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Café Scientifique

Past events

This page lists recent Café Scientifique events.

Date 23 February 2011
Title Understanding psychosis
Speaker Tony Morrison

Many people have unusual experiences and beliefs, such as hearing voices, seeing visions or believing that others are trying to harm or control them or put thoughts into their head. Some people are troubled by such experiences; others are not. Can we understand why these experiences occur, why they are associated with distress and disability for some and not others and how talking therapies can be used to reduce distress and improve quality of life in those who are troubled by them?

Date 30 March 2011
Title Food miles
Speaker Conor Walsh

When you buy a product that wasn't produced in the UK, it was very likely to have been grown some distance away. While measures are being put in place to make transport more efficient, changing the way we consume may be the only means to drastically reduce emissions. How can the issue be raised and communicated?

Date 27 April 2011
Title How many friends can you have?
Speaker Robin Dunbar

The Internet and Facebook were sold to us on the grounds that they provided a way of widening our social circle. Has it turned out to be so? Robin Dunbar suggests that in fact, the number of friends you can have is strictly limited. Facebook might be able to help you keep track of your old friends, but it wont allow you to have more.

Date 25 May 2011
Title Science and ethics of stem cell research
Speaker Prof. Sue Kimber

Alternate venue: Anthony Burgess Foundation, 3 Cambridge St. M1 5BY

Featuring unique hand-drawn animations and interviews with leading stem cell scientists, the film Stem cells: Vision of the Future charts the history and scientific evolution of stem cell research – from the earliest experiments that first revealed stem cells in the body, to leading current scientific and clinical developments. Why, and how, are stem cells central to the body's growth, routine maintenance, and repair? Stem cells themselves vitally changed our understanding of the human body. After the film we will talk about a recent breakthrough, which revealed that adult human stem cells can be induced to give rise to any fetal or adult cell type.

If you are planning to come, please register (free) to give us a sense of numbers (useful given the alternative venue).

Note - registration is not mandatory - last-minute attendees welcome.


Discover the history, evolution and
'real science' of stem cell research.

Date 29 June 2011
Title Fossils in Amber
Speaker Dr David Penney

Amber provides the most diverse and best fossil record of insects, providing us with a glimpse into long extinct tropical forests. Advances in digital imaging and photomicroscopy have extended the known ranges of many living groups back to the time of the dinosaurs. This talk explores the exceptional preservation and diversity of fossils in amber and how they may help us predict current global change.

Date 27 July 2011
Title Matter Between Stars
Speaker Dr Paul Ruffle

Astronomers don't just look at stars and galaxies. In fact, a great deal of astrophysical research is devoted to examining the processes that take place in the space between the stars, known as the interstellar medium (ISM). The different processes that take place in the ISM give us clues as to how stars are born, live their lives and finally die. In this talk I will discuss how astronomers use radio telescopes to detect the various types of emission produced in the ISM, and how the very faint signals from these astronomical sources are processed and then analysed to reveal the physics and chemistry of the ISM.

Date 28 September 2011
Title I feel your pain: do humans and animals suffer similarly?
Speaker Dr Stuart Derbyshire and Professor Anthony Jones

Dr Stuart Derbyshire and Professor Anthony Jones will try to untangle the uniqueness and commonality of pain and suffering for humans and animals. Some say that pain is not merely incompatible with the biology of animals, pain is incompatible with the cognitive and emotional development of animals. There is, however, a perhaps understandable disquiet in denying animals any form of pain or suffering. It is difficult to reject the idea that an animal writhing in apparent pain is not in actual pain. The suggestion of animal pain assumes an important level of equivalence between the psychological experience and biological development of animals and humans. These speakers will assess these assumptions critically.  

This event is part of Manchester Science Festival; a programme of over 150 events, shows, debates, installations and more across Greater Manchester from 22 – 30 October 2011.



Date 26 October 2011
Title Genetics of human intelligence
Speaker Dr. Antony Payton

The presentation will discuss the history and findings in the field of intelligence genetic research. Also to be discussed will be the current work of the speaker including the current results of an ongoing £1.3 million project to find genes associated with intelligence and cognitive decline in the elderly. The controversies of intelligence genetic research will be weighed against the potential benefits that a better understanding of our cognitive abilities may bring.

This event is part of Manchester Science Festival; a programme of over 150 events, shows, debates, installations and more across Greater Manchester from 22 – 30 October 2011.

Date 30 November 2011
Title How much preparation? Ahead of time? Just in time? Just too late? A talk on modern computer architecture.
Speaker Alasdair Rawsthorne

Alasdair Rawsthorne explains:

"I'm going to illustrate some of the current trends in computer architecture by talking about recipe books, industrial baking, and celebrity chefs.  It looks to me that the cosy arrangements between recipe-writers and bakers are beginning to break down - and that we're all going to have to get used to more improvisation in the kitchen, so that our computers can continue to get faster, cheaper, and cooler.  Needless to say, the University of Manchester is in the forefront of this research, and will be looking  to influence computer systems design for the 7th straight decade."

Date 29 February 2012
Title Thunderstorms
Speaker Dr. Clive Saunders

We are all fascinated by lightning, but how is it produced? Franklin, in his risky kite experiment, noted that thunder clouds are mainly charged negatively, but are sometimes charged positively. Research in our cloud chambers in the Centre for Atmospheric Science, Manchester has shown that collisions between ice particles ( ice crystals and hail stones) can separate enough electric charge to account for the observed electrification. Flights through thunderstorms with instrumented aircraft have identified the charge development locations and confirm them to be in regions where ice particles exist. How the electric charges are separated is an ongoing research area and involves an understanding of the physics of the surfaces of water and ice. The research leads to a better understanding of thunderstorms and to improved awareness of the hazards of lightning. 

Feb 2012   

Date 25 January 2012
Title I (dis)like the way you speak: accents in everyday life
Speaker Dr. Patti Adank



The United Kingdom has many regional accents, from Cockney spoken in London to Geordie in Newcastle, to Scottish accent such as Glaswegian. In addition, many inhabitants of the UK speak English with a foreign accent (including myself). Interestingly, someone else's accent can influence the way you feel towards them. You may think they sound educated, smart, or successful. There has been a rich research tradition from the 1970's onwards in which these language attitudes
are studied. Recently, the research has focused on the role of vocal imitation in this process. When conversing with someone else, we often find ourselves starting to adopt the other's style of speech including their accent. Why do we do this and how does this behaviour relate to our attitudes about the speaker's accent?

Date 11 March 2012
Title Treasure Hunt
Speaker Dominique Tessier

Join us on a treasure hunt following at the footsteps of Dalton, the Mancunian father of atmospheric science. 

Please click on the link for more details:Treasure Hunt  

Date 28 March 2012
Title Are we living in a simulation?
Speaker Prof. Patrick Gaydecki

  The computers we have available today are faster and store more information than ever before. But if you take comfort in the thought that computers are stupid, mere ‘calculation machines’, just wait a few years. Computers keep evolving, and their evolution is far faster than that of the human race. In fact, within less than 300 years every last detail of the human brain - down to the atom level and even down to sub-atomic particles - could be simulated by a computer. In preparation for this not too distant future, my group is developing systems that are capable of simulating, in real time, the performance of violins and other man-made devices, with exquisite precision, using processors the size of a finger nail. But let’s take this one step forward and entertain the notion that the entire universe is akin to a computer, which simulates everything we see around us. In this talk I will challenge everyday concepts of reality and try to persuade you that you are living in a giant simulation. The number that is you  

Date 25 April 2012
Title The Quantum Universe
Speaker Jeff Forshaw

Jeff will talk about his latest book, `The Quantum Universe', which he co-authored with Brian Cox. He will introduce the key ideas in quantum physics and emphasise the importance of quantum physics in everyday life.

Date 30 May 2012
Title A Viking boat re-surfaces!
Speaker Hannah Cobb

Viking boat burials in the UK are very rare indeed and almost all are found on the islands around Scotland's north and west coasts. However in summer 2011 the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project found the first intact boat burial on the UK mainland, in a remote and very beautiful part of western Scotland. In this talk I will outline our findings of this 1000 year old boat and discuss their significance. What can this tell us about the Vikings in Britain? What did they believe about life and death? And why did they choose this remote location on the Ardnamurchan peninsula?


credit: Dan Addisson

Date 27 June 2012
Title The effects of early life stress
Speaker Christopher Murgatroyd

  Early life stress, such as childhood abuse and neglect significantly increase the risk for developing depression later in life. The brain during early life is moulded by the environment to shape stress-responses during adulthood. Epigenetic mechanisms can modify the activity of genes without changing the order of their DNA sequence. This could explain how early life experiences can leave indelible chemical marks on the brain and influence both physical and mental health later in life even when the initial trigger is long gone. I will discuss clinical and animal studies that have investigated how adversity shapes stress systems to sustain the effects of early life experiences.


Date 25 July 2012
Title Unexpected Science in a Pencil Trace
Speaker Aravind Vijayaraghavan

Graphene is the world's first 2-dimensional material, and was made in Manchester for the very first time in 2004, by Prof. Andre Geim and Prof. Kostya Novoselov. They were of course awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010, and Knighthoods in the 2012 New Year's Honours. So what is it about Graphene that won them the Nobel prize, and has generated worldwide excitement and investment into research? I will briefly tell you about the history of graphene, explain what graphene looks like with some models and describe some of the properties and applications of graphene. I will also introduce you to some games and apps which we have developed which will hopefully both entertain and educate people using the science behind graphene. Finally, I will show each of you how you can make your own graphene using nothing by some pencil lead and Cellotape, just like the Nobel laureates did.


Date 26 September 2012
Title Can positive parenting be learned?
Speaker Professor Rachel Calam

Professor Rachel Calam leads the Parenting and Family Research Group at the University of Manchester.  The group works in collaboration with the Triple P Positive Parenting Program group at the University of Queensland, Australia, on research into new ways of helping support parents in their parenting role. The group have worked on a wide range of different ways of offering parenting skills advice to parents using different approaches; through TV programmes, online, and in large groups. We have worked with parents in a wide range of circumstances, for example, parents with a child with chronic illness or families with a parent with bipolar disorder. We are also extending our work internationally to look at introducing parenting programmes into low and middle income countries, with new research in Panama, and looking at different cultures, including parenting in Arab families.

Date 31 October 2012
Title 3-D TV and beyond!
Speaker Professor Helen Gleeson

These days, almost all TV sets, mobile phones and lap top computers use liquid crystals in their flat displays. However, we are continuously looking for new areas in which liquid crystals can revolutionise technology and hence our life style.  I will talk a little bit about how we are moving towards true 3-D TV sets. However, I hope to surprise people by concentrating most of the discussion on the wide range of new areas in which liquid crystals might impact, including making new sensors to cut down global food waste, using them to help us to understand some vision processes, and how they can even act as artificial muscle and light-driven micro-motors.



Date 28 November 2012
Title The ticking and tocking of your body clock
Speaker Professor Hugh Piggins

The rotation of the earth on its axis creates daily variation in several parameters including temperature, humidity, and daylight.  To adapt and to anticipate such recurring conditions, intrinsic circadian or near 24h biological clocks have evolved in virtually all life forms.  In mammals including humans, the master circadian clock is in the brain, although most cells and tissues throughout the body contain clocks.  In my talk, I will discuss how the circadian clock is organised, how it is reset by the environment, and how it communicates with the rest of the brain and body.  


Date 27 February 2013
Title Wireless communication: miracle or menace?
Speaker Mr Peter Green

Since Marconi’s first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean in 1901, the use of wireless communication has grown exponentially to the point where we would struggle to live without this ubiquitous technology. In this talk we will review the growth of this technology; try and build a radio; and consider whether what was once seen as a miracle has now become a menace.



Date 30 January 2013
Title Can an old dinosaur, teach us new tricks?
Speaker Doctor Phillip Manning

Here we will explore the expanding world of applied paleontology and discuss the slings and arrows of misfortune when it comes to the perception/relevance of such antediluvian beasts when scrutinized under the spotlight of science funding.

The image is of a 120 million year old bird (Confuciusornis sanctus) from China and shows the distribution of copper (red), calcium (blue) and zinc (green). the image was generated from data collected at the Stanford Synchrotron radiation Lightsource. The molecule hovering over the fossil is a eumelanin pigment that folks can find out more about at the talk!



Date 27 March 2013
Title Amnesia, Memory and the Brain
Speaker Professor Andrew Mayes

In 1887, Sergei Korsakoff was the first researcher to systematically describe patients in whom specific kinds of brain damage cause a severe and selective loss of memory for recently encountered facts and personal experiences as well as a disturbance in memory for experiences and facts that were stored normally well before the brain became abnormal. This strange disorder of organic amnesia has been extensively explored in the 126 years since Korsakoff began his work. In recent years, our understanding has been accelerated by improved, more rigorous methods and technological advances that include machines that can image the structure and function of damaged as well as healthy human brains. The aim of this work is to identify what the damaged brain regions and their connections do in healthy people, how damage to them causes amnesia, and what this and other research suggests can be done to assist memory not only in amnesic patients but also in healthy people.

The picture is of the hippocampus, a brain region that becomes active when memories of personal experiences are recalled and which does not work normally in people with organic amnesia. 

The picture is of the hippocampus, a brain region that becomes active when memories of personal experiences are recalled and which does not work normally in people with organic amnesia. It is on both sides of the brain as the picture on the left shows whereas the picture on the right shows a side view of the brain to help you work out where it is in the brain. The red indicates that this structure is more active when we recognize that we have been shown particular words earlier.

Date 24 April 2013
Title Body fat: more than just a lump of lard?
Speaker Dr. Catherine Lawrence

Body fat was for a long time thought to be no more than a site for the storage of excess calories obtained from our diet. This talk will focus on the current view that body fat is in fact an organ that can release many factors that affect our health in both a positive but also negative manner.




Date 29 May 2013
Title Frogs, people and ferns - how to save the rainforest and its contents
Speaker Professor Richard Preziosi

Conserving the rainforest as a whole, the animals and plants that live there, and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples needs to be approached as a whole. Find out about one unlikely researcher's attempt to do this in the jungles of Ecuador and the laboratories of Manchester.





Date 31 July 2013
Title Thorium: an alternative nuclear future?
Speaker Professor Robert Cywinski

There is considerable debate about whether the twin global crises of energy shortage and climate change can be mitigated by nuclear power. Indeed, there is continuing concern about the safety of uranium and plutonium fuelled nuclear reactors, the management of nuclear waste and the issue of proliferation. But what if we had a nuclear fuel that was low risk, low waste and sustainable? Surprisingly such a fuel does exist: it is thorium. In this talk I will discuss the need for nuclear power as an essential part of a balanced energy economy, and suggest ways in which thorium could be used to fuel an alternative, and a safer, nuclear future.


Date 25 September 2013
Title Four legs good, two legs better: the mechanics of being human
Speaker Dr Bill Sellers

Humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor that is about 7 million years old. Since that time, both species have evolved along their separate paths. However, we know from the fossil record that our brains did not get any bigger for the first 5 million years and that the only changes we see are all to do with moving down from the trees and living on the ground. What happened? Why did we do this? And what difference did it make? This Café Scientifique explores what it was to be human in the earliest years of separation, and how we can investigate the differences between modern humans and the other apes.

Footprint/pogo composite

Date 30 October 2013
Title The hottest place in the universe - power from controlled fusion?
Speaker Professor Philippa Browning

I will describe how  controlled nuclear fusion could be the solution to our future energy needs. Fusion  - which involves combining small atomic nuclear into larger ones - provides the energy for stars, but there are significant challenges to be overcome before a viable fusion power station can be built on Earth. The most promising means to confine the very hot gas - known as a plasma - at the extremely high temperatures required for viable fusion power is to use strong magnetic fields. I will describe current progress towards fusion power, mentioning large fusion experiments such as JET, and the difficulties that are still to be overcome. I will also discuss my own research on magnetically-confined fusion plasmas and explain how this  relates to understanding plasmas in the atmosphere of the Sun.





Date 27 November 2013
Title Bench to bedside: from a stroke perspective
Speaker Professor Stuart Allen

The talk will focus on past failure in translating findings from basic science to effective clinical treatments and how we need to rethink how we approach this in future research. In particular I will explore what has happened in the stroke field and how researchers are now being much more collaborative in working together and the need to back-translate from bedside to bench.

Bench 2 Bedside

Date 29 January 2014
Title Forensic Entomology: Crime Scene Insects
Speaker Professor Stefano Vanin

Since several different kinds of insects are involved in the decomposition of a body, they can prove useful in speculations concerning phenomena that occurred at the moment of or just after death. One aim of forensic entomology is to provide useful information concerning the time of death by analyses of insect evidence.

The estimate of the PMI (Post Mortem Interval) can be obtained by analyses of the growth rates of insects present on the body, with a particular emphasis on temperature. In cases of an extended PMI, insects may assist in determining the season of death, as significant differences in insect faunas between warm and cold seasons are well documented.

It is also possible to determine post-mortem movement of a body and there are also differences in the insect faunas between buried, submerged and exposed remains. The examination, identification and analysis of insects associated with human remains, combined with a knowledge of insect biology, can provide another level of detail in addition to anthropological, archaeological and medical data, in the reconstruction of events occurring close to the time of the death as well several years or century ago.

Forensic entomology

Date 26 February 2014
Title Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound
Speaker Professor Trevor Cox

Trevor Cox has been hunting for the sonic wonders of the world. A renowned professor who engineers classrooms and concert halls, Trevor has made a career of eradicating bizarre and unwanted sounds. But after an epiphany in the London sewers, Trevor now revels in exotic noises – creaking glaciers, whispering galleries, stalactite organs, musical roads, humming dunes, seals that sound like alien angels, and a Mayan pyramid that chirps like a bird.

With forays into archaeology, neuroscience, biology, and design, Cox will explain how sound is made and altered by the environment, how our body reacts to peculiar noises, and how these mysterious wonders illuminate sound's surprising dynamics in everyday settings – from your bedroom to the opera house. Trevor encourages us to become better listeners in a world dominated by the visual and to open our ears to the glorious cacophony all around us.


Date 26 March 2014
Title The Possibility of Preventing Psychosis
Speaker Professor Bill Deakin

I'm an academic psychiatrist interested in the neurobiology of common psychiatric disorders. It's an exciting time because we are beginning to get some answers to big questions. I'll summarise where it's at in psychosis along the following lines.

What happens in the brain in psychosis when someone starts to hear derogatory voices discussing them, to experience their innermost thoughts leaking out for all to pick up, and to live in dread of violence when there is nothing to fear? Genetics has something to do with it because schizophrenia is about 65% heritable. At last, more than a decade after cracking the genetic code, we have gone from no genes for psychosis to many over about 4 years. They point to several mechanisms such as brain inflammation as contributing to the illness process. Modern brain imaging methods are checking out these possibilities and revealing what may be going on as psychosis develops. A new class of drugs may be emerging that only work if given early because they prevent the changes that lead to enduring symptom and psychosocial decline.


Date 30 April 2014
Title Archaeogenetics and Human Ancestry
Speaker Professor Martin Richards

The past twenty-five years have witnessed the birth of a new academic discipline. Archaeogenetics stems from the realisation that we each carry a record of our evolutionary history within every cell in our bodies, written in the language of DNA.

We inherit our DNA from our parents, and they from their parents, back to time immemorial, with tiny changes called mutations gradually building up over time. We can use these mutations as genetic markers to trace our ancestry back into the past, tracking the lineages back to humanity's source in Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago.

I will introduce how we do this, both by drawing conclusions from the patterns in present-day populations, and by looking more directly at ancestral lineages, by means of ancient DNA, and discuss some of the conclusions.


Date 28 May 2014
Title Particle Physics: what use is it?
Speaker Professor Thomas Edgcock

Particle physics is the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces that act between them. It has resulted in a theory, called the Standard Model, which describes pretty much all the observations made. The latest contributions to this come from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Although this is very important scientifically, it is often asked, what use is all this?

This talk will address this question by showing how both the technology developed for particle physics and the knowledge gained have brought improvements to healthcare in the UK and are looking to bring further improvements in the future.

Particle physics

Date 25 June 2014
Title Soil Fungi: Friend or foe?
Speaker Dr Robin Sen

The recent arrival of ash dieback disease caused by a fungus, Chalara fraxinea, has undoubtedly raised public awareness to the destructiveness of members of the fungal kingdom. Agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries have spent large fortunes developing fungicides and fungal antibiotics to protect crop plants, livestock and ourselves from soil borne fungal diseases. Yet these broad-spectrum antifungals lose efficacy over time and are highly toxic to non-target animals and humans because of close inter-kingdom ties between fungi and animals that share a common eukaryotic cell physiology.

I will argue for the need to take a more pro-fungal stance – to fight fire with fire, if you will. The weapon of my choice, among a massive arsenal of beneficial soil fungi, is a fungal group that were not only instrumental in the establishment of land plants over 400 million years ago but now hold urgent promise in driving a new ‘sustainable’ agricultural revolution. To find out more about these amazing fungi please join me on Wednesday, 25th June for a Café Scientific session at the Kro bar, Oxford Road, Manchester.

Date 30 July 2014
Title You are what you eat
Speaker Professor Emeritus Rod Bilton

Knowledge is the key to good health, and understanding how the human body works, and how to minimise the risk of a wide range of diseases common in the industrial world such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Although health is largely determined by lifestyle (diet and exercise), eating healthy foods is not as easy as it sounds. Too much power lies in the hands of the extremely profitable health and food industries. The complexity of choice is bewildering, and misleading information and aggressive but subtle marketing has led to confusion in the minds of the public. For example: ‘butter is bad, margarine is good’, ‘saturated fat is bad’, and ‘blood cholesterol must be lowered’. In each case there is no reputable science to support these statements. Controversies concerning diet and health are examined in detail with reference to the current obesity and diabetes epidemics, and the  conflicting interests of the food and health industries and the consumer. Join us to lean about the types of foods that optimise good health and an ideal body mass, and those that should be avoided.


Date 24 September 2014
Title Elastic Tissues
Speaker Professor Cay Kietly

We work on the biology of elastic fibres, how they deliver elasticity to tissues such as blood vessels, skin and lungs, and what happens when things go wrong with their component molecules. We are particularly interested in a molecule called fibrillin, which forms a microfibril template for elastic fibres. Interestingly, the genetic ‘fibrillinopathies’ affect not  just elastic tissues but also bone growth. Acquired elastic fibre defects during life include loss of elasticity in aged and sun-damaged skin, and in blood vessels.

Date 30 October 2014
Title It Smells to the Heavens!
Speaker Professor Matthew Cobb

Nobody likes a maggot – it’s slimy and disgusting. But did you know that a maggot has a brain and the bits of its brain that process smells are wired up just like ours? Smell expert, Professor Matthew Cobb, studies how the sense of smell works by studying the behaviour of maggots, and the electrical activity of their smell cells. In this talk he will explain how the sense of smell works in all animals, from maggots to humans. Why not drop by and test your sense of smell on the beers as well? Did you know that a maggot has a brain and its "smell" neurons are wired up just like ours? In this talk, smell expert, Professor Matthew Cobb, will explain how the sense of smell works in all animals, from maggots to humans.

Date 27 November 2014
Title Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Speaker Professor Simon Caporn

‘Where have all the flowers gone? Pollution damage and repair in the Peak District moorlands’

The Industrial Revolution in the Manchester conurbation around 200 years ago left a giant footprint in the countryside of the southern Pennines (and far beyond). Emissions from the factories poured acid rain and heavy metal pollution onto the hills causing massive injury to the natural landscape. Still today the scars remain as illustrated by the relatively poor ecological condition of the moorland habitats and the physical erosion of the soils - when compared with similar areas in cleaner parts of the country. This presentation will describe evidence for the long term impacts of both historical and contemporary air pollution in the Peak District moorlands and consider the available options as we make efforts to repair the countryside.

Date 29 January 2015
Title How the Extra-ordinary Informs the Ordinary
Speaker Dr Simon Harper

Talking computers are vital if you're a blind computer user. Blind people become expert in auditory cognition and interaction. This expertise has transferred to the digital tools used to access computers, mobiles and other devices. Indeed, when it comes to technology usage blind people have become uber users - expert in digital interaction enabling increasingly meaningful interaction with tools and services in everyday life, work and study.

In doing so, blind users often find ways around badly developed electronic devices and resources, providing insights and challenges for designers and developers.

This talk will give insights into these extra ordinary digital tools and the people who use them, discussing how neurophysiology points the way to enhanced auditory comprehension, and discusses how 'auditory display' is helpful to everyone... how this extra-ordinary interaction informs the ordinary.

Date 26 February 2015
Title The Evolution of Monogamy
Speaker Dr Susanne Shultz

Primates are unusual mammals, with around 25% of the species found in monogamous family groups. In contrast, across all mammals,  monogamy is much rarer, with an estimated 3% of mammals being monogamy.  This compares with monogamy in more than 90% of bird species. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolution of monogamy, including its role in protecting females and their offspring from unrelated males. I will review our recent work on the topic and compare it to contrasting results simultaneously published by other researchers. Finally, I will propose how the evolution of monogamy in primates may or may not shed light on the human evolution.

Date 26 March 2015
Title Facing Up to the Truth
Speaker Dr Gayle Brewer

Despite being encouraged not to ‘judge a book by its cover’, we often form opinions of other people based on their appearance, and person perception forms an integral part of social interaction. Research suggests that we are able to accurately rate a person’s personality or other important characteristics (e.g. sexual orientation) based on physical appearance alone. This occurs when we have access to relatively limited information such as when viewing static facial photographs or even when observing other species. Particular aspects of our appearance e.g. facial symmetry and teeth may be especially informative and reveal specific information about our past. Furthermore, our physical appearance influences our behaviour, with recent research suggesting that hip width predicts women’s sexual behaviour. Join this session as Dr Gayle Brewer discusses the information revealed by our appearance and how our bodies influence our behaviour.

Date 30 April 2015
Title How do body clocks time physiology and behaviour?
Speaker Professor Andrew Loudon

We now know that all cells and tissues of the body harbour local internal clocks. How are these clocks synchronised with each other and what are they doing? In this talk, I will address what we currently know of how the brain clock regulates timing systems throughout the body to control sleep and wake cycles and hormone rhythms.

Date 28 May 2015
Title Why robots will NOT take over the world
Speaker Dr Gavin Brown

Computers seem to be getting smarter and smarter all the time.  There is an often used tactic in the media, to promote the idea that "artificial intelligence" is a scary prospect, with robots taking over the world, and so on.  In this talk I will argue why this is not going to happen, and how AI has in fact been in our lives for many years already, benefiting us in countless ways.

Date 25 June 2015
Title Stress at work - who gets it and what are the consequences?
Speaker Professor Tarani Chandola

Nearly everyone in work has experienced some work related stress at some point in their lives, but there is a common perception that it is the people at the top who suffer the most from work stress. Measuring stress at work is not a simple question of asking people “how stressed are you at work”. In addition, the effects of work stress on health needs careful separation out of the stress generating work environment (the “stressor”) from the physiological and psychological stress response. In this talk, Professor Chandola will highlight some of the advances in measuring stress at work, who is most at risk, and its effects health.

Date 30 July 2015
Title Building Brains
Speaker Professor Steve Furber

Just two years after the world's first stored program computer ran its first program at Manchester in 1948, Alan Turing published his seminal paper on "Computing Machinery and Intelligence". The paper opens with the words: I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?". Turing then goes on to explore this question through what he calls "The Imitation Game", but which subsequent generations simply call "The Turing Test”. Despite spectacular progress in the performance and efficiency of machines since Turing's time, we have yet to see any convincing demonstration of a machine that can pass his test. This would have surprised Turing - he believed that all that would be required was more memory. Although cognitive systems are beginning to display impressive environmental awareness, they do not come close to the sort of “thinking” that Turing had in mind.

Professor Steve Furber’s take on the problems with true artificial intelligence are that we still really haven't worked out what natural intelligence is. Until we do, all discussion of machine intelligence and "the singularity" are specious. Based on this view, we need to return to the source of natural intelligence, the human brain.

The SpiNNaker project has been 15 years in conception and 8 years in construction, but is now ready to contribute to the growing global community (exemplified by the EU Human Brain Project) that is aiming to deploy the vast computing resources now available to us to accelerate our understanding of the brain, with the ultimate goal of understanding the information processing principles at work in natural intelligence. SpiNNaker is a massively-parallel computer system, ultimately to incorporate a million ARM processor cores with an innovative lightweight packet-switched communications fabric capable of supporting typical biological connectivity patterns in biological real time. You are invited to join this session with Professor Steve Furber from School of Computer Science, University of Manchester to learn more about SpiNNaker and the future of artificial intelligence.

Date 24 September 2015
Title The Hidden Science of How the Mind Really Works
Speaker Dr Warren Mansell

This talk is about a scientific theory that has been ignored or misunderstood for over 50 years - Perceptual Control Theory (PCT; see The theory provides a whole new perspective on the mind and society. Fortunately, small groups of scientists and practitioners across the globe have used the theory to drive innovations in fields such as education, mental health and technology. Yet, the theory still remains 'hidden' from the mainstream because it does not seem to fit with the way that society chooses to view the mind. In this session, Dr Warren Mansell will explain the theory to you, demonstrate how you use it to deliver a new method of psychotherapy, and share with you many of the diverse applications PCT has spawned.

Date 29 October 2015
Title The Compatibility Gene
Speaker Professor Daniel M. Davis

In The Compatibility Gene, leading scientist Daniel M Davis tells the story of the crucial genes that define our relationships, our health and our individuality. We each possess a similar set of around 25,000 human genes. Yet a tiny, distinctive cluster of these genes plays a disproportionately large part in how our bodies work. These few genes, argues Davis, hold the key to who we are as individuals and our relationship to the world: how we combat disease, how our brains are wired, how attractive we are, even how likely we are to reproduce.

The Compatibility Gene follows the remarkable history of these genes' discovery. From the British scientific pioneers who struggled to understand the mysteries of transplants to the Swiss zoologist who devised a new method of assessing potential couples' compatibility based on the smell of worn T-shirts, Davis traces a true scientific revolution in our understanding of the human body: a global adventure spanning some sixty years.

Lab work has rarely been made to seem more interesting or heroic (Bill Bryson Guardian Books of the Year)

This event is part of the Manchester Science Festival.

Date 26 November 2015
Title What Is Psychosis?
Speaker Professor Gillian Haddock

Psychosis is experienced by many people and is often portrayed negatively in the media. However, psychosis is part of normal life. We all experience psychosis at some times in our lives and some people live happily and comfortably with psychotic experiences. Others, however, find the experience of psychosis distressing. There is help out there for people with psychosis – some people take medication or use psychological therapies. However, the same treatments don’t suit everyone. How can we understand psychosis and make sure we have the right help for those that need it?

Date 28 January 2016
Title What On Earth Is Brain Modelling?
Speaker Dr Mark Humphries

Neuroscience has been engulfed by a technological arms race. The aim: to record every bit of activity from every single neuron in the brain of a simple animal. To the victor, prizes will be awarded, honours bestowed - a place in history assured. Then we theorists will turn up and spoil the party: "Great! So, um, what did we learn from that?" Without models of how the brain works, we argue, data is useless. The model asks the question, the data gives the answer. I will take a whirlwind tour of the cutting edge of neuroscience; unravel the necessity of models; and explain why James Black called them "accurate descriptions of our pathetic thinking".

Date 25 February 2016
Title Vampire Plant Diaries
Speaker Dr Jennifer Rowntree

Most plants make food by processing energy from the sun and taking up essential nutrients from the soil. There are a group of plants, however, that steal all or some of their food from other plants. These are the parasitic or ‘vampire’ plants and include well-known and culturally important groups such as mistletoe. Dr Rowntree will introduce these fascinating plants to you. She will explain the varied ways in which they obtain their food and the impacts that they can have on managed and natural systems. While a parasite is always bad news for its host, some parasitic plants can also provide benefits that help other species to survive, giving rise to a host of interesting and often surprising interactions.

Date 31 March 2016
Title Changing the world with contact lenses
Speaker Prof Philip Morgan

This presentation will review the success or otherwise of contact lenses around the world.  Perhaps three billion people require vision correction yet only around 150 million are contact lens wearers.  Despite the clear advances in contact lens materials and designs in the past 40 years, there are still great opportunities for future improvements and the main challenges ahead will be outlined in this talk.  The three key battleground which remain are solving end of day discomfort, understanding and exploiting the mechanisms behind inflammation and infection during lens wear, and creating a lens which overcomes the visual challenges of presbyopia.  The presentation will also consider other uses of contact lenses such as drug delivery, disease monitoring and 'smart lenses' for information delivery.


Philip Morgan is Professor of Optometry and Director of Eurolens Research at The University of Manchester.  His main research interests relate to the clinical performance of contact lenses and he teaches on the same subject area at undergraduate and postgraduate level.  Philip is President-Elect of the International Society for Contact Lens Research and Vice President of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators.  He is an honorary member of the UK Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers, a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and the British Contact Lens Association, and a member of the UK College of Optometrists.  Philip was the BCLA Medallist in 2014 and BCLA Pioneer’s Lecturer in 2015.  He has authored over 200 papers, primarily relating to the clinical performance of contact lenses and the nature of the UK and international contact lens markets, and has spoken about his work in more than 30 countries worldwide.  Philip is an adopted Lancastrian, proud Northerner and perpetually miserable Sunderland supporter.

Date 28 April 2016
Title What Can Meteorites Tell Us About the Early Solar System?
Speaker Prof Jamie Gilmour

Asteroids are the leftovers of planet formation and so provide a snapshot of what material went to make the Earth, where it had come from, and what processes were occurring 4.5 billion years ago. One way we can read this record is to study meteorites, which are mostly fragments of asteroids (some come from the Moon and Mars). Professor Jamie Gilmour's lab in The University of Manchester are part of the international community studying meteorites. In this session, Professor Gilmour will talk about different types of meteorites, how we analyse them, and what they tell us about the material that went on to make the Earth.

Date 26 May 2016
Title The evolution of being nice and nasty – From chimpanzees to humans
Speaker Dr Keith Jensen

People are nice to each other. Think of how many people will be buying today’s speaker a drink! We’re also incredibly nasty to each other. (Please don’t do anything to the speaker.) To explore the origins of human kindness and cruelty, Keith Jensen has adapted games developed by economists for children and chimpanzees. Knowing how children share, free-ride on others and punish cheats tells us how we develop our better and worse sides. Work on chimpanzees show that there’s something special about human cooperation.

Date 30 June 2016
Title Cosmetic Procedures: Routine or Extreme?
Speaker Professor Jeanette Edwards

The availability and use of cosmetic procedures to enhance or ‘normalise’ appearance has grown significantly in recent decades. Why is this? Does it matter? What might it mean for society, and for the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals? 

Jeanette Edwards is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester and Chair of a current Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on cosmetic procedures. In this session she will outline recent developments in the use and provision of procedures, and discuss the social and ethical questions they raise. She will also be available to talk about some of her own work on biotechnology and ‘bodily enhancement', drawing comparisons between cosmetic procedures in the UK and the Middle East.

Date 28 July 2016
Title Text Mining: Finding the needle in the haystack you didn't even know was there!
Speaker Professor Sophia Ananiadou

With the massive amount of knowledge recorded in unstructured textual form, we need automated methods that can extract and manage it. Text mining is a relatively new area of research used to extract automatically nuggets of information hidden in text and to present the distilled knowledge to users in a concise and meaningful manner. The National Centre for Text Mining (, located at the School of Computer Science, The University of Manchester) has developed a number of text mining services to support a wide variety of users who are struggling to locate useful information from big textual data for their needs. Join this session with Professor Sophia Ananiadou and find out how computers can help us digest large amount of information!


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Date 29 September 2016
Title Jet lag in tendons
Speaker Professor Karl Kadler

We are made aware of our circadian clock (or body clock) when we travel by airplane to another time zone; the brain thinks it’s back in Manchester and should be going to sleep but the body is somewhere else and is busy walking about. The jet lag we feel is because the circadian clock turns certain genes on and off in anticipation of day-night activities such as eating, walking, running, and sleeping.  The clock in the brain is the master clock, and it is ‘reset’ in the morning when we see the rising sun.  The brain clock then sends messages to the body to get ready to wake up.  Prof Karl Kadler’s group at the University of Manchester has shown that there is a clock in tendons, which join muscles to bone.  His research is showing that the ‘tendon clock’ maintains the health of tendons.  However, as we age, the tendon clock is less effective and the communication between the brain clock and the tendon clock is ‘out of sync’.  Do older people have permanent tendon jet lag?  Does this explain why older people have aches and pains in their joints and tendons, and why they ‘stiffen up’ at certain times of the day?  People over 40 years old are prone to tendon ruptures; is this because the tendon clock is running slow? In this session, we will look at the evidence and discuss how knowledge of body clocks might help us learn more about our bodies and improve our quality of life. 


Picture shows the changes in gene expression in young tendon every 4 hours during 2 days. Green is when a gene is ‘on’ and red is when it is ‘off’.

Date 27 October 2016
Title Work and Health
Speaker Professor Raymond Agius

In this session, Professor Raymond Agius will highlight the complex relationships between work and health (or the lack of it).  

What factors at work (physical, chemical, biological, psychological ) can present hazards to health?  What are the associated health risks and by what biological mechanisms are the health effects brought about?  What can these observations teach us about disease in general?  How do we prevent occupational disease and other work-related ill-health?

The aim for individuals and for society is that work should be consistently good for health and well-being. How is this achievable?


Date 16 November 2016
Title Cafe Scientifique Special - Confessions of a Door Bore: Ventures in Visual Long-Term Memory
Speaker Professor Alan Baddeley

Hello everyone!

This is a Cafe Scientifique special event, taking place on 16 November 2016 6pm-8pm in Theatre B, Roscoe Building M13 9PY. Refreshments are provided. Please note the different time and venue.

Supported by The British Psychological Society North West of England Branch, we have invited Professor Alan Baddeley to talk about his research on visual memory.

Alan Baddeley is Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of York. Alan graduated in psychology from UCL, and after an MA at Princeton, joined the MRC Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, where he completed a PhD.

In 1974, working with Graham Hitch, Baddeley developed an influential model of working memory called Baddeley’s model of working memory, which argues for the existence of multiple short term memory stores and a separate interacting system for manipulating the content of these stores. The model accounts for much of the empirical data on short-term retention and manipulation of information.

His landmark study in 1975 on ‘Capacity of Short Term Memory’ showed that people remembered more short words than long words in a recall test. This was called the word length effect and it demonstrated that pronunciation time rather than number of items determines the capacity of verbal short term memory.

Baddeley was the director of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, a branch of the UK Medical Research Council, based in Cambridge, from 1974 to 1997. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1993 and in 1996, was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Alan has won the British Psychological Society Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and is listed in Thomson-Reuters international index of highly-cited scientists. He has also been awarded the 2016 Major Advancement in Psychological Science Prize.


Date 24 November 2016
Title Cafe Scientifique - Can computers really learn from scientific literature?
Speaker Dr Goran Nenadic

Due to a unforseen double booking, this event will now be held in the Hub, Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street M13 9GB at 6pm. Apologies for the inconvenience. 

Large amounts of scientific literature are available in many disciplines - for example, there is a new biomedical paper published every 2 minutes. Text mining software can extract and link specific events and facts from the literature, but what else can computers learn from scientific papers? Can they learn which methodologies are hot and which are not? Can they predict what's the next big thing going to be? Can they learn how to write a paper that will be highly regarded by the scientific community? In this session, Dr Goran Nenadic will illustrate some ideas in the domain bioinformatics and clinical sciences.

Date 26 January 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - The UK Beagle 2 Lander for Mars
Speaker Dr Dean Harris

*Please note the change of time and venue for our January event*

Date: 26 January 2017

Time: 18:00-20:00

Place: Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street, M13 9GB

Speaker: Dr Dean Harris

Key Words: Beagle 2, Mars, Space

In the early 21st century, a group of British adventurers, scientists, engineers and explorers launched a mission to Mars. The mission was called Beagle 2 and was led by the late Professor Colin Pillinger.  The mission attempted to answer one of the most profound questions asked by humanity (and David Bowie): Is there life on Mars? This talk presents the extraordinary and entertaining story of Beagle 2, presented by a mission insider. We will open with sci-fi Dreams of a Red planet that inspired Colin as a boy. 

Beagle was expected to land in 2003, but fell silent. 

Every Christmas since then, I've wondered what happened to the plucky little lander. We had given up all hope and assumed it had crashed into the surface or burnt up in the atmosphere. A core of enthusiasts continued the hunt for Beagle 2 and, 11 years later, it was found. Beagle 2 had not crash landed and recent analysis suggests that it may still be operating today. Sound crazy? The NASA rover that landed in the same year is still trundling around the surface. 

We will tell the amazing story of how the UK became the third nation in history to land on Mars with the help of a group of Christmas-jumper-wearing-boffins, led by a mutton-chop wearing farmer, who designed a probe on the back of a beer mat and knocked it up in a shed. 

Finally, we will look into the future history of Mars and ask the question - Will we be the Martians?

The Speaker

Dr Dean Harris is a state registered Clinical Scientist specialising in Medical Physics with experience working in the NHS. I was previously involved with large-scale multi-million pound space projects.

This involved performing research at the highest levels and published in high-impact journals (including Nature). He has developed of X-ray instrumentation for wide variety of applications (planetary science, medical physics, industrial). He has adapted technologies originally designed from other sectors (eg, space) for use in medical sciences. He has also ran experimental campaigns at national facilities including the Diamond Synchrotron in Harwell.

Date 23 February 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Pain, The Brain and a little bit of Magic
Speaker Professor Anthony Jones

Date: 23 February 2017

Time: 19:30-21:30

Place: MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Speaker: Professor Anthony Jones

Topic: Pain, Brain, Magic

Pain, the Brain and a Little Bit of Magic' is an empowering performance talk which takes a look inside the brain, exploring how we feel pain, how pain is signalled in the body and how we develop chronic conditions. Based on pioneering research, ‘Pain, the Brain and a Little Bit of Magic’ offers an optimistic message of how chronic pain may be better understood and treated.

‘Pain, the Brain and a Little bit of Magic’ is a performance for chronic pain sufferers and the people who support them, medical professionals and absolutely anybody who wants to know more about what makes the brain tick.

Here is a little trailer:


The speaker

Anthony Jones is professor of Neuro-rheumatology at Manchester University and leads the Human Pain Research Group. Whilst at the Hammersmith Hospital he pioneered the development of techniques to image neurochemical and metabolic brain responses to pain using Positron Emission Tomography. Over the last twenty years he has used a number of functional brain imaging techniques to understand that the normal and abnormal mechanisms of pain perception. There is now the exciting prospect of using some of the insights gained in these studies to develop new approaches to pharmacological and cognitive interventions for chronic pain. He also leads the International Association of Pain Musculoskletal Pain Taskforce and is leading the development of National and International Guidelines on the Integrated Management of Musculoskeletal Pain (jointly sponsored by the BSR and the IASP).‌

Date 30 March 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Movement in Mind in Parkinson’s disease
Speaker Dr Ellen Poliakoff

Date: 30 March 2017

Time: 19:30-21:30

Place: MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Speaker: Dr Ellen Poliakoff

Key Words: Parkinson's disease, brain, movement

In healthy people, the areas of our brain involved in making movements are used even we don’t actually carry out a movement, for example when just looking at a graspable object (like a door handle) or another person’s action, or imagining and naming actions. In this session, Dr Ellen Poliakoff will talk about our ongoing research into how thinking about actions in the mind’s eye is affected in Parkinson’s disease alongside difficulties in making real movements. This work helps us understand more about Parkinson’s disease and has implications for interventions to help improve movements and communication. It also reveals more about how we all think about actions and represent them in our brains.

The speaker

Dr Ellen Poliakoff is a senior lecturer in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology at the University of Manchester and Co-director of the BEAM (Body Eyes and Movement) Lab


Date 27 April 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Why very few people own a fuel cell. YET!!
Speaker Dr Stuart Holmes

Date: 27 April 2017

Time: 19:30-21:30

Place: MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Speaker: Dr Stuart Holmes

Key Words: Fuel Cell, Chemical Engineering, Technology

I will discuss the basics of how a fuel cell works (including why the film Apollo 13 is about fuel cells) and using that explain why they have not become a household item. Despite being “5 years away from market” for approximately 15 years, the problems around hydrogen generation and storage, the costs of the materials and the dominance of batteries and Internal Combustion Engines, mean that fuel cells have not yet made an impact. I will explain what is being done to combat the problems (graphene features here) and look at what still needs to happen before fuel cells are viable.

The speaker

Stuart Holmes is a Reader in the School of Chemical Engineering at The University of Manchester. He is a Chemist by first degree and did his PhD with Prof. John Dwyer, one of the founding fathers of zeolite chemistry. He was manager of the UMIST Centre for Microporous Materials prior to joining the department in 2000. Stuart is a member of the Environmental Technology Centre and teaches on the undergraduate Environmental Technology courses along with MSc Environmental Technology and the part-time MSc Environmental Management and Technology courses.

Date 23 May 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique Special - Thought X: Fictions and Hypotheticals with Comma Press
Speaker Dr Rob Appleby, Sarah Schofield and Claire Dean

Date: 23 May 2017

Time: 18:00-20:00

Place: Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street, Manchester, M13 9GB


Date 25 May 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - The Dark River? The transformation of the River Irwell
Speaker Dr Keith White

Date: 25 May 2017

Time: 19:30-21:30

Place: MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Speaker: Dr Keith White

Key Words: Wather ecosystem, Urban regeneration, Salford Quays

Cyril Bracegirdle coined the term ‘The Dark River’ in his 1973 book on the River Irwell. Back in 1970s the Irwell was indeed polluted – a legacy of the industrial revolution (‘where there’s muck there’s brass’) and the parallel rise in the population living around the river. The physical appearance of the Irwell in Salford and Manchester had also changed beyond all recognition as it was deepened and canalized to reduce flooding and allow the passage of larger boats. This ‘re-engineering’ of the lower Irwell culminated in the construction of Manchester docks in the late Nineteenth Century. We will examine how the river and the surrounding area have changed over the years, including the extent to which pollution now been reduced and what more needs to be done. In the early 1800s river was full of trout and salmon swam up the river to breed – could this happen again? Water matters – we will also look at how the improvements in water quality in the old Manchester Docks allowed their transformation into the vibrant and commercially successful Salford Quays.

The speaker

Dr Keith White is interested in understanding and managing the water quality and ecology of urban watercourses, including preventing the formation of potentially harmful ‘blooms’ of blue-green algae. Work with an industrial partner is examining the relationship between past and present water quality and the changes in the ecology of Salford Quays – a restored and redeveloped dock system near Media City, Greater Manchester. The work includes the development of a computer-based model to assist in the ecological management of the Quays. Other studies with a colleague in Geography are looking at how we can improve water quality of urban rivers and canals to assist in the economic regeneration of inner cities. He is also interested in the toxicity of metal pollutants to aquatic animals and plants and how such these toxins are accumulated and transferred through the food chain. This includes examining the impact of nanoparticles, in particular nanosilver. Nanosiliver is used as an antibacterial agent in consumer products such as socks and therefore enters waterways via the sewerage system. They have recently shown that nanosilver is accumulated by gazing and filter feeding animals and is passed along the food chain from algae to zooplankton such as the water flea.

Date 29 June 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Pouring oil over troubled retinas
Speaker Dr Victoria Kearns

Date: 29 June 2017

Time: 19:30-21:30

Place: MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Speaker: Dr Victoria Kearns

Key Words: Bioengineering, retinal implants, stem cell therapies, macular degeneration

Bioengineering has the potential to help prevent sight loss. This talk will concentrate on its uses in the back of the eye, where it can help design electrical retinal implants, new ways to deliver medicines to the back of the eye, and is a crucial part of new stem cell therapies that offer promise to millions of people with age-related macular degeneration.

The speaker

Dr Victoria Kearns is a Lecturer in Ocular Biomaterials at The University of Liverpool. She is interested in developing novel, biomaterial-based ocular drug delivery systems and models (in vitro and in silico) to test them. This work involved biomaterials, chemistry, engineering, imaging and computer modelling, supported by input from clinical and industrial collaborators.

She has expertise in the modification and characterisation of biomaterial substrates. Of particular interest is the optimisation of surfaces to be used to grow cells for engineering tissue. This involves using a range of techniques. She also has expertise in the isolation and expansion of primary ocular cells.

Date 27 July 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Molecules and Medicines
Speaker Dr Sam Butterworth

Date: 27 July 2017

Time: 19:30-21:30

Place: MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Speaker: Dr Sam Butterworth

Key Words: Molecules, Medicines, drug

Sam will discuss some of the science behind drug molecules; in particular how their chemical structure controls their biological effects, and how we can try to use this knowledge to find more effective drugs.



The speaker

Sam Butterworth is a Senior Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Manchester. Sam¹s research group works on applying synthetic and biological chemistry to develop new biologically active compounds that allow us to understand and hopefully treat human disease.

Before working as an academic he spent 8 years at the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, during which time played a leading role in the discovery of a targeted anti-cancer agent (osimertinib), that has been approved for treatment of late stage lung cancer in the US and Europe.

Date 28 September 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Myth and Science of Sleep
Speaker Professor Graham Law

28 September 2017 at 19:30pm, Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street, Manchester, M13 9GB

By the age of three, you have slept for at least 10,000 hours which makes you an expert at sleeping. So why is it, with all this expertise, that so many people have difficulty with their sleep? Our society is slowly beginning to recognise the problems we all have with sleep and how this affects our lives, health and wellbeing.

Join sleep scientist Graham Law as he explores the myths that surround sleep: some myths that are informative and helpful, others that are incorrect, and some that are positively damaging and counterproductive.



The speaker


Professor Graham Law is a sleep scientist at the University of Lincoln with over 25 years of research experience, having published over 90 research papers on health and medicine. He has set up the Sound Asleep Laboratory, which is working towards methods to improve sleep in a way that will have a significant effect on sleep health and wellbeing. Graham was elected to the executive committee of the British Sleep Society and is a member of the UK Biobank Expert group on sleep.

Date 26 October 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - Exploring the Path towards Intended Violence in Mass Shooters
Speaker Dr Clare Allely

26 October 2017 at 19:30pm, MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

What can we learn from studying the path towards intended violence in mass shooters? In this talk, Dr Clare Allely will explore the pathway to intended violence across a number of mass shooter cases, including Adam Lanza, Dylann Roof and Elliot Rodger. Were there any warning signs or red flags in the months or even years leading up the attacks? What can we glean from examination of developmental and clinical histories of these individuals? 


The speaker


Dr Clare Allely is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Salford and an affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre (GNC) at Gothenburg University in Sweden. She is also an Honorary Research Fellow position in the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences affiliated to the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow. Clare holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Manchester and has previously graduated with an MA (hons.) in Psychology from the University of Glasgow, an MRes in Psychological Research Methods from the University of Strathclyde and an MSc degree in Forensic Psychology from Glasgow Caledonian University.

Date 30 November 2017
Title Cafe Scientifique - How expectations about the world structure our perception
Speaker Dr Markus Bauer

30 November 2017 at 19:30pm, MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

When we perceive the world, our subjective perception is always the result of the integration of signals from the eyes, ears, or other sensory organs and stored memories as well as expectations about the future.

Specifically the latter aspect, how our expectations about the world structure the way we perceive the world, is the topic of this talk. This will be discussed on the one hand on a microscopic level, how our perceptual apparatus works, and on a more macroscopic level, with respect to its implications for wider society.


The speaker


Dr Markus Bauer is a neuroscientist and experimental psychologist at the University of Nottingham. After his studies at Humboldt University in Berlin, he did his PhD in the Netherlands, at the Donders Centre for Neuroimaging, and after several postdoctoral positions at the Max-Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and at UCL/Wellcome Trust in London, he has joined the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham as a senior lecturer and research fellow. His work focuses on mechanisms of perception, brain oscillations and neuromodulation.

Date 23 January 2018
Title Cafe Scientifique - How expectations about the world structure our perception
Speaker Dr David Allison

Tuesday 23 January 2017 at 19:30pm, MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Society faces the real prospect of a future without antibiotics, as 70% of the world’s bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics. Indeed, it is estimated that by the year 2050 over 50million people will die due to untreatable, common infections, far more than are killed by cancer. Many factors have led to this problem. However, raising awareness of antimicrobial resistance and providing education on how to use antibiotics responsibly are two approaches we can all take to help safeguard antibiotics for the future...

The speaker

‌‌‌‌‌Dr David Allison is a Reader in Pharmacy Education in the Division of Pharmacy and Optometry, University of Manchester. His first degree was in microbiology at Edinburgh University (1977-1981), as were his graduate studies (1981-1984) in microbial physiology. On leaving Edinburgh in 1984 he joined Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals for a three year postdoctotral period, followed by a further period of postdoctoral research (1987-1989), at Aston University, Birmingham. Since his appointment at Manchester in 1990 he has focused his research interests on the physiology and antimicrobial resistance properties of bacterial biofilms and the infectivity and virulence properties of opportunistic lung pathogens. He has successfully supervised a number of postgraduate students over the years, has over 100 publications in these areas and has acted as an editor to the on line journal 'Biofilm' and to J. Basic Microbiol. In addition, he has frequently acted as consultant to the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Industries and has acted on behalf of the European Commission for the auditing of sterile medical device manufacture. He has also published in this area.

Date 22 March 2018
Title Cafe Scientifique - The emotional work of debt collection
Speaker Dr Joe Deville

Thursday 22 March 2018 at 19:30pm, MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

Consumer credit borrowing - using credit cards, store cards and personal loans - is an important and routine part of many people's lives. But what happens when these everyday forms of borrowing go 'bad', when people start to default on their loans and when they cannot, or will not, repay? It is this poorly understood, controversial, but central part of the consumer credit industry that this talk explores. It draws on research from the interior of the UK debt collections industry, as well as debtors' own accounts and historical research into technologies of lending and collection, to examine precisely how this ever more sophisticated, globally connected market functions. It focuses on the highly intimate techniques used to try and recoup defaulting debts from borrowers. The talk moves from the intrusion of collections technologies into debtors' homes and everyday lives, to the tools and techniques developed by collections organisation seeking to recoup their funds. In the process Deville shows that in order to understand how individuals are 'attached' to credit markets, we need to better understand the role played by the strategic management of debtors' emotional states.

The speaker

‌‌‌‌‌Dr Joe Deville is a Lecturer based jointly in the Department of Organisation, Work and Technology and the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University.

Date 24 April 2018
Title Cafe Scientifique - Transforming Medicine through 100,000
Speaker Professor Bill Newman

Tuesday 24 April 2018 at 19:30pm, MadLab, Manchester, M4 1HN

In this talk Bill will explain the way that a new technique called whole genome sequencing is being used in a nationwide study in the NHS called the 100,000 Genomes Project. Whole genome sequencing is rapidly able to generate the DNA sequence (all 3 billion letters or nucleotides) in an individual. Over 99.9% of our DNA sequence we share in common with all other humans but the small differences can sometimes result in severe health problems that can affect many family members if passed from generation to generation. Gene sequence variants can also occur spontaneously through life. Some of these can be important in how individuals develop cancer. The results emerging from this work is already transforming the care of patients with rare diseases and cancer and will become routine in the future delivery of healthcare.


Professor Bill Newman is a clinician scientist. He studied Medicine at Manchester University and completed professional training in adult medicine in the North West of England. He started training in Clinical Genetics in 1995 and undertook a PhD as a Wellcome Trust Clinical Training Fellow on the Genetics of Osteoarthritis in the Wellcome Trust Cell Matrix Centre. He moved to Toronto to undertake a two year Arthritis Society Fellowship with Professor Kathy Siminovitch where he worked on the genetic basis of rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

He took up my post as Clinical Senior Lecturer in Genetics at the University of Manchester and Honorary Consultant at St Mary's Hospital in 2004 and was awarded my Chair in 2013. His research has focussed on pharmacogenetics - defining the genetic factors that influence how patients respond to their medications. He has an interest in the use of different technologies to define disease causing genes and have used SNP arrays and next generation sequencing approaches to identify a number of novel genes responsible for a range of conditions. He has established a Genome Clinic to use next generation sequencing to diagnose conditions that it was previously challenging to correctly define. This is now leading to studies to discover specific treatments for inherited disorders.

Date 22 May 2018
Title Cafe Scientifique - How stuff gets built
Speaker Guy Rigby

Tuesday 22 May 2018 at 19:30pm, PLANT NOMA, Manchester, M60 0AE

Have you ever seen a bridge spanning a river or massive new development like a new airport terminal and wondered how it got there? Guy Rigby has all the answers in his ‘How stuff gets built talk’!

As a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, an organisation celebrating its 200th birthday this year, Guy will work backwards from the finished project to first idea, using structural examples. Apart from the physical construction side, he will also talk about the other equally crucial elements including consultation, planning, design and consenting phases of projects.

Join us for this interactive session, looking at the bigger picture, with plenty of room for contribution and time to ask questions.

#ICE200 #YoE

Date 28 June 2018
Title Cafe Sci: "Data saves lifes" - What do YOU think?
Speaker Dr Mary Tully

Our next Café Scientifique will be held on Thursday 28th of June (19.30) at PLANTA NOMA, Dantzic Street, Manchester M60 0AE.

Our Speaker Dr Mary Tully has been part of University of Manchester since 1997 and currently is Director of Public Engagement for Connected Health Cities and Reader in Manchester Pharmacy School. Mary’s research focusses on the process and outcomes of prescribing in secondary care, and public engagement/involvement in the use/linkage of health data for research.

Every time you come in contact with a doctor, it is likely that some data will have been collected about your health. Grouped together, such data can be an invaluable resource to enable new research to be conducted or to evaluate whether new health services have had an impact. Indeed, it has been suggested that data is more valuable than oil! Everyone has an opinion as to whether data should be used for such research. But how do we know what people think about this topic?

In her talk “Data saves lives” – what do YOU think? Dr Mary Tully, will present the work that she and her colleagues have been doing to investigate the detailed views of the public on the use of health data. Do YOU think the same as everyone else? Come along and find out!


You can find out more about Dr Tully’s work here:

This event is completely free for everyone.



Date 25 September 2018
Title Cafe Sci: The Engineering behind the Ordsall Chord
Speaker Jason Hyde

Hey folks,

Welcome back to the new academic year and hope you all had a fabulous summer break!

Our next Café Scientifique will be heldon *Tuesday 25 Sep 2018* at 6:30 PM at Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street, M13 9GB. Our speaker is Jason Hyde, a Chartered Civil Engineer with seven years’ experience years’ experience in the design, assessment, strengthening, modification and construction of structures (principally in the bridges sector). His work has involved highway, railway and light rail infrastructure projects both in the UK and Europe at all stages of projects. Jason is the Digital Delivery Leader for the Western Division of Mott MacDonald and recently has been tasked with the delivery of a “Go Digital” strategy across the division. Jason has been involved in the innovative use of technology across projects and recently delivered the UK’s first steel bridge from design to construction without the use of conventional 2D drawings providing time and cost savings to all parties involved.

In this talk, Jason will focus on the engineering behind some of the structures on the Ordsall Chord along with the collaborative approach to the delivery of the project. The Ordsall Chord links Manchester’s Victoria, Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations and is part of the Great North Rail Project. Opened at the end of 2017, it created improved north-south rail connectivity, removed conflicting operational moves to the south of Piccadilly station, and allowed a number of new direct rail services to be introduced.

This event is completely FREE for everyone.

Information about other upcoming events is available on our website

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Best wishes,

Bo Yao and Ayse Latif

Date 7 February 2019
Title Cafe Sci: "Feed Me!" - How plants tell us what they want.
Speaker Dr Giles Johnson

Date: Thursday 7 February

Time: 6.30-8.30pm

Place: The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Close, Manchester Science Park M15 6SY


Do you talk to your plants?  Famously, Prince Charles does.  But is there any point in doing so?  In this talk, Giles Johnson, a plant biologist from the University of Manchester, will try to convince you that actually, yes, this is worth doing.  But as all good conversationalists know, conversation is not about talking but about listening.  If you learn the language of plants, they can tell you a lot about what they need.  Increasingly this "listening" is being carried out on an industrial scale, by sensors mounted on tractors or even by satellites in space.  And these technologies are being developed to address the greatest challenge facing humanity - how to feed 9 billion mouths without destroying the planet.

This event is completely FREE for everyone, bring your friends! :D

Date 7 March 2019
Title Cafe Sci: The Human Voice
Speaker Professor Trevor Cox

Date: Thursday 7 March

Time: 6.30-8.30pm

Place: The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Close, Manchester Science Park M15 6SY


The Human Voice – Prof Trevor Cox (University of Salford)

Talking and singing comes naturally to most of us so it is easy to overlook how truly remarkable the human voice is. Mixing biology, physics and psychology, Trevor Cox will explore the workings of the voice looking at accents and different singing styles. The human voice has always been in flux, but over the last hundred years or so, this has been accelerated by technology.

What about the future? ‘Photoshop for voice’ has already been demonstrated, leading to a future with #FakeSpeech. Rich in sound examples, the talk will draw on Trevor’s latest popular science book, Now You’re Talking (Bodley Head 2018).

Trevor Cox is professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford. He has regularly appeared on BBC Radio 4. As well as his latest book “Now You’re Talking: Human Conversation from the Neanderthals to Artificial Intelligence” he is also the author of “Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound”.

This event is completely FREE for everyone, bring your friends!

Date 4 April 2019
Title Cafe Sci: Disease model in a dish – what else can stem cells do?
Speaker Professor Tao Wang

Date: Thursday 4 April 2019

Time: 6.30-8.30pm

Place: The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Close, Manchester Science Park M15 6SY


We all know that stem cells have unique abilities to develop into different cell types that form our human body. Do you know that cells from a developed individual could also be ‘reprogrammed’ and turned back to stem cells? These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). In this talk, Professor Tao Wang will address how iPSCs are made and how we could use these cells to create a patient-specific disease model in a dish for understanding disease mechanisms and identify treatment options.

Professor Tao Wang is a Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Manchester. She leads a research group investigating the molecular basis of cardiovascular diseases, focusing on genetic vascular conditions and the Notch signalling in cardiovascular system.

This event is completely FREE for everyone, bring your friends!‌

Date 6 June 2019
Title Cafe Sci: The mechanics of flight: Why birds wish they were helicopters?
Speaker Dr Ben Parslew

Date: Thursday 6 June 2019

Time: 6.30-8.30pm

Place: The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Close, Manchester Science Park M15 6SY


Birds, bees and bats all evolved powered flight by flapping their wings. The reciprocating motion of the wings provides thrust, while the shape and orientation of the wings generates lift. This differs from conventional man-made aircraft where the propulsive and lifting systems are deliberately kept independent – having a fixed wing led to the success of the first manned flights, and it still seems to be the most efficient means of flying over long distances.

But despite this there is still plenty of interest in research communities to create flapping wing aircraft. In this talk Dr Ben will discuss how well we currently understand the mechanics of organic flight, and why we would ever want to replicate it using machines.

Dr Ben Parslew is an expert in aerospace engineering, fluid dynamics and biomechanics at the University of Manchester. His research lies at the interface of engineering and biology, with particular interests in animal locomotion, unmanned aerial vehicles, robotics and computer animation.

This event is completely FREE for everyone, bring your friends!‌

Date 6 June 2019
Title Cafe Sci: Biofilm and Microbiomes - The key to our health?
Speaker Professor Andrew McBain

Date: Thursday 4 July 2019

Time: 6.30-8.30pm

Place: The Old Abbey Taphouse, Guildhall Close, Manchester Science Park M15 6SY


In his talk Professor Andrew McBain will tell us about biofilms, which form when microorganisms grow on surfaces (including the teeth, the digestive tract and the general environment) and microbiomes, which are microbial communities that can be found practically everywhere (including on and in the human body.) and how these are relevant to our daily lives.

Andrew is a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Manchester, UK. His research is focused on the human microbiome, responses of biofilms to antimicrobial treatments, and the interaction of microorganisms colonising the skin, nasopharynx, oral cavity and intestine. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Cambridge where he studied the human intestinal microbiota with the Medical Research Council at Addenbrookes Hospital. His interest in the human microbiome has diversified since moving to Manchester in 1999, to include body sites such as the skin and the oral cavity. He also maintains research programmes in other areas of applied microbiology and particularly enjoys multi-displinary research. He has supervised 29 PhD graduates and published over 100 papers.