre scales for fleeting moments lasting femto- to atto-seconds! But the potential scientific rewards are even greater.
Professor Swapan Chattopadhyay will outline these challenges and explore a few sample territories of potential innovations and discoveries in the ultra-small and ultra-fast space-time domains under extreme energy densities with every-day as well as cosmic implications for matter and life.
Profile: Swapan Chattopadhyay
Swapan Chattopadhyay holds the Sir John Cockcroft Chair of Physics at Universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster - the First Chair of accelerator physics in UK, named after the British Nobel Laureate credited with creating the field. Concurrently, he is the inaugural Director of the newly created international centre of accelerator science and technology, the Cockcroft Institute in Cheshire, UK - a joint venture of STFC, Universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Lancaster and the North West Development Agency (NWDA).
Professor Chattopadhyay has previously served as the Associate Director of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in USA (2001-2007), Founder/Director of the Centre for Beam Physics at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1992-2001) and Senior Scientist at Berkeley Lab and Professor in the Graduate School at University of California at Berkeley (1984 - 2001).
Born and educated in Darjeeling and Calcutta, India as a National Scholar and National Science Talent Scholar till completion of his undergraduate studies, he completed PhD in Physics from Berkeley in 1982 and spent two critical years 1982-1984 at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland as a Scientific Attaché. There he contributed significantly to the phase-space cooling of antiprotons leading to luminous proton-antiproton collisions that established the existence of the Intermediate Vector Bosons responsible for the unification of the electro-weak force in nature.
Subsequent professional developments have led to increasing diversification of Professor Chattopadhyay's career over time leading to significant milestones of accomplishments to date: design, construction and commissioning of the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley, pioneering the Berkeley-Stanford Asymmetric Electron-Positron Collider PEP-II towards CP-violation studies, initiating the research program at Berkeley on laser-plasma acceleration and on ultra-fast x-ray sources in the femto- and atto-second time scales and critical advancements in microwave superconductivity at Jefferson Lab leading the way to current and future grand instruments of science such as the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA and the current superconducting version of the International Linear Collider.
Wireless Sensor Networks for Time Critical Applications
A talk from Utz Roedig of the Department of Communication Systems.
Exploiting Natural Plant Defence Systems as New Tools for Sustainable Pest Management
A talk from Biological Science's Mike Roberts.