Graduate Research Seminars

The Graduate Research seminars are held fortnightly on Monday lunchtimes during Term time and bring together St Catharine's Fellows and Graduates in an informal setting. Seminars last about 30 minutes, with 15 more minutes afterwards for discussion.

Lively discussion usually takes place after each seminar, bringing together St Catharine's Fellows and Graduates in an informal setting. All are warmly invited to attend.

About the seminars

The College’s Graduate Research Seminars are an opportunity for St Catharine’s Graduate students of all disciplines to present their research to a non-specialised audience comprising Fellows, other research students and interested guests.  Once each term, a Research Fellow is also invited to give a talk. This is because Research Fellows are typically similar to graduates in age and research experience. Furthermore, Research Fellowships form a possible next step in a Graduates' career.

Seminars are held in the SCR where a free buffet lunch is available starting at 12.45pm and seminars start at 1pm and last about 30 minutes. A further 15 minutes lively discussion takes place after the talk, with seminars concluding at 1.45pm.

2017/18 Seminar Series

The dates and speaker for this year's seminars are given below. Further details will be added during Michalemas Term.

Monday 16 October –  Michael Rivera (PhD in Biological Anthropology): “There’s plenty of fish in the sea: coastal living and eating in the prehistoric Baltics”
Monday 31 October – Basile Wicky (PhD in Chemistry): "Take it with a pinch of salt: revisiting a century-old phenomenon in the context of protein disorder"
Monday 14 November – Natasha Watts (PhD in Geography): “Structural studies on the lateral element of the meiosis specific synaptonemal complex”
Monday 27 November – David Battersby (PhD in Chemistry) "Title TBC"        

Monday 29 January  –  Speaker TBC 
Monday 13  February–  Sarah Foley (PhD in Sociology) “Does Early Mind-mindedness and Sensitivity Predict Later Autonomy Support? Contrasting Findings from Mothers and Fathers” 
Monday 26 February – Etienne Fodor (Junior Research Fellow in Mathematics): “Title TBC”
Monday 13 March– Anca Serban (PhD in Geography):  “Energy Landscapes in Atomic and Molecular Science: Theory and Practice”

Monday 7 May – Alejandro Jimenez-Sanchez (PhD in Medical Science/Cancer Research UK) “Heterogeneous Tumor-Immune Microenvironments among Differentially Growing Metastases in an Ovarian Cancer Patient ”
Monday 28 May–  Rachel Seary (PhD in Geography) “Mangroves, fisheries and community livelihoods - Case studies of Indonesia and Cambodia”



16 October 2017
Michael Rivera – PhD in Biological Anthropology

“There’s plenty of fish in the sea: coastal living and eating in the prehistoric Baltics”

This seminar explores the evolution of human diet and behaviour in the context of prehistoric Estonia and Latvia. Anthropologists and archaeologists answer questions about the lives of people, both in the past and living today. A vast literature has focused on the beginnings of farming, and what life was like in the first permanent, large-scale settlements roughly 10,000 years ago. Much of human behaviour and biology has been influenced by the particular technologies and changing environments to which people were exposed. Communities in Northeast Europe underwent a unique transition into agriculture, as they also lived near ample amounts of water-based sustenance, and relied on such food as fish, waterfowl, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Since the most direct way of studying people in the past is to study the actual remains of those people, my results highlight the strengths of bioarchaeology in painting a comprehensive picture of prehistoric life. For this PhD project, I examined the skeletons of 159 individuals dating to the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages (11th millennium BC ‒ 1st century AD). First, measurements of the skull, jaws and teeth were taken to study how human head shape responds biologically to dietary change, and track a greater reliance on softer foods in later periods. Second, laser scanning techniques were used to interpret human behaviour. The cross-sectional shape of 3D limb bone models revealed patterns about how much and how frequently people worked their arms and legs, with more physical activity detectable at the onset of agriculture. Third, recordings of pathologies and defects that appear on the teeth allow us to evaluate general health levels and the quality of diet experienced by the inhabitants of these riverside and seaside regions. These last results reflect unusually low rates of caries and enamel growth disruptions, plus a high-protein, sand-laden diet in these coastal settings. My research focusing on the Baltics contributes a unique case study to the greater body of scholarship concerned with recent human adaptation and evolution worldwide.

30 October 2017
Basile Wicky – PhD in Chemistry "Take it with a pinch of salt: revisiting a century-old phenomenon in the context of protein disorder”

DNA is the blueprint of Life, coding for the robots that sustain living organisms: proteins. From structure to catalysis, these biopolymers perform the molecular tasks at the heart of cells. Since the first structure of a protein was solved by Kendrew and Perutz in the 1958, the field of biology has widely adopted the structure-function paradigm; protein perform their tasks by adopting well-defined three-dimensional structures.

However, it has recently been recognised that protein lacking a shape can still be functional. These so-called intrinsically disordered proteins have challenged this paradigm, and raised questions about the functional consequences, and advantages, of protein disorder.

I will start by discussing fundamental aspects of protein biophysics, followed by a presentation of my findings on the effect of salts and ions on intrinsically disordered proteins. I will revisit a discovery from Franz Hofmeister, and show that a peculiarity from more than a century ago might be of biological significance in the context of protein disorder..

14 November
Natasha Watts - PhD in Geography “Investing for impact: finance and farming in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania””          

African agriculture has attracted increased global policy attention over the last 10 years due to concerns over both food security and economic growth. In this context, social impact investing (SII)—where investors use financial models to achieve positive social impacts as well as financial returns—is presented as a viable means of financing agricultural development in the context of reduced public funding. My findings show that SII is being driven by the pursuit for new profit frontiers and concerns over business risks, and also by a belief that a more moral capitalist economy can be built. How exactly 'social impact' is being defined, implemented, and measured, however, differs widely within SII.  

This paper is concerned with how SII (and its understandings, assumptions, and models of agricultural development) interact with smallholder farming in Tanzania. I unpack how the concept of SII takes shape, how it is translated into the Tanzanian context, and how it interacts with farmer livelihoods through a case study of Cheetah Development in Lower Kilolo District. Cheetah is an American social impact investor that provides agricultural inputs on credit to smallholder farmers and attempts to involve them in new maize value chains. Cheetah's model is based on a distinct moral economy. It identifies existing maize value chains centred around middlemen as features of an immoral capitalism. It also views smallholders as not only lacking market access and inputs, but also lacking in business-orientated mindsets. The Cheetah model builds various mechanisms to discipline farmers and render them bankable. Through examining farmer livelihoods, however, I find that farmers conduct diverse income-generating activities, and maize plays a variety of roles in village life. Farmer livelihoods are underpinned by a moral economy involving flexible relations of borrowing and lending. I conclude that moral economic assumptions embedded in the Cheetah model clash with farmer livelihoods and their conceptions of just socio-economic relationships, especially in a time of environmental disruptions..

26 November
David Batterby (PhD in Chemistry) - “'Title TBC”

Abstract to follow.


29 January
Speaker TBC  "Title TBA"

Abstract to folllow.  

12 February 2018
Sarah Foley – PhD in Psychology “Does Early Mind-mindedness and Sensitivity Predict Later Autonomy Support? Contrasting Findings from Mothers and Fathers”

When his first-born son Doddy reached the age of four months, Charles Darwin’s diary entries revealed his emerging awareness of the infant Doddy as an agent with his own thoughts, feelings and desires (Conrad, 1998). In contemporary research, this parental awareness of infants as sentient beings is described as ‘mind-mindedness’ (Meins, Fernyhough, Fradley, & Tuckey, 2001). Despite 20 years of research into parental mind-mindedness investigations have been limited by a narrow focus on mothers, on links sensitivity (rather than other aspects of parentings) and by ambiguity regarding the equivalence of alternative measures. Adding theoretical and methodological clarity to the field, this study tracked 195 couples and their infants from 4 to 14 months. Interactional and representational measures of parental mind-mindedness at Time 1 and concurrent ratings of sensitivity were compared as predictors of parental autonomy support, control and positive affect at Time 2. Consistent with current differentiated models of parenting, our results revealed distinct patterns of association that were stronger for fathers than for mothers.

26 February 2018
Etienne Fodor  – Junior Research Fellow in Mathematics: 
“Title TBC”

Abstarct to follow.

12 March 2018
Anca Serban – PhD in Geography
“Can we have it all?”

Can food security be guaranteed for all, while also shrinking agriculture's environmental footprint? Some argue that an important component for achieving this balance will require a landscape where the land for nature and agriculture are segregated (land-sparing), while others argue that integration of the two (land-sharing) is a better option. Assessments of land-sharing, land-sparing have largely failed to assess the broader socio-economic impacts of their implementation. Using role-playing games and agent-based model three land-sharing land-sparing scenarios were tested in rural India and assessed for their comparative merits. Benefits were reported under both strategies but with different implications for local livelihoods.


7 May 2018
Alejandro Jimenez-Sanchez – PhD in Medical Science (Cancer Research UK)
“Heterogeneous Tumor-Immune Microenvironments among Differentially Growing Metastases in an Ovarian Cancer Patient “ 

We present an exceptional case of a patient with high-grade serous ovarian cancer, treated with multiple chemotherapy regimens, who exhibited regression of some metastatic lesions with concomitant progression of other lesions during a treatment-free period. Using immunogenomic approaches, we found that progressing metastases were characterized by immune cell exclusion, whereas regressing and stable metastases were infiltrated by CD8+ and CD4+ T cells and exhibited oligoclonal expansion of specific T cell subsets. We also detected CD8+ T cell reactivity against predicted neoepitopes after isolation of cells from a blood sample taken almost 3 years after the tumors were resected. These findings suggest that multiple distinct tumor immune microenvironments co-exist within a single individual and may explain in part the heterogeneous fates of metastatic lesions often observed in the clinic post-therapy.

28  May 2018
Rachel Seary – PhD in Geography
"Mangroves, fisheries and community livelihoods - Case studies of Indonesia and Cambodia"

Abstract to follow