These all take place in the Fitzpatrick Hall

Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft: What if – I follow my passion? A scientist’s life for me – from wild orchids to diabetes

Talk in brief:

Frances Ashcroft is Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford but she started out at a tiny village school in Dorset, where she developed a passion for wild orchids. This led her into science and ultimately to her current work on how a rise in your blood sugar levels stimulates the release of the hormone insulin from the beta-cells of the pancreas. She will speak about how she came to be a scientist, her current work, and how it has led to a new therapy for children born with a rare genetic form of diabetes.


Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft is Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Trinity College Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Her research focuses on how changes in blood glucose levels regulate insulin secretion from the pancreatic beta-cells and how this process is impaired in diabetes. She discovered that the ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel serves as the molecular link between glucose elevation and insulin secretion. Mutations in KATP channel genes cause a rare inherited form of diabetes (neonatal diabetes), and her work has enabled patients with this disorder to switch from insulin injections to drug therapy. Frances has also written two popular science books: Life at the Extremes – the science of survival (HarperCollins, 2000) and The Spark of Life – electricity in the human body, (Penguin 2012). She has won several awards for her research and the Lewis Thomas Prize for Science Writing.

Dr Michael Sutherland: What if - trains could fly? The quantum materials revolution

Talk in brief:

Quantum physics gives a description of how particles behave on the atomic scale, where objects can have characteristics of both particles and waves, and where there are limits to how precisely we might know certain quantities. Applying ideas from quantum theory to understand and engineer new materials has resulted in technologies that have dramatically changed our society, include the laser and the semiconducting transistor. In this talk I’ll give an overview of these ideas and move on to discuss superconductors, materials with exceptional magnetic and electrical properties at the forefront of materials research.


Dr. Michael Sutherland obtained his PhD in physics from the university of Toronto in Canada. He was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and is now an affiliated lecturer at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, where he conducts research into the behaviour of materials at low temperatures and high magnetic fields. He is also the Tutor for Admissions at Corpus Christi College.

Nicole Liew: What if – we could write the textbook? A tale of fish, frogs and fungi!

Talk in brief:

The more you learn, the less you know and the more you enjoy the feeling of not knowing. Nicole paints a portrait of a young scientist today, using zebrafish larvae as an example of how creative, off-the-wall ideas can be honed into a powerful model system. Thus expanding the limited tool kit available to study the pathology and epidemiology of Chytridiomycosis, a mysterious disease that infects over 700 amphibian species worldwide. She will speak about her experience and observations as an aspiring scientist, as well as the fulfilment in pursuing an academic career.


Nicole Liew is a third year undergraduate student reading Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, Homerton College. Hailing from Selangor, Malaysia, she came to the U.K. as a teenager, to pursue a career in cell biology. She has since worked in various research institutes in tandem with her studies. By the age of 20, she published a first author research article and attended the Lister Institute 125th anniversary conference as a Lister Institute funded student. Her work centres on Chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease caused by Bactrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which emerges as an extinction threat to amphibians worldwide. She works with zebrafish larvae in order to develop a dose-dependant 3 day infection model where the larvae show tractable infection phenotypes that mimic those seen in frogs.  You can read her paper here: Liew, N. et al. Chytrid fungus infection in zebrafish demonstrates that the pathogen can parasitize non-amphibian vertebrate hosts. Nat Commun 8, 15048 (2017).

University Admissions Q&A panel with Dr Jonathon McMaster, Dr Michael Sutherland, Dr Malcolm Morgan and Miss Nicole Liew

Each panellist will briefly talk about applying for and studying STEM subjects at university, followed by questions from the audience.

Dr Jonathan McMaster is a Biological Inorganic Chemist with interests in the roles of d-transition metals in biology. He is currently part of the McMaster group the McMaster Group studying, among other things, the development of analogues of the active sites of the [NiFe] hydrogenases as potential catalysts for the production of dihydrogen.

Dr Malcolm Morgan is a Research Fellow in sustainable engineering at the University of Leeds.  He is also the Chair of the Young Scientists Journal Board and was its first ever student chief editor in 2006!

Dr Michael Sutherland is a low temperature physicist working at Cambridge University.

Miss Nicole Liew is currently studying Natural Sciences at Homerton College, Cambridge.


You can sign up to attend a workshop on arrival

Niek d'Hondt: Scientific Storytelling

Workshop description:

What you do matters. What you are working on is, in one way or another, important. However, you struggle to convey what it is you do. You want to share, but don’t know how; you want to explain, but only confuse. Have you tried telling a story? Your story?

Stories have the power to transmit an abstract or complex message in a way that it is understood, remembered and shared. Stories transform the learning process into a learning experience. Telling a great story can have an impact on how the people around you see you and your work. It can help you get funding. And it shows you are invested in helping people understand and involving them in your world.

But how could that possibly work for you? You, with all your data and graphs and ten syllable words? It can work and here you’ll learn how.

In this workshop, I’ll introduce you to the basic elements needed to tell a story and how to apply them. I’ll teach you how to use the structure of films as a guideline for your own story. 

These ingredients, coupled with a number of creative writing exercises will ensure you leaving with all the tools needed to get your story out there.


Niek is a science communication expert, working in different fields of the discipline.  He co-founded ReaGent, the first DIY biolab in Flanders, Belgium. Here, anyone can discover,  research & experiment with modern biology.  Out of ReaGent, Ekoli was born. A non-profit aimed at transforming science education, Ekoli develops new science activities for kids of all ages and underprivileged groups. Ultimately, the content is taught to teachers so they can bring it in their classrooms.  Expertise gained from these two organizations allows Niek to help researchers, institutions and businesses to translate the abstract and complex into any format, aimed at any group. He offers workshops, consultancy and project work under the communication collective Break it Down.

Professor Becky Parker: IRIS - doing science research

Workshop description:

This workshop will introduce you to the opportunities the Institute for Research in Schools offers to help students and teachers do research at school.  We have research projects in particle physics, genomics, ionic liquids, engineering, transport, climate science, well-being and maths. 

Work with NASA data, CERN or a whipworm genome for example and contribute to the science, gaining research papers and presenting at scientific conferences.  Our aim is to support students and teachers doing cutting edge science.


After a physics degree and research at the University of Chicago Becky taught in a variety of schools and was Senior Lecturer in physics at the University of Kent. She is now Director of the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) based at Simon Langton School, Canterbury. IRIS supports school students and teachers to work alongside research scientists giving them opportunities to be involved in authentic research. [Source: The Royal Society]

Neil Trevethan: What if… soggy crisps could be made crispy again? How to get a CREST Award for the questions that really matter!

Workshop description:

The CREST Awards scheme is the British Science Association’s flagship programme, providing STEM enrichment activities to inspire and engage young people.  CREST Awards are a great way to solve real-life STEM challenges thorough enquiry-based, independent project work.  Benefits of achieving a CREST Award include getting higher GCSE grades, looking great on UCAS applications and being one of the rare opportunities you get to choose what you do and how you do it.

Come find out how to get started with your CREST Award.


Neil Trevethan is an Education Projects Manager at the British Science Association. Neil has worked in the STEM education sector for the past three years, after completing a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham and a PGCE in secondary science.