For information about attending a Salisbury Cafe Scientifique event, see the Attending an Event section; there is also more general information in the Frequently Asked Questions section and help on making the most of this calendar in the Calendar Help section. If you fancy a night of science outside but close to Salisbury, there is also this filtered list of nearby events.

Interlaced spaces: the importance of fieldwork and presence on crop conservation histories – Daniela Sclavo (Department of History and Philosophy of Science)
Jan 24 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

History is often imagined as an endeavour full of documents, of endless aisles crowded with archives and also – although less frequently – of formal interviews. In this talk I will touch on the role of fieldwork in the history of science, basing myself on my PhD research on the conservation of chili pepper in Mexico. In particular, I will highlight the importance of implementing informal and more horizontal conversations with our actors, as in many cases formal interviews are inappropriate, extractivist, and distrustful for our interviewees (especially when working in non-western settings). Thus, I will focus on the creation of spaces for the co-construction of stories, on sensitivity and bonding, and on giving actors autonomy for the narration of their own existence, as part of the process of history-making.

My project investigates the history of chili pepper conservation in Mexico 1970s-present by analysing the imaginaries and conceptualisations of different social groups (e.g. agricultural scientists, ethnobotanists, local peoples, industry) around chile and its relations to flavour, culture, heritage and senses of belonging. As part of this, I collaborate with the project ‘Cocina Colaboratorio’, created in 2016 as a joint effort between Wageningen University and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, which seeks to improve local agro-alimentary systems by forging horizontal connections between communities, biologists, artists, chefs, anthropoligists, and historians. My research is set in Santo Domingo Tomaltepec in Oaxaca, Southern Mexico, where I work with a group of women who hold extensive local culinary knowledge.

“Book to attend in person”:

The ADHD polygenic score – Angelica Ronald, Birkbeck University of London @
Jan 24 @ 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

In this talk, I will consider how recent advances in genetic research are improving understanding of neurodevelopment. I will focus on findings from a recent systematic review of the literature on the polygenic score for ADHD. I will interrogate to what degree the polygenic score for ADHD is helping to advance knowledge in basic research. I will consider the parallels and differences between a polygenic score and other sources of information currently used in medical practice, such as family history. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats underlying the application of polygenic scores will be discussed.

Angelica Ronald is Professor of Psychology and Genetics at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, where she co-directs the Genes Environment Lifespan laboratory and the BRIDGE wet lab. She gained postdoctoral training in molecular genetics funded by an Autism Speaks fellowship and a PhD in Quantitative Genetics from King’s College London. Prior to that she received her BA from the University of Oxford in Experimental Psychology. Professor Ronald has 19 years’ experience of large-scale research with a focus on genetic and environmental causes of neurodevelopment and mental health in children and adolescence. Her research includes the first study to show high genetic overlap between autism and ADHD in childhood, and the first genome-wide association study of autistic traits. Her recent research has included large-scale meta-genome-wide association analyses of cohorts such as TEDS, ALSPAC and CATSS. She is co-I of Babytwins Study Sweden, a 5-year study of infant twins assessed on an extensive neurocognitive battery. Her research prizes include the Association for Psychological Sciences Janet Taylor Spence award and the British Psychological Society Spearman medal. Prof Ronald has >110 publications, is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and is joint editor of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, ranked top in the field of developmental psychology (ISI). She co-founded the London Genetics Network, a new hub funded by the Genetics Society involving over 30 institutions and 300 members. The network aims to increase collaboration, support for early career researchers and skill sharing in human genetic research in and around London.

Birdwatching on a cosmic scale: The avian fossil record and the origin of modern bird diversity – Daniel Field (University of Cambridge) @ Zoom
Jan 25 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Living birds are the most diverse group of terrestrial vertebrate animals, comprising nearly 11,000 extant species. They inhabit virtually every corner of the modern world, and exhibit a mind-boggling variety of forms and lifestyles. But how has this awe-inspiring diversity arisen? This talk will explore recent research into how, where, and when the spectacular diversity of living birds, their specialised features, and their extraordinary phenotypic variety have evolved. This exploration will reveal how new fossils, advanced visualisation techniques, and a wealth of new phenotypic and genomic data are providing important new insights into these longstanding evolutionary questions. Advances in all of these areas point to a key event in Earth history as having kick-started the radiation of modern birds: the extinction of the giant dinosaurs. Our research illustrates that the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event nearly wiped out birds alongside their dinosaurian brethren, but the interval immediately following this mass extinction event appears to have witnessed the extremely rapid diversification of modern birds—giving rise to the early ancestors of the major groups of birds alive today. We will seek to unravel the effects of this mass extinction on avian ecology, anatomy, and diversity, and will explore how the recent discovery of the world’s oldest modern bird fossil informs our understanding of the earliest stages of modern bird evolutionary history.

Computational Neuroscience Journal Club – Kris Jensen and Marine Schimel @ Online on Zoom
Jan 25 @ 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Please join us for our fortnightly journal club online via zoom where two presenters will jointly present a topic together. The next topic is ‘Mental simulation for prediction and inference of physical systems’ presented by Kris Jensen and Marine Schimel.

Zoom information: Meeting ID: 849 5832 1096 Passcode: 506576

Humans and other animals have an impressive capacity for inferring and predicting physical phenomena, yet it remains unclear how the brain performs these complex computations from sensory input. We will provide an overview of work which models the understanding of ‘intuitive physics’ as a combination of noisy Bayesian inference and an internal ‘physics engine’ that approximates Newtonian mechanics. We will consider both how this framework can be used to predict the evolution of physical systems, and how it allows inference of the underlying physical parameters from observations of the temporal evolution of the world.

Recommended reading:

Battaglia et al. (PNAS 2013): “Simulation as an engine of physical scene understanding”.

Hamrick et al. (Cognition 2016): “Inferring mass in complex scenes by mental simulation”.

Schwettmann et al. (eLife 2019): “Invariant representations of mass in the human brain”.

Climate and Composition Implications of a hydrogen economy – Nicola Warwick (University of Cambridge) @
Jan 25 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Hydrogen forms an important part of the UK’s plan to reach Net Zero by 2050, with potential to be used in heating, transport and power generation. A switch from fossil fuel to hydrogen has potential benefits for both climate and air quality, resulting from reductions in emissions of CO2 and other species co-emitted with CO2 including CH4, CO and NOx (depending on whether H2 is combusted). However, there are also potential disbenefits arising from H2 leakage occurring during its production, transport and storage. Increases in H2 emissions could lead to an increase in the lifetime of methane, an important greenhouse gas, and changes in stratospheric composition that could influence stratospheric ozone recovery. The possible impact of H2 leakage and estimated changes to CH4, CO and NOx emissions in a global hydrogen economy is explored using a combination of box modelling and simulations using a chemistry-climate model. We also derive a new GWP for H2, which is first to include the impact of changes in stratospheric composition.

SUSY wanted – dead or alive – Melissa van Beekveld (University of Oxford) @ Ryle Seminar Room
Jan 25 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Due to the null-results at the LHC in the search for supersymmetry (SUSY), there is a growing belief that the concept of SUSY is just another failed theory. In this talk, we will examine where this belief comes from. We will take a careful look at the fine-tuning problem, and see that the story is a lot more nuanced than often suggested. If time allows, we will also discuss the dark side of SUSY.

Black eugenics and the politics of reproduction – Ayah Nuriddin (Princeton University) @ Zoom
Jan 25 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

During the early twentieth century, African Americans of varying social strata began to embrace the racial possibilities of eugenics. In response to a prevalent narrative of black victimization in the historiography of eugenics, I argue that they mobilized what I call black eugenics, which I define as a hereditarian approach to racial uplift that emphasized social reform, public health, and reproductive control as strategies of biological racial improvement.

Black eugenics emerged from a longer tradition of black political organizing for racial equality and the beginnings of black engagement with medicine and science as a result of greater educational opportunities after Reconstruction. Black eugenics allowed African Americans to challenge assumptions about the inferiority of black bodies. They used targeted reproduction and public health programs in response to the medical problems that were used to justify racial discrimination. Using African American newspapers, medical journals, and archival material, this talk will show the ways in which that African Americans respond to, reinterpret, and critique the scientific racism embedded within the eugenics movement as part of a larger discourse of black eugenics.

“Register for this seminar”:

Quantifying and reducing uncertainty in projections of sea level rise from ice sheets – Isabel Nias, University of Liverpool
Jan 26 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Abstract not available

The origin of enantioselectivity in photochemical reactions with diarylprolinol silyl ether catalysts – Ching Ching Lam, University of Cambridge @ via zoom
Jan 26 @ 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Diarylprolinol silyl ethers are important organocatalysts that enable stereoselective functionalisation at positions neighbouring the carbonyl group. However, applications of the catalysts in photochemical pathways have not yet been widely explored. Here, the stereoselective photochemical synthesis reaction of 1,4-dicarbonyls with diarylprolinol silyl ether catalysts was studied with force field and density functional theory calculations. A procedure has been developed for investigations of large and flexible chemical systems based on the conformation labelling system, ONIOM calculations and Python scripting. The procedure allows efficient and effective use of computational resources and tackles the challenges in processing outputs from conformational searching calculations.

We explain the enantioselectivity from the perspective of conformational changes and structural deformations based on the radical addition step of the reactions. The iminium in the most stable SR transition state (TS) takes up the conformation of the most stable ground state iminium (EE). The iminium diene in the SS TS adopts an EZ conformation to avoid potential structural deformations due to radical attacks from the more sterically hindered position. For systems with simpler catalysts, the iminium is EE for both, as the steric hindrance imposed by the substituent is not sufficient to cause this large structural deformation, and so the reaction shows poor enantioselectivity.

Realistic simulations of IR spectra using path-integrals: quasicentroid molecular dynamics – Christopher Haggard, University of Cambridge @ via zoom
Jan 26 @ 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Path-integral based methods combine quantum statistics with classical dynamics to offer a computationally feasible way of introducing nuclear quantum effects into molecular dynamics simulations. A variety of path-integral methods are available, but many are known to perform poorly when estimating certain quantities. A key problem is the introduction of an artificial frequency shift when calculating infrared spectra. Quasicentroid molecular dynamics (QCMD) is a new path-integral method that circumvents this issue giving both accurate lineshapes and frequencies. This talk will introduce the family of path-integral methods and go into detail of the specifics of QCMD. We will then present results on the extension of QCMD to polyatomic species, using ammonia as a testing ground, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the method.

Clinical Treatment and Cancer Stem Cell Biology in Malignant Glioma – Dr Harry Bulstrode, Neurosurgeon and Post Doctoral Clinical Fellow at The Francis Crick Institute
Jan 27 @ 9:30 am – 10:30 am

Abstract not available

"Targeting axon transport to support axon regeneration in the adult CNS” – Dr Richard Eva, University of Cambridge @ Zoom (link will be given in Abstract)
Jan 27 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 818 3814 0019
Passcode: 998846

The phenotypic expression of neuropsychiatric copy number variants – Dr Kimberley Kendall, Cardiff University @ Webinar (via Zoom online)
Jan 27 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Large, rare copy number variants (CNVs) are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder. However, it is possible to carry one of these CNVs and to be less severely affected, perhaps even to appear unaffected. There is a lack of evidence on the phenotypic effects of neurodevelopmental CNVs in this group. I will be presenting work on the effects of neurodevelopmental CNVs in cognitive and psychiatric domains in individuals without overt neurodevelopmental disorders. I’ll also be speaking about returning CNV results to research participants and future directions for translation.

Dr Kimberley Kendall, (BSc Hons MBBCh MRCPsych PhD) is
an academic and general adult psychiatry trainee from South Wales. She studied medical genetics and medicine at Cardiff University, and later completed her PhD on neurodevelopmental copy number variants at the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff. Dr Kendall’s clinical work is currently in rehabilitation psychiatry and assertive outreach, and work mostly with individuals with psychotic disorders. Her research interests are in how we can use psychiatric genetic findings to improve patient care. For more information on Dr Kendall, please visit:

The neural correlates of ongoing conscious thought – Jonathan Smallwood (Queen’s University) @ Zoom
Jan 27 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Abstract not available

Title to be confirmed – Flore Kunst, MPL Erlangen @ Details of video conferencing will be distributed nearer the time.
Jan 27 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Abstract not available

Exhibiting imperial entanglements in science museums – Eleanor S. Armstrong (Stockholm University / University of Delaware) @ Zoom
Jan 27 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

This talk contextualises the Whipple Museum’s ‘Astronomy and Empire’ exhibition (opened in 2017) against other UK exhibitions on the development of physical sciences in global contexts. I unpack the presentation, pedagogies, and possibilities in exhibitions and galleries on histories of physical sciences in UK museums. Postcolonial STS theorists Pollock & Subramaniam (2016) argue all western sciences ‘were an intimate and inextricable part of the colonial machinery’ – and could be considered ‘sciences of empire’. If so, how do museums – if they do at all – teach publics about these entanglements, especially of the physical sciences, in their displays?

“Book to attend in person”:

Decarbonising Road Freight – Prof David Cebon CUED @ Department of Engineering
Jan 28 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Abstract not available

Ekta Chaubey – Scattering amplitudes with masses – Ekta Chaubey @ Potter Room (B1.19)
Jan 28 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

*The seminar will take place in hybrid format in the Potter Room at DAMPT and via Zoom “here”:*

Abstract: In this talk, I will highlight the latest developments in computing
scattering amplitudes with massive contributions. The contributing Feynman
integrals often lead us to special class of functions, for example
functions associated with elliptic curves. With the presence of more
scales in the amplitudes, it becomes further imperative to have a better
understanding of the contributing Feynman integrals which will be the
focus of my talk. I will also discuss the current cutting-edge
technologies that we can employ to compute scattering amplitudes with

What drugs do to our bugs – Dr Kiran Patil, MRC Toxicology Unit, Cambridge @
Jan 28 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Abstract not available

Reading Scenes: A Hierarchical View on Attentional Guidance in Real-World Environments – Melissa Le-Hoa Võ (Scene Grammar Lab, Goethe University Frankfurt) @ Zoom meeting
Jan 28 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

The sources that guide attention are manifold and interact in complex ways. Internal goals, task rules, or salient external stimuli have shown to be some of the strongholds of attentional control. But what guides attention in complex, real-world environments? I have been arguing for a while now that attention during scene viewing is mainly controlled by generic scene knowledge regarding the meaningful composition of objects that make up a scene (a.k.a. scene grammar). Contrary to arbitrary target objects placed in random arrays of distractors, objects in naturalistic scenes are placed in a very rule-governed manner. That is, different types of scene priors — i.e. expectations regarding what objects (scene semantics) are supposed to be where (scene syntax) within a scene — strongly guide attention. Violating such semantic and syntactic scene priors results in differential ERP responses similar to the ones observed in sentence processing and might suggest some commonality in the mechanisms for processing meaning and structure across a wide variety of cognitive tasks. In this talk, I will highlight some recent projects from my lab in which we have tried to shed more light on the hierarchical nature of scene grammar. In particular, a certain type of objects, which we have started to call “anchor objects”, seems to play a crucial role during visual search, object perception and memory in naturalistic environments.

What’s in a name? William Jones, ‘philological empiricism’ and botanical knowledge making in 18th-century India – Minakshi Menon (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science) @ Zoom
Jan 31 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

‘What is _Indian_ Spikenard?’, asked the 18th-century orientalist Sir William Jones in a famous paper, published in _Asiatick Researches_, Volume II (1790). The question serves here as a point of entry into Jones’s method for creating culturally specific plant descriptions to help locate Indian plants in their Indian milieu.

This paper discusses Jones’s philological method for identifying the _jaṭāmāṁsī_ of the Sanskrit verse lexicon, the _Amarakośa_, and _materia medica_ texts, a flowering plant with important medicinal properties, as the ‘Spikenard of the Ancients’. Philology, for Jones, was of a piece with language study and ethnology, and undergirded by observational practices based on trained seeing, marking a continuity between his philological and botanical knowledge making. The paper follows Jones through his textual and ‘ethnographic’ explorations, as he creates both a Linnaean plant-object – _Valeriana jatamansi_ Jones – and a mode of plant description that encoded the ‘native’ experience associated with a much-desired therapeutic commodity. The result was a botanical identification that forced the _jaṭāmāṁsī_ to travel across epistemologies and manifest itself as an object of colonial natural history. In the words of the medic and botanist William Roxburgh, whose research on the spikenard is also discussed here, Jones’s method achieved what ‘mere botany’ with its focus on the technical arrangement of plants, could not do.

The importance of early diagnosis for improving social communication in children with ASD – Ilan Dinstein, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev @
Jan 31 @ 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

One of our goals at the Azrielli national centre for autism and neurodevelopment research is to assess the longitudinal development of children with autism as they receive currently available treatments and interventions in the Israeli healthcare and education systems. As part of this large project, we recently published a paper demonstrating large differences in the development of social communication abilities across children diagnosed at different ages. Specifically, children diagnosed before the 2.5 years of age improved 3 times more on ADOS social affect scores in comparison to children diagnosis after this age. In the talk I will mostly discuss the results of this study and briefly cover two other studies comparing the development of children with ASD placed in mainstream versus special education settings.

Impacts and mitigation of anthropogenic noise – Sophie Nedelec (University of Exeter) @ Zoom
Feb 1 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Sound is relatively important for fish because it propagates far in comparison with light, and independently of currents in contrast to chemical cues, underwater. Therefore underwater sound is rich in information about the properties and inhabitants of the surroundings. Many aquatic animals use acoustic cues for communication, orientation and habitat selection, but this makes them vulnerable to underwater noise pollution. Anthropogenic noise is a pollutant of international concern, with mounting evidence of impacts on animal behaviour and physiology that are pervasive across taxa, ecosystems and the world. Recent work shows that underwater noise affects all stages of the life cycles of coral reef fishes that inhabit fragile coral reef habitats. Stressed and badly behaved fishes are pushed to their limits, with impacts on offspring survival. But the tide could turn on noise pollution. My team and I experimentally tested the hypothesis that protecting vulnerable habitats from noise pollution can improve animal reproductive success. Using a season-long field manipulation with an established model system on the Great Barrier Reef, the spiny chromis, we demonstrated that limiting motorboat activity on reefs leads to the survival of more fish offspring compared to reefs experiencing busy motorboat traffic. A complementary laboratory experiment isolated the importance of noise and, in combination with the field study, showed that the enhanced reproductive success on protected reefs is likely due to improvements in parental care and offspring growth. Noise mitigation and abatement offer simple wins in protecting coral reefs from human impacts, and present a valuable opportunity for enhancing ecosystem resilience.

Dr Mirjana Bozic – Title TBC – Dr Mirjana Bozic, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge @ Register on Zoom
Feb 1 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

*Theme: Social Brains and Communication*

Register in advance for this seminar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

TBC – Ryan Moodie (Durham University) @ Ryle Seminar Room
Feb 1 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Abstract not available

Contagion and the politics of maritime quarantine during the Marseille plague (1720) – Philippa Hellawell (National Archives, UK) @ Arts School Lecture Theatre A
Feb 1 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Abstract not available

Learned Compression – Gergely Flamich (University of Cambridge)
Feb 2 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Abstract not available

Exploring the vortex melting transition in cuprate superconductor YBCO – Alexander Hickey
Feb 2 @ 11:15 am – 12:30 pm

Vortex dynamics are key to the superconducting transition at low temperatures and high fields that outlines the zero resistance state. The onset of this transition is a function of temperature, magnetic field, chemical doping, applied current, as well as being dependant on sample quality. This talk will look into the contribution from these various factors in an attempt to understand the underlying behaviour of this fragile superconducting state.

Variational calculations of monoatomic endofullerenes – Kripa Panchagnula, University of Cambridge @ via zoom
Feb 2 @ 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Endohedral fullerenes are an example of non-bonded complexes whose properties are dominated by strong quantum effects. Following the work of Bacanu et al., and Bacic and Mandziuk, He@C60 and Ne@C70 were studied. These systems exhibit quantisation of translational energies due to particle in a box type effects, and symmetry breaking lifting the degeneracy of energy levels. The energies, wavefunctions and spectra calculated very closely match the previously seen results.
For He@C60 the potential was assumed to be radially symmetric and constructed from R2, R4 and R6 terms. This was then used to construct the Hamiltonian matrix in the finite basis representation which was diagonalised to calculate the translational and rotational energy levels with fundamental frequencies of 217.9 cm^-1 and 96.7 cm^-1 respectively. These were used to plot two low temperature predicted rotational infrared spectra which closely matched the experimental spectra. The wavefunctions show a strong resemblance to hydrogenic atomic orbitals because of the imposed spherical symmetry.
For Ne@C70, the spherical symmetry was broken by elongation of the fullerene along the now unique z axis. The potential was taken to be a pairwise Lennard-Jones summation over atoms which could be modelled as a one dimensional anharmonic oscillator along the z direction, and a two dimensional isotropic anharmonic oscillator in the xy plane. The Hamiltonian matrix was constructed in the discrete variable representation and its eigenvalues calculated. The presence of an
anisotropic direction lifted the (2l +1)-fold degeneracies into only singly and doubly degenerate states indexed by the angular momentum quantum number for the two-dimensional oscillator. The fundamental frequencies for the z and xy planes were found to be 9.92 cm^-1 and 54.73 cm^-1 respectively. While the wavefunctions do not have an intuitive analogue as for He@C60, they show a very simple and regular structure linked with the quantum number assignments.

Energy Landscape of Hybrid Restraint Functions Based on NMR Data – Yifei Wang, University of Cambridge @ Zoom
Feb 2 @ 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm

NMR measurements provide various observables (e.g. chemical shifts, dipolar coupling, and bond orientation), from which the protein structures may be predicted. Calculating these observables as a function of molecular geometry, combined with an appropriately weighted atomistic empirical force field will give hybrid potentials. Sampling of such potentials will give conformations that are compatible with the experiments. The efficiency of structure prediction will thus be enhanced by excluding incompatible configuration space. Hybrid potentials are also capable of correcting systematic errors introduced by the underlying empirical force field. The application involves protein E of SARS-CoV-2, sarcolipin, and phospholamban.