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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.

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.

The dates and speaker for this year's seminars are given below. 

Monday 15 October –  Geoffroy Dolphin  (PhD in Management Studies): "25 years of carbon pricing: much ado about nothing?"
Monday 29 October – Anthony Shillito  (PhD in Earth Sciences): "One Small Step: How animals first made the giant leap out of the oceans."
Monday 12 November –  James Wagstaff (PhD in Biological Science): A closer look at the central player in dividing bacteria


A quarter century after the introduction of the first CO2-tax (Finland, 1990) and roughly a decade after the introduction of the largest single carbon market (EU-ETS, 2005), pricing carbon to reduce emissions is again gaining momentum as part of many jurisdictions’ climate change mitigation strategies. Yet, while this is in itself a welcome – and long overdue – development, past experiences show that the design features of carbon pricing policies matter greatly for their environmental effectiveness.

Indeed, both economic theory and recent emperical analysis suggest that to substantially alter a jurisdiction's aggregate emissions path, carbon prices ought to cover (nearly) all emissions, be sufficiently high to start with, and rise gradually over time. Unfotunately, few jurisdictions have followed these principles, most of them introducing schemese with sectoral (and therefore partial) coverage and/or low associated prices.

With the help of the tools of political economy, the talk will discuss the most salient obstacles to past policy developments and suggest avenues for their future geographical expansion and strengthening.

Almost 3/4 of Earth’s animal biodiversity exists on land rather than in the oceans, yet this is a geologically-recent phenomenon: for the first 90% of Earth’s history no animals lived on the continents. Then 425 million years ago something changed, when against the odds pioneers established their first permanent foothold on land. But how much do we know about when, where and how they made this transition? How many failed attempts did it take? And what happened next?

My research focusses on the geological record around this decisive interval in the history of life, using sedimentary rocks and trace fossils (e.g. footprints and burrows) to unravel the mystery of how early ecosystems changed and diversified. I will discuss the build-up to the colonisation of land, where early excursions out of the seas were doomed to failure. I will talk about the global record of the ‘main event’, where non-marine communities were first established. I will consider the next steps – how communities diversified to fill a whole range of unexploited niches. Finally, I will discuss the mysteries that remain unsolved and the big questions I want to explore next.

12 November 2018

James Wagstaff - A closer look at the central player in dividing bacteria

All cells must divide in order to multiply themselves and their genes.

Division is usually done by splitting one parent cell into two similar offspring.  This splitting is quite a complicated process which has to be precisely coordinated in space and time as mistakes are catastrophic.  In almost all bacterial cells control of cell division appears to be in the hands of a protein called FtsZ.  Because we are very often interested in stopping bacteria from dividing and multiplying inside our bodies FtsZ has been extensively studied since its central role was identified 30 years ago.  Despite this effort, many basic questions about how FtsZ organises cell division remain unanswered.  During my PhD I have been using the amazing tools of structural biology, which allow us to find out (see) where atoms are inside biological molecules like proteins, to take a closer look at FtsZ and deepen our understanding of its function.