Science in the Pub

Thursday 13th October 2022 7:30PM – 9:00PM
Location/Venue: Blue Ball Inn Sidford EX10 9QL

Short lively talks with Piotr Slowinski, Jana Soenksen, Carolina Coelho from the University of Exeter and Richard Wingate from Kings College London.

Enjoy a drink whilst listening to up to the minute research. Why not book a meal before the event?

Piotr Slowinski, University Of Exeter is a researcher at Wellcome Trust funded Translational Research Exchange @ Exeter (TREE) where he is using mathematics to build new healthcare technologies. He is interested in understanding how our behaviour and health are affected by time delays in the nervous system, for example, how reaction times or eye-hand coordination affect our decision-making and daily interactions with people. To investigate these questions, Piotr developing mathematical models and new data analysis methods. His ambition is to use mathematics to bring a step-change in the diagnosis and management of neurological and mental disorders.

Something in the way you move: movement, technology and future healthcare Movements are an important part of our behaviour. They are controlled by our minds. Some movements are as simple as moving a finger to scroll through a mobile phone display. Others, like gestures and nods, are essential for daily interactions with other people. Moving ‘in sync’ makes it easier to communicate and predict the actions of other people. Mental illness (for example, psychosis) changes the way we move. I will explain how new technology (for example augmented or virtual reality) can be used to measure minute changes in movement, how I use data analysis and mathematical models to find patterns in the recordings of movement, and how such patterns could be used to help diagnose mental illness.

Jana Soenksen has a background in genetics and biomedical sciences and has just started the third year of her PhD which is about trying to find new genes involved in type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes affects about 6% of the UK’s population. Among the contributing factors are poor diet, lack of exercise and genetic differences in our DNA. These small variations in the DNA mean some people are born with higher chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Jana will talk about how we can use fruit flies to study some of the affected genes to try and understand how they work. While fruit flies might seem very different from humans (and they are) there are enough similarities to enable us to use them to help understand how some genes may be putting people at risk of diabetes.

Carolina Coelho will talk about understanding how the immune system prevents disease when facing a deadly fungus. Every year, approximately 200,000 people die from brain infections caused by the human pathogenic fungus, Cryptococcus neoformans, due to a defect in their immune system (HIV/AIDS patients). To understand what is at the basis of this susceptibility, I use several microscopy imaging, and lately I’ve been partnering with mathematicians and bioinformaticians to help me understand ever-growing datasets. I hope that this research will help us to devise better strategies to treat deadly cryptococcal infections. More broadly, because these insights will be applicable to other diseases, this research will also greatly increase our understanding of how immune cells function.

Richard Wingate will talk about  Raising the roof: Victorian engineering and the embryonic zebrafish  Where do structural engineers and biologists find common ground? The role of mechanical forces in shaping the growth of the embryo has become an exciting area of research, but measuring the forces involved at a microscopic level present an enormous challenge. As an engineer and biologist collaboration, we are exploring whether the technique invented by James Clark Maxwell in the 1800’s that underlies the engineering of the roof of the atrium of British Museum can model the growing zebrafish brain.