10th PubhD Manchester – Monday 16th May 2016

We’re back again, same time (7.30pm), same venue (Crown & Kettle), same format (whiteboard, pens, speakers, etc.).  Join us!

We have two speakers lined up already, but we’re looking for just one more.  We’re especially keen to get more Humanities students in front of the whiteboard, as while we’ve had a huge variety of topics from the sciences, academic research has a greater breath than only science and engineering!  We’ve done very well at attracting scientists to our events, but we’re ready for something completely different….

Are you, or someone you know, pursuing studies in the humanities at postgraduate level?  We’d love to hear about your research at PubhD.  Although you don’t get access to a projector (no Death By PowerPoint at PubhD), props are permitted in addition to the whiteboard and pens.  Bring something to make your talk memorable!

22nd February 2016: Geological Disposal Facilities, Metamaterials, Schizophrenia

Tonight, at an alternative venue (again), we have speakers on Building Biology, Cloaking Devices, and Schizophrenia.  Confused?  You might be now but read on, and hear the speakers’ stories for yourself at The Crown & Kettle, crowned (see what we did there?) one of Britain’s best pubs.

The set-up is the same as always:

Three local researchers. One whiteboard. Ten minutes each to explain what they do to anyone who wants to listen. This month, lots and lots of science!

Haydn Haynes is a PhD student in the School of Earth, Atmospheric, and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Manchester. He is working on the microbiology of construction materials intended for use in a Geological Disposal Facility, for the disposal of nuclear waste

Philip Thomas works in the Condensed Matter Physics group in the School of Physics & Astronomy and is also part of the NowNano CDT. People have dreamed up all sorts of wild futuristic inventions – invisibility cloaks, biosensors, perfect lenses – the list goes on. A problem with realising these ideas is that they all rely on optical phenomena that aren’t found in nature. The solution is simple: invent a new class of materials – metamaterials – with weird properties unlike any found in the natural world…

Lisa Heaney is a first year PhD student at the University of Manchester, in the department of Brain, Behaviour, and Mental Health. She is half psychologist, half neuroscientist, but luckily has yet to be called a “psycho-scientist”. Her PhD is to do with exercise and schizophrenia, specifically whether exercise helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of schizophrenia and how it works. Her research is translational, so she works in the clinic with people and with animal models of the disease. She also does a bit of science-related stand-up comedy, but won’t be subjecting you to that at PubhD. She is on Twitter as @lisaneuro

The event is free but there will be a voluntary collection on the night to pay for speakers’ drinks and to cover running costs.

We do have some of the future speaking slots booked already, but we’re always on the lookout for anyone with something interesting to say about their post-doctoral research.  If you’d like to join us either as a speaker or audience member, or if you just fancy a chat (are we going to regret saying this?), let us know at pubhdmanchester@gmail.com.

Monday 16th November 2015: Quantum Dots, Mix-Engineering, Face Transplantation

Due to thesis writing, illness, pub-hunting, and a variety of other obstructions, there was no October event (blub!).  But we were back for November, at a different venue (one which is reliably open).  The Old Monkey on Portland Street is central, friendly, and has lots of beers for every taste.  Not only that, but it has a large function room upstairs, which easily accommodated the 40 or so people who came along to hear some illuminating talks.

Manchester has a reputation for all sorts of eclectic and remarkable research, and tonight gave us a flavour of this: how many of us can say we went to the pub and learned about the applications of quantum dots, perception of sound quality, and face transplantation?

The evening’s line-up:

Ruben Ahumada-Lazo is a first-year PhD student in Physics at the University of Manchester. He is working on understanding the behaviour of quantum dots under light irradiation, for its application as light harvesters in cheaper and more efficient solar cells.

Alex Wilson is a PhD student at the University of Salford. He is investigating the perception of quality in sound recordings, focussing on music productions and mix-engineering.

Dr. Anne-Marie Martindale is an applied health anthropologist and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Manchester. Her PhD explored the relationship between faces, facial disfigurement, transplantation and identity.

Monday 21st September 2015: Heat and Light

Or, “The One Without A Pub” – Part 2.

We had a great time frantically searching for a last minute venue for you awesome PubhD-ers, and it was another sojourn at The Salutation.  Once again, social media was our friend, and we managed to let those who mattered (speakers and audience, of course!) know about the impromptu move with enough time for beer and food as well.

The three speakers for this event made an all-science line-up: Monique Henson discussed galaxy clusters, Tom Bourne presented on thermodynamics & statistical mechanics, and Melody Obeng spoke on polymer chemistry.

Fingers crossed that nothing gets in the way of the next PubhD Manchester!

Monday 18th May 2015 – This Is Your Research On Drugs

Well, this was an interesting night, for lots of reasons.  The event is called “PubhD”, and the “pub” part of that is kinda important.  So when we turned up to our usual venue to find it closed, it was a little awkward.  After the initial panic, we did find another venue and the evening went very well.  We still had a good turnout, in spite of the sudden venue change.  We found that Twitter and Facebook were excellent means of getting the word out to people (so follow us @PubhDManchester and join the Facebook group – it could save you getting stranded in the rain like those of us who turned up early!), and as far as we know, no-one got lost or left behind (we’re so, so, sorry if you did).

On this occasion, we had two speakers, both talking about drugs.  “Ooh, that sounds exciting”, I hear you say!  Well, it was.  James Gilburt spoke about his research on synthesising proteins for use in medications that the modern world takes for granted.  Insulin, for example.  His work is mainly focused on getting synthesised proteins to fold correctly, to be usable.  Lots of use of the whiteboard in this talk, and James spoke for the full 20-minutes during the Q&A.  Closely related to the first talk, Xavier Just Baringo recently completed his PhD on synthesising natural compounds for use in drug manufacture.  Many chemicals are formed in nature under conditions that cannot be easily replicated in a lab, and so the ease with which they can be produced in bulk depends on different factors than if we were just farming the raw materials.  Part of Xavier’s research was on studying the viability of synthesising certain chemicals found in the natural world – how complex is it, how much will it cost, what sort of yield can we get? And so on…  And yes, someone asked the obligatory question about cannabis.  No, there’s not much point in synthesising THC – you can harvest it naturally in large enough quantities.

Well, like all our other events, discussion continued in the bar downstairs (did we mention the bar staff were kind enough to provide us with a private room?).  This was great, as it gave everyone an opportunity to engage further by conversing with the speakers while not on the clock.  But it leaves us with a dilemma for next time: where do we go from here?  Quite literally, where are we going to go?  We need a new venue.  Keep checking the site, Twitter and Facebook for news on this.  We will be returning in September, location TBC.

Monday 20th April 2015 – Human Geography, Life Sciences, Nuclear Physics

In April, our three speakers were:

Charlie Spring, Human Geography:
Charlie is in her first year of a PhD in Human Geography at the University of Salford. Her research starts from the contradictions of food availability in UK cities, where high levels of food waste coexist with hunger and food-related illness. She’s comparing the Real Junk Food Project with other organisations that redistribute surplus food to people, asking what it means to cook and eat together, and how such organisations might advocate to address systemic causes of hunger and waste.

Sarah Ryan, Life Sciences:
Sarah is a final year PhD student at the University of Manchester working on dementia and motor neuron disease. She is trying to figure out how a genetic error can cause both of these diseases, using a species of microscopic worm called C. elegans. This has earned her the unfortunate nickname, Worm Girl, which she is expecting Marvel to turn into a superhero character any day now. Sarah can be found on Twitter as @Geekazoid.

Alex Dicker, Nuclear Physics:
Alex spoke about co-linear laser spectroscopy, used for analysis of the nuclei of atoms, particularly with reference to what it can tell us about the structure of various radioactive isotopes.  More information here:

Laser spectroscopy of radioactive isotopes | The University of Manchester | Nuclear Physics Group


Monday 16th March 2015 – History, Sustainability, Environmental Engineering

Tonight’s PubhD took us back to The Church Inn, which is turning out to be a good venue for these talks. Our three speakers were from diverse subject areas, but with some connections between the topics, as we will elaborate…

Victoria Stiles completed her Ph.D at the University of Nottingham, and has since moved to Manchester.  We’re a very welcoming bunch at PubhD so we’re happy to hear talks from non-Mancunians too.  She spoke about the way the British Empire was portrayed in the media and in literature during the Nazi era.  There were some interesting points and surprises – the Nazis didn’t have complete control over publishers and booksellers, so while they wanted to communicate a certain message, this couldn’t be done consistently.  The way that the British were portrayed changed over various stages under Hitler’s rule, depending on how the Nazis wanted to manipulate the information to suit the agenda.  Parallels were drawn with the ways enemy regimes were negatively portrayed by a powerful opponent during WWI, and some of the audience discussion alluded to similarities with the way different media handle current conflicts.

Marc Hudson spoke about a different topic, but also related to manipulation of the media.  His work is on the reaction of the Australian coal industry to climate change regulations.  He used the analogy of sailing ships to tell the story.  Sailing ships were around for hundreds of years with many people  making significant investments in their existence.  With the arrival of steam ships, there was opposition and all sorts of dirty tactics like highlighting a competitor’s shortcomings and badmouthing the opposition.  Which is analogous to the treatment of renewable technologies by parts of the fossil fuel sector, and explains why change has been so slow.  The withholding of access to information and resources, the over-reporting of failures, the right people in the right places. It all contributes to slowing the move from one technology to another.  This type of problem is called a socio-technical transition, whereby the social factors are entwined with the technical progression and hence one factor holds the other back.

Kat Gray spoke on a related subject; retrofitting UK housing to mitigate the effects of climate change.  As Marc noted in his talk, we knew about what we needed to do about climate change back in the 1980s. But we stalled, and are still dragging our feet.  Since then, further research has occurred and we have made more predictions about what is likely to happen to our future climate.  Because some time has passed since we started creating models, we can compare measured data against these models for the start of the curve and we’re seeing the pattern play out.  Even if we stopped all carbon emissions today, we would still have to deal with the consequences of what we have already pumped into the atmosphere.  And so we must seriously consider ways of altering our homes to cope with this inevitable change.  It is estimated that 70% of today’s housing stock will still exist 50 years from now, and we need to adapt those buildings or suffer the effects of poor quality ventilation. Kat will carry out simulations using Met Office weather files to compare current building performance with future scenarios, and take measurements from existing buildings to compare the results.

PubhD Manchester returns on 20th April.