2015 Talks

In 2015, twelve undergraduate speakers told a multi-disciplinary audience about their research.

 

Find out more about their individual talks after the video.

IMPACT THROUGH ENGAGEMENT

(KEYNOTE PRESENTATION)

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Jamie Gallagher

Jamie is the University of Glasgow's Public Engagement Officer. He spoke to our attendees about the beauty and the skill of speaking to non-specialist audience. Jamie’s role at the University is to support and facilitate staff and research students participating in public engagement, helping them to make an impact with their work beyond academia. 

 

THE MORALITY OF SUPERINTELLIGENCES

Ross McFarlane, Philosophy

Should we find ourselves staring into the camera eyes of the first superintelligence, it is doubtful that any person could proceed without fear of the dystopian futures portrayed since the beginning of science fiction. My research discusses the pressing nature of this threat and the somewhat terrifying thought that, for the first time, humanity might just get one chance to do something right, or face extinction.

 

The talk will consist of explaining the reasoning behind this statement, the consequences of getting the moral system in a superintelligence wrong, and how we might go about getting the morality system for superintelligences right first time. Using straight forward thought experiments and analogies, some from literature and some academic, I will endeavour to convey these ideas to an audience such that they understand the ideas themselves and the importance of this research.

 

SPORTS AND EXERCISE SCIENCES

Rory McIntyre, Life Sciences

Inactivity related illnesses have overtaken smoking as the main cause of death in the UK. This problem is one of several tackled by sports & exercise scientists. We need to try and make sure people are aware of these problems, and how they can play their part in reducing obesity.

 

I have been involved in two main research projects as part of my course this year. The first looked at the psychological benefits of exercise, and how being active changes how we feel. The second challenged the so-called 'fat-burning zone', where it was believed that lower intensity exercise burns more fat than higher intensity exercise. What we actually see is that over 24 hours, equal amounts of fat are burned for low and high intensity exercise. Because less time needs to be spent at a higher intensity for the same benefits, this could help people to better adhere to exercise.

 

SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Rebecca Fletcher, Social and Political Sciences

Sexual violence on college campuses in the U.S. is a huge issue right now. Students all over the country are protesting and President Obama has set up a taskforce to address the problem.

 

As an exchange student in the U.S. last year, I interviewed students, Police, and lawyers on campus to discuss potential solutions for my dissertation. We are constantly confronted with rape myths and victim blaming in the media and our everyday conversations, and all of us have seen American movies about college life and frat parties making this an issue everyone can relate to or find interesting in some way. Further, researchers in this field are being encouraged to actively educate the public and spread accurate information.

 

The aim of public sociology is to use sociological research to impact on society and that is what I hope to do with this study.

PARTICLE PHYSICS

Piotr Kalarus, Physics

Recently I was at CERN where I had opportunity to see one of the detectors and ask people working there about future tasks at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). I would like to explain what scientists at CERN actually do, what the benefits are for an ordinary citizen, and why the latest discovery of Higgs boson actually created more questions than it helped solve.

 

For the next few years the LHC will look for supersymmetric particles. What are these, and what might be potential consequences of finding them? Research examples will be presented after consultation with Doctor Wraight, a particle physicist working at the University of Glasgow.

 

THE ETHNICITY PARADIGM AND CULTURAL RACISM

Lucy Anthony, Sociology

I am looking at two areas: how a discourse of ethnicity has replaced one of 'race' at Government level, and also at Governmental treatment of multiculturalism.

 

It has been argued that a new and insidious cultural racism has ousted the now un-respectable scientific/biological racism: this could be said to be linked to the supplanting of 'race' by ethnicity. An examination of the deployment of the ethnicity paradigm by scholars as well as by policymakers and other non-academic actors will lead to asking whether that deployment aided the ease with which discourses of multiculturalism were taken up by Goverment officials: and, in their turn, faced a backlash of cultural racism. This talk is important to give to laypeople, as this issue strongly affects the lives of ordinary people.

 

METAETHICS

Laura Nicoara, Philosophy

Metaethics is a branch of moral philosophy which attempts to uncover the basic, often unanalysed presuppositions behind our ordinary practices.

 

We often ask ourselves ‘What is the right thing to do in this situation?’, but metaethicists believe that first we should ask what the concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ mean in relation to the world. In my research I focus on moral motivation. We often speak as though judging that x is right necessitates feeling some motivation to do it. But recent work in metaethics has shown that no belief that x is right is logically sufficient to generate a desire to do x.

 

In my talk I argue that this view is mostly right and I explore some of the consequences, including whether any of our moral practices are ever truly rational if there is a gap between morality and action, and whether this can affect our practical decision-making at all.

 

MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

Dalia Gala, Life Sciences

Proteins are fascinating biological molecules. I have always been really interested in how they work within cells. Complexity of life astonished and absorbed me since I was a kid, observing flowers and butterflies in the forest. I constantly strive to learn where life comes from, when it starts, to explore its mechanisms – and I believe that anyone could be thrilled to find out more about all those elaborate processes. This is why I decided to study life’s very basis at the Molecular and Cellular Biology course.

 

This is also why I participated in an internship in Oslo University Hospital in Norway last summer. I discovered a new protein-protein interaction with a huge potential in cancer research. This was an amazing adventure for me – both professionally and personally – and this is why I would like to participate in ‘Let's Talk About [X]!’ conference – to share my experiences with wider audience.

 

GLACIER DYNAMICS

Cameron McKay, Geographical and Earth Sciences

In the summer of 2014, I organised an independent expedition to Greenland with a fellow 2nd year undergraduate. We wanted to study the impact climate change is having on the landscape and people of the Arctic. To document the impact that climate change is having on the landscape, we took several time-lapse cameras, which gained footage of the melting glaciers over a two-week period.

 

There were much faster changes that we expected to the glaciers and ice sheet. We also interviewed locals about their experience of climate change with surprising results; they appeared to be having a very positive experience of climate change due to the economic benefits of new farming opportunities and increased tourism. We have now created a series of resources from the expedition including an educational resource pack and a short film which has recently premiered at the IMAX, Glasgow.

 

CRYPTOGRAPHY

Antonios Mandenakis, Maths & Stats

I have created an encryption/decryption code for protection of conversations. In a world where the internet is ever expanding and where the communication is done through it (emails, facebook messages etc) it is of uttermost importance to protect the privacy of the people.

 

Cryptography is more interdisciplinary than most people think since it involves law, politics, mathematics, computer science and so forth. There are several real life examples which may be mentioned from the ultimatum of president Obama towards Blackberry (since its text messages were unbreakable) to an every day school class. We live in a world governed by information and most people are ignorant about their protection.

THE LITERATURE OF WAR

David Selfe, English Literature

Framed in the context of the recent phenomenon of the ‘War on Terror’, my project discusses works ranging from Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ to Gregory Burke’s ‘Black Watch’ and Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Last Post,’ and investigates the state of our contemporary conceptions of war. These are explored in terms of ontology (given the vagueness of the ‘War on Terror’, how are we to fully understand its reality?); epistemology (how can writers honestly and accurately represent war?); and morality (do writers have ethical obligations when representing war?).

 

This project is particularly interesting because art is a fundamentally influential instrument in shaping our understanding and opinions of the experience of spectating warfare, one that academics and non-academics alike are willingly to actively engage with – we need only consider the extended global success of ‘Black Watch’ to appreciate public readiness to engage with an often provocative and opaque subject.

 

SLEEP CONSISTENCY

Ana-Maria Rotaru, Psychology

The effect of daily routine on sleep consistency remains a relatively understudied topic. This study tried to address this issue by investigating how daily routine affected sleep consistency and perceived well-being in a student population. At university, students encounter various challenges which may lead to an irregular routine and inconsistent sleep. Accumulating evidence suggests that poor/irregular sleep can negatively affect academic performance and psychological well-being. For this reason, a focus group was conducted to explore the factors underlying sleep consistency, and the role of daily activities therein.

 

Five British undergraduate students participated in this focus group, sharing their experiences in this matter. Thematic analysis revealed three major themes: Adjusting to routine, Irregular routine, and Coping mechanisms. The qualitative data supports previous findings in that daily routine appears to play a major role in sleep scheduling. The findings were discussed in the light of relevant literature, and practical implications were suggested.