UK: Leamington Spa

St Patrick's Irish Club, Riverside Walk, Adelaide Road, Leamington CV32 5AH in upstairs function room (no lift).

Riverside Walk is just north of Adelaide Bridge, opposite Dormer Place; the club is the last building on the left hand side. Car parking is rarely a challenge.

It is an 11 minute, 0.5 mile walk from the railway station of Leamington Spa.
7 for 7:30pm, third Monday of the month, except August. (NB: Second Monday in Decembers)



Jan Gillett
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Peter Haine
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Monday March 19th 

Robert Dallmann, Assistant Professor, Warwick Medial Schools

Biological clocks are found in all organisms – from single cell cyanobacteria to complex multicellular organisms like mammals. They are found in all cells of our body, and all of these clocks together are called the circadian timing system (CTS), which modulates most behaviours and physiological processes in our bodies. For example, the CTS determines when we are active and when we rest, but also that we have highest blood pressure just before we wake up. Disruption of the CTS has been shown to have negative health consequences. Understanding – on a mechanistic level – how these daily oscillations influence diseases and treatment will be discussed. The perspective of his work includes to improve already existing treatments and to aid in the development of new drugs.



Recent speakers   

Monday Feb 19th

John Guelke from Warwick Universty  Politics and International Studies

"The Last Days of Privacy?: CCTV, the Internet of Things and Metadata".

By way of introduction, John says: 'Massive technological advances and counterterrorism policy have put privacy under pressure like never before.  Headlines tell us that the UK “Is the most spied on nation in the world” or that we are witnessing “the end of privacy”.  Technology executives declare “you already have zero privacy, get over it!” and asks 'have reports of its demise been greatly exaggerated?'

Monday January 15th

Prof Nick Dale, Warwick University;

The evolution of air breathing, molecular insights and implications for human health.

About 400 million years ago (MYA), in the Devonian era, air-breathing fish took to the land and became the ancestors of all land-based vertebrates. Water- and air-breathing impose very distinct physiological requirements on animals. I shall consider what these are, why in air-breathing animals there is a need for new molecular systems to sense CO2 and regulate ventilation, and how these molecules arose some 400 MYA at the very start of air breathing. I shall then fast-forward to the present day and consider how mutations in the key CO2 sensor affect human health in unexpected ways and how much more we still have to learn.

Monday December 11th, 19.00 for 19.30 at the Irish Club

Jan Gillett,

Electric cars: a revolution to be welcomed?

Jan has been close to the energy sector for nearly 50 years and has owned a Tesla Model S since early 2016. The forthcoming revolution is about much more than the car itself and he will take us through the wider system and the benefits and challenges the face us as individuals and society across the world. He hopes that attendees will be able to better participate in the often ill informed and partial debates and to make better decisions for themselves.

Monday November 20th, 19.00 for 19.30 at the Irish Club

Sylvester Arnab;  Serious Games

Monday 16th of October

Sweet lies about meditation

Miguel Farias 

Psychologists have been feeding the public a range of ideas about meditation: it’s supposed to help us become more compassionate, to heal various mental health problems in adults and children, to work for the mind like going to the gym works for the body, to very rarely have side effects, and to be a recipe for a happy life according to most spiritual traditions. It just seems to be good to be true. In this talk, I will unpack these beliefs, trace their development, and tease out what is fact from fiction about the effects of meditation.

Monday 18th of September 


ynthetic Biology and the Future of Modern Medicine

The University of Warwick's iGEM Team for 2017

When some people hear “genetic engineering”, they think of designer babies and mutant crops of killer cabbages. This talk will hopefully dispel some of these myths and misunderstandings, whilst giving an insight into the Warwick iGEM Team’s project for 2017.

iGEM is a synthetic biology competition, which was established by MIT in 2003. 300 teams from around the world are currently spending their summer building and testing their projects, and will gather to present their work and compete at the annual Jamboree in NovemberThe Warwick iGEM team is made up of 10 undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of Warwick. There are 5 engineers, 4 from life sciences and a chemist, highlighting the fact that synthetic biology is a truly interdisciplinary field. 

A bit about their project: 

By providing a well-defined, biocompatible surface coating, the risk of bone and dental implant failure will be greatly reduced. They aim to accomplish this by controlling the spatial production of extra-cellular cellulose with light. The team's modified E.coli builds on work from previous iGEM teams, utilising a transmembrane protein complex, which upon exposure to red light, phosphorylates a promoter and begins the synthesis cascade. Using this technology, the team will be able to build a 3D printer where living bacteria act as the 'bio-ink'. They will then be able to produce cellulose structures, featuring micrometer pores, which mimic the surface of broken bone for implants. This structure has been shown to induce the body to produce new bone, helping the implant fuse efficiently and thus reduce overall failure rates.


Thanks to advances in synthetic biology, both tissue engineering and regenerative medicine are becoming some of the fastest growing and exciting fields of science. The iGEM team will give examples of current applications in use today, along with an overview of some of the innovative ongoing research from around the globe.



 July 17th 2017

Compton Verney. Penny Sexton, curator

Visual perception goes beyond sight as it involves the brain. Penny will explore the ways in which artists have engaged our brains, as well as our eyes, in the act of seeing. It isthe subject of the forthcoming exhibition at Compton Verney: ˜The Art of Perception" More at 

Monday June 19th, 
Living Landscapes: the challenges and the benefits led by Gina Rowe, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

This month we welcome Gina Rowe, Living Landscapes Manager for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. Gina will prime our discussion on the impact that changes in farming practices and land management, and the increasing land take for construction of new infrastructure, industries and homes has had on our natural environment. In particular the impact on wildlife in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. She will outline the Wildlife Trusts’ approach to working at a landscape scale  as a solution, creating ‘Living Landscapes’, and identify the challenges of this work.

Our discussion will cover the issues to be tackled re loss of habitat and the need to enable connectivity for species in both urban and rural areas, including some of the national and local report findings. We’ll aim to discover the benefits that accrue for both people and wildlife from this work. Monday April 10th 2017

"Old ways of Learning from New Ways of Making"

The achievements, challenges and prospects of a three-year (2014-17) EU Erasmus+ project (CONSTRUIT!) based in Computer Science at the University of Warwick with 6 EU partners

Steve Russ, Computer Science, University of Warwick

Investing wisely in educational technology has become a huge challenge for teachers and managers at schools and colleges. This challenge is due in part to a profound duality in the use of computing to support learning. On the one hand computers, and their programs, still generally display the rigidity and the formality of machines. On the other hand people, in their learning, exhibit and need the flexibility and informality of human experience. 

We shall briefly describe a long-running research and teaching project at Warwick, the Empirical Modelling (EM) Group, which could be construed as directly addressing this duality. Principles and tools were developed in EM that reflected a broader view of computing than that found in conventional programming. The thinking and methods of EM have been adopted, and given some practical exposure, in a recent EU Erasmus+ project (CONSTRUIT!). 

The main part of the talk will be the story of achievements, challenges and prospects of the three-year (2014-17) CONSTRUIT! project based in Computer Science at the University of Warwick with 6 EU partners. This is a practical project developing a new way of using computing to support learning - through a practice we call 'making construals'. This is what we claim is a 'new way of making' and will be demonstrated and shared - hopefully! - through audience participation. No knowledge of programming will be assumed!

If anyone likes to bring a laptop - ideally running a recent version of Chrome or Firefox - then we hope they will be able to follow, and explore, some of the construals being shown. (Our tools are not, unfortunately, yet able to offer service on tablets or smartphones.) 


Monday March 20th 2017

 Dr Sara Kalvala, Department of Computer Science

University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

Microbial communities: models and applications. 

Micro-organisms are all around us - usually forming rich multi-species
communities  where hundreds of thousands of individuals interact,
whether to cooperate, compete, or feed on each other. These
communities of micro-organisms affect many aspects of our day-to-day
life, and are the focus of experimental research by biologists,
biochemists, bio-engineers and environmentalists. There is also
significant interest by mathematicians, computer scientists and even
social scientists and philosophers in studying microbial
communities, as concepts of cooperation and competition are relevant
not only at the micro-organism level but everywhere - between nations,
between animals, between mobile phone users, and so on. A Multi-Agent
System is an abstract, computational model of how individuals interact
to form communities, and the use of this abstraction allows research
as well as application in the development of nature-inspired
computational tools.   

In this session Sara will introduce the general concept of a Multi-Agent
System, from a computational perspective. She will then discuss how
she uses abstract models to understand more about how microbes
organize themselves into colonies and work together, and on the flip
side how this understanding of how microbes work together inspires
new technologies.  

Sara Kalvala is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the
University of Warwick. She works broadly in the area of Computational
Biology, and more specifically she collaborates with biologists in
developing useful bacterial communities, within the interdisciplinary
field of Synthetic Biology.; tel +44 24 76523179 


Understand facial expressions


Jen Wathan



Faces are rich sources of social information for humans and some primates; however whether this is true in other animals is largely unknown. Investigating communicative abilities can offer insights into the cognition of non-human animals, and studying a range of species can help us to understand the evolution of these abilities.


Jen completed a PhD at the University of Sussex investigating social cognition and communication in horses, an MSc Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of York, and a BSc Psychology at Bangor University.



Monday 16th January 2017


How should learning be facilitated and assessed at universities in the 21st century? 


Paul Roberts


Monday December 12th 2016


The techniques of eye surgery and implant design


Shehzad Naroo


Presbyopia is the natural process of the eye ageing and losing its ability to focus at near. This means a person would need to rely on reading glasses or bifocals.  But what about before reading glasses were invented, what did people do?


Nowadays there are surgical alternatives to spectacles. One of the surgical techniques is essentially combining cataract surgery with different designs of lens implants. This talk will highlight the techniques of surgery and the implant design.


Monday November 21st 2016


Power of Water


Linda Forbes


Water has powered our activities for centuries: from simple foot-operated systems to pumped hydro systems at Dinorwig in north Wales. Humankind’s latest attempts to access the power of water is in the marine sector: from harnessing wave energy and tidal streams, through means as diverse as sea snakes, turbines, barrages and fences, to taking advantage of temperature differences, using heat pumps and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). 


Linda’s practical experience at Orkney’s internationally renowned European Marine Energy Centre includes test site development, environmental monitoring, and marine deployments. She talked about the engineering, environmental, and economic challenges facing the industry in delivering electricity from the sea, and progress so far.

Monday October 17th 2016


Brain imaging: Promises and Pitfalls


Tom Nichols


Can we peer into the human brain, and see what a person is thinking?  Modern techniques using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can in fact show incredible detail of the brain's anatomy and, with some less detail, how hard each part of the brain is working at any instant. 


Tom sketched how these techniques work and how functional MRI (fMRI) can be used to track brain activity. 


Monday July 18th 2016


Science research in the NHS  


Roberta Bivins


Research has been a part of the National Health Service since its very early years; two examples of such research will be discussed - the hearing aid developed specifically with NHS patients in mind, and evidence of how one General Practitioner studied his own practice for clues about child health and illness.


 The role of the NHS in shaping health research in relation to the genetic blood disorders sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia will be examined. UK genetic researchers were swift to recognise that the arrival of new ethnic communities in the 1950s and 1960s also brought new opportunities for cutting edge research.


Monday June 20th 2016


Photovoltaic Tree: re-imagining a solar future


Yorck Ramacher


Imagine there was a more beautiful way to capture energy from the sun, to power our homes, cars and communities. Imagine an alternative to the large, shiny, flat photovoltaic (PV) panels retro-fitted to buildings or laid out en masse in fields.


Research aims at delivering an alternative solar future where solar PV cells can move beyond their current form of flat structures into something aesthetically more interesting and attractive whilst yielding enhanced power production.


Monday May 16th 2016


Imagining the Future with Synthetic Biology


Scientists from the the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology centre


Terms such as gene editing, personalized medicine, and artificial life have entered the popular arena, with news outlets reporting many implications of ways in which the functioning of the fundamental units of life.


Cells, can be modified, whether to `correct' cells that do not work in an ideal way and therefore result in illnesses such as cancer or diabetes, or to provide  efficient alternatives to produce chemicals such as medicines, fuels, and other industrial products.


An umbrella term for many of the techniques is Synthetic Biology, where engineering and computational approaches are brought to bear in the more effective use of laboratory techniques for manipulating biological entities.


Monday April 18th 2016


Can large IT Projects ever Succeed? 


Peter Haine


There have been almost unbelievable developments in computing and information processing tools. Now we have solid state electronics almost beyond the capacity of systems engineers to utilise to its full potential. 


But, how often to we hear about IT projects that are late, way over budget and ultimately fail? The answer is, far too often; and all too frequently it is ambitious projects by public sector organisations that hit the headlines. Are they alone or is there something about the way systems people work that far too often leads to failed projects?


Monday March 21st 2016


Why do we need heritage scientists and/or conservation scientists? 


Joyce Townsend


Heritage science is a relatively new term covering the application of scientific principles and research to the management, preservation and public appreciation of cultural heritage in its widest sense. In recent years, it’s become possible to obtain a PhD or a Masters degree in this area.


‘Conservation scientist’ has been used to describe scientists working in museums for over 40 years, and these staff all trained in the physical sciences, and then developed the profession. What do such people do, and what would become of cultural heritage worldwide if they weren’t doing it?


Monday February 15th 2016


Taking safe decisions - the application of science in delivering safety improvement in the railway


Paul Kirk


An overview of the challenges faced by the GB railway in delivering improved safety performance against a backdrop of growth, investment and increased utilisation; demonstrating how a scientific approach delivers safety improvements.


The presentation covered a range of issues including how do accidents happen and understanding System safety; and analytical approach from data collection through to pre-cursor analysis and cross checking data integrity.


It covered the Impact of Technical analysis, control and innovation with empirical evidence; people expertise, competence and behavioural science; and safety Performance Results with benchmarking. Paul concluded with a look into the future challenges of the Rail Technical Strategy and the Rail Industry Health & Safety Strategy.


Monday January 18th 2016


Comfort Zone


Trevor Keeling


We all know that buildings should be 21C (or at least one hopes we do!). But what evidence is there behind this and what does it mean for global and national energy consumption?


It turns out that the evidence behind this is substantial but not without fault. The consequences of designing all the buildings and infrastructure around this number on the other hand are climatically devastating.


Monday December 14th 2015


Preserving Vision after Eye Injury


Richard Blanch with Julian Jackson


Eye injuries cause sudden, unpredictable and catastrophic loss of vision.  After eye injury and head injury, the death of nerve cells in the eye is responsible for permanent blindness and scarring inside the eye directly damages vision and presents a barrier to regeneration.  Multi-faceted research approaches are needed to define the underlying mechanisms in the eye by which cells die and scarring develops and to guide potential ways to prevent and treat cell death and scarring.  


When vision is lost and the eyes are damaged beyond repair, alternative routes are needed to restore visual function.  Sensory substation is a novel way to replace lost vision without using the eyes and offers some function to those most severely affected.



Monday November 16th 2015


Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease – Flies degenerate for a good cause    


Kevin Moffatt


Ever since 1910 when Emil Kraeplin termed Auguste Deter’s condition “Alzheimer’s Disease” we have struggled to understand the causes of this devastating disease. Her death in 1906 and the initial analysis by Lois Alzheimer, then a research work in Kraeplin’s laboratory, has under-pinned much understanding of the pathology and the progression of this most common senile dementia. Indeed we have been able to develop some pharmacological treatments based on the last 100 years of research.


Nonetheless progress has been slow and with our ageing population the need for progress is perhaps more obvious than ever.  Using organisms such as the fruit-fly, we have been able to demonstrate that the pathological signatures of the human disease are likely not the toxic components that lead to disease.  Using morphological, electrophysiological and behavioural assays we can propose new disease mechanisms and gain insights into potential causes that are worthy of investigation in humans.    



Monday October 19th 


Organisation theory and the evolutionary origins of consciousness


Mike Waller


Research over recent decades into human consciousness seems to have revealed a major discrepancy between the way in which we experience decision-making and what is actually going on in our brains.


We have evolved to think that the conscious mind is the arbiter in respect of matters requiring considered judgement; but put "consciousness" plus the names Libet, Grey Walter and/or Pinker into Google and you will find details of experiments and observations seeming to show the reverse. 


Instead of being in the driving seat, consciousness appears to play a subordinate role in respect of decision centers lying elsewhere. Perhaps literally to protect its own "self" confidence, it has been shown to actively self-delude when surprised by something the body does or when confronted by circumstances incompatible with its current worldview.


Monday September 21st 2015    


Periodic Tales: the Art of the Elements


Penelope Sexton  

The iconic periodic table represents the ultimate expression of order, containing the classical elements in rows and columns. Not a scientist herself, Penelope will instead take you on an aesthetic journey, looking beyond the confines of the table to explore the rich use of the elements. Offering an opportunity to find out more about how artists have used the chemical elements in interesting, exploratory and unique way in their own artistic practice.

Penelope Sexton worked with Hugh Aldersey-Williams, author of the book 'Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements' on the curation of the exhibition of the same name.


Monday July 20th


Why you should care about organic electronics


 Alex Ramadan


Television and mobile phone displays, coloured lighting and portable solar cells - these are a few examples of devices in which organic electronics is gaining a presence in our daily lives.

 Differing from conventional ‘inorganic’ technologies the field of organic electronics uses carbon based molecules and polymers as semiconductors.

 These carbon based semiconductors possess several advantages over conventional inorganic electronics, such as lower processing costs and the ability to be incorporated into flexible devices, making them an attractive prospect for future electronics.

 One area of particular promise for these molecules is their use in solar cells to provide renewable energy. Our ability to carefully control the properties of these organic molecules and the low processing costs of organic solar cells are reasons why organic electronics could be an important contender in the field of renewable energy.


Monday June 15th 2015

Should nuclear power be part of our energy mix? 

Chris Begg


Should renewables such as wind, water and solar alone power our future? Or should nuclear power also be part of the mix?  

Decarbonisation of buildings heating and transport, both mainly fossil-fuelled, will require extra electrical energy, even allowing for energy savings. The developing world will demand more energy per capita. Why then should we not also embrace the non-intermittent, carbon-free, and cost-competitive nuclear option?


Monday 18th May

From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Student-Centred Pedagogies”

Graeme Knowles


The role of the lecturer in teaching and learning in Higher Education has undergone dramatic change over the last few years  - with traditional approaches coming under pressure from increasing expectations of graduates, new models of payment which encourage students to see themselves as customers, and existential threats from new technologies and the emergence of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses).


In a world where student satisfaction is king, and the ‘knowledge push’ model of education is no longer acceptable (was it ever?) University teachers are having to adapt. Some, like Graeme within Warwick Engineering and WMG, are attempting to develop reflective practice and learning self-sufficiency in their students. Some of it is about technology, some of it about psychology, some of it is pure common sense – the whole is about putting the student at the heart of the learning process.


Monday April 20th 2015

Should we spend large sums on flood protection, or move people and assets away and allow nature to take its course?

David Jackson


David briefly outlined the History of Thames flooding, the reasons for the Barrier, the unconventional design, the politics and the future prognosis and puts the question in the modern context.

As a secondary question he invited views on the effectiveness of development teams for creating solutions. By contrast, the novel 'rotating gate' design, used in the Thames Barrier, was devised alone by Charlie Draper, who left school without formal qualifications.


Monday March 16th 2015

 Transport strategy - motorway or cul de sac?

 Robin Cathcart

 The context was the announcement of new road projects in England: the question posed was "are they needed?".

 The government has failed to reduce road transport emissions of nitrous oxides and particulates; transport is also a major contributor to CO2 emissions. In spite of this, investment decisions in the UK are substantially based on transport economics that exclude environmental costs. 

 Robin reviewed trends in transport and the factors likely to change these trends. On an international scale, he looked at the bases for transport investment decisions and discussed their relevance in comparison to what he regards as more significant drivers and the necessary components of transport strategy and the changes in attitudes needed for their implementation.

 Monday February 16th 2015  

Consciousness: at the limits of science

John Pickering 

Reflexive consciousness is a human monopoly.  Without it, science would not exist.

But it’s not good news. Dogs are conscious but they don’t know they are; so, they're generally happy. People do know they're conscious and hence realise that one day they won’t be; so they’re prone to be miserable.

Whether reflexive or not, consciousness is the most intriguing phenomenon known to science. Yet some philosophers and scientists believe it is impossible to study it scientifically. Others not only believe it is possible but also believe that a complete physical account of it will be found quite soon. 


 Monday 19th January, 2015

Maths with pictures and poems

Trevor Hawkes

 Almost everyone has heard of Pythagoras and many know about his theorem. That theorem is as true today as it was when he and his fellow cultists proved it around 500–550 BCE. In fact, these is good evidence it was known well before then by the Chinese, Babylonians and Egyptians. There are many beautiful demonstrations of this eternal truth that use pictures alone.


 Monday 8th December 2014

Marketing marge: the rise of the general health claim 

Jane Hand

 What is the market value of scientific evidence in contemporary Britain? What makes a health claim so valuable to the food industry? And how have such claims transformed nutrition science into a successful form of consumer marketing? As issues of heart health have become increasingly topical in the last half century, food and diet have been isolated as significant risk factors. Flora, Unilever PLC’s brand margarine, was particularly important to the rise of the health claim in post-war Britain. Focussing particularly on the images used in the advertising campaigns through which Flora was marketed, Jane examines the way the language of nutrition science segued from the laboratory into the household, paving the way for the health claims of various food products in contemporary Britain.


 Monday 17th November 2014

Paralysed with fear: the story of polio

Gareth Williams

Polio, with its haunting images of disabled children and the iron lung, was one of the iconic diseases of the twentieth century.  In 1950s America, fear of polio was second only to that of the atomic bomb.  Now, vaccination has pushed polio to the brink of extinction, although its final eradication remains poised on a knife edge.  Mankind’s struggle to defeat polio was one of the grand challenges of modern medicine.  It was also a battleground for good and bad science, and for warring personalities and ideologies.



Monday 20th October 2014


(aka Rant Night!) 

We come to Cafe Scientifique to find things out and to test and share and debate our ideas.  So, for one night only, the cafe sci floor is open to everyone. For seven minutes.

Anyone with a specialism or an area of knowledge in the broad scientific field (or maybe a hypothesis or an influential book), that they could share with the rest of the group is invited to take the platform.



Monday 15th September 2014

Science and leadership

Jan Gillett BSc FCMI


Science has long been used for the discovery and understanding of the natural world. However, the