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Mathematical music, bird brains and negative materials – QMUL’s scientists and engineers gear up for a new season of inaugural lectures

Queen Mary University of London’s free public lecture series ‘Meet our Professors’ kicks off this academic year with a strong presence from researchers from the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

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Professor Elaine Chew from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science will be asking what makes music, really good music, difficult to model. She will speak on Tuesday 11 October about how mathematical and computational models have become valuable tools to interrogate what we know about music, and to open up new possibilities for musical expression.

Watch Professor Chew talk about scientific visualisations of the nuances of musical performance:

The next lecture on Wednesday 12 October will explain why bog moss, a type of grass that covers three per cent of the Earth’s land surface, is by far the most successful and important moss. In his valedictory lecture Emeritus Professor Dicky Clymo, from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, will talk about the life-cycle of the bog moss: how in life it flourishes on starvation of nitrogen and phosphorus and makes water acidic, and in death it decays unusually slowly forming the main constituent of carbon-rich peat.

Negative materials on Thursday 20 October will explore materials that have unusual behaviours, for example, materials that shrink rather than expand when heated. Professor Martin Dove, who is Director of the Centre for Condensed Matter and Materials Physics in QMUL’s School of Physics and Astronomy will describe how in recent years, scientists are identifying a number of materials that confound our expectations.

Later in the month, Professor David Clayton from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences will present his research on how birds provide a special window into human environment and biology. He will describe at his inaugural lecture on Tuesday 25 October, how studying birds helps us to understand the deep mechanisms that link social experience, brain gene activity and adaptive behaviour. For example, scientists can observe different patterns of brain gene expression in songbirds when their experience and environment changes. In each of these examples, the genes involved have clear orthologues in humans (genes evolved from a common ancestor), though it is impossible to study gene activity directly in the brains of humans.

The final lecture on Wednesday 2 November from the Faculty of Science and Engineering will feature the remarkable properties of rubber. World-expert in rubber, Professor James Busfield from QMUL’s School of Engineering and Materials Science will explore what makes rubber so magical that it can sustain a billion dollar industry and what the future holds for an increasingly smart material.
All the lectures are free to attend, but must be booked in advance:

Music, mathematics, and models of the ineffable – Professor Elaine Chew
Tuesday 11 October, 7pm
Arts Two Lecture Theatre

The life and afterlife of bog-moss: why it matters - The valedictory lecture of Professor Emeritus R.S. (‘Dicky’) Clymo
Wednesday 12 October 2016, 6.30pm
PP1, People’s Palace

Negative materials: nature’s surprises: Professor Martin Dove
Thursday 20 October 2016, 6.30pm
Skeel Lecture Theatre

‘Canaries in the coal mine’:  How birds reveal deep links between genome, brain and behaviour - Professor David Clayton
Tuesday 25 October 2016, 6.30pm
Skeel Lecture Theatre

Negative materials: nature’s surprises - Professor James Busfield
Wednesday 2 November 2016, 6.30pm
Skeel Lecture Theatre

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