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The Garriott Lecture Series

Popular annual science lectures that are free and open for all to attend, named after astronaut, explorer and computer game designer Richard Garriott.

  • School/Institute/Department: The Faculty of Science and Engineering
  • Subjects: Science, Maths, Physics, Biology, Chemistry
  • Audience: KS3, KS4, KS5, General Public, Families

The Faculty of Science and Engineering run a series of popular science lectures,named after astronaut, explorer, and computer game designer, Richard Garriott. The annual lectures are free and open for all to attend.

The 15/16 Garriott Lecture on 26 April 2016 featured Dr Andrea Sella with his talk 'Mercury – Window on the Invisible' which explored the elements importance, appliances and use in art for the last 2,000 years, ending with the question, can we bring it to life?

Dr Andrea Sella is a chemist and broadcaster who was awarded the Michael Faraday Prize in 2014 for excellence in science communication and works regularly with outlets such as the BBC World Service and Chemistry World. Speaking of his work BBC Radio 4 described him as "a science showman, whose theatrical demonstrations of chemistry are filling theatres up and down the country". 

Dr Stella follows a long tradition of engaging speakers at the Garriott Lecture Series, with summaries of previous speakers featured below:

2014/15 Garriott Lecture 

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore - Adolescence as a sensitive period of social brain development

TED Speaker and UCL academic Professor Blakemore discussed the importance of the social environment and the social brain when considering adolescent-typical behaviour. Her talk outlined research from the past 15 years that have demonstrated the significant functional and structural changes in the brain during adolescence, including how areas of the social brain undergo significant reorganisation in terms of structure, function and connectivity during the second decade of life. 

2013/14 Garriott Lecture 

Professor Steve Le Comber - From Jack the Ripper to Malaria: Geographical profiling in Biology

In the 2013/14 Garriott Lecture, QMUL mathematical biologist Steve Le Comber demonstrated how geographic profiling – a statistical technique originally developed in criminology to help investigate cases of serial murder – can be used to find the sources of infectious disease or invasive species.

Geographic profiling is used by investigative agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Los Angeles Police Department, the UK's National Crime Agency and the United States Marine Corps to prioritise large lists of suspect of serial crime including murder, arson and piracy, and uses the locations of the crimes to make inferences about the criminal's 'anchor point' – usually a home or a workplace. More recently, the Le Comber Group at Queen Mary has shown how it can also be applied to biology, including animal foraging (where it can be used to find animal nests or roosts using the locations of foraging sites), epidemiology (identifying disease sources from the addresses of infected individuals) and invasive species biology (using current locations to identify source populations).

As well as a talk ranging from Jack the Ripper to pipistrelle bats, and from the Gestapo to great white sharks, there was a live demonstration in which Steve tried to catch a 'murderer' on the night (since there are obvious ethical issues with setting a serial killer loose just to prove the method works, they had to compromise using a volunteer pretending to be a serial killer instead!). Over the 2-3 weeks leading up to the event, the volunteer recorded the locations of his or her 'murders' – and, on the night, they used geographic profiling to identify the killer from the audience!

2012/13 Garriott Lecture 

Professor Marcus du Sautoy - The Secret Mathematicians

From composers to painters, writers to choreographers, the mathematician’s palette of shapes, patterns and numbers has proved a powerful inspiration. Often subconsciously artists are drawn to the same structures that fascinate mathematicians as they constantly hunt for interesting new structures to frame their creative process. 

Through the work of artists like Borges and Dali, Messiaen and Laban, Professor du Sautoy will explore the hidden mathematical ideas that underpin their creative output and reveal that the work of the mathematician is also driven by strong aesthetic values.

Marcus Peter Francis du Sautoy, OBE is the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

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