Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme

5th May – Cinco de Mayo

By Diana Martinez-Trejo

First, we share a little bit of history….

In 1861, Benito Juárez—a lawyer and member of the indigenous Zapotec tribe—was elected as the president of Mexico. At the time, the country was in financial ruin after years of internal strife, and the new president was forced to default on debt payments to European governments.

In response, France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, demanding repayment. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew their forces.

France, however, ruled by Napoleon III, and they decided to use the opportunity to carve an empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large force of troops and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat.

The vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans, led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5 1862, General Charles Latrille de Lorencez gathered his army—supported by heavy artillery—before the city of Puebla and led an assault.

From the presentation, attendees learn that the 5th of May:

  • Is a popular celebration in the USA, however, it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico because it is just the anniversary of a military victory.
  • It is important because despite the numbers, Mexico won the battle. With only 83 Mexicans died in comparison to 462 French.
  • It is not celebrating Mexico achieving its Independence. Mexico got its Independence 50 years before this battle.
  • Traditions include military parades, recreations of the Battle of Puebla and other festive events. For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other: It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open.

After that, we have a group of Mexican students who shared some music with all the public present, I have to say, we had full house!

While the public were enjoying the music, outside Sheraton House the tacos were being made, after all, it can’t be a Mexican event without tacos!

After almost 3 hours, the last person was served, and then, some of the attendees spend some time enjoying some Mexican games and socialising.

The Ustinov Round Table

by Sirapat Saksawat

Photography by Pattaranun Chaisudhiphongskul

After the success of previous research roundtables, the GCP Seminar Team organised the third research round table of the year on Tuesday 18th June 2019. This time we had three speakers that shared and discussed their research topics from across departments, including Law, Computer Science, Archaeology and Engineering.

The first speaker was Ran Cao from Law Department. He talked about a new approach to protected groups for the crime of genocide in international criminal law.

The second speaker, Matthew Roberts from Computer Science and Archaeology Department, presented a new way of using the computer vision software and machine learning to automatically classify and cluster image data, which is provided by the Durham University Oriental Museum.
The final presentation was delivered by Jose Antonio Marquez Ruiz from the department of Engineering. He shared a model of oil and gas extraction from the underground, aiming at efficiency and cost-effectiveness in order to avoid the mix of water during the production.
During the Q&A session, we offered the opportunity to the speakers to further discuss their research in a friendly atmosphere and get feedback from the audience. After this, different students shared their research interests as well, successfully creating a platform for networking and socialising with students from several departments.
The GCP Seminar Team would like to thank our speakers and everyone who joined our event. Since this was our last event for the academic year, we look forward to seeing you in our upcoming events next year.

UIF Oriental Museum Workshop: Power

By Sanjukta Nair

Photographs by Ines Pandzic and Matthew Roberts

Due to the vast collection of artefacts that our local Oriental Museum holds in storage, it is impossible to see all that there is to see in a single trip. Hence it is customary for the UIF to organise multiple museum visits in an academic year, drawing out previously unseen objects according to a particular theme. Our second visit this year focused on Power; something that created and destroyed dynasties, controlled the dissemination of ideas and thoughts, and dictated the way of life for most (particularly women). The event began with a quick trip around the cultural galleries of the museum, with special attention being given to objects that portrayed power in some form. This included a special hood made for hawks that were owned by the rich, a small yet powerful Egyptian mace that would be used for ceremonial purposes, and an example of Japanese block prints that could include subtle messages with hidden meanings to avoid being censored and rejected by the government at the time. One could have easily gotten lost in time looking at the museum’s collection, so it was important to hold a quick tea break before getting on to the part that makes every UIF trip to the museum special; personally handling some of the museum’s artefacts!

The attendees and members of UIF were not at all disappointed. We were treated to objects from all parts of Asia: from a jade block that would have been used as a seal of approval for official documents, to miniature paintings that Mughal rulers in India created to reinforce their authority, to incredibly small shoes that were meant for Chinese women binding their feet in conformance to societal fashion and control. Through these objects we were introduced to the various manners in which the rich powerful would assert their authority; one particular notable example being the ‘Shabti’; miniature statues that Egyptians would have placed in their tombs in order to serve them in the afterlife. Attendees could not believe that they were handling objects from over thousands of years ago! Perhaps the highlight of this session (and the part that most everyone was excited for) came from the opportunity to examine an original Japanese samurai sword, a symbol of martial authority. With its hilt wrapped in the pebbled leather skin from a stingray and the metal of the sword blade displaying a wavy pattern resulting from it’s original forging, it was without a doubt one of the most photographed pieces from the afternoon. All in all, the UIF and the Oriental Museum finished the day with another successful museum event, providing both students and locals some insight into what life was like in times, places, and cultures far removed from Durham.

Women in Science – The life of researcher

By Giorgio Manzoni

After the first successful edition of the life of a researcher, this time other four well-known researchers decided to join the café scientifique team to discuss what it means to undertake an academic career as a woman. First talk was by Ruth Gregory, a famous mathematician and recipient of the Maxwell Medal and Prize, just like Stephen Hawking. The audience was astonished when she showed us the picture of her at the University sitting next to Stephen, still unaware of the future that awaited her. Then it was the time of Lydia Heck, physician and computer manager. With the true grit of the navy pilot she told us about her interesting story, her staying in Australia and the way she managed to have both an amazing family and a brilliant career. Now she is responsible of the 114th most powerful computer in the world (located in Durham, by the way!). Next was Alexandra Cristea, famous computer scientist, which illustrated us some application of machine learning and artificial intelligence that can be applied to revolutionize the way of teaching at school. Finally, Azi Fattahi, our youngest little star and astrophysicist explained us what it means to simulate the universe using Lydia’s powerful supercomputers! After the talks, a great and constructive discussion followed about the role of women in science. It was a great, inspirational and motivational moment where everybody was able to share their opinion about how to improve this, sometimes weird, world.

“Walk down memory lane” Alzheimers Society

By Kristine Kivle

Sunday 26th of May the GCP volunteering team, alongside the GCR D.U.C.K team hosted the first Ustinov charity walk/run at Sheraton Park. “Walk down memory lane” was put on in partnership with the UK Alzheimer’s society to help fundraise the incredible work they do for individuals, families and groups affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Every three minutes, someone in the UK develops dementia. This means almost all of us knows someone affected by the disease. Dementia doesn’t just affect old people but is increasingly affecting younger people as well. Currently, there is no cure for dementia despite heavy efforts by scientists and doctors. Memories are some of the most important things we have and the architecture of our identity. That is why we chose the Alzheimer’s society as our organisation and wanted to contribute to their cause.


Some of our volunteers managed the table with delicious cakes and food.

The framework of the event was simple, we invited Ustinovians, students, faculty, staff, the local community, family and friends to contribute to our goal of walking/running 50 km in 1,5 hours. At Sheraton Park we made a loop where participants could walk or run as many rounds as they wanted to within the time frame. 25 people contributed and together we managed to run/walk 671 rounds(!!). Ustinovian, Daniel Barnett, was on fire that Sunday and completed 167 rounds BY HIMSELF!! Because of this collective effort we managed to reach our goal!o.

The Alzheimer’s society managed a nice information booth during the event.

The event was not only limited to walking and running but featured a variety of family entertainment. The children (but also some grown-ups) decorated cupcakes, used their creativity at the arts and craft table and got their face painted by our lovely volunteers. Participants also had the opportunity of trying a variety of food and drinks. With Chinese rice cakes, Norwegian “Boller”, English lemon cake, energy bars, hot chocolate and bubble tea, to mention a small selection, our taste buds also got a workout. The delicious cakes and pastries were exchanged for donations to the Alzheimer’s society, who also contributed with their volunteers. The Alzheimer’s society hosted a very useful information booth were those passing by could ask their questions regarding Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Some of our runners in action, while others are taking a well-deserved rest on the lawn.

Unfortunately, the event was held on a rainy bank holiday Sunday, the turnout was thus not as good as we had hoped for. Despite this we had a great day and managed to raise £197.40 for an incredibly important cause.


Daniel Barnett ran 167 rounds!! How cool is that?

As the head of the volunteering team I would like to thank all our volunteers for the effort, time and fun they put into this event. I would further like to thank all those who came to the event and made it a success, as well as those who supported the online campaign. Lastly, I would like to extend a particularly massive thank you to GCR D.U.C.K Liaison officer, Sumien Deetlefs, who co-organised and hosted the event with me. The College Management Team at Ustinov College also deserve a thank you for all the help and guidance. 

Venezuela: Why the Humanitarian Crisis Matters

On the 17th May 2019, Café Politique hosted an informative event regarding the current crisis in Venezuela. Topics covered included the political climate, human rights implications and the energy crisis. Our speakers were Maryhen Jimenez Morales from the University of Oxford and Daniela Guerra from Queen Mary’s University and the Co-Founder and General Coordinator of Human Rights NGO Codhez. Moreover, we also heard from our fellow Ustinovian Gabriel Zambrano (a former Coordinator at Human Rights Watch and Renewable Energy Engineer).

Ms Morales discussed the political climate and standard of living in Venezuela. She believes that the country is experiencing a ‘hybrid regime’ as Venezuela used to be democratic and is now rapidly becoming authoritarian. Additionally, Ms Morales highlighted cited blackouts as a major cause of death in the country. Some areas experience weeks and months without access to electricity. This is because the oil and electricity sector have effectively collapsed; the country now only produces one third of the oil produced in 1999. As a result, between 8-9000 refugees are crossing the Columbian border every day.

Moreover, she cited that during the past two weeks, over 400 political prisoners and 10 MPs had to seek asylum as their political ideology did not fit with the regimes’. These problems are worsened as there is no independence or separation of powers. She also discussed further foreseen challenges. Chavez never had received more than 60% of public support, she also posed the following question: ‘Does Chavez really have the public’s support, or does he gain votes via clientelism?’ The state turned into a repressive mechanism to get votes; many were blackmailed to vote accordingly in order to receive necessities such as food.

Next, Ms Codhez presented the Venezuelan crisis through a human rights context. By the collection of data from various human rights groups and non-governmental organisations she cited that journalists are being increasingly targeted and detained in the country. In January this year twelve persons were detained, along with twenty-seven persons in February. According to Espacio Publico as a result, freedom of speech is highly affected. Most media are controlled by the Maduros regime, out of 144 newspapers only 74 remained active in August 2018. This number has decreased further since as newspapers are running out of paper. The government controls paper distribution, and therefore controls who can print news.

She also expressed the concept of social conflictivity as citizens are also getting detained for taking part in demonstrations against the regime. In a period of 4 months 1051 persons were detained for taking part in mostly peaceful demonstrations. One powerful case was cited: a young man was detained in July 2017 where he was raped in front of another 19 detainees. Amnesty international has worked on a lot of cases of a similar matter.

The final presentation was delivered by Mr Zambrano who provided an excellent historical perspective and evolution of the Venezuelan state. He explained how since 1539 the country had exported oil and the oil industry became a major source of income for Venezuela. Zulia was cited as the richest state in Venezuela, many oil barrels that are exported from there go to the United States and other western countries. Gomez was described as the country’s first dictator who also allowed British to find oil, but they couldn’t find much. However, the well-known British and Dutch ‘Shell Oil’ company has helped shape and positively evolve the Venezuelan economy. Mr Zambrano also included a video at the end showing the beautiful landscape and culture of the country, which ended the presentations in a positive and hopeful tone for Venezuelan’s future. Afterwards, we enjoyed a fruitful question and answer session with the audience.

Café Politique would like to thank everyone who attended and watched during our live streaming of the event. Moreover, we would like to thank our guest speakers for their insight and brining forward awareness to the crisis to students of Durham. We look forward to seeing you all for our next upcoming Café Politique event in June.

Lean In: Career Advice for Women

By Marianna Iliadou Photo Credit: Pattaranun Chaisudhiphongskul On Thursday 30 th May 2019 the GCP Seminar Series and SUCCESS team organised an event on career advice for women. We had the pleasure to host two speakers who shared their knowledge and personal experience with us. The event kicked off with Dr Hannah Bows from Law School, Durham University, who presented the challenges women might face in the workplace. Dr Bows emphasised the structural and cultural challenges, while discussing the gender representation and pay gap in academia. She concluded her talk with the opportunities women could take to ‘fight back’ these challenges, including support networks within the university.
The floor was then handed to Dr Stephanie Scott from Business School, Durham University. Dr Scott shared her personal experience as a mother and a woman changing her career from industry to academia. In particular, she took as through her journey from a working mother in the private sector (USA) to a working mother in UK academia. Dr Scott ended her presentation by giving advice to the audience, following some points from the book ‘Lean In’ written by Sheryl Sandberg.
During the Q&A session, the discussion focused on what could be done at university level to ensure a more gender balanced representation in academia (e.g. include women’s work in the curriculum, combat the pay gap, confront male-only panels, etc.), the challenges of being a working mother, work-life balance tips, etc.
Special thanks to Dr Bows and Dr Scott for kindly accepting our invitation and to everyone who attended the event.

SUCCESS Event: Preparation for Job Hunting

On 9 May, 2019, SUCCESS organised its second event on the topic of job hunting at community room, Ustinov College. We had Neil Armstrong from business school as our speaker who has worked as a career consultant for three years and has provided career support and guidance to postgraduates. 

Around 25 students showed up for this event and most of them were master students who are currently in the process of looking for jobs and come from different departments. Neil focused on how students should make their job application from different perspectives. Instead of randomly applying for hundreds of positions, Neil encouraged students to think more on what they want from positions they are interested and what they can offer the company in return. Therefore, rather than searching for jobs aimlessly, there should be a strategy for each position and students could use the time left to make up to the standards mentioned in the job description (data process skills, project experiences). Neil also mentioned how to prepare for networking events and how to overcome nervousness and talk to the “influencers” in those events to get inside recommendations. After the presentation, Neil answered students’ specific questions related to students’ specific situations.

After the event, many students stayed to ask more questions. I think this is a very success event given that most students have never applied for jobs before and the presentation definitely cleared lots of confusions for them. After the event, we also informed the students that the central university provides very good career services and everyone is welcome to have a drop-in session.

Understanding Durham’s World Heritage Site Today

By Marianna Iliadou

Photo Credit: Pattaranun Chaisudhiphongskul

On Thursday 21st March the GCP Seminar Series Team tried something different to its usual event setting. Instead of having a speaker delivering a seminar, we decided to facilitate a discussion. The topic of the event was Durham’s World Heritage Site and the aim was to explore the perspectives of both students (national and international) and local residents on their experience, stories and views of the World Heritage Site and its use today.

Our expert, PhD student Anouk Lafortune-Bernard, from the Archaeology Department, facilitated the discussion of the event with the help of the Seminar Series scholars. As people were arriving, we encouraged them to take a sit in one of the three tables. Each table had A3 maps of Durham and as an icebreaker activity, participants were asked to draw the line of what they think the Durham World Heritage Site involves.

After the icebreaker, the event kicked off with discussion in each table on the history and importance of Durham World Heritage Site, its present use and expectations and Concerns related to Durham World Heritage Site. What followed was a short presentation by Anouk on findings of similar discussions she had with other groups. The last activity designed for the evening was to discuss your own experience of Durham compared to the results presented by Anouk.

It was very interesting to bring together local residents and students to discuss Durham’s Heritage Site, its use and expectations. The discussion in small groups showed how different the perceptions of students were compared to those of other groups. The focus was also placed on the role of university and what could be done in order to engage students with the local community, history and heritage of Durham.

Understanding the use of the site and reflect on any concerns or expectations that we may have about future plans or developments at, or near, the World Heritage Site is very important for our community. The event provided a great opportunity to create spaces where we can engage in dialogue beyond academic spheres, reinforcing ties within our community.

Special thanks to Anouk for the initiative and facilitation of the event and to everyone who participated.

Renewable Energy Competition

By Diana Martinez-Trejo

On Thursday 7th of March, team Café Scientifique organized a competition about renewable energies where not just Ustinov College students were invited to participate, also from the Engineering Department.

The competition start with a small demo on how Wind Turbines work and how we can get energy from the wind. Engineering Department of Durham University provided with a Wind Tunnel for this demo. Participants understood more about the mechanism of the turbines and got a better idea on the importance to use them in UK.

The rules of the game and the dynamics where explained to the participants, everyone agree to use the table as a buzzer to reply the question. Questions were read until one participant hit the “buzzer” or finish it. The type of questions were common knowledge based on UK and we had two different types of questions, multiple choice and direct answer.

The competition turned out to be between Ustinov College and Grey College; we had two students from each college. Matthew Roberts (member of the GCP) helped by being the judge of the competition.

After a very hard-fought and fun competition, participants went to sudden death to determine the winner, surprisingly team Ustinov (lead by Shubham Shukla) won with the question: “What is the difference between renewable energy technologies and renewable energy resources?”

At the end of the competition, participants greeted each other, talk about their backgrounds, and discuss some of the questions. All contestants were happy participating in the competition and found out that renewable energy is playing a big role in the coming future.