Plenty to consider in Cambridge

Ella Rhodes previews the Cambridge Science Festival.

This year’s Cambridge Science Festival will take a closer look at vision as well as myriad other areas of science, with a particular focus on healthcare and medicine. The event runs for two weeks in March and also features plenty of psychology-related talks and events. 

At Fitzwilliam College on Tuesday 10 March Dr Rosalind Ridley and Dr Sarah Green will discuss neuropsychology and the history of medicine to shed new light on the story of Peter Pan from 6pm until 7pm [see our January 2017 interview]. On the same day from 7.30pm until 9pm, at Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, Alentina Vardanyan and Lauren Waardenburg will consider the impact of AI on the future of work as well as its social and psychological implications. 

Dr Hisham Ziauddeen, also on Tuesday, will discuss how our brains help to build a model of our bodies and the world that surrounds them from 7pm until 9pm at The Lab on Regent Street. The following day Professor Paul Fletcher will give a talk in Babbage Lecture Theatre on illusions and hallucinations from 6pm to 7pm. 

The MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit will open its doors on Wednesday evening from 6pm to 8.30pm presenting a number of hands-on activities, experiments and short talks. Thursday 12 March will see Professor Ian McKeith, from Newcastle University, give a talk on dementia with Lewy bodies followed by a discussion among researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, East Anglia and Essex from 4pm to 6pm at the School of Clinical Medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. 

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Dr Varun Warrier, Dr Virginia Bovell and David Thorburn will appear at Babbage Lecture Theatre to discuss the ethical issues, fears and opportunities surrounding genetics research in autism on Friday 13 March from 7.30pm to 9pm. On Saturday 14 March from 10am to 11am neuroscientist-neurologist Dr Susanna Mierau will discuss how scientific discoveries from the 60s changed our understanding of visual development in babies at the Physiology Lecture Theatre.

Saturday will also see many talks and hands-on events at the Department of Psychology between 10am and 5pm – among the workshops will be experiments exploring impulse and cognitive control, a live eye-tracking experiment on x-ray images of airport baggage to see who can spot items that should not be allowed through security, microscopy of brain cells and structures, and political cognition. The talks will see Dr Lee De-Wit consider how social psychology could help us to reduce political polarisation from 9am to 10am, a talk from Dr Denes Szucs on maths anxiety in school children from 10am to 11.30am, Dr Daniel Bor on the science of consciousness from noon until 1.15pm, and an 'in-conversation with dads' session with researchers from the Centre for Family Research from 2.45pm to 3.45pm.

A number of hands-on events will also be held on Saturday in a marquee near the university’s Downing Site between 10am and 4pm. The Krupic Lab will help people explore the navigation functions of the hippocampus using video games and virtual reality and researchers from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience will help people explore our ability to perceive depth.  

On Saturday between 10am and 5pm and Sunday from 12pm until 4pm the Guildhall in Market Square will see even more workshops and hands-on events. On Sunday scientists from CamBRAIN and researchers from the Post Doc Neuroscience Network will introduce the public to neuroscience, help people make their own neuron and discuss what happens when they go wrong. 

Monday 16 March will see a lecture from Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore on the adolescent brain at the Babbage Lecture Theatre from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. The following day, also at Babbage Lecture Theatre from 6pm to 7pm, Professor David Nutt, who was sacked as government advisor on drugs, will discuss the last 10 years of UK drug and alcohol policy. He will include examples, including rising deaths from fentanyl, synthetic cannabinoids and alcohol, that suggest policy failings and disregard for scientific evidence.  

On Wednesday 18 March Dr Jane Aspell will discuss how our brain creates our sense of self from 4pm to 5pm at Anglia Ruskin University. At the Babbage Lecture Theatre from 6pm to 7.30pm DeepMind’s Dr Demis Hassabis, Tom Feilden from BBC Radio 4 and professor Barbara Sahakian, will discuss AI, the human brain and neuroethics. 

Also on Wednesday at Anglia Ruskin University Dr Dan Gordon, Dr Justin Roberts, Dr Ash Willmott and Sport Psychologist Dr Francesca Cavallerio will discuss the physiological, nutritional, technological and psychological components of the sub two-hour marathon from 7pm until 8.30pm. On Saturday 21 March Anglia Ruskin University will host a number of events, from 2pm to 6pm the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research will open its doors for an exploration of social neuroscience and its role in music therapy as well as a live therapy session involving imagery and music-listening. 

From 3pm to 4pm Reader in consumer and gender psychology Dr Magdalena Zawisza-Riley will discuss the effectiveness and effects of gendered advertisements on society, from 3pm to 4pm behavioural ecologist Dr Claudia Wascher will explore how non-human animals cope with delays in gratification. Professor Viren Swami will give a talk on the science of attraction and relationship formation from 4.30pm until 5.30pm. 

On Sunday 22 March, the last day of the festival, lots of hands-on sessions will be taking place at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology between 11am and 4pm. Researchers from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute will demonstrate games which train memory and attention and from 3pm until 4pm researchers from the NIHR Brain Injury MIC (MedTech and In Vitro Diagnostic Co-operative) will discuss concussion in sport.

Most events at the Cambridge Science festival, which runs from Monday 9 March until Sunday 22 March, are free and don’t require a ticket, See the full programme and book tickets from Monday 10 February

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