Clareity

Fruitful discussions and sharing ideas at Clare College, Cambridge

Clareity Symposium 2018 Programme

The 2018 Clare College Research Symposium will take place on 15 March in the Gillespie Conference Centre, Clare College.

Clareity Symposium
15 March, 2018

10.30 Registration opens, Gillespie Centre
11.00 Welcome by the Peter Asimov (Clareity President) and opening address by Dr Jacqueline Tasioulas (Senior Tutor), Riley Auditorium

Session A: 11.15-12:00

Chair: Dr Tamara Follini, Dean of Students

11:15 – 11:30 Catherine Olver (Education):
Beeing Oneself: Individualism in C21st Young Adult Literature
11.30 – 11.45 Johanna Schonecker (Polar Research | Geography):
There is more than our eyes can see: using satellite images to identify plant species in the Arctic tundra
11.45 – 12.00 Nick Wise (Engineering):
Can you ventilate a building for free?
12.10 – 12:50 Keynote lecture by Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser:
Thinking without a brain- Auxin and the self-organisation of plant form
12.50 – 13.30 Lunch break

Session B: 13.30-14.15

Chair: Edward Hinton, Treasurer, MCR

13.30 – 13.45 Jess Bates (Archaeology):
Learning from our past: In defence of archaeology
13.45 – 14.00 Dr Qi Guo (Public Health | Primary Care):
Body Mass Index and Breast Cancer Survival: A Mendelian Randomisation Analysis
14.00 – 14.15 Fangyue Chen (Clinical Medicine):
The development of a genotypic assay detecting drug-resistance mutations in herpes simplex virus type 2

Dilettante Society Feature: 14.15 – 14.45

Chair: Dr Timothy Chesters, University Lecturer in French Studies

14.15 – 14.45 Andrew Gurr (President, Dilettante Society):
Which Cambridge College has the Best Coat of Arms? (Via an Introduction to English Heraldry)
14.45 – 15.05 Tea Break

Session C: 15.05 – 15.50

Chair: Professor Jonathan Goodman, Academic Dean

15.05 – 15.20 Maxime Couturier (Chemistry):
Prodigiosin: from bloody polenta to enzymology
15.20 – 15.35 Nicholas Ball (Music):
Music, number, and Neoplatonism in the ninth century
15.35 – 15.50 Amarynth Sichel (Land Economy):
Planning for Equality: can changes in urban and town planning help undo racial segregation in the U.S.
15.50 – 16:30 Keynote lecture by Dr. Helena Sanson:
Knowledge across Boundaries: Women, Language(s) and Translation in Italy’s Long Eighteenth Century
16.30 – 16.55 Tea Break

Session D: 16.55 – 17.40

Chair: Dr Claire Brasted-Pike, CRA Talks Coordinator

16.55 – 17.10 Jonathan Townson (Physiology, Development, Neuroscience):
Super-resolution imaging of transcription
17.10 – 17.25 Martijn Lugten (Architecture):
Hearing by Seeing: How positive visual and auditory cues can change the perception of aircraft flyovers in urban areas
17.25 – 17.40 Elena de Wachter (English):
“Forgive my Hat”, A Study of Hats and Headwear in the Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield

Session E: 17.45 – 18.30

Chair: Peter Asimov, Clareity President

17.45 – 18.00 Dr Daniel Marcos (Oncology):
To differentiate or to divide: that is the question. An overview of this process in the paediatric cancer Neuroblastoma
18.00 – 18.15 Guinevere Poncia (History):
Gendered language in Burke’s case against Warren Hastings
18.15 – 18.30 Josie Newman (Psychiatry):
Evaluating a speech intervention for minimally verbal children with autism
18.30 Closing of the Symposium Dr Jacqueline Tasioulas, Senior Tutor, and Peter Asimov
18.45 – 19.15 Wine reception in the Garden Room 
19.30 Dinner for Speakers and Chairs

Abstracts

Session A: 11.15-12:00

Beeing Oneself: Individualism in C21st Young Adult Literature

Catherine Olver (Education)

In Pratchett’s ‘A Hat Full of Sky’ (2004), Knox’s ‘Mortal Fire’ (2013), and Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’ (2008), swarms of bees symbolically accompany each protagonist’s contemplation of herself as an ‘individual’. A fear of completely losing one’s identity appears in these novels as the threat of being engulfed by the swarm, overwhelmed. Resolution requires the heroine to recognise that her identity is not unitary; she has many selves to bring into psychological harmony. In line with the classical analogy of bees and human society, the authors also employ bees to shift the emphasis from teenage independence to adult interdependence, encouraging teens to find useful roles in society. Arguably, however, swarming bees resolve into harmonious reflections of psyche and society too easily – swarms of less familiar insects help give these questions their proper status as uncomfortable, unresolved problems.

There is more than our eyes can see: using satellite images to identify plant species in the Arctic tundra

Johanna Schonecker (Polar Research | Geography)

The ecosystems of the Arctic and subarctic regions are very fragile and highly susceptible to climatic changes. Especially the extent and composition of vegetation is continuously altered. It is not feasible to track these changes in the field, as the Arctic is vast and difficult to access. This is why we employ remote sensing to monitor vegetation in the Arctic. We have a catalogue of reflectance spectra over 300 different plants, which were collected in the field in Siberia and Sweden. Now we are trying to group them using statistical tools, so that they can be used to identify plant species from satellite images.

Can you ventilate a building for free?

Nick Wise (Engineering)

In developed nations between 20-40% of energy consumption is in buildings and around half of this is used for heating, ventilation and cooling. Most ventilation systems use fans to move air around and air conditioning to cool it, both of which are energy intensive. What if it were possible for a building to ventilate itself, without fans? My research considers the fluid dynamics of ventilation flows via theoretical and experimental methods. With a thorough understanding of the underlying fluid dynamics, including flow rates, temperature distributions and stability, we can design buildings that maintain comfortable internal environments with little or no energy use.

Thinking without a brain: Auxin and the self-organisation of plant form

Keynote — Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser

Plant and animal multicellularity evolved independently and under different constraints, due to their autotrophic vs heterotrophic lifestyles. Nonetheless the same suite of problems must be solved to allow a fertilised egg to develop into, and operate successfully as a multicellular organism with specialised parts functioning as an integrated whole. One central problem is that of long-range communication, which is essential for integration of systemic and local information. In animal systems, this typically involves central processing in the brain. In plants, which are rooted to the spot, a central processing system would be vulnerable to predation and hence long-range communication and signal integration must operate in a distributed way. My research uses the hormonal control of shoot branching in Arabidopsis to investigate plant decision making mechanisms under these constraints.

Session B: 13.30-14.15

Learning from our past: In defence of archaeology

Jess Bates (Archaeology)

Archaeology is frequently considered as the ugly and less dignified relative of history within academia. However, archaeology provides us with the unique ability to look beyond the written record and into a past that was not dictated by those wealthy enough to write things down. We can access previously unseen and unanalysed items, individuals and societies, which have the potential to rewrite our understanding of the past. My research is focused around readdressing previously established interpretations of human development through the application of archaeology alongside scientific techniques. The breadth of archaeological study will be presented through a discussion of my current projects, with the aim of highlighting how archaeology is far more than just digging and Indiana Jones.

Body Mass Index and Breast Cancer Survival: A Mendelian Randomisation Analysis

Dr Qi Guo (Public Health | Primary Care)

There is increasing evidence that elevated body mass index (BMI) is associated with reduced survival for women with breast cancer. We conducted a Mendelian randomization analysis to investigate a possible causal role of BMI in survival from breast cancer. We used individual-level data from six large breast cancer case-cohorts. We created a BMI genetic risk score based on genotypes at 94 known BMI-associated genetic variants. Association between the BMI genetic score and breast cancer survival was analysed by Cox regression for each study separately. Study-specific hazard ratios were pooled using fixed-effect meta-analysis. BMI genetic score was found to be associated with reduced breast cancer-specific survival for estrogen receptor -positive cases. We observed no association for ER-negative cases. Our findings suggest a causal effect of increased BMI on reduced breast cancer survival for ER-positive breast cancer. There is no evidence of a causal effect of higher BMI on survival for ER-negative breast cancer cases.

The development of a genotypic assay detecting drug-resistance mutations in herpes simplex virus type 2

Fangyue Chen (Clinical Medicine)

The emerging herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) antiviral resistance has been of major concern. Genotypic assay involving the identification of resistance-associated mutations in HSV-2 thymidine kinase (tk) and/or DNA polymerase (pol) genes is more rapid and less labour-intensive than the current gold standard plaque reduction assay (PRA). In this project, a robust genotypic assay using the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology is finally in development. For the sequencing assay PCR amplifying HSV-2 pol and tk genes, PCR conditions were optimised, the sensitivity and specificity of the nested PCR for HSV-2 tk and pol were determined. Finally, a comprehensive search of the existing literature was performed and a HSV-2 tk and pol drug-resistance mutation database was constructed. Each mutation was linked to a specific drug susceptibility profile. Further work will include the testing of clinical samples, notably those with drug-resistance mutations as tested phenotypically. Based on the database, an automated, searchable tool is currently in development for clinical report generation.

Which Cambridge College has the Best Coat of Arms? (Via an introduction to English Heraldry) 2

Andrew Gurr (President, Dilettante Society)

The English system of heraldry is one of the richest and most organised in the world, stretching in an unbroken tradition to the 12th century. Although heraldry and heraldic design continue to have deep cultural and historical significance today, this significance is not mirrored by a corresponding level of public understanding. This talk aims to provide a whistle-stop introduction to the historical origins of heraldry in England, the technical language of ‘blazonry’, and some basic features of heraldic design. The heraldry of Cambridge colleges provides an ideal medium in which to do this, being a diverse and proximate collection of living heraldry. Expect to come away with strong opinions, a keen eye for heraldic detail, and the ability to irritate all of your friends by obsessively correcting their use of the word ‘crest’.

Dilettante Society Feature: 14.15 – 14.45

Session C: 15.05 – 15.50

Prodigiosin: from bloody polenta to enzymology

Maxime Couturier (Chemistry)

150 years ago, Venetian pharmacist Bartolomeo Bizio was faced with reports of miracles: God was making polenta bleed! A bit sceptical, the brave pharmacist studied the polenta in question and was able to isolate a microorganism producing a bright red pigment. The story of prodigiosin could begin. Beyond its “divine” origin, this pigment has lots of biological properties: antibiotic, antifungal, antimalarial and even anticancer. Hence, understanding how bacteria make it could be the key to bioengineer libraries of analogues that then could be lead to novel medicines. Bacteria produce complex molecule just like cars are produced on assembly lines: they start with simple compounds and then add complexity by reacting them with enzymes. In the case of prodigiosin, these enzymes are known but have mainly not been characterized. My work focuses on a particular enzyme in prodigiosin biosynthesis, PigE. I am trying to determine its natural substrate (the molecule it starts with) as well as its mode of action.

Music, number, and Neoplatonism in the ninth century

Nicholas Ball (Music)

Many accounts of medieval music begin with number: intervals are measurable by certain classes of ratio, and, for the medieval world, these ratios were the proper object of musical speculation. But this claim is neither straightforward, nor was it uncontested in the ninth century. A contemporary tradition of writing about music was far more concerned with certain qualities of pitches than with their quantifiable relationship to one another. Instead of setting these traditions against one another, I should like to treat them both as responses to a shared inheritance of late-antique, Neoplatonic philosophy. My work focusses on the writing of John Scottus Eriugena, one of the foremost scholars of the ninth century. I shall trace his reading of a “critical nexus” of texts by Augustine, Boethius, and Pseudo-Dionysius to more precisely characterise the speculative tradition of musical thought in the ninth century.

Planning for Equality: can changes in urban and town planning help undo racial segregation in the U.S.

Amarynth Sichel (Land Economy)

The U.S. government’s attempts to legislate against unfair housing practices that enforce residential segregation have proved largely ineffective. This failure is due, in large part, to discriminatory practices implemented by the government itself. One such practice, endorsed initially by the federal government and pursued by local governments, is discriminatory zoning. Racial zoning that expressly forbid black people from living in areas deemed white was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1917. Discriminatory zoning has lived on, however, in the form anti-density zoning, which often serves to ban multi-family dwellings from middle class or affluent neighborhoods. This type of zoning restricts available affordable housing, preventing lower-income households from moving to higher-income neighborhoods. While a confluence of factors work to perpetuate racial divisions in the U.S., studies show that zoning may play a large role in maintaining racially segregated communities. This research project investigates whether institutional changes in zoning laws are necessary and sufficient for changing patterns of segregation in U.S. housing.

Knowledge across Boundaries: Women, Language(s) and Translation in Italy’s Long Eighteenth Century

Keynote—Dr. Helena Sanson

Against the background of Italy’s multilingual and multicultural context, this lecture investigates the role of women translators in the circulation of ideas and the dissemination of knowledge in the long Eighteenth century. Engaging in translation has at times been deemed a less threatening way for women to contribute to an otherwise hostile literary environment, a compromise between their artistic aspirations and the perils involved with authorship of imaginative literature. Research on the topic shows, however, that this understanding of the role of translation for women is limiting: far from being an ancillary activity, Italian women of letters often devoted themselves to translation as a means of expressing their scholarship, erudition, or civil engagement.

Session D: 16.55 – 17.40

Super-resolution imaging of transcription

Jonathan Townson (Physiology, Development, Neuroscience)

Genomes contain instructions required to build and maintain whole organisms encoded in the sequence of DNA base pairs. This is stored in the nucleus as chromatin that can either be closed, or open and accessible for transcribing into messenger RNA. Transcription is carried out by RNA polymerases that “read” the DNA, the textbook approach is the polymerase moves along stationary DNA, producing a transcript as it travels. However, this presents a topological problem as in order to do this the polymerase would have to move around the DNA double helix, entwining the transcript around the DNA once every 10 base pairs. An alternative model where the polymerase remains stationary as DNA rotates whilst passing through could solve the entwinement problem. Here I discuss evidence for each model and show how super-resolution imaging of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster could be used to determine the true mechanism.

Hearing by Seeing: How positive visual and auditory cues can change the perception of aircraft flyovers in urban areas

Martijn Lugten (Architecture)

Air traffic forms an important mode of transport in our modern society and is crucial for the connectivity of large urbanized areas. However, a downside of air traffic is noise emitted by aircraft during flyovers, in particular during take-off procedures. Traditionally, this problem has been mitigated by making engines and airframes more silent. Decades of research has reduced sound emissions drastically, but not resolved the problem yet. Instead of reducing noise by muting the source, sound, and particular the perception of sound, can be changed by adapting the environment around receivers. In this presentation, I will present a recent study on the influence of what we see on what we hear, and how negative auditory signals can be distorted and masked by adding other sounds around people. The results can help urban designers and planners working in areas prone to aircraft noise.

“Forgive my Hat”, A Study of Hats and Headwear in the Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield

Elena de Wachter (English)

‘Do you, too, feel an infinite delight and value in detail – not for the sake of detail but for the life in the life of it…?’ Katherine Mansfield writes in a letter to her friend S.S. Koteliansky in 1915. This paper will examine how hats are posited both as central images within Mansfield’s stories, and as a focal point for Mansfield’s exploration of character, identity, and ‘self-seeing’. Mansfield, I will argue, has been subject to a number of reductive readings, where the carelessly applied label ‘symbol’ constricts hats to mere sign-posts for bulky notions such as ‘death’ or ‘youth’. Hats, as a motif, an image, a mode of ekphrasis, a mask, a social gesture, a narrative focal point, and an object deeply entrenched in the culture of fin-de-siecle Europe, deserve more critical attention than such. In short, a paper exploring the use of hats in the short stories of Katherine Mansfield.

Session E: 18.00 – 18.45

To differentiate or to divide: that is the question. An overview of this process in the paediatric cancer Neuroblastoma

Dr Daniel Marcos (Oncology)

Cell division and differentiation are closely related events and a precise balance of both is extremely important for the correct development of the organism. Like an orchestra all the factors regulating these mechanisms should be accurately regulated in time and space. Small changes in this balance can lead to the dysregulation of the cell division/differentiation process, locking cells in an uncontrolled state of cell proliferation, promoting cancer. The objective of our work is to understand the mechanisms underlying the regulation of these processes. The protein called “Ascl1” is one of the factors that has been shown to play a key role during embryonic development. It is particularly elevated and modified in Neuroblastoma (NB), a childhood cancer arising from dysregulated neuronal cells. The use of new models to allow a complete understanding of gene changes in cancer compared to normal tissue, has led us to a deeper understanding of how these mechanisms are altered in NB.

Gendered language in Burke’s case against Warren Hastings

Guinevere Poncia (History)

My research examines the political thought of Edmund Burke. A discrete figure in the course of the Enlightenment, Burke was directly involved in the workings of government as an MP, meaning his philosophy directly relates to the political challenges facing Britain in the eighteenth century. Over several decades, Burke fixated on the issue of colonial power and its abuses, which eventually culminated in his attempt to impeach the first de facto Governor General of India, Warren Hastings. I am specifically interested in how Burke employed gendered language in this case to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and the exercise of justice.

Evaluating a speech intervention for minimally verbal children with autism

Josie Newman (Psychiatry)

The prevalence of autism is estimated at 1% of the UK child population, and approximately 30% of these children are minimally verbal. Childhood speech has been linked to social and adaptive functioning in later life, but despite this, research and interventions often neglect this ‘lower functioning’ end of the autism spectrum. I’m running the first pilot study to evaluate a newly developed intervention specifically for these minimally verbal children. It uses novel imaging methods as part of a training course to teach parents about the basic physical movements involved in articulation of speech sounds, which is an important language foundation. I will discuss my experience of this research so far, including some of the challenges involved in working with this unique group, and why this area is so important, both for the families involved and the wider scientific community.