Science and Technology Christmas Conference

United Nations: Global Issues

FST Christmas Conference 2018
Join us from 9am on 18th December 2018 in the Management School Hub

This year's FST Christmas Conference takes place on Tuesday 18th December in the Management School Hub. The conference will see academics and PhD students from across the Faculty come together to discuss topics on the theme of United Nations: Global Issues. Stay tuned for the announcement of our special guest speaker.


9.00am - 9.05am Welcome
Professor Vincent Reid
9.05am - 10.20am Department Talks
9.05am - Trevor Crawford & Helen Nuttall - Psychology
9.30am - Chris Sherlock & Rebecca Killick - Mathematics & Statistics
9.55am - Andrew Kennedy & Lai Bun Lok - Engineering
10.20am - 10.40am Break
10.40am - 11.10am Impact Talks
Roger Kemp - Engineering
Brian Francis - Mathematics & Statistics
11.10am - 12.10pm PhD Talks
Shahin Nikman - Chemistry
Aluna Everitt - School of Computing & Communications
Jack Baker - Mathematics & Statistics
Michael Chimes - Engineering
Joao Calhau - Physics
Rosanna Carver - Lancaster Environment Centre
Olivia Brown - Psychology
Ilokugbe Ettah - Chemistry
Rosie Newton - Engineering
Kelly Widdicks - School of Computing & Communications
Andrew Guthrie - Physics
Gareth Case - Mathematics & Statistics
Priya Silverstein - Psychology
Michael Tso - Lancaster Environment Centre
12.10pm - 1.15pm Lunch
1.15pm - 2.15pm Guest Speaker
Professor Dame Sue Black
War crimes investigations: what are the costs?
2.15pm - 2.35pm Break
2.35pm - 4.15pm Department Talks
2.35pm - Mike Hazas & Maria Angela Ferrario - School of Computing & Communications
3.00pm - Ryan Hossani & Sally Keith - Lancaster Environment Centre
3.25pm - Mike Kosch & Edward Laird - Physics
3.50pm - David Townsend & John Griffin - Chemistry
4.15pm - 4.45pm Prize Giving
Professor Pete Atkinson, Dean


Professor Dame Sue Black - Guest Speaker

War crimes investigations – what are the costs?

Sufficient time has passed since the inception and completion of the war crimes investigations in Kosovo, that we now have an opportunity to evaluate the cost and benefits of such operations. Of course cost is not only measured in monetary terms but also in the mortal impact of conflict and on the social and psychological impact on survivors and the wider population of a country. With a focus the science of forensics, this lecture will also focus on the highly complex network of stakeholders in such a mission which includes the military, investigative forces, governmental ministers, forensic scientists, NGOs (including the UN) and judicial partners.

Trevor Crawford - Psychology

Are saccadic eye movements a potential biological marker for Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) presents a formidable challenge for neuropsychological research. The psychological complications of the disease can make it difficult to distinguish generics impairment of the mind from the secondary effects of the disorder. I will present some of our recent work on measures of saccadic eye movements that: (1) distinguish between age and disease effects (2) are sensitive to severity of dementia and (3) are sensitive to the longitudinal degeneration in AD. The principle abnormality in Alzheimer’s disease was a striking increase in inhibitory errors, together with a marked reduction in corrective eye movements after the eye had moved inadvertently towards the target. The Alzheimer’s disease patients revealed a 10-fold increase in the proportion of anti uncorrected errors in comparison to healthy participants and patients with PD. Assessment of inhibitory control of saccadic eye movements may provide a promising biological marker for Alzheimer’s disease.

Helen Nuttall - Psychology

Speech on the (ageing) brain

By the age of 70, 71% of people experience some degree of hearing loss, which can significantly reduce quality of life. Understanding speech in social settings with background noise is particularly difficult for people with hearing loss. This leads to reduced social interaction in noisy environments, which in turn increases isolation and decreases mental wellbeing. Associated with this, several studies have found a significant relation between hearing loss and the incidence of cognitive decline and dementia. This relation remains after controlling for age, gender, race, education, diabetes, smoking history, and hypertension. Adult hearing loss is estimated to cost the UK economy £30 billion per annum, at minimum. It is therefore of paramount importance that we generate new knowledge of how age-related hearing loss affects the brain, and what interventions may be effective. My talk will focus on my new BBSRC grant which seeks to inform and guide future interventions by determining how cortical resources involved in speech perception are affected by age-related hearing loss, using a novel combination of brain stimulation, electroencephalography, and behavioural tests.

Chris Sherlock - Mathematics & Statistics

Simple, fast and accurate evaluation of the left action of the exponential of a rate matrix on a non-negative vector

A continuous-time, discrete-state Markov chain is a natural model in epidemics, systems biology and predator-prey dynamics, for example. The system is specified in terms of the (sparse) matrix of transition rates, Q, but statistical inference and prediction require the transition matrix, P=exp(Q). Given a vector, v, specifying an initial condition, the key quantity is v^T exp(Q). Building on a relatively recent innovation for calculating this quantity for a general matrix and vector, we provide a simpler and faster yet equally accurate algorithm specifically designed for the case of continuous-time Markov chains.

Rebecca Killick - Mathematics & Statistics

Tackling global issues: detecting changes

This talk will introduce the statistical concept of changepoint detection, that is to detect when the statistical properties of a series of data change. A vast amount of research has taken place at Lancaster in the last decade on different aspects of this problem. I will illustrate some of the recent advances in this area using data sets covering a range of UN Global Issues, including ageing, health, climate change and water.

Andrew Kennedy - Engineering

Sustainable manufacturing: is additive the answer?

With the capability to build close to the final shape, additive manufacturing has the credentials to be “sustainable”. But is this the case? How does it stack up against other near net shape processes including emerging technologies being developed at Lancaster?

Lai Bun Lok - Engineering

Monitoring changes in ice sheets and ice shelves with ground-based radar

We describe the results of several scientific international field campaigns recently conducted in Antarctica and Greenland using ground-based radar technology developed in conjunction with the British Antarctic Survey and University College London. These demonstrate an ability to non-invasively measure a year-long time series of vertical strain rates and basal melt rates with millimetre-precision. An imaging variant of the radar system has also shown the capability to reveal the orientation of internal englacial reflectors and their evolution on hourly timescales. Finally adaptations of the radar have enabled the telemetry of geophysical data from wireless sensors deployed within the borehole of the East Greenland Ice Core Project.

Maria Angela Ferrario - School of Computing & Communication

It's human, right?

In the allocated ten minutes I will delve into the existential question for the software engineer, unpack the metaphysical roots of the binary system, and reveal that the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid has been addressed. Once we have all gasped at this extraordinary statement, I will start pondering on what values drive technology and how to study them in a way that speaks to both the computationally inclined and the sceptical. Anticipating failure to convince both or indeed any, I will exit the stage in a transhumanist fashion.

Mike Hazas - School of Computing & Communication

The sustainability of our digital lives

Over the last decade, the growth in data traffic across the Internet has been dramatic, and this is associated with remarkable consumption: one-tenth of global electricity. We need to understand and steer these trends, as Internet energy levels become ever more problematic. Mike Hazas will explore what we know about the energy intensity of digital stuff, and the growth in flows of data over the Internet. He considers how such traffic relates to digital services such as video streaming and social networking, how these link to everyday routines that use and generate data, and what this implies for future energy use.

Ryan Hossani - Lancaster Environment Centre

Is the Montreal Protocol still working? Emerging threats to Earth’s ozone layer

As a result of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the atmospheric loading of anthropogenic ozone-depleting substances (e.g. CFCs) is decreasing. Accordingly, the stratospheric ozone layer, including the Antarctic Ozone Hole phenomenon, is expected to ‘recover’ from depletion later this century. However, recovery calculations have yet to consider the growing influence of ‘very short-lived substances’ – ozone-depleting compounds not controlled by the Protocol that are increasing in the atmosphere. Here, I discuss the nature and sources of these compounds and their expected impact on ozone recovery.

Sally Keith - Lancaster Environment Centre

Fish beyond 'hangry'

Behavioural change is often the first response to ecological disturbance as individuals try to survive under altered conditions. However, our understanding of how this plays out in nature and its impact on population and community dynamics is limited. We took advantage of the global coral mass bleaching event in 2016 as a natural experiment to determine the effect of widespread coral mortality on reef fish behaviour. Fish aggression decreased significantly owing to shifts in diet that led to nutritional deficit. We believe this result could indicate a break down of territorial boundaries, which we expect will have a knock-on effect on community dynamics in the longer term. Altered behaviour could therefore be the underlying mechanism that leads to commonly observed drops in abundance and richness of species after bleaching.

Mike Kosch - Physics

Out of the auroras into the fire

The journey from studying the auroras to EnviroVision Solutions (EVS), a commercial company with 100 employees, is presented. EVS developed the ForestWatch product, which is designed to provide rapid geo-referenced smoke plume detection using automated camera systems. This provides enhanced protection from fires for high value assets, typically large-scale commercial forests and suburbia, by rapid and focussed deployment of fire suppression assets. Every year hundreds of billions of Pounds are lost to fire, as well as hundreds of lives. EVS now finds itself the current world leader in terms of geographic distribution and number of deployments, but is far from reaching its maximum potential. EVS has teamed up with the satellite-based Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS), and is currently investigating the use of tethered drone technology being developed in the UK.

Edward Laird - Physics

Keeping time with caged atoms

Atomic clocks are the most precise instruments ever built, and central to modern communication, navigation, and sensing. Improved portable atomic clocks – with size and power consumption to fit into your cell phone - would allow new telecommunication systems, jam-proof satellite navigation, and better undersea prospecting. I will describe our approach to making a chip-scale atomic clock using a unique molecule: the endohedral fullerene, nature’s own atom trap.

David Townsend - Chemistry

Cardiovascular benefits of green tea

Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty plaques within arteries that can reduce the flow of blood to the heart and brain. In advanced stages of the condition, apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA-1), the main protein component of high density lipoprotein, can form amyloid deposits, which are similar in structure to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These misfolded protein deposits build up within atherosclerotic plaques further restricting blood flow, reduce the native function of HDL, and may also make the plaques less stable, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

We recently reported a surprising effect of the green tea polyphenol compound, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) on apoA-I fibrils. This compound is currently being studied for its ability to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. EGCG does not alter the kinetics of apoA-I amyloid assembly from monomer, unlike its neuroprotective effect on Aβ amyloid associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, mature, insoluble apoA-I fibrils bind EGCG and are mobilized extensively, being remodelled into soluble 20 nm-diameter spherical oligomer species. These oligomers contain a largely α-helical structure, more like the protein’s native structure, and are non-toxic to human umbilical artery endothelial cells. These results argue for a protective effect of EGCG on apoA-I amyloid associated with atherosclerosis, dependant on the bioavailability of EGCG.

John Griffin - Chemistry

Understanding molecular-level structure in organic semiconductors

Conjugated polymers show promising properties as cheap and sustainable semiconductors for solar cells and electronic devices. A key challenge in the development of these materials is to determine the polymer chain structure, conformation and packing in both the bulk polymer and in thin films typically used in devices. However, many characterisation techniques are unable to provide atomic-level structural information owing to the presence of disorder. In this talk I will show how solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance can be used to build up a picture of the structure and conformation of the polymer backbone, which is key to understanding the electronic properties of the material.