By Kristine Kivle
On Monday 3rd of December, the team Café Scientifique invited Ustinov college students to participate in a discussion panel about recycling, followed by the result of the competition for the best Xmas tree with recycled materials.
On Tuesday 6th November 2018, Café Politique organised and hosted their first event of the academic year.
Their seminar, titled: ‘US Midterm Elections: What lies in the uncertain future?’ was in conjunction with the election date itself.
Café Politique invited Durham University’s School of Governmental and International Affairs’ very own Dr Patrick Kuhn and Dr Neil Visalvanich, who provided a presentation on the science behind election predictions, statistical data, and how it can be interpreted.
Additionally, opinion polls were highlighted as sometimes being an inaccurate indicator for predicting results, as some people choose not to show their true voting intentions. The significance of youth turnout was also addressed, revealing the power the youth demographic has for potentially swinging election results. Furthermore, our guest speakers provided their own insightful predictions for what they believe the US Midterm Election results will show.
Retrospectively, we can see that they were correct in regard to the outcomes of the election. The Democrats did gain control of the House of Representatives and the Republicans did maintain control of the Senate. After the presentation we held a thirty minute Q+A session, which had high engagement and fruitful debate.
Following the success of Café Politique’s first event, we look forward to seeing you all early next year for our next event on the war in Yemen. More details to be revealed soon!
By Marianna Iliadou
How can you join smart cities, nationalism, wind turbines and regiment in global leadership? Through the Ustinov Research Round Table of course! This is an event organised by the Seminar Series team of the Ustinov’s Global Citizenship Programme (GCP), bringing together Ustinovians to share their own research.
In the year’s first Research Round Table, we managed to bring together speakers from the Department of Engineering, Geography, SGIA and Business School. This was extremely exciting, given its interdisciplinary character.
Briefly outlining the discussion, our first speaker, Roger Cox, talked about the maintenance record labelling of wind turbine data for fault prognosis and particularly the Bernoulli Naïve Bayes Classifier. Miklós Dürr, the second speaker, gave an account of smart cities by studying the case of Miskolc in Hungary, discussing broader matters, as its implication for minorities and mass surveillance. The third speaker, Eleanor Ferguson, shared her research interest in nationalism, using in particular the example of Italy and the recent rise to power of the Northern League. The last speaker, Etido Ekwere, explained in a cheerful and entertaining way what regiments in global leadership mean and emphasised the value of personal regiment, as it helps build influence and it is essential for aspiring global leaders.
The speakers participating in the Ustinov Research Round Table were given the opportunity to practise their presentation skills, discuss their work in a relaxed environment and get feedback from people coming from different academic disciplines. Additionally, the event provided other Ustinovians the opportunity to get an insight into their peer’s research. Creating these spaces of dialogue are very important for our community, helping us explore different disciplines, share our stories and engage in productive dialogue.
Interested in participating in (or attending) future Seminar Series events? Stay tuned for upcoming events advertised in our different social media accounts.
By Marianna Iliadou
‘Have you heard of Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene?’ ‘Do you want to know more about replicators, vehicles, memes and the so-called ‘genes-eye view’ of evolution?’ Since its advertising, this event looked very promising. But we were even more amazed by the presentation and explanation given by Dr Duncan Stibbard Hawkes!
We invited Dr Stibbard Hawkes, from the Anthropology Department of Durham University, to talk about Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene written in 1976. Dr Stibbard Hawkes started with Darwin’s theory of evolution, natural selection and its three rules: replication/reproduction, differential reproduction and mutation. To do this, our speaker used an amusing representation of how organisms replicate themselves; choosing M&Ms to illustrate this was indeed amusing and got the participants’ attention and a few giggles.
However, much of this has been said before Dawkins. So, what was his contribution to the field? Dawkins used the gene as the smallest unit as opposed to organisms and this is why he called his approach a ‘gene’s-eye view of evolution’. But why ‘selfish’? Dawkins’ later regretted using this term, as most people associate it with the human behaviour of being selfish. However, what Dawkins meant was that genes endeavour to replicate themselves and hence, figuratively, are selfish. Genes are immortal, while organisms can ‘die’. This is also related to the survival of the fittest, meaning, in simple terms, those that are better in copying themselves. In fact, according to Dawkins, genes are often rather more cooperative than they are selfish as, using Dawkins’ ‘rowing’ analogy, they cooperate like rowers in a boat. Actually, it is when genes don’t work together that anomalies, such as cancer, take place. Also, his book The Selfish Gene is very popular, because for the first time someone used common language to describe evolution, addressed to a non-specialist audience.
Continuing with the theory of evolution, Dr Stibbard Hawkes explained that with replicators in asexual reproduction the whole genome recombines, and the disadvantage is that if a mistake or a ‘mutation’ occurs all the future generations are stuck with the same mistake. This could be very serious, as the genome, a result of asexual reproduction, can accumulate deleterious genes in an irreversible manner (‘Muller’s ratchet’). On the other hand, in sexual reproduction the gene becomes separable from the genome and the advantage is half of the future generations can escape from deleterious genes. Human beings are diploid organisms (they have two sets of homogenous chromosomes) and have haploid sex cells that are recombined to create a new one.
Finally, our speaker talked about the concept of the meme (yes, a meme as we all know it and use it in social media). It was Dawkins that first used the term ‘meme’ in The Selfish Gene. There are some replications that cannot be explained, and Dawkins uses the term ‘meme’, using the metaphor of a virus, as anything that has the ability to convey from one person to another with an attempt of copying itself accurately. Memes, as opposed to what we saw before, spread through the behaviour they generate.
After the presentation, some of the questions posed were related to demographic transition, mutation and whether it can be seen as a good thing, Neanderthals, and gene editing techniques. Most importantly, there was a clarification that we shouldn’t refer to genes as superior or inferior, but rather as better or worse at copying themselves in particular environments.
Special thanks to Dr Duncan Stibbard Hawkes for his kind presentation and to everyone who attended the seminar.
By Marianna Iliadou
Is it possible for women to become priests? The answer is yes when it comes to the Church of England.
On Friday 9th March 2018, Café Politique hosted an event on women priests in the Church of England. The idea behind the event was to explore women’s empowerment and involvement in areas traditionally dominated by men. Additionally, the seminar offered a great opportunity for students with different backgrounds to get to know more about the Church of England and the British culture.
The event kicked off with Mr Alex Fry, PhD Student in the Department of Theology & Religion and Pastoral Tutor of St John’s College. Mr Fry discussed the particular circumstances that ‘allowed’ for this development in the Church of England: Henry VIII of England and the series of events in the 16th Century that led to the English Reformation (separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church); the rise in the number of English protestants; the mix of Evangelicals and Catholics, as well as other important cultural and key social changes. It is true that after the two world wars, women in the absence of men started doing jobs traditionally held by men. This way, women’s autonomy outside the household was increased.
But when did the ordination of women in the Church of England commence? It was in 1994 that the first ordination of women took place in Bristol. Before that, it was possible for women to be deacons or carry different duties, without being paid. Feelings were varied regarding the first ordination of women. There were also fears regarding the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. It is remarkable that only 30 years after the first ordination did it become possible for women to acquire higher positions in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In 2015, Libby Lane became the first woman bishop, holding the third most senior position within the Church of England.
After presenting these historical facts, Mr Fry then continued with his own research, namely why some male clergy reject the validity of women’s ordination in the Church of England. After explaining his research method, he shared with us some of the comments made by male clergy. Most of the comments were around the differences between men and women and that there is a God-given order that men do some things better than women and vice versa.
Then the baton was handed over to Revd Lindsey Goodhew, Associate Minister and Student Worker in St Nicholas Church, Durham. Revd Goodhew was trained at Cranmer Hall at St John’s College, served as deacon in 1993 and was ordained priest in July 1994. She was present at the event to share with us her first-hand experience as a female ordained priest.
When Revd Goodhew began her training, women were not allowed to be priests, so she started without knowing if she would end up as a deacon or priest. However, after being ordained, she started her work in Bristol, then Cambridge and York and the last 9 years in St Nicholas Church, Durham, mentoring students. During these years of practice, she has not faced some of the challenges and prejudice some other female priests have faced and her experience has been overall very positive. The different treatment she faced at the beginning of her vocation to the priesthood had to do more with her age than her gender, as she was very young when ordained and had to deal with some paternalistic behaviour from a number of men.
Nonetheless, what was more challenging for Revd Goodhew is the fact that both she and her husband are priests. The difficulty consists in the fact that priests need to be free whenever possible, as there is still a (very) male model of ministry that is based on a male priest having someone back home doing everything so that they are free to fulfil their call 24/7.
The event ended after the floor was opened for the Q&A session. Through a lively interaction between the two speakers and the audience, some of the main issues discussed were the role of the figure of Mary in the Anglo-Catholic culture and whether this shows a general attitude towards women, the possibility of inter-faith discussion about women in leading roles within religion, the text of the Bible and whether it serves as a basis for the distinct role of women and men, etc.
Special thanks to Mr Alex Fry and Revd Lindsey Goodhew for their kind participation and to everyone who attended the seminar.
By Ayako Terui
The idea of a tea event was born when I heard from some friends that they like matcha (green tea) flavoured snacks, and introduced them to the Japanese tea ceremony. However, I was also interested in the British afternoon tea, and the diversity of tea cultures which are seen in the world. Therefore, I decided to organize an international tea time event in which people could share selections of tea and snacks from their cultures with Ustinov’s multinational community and learn about each other.
At first, the community room was a bit quiet as many of the participants did not know each other. Yet once the brief presentation of tea and snacks was finished, the conversation never stopped, even after the end of the event. What I was interested in was a Taiwanese tea called ‘Oriental Beauty’, which both girls and boys are obsessed with, and an Indonesian-Dutch snack called ‘Kaasstengels’, a sort of cheese cookie. Also, in addition to matcha-flavoured snacks, one of my friends showed us how to make Japanese green tea in a traditional way using a ‘Chasan’ (茶筌), a bamboo brush, to stir the green tea powder. Some participants tried to make it by themselves and when they tasted it, they realized that genuine matcha is really bitter. Matcha is getting popular because of its health benefits, yet I would say that the matcha latte that you enjoy at a café includes a huge amount of sugar!
This was the second GCP event I have organized. I was particularly pleased to be able to create a communication space with the participants. I have experienced managing projects and events before, but they tended to be individual preparatory tasks. I have now gained new insights into building up communities, which is the key to enable us to support each other, get out from our comfort zones and engage with other people. The event came together thanks to all the support from my friends who kindly prepared tea and snacks, and the participants – (we are all friends now!).
By Giorgio Manzoni
It was a freezing night in December but the cold was not enough to stop the intrepid members of the Café Scientifique team and over 30 followers who decided to go and admire the amazing shiny “Stars of Durham”. The cloudy and rainy weather of the held off, leaving clear and dark skies as the adventurous students walked towards the nearby old observatory to unveil the secrets of the universe. Captained by our expert physicists and astronomers, Ross Knapman, David Tune and Giorgio Manzoni, and aided by their professional 8 x 40 inch Newtonian telescope, we observed four astronomical objects that can be observed only during the winter sky.
First, the Pleiades (M45), an open cluster of stars 443 light years far from us. Without a telescope it appears like a smooth cloud made of stars in the Taurus constellation but with a telescope we were able to distinguish the gas from which new extremely bright stars are currently forming. Then the Orion nebula arose from the horizon, making it possible for us to observe another bunch of very young stars enlightening the hydrogen gas surrounding them like a mother embracing her baby. The third object was really peculiar as it is produced by the end of life of a not that massive red giant star. It is a planetary nebula (nothing to do with planets…), the so-called Ring Nebula (M57), a ring of gas expanding from the remnant of the star that lay in the centre as a white dwarf, an object that does not collapse into a black hole just because of quantum effects (i.e. electron degeneracy pressure). Although this object is quite far from us (2,223 light years) it still belongs to our Galaxy. However, for the last one we decided to exit our Milky Way and observe an object that orbits around the Galaxy at a distance of 22,180 light years: M13. This is a globular cluster in Hercules’ constellation made of very old stars.
Finally succumbing to the chill of the winter, we headed back to the Sheraton Park Community Room for hot chocolate and cake, as we relaxed and warmed our toes. We look forward to seeing you all again soon!
By Pen-Yuan Hsing and Emine Gurbuz
According to Stuart Corbridge, the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, he has “been constantly impressed by the outstanding quality of research produced at the University”. However, this research is often locked up in an “ivory tower” and isolated from the local community. Over the past few years, PhD student and Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme (GCP) scholar Pen-Yuan Hsing has tried to bridge this gap through a citizen science project (MammalWeb) involving local residents throughout North East England. With a grant from the British Ecological Society, Pen collaborated with Belmont Community School in Durham to get students involved. This planted the seed for further partnerships connecting research in different disciplines at Durham University with the local community and schools.
The first result was from early this year, when Mrs Julie Ryder and Mr Valentine Maduko invited Pen and other GCP scholars to bring science experiments to their science open day. This worked out really well and Julie asked if there’s a way to bring the cutting-edge research at the University into schools where teachers have been teaching the same things for years.
So on 5 December 2017, Café Scientifique of the GCP enlisted research students from across the University to meet with local teachers at Belmont School. During this meeting, we discussed how we can bring the University into the classroom. Many fields were represented.
For example, Emine Gurbuz will talk about how the brain works through several activities at Belmont School in January 2018. These activities include hands-on experiments with Year 9 students where they will be guided to ask their own research questions about brains.
Some other activities come from Naz – a psychology PhD student who can “read minds” by looking at people’s expressions and Giorgio who is an astronomer with lots of outreach experience.
Arts, humanities and social sciences are also well-represented. Martina is doing a PhD in English and will lead a series of creative writing poetry activities. Ben will run exercises on entrepreneurship and business. Vicki will reflect with students on the use and implications of social media.
On top of all of this, we also wanted to take full advantage of the diversity at Ustinov College. The College is not only the largest postgraduate community in the UK, it is also the most international, with more than 100 nationalities represented. Ayako of the GCP Ustinov Intercultural Forum showed the attending teachers the full range of cultural events they can organise, from calligraphy to language cafés.
This event wasn’t attended by just teachers from Belmont School. The aim is for any local school to get involved, and we were excited that they also came that evening. For example, the head teacher from Pittington Primary School was present and established a connection with the GCP.
These teachers are now in touch with us and are planning activities throughout 2018. We are excited to see how the first sessions – such as those with Emine – will go. So please watch this space for updates!
We are grateful to Jess Watters of Ustinov Café Scientifique for her help in making this happen. We are also thankful to Julie for her brilliant idea and hosting us, and all the teachers at Belmont School.
Don’t forget to look at this Flickr album of photos from the day and share them!
By Nicholas Mattock, University of Western Australia
Global citizenship can be a difficult concept to grasp, not least because there is no set definition among those practicing global citizenship. I like to think of ‘global citizenship’ as an understanding and willingness to engage with problems that we face as a global community, as a means of facilitating change. This involves not just volunteering and community activism, but also discussing and exploring issues at an academic level amongst peers. The Global Citizenship Exchange is a new initiative by the Matariki Network – a group of 7 universities committed to promoting and developing the concept of global citizenship – that will provide students with broader exposure to both problems facing communities throughout the world, but also the ways in which we differ with regard to the practice of global citizenship.
As the first student to participate in the Global Citizenship Exchange program – travelling from the McCusker Centre at the University of Western Australia to slightly-less-sunny (but still very beautiful!) Ustinov College at Durham University, in the United Kingdom – I am excited to be among a new community, with new problems and new solutions. As a medical student at the University of Western Australia, my passion is measuring the social impact of global citizenship, both for the community and the individual. To this end, whilst at Durham, I will be running a short project to assess the relationship between self-perceptions of health and engagement with activities of global citizenship. Look for the cold-looking Australian, and I’ll happily give you a survey to fill out!
I am also passionate about the systems we put in place to facilitate activities of global citizenship among students, and developing a model for global citizenship that can be delivered beyond the Matariki Network. Despite being in Durham for less than a week, I have met individuals from every corner of the globe, and every field of study; such individuals are united not by their shared academic interests, but instead by a desire to foster change in communities at home and abroad. Opportunities such as the Global Citizenship Exchange not only build capacity in the individual participating, but also in the community they enter. I would like to think that this is as much a learning opportunity for Ustinov College and Durham University, as it is for myself and the McCusker Centre at the University of Western Australia. Building global relationships, such as those facilitated by the Global Citizenship Exchange, is fundamental to addressing the issues that we face as a global community.
‘Global citizenship’ as a concept is still in its infancy, and the Matariki Network has made it a priority to foster this initiative, both as a powerful tool for social change, and as a way of developing capacity within students and their communities. I appreciate the confidence that the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at the University of Western Australia has in my capacity to act as an ambassador for the Centre and for UWA, and the hospitality provided by Ustinov College at Durham University. In a global economic and social environment that is increasingly stifling of social change, I believe in programs such as the Global Citizenship Exchange as a way of building awareness and capacity in our future advocates and enablers.