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Launch of new network for early career researchers in population health

ucyow3c11 September 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Dr Sadie Boniface (UCL Department of Epidemiology & Public Health)

Attendees at the launch of the Early Careers Network

Attendees at the launch of the Early Careers Network

Early career researchers should be inspired and supported, which is why the UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain launched its Early Careers Network (ECN) on Wednesday 3 September. The afternoon was packed with lively discussion and insightful talks from academics working in population health at various stages of their careers.

The event was led by Dr Ed Fottrell (UCL Institute for Global Health), who is Chair of the ECN’s 12-strong Committee. Ed made it very clear that while the ECN will aim to support early career researchers working in population health across UCL, the real value of the Network will depend on the researchers themselves and the links that will form in time.

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A particle physics evening

Oli Usher29 August 2014

Particle physics is a particularly abstruse area of science. The phenomena studied are so different from what we know and see that it is incredibly hard to convey even the most basic concepts.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that the past few years have seen an explosion in public interest in particle physics. The construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN a decade ago was one trigger for this – and the LHC’s triumphant discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012 only confirmed the discipline’s popularity.

UCL is a major participant in the LHC (witness the 24 UCL authors of one of the papers that confirmed the discovery of the Higgs particle). Last week saw the BOOST conference, an international workshop for particle physicists at UCL. A group of them held a public event (A Particle Physics Evening, 20 August) hosted by UCL’s head of physics, Jon Butterworth.

Participants in the BOOST workshop, with Jon Butterworth at the centre. Photo credit: James Monk

Participants in the BOOST workshop, with Jon Butterworth at the centre. Photo credit: James Monk

The evening featured various talks on CERN and particle physics, including a live linkup with the CERN control room. (Unusually, given how flaky the technology usually is, the video-conferencing worked flawlessly. This is just as well – any networking problems would have been embarrassing given the world wide web was invented at CERN and UCL had the UK’s first connection to the internet.).

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Out of this world: The Petrie Museum and CASA at LonCon3

ucyow3c20 August 2014

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Written by Dr Debbie Challis

Where can you mingle with a Hawaiian Dalek (image 1), attend events on ‘alien sounds’ and get fit by playing quidditch? The answer is WorldCon, or for its third London venture LonCon3 – the biggest science fiction (SF) convention in the world, which took place over a five-day extravaganza of all things SF at the ExCel Centre between 14 and 18 August.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology had a stall in the exhibits hall – among the dealers, SF publishers, academic posters, astronomers and English heritage (among others) – where we promoted the museum and different ways of thinking about ancient Egypt and archaeology.

This year, LonCon3 had over 10,000 attendees (many attend virtually – one man in the USA even sent his own robot!) and made the front page of the Guardian on Saturday 15 August. The scale of it was enormous, with hundreds of events, screenings, signings and an enormous chill out space (image 2).

I didn’t get a chance to see very much but what I did see was impressive in quality, such as the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees on ‘A post human future’ or a fascinating presentation on reworking the Pygmalion myth in film by Paul James (Open University). Annie, one of our volunteers and ‘Friends of the Petrie’, reported back on an excellent talk on bacteria and the increasing uselessness of antibiotics, entitled ‘Revenge of the bugs’, by UCL’s Dr Jenny Rohn (UCL Clinical Physiology).

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English Grammar Day 2014

zclef7829 July 2014

In a world where economics and technology dominate, what is the place of grammar in our society? Is it important?

The English Grammar Day 2014  (held on July 4) sought to tackle these questions. Organised by Charlotte Brewer (University of Oxford English Language and Literature) and Bas Aarts (UCL English Language & Literature) in association with the British Library, this conference brought together some of the preeminent authorities on language use: Debbie Cameron, David Crystal, Dick Hudson, Debra Myhill and John Mullan.

David Crystal

David Crystal

The event traversed the history of the “grammar debate” from Jonathan Swift’s Proposal for Correcting, Improving, & Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712) to Michael Gove’s new curriculum. Yet the overriding theme of the day was the teaching of grammar (or lack thereof) in schools.

Montaigne’s assertion that ‘the greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar’ was perhaps hyperbolic, but as Dick Hudson (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) pointed out in the opening lecture, London is experiencing a literacy crisis. Citing an article in the Evening Standard from 2011 which claimed that one million people in London could not read, he discussed the consequences of the decline in the teaching of grammar in the 20th century. “From the 1920s to the 1960s grammar research died. The effect of a subject dying at university means that the next generation of school teachers never hear about it during their undergraduate years–a recipe for disaster”, he argued.

Each speaker had their own ideas of how this could be remedied, but the prevailing opinion was that a playfulness with language is imperative. As Debra Myhill observed, British humour is often based on grammatical nuance: grammar is the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit (not an example for the primary school kids).

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