Wednesday, 8 February 2017

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The University will mark the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science this week with an inaugural lecture by renowned British geneticist Dame Professor Linda Partridge.

Professor Partridge, who is co-founder of the Max Planck Institute for Biology and a member of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London, will deliver a public lecture entitled “Ageing Healthily” at 1pm on Friday, 10 Februaryn 2017, in the Byre Theatre.

To mark the occasion, we asked some of our leading female scientists what inspires them and what advice they would give to females and young girls looking to pursue a career in science. You can join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #IntlDayofWomenGirlsinScience – please also tag @univofstandrews so we can retweet! 

Dr Sascha Hooker, Reader, School of Biology 

Sascha is a marine ecologist at the Sea Mammal Research Unit. Sascha has been involved in research into the ecology and conservation of marine mammals since 1993. She has three main areas of research: the interaction between marine mammal behaviour and the surrounding environment, the physiological mechanisms underpinning diving behavior, and the application of these to conservation planning in the ocean. She completed her undergraduate research in Zoology with Anthropology at the University of Oxford, then did her PhD research at Dalhousie University, Canada, where she studied the foraging ecology of northern bottlenose whales in eastern Canada, completing this in 1999. She held a post-doctoral fellowship at the British Antarctic Survey working on Antarctic fur seal foraging in South Georgia, and a UK Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship (2003-2010) at St Andrews working more generally on marine mammal foraging strategies. She has reduced her hours to a half-time position since 2004 when she had the first of her three children.

What was your childhood ambition? 
I grew up with the first NASA space shuttle expeditions and Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos dominated my imagination as a child. I loved the idea of being an explorer.

What inspired you to get involved in Marine Biology? 
In fact, my A-level choices were maths, chemistry and physics, and I thought I would be a chemist. It was only when I became involved in scuba diving that I realised just how amazing the ocean was. Involvement in a university conservation expedition cemented my desire to work in marine conservation. My PhD was spent looking at the ecology and conservation of a relatively unknown whale – the northern bottlenose whale.

Who are your scientific heroes? 
Sir Joseph Hooker (an eminent botanist and friend of Charles Darwin’s) was actually my great-great-grandfather, and he is a bit of a hero. He was involved in botanical expeditions all over the world and was the ‘founder of geographical botany'. Many plants and even a sea lion in New Zealand bear the name ‘hookeri’. On my way to South Georgia to work on the fur seals there, I even got to stand on ‘Hooker’s Point’ in the Falkland Islands, presumably named after him when the James Clark Ross expedition that he was part of stopped there for the winter!

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The ability to keep challenging yourself is one of the greatest parts of this job. This job is amazingly diverse: I love research and the finding out of the previously unknown, but teaching, and even our administrative duties can keep us on our toes. So we are constantly challenged in terms of new ideas, new studies, new fieldwork, learning new analysis tools, making our results available to others, teaching students and even inspiring school kids. I have become particularly interested in some of the new technologies we can use to study marine mammals – from my PhD spent trying to attach dataloggers to northern bottlenose whales, to my work looking at prototype oceanographic and digital camera tags on Antarctic fur seals.

What advice would you give to females and young girls who may be interested in pursuing a career in your field?
Go for it. Follow your passion. There are many more opportunities these days than in the past – embrace them.

Dr Tracey Gloster, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, School of Biology 
Tracey completed her undergraduate Bsc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry at the University of Warwick, and subsequently went on to undertake a PhD in biochemistry/structural biology at the University of York under the supervision of Professor Gideon Davies. Following this she spent a short period working as a postdoctoral fellow in York, before being awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust. Tracey spent the majority of this fellowship at Simon Fraser University, Canada, working under the mentorship of Professor David Vocadlo. Tracey returned to the UK in 2012 with a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship which she holds at the University of St Andrews. Tracey was awarded a Biochemical Society Early Career Research award in 2012, a L’Oreal Fellowship for Women in Science in 2013, and was elected to the Young Academy of Scotland in 2016.

 What was your childhood ambition? 
To be honest I can’t remember if I ever really had an ambition! I always liked science and maths subjects at school, and at one point wanted to be an accountant or statistician. While taking my GCSEs the love of science took hold and I knew I wanted to study the science subjects in more depth. I don’t think I ever had the ambition to specifically be a research scientist at a university, primarily because I wasn’t aware this career existed when I was younger.

What inspired you to get involved in biochemistry? 
I enjoyed both biology and chemistry subjects at GCSE and A-level, but what I found most interesting and exciting was when we learnt about the underlying chemistry in biological processes. I found understanding complex processes such as how we generate energy from the food we eat or how plants harness energy from the sun in order to sustain life fascinating, and so I decided to pursue a degree in biochemistry when I went to university.

Who are your scientific heroes? 
It has to be some of the iconic females that have been very successful in my area of science in an era when the science world was greatly dominated by males. One of these is Rosalind Franklin who played a pivotal role in discovering the structure of DNA, but unfortunately passed away before the real importance of her work was recognised, and didn’t receive a Nobel Prize alongside others for the work. Secondly, Dorothy Hodgkin, who was awarded a Nobel prize for elucidating the structure of vitamin B12. She later went on to solve the structure of insulin, which took decades of effort and was a real tour de force in protein crystallography at the time, and subsequently influenced treatments for diabetic patients. The third hero is Eleanor Dodson, who was a mentor to me during my time at the University of York and an inspirational lady. She in now in her 80s but still active in the field of crystallography. She has incredible determination and could work things out where many people had already given up.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
I think it’s the excitement of seeing a good result from a scientific experiment for the first time, and the thought that even for a few moments you’re the only person in the world that knows something. Even if it is a minor breakthrough, it gives the encouragement to do follow up experiments, and gives hope that the findings may have a real impact in the longer term.

What advice would you give to females and young girls who may be interested in pursuing a career in your field? 
Give it a go! Whether male or female you should do what you enjoy and interests you most, your gender shouldn’t matter. Work hard at school, and if possible try to get some work experience in a research laboratory so you can get a taste for what it involves.

Dr Cat Hobaiter, Lecturer, School of Psychology & Neuroscience 
Cat studies the evolution of communication and social behaviour, in particular through long-term field studies of wild chimpanzees. During her PhD she conducted the first systematic study of gestural communication in a wild ape, working in the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda with the Sonso chimpanzee community. Like humans, apes do not gesture or vocalise in isolation - their communication combines calls, gestures, facial expressions, and body postures; in order to better understand their communication and cognition Cat and her fellow researchers have integrated the study of all of these separate modalities into a single study of communication. Through this work Cat hopes not only to advance our understanding of great ape communication but also by looking at areas of overlap or species specific traits, they hope to gain an understanding of the evolutionary origins of language.
In addition to this work Cat studies the acquisition and flexibility of social behaviour. She has recently set up the habituation of a new neighbouring community at the Budongo Conservation Field Station, looking at the effect of female immigration on their behavioural repertoires.

What was your childhood ambition? 
I always loved exploration and adventure, I travelled a lot and read everything I could get my hands on from space-travel to adventures under the sea or in the Amazon.

What inspired you to get involved in field primatology? 
I’d learned about evolutionary theory in school, but it was only in my undergrad degree that I discovered we could apply evolutionary theory to how our minds developed. We can trace not just bones and fossils, but behaviour - speech, culture, tool use - back through evolutionary time! Not long after I was lucky enough to go out to the field for the first time to study baboon ecology. I got my first glimpse of how complex, subtle, and fascinating primate society was, combine that with getting to live and work in an incredible rainforest and I was hooked!

Who are your scientific heroes? 
That’s a tough one! I’m constantly in awe of the level of detail and insight shown in the early studies of wild apes by people like Jane Goodall, Toshisada Nishida, or George Schaller. I can’t count how many times I think I’ve seen something new, only to find a careful note on it in one of their books from 50 years ago! Then there are the pioneers of ape behavioural research who are still out there showing us how it’s done properly, and still excited and passionate about what they do, people like Wrangham, Mitani, and Matsuzawa. And I’ve been incredibly lucky to be supervised and mentored by Dick Byrne at St Andrews, whose work on deception, imitation, and communication has changed how we see ape cognition, and who taught me to look for the patterns in behaviour that clue us in to primate minds.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
Field work with wild apes sounds exciting and exotic, but a lot of it is waking up at 5am to walk 20km crawling through rainforest thicket, with ants in your socks and not a chimp in sight. The plus side of that is that you get to spend the day crawling through a rainforest - so there’s always something to see! And I get to watch and study wild chimpanzees living their lives - whether that’s the big exciting stuff like hunting for monkeys or fighting with the neighbours, or the subtle changes in who sits next to whom, that seem completely innocuous but that represent the first steps toward a coup-d’etatat that will topple the whole male hierarchy. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to work with the chimps in Budongo for 12 years. I’ve be able to see the little kids I met when I first came grow up to have kids of their own, it's been the most incredible privilege to study their lives unfolding. Every day is a little different, and every day I learn something new about them. I also really enjoy the data analysis - getting to tease out the patterns in the data and see the picture of the behaviour start to unfold after years of work is immensely satisfying.

What advice would you give to females and young girls who may be interested in pursuing a career in your field? 
The most important thing is to do whatever makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning (even if it’s 5am..!). If you think that might be field primatology then at some point it’s a great idea to get some experience and make sure it’s for you before you find yourself in a remote forest with a return ticket in 12months. Field-time of any kind is a big help, even if it’s not specifically primates yet, get outside somewhere and get stuck in - somewhere where you have to watch and wait, and where when nothing goes to plan you need to think up a new one. If you’re looking at universities, look for schools that have links to active field sites (St Andrews is one!), and try to do an undergrad or masters that will give you field experience. If you’re not sure you want to go down the academic route but love the idea of primate fieldwork then there are jobs as field-site managers and in conservation organisations - but they will probably still want you to have some field experience, so you might need to think about working as a volunteer or intern for a stint first.

Dr Maggie Ellis, Dementia Fellow, School of Psychology and Neuroscience 

Maggie’s research interests lie in the psychology of dementia where cognitive and social perspectives meet, with a focus on the communication difficulties experienced by people with dementia and those who care for them. Maggie is particularly interested in the interplay between the cognitive and social impact of dementia on personhood and the self of individuals with dementia.

What was your childhood ambition?
I wanted to be a journalist. One of my primary school teachers encouraged me as she thought I had a gift for story composition.

What inspired you to get involved in Psychology, and particularly dementia? 
I was aiming to get into clinical psychology and realised very quickly that I needed some volunteering work on my CV. I began volunteering for Alzheimer Scotland at their local day and evening care services and loved it so much that my whole career trajectory shifted.

Who are your scientific heroes? 
I have two main scientific heroes. Professor Tom Kitwood and Professor Steven Sabat. They both transformed the way we view dementia and those living with the condition.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
Engaging with individuals with advanced dementia who have lost the ability to speak and helping their family members and caregivers to connect with them.

What advice would you give to females and young girls who may be interested in pursuing a career in your field? 
My main piece of advice would be to volunteer for a dementia charity or day care service. This helped me immensely in terms of attaining hands-on experience and knowledge of dementia from a non-scientific perspective.

These days twitter is a great online resource for finding out more about specialist areas in science, and a fantastic way to broaden out who you can talk science with. A lot of the primate community is active on twitter, and you can find out what everyone thinks about the latest paper or hear about job and research opportunities as they come up.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Congratulations! 4 Publications Shortlisted for the BAFTSS Publications Awards

The British Association of Film and Television Studies Scholars (BAFTSS) has unveiled the nominees for its Outstanding Achievement Awards 2017. The Department of Film Studies is widely represented with four of the twenty-five nominations. Dr Tom Rice's White Robes, Silver Screens: Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan is nominated for best monograph; Prof. Dina Iordanova and Jean-Michel Frodon's Cinemas of Paris is included among the nominees for best edited collection; and two articles by postgraduate students are nominated for best publication by a doctoral student: Ana Grgic for 'Rediscovering Nationalism in the Balkans: the early moving image in contemporary memorial spaces' and Grazia Ingravalle for 'Remixing Early Cinema: Historical Explorations at the EYE Film Institute Netherlands'.
See also:  http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/filmstudies/congratulations-4-publications-shortlisted-for-the-baftss-publications-awards/

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Music Planet: What does Environment mean to YOU?


This Sunday, January 29th, at 7:00pm in Younger Hall, St Andrews, the first of a series of concerts known as Music Planet (see below) will be given by the Heisenburg Ensemble and the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) in collaboration with the Music Centre.  Music Planet has been designed to explore concepts of environment through the performing arts using music ranging from classical to well-known to new compositions, as well as improvisation to challenge audiences to think deeper about life and our planet.  The idea is to provide a platform for academics to present their research to a wide audience in non-traditional ways. 

Climate, Weather and Society: a broad programme of science from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences presented as a “sound and light” show. The Younger Hall foyer will be used to allow academics to display aspects of the research represented in the “light”. 

Tickets £12/ £10 concessions/ £5 students (accompanied children free) are available from The Byre Theatre box office 01334 475000 and at the door.

Sunday's concert will include music from Haydn, Beethoven, Holst, Greig and Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Woven into the performances will be key concepts and moments in Earth history as identified by staff in SEES. Future events of Music Planet will include opera, jazz, spoken word, film and dance with contributions by colleagues from SEES, Biology, Physics, History and Modern Languages.

Visit the MusicPlanet website for a full listing of events: http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/musicplanet/.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Workshop Series on Filmmakers at St Andrews



Abbas Kiarostami
KIAROSTAMI AT ST ANDREWS

Institute for Global Cinema and Creative Cultures,
University of St Andrews
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
School I, 17:00 – 21:00

Abbas Kiarostami, the most notable auteur of contemporary Iranian cinema who passed away in July 2015 at 76, is fondly celebrated by global cinephiles for his aesthetics, visual poetry and humanistic politics.
His films draw from history, sociology, anthropology, geopolitics, religion and philosophy. Masterpieces like Where is My Friend's House? (1987), Close-up (1990), and Through the Olive Trees (1994) – to name just a few -- are regarded worldwide as some of the most important works of cinema.
We invite you to spend an evening viewing and discussing Kiarostami work. The director’s films necessitate keen attention because of the superb dialectics between local and global. His portrayal of a concrete (Iranian) history, culture, and politics is structured in a way that expands the experteintial horizons to the universal.
It is this transformative potential of Kiarostami’s films that earned him a most notable position in the annals of cinema.
For the event, we chose to show the Palme d'or winning Taste of Cherry (1997): a philosophical masterpiece and a marvelous example of film craft.
A video essay that builds on sequences from Kiarostami’s films and other aspects of his versatile artistic legacy will also be screened.

Programme:
17:00 – 17:10 Welcome address and introduction to the “Workshop Series on Filmmakers at St Andrews” by Prof. Dina Iordanova, Director, IGCCC.
17:10 – 17:45 Professor Jean-Michel Frodon, ‘The oeuvre of Kiarostami: A Personal Tribute’
17:45 – 19:20 Screening: Taste of Cherry (1997, Iran,  Abbas Kiarostami, 95 minutes)
19:20 – 19:40 Tea Break/ Display of Shorna Pal’s video essay on Kiarostami
19:40 – 20:15 Two brief presentations by Shorna Pal (on ceating the video essay) and Sanghita Sen (on the Koker trilogy)
20:15 21:00  Discussion, moderated by Dina Iordanova and Jean-Mchel Frodon

Related recent research:
Frodon, Jean-Michel. The Kiarostami effect. Honar va cinĂ©ma n°3. Tehran. March 2016. Pp 68-75.


OUR NEW WORKSHOP SERIES
KIAROSTAMI AT ST ANDREWS is the inaugural event in a series that will see the presentation of other similar events where we will dedicate a single evening to the work of a recently deceased single personality from global cinema.
Forthcoming workshops will be dedicated to WAJDA AT ST ANDREWS (March 2017) and PURI AT ST ANDREWS (April 2017).

Conceived and curated by the Institute of Global Cinema and Creative Cultures (University of St Andrews) the series will celebrate the artistry of those whose names are synomymous with global film.
Along with film enthusiasts who like to go beyond the mainstream, we will get together to view and discuss the work of the masters whilst their charismatic presence is still fresh on our minds.
And whilst the focus will be on the films of one filmmaker, actor or other creative personality, we will invoke examples that will keep in check the context of transnational film culture, in which global cinema appears and thrives.
The workshops will be lead by Professor Dina Iordanova, alongside personalities such as Prof Jean-Michel Frodon, Prof. John Burnside, and others, and involving contributions from our wonderfully global student cohort.
The sessions will be loosely structured around screenings, short presentations, videos, provocations, and interventions. Everybody will have the chance to take part.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Inaugural Lecture: Prof. Nina Laurie, "Geographies of return, identity and development"

Professor Nina Laurie of the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, School of Geography and Geosciences, will deliver her Inaugural Lecture "Geographies of return, identity and development" in School III, St Salvator's Quadrangle on Wednesday 23 November 2016, 5.15pm. All are welcome.

Geographies of return, identity and development 

We are all ‘returnees’. Across our lifetimes we return at different moments to places, homes, communities, friendships, families, value sets and ways of being. Such movements change us. We carry into new spaces where and what has gone before. These geographical echoes help frame our understandings of where we arrive and what we feel we can do when we get there. This lecture explores how the experiences and knowledges of those who return influences the form and success of sustainable development in diverse settings. It draws on three decades of fieldwork in the global South and new research in coastal Scotland in order to emphasize the need for development policy makers to value the common experience of return. I highlight research on some of the globe’s most marginalised groups, indigenous people and women who have experienced trafficking, and examine how their experiences of return have shaped their rights based development demands. I explore how return can involve valuing traditional ways of knowing and doing, generating new collective group identities as development actors. As an example, I use this framework to introduce a new research agenda on sustainable development in Scotland through a new project ‘Rowing the Waves’ being conducted in partnership with St Andrews Coastal Rowing Club and the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association.

List of inaugural lectures for the academic year 2016-17

Monday, 7 November 2016

East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Neighbourhood Sorting

The East Sides of cities such as London, Vancouver, New York and Paris have historically been the poorest. Some, but not all, have gentrified more recently, and this gentrification has been at the centre of media attention. These observations uncover two questions. Why were these neighbourhoods poor to begin with, and why did some gentrify while others did not? Research conducted by Stephan Heblich (University of Bristol), Alex Trew of the School of Economics & Finance (University of St Andrews) and Yanos Zylberberg (University of Bristol) (http://www.spatialeconomics.ac.uk/textonly/SERC/publications/download/sercdp0208.pdf) suggests that this observation is the most visible consequence of the historically unequal distribution of air pollutants across neighborhoods. During the Industrial Revolution, many areas of Manchester, for example, were covered with layers of soot. Black stains on the pavements and buildings of areas such as Victoria Station or Ancoats in North-East Manchester remained until very recently. With the wrong weather, some areas could be submerged under dark, thick smog. This environmental disamenity made them unpleasant places to live and, in response, those who could afford moved to the neighbourhoods spared by the pollution. This sorting resulted in an unequal distribution of social classes across the city. Since the prevailing winds (The Westerlies) in London, Vancouver, New York, Paris or Manchester blow from the West to the East, the most visible component of such process ended up being the observed West-East differential in neighbourhood composition.

The authors examined nearly 5,000 industrial chimneys in 70 English cities in 1880 and use an atmospheric dispersion model to recreate the spatial distribution of pollution. The exercise was possible because of the fastidiousness of Victorian cartographers. These pioneering map-makers marked each building with landmarks such as factory chimneys. In addition, Victorian census-takers conducted detailed population studies over the nineteenth century.

There is a strong connection between the presence of air pollution and the share of low-skilled workers at the end of the nineteenth century. Such a correlation was absent before coal became the major energy source at the beginning of the century. The observed effect is substantial: the difference between being in the 10% and 90% most polluted neighbourhoods of Manchester was a difference of about 20 percentage points in the share of low-skilled workers. Most interestingly, the relationship between the presence of historic pollution and the share of low skilled workers in 2011 turns out to be quantitatively comparable to the one observed at the end of the nineteenth century. The previous result leaves one question unanswered. How could sorting caused by 1880 pollution be visible nowadays almost 100 years after the 1926 Smoke Abatement Act and 50 years after the Clean Air Acts (which quickly and considerably reduced the extent of coal-based pollution within cities)?

Available podcast:
http://www.wsj.com/podcasts/east-side-vs-west-side-a-division-of-wealth/BD78667E-602D-4FAD-A8EB-24B492E5DC1C.html