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, would like further details about the series or a zoom link to join a seminar online, please contact Delphine Mordey (dmm36@cam.ac.uk).

27 January: Esme Ashe-Jepson (MCR), 'Thermoregulatory ability versus thermal tolerance in tropical butterflies: alternative strategies to cope with climate change'

Climate change poses a severe threat to many taxa, with increased mean temperatures and frequency of extreme weather events predicted. Insects respond to non-optimal temperatures using behaviours or local microclimates to thermoregulate (thermal buffering ability), or through physiological tolerance. We studied the thermal buffering ability and thermal tolerance of a community of 54 tropical butterfly species in Panama. Thermal buffering ability and tolerance were influenced by taxonomic family, size, and colour, with Pieridae, large, and dark butterflies having the strongest thermal buffering ability, and with Hesperiidae, small, and dark butterflies tolerating the highest temperatures. We identified an interaction between thermal buffering ability and physiological tolerance, where species with stronger thermal buffering abilities had lower thermal tolerance, and vice versa. This interaction implies that most species will be vulnerable to climate change to an extent, considering that species appear to adapt to one strategy at the expense of the other.

Esme is a fourth year PhD student working on butterflies and how to conserve them under climate change. She is a part of the Insect Ecology Group, in the Zoology department of Cambridge. She did her undergraduate degree in Conservation Biology and Ecology at the University of Exeter (with a year at Monash University, Australia), and her Masters by Research at UCL in Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation. Her current work in her PhD is done in collaboration with multiple partners, including the Wildlife Trust in the UK to improve evidence-led conservation of butterflies in British nature reserves, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to better understand how tropical butterflies will respond to climate change

3 February: Tasnuva Ferdous Ming Khan (MCR), 'Under the sea: Ecosystem structure of Antarctic seafloor invertebrates in the modern oceans and in the fossil record'

Marine seafloor communities surrounding Antarctica are unique, with soft-bodied suspension-feeding animals dominating the structure, and a rarity of shell crushing predators like sharks or rays. Benthic (seafloor) habitats include shallow muddy shelves, deep water bottoms, dropstones, and areas covered entirely in ice; together these habitats support over 17,000 species. Despite the high biodiversity in the Southern Ocean, how the species interact with each other, and their physical environment, are presently not well understood, but observations of the seafloor enable us to answer these questions. For the modern ocean, we use seabed photographs taken by the Ocean Floor Observation and Bathymetry System (OFOBS), a towed camera system on board the RV Polarstern, Alfred Wegener Institute, to identify the taxonomic diversity and abundance of the benthos in the Weddell Sea, off the Antarctic Peninsula. These datasets allow us to identify key species and spatial structuring of the modern Southern Ocean. We also assess community structure of invertebrates in Antarctica over deep time, by studying the fossil record of Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula, through museum collections at the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca NY, and the British Antarctic Survey. The Collections cover the latest Cretaceous (~65 million years ago) up to the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, when Antarctica had a greenhouse climate with no ice cover. Unlike modern Antarctic marine communities, the Cretaceous animals contained hard shells, and predators like sharks and crabs were abundant. By quantifying the fossil record and the modern oceans, we can assess how seafloor communities in Antarctica changed over the last 65 million years.

Ming is a PhD student in the Department of Zoology and the British Antarctic Survey. She studies community dynamics and ecosystem interactions between invertebrates on the Antarctic seafloor, both in the modern oceans and in the fossil record.

10 February: Mahera Sarkar (JCR), 'Should a different approach be permitted for people who do not recognise brainstem death as death for religious reasons?'

Within the UK, there is currently no statutory definition of death. There have been numerous attempts to find a legal definition that the courts may rely upon, the most common of which is brainstem death. A 1995 Journal of the Royal College of Physicians entitled ‘Criteria for the Diagnosis of Brainstem Death’describes this is as the “irreversible loss of capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe” but members of the medical profession and legal scholars continue to debate whether this is adequate. Some of the most notable literature about the suitability of this definition includes Parent and Turi’s piece ‘Death’s Troubled Relationship with the Law’ and Butler-Cole KC and Tankel’s ‘Brain Death and the Law’. The latter article has been the inspiration for my dissertation as it poses the following question in its conclusion: “Should a different approach be permitted for people who do not recognise brainstem death as death for religious reasons?”In this talk, I will discuss my central thesis that religion does have a part to play in the definition and confirmation of death and to ignore it creates significant problems under Article 9 of the ECHR, the right to religious freedom.

17 February: Keir Hesse and Jude Taylor (JCR), 'Spaces within Spaces: Gender Non-Conformity at a Women’s College'

In this seminar, we will lay out the preliminary findings of our year-long ethnographic study of gender non-conforming students at Newnham College. One of just two remaining women’s higher education institutes in Europe, this exclusively defined space is experienced in a multitude of ways by its diverse student body, over a quarter of whom identified themselves as trans in a recent survey of the JCR. We draw attention to how Newnham has come to create its own terms of gender normativity, exploring how its designation as a women’s space makes it simultaneously the site of gender creativity, and of social sanctioning for those students who do not conform to certain expectations of womanhood. Further to this, we consider the symbiosis of different ‘spaces’ carved out by queer, feminist, and religious communities, and how this is impacted by the overlapping and interweaving of the public with the private and the academic/theoretical with lived experiences. Ultimately, our findings illustrate that Newnham’s 150 year history as a site of contestation over gender-based norms is far from over. Whilst hegemonic notions of womanhood are upheld via institutions, culture, and peers, the college – as always – remains a space that those who refuse to conform to gendered norms call home.

We are both second year students studying Human, Social and Political Sciences. Jude is doing the Sociology track, and Keir is doing the Social Anthropology track. Last year, we were the zine editors for the SU LGBT+ Campaign and are both founding members of CU Butch Society

24 February: Karinder Brar (PhD, UK Dementia Institute), Mechanisms to Medicines in Neurodegeneration

Dementias such as Alzheimer’s effect 55 million people worldwide and with an ageing global population this number is set to increase in the coming decades. Currently, there is no cure for any of these diseases, with treatments only being given to improve symptoms. Our lab focuses on understanding a common stress response that is overactivated in many neurodegenerative diseases and contributes to disease progression. Further understanding of this response has given us key insight and new drug targets. We have developed a biophysical sensor allowing us to monitor stress response activation. This sensor can now go on to be used in high-throughput drug screening assays to hopefully find a drug that inhibits the stress response and therefore would provide neuroprotection across a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases.

Karinder is a fourth year PhD student in Giovanna Mallucci’s lab based in the UK Dementia Research Institute interested in understanding the common underlying biological mechanisms that cause neurodegenerative diseases to discover new drug targets. She completed her undergraduate degree in her hometown of Southampton, where she studied biomedical sciences. She then moved to UCL to complete her Master of Research in neuroscience.

3 March: Florence Harry

10 March: Shaaroni Wong (PhD)