2024-2025 Season starts on Wednesday 9th October
details will be published mid September

WhereThe Commons Community Cafe
The Minories
Location 74 High Street
Colchester, CO1UE
Second Wednesday of the Month October to May
Doors open at 6:30pm
for 7:00pm start
Contact Bob Kemp
Contact for
Prospective Speakers
John Ratford
CapacityIs limited to 55
Admission is Free by Ticket only

Previous events

8th May 2024
Imaging Life
Since inventing photography, we human beings have constantly pushed our ability to take images and movies. How has this changed modern science? In this talk, Dr Philippe Laissue, Senior Lecturer in Bioimaging from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex will look broadly at how we use imaging in science, how he continues to develop it in his research group – and how imaging can have a positive influence in your everyday life.

10th April 2024
A Grain of Hope: Rice, Water & Climate Change
Food security for our growing population is a pressing concern. Crop productivity needs to double by mid-century to meet this challenge. However, the heavy reliance of agriculture on water, consuming about 70% of global water usage, poses another significant challenge. The depletion of freshwater reserves, worsened by increasing droughts due to climate change, further emphasises the crucial role of water in sustainable agriculture. Rice is a global crop staple, feeding half of the world’s population and providing 50-80% of the daily global caloric intake. Rice is particularly inefficient in water use, with irrigated rice alone accounting for 45% of global irrigated water
In this talk, Dr. Pallavi Singh, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex will discuss their research on enhancing water use in rice, that stands at the core of ensuring the future of agriculture and global food security.

13th March 2024
What a Waste, or is it?
Along with life there is death and from death we can forward our understanding of life. A big part of life is poo and, except for a few species, all animals poo. With 150 species, there is a lot of it at Colchester Zoo!
But does poo need to be a waste?
When an animal dies can they still have a role in conservation work? In this talk we will discuss how animal remains are used to further zoology, veterinary, welfare, and conservation science, and how poo can help the environment as well as tell us more about the health of our animals. Senior Conservation Educator, Lee McAlpin from Colchester Zoo answers these questions about how nature can help us humans.

14th February 2024
Emotional Changes
via electrical stimulation of facial muscles

We smile when we are happy, and frown when we are down.

The reverse is also true, however: posing a facial expression can modulate ongoing or generate new feelings, and even change the way we perceive others. Despite the appeal of the ‘facial feedback hypothesis’, the underlying scientific evidence is mixed, partly due to methodological limitations. Dr. Sebastian Korb from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex tries to overcome these constraints, and study the role of ‘facial feedback’ by stimulating facial muscles with computer-controlled electrical impulses. By hijacking the body’s mechanism of neuronal muscle activation, we obtain superior control over which muscles are active when, for how long, and to what degree, and are able to investigate their role in felt and perceived emotion.

10th January 2024
The Importance of Sleep
and how we can shape it with auditory stimulation

The feeling of being well rested after a good night of sleep is something we all (hopefully) know and cherish. Although we lose consciousness and our body shifts into an idle state, our sleeping brain, however, is by no means inactive. Instead, it is hallmarked by a repertoire of brain oscillations, which have been linked to essential aspects such as memory consolidation or immune function. Against this backdrop, it has always been of special interest to manipulate sleep using brain stimulation techniques to understand and shape sleep-associated processes. Dr. Hong-Viet Ngo-Dehning from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will give an overview on the importance of sleep and show how his research utilizes auditory stimulation during sleep to probe and improve this crucial function.

13th December 2023
An Osteological perspective of a Roman cemetery
at the Essex County Hospital excavations

Almost 80 individuals were found at the former Essex County Hospital site in Colchester, and it is thought these burials form part of the wider Lexden Cemetery, one of several Roman cemeteries identified in Colchester.
       • Can we actually tell how someone died from their bones?
       • Does a person’s occupation show on their skelton?
       • Why did they die so young?
Megan Beale, human bone specialist for Colchester Archaeological Trust, will be discussing her most recent work on the burials at the former Hospital.  She will be diving into osteological methods used to assess the skeletons, as well as introducing how and where the Romans of Colchester buried their dead.
Megan will also be briefly discussing future work planned for the skeletons, including DNA analysis.

8th November 2023
The Secret Lives of Babies
Children are fascinating: they think the sun is alive because it moves, or they imagine that a banana can be a telephone. Children come up with extraordinary thoughts and insights when least expected. They make use of this fantastic, uniquely human tool – language, and it comes as no surprise that the internet is filled with anecdotes of children’s use of language to express their thoughts.
But these childhood milestones come relatively late, considering the extraordinary accomplishments of the preverbal baby. Babies may not yet make use of language to express their views, but they know about their surroundings, and set up expectations about how things should work. Some of these abilities arise so early in infancy that it may become difficult to imagine that they have been learnt.
Dr. Claudia Uller from Kingston University, Department of Psychology, will discuss the infant’s early cognitive capacities, which will enable us to draw a picture of preverbal development, and to consider the impact of the environment in the transition from infancy into childhood.

11th October 2023
Hope for the Good-Carbon Good Life
How storytelling helps us find hope and action to address the climate and nature crises, and to create new ways of low-carbon living. Jules Pretty OBE Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, and Director of the Centre for Public and Policy Engagement will be talking about some of the content in his two most recent books, Sea Sagas of the North and The Low-Carbon Good Life. Across the world today and throughout history, good lives are characterised by healthy food, connections to nature, being active, togetherness, personal growth, a spiritual framework and sustainable consumption. A low-carbon good life offers opportunities to live in ways that will bring greater happiness and contentment. Slower ways of living await. A global target of no more than one tonne of carbon per person would allow the poorest to consume more and everyone to find our models of low-carbon good lives. But dropping old habits is hard, and large-scale impacts will need fresh forms of public engagement and civil commitment alongside action by local and national governments

14th June 2023
What is Epigenetics? how life and environment affect our genes
We’re used to saying ‘It’s genetics’ and believing that we are who we are because of the genes we inherited from our parents. But, what if, our life experiences and environment also shape our genetics? Every cell of an organism contains its complete set of instructions to build that organism – its DNA. DNA is made up of the four bases, A,T,C and G, 3 billion of them. But how can identical twins that share the same DNA exhibit such dramatic differences in the way that they live and age? Dr. Olivia Grant from the School of Neuroscience at Kings College London will explain how cells control gene activity without changing the DNA sequence. Olivia is currently researching the genetics and epigenetics of Motor Neurone Disease.

17th May 2023
Deep, dark secrets of the Mediterranean
There is a beautiful, undiscovered ecosystem in the Aegean Sea situated between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. Too deep for diving, an expedition using an ROVs (remotely operated vehicle) went to 100m and discovered coralline reefs – living structures made of algae, which attract colourful marine life and create a key ecosystem, bursting with biodiversity.   Professor Leanne Hepburn from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex will explain that although they are one of the oldest and most complex marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean, they remain understudied and unprotected. The race is now on how to map and gain protection from trawlers which could destroy this hidden gem of the Mediterranean before we even know what is there.

19th April 2023
Brain Injury research at University of Essex
The topic of brain injuries is perhaps better understood lately thanks to improved awareness of risk of concussions in sport.  Professor Andrew Bateman from the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Essex will share some of the research they are doing to improve clinical and social care.
They are looking at a how to: –
              • improve training of social workers
              • treat aspects of paralysis
              • improve provision of rehabilitation services
              • measure recovery
He will also discuss rehabilitation as a human right and much more besides!
Professor Bateman is looking forward to sharing exciting news about work on the horizon that will directly benefit people in Colchester.

8th March 2023
Brain-Computer Interfaces for Cognitive Enhancement
Recent advances in neurotechnologies have paved the way to innovative applications that augment and enhance human cognition – e.g., perception, memory, attention, communication, decision-making – in a variety of ways and contexts, and these include Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs). BCIs have traditionally been used to convert brain signals into commands for devices such as wheelchairs or computer cursors, or to communicate, when the natural way of controlling or communicating is severely lost. However, BCI applications have in the recent years expanded to cognitive augmentation. Dr Caterina Cinel, from the Essex Brain-Computer Interface and Neural Engineering Lab at the University of Essex, will give an overview of the most recent progress in this area, including her most recent work with BCIs and decision-making.

8th February 2023
Is Net Zero a highway to climate hell?
Professor Alan Drew from the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London will share his research in sustainable energy generation and storage, and how it can help – or hinder – our efforts to combat anthropogenic (human caused) climate change. He will draw examples from his experience in international development, policy work and science and engineering, bridging the gap between the hard sciences, soft sciences, political and socioeconomic research areas, setting out the challenges we face along with the obvious flaws in current UK and international energy, industry and transport policy.

11th January 2023
Drumming up a connection:
Heath and wellbeing benefits of Rock Drumming Tuition
Dr Ruth Lowry from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex will share her ongoing research work that explores the potential psychological and social benefits of learning to play the drums. This research has primarily been with children and adolescents who have emotional, behavioural and developmental difficulties including Autism. Using acoustic and electronic rock drum kits, the researchers from the Clem Burke Drumming Project have been working with teachers, support staff and parents to deliver drumming instruction within the school day as well as home settings gathering evidence on motor skills, social wellbeing and neurological change.

14th December 2022
What does it mean to have an accent?
The way that we speak reflects who we are but also who others think we are. Dr Amanda Cole’s research found that people from Essex were judged to be 11% less intelligent on average compared to other people from the South East based on their accent. Dr Ella Jeffries’ research finds that children from Essex show a preference for their local accent. During this talk Dr Cole and Dr Jeffries from the Department of Language & Linguistics at the University of Essex will explore these findings in the context of what it means to have an accent. Dr Cole and Dr Jeffries debunk the myth of ‘I don’t really have an accent’ (spoiler alert: everyone who speaks has an accent!) and introduce the topic of accent discrimination. They address questions such as: What does it mean to have an accent? Why don’t we all speak the same? Why are some accents seen as better than others?

9th November 2022
Refresh my memory again? – The latest ageing research in Essex
During this talk, Dr Vanessa Loaiza from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will share her latest ongoing research projects concerning memory and cognition in older age. The projects all address some of the most frequently asked questions that she gets as a cognitive developmental psychologist, including how to improve memory and cognitive abilities, how to know when it’s dementia versus just a “senior moment”, and what her research really means for everyday life.

11th March 2020
The Science of Dyslexia
The last 50 years has seen the publication of thousands of research papers investigating the nature of dyslexia. As a consequence, we now have a much deeper scientific understanding of what this condition entails. In this talk, Professor Rick Hanley from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will attempt to summarise some of the most important findings to have emerged and will explain why some issues still remain controversial. The issues that he will discuss will include the role that families play, the role of genetics, the role of gender, the role of the English writing system and whether different children experience different types of reading problem.

12th February 2020
Why sperm shape matters in fertility
If you have ever seen a diagram of sperm, it probably looked like many little tadpoles. That’s mostly true – for human sperm. However, there are a wide range of weird and wonderful sperm shapes across the animal kingdom, and we are discovering the ways different sperm shapes can affect male fertility. This is also important in healthcare – about 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving, and half of that is due to issues with male fertility.
In this talk by Dr Benjamin Skinner from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex, we will review some of the variety of sperm morphologies, the methods we are using to measure shapes, and how this can impact on how well a sperm can fertilize an egg.

8th January 2020
Artificial Intelligence and Labour
In the grim darkness of the near future there is only work
Despite heavy technological progress and contrary to most predictions, the trend in working hour reduction that has been observed since the second industrial revolution has been stalled or reversed. We spend most of our waking hours working or thinking about work. In this talk Dr Spyros Samothrakis from the Institute for Analytics and Data Science at the University of Essex will explore why this took place and how new technological trends (if they go unchecked and unchallenged) have the potential to increase our working hours even more. We will also explore alternative ideas in computing and artificial intelligence that had (and still have) the potential to revolutionise the way we produce, live and cooperate.

11th December 2019
Text for your Eyes:
Text Analytics & Eyetracking

Text Analytics is the automated process that allows machines to extract and classify information from text, such as social media postings, news articles, company web pages, scientific articles and beyond. In this talk, Professor Ansgar Scherp from School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex will present selected examples of Text Analytics some of which are of high relevance for industry. Furthermore, we will see the interdisciplinary aspect of Text Analytics by investigating how the use of Eyetracking data and image processing can help in better understanding the vast amount of multimedia content that is surrounding us in our modern world.

13th November 2019
The Search for Meaning, in the Light of Death
Having spent nearly 20 years exploring the consequences of facing mortality head-on, rather than trying to escape it, Dr. Philip Cozzolino from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex has found that rejecting the reality of death is akin to denying a true part of who we are.  This can lead to inauthentic conceptions of the self and to efforts to find meaning that are based on filling an existential hole that we ourselves dug.  Individuals who deny death are seemingly caught in an endless loop of seeking meaning and feeling meaningless.  They are simultaneously moving forward in pursuit of meaning, all while looking back over their shoulder to see what they’re missing.

9th October 2019
Like a Fine Wine: The Science of Successful Ageing
Whether it’s physical frailty and disease, dementia and cognitive problems, or irritability and loneliness, we are inundated with images of doom and gloom in the golden years. Is there anything to look forward to as we grow older? In this talk, Dr Vanessa Loaiza from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will highlight the scientific research that shows the outlook of older age is not as glum as we are often led to believe. Find out more about how some aspects of life can get better with age, and learn evidence-based tips for managing those that don’t.

8th May 2019
Redefining Pain
How a concept, such as pain, is defined shapes what is thought, said and understood about it, and so directly informs how individuals and society respond to it. Jo Etherton from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex is a Physiotherapist who has worked with people experiencing complex and persistent pain ‘problems’ in a variety of settings. In this talk she takes her clinical experiences as a point of departure to explore current debate about the how pain is defined and conceptualised in modern health care while touching upon some contemporary pain research and a dash of pain history.

10th April 2019
Deciphering Food Labels
Every day, we make hundreds of decisions about food, based on information we’re told about its quantities: it could be ‘low in calories’ or have ‘20% of your energy needs’. How do we make sense of this information to judge accurately what we’re eating, and whether it is enough or too much? In this talk, Dawn Liu, Postgraduate Research Student from Department of Psychology will discuss experimental findings in how subtle changes in the language of food quantities affect the way we interpret, pay attention to, and evaluate food. Are we making rational and practical food choices, or are we irrationally biased by the way these quantities are presented? Research suggests that we are neither as smart or stupid about food as we might believe.

13th March 2019
Sport – a dress rehearsal for life!
Sport is in many ways, a dress rehearsal for life; be it receiving feedback, learning about one’s roles, responsibilities, obligations, and expectations; developing discipline, organisation, and communication; or experiencing highs and lows, victory and defeat. As a social context capable of impacting others’ rights and wellbeing, sport also represents an important setting for the development of ethical thought and action (Bandura, 1991). However, sport, as of itself may not be a teacher. Instead, sport may simply provide opportunities for teachable moments. It is how we think and act in these moments, that, over time, shape who we are.
In this talk, Dr. John Mills from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex will explore some contemporary research around sport and sports coaching, with the view of introducing and highlighting the role sport can play in developing both the person and the player.

13th February 2019
How do bacteria evade antibiotics?
The fight against antibiotic resistance has become one of the most critical global issues in the last years. Resistance is a particular issue with many bacteria, such as Salmonella, possessing a double membrane envelope which is pretty impenetrable to most antibiotic molecules. Bacteria of this type (known as Gram-negative bacteria) have evolved highly-specialised nano-machines called efflux-pumps to expel antibiotics out of the cells. Understanding the structural mechanisms of these nano-machines is crucial for our ability to block their function and for the design of novel and better antibiotic compounds.
Dr Vassiliy Bavro from the School of Biological Sciences at University of Essex, who is actively involved in antimicrobial research, will present some of his latest findings. During this session we will discuss the principal mechanisms involved in antibiotic resistance and the new approaches currently developed to combat them, with a special focus on efflux-pumps.

9th January 2019
Habits: Can’t Live With Them. Can’t Live Without Them
Professor Sheina Orbell from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will explore the scientific basis of habits. Habits are ubiquitous in daily life. It has been estimated that about fifty percent of all the activities a person undertakes in a given day might be considered habits. Habits enable us to get dressed, get to work, or make a cup of tea while thinking about something else. They also explain why we might open the fridge door and reach for the wine as soon as we arrive home, or continue to eat chocolates beyond the point of satiety.
What are habits, and how do our deliberate actions differ from our habituated actions? How do we acquire habits? Why are habits so useful and why are they so very difficult to change? This talk will consider the answers to these questions and provide some tips for harnessing the science of habit to create new habits.

12th December 2018
The Meaning & Value in our Relationships in Uncertain Times:
Has Brexit had an impact on your relationship? – Would a Spanish Flu outbreak change how you feel about your romantic partner?
Dr Veronica Lamarche from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will discuss the role relationships play in managing feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. Whether natural or man-made, the world can sometimes feel like a confusing, and dangerous place. As social creatures, most people rely on close relationships as an important source of meaning and security. But does it work this way for everyone? This talk will draw on experimental findings to explore how a world turned upside down can shift the way some people feel about their close relationships – for better or for worse.

7th November 2018
Why Data Sharing is Good!
Data science improves our world
You may find it annoying that businesses, search engines and social media platforms use what they know about you to send you advertisements. However, did you know that other information or ‘data’ about us (such as census and survey data) can benefit society? In a joint event between Café Scientifique and the Festival of Social Science, Chris Coates, from the UK Data Service at the University of Essex, will look at how researchers use social, economic and population data to gain insights into how we live which can lead to policies that change our lives for the better. When conducted responsibly, this type of research can be a way of making our voices heard, and can help to make a better and fairer society.

10th October 2018
Are we still evolving?
Dr Jordi Paps, Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Essex will consider this tantalizing question. Evolution has produced the current and past diversity of life forms on the planet, including humans. The advent of medicine and technology has changed how humans confront the challenges of the natural world, and the recent developments of genomics and genome editing have pushed further our control over nature and our own biology. Are these technologies nullifying the effect of evolution, or are Humans still evolving? We will try to answer this question and many others during this talk.

Thursday 21st June 2018 at FIRSTSITE
In conjunction with Clean Air Colchester
Around 40,000 deaths each year, in the UK, are attributable to outdoor air pollution, including over 140 in Colchester. The economic cost of outdoor air pollution is around £20 billion a year. Despite emissions from motor vehicles falling by 12% from 2012 to 2016 Britain remains in breach of European limits for nitrogen oxides in 16 cities. This talk by Professor Ian Colbeck from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, will consider ways cities around the world are tackling air pollution.
It will also address such questions as:
Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking?
Are shampoos and deodorant a bigger source of air pollution than vehicle exhausts?
Do trees really help clean the air in our cities?

9th May 2018
Free Will
Should we choose to believe in it?
What is free will? Does free will exist and if it does, do we all have it all of the time? If we don’t have it, should we pretend that we do? The answers to these questions have big implications for how we, as fundamentally social beings, understand ourselves and promote pro-social, moral behaviour. This talk by Peter Gooding from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will look at competing understandings of what free will is and evaluate its existence using current empirical evidence. We will examine research that seeks to experimentally undermine peoples’ belief in free will in order to study the impact on peoples’ moral attitudes and behaviours. This talk will draw upon experimental findings, contemporary debates and some personal opinions. These are big complex questions with few firm answers. So let’s have fun chewing it over!

11th April 2018
A Decade of Health Changes & the Impact on the NHS
Health policy for 70 years has been problematic from the start of the NHS in 1948. It quickly became very popular and the funding became a problem even then, hence the introduction of prescription charges in the early 1950’s. Since then it has been a rollercoaster, with each successive policy asking for different goals to be achieved. The change has also been more of a focus on patients and their needs, rather than the needs of the NHS and the clinicians, which is as it should be. NHS management has vacillated between clinical and bureaucratic management with few winners on either side! The Mid Staffs enquiry certainly highlighted many issues with funding and care delivery, and as a result clinical practice and health professionals’ education has and will change. Mrs Sherrie Green, Lecturer at School of Health and Social Care from the University of Essex will be presenting this talk.

14th March 2018
Beware nanoparticles!
Impact of human-made nanoparticles on coastal systems
Minute they may be, around billionth of a meter, but due to their unique properties nanoparticles are now produced in large quantities to be added to numerous consumer products such as clothing and sunscreens. And this is where the dangers may arise. These products release nanoparticles in water where they might be toxic for natural systems, especially for coasts where nanoparticles tend to accumulate. Dr Claire Passarelli, Researcher at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, will talk about the threat of nanoparticles in coastal systems which, as areas of human recreation, food and oxygen production, are vital to our health and well being. Highlighting their impact on local organisms and the functioning of coastal systems. Dr Passarelli will assess the dangers from nanoparticles to the environment and us.

14th February 2018
From Thirsty Crows to Cognitive Robots
Unlike traditional applications of robotics in industry, this talk will explore how robots are also valuable tools to understand how the brain works. While trying to make our robots act intelligently in a complex unstructured world, engineers are attempting to solve the same problem that the brain solves to make us act intelligently in similar situations! In this context, Dr Vishwanathan Mohan from the University of Essex will summarize what happens when playful experiments related to “learning, reasoning, and creativity” originally conducted on human infants, crows, chimps are re-enacted on robots. Ongoing work to deploy cognitive robots (or Cobots) in several sectors like Elderly Care, ManufacTuring and Agriculture among others will be briefly described.

10th January 2018
From the Womb to the World
How babies and children learn to understand themselves and others
We constantly feel, see and move our body, and have no doubt that is our own. But imagine not having control over your bodily movements or not being able to recognise that the face you see in front of a mirror is your own face. Without a sense of self, we would not be able to perform actions or interact with other people. Based on recent studies carried out at the Essex Babylab, you will hear about how even the first movements babies make in the womb are related to the development of infant personality. How do we develop the ability to sense that our body belongs to us? What other factors contribute to determining baby’s temperament? Join us for this presentation by Dr Maria Laura Filippetti and Dr Silvia Rigato from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex.

13th December 2017
Physical and Social Pain in the Brain
In this talk Dr Elia Valentini from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will guide us through the complexity of pain. He will move from the contemporary discussion on the definition of pain, through the theoretical and methodological considerations scientists are challenged with when studying pain, and eventually briefly outline the debate on how pain is represented in the brain. Last but not least, Dr Valentini will introduce us to the longstanding controversial debate on whether pain originating from social and psychological events is processed by the very same brain mechanisms responsible for the experience of physical pain.

8th November 2017
Super(bugs) everywhere
Invisible to the naked eye, but incredibly abundant, microorganisms are key to the welfare of our planet. They live almost everywhere on earth, they drive global processes and their species diversity is enormous, exceeding that of visible organisms many times over. Dr Etienne Low-Decarie from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex will explain how we are only just beginning to understand even basic biology for this large portion of the biosphere. In our effort to understand these organisms, we discovered that even a normal lake is host to critters that can grow in extreme conditions. We are now pushing back what were thought to be the chemical and physical limits to life. These findings require that where we look for industrially useful microorganisms and even where we look for life on other planets be thoroughly rethought.

11th October 2017
The fastest Algorithm
How difficult is it to multiply two matrices, really? A true story
Dr Vanni Noferini, Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Essex, will tell the story of how in the 1960s a young German mathematician shocked the mathematical community by discovering a revolutionary new practical method to perform a certain mathematical task (that is, a new “algorithm”). The novelty amazed the maths world, defying more than one century of prior beliefs on how things should be done. This led to a worldwide race to the fastest algorithm: a competition that is still alive and well. Dr Noferini will guide us through the fascinating story of fast matrix multiplication, sharing the most understandable mathematical details, summarizing the ideas beyond the most advanced parts, and emphasizing the human side of this tale of mathematical research.

10th May 2017
Bioinformatics – how biologist master their data
Biologists try to understand life by observing nature, and running experiments. But not all scientific research is conducted in the lab or in the field. A significant amount of biological sciences’ research is now done with computers. As a matter of fact, many biologists spend most of their time developing algorithms and software. Within the last decade, the amount of biological data generated by research has been so massive that there is more data than can be analysed at once. Thus, biologists rely on computers to make sense of all the data. This branch of biology is called Bioinformatics and it is a major area of research. Without computers, for instance, we wouldn’t have sequenced the human genome. Dr Antonio Marco, lecturer from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, will talk about the origins of Bioinformatics, and how essential this is to understand life, health and diversity.

12th April 2017
Human Communication!
How it works, and what happens when things go wrong
For most people, communicating with others – either face-to-face or via a media – is a fairly common activity. However, this does not imply that communication is easy: in fact, research suggests that the psychological processes which are involved in communication are complex, and that there are many ways in which people can fail to understand each other as they interact. Based on recent findings from experiments involving spontaneous dialogue between pairs of participants, you will learn all about human communication and how it works. You will also learn what happens when communication doesn’t work – and why this might happen more often than you think! Join us for this talk by Dr Dominique Knutsen from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex.

8th March 2017
The Healing Power of Crystals
Don’t believe the lies! Crystals truly do have some amazing healing properties… but probably not in the way that you’re thinking if chakras spring to mind. Crystallography, the science of determining the arrangements of atoms in a crystalline solid, has been working tirelessly for the past 100 years to expand our knowledge of the unseen atomic world. Starting from humble beginnings with the two-atom structure of table salt, sodium chloride, crystallography has since worked its way up to complex molecular machines collecting 29 Nobel Prize winners along the way. In this talk, Dr Sam Horrell from the University of Essex will demonstrate the true healing power of crystals through structure based drug design using X-ray crystallography.

8th February 2017
Switching off Cancer Cells!!
What structural biology and biochemistry can tell us about cancer: the study of the p90 Ribosomal protein S6 kinase protein family (RSK). Cells are like rooms with lots of switches, but we don’t know which switch turns on which light. Only by knowing which switch is connected to a light bulb, can we control the light in the room. The same happens in a cell: the switches are proteins called kinases and the light bulbs are new proteins produced in the cell. Dr Filippo Prischi, Lecturer in Biochemistry at University of Essex will discuss his work on a unique group of kinases, RSK protein family, which is a promising target for new anti-cancer drugs. By knowing how RSK works, we can understand, and eventually control, the fate of a cell. This information will be indispensable for the development of novel molecules that are able to target only the right “switch”, thus providing a treatment that can stop the continued growth of cancer cells.

11th January 2017
The Devil’s Greatest Trick:
Attitudes and Prejudice in the 21st Century
Do you really know why you say the things you do? In the past 20 years, Psychology has begun to question if we actually do. Perhaps there are attitudes that lie beneath our conscious awareness, but still have the power to shape our behaviour. What does this mean for our understanding of how attitudes and prejudice work in the mind? What does this mean for efforts to reduce racism, sexism, and other prejudices? Join us for this presentation by Dr Anthony O’Reilly of the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex and find out if we can change thoughts that we don’t know we’re having!

14th December 2016
Understanding the Brain: How Mathematics can help
The human brain is unambiguously the most complex organ and the mechanisms underlying its functioning are still unclear and not understood, despite decades of intensive research. We still do not know how information is processed, stored, or recalled; how motor commands emerge and become effective; how we experience the sensory world; how we think or feel! There are more neurons in the brain than stars in our galaxy, and we form more than one million new connections among these neurons each day. The scope of the challenge is simply awesome. Join us for this presentation by Dr Chris Antonopoulos of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Essex and find out how Maths can help unravel the mysteries of the workings of the brain!

9th November 2016
The Great Fossil Mine off the Essex Coast
The Essex coast is a great source of treasure which gives us unique clues regarding the environment and our predecessors over the past million years and more. Dr Rachel Bynoe from the Natural History Museum, London will illustrate how much we learn from ancient bones of mammoths, woolly rhinos, sabre toothed tigers and other long extinct species, trawled up by fishing nets around the British coast, especially off Clacton. Britain was once a peninsula of the European continent and there are remains of landscapes hidden under the North Sea. Come along and find out what the evidence tells us about the former residents, their environments and the remains that still exist under the sea.

12th October 2016
Mysteries of Memory in the Ageing Mind
Why do you forget some things, like where you put your glasses, but not other things, like interesting historical facts? Why is it that you can walk into a room and forget why you went there, yet at other times personal memories seem to randomly pop into mind? Why do you seem increasingly to encounter memory slips as you grow older? Is there anything that can be done to deter or even reverse those changes? Join us for this interactive and hands-on presentation by Dr Vanessa Loaiza of Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. You will learn how memory works, why it seems to not work so well with age and learn practical, research-based tips for improving your memory in your daily life.