Pudding Seminars

Pudding Seminars take place on a Friday and are an excellent opportunity to unite two of life’s great things: new research, and pudding!

Pudding Seminars are led by members of the College (undergraduates, postgraduates, Senior Members and staff), who give a brief 20 minute talk on their current research, followed by informal discussion.

Seminars start promptly at 1.15pm and end by 1.50pm. Tea, coffee and cake are available from 1pm.

If you are interested in giving a pudding seminar, or would like further details about the series please contact Delphine Mordey (dmm36@cam.ac.uk), Eloise Hamilton, or Laura Caponetto. In 2023-24, seminars will take place in either the Lucia Windsor Room or Sidgwick Hall.

Suri Li (PhD, History of Art), 'The Poor Clares and the Meditations on the Life of Christ'

Abstract: The rich scholarship on Italian female religious communities during the medieval and early modern period has revealed that no two convents were the same. Each convent was closely associated with its distinct local socio-political network, manifested certain contemporary religious ideals, and operated with a specific emphasis on particular conventual activities. From 1100 to 1400, there was an increase in both new types of religious life for women and the number of female saints. A rising number of girls were sent to join these religious communities across the Italian peninsula for various reasons, either voluntarily or coerced. This talk will focus on the Poor Clares, the first community of Franciscan women established by Saint Clare and cloistered by Pope Innocent III in 1216. By analyzing various artworks commissioned by and produced for these Franciscan nuns, especially Pacino di Bonaguidas Tree of Life, the talk will discuss the devotional practices of these nuns. It will explore how the particularly important devotional work Meditationes Vitae Christi is visually portrayed by Bonaguida and should be understood by contemporary religious audiences.

Biography: Suri Li is a third-year History of Art PhD candidate at Newnham College. She obtained her first-class honours degree in History of Art from the University of Edinburgh before entering the MPhil in History of Art programme at the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral research investigates the artistic and social networks between various Dominican female religious houses across Italy between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries. Fieldworks and archival research in Italy are essential to her current research project. She received a three-month fellowship from NIKI Florence and has conducted archival research in Florence, Prato, Lucca, Genoa and Turin since the second year of her doctoral studies.

26 January, Constanza Leeb (MCR),'Me, myself and AI: AI-Augmentation at the workplace'

‘Me, myself and I’ – this is what we typically would say. It speaks to a central concept that constantly surrounds us and is an answer to the question: Who am I? To this there are multiple answers for all of us, as we hold many identities in our lives. When we look at the workplace, we not only consider the question Who am I? but also What do I do? to build our identity. Thus, our work identity is closely connected to the tasks we perform, the actions we take and the agency we feel about these. With the rapid uptake of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by organisations and individuals, a technology that can learn and act – and therefore shows agency itself – now enters the workplace. By using AI to augment our skills, we experience a change in the tasks we perform, and a disruption in our perceived agency. As a result, our core beliefs about who we are at work can be challenged. Through a qualitative methodological approach, my research demonstrates that people react to this in different ways, often by employing strategies to deal with the tension they face or by adapting their work identity. In this talk I will present parts of my findings around employed strategies of a specific occupation. My research contributes to our understanding of how the use of AI affects us, creating knowledge that can support us to use the technology appropriately and to ensure that ‘me, myself and AI’ will work well together in the future.

Constanze Leeb is a third-year PhD student at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early-Stage Researcher with the Doctorial Training Network EINST4INE. She is under the supervision of Newnham fellow Letizia Mortara. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Sociology from the University of Vienna in Austria and has spent some time at the University of Chicago during her undergraduate studies. Before starting her PhD at Newnham, she completed a Master’s degree in Physics at the University of Vienna, focusing on experimental sub-atomic nuclear physics and detector development and a Master’s degree in Cognitive Science, jointly awarded by the University of Vienna and the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Her doctoral research investigates the effects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the work identity of AI users via a qualitative approach, which has included placements with companies in different industries and a research visit to RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

2 February, Vaidehi Roy Chowdhury (MCR, Centre for Misfolding Diseases), 'Mechanisms of aggregation and pathogenesis of the amyloidogenic peptide medin'

Abstract: One of the most common forms of senile localised amyloids in humans is formed by medin, a proteolytic fragment of lactadherin, in the extracellular matrix of the vascular medial layer. It has been implicated in thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection, systemic AA amyloidosis, giant cell arteritis, vascular dementia, and, more recently, cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA-AD type). It even co-exists and colocalises with other amyloids, including isoforms of amyloid-β in CAA. Despite the discovery of medin’s amyloidogenic activity more than two decades ago, we still do not know its mechanism of aggregation. This study addresses this problem through monitoring of medin’s aggregation kinetics in real-time and determining the microscopic mechanisms contributing to amyloidogenesis. This approach helps elucidate the aggregation of medin in the natural milieu of the extracellular matrix and is instrumental for identifying suitable drug candidates for inhibition of aggregation and stabilisation of medin in its non-toxic state.

Biography: Vaidehi Roy Chowdhury is a PhD student in Chemistry. She holds an MSc in Biotechnology from the University of Calcutta, India. Currently based at the Centre for Misfolding Diseases in the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, Vaidehi is deeply interested in protein structure, folding and misfolding, and those diseases where protein misfolding is a key mediator.

9 February, Miranda Evans (PhD, Archaeology), 'The Proteomics of Pottery: What can dirty dishes tell us about ancient cuisine?'

Food is probably the most tangible part of our daily lives yet one of the most difficult to unravel in the archaeological record. Food is not only essential for survival, but also an important aspect of culture, and can reveal information on technological advances, trade and migration. While several methods exist to detect ingredients, including the analysis of archaeological plant and animal remains, evidence for food preparation practices, or “recipes” often relies on historic sources, which (if they exist at all) are usually written by and for the elite, rarely reflecting what normal people ate. Protein analysis of ceramics and their residues is becoming a popular method for interpreting ancient diet and culinary practice, as it can sometimes provide taxonomically and tissue specific evidence – revealing ingredients and occasionally even food preparation practices. In this Pudding Seminar I will present three case studies from my doctoral research, exploring what protein analysis of pottery residues can tell us about ancient diet and cuisine. Firstly, proteomics was used to detect ingredients processed throughout the Roman occupation of Northstowe, a rural hinterland site in modern Cambridgeshire, revealing a shift in dairy species husbandry. Secondly, by using modern comparative analogues, proteomic analysis was used to investigate the practice of cheesemaking in late Neolithic central Poland. Lastly, as a relatively young archaeological method, we remain ignorant of many of the preservational biases which impact proteomic analysis of ceramic residues. Thus, I explore the impact of cooking and burial on experimental samples to assess the biases that these actions introduce to protein results, providing food for thought for future archaeological interpretations.

Miranda Evans is a final year PhD student at the Department of Archaeology and a Cambridge Trust International Scholar. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Anatomy/Geography) and a Bachelor of Arts (Archaeology) from the University of Sydney, Australia, and spent time on exchange at the University of Edinburgh during her undergraduate studies. While completing her bachelor’s degrees she worked in the commercial archaeology sector, and upon moving to the UK, in museum collection management. Before starting her PhD at Newnham, she was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early-Stage Research Assistant on the TEMPERA European Training Network at the University of York under the supervision of Dr. Jessica Hendy, where she developed a passion for ancient protein studies. Her doctoral research investigates the proteomic analysis of pottery, and its application to understanding ancient diet and cuisine, supervised by Drs’ Tamsin O’Connell, Matthew Collins, Martin Millett, and Jessica Hendy (external).

16 February, Eve Canning (JCR, Linguistics), 'The stories of our lives: Evidence from linguistic phylogenetics, syntax, and language contact'

For almost two centuries, linguists have inferred the relationships between languages from intuitions regarding shared vocabulary items and sound changes, and represented these inferences using family trees. This process has been aided in the 21st century by computational methods, but this work has remained almost entirely focused on vocabulary — a ‘shallow’ and changeable aspect of language. In recent years, a new methodology has been developed to infer phylogenies for languages from elements of their syntax, such as their word order. This ‘Parametric Comparison Method’ has the potential to reach further back into linguistic history, but there is a significant gap in the published literature. The potential impact of language contact and the borrowing of elements from one language into another has been largely dismissed, considered only as an issue to be overcome in order to return a true genetic phylogeny. In order to better understand how language contact might be represented in quantitative syntactic data, I created a novel syntactic database by combining existing sources, computationally generated family trees from this database, and examined these trees for evidence of potential language contact. I will present the results of this study, which suggest that the Parametric Comparison Method can be a useful tool for identifying language contact leading to syntactic transfer. Furthermore, I argue that language contact should be embraced as an essential component of the story of any speech community, promoting a view of human history which considers not only the differences and divisions but also the similarities and connections between peoples.

23 February, Nikita Jha (MCR), 'Looking for Windmills: What Can the 'Invisible' Schools of India Teach Us About Evolving from Crisis?'

The COVID-19 pandemic has undone years of progress for schooling in India. In its aftermath, there has been an effort to assess sectoral mistakes so as to be prepared to navigate future crises successfully. The consequent emphasis on systemic deficits has meant an oversight of organisational successes, educational evolutions, and real-time adaptations in response to the pandemic. The spotlight in debates has also been on mainstream schooling, casting a shadow on several other pockets of the education sector: special schools, low-fee schools, and schools for minority communities, among others.

Against this backdrop, I present the story of one such ‘invisible’ school and its experience of adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on data from a pilot study conducted for my doctoral research, I will share snapshots, insights and preliminary findings from the field to examine the following question: how can adversity and crisis be leveraged as an opportunity for evolution?

1 March, Isobel Ackerman (MCR), 'Secret Cities: publishing ‘unusual guidebooks’'

The world of travel writing has always been romanticised by authors and bloggers, but what does it actually entail, and can traditional print guidebooks still offer something new and exciting to a public looking for adventure? Isobel Akerman, author of ‘Secret York: An Unusual Guide’ talks about the process of publishing a guidebook, writing history for a public audience, and gives a sneak preview of the upcoming ‘Secret Cambridge: An Unusual Guide’.


Isobel Akerman is a third year History PhD candidate at Newnham College, supervised by Prof. Paul Warde. Her research looks at the recent history of botanic gardens and the integration of environmental ideas (particularly biodiversity) into their research, education, and outreach since c.1960.

8 March, Emma Arnold (JCR, Classics), title tbc [CYNTHIA BEERBOWER ROOM]