Caius Science Network:
Connecting research interests across the college


The aim of this network is to enhance scientific discussions and collaborations in Gonville & Caius college. One of the advantages of being in a college is the interaction with many leading experts across a range of disciplines. Scientists in different fields often study similar problems, but this is done with different approaches and in different departments. As a result, many potential overlaps of interests remain unexplored owing to lack of exposure. This network aims to bring to light intra-Caius common interests in the hope that this will generate further fertilising scientific discussions and interactions.

From Michaelmas 2019, Alan Fersht and I will be encouraging Caius students to attend these meetings, with the aim both to expose them to the forefront research carried out here and to encourage them to take part in the discussions and possibly collaborate with the wide range of experienced researchers we have in the college.

From 2020, the CSN will be integrated with the Hawking-Crick lecture series, in which we expect to invite prominent scientists to give lectures in the college to our scientists and the Student NatSci Society. These lectures will be in addition to the traditional termly meetings detailed below.

The main activity of the CSN is a termly meeting, planned to take place at the end of every term, in which interested members of the college will make short presentations of a research problem on which they seek discussions, insight and / or collaboration. A research problem can be anything from a solution to a stubborn equation to a search for complementary skills for a joint project or a proposal collaboration.

It is expected that not everyone would be able to attend the meetings or make presentations. To make this less of a problem, this page will list the topics presented in the meetings, with a copy of the presentation, when available. This page is also intended to help with research issues that cannot be presented orally for any reason. To make your topic of interest visible, please send me: (i) a title; (ii) a 3-4 paragraphs description of the problem; (iii) the objective, e.g., help with a solution, insight into modelling a problem, discussions, collaboration, etc. It would be best if these are comprehensible to others outside your field. Meeting presentations in pdf format will be linked, if available.



Discussions

  • Meeting 1: (June 21, 2017, Caius college Senior Parlour, 20:30)

    Tim Pedley: "A new squirmer model for swimming micro-organisms?"
    Abstract:


    Anthony Edwards: "How many n-set simple Venn diagrams are there?"
    Abstract:


    Gareth Conduit: "Future applications of machine learning"
    Abstract:


    Rafi Blumenfeld: "Can we use a recent quantitative structural characterisation of disordered foams for early detection of metastasis risk?"
    Abstract:
    I have developed in recent years a method to describe quantitatively local structures of disordered granular, cellular and porous media. The method works both for 2D and 3D structures and it turns out to be sensitive to subtle differences in structural characteristics, which are difficult to capture by eye.
    I would like to explore application of the method to detect precursors to metastasis, based on the hypothesis that, prior to metastasis, tissues undergo structural changes. Specifically, the idea is to compare normal and pre-metastasis tissues for significant differences, which can be used as a warning sign.
    My aim here is to interest someone, or more than one person, with access to good resolution images of such tissues. The scale of the project may vary from a small test of the hypothesis on a specific type of quasi 2D tissue to a PhD, or larger, project. Positive results could be considered as a basis for a funding proposal.
    Presentation

  • Meeting 2: (November 23, 2017, Caius college Fellows dining room, 20:30)

    1. Rob Miller: "Loss, Irreversibility and Ideal Machines"
    Abstract:
    The aim of the talk is to introduce a new method for analysing the performance of engines (e.g. jet engines or internal combustion engines). Rob is interested in the possibility of applying the method to other areas science such as biological systems.


    2. Jeremy Prynne: "Scientific Apophthegms"
    Abstract:
    The aim of this presentation is to entice scientists to collaborate with Jeremy by providing either apophthegms (smart aphorisms/sayings) from their fields or valid scientific insights/models/ideas for Jeremy to construct apophthegms from. These would be included in his growing anthology. This should appeal to all of us, as I believe that Jeremy is open to accommodate any field of science and technology.


    Each presentation will be of 20-25 minutes, followed by about 5 minutes discussion and questions, followed by a break of 5-10 minutes for tea/coffee, leg stretching and further informal discussions.

  • Meeting 3: (Wednesday, March 14, 2018, Caius College Bateman Auditorium, 20:30)

    The Lent 2018 meeting of the CSN will take place at 8:30 pm on March 14 in the Bateman Auditorium. Water and Coffee will be provided in the Bateman room (Sorry, no alcohol, as this is charged to my own limited entertainment budget). We are in for two stimulating presentations:

    1. Joe Herbert: "Gender has personal, social, psychological, legal and medical implications."
    Abstract:
    "Transgender is very much in the news. It questions the traditional definitions of binary two genders. Gender has social, psychological, legal and medical implications. It also poses a challenge for neuroscience: how much do we know about how gender is determined? What are the roles of genes, hormones or the environment? Are there patterns in the brain that might represent gender? And what is the relation in the brain between gender and sexuality?"

    2. David Summers: "The morals of a microbe: prudence vs the prodigal bacteria."
    Abstract:
    "The many microbiomes associated with the human body are increasingly recognised to have significant effects on the functioning of our bodies both in sickness and in health. I will briefly review the extensive effects of the bacterial signalling molecule indole, the current focus of research in my laboratory. The complexity of the gut microbiome presents a serious barrier to understanding its function. Many big data approaches are being undertaken but in this presentation I want to demonstrate the complexity that can arise from just a single bacterial species (E. coli) and a single signal (indole). Building upon such a simple beginning is one route towards an understanding of complex microbiomes in vivo."

    The usual reminder:
    The objective of the presentations is to introduce problems/issues in search of inter-disciplinary discussions, new insights and/or collaborations. The definition of a `problem' is broad and ranges from seeking a solution to a specific mathematical equation to looking for a joint proposal.  If you would like to use this forum to tap into the broad range of excellent skills in the college and involve some of your fellow colleagues in your interesting idea or research, please send me a title (required) and an abstract (optional) for a future presentations. I am also available to help with suggestions, if necessary. 

  • Meeting 4: (Monday, June 11, 2018, Caius College Senior Parlour, 20:30)

    The Easter 2018 meeting of the CSN will take place at 8:30 pm on June 11 in the Senior Parlour. Water and Coffee will be provided (Sorry, no alcohol due to a limited budget). We are in for two more stimulating presentations:

    1. Malcolm Smith: "Mechanisms and passivity. What is it possible to build"
    Abstract:
    "A brief glimpse into the history of circuits will be used to illustrate that, even in the 1920s, electrical engineers were able to elegantly answer abstract questions on which "impedance functions" could be built and which could not. Modern-day consequences for mechanical devices will be briefly recalled. The talk will discuss a current research question of the speaker: is it possible to build a “lossless adjustable spring”? Indeed, what is it, and what could it be used for?"

    2. Glen Vinnicombe: "The Poisson box"
    Abstract:
    "For a simple birth death process (constant birth rate, exponential deaths) it is well known that the variance equals the mean. We conjecture that for two coupled birth death processes it is not possible for both processes to simultaneously beat this bound. That is, if X is controlling Y, and vice versa, then in order for the variance in Y to be reduced below the Poisson limit then the variance in X must be above it. For cell biology, this suggests that large fluctuations in the population of one molecular species might be a natural consequence of it being implicated in regulating a second. The conjecture is known to hold at high numbers, ie the diffusion limit, and at very low numbers - a general proof remains elusive though."

    The usual reminder:
    The objective of the presentations is to introduce problems/issues in search of inter-disciplinary discussions, new insights and/or collaborations. The definition of a `problem' is broad and ranges from seeking a solution to a specific mathematical equation to looking for a joint proposal.  If you would like to use this forum to tap into the broad range of excellent skills in the college and involve some of your fellow colleagues in your interesting idea or research, please send me a title (required) and an abstract (optional) for a future presentations. I am also available to help with suggestions, if necessary. 

  • Meeting 5: (Thursday, November 29, 2018, Caius College Senior Parlour, 20:30)

    The Michaelmas 2018/19 meeting of the CSN will take place at 8:30 pm on November 29 in the Senior Parlour. Water and Coffee will be provided (Sorry, no alcohol due to a limited budget). The two stimulating presentations are:

    Patrick Chinnery: "Cracks in the mitochondrial bottleneck"
    Abstract:
    "Mitochondria are sub-cellular organelles that are required to produce energy inside our cells. They are semi-autonomous by containing multiple copies of their own genome (mtDNA). MtDNA is inherited exclusively down the maternal line and is prone to mutate, but there is limited capacity for mtDNA repair. How, therefore, do we prevent the relentless accumulation of mutations that, if left unchecked, would lead to a failure of energy production, and extinction of our species? Work in my laboratory has cast light on some of the underlying mechanisms, taking our group into the world of stochastic systems and feedback loops. Can we predict the likelihood a mutation is transmitted, does the cell nucleus or the environment influence this, and what are the implications in the short and long term? I am looking for new ways to analyse and model these complex biological datasets to generate new hypotheses we can test in the human population."

    Dino A. Giussani: "Intergenerational transmission of cardiac protection via maternal mitochondria"
    Abstract:
    "The parental environment can influence the offspring wellbeing via both paternal and maternal lines. However, mechanisms of intergenerational transmission remain poorly understood. While transmission of advantageous traits across generations is established in plants and invertebrates, the majority of examples in vertebrates relate to non-genomic intergenerational inheritance of detrimental traits, such as increased disease risk. Work in my laboratory has now shown that transmission of overt advantageous traits, such as cardiac protection against a future heart attack across generations is possible in mammals. The transmission occurs across the maternal line and is mediated via the mitochondria. We suggest the work offers a possible mechanism of natural selection driving environmental adaptation from generation to generation in mammals."

    The usual reminder:
    The objective of the presentations is to introduce problems/issues in search of inter-disciplinary discussions, new insights and/or collaborations. The definition of a `problem' is broad and ranges from seeking a solution to a specific mathematical equation to looking for a joint proposal.  If you would like to use this forum to tap into the broad range of excellent skills in the college and involve some of your fellow colleagues in your interesting idea or research, please send me a title (required) and an abstract (optional) for a future presentations. I am also available to help with suggestions, if necessary. 

  • Meeting 6: (Thursday March 7, 2019, Caius College Senior Parlour, 20:30)

    The Lent 2019 meeting of the CSN will take place at 8:30 pm on March 7 in the Senior Parlour. Water, Coffee and biscuits will be provided. The two stimulating presentations are:

    Will Handley: "Cosmological Bayesian inference"
    Abstract:
    "Over the past two decades, observational cosmologists have pioneered the widespread use of Bayesian inference techniques in astrophysical analyses. In this talk, I shall cover the fundamental theory of Bayesian model comparison and parameter estimation using examples from cosmology and exoplanet detection. Emphasis shall be placed on how to generalise these approaches to other fields, and the numerical tools which represent the current state-of-the art for performing these analyses."

    Kay-Tee Kaw (in collaboration with Nicholas Wareham, Nick.wareham@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk): "What can we learn from population studies? 25 years of the European prospective investigation into cancer in Norfolk (EPIC Norfolk) cohort study"
    Abstract:
    "The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition in Norfolk (http://www.srl.cam.ac.uk/epic/) is a prospective population based study of 25,000 men and women resident in Norfolk, United Kingdom, who were aged 39-79 years when first recruited in 1993-1997 and followed up to the present with repeated health assessments and ascertainment of health outcomes. This cohort is part of a 10 country half million participant collaboration. The overall aims of the study are to understand the lifestyle and biological determinants of health and chronic disease in the population to inform prevention and treatment strategies. This cohort is well characterised in terms of behavioural and lifestyle: (diet, physical activity, psychosocial factors), biological and metabolic profiling including blood and urine biochemistry, genetic data, environment (residential postcode) and, in subsets, imaging, including retinal photography and whole body DEXA, and subsequent health outcomes through record linkage with mortality and health records and disease registries such as cancer registries as well as objective measures of functional health including physical and cognitive performance. Current projects are to conduct metabolomic and proteonomic profiling on stored samples from the cohort to identify markers predicting future health outcomes and to understand mechanisms and trajectories of disease and health. There is substantial potential for further collaborations developing approaches using new analytic technology using the data available in the cohort, in particular the imaging data."

    The usual reminder:
    The objective of the presentations is to introduce problems/issues in search of inter-disciplinary discussions, new insights and/or collaborations. The definition of a `problem' is broad and ranges from seeking a solution to a specific mathematical equation to looking for a joint proposal.  If you would like to use this forum to tap into the broad range of excellent skills in the college and involve some of your fellow colleagues in your interesting idea or research, please send me a title (required) and an abstract (optional) for a future presentations. I am also available to help with suggestions, if necessary. 

  • Meeting 7: (Wednesday June 12, 2019, Caius College Green Room, 20:30)

    The Easter 2019 meeting of the CSN will take place at 8:30 pm on June 12 in the Green Room (note unusual location). Water, Coffee and biscuits will be provided. The two stimulating presentations are:

    Alex Routh: "Using neutrons to examine soft matter"
    Abstract:
    "Objects which are smaller than the wavelength of light cannot be seen using conventional microscopes. Other forms of radiation can be used, with x-rays being common through techniques such as x-day CT. Neutrons have a wavelength of a few nm and so are perfect for examining nano-materials. A parameter called scattering length density is the neutron analog to refractive index for light and a difference in scattering length density is required to be able to see any component. Because hydrogen and deuterium have near identical chemistries but very different scattering lengths, we can tune the scattering length by selectively deuterating materials. Neutron beams are available at national facilities. The two sources for UK users are the Rutherford lab in Oxford and the Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble. In this talk two examples of projects which involved neutrons will be shown Engine oil is often saturated with water and by using D2O we were able to track how water partitions in oil Proteins interact in solution. By selectively deuterating an intrinsically disordered protein we were able to investigate how it protects a globular protein from denaturation."

    Emilie Ringe: "Plasmonic Nanoparticles"
    Abstract:
    "Interest in nanotechnology is driven by unprecedented means to tailor physical behavior via structure and composition. Most properties, including optical, catalytic, and electronic, can be fine-tuned through choice of composition, size, and shape of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles of free-electron metals, typically gold and silver, can in fact concentrate light via a phenomenon called localized surface plasmon resonances (LSPRs). LSPRs provide an attractive platform for enhanced photon absorption and scattering (far-field effects) at their (size, shape, and composition-dependent) resonance frequency, while concurrently generating a strong electric field close to the NP’s surface (near-field effects). This talk will first discuss the fundamental science and established applications of LSPRs , including refractive index sensing and surface-enhanced spectroscopies. Then, it will address opportunities related to earth-abundant metals that provide cheap, sustainable alternatives to silver and gold. These include aluminum for UV applications and the very recently discovered nanostructured magnesium for enhanced light-matter interactions in the visible range. Together with the well-known noble metal structures, these new metals offer opportunities to harvest and manipulate light at the nanoscale to probe the world around us as well as drive chemical reactions."

  • Meeting 8: (Tuesday November 19, 2019, Bateman Auditorium, 20:30)

    Ian Henderson: "The importance of sex"
    Abstract:
    "Most plants, animals and fungi (including humans), retain the capacity for sexual reproduction. At the centre of sex is a variant of the normal cell division (mitosis) called meiosis. Meiosis divides the cells chromosomes twice, producing gametes with half the number - these cells become gametes, for example sperm and eggs. During meiosis chromosomes also undergo a tightly choreographed process of pairing and recombination. Due to these features reproduction via meiosis has a profound effect on genetic diversity and is believed to accelerate adaptation of species. We investigate the mechanisms by which meiotic recombination occurs, using plants as a model system. We are interested in why different regions of the chromosomes recombine at high frequency (hotspots), whereas other regions, including the centromeres, are coldspots. We are interested in how sequence diversity between the interacting chromosomes may feedback onto recombination. Equally we are testing the role that epigenetic information plays in shaping the recombination landscape. I will present some of our latest findings and future directions."

    Johanna Rees: "Novel proteomic methods to establish therapeutic targets and the design of effective drugs"
    Abstract:
    "Designing therapeutics for different types of diseases can be challenging unless the local environment of the target cells is known and also the downstream effects and consequences. Our lab develops novel proteomic tools to establish the protein microenvironment on the surface of cells that can inform us of downstream signalling pathways. This enables us, and drug companies, to fine-tune development of therapeutics, in particular `blocking antibodies', for the treatment of several cancers and heart conditions. We can also predict `cis interactors' especially in the context of how immune cell proteins interact and respond to cancer cell proteins. In both cases we use biotin (aka Vitamin B7) to decorate proteins followed by Mass Spectrometry for their easy identification. So far we have investigated several cancers, heart and Alzheimers diseases and this technology is proving valuable in less well understood diseases."


  • Meeting 9: (Tuesday March 10, 2020, Bateman Auditorium, 20:45)

    Tevong You: "Future colliders for particle physics"
    Abstract:
    "The discovery of the Higgs boson at the CERN laboratory's Large Hadron Collider marked a historical milestone in particle physics. What have we learnt and what comes next?"

    Michelle Ellefson: "Using Measurement Invariance to Compare Cognitive Psychology Results Across Cultures"
    Abstract:
    "I will use some of the data that I have from a study comparing children and their parents from Hong Kong and the UK on cognitive tasks to illustrate the types of statistical analyses that we’ve used to make these comparisons (namely measurement invariance). A couple of my PhD students did some analyses on this same dataset, one of whom for her thesis and is now doing a new study looking specifically at language assessments. They will contribute to the presentation."


    The usual reminder:
    The main aim of these meetings is to encourage informal inter-disciplinary discussions and collaborations within the college. The idea is to tap into the wealth, breadth and depth of knowledge and skills, which exist in the college, in order to: (i) discover new angles to approach specific problems in one’s own field and (ii) expand the horizons to the discover interesting work in other fields, which could benefit from lateral thinking. The meetings have already given rise to good collaborations. Each meeting features normally two presentations of about 20-25 minutes, in which a speaker presents work in progress, which could benefit from collaboration. There will be refreshments, including wine and cheeses, in the break between the presentations, all funded kindly by Sir Alan Fersht. The presentations are informal and questions from the floor are encouraged, as well as discussions during the breaks and after the talks.


Administrator: Rafi Blumenfeld,

Gonville & Caius College, Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1TA, UK

email address caius-science-owner@lists.cam.ac.uk