Pudding Seminars 2020-21

Pudding Seminars take place on a Friday and are an excellent opportunity to unite two of life’s great things: new research, and pudding!


Pudding Seminars are led by members of the College (undergraduate, graduate, Senior Member), who give a brief 20 minute talk on their current research, followed by informal discussion.

Pudding Seminars in Michaelmas Term will take place on the following dates:
23 and 30 October; 6,13, 20 and 27 November

Seminars start promptly at 1.15pm and end by 1.50pm.

In Michaelmas Term 2020 our Pudding Seminars will be taking place online! Details for the link will be given in Newnham News.

If you are interested in giving a pudding seminar, or would like further details about the series, please contact Delphine Mordey (dmm36@cam.ac.uk).



23 October: Josephine Holt (alumna), 'The global mental health burden of COVID-19 on critical care staff'

Josephine will be presenting her research on how working in intensive care during the pandemic has affected the mental health of staff members. Herself being redeployed, she spent 4 months working on a ward with the sickest COVID patients, from April to August earlier this year. This prompted her to collaborate with other scientists across the world to investigate how staff are coping and what factors put them more at risk of deteriorating mental health.

Josephine studied pre-clinical medicine at Newnham from 2012-2015 before completing her studies at UCL. She now works in London.

30 October: Mariam Makramalla (MCR), 'Why do we learn ? A public engagement initiative in Egypt'

In this seminar, I present a summary of my public engagement project that has won the Cambridge University Public Engagement Starter Fund in 2020. The project stems from the findings of my current PhD. It aims at promoting a whole societal re-think of the value and purpose of schooling in Egypt. The target of the project is to promote awareness about the core essence of learning, thereby shifting the societal perception of the school mainly acting as a “certification institution”. This target is to be achieved through local collaborative partnerships with schools and cultural centres. In the seminar, I will engage the audience in a collective discussion, brainstorming means to create a platform of advocacy, whereby educational stakeholders can express their contextual stand on the value of learning and schooling.

Mariam is a doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education. Her research interests span across the fields of education, sociology and history. In her work, she is mostly focused on the Egyptian context in an attempt to uncover how different layers of socio-cultural power dynamics affect the way schooling is socially perceived. Alongside her educational research, she has also been involved in numerous educational consultancy initiatives. In her free time she enjoys swimming and music.

POSTPONED 6 November: Mala Virdee (MCR), 'Monitoring whales by satellite using deep learning'

Great whales were hunted almost to extinction in the 20th century. Since whaling ceased, populations are slowly recovering, but in many areas this is threatened by anthropogenic threats such as climate change, habitat destruction and ship strikes. Understanding the abundance and distribution of whale species is critical for aiding population recovery. This MRes project, conducted at the British Antarctic Survey, utilizes advances in computer vision and deep learning to automate the monitoring of whales in high-resolution satellite imagery.

Mala is a student on the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in the Application of Artificial Intelligence to the study of Environmental Risks (AI4ER).

13 November: Yasmin Sheamur (MCR), 'British immigration policymaking and European integration, 1973-1985'

A key factor in the 2016 Brexit referendum was the presumed link between membership to the EU, loss of border control, and undesirable immigration, with a majority of voters believing that a ‘leave’ vote would lead to less immigration. This talk explores how membership to the European Community (as the EU was then known) actually impacted British immigration policymaking. Drawing on government archives and interviews with former senior civil servants, this paper looks at the first decades of the UK’s membership to the EC. First, I show how little membership impacted the UK’s ability to conduct an independent immigration policy. Second, how the convergence of structural factors allowed for a common European approach to emerge, though these remained patchy and driven by the member states. Finally, I show how the political science literature overemphasizes the role of Home Office officials in promoting more repressive immigration policies.

Yasmin is a third-year PhD candidate at the History Faculty, with a particular interest in contemporary history and immigration policy. She has been involved with a number of refugee charities, and spent a few years in the private sector before taking up graduate studies.


20 November: Helena McBurney (JCR), 'Siren Song: The Invention of the Diva in 19th Century Literature'

A diva, or prima donna, is defined in the OED first as ‘a distinguished female singer’ and second as ‘a person, typically a woman, who is self-important, temperamental, and extremely demanding’. This Pudding Seminar will consider the original real-life divas of the Nineteenth Century, such as the internationally renowned sisters, Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot, and how their presentation of themselves influenced literature about female artists and how the literature influenced their lives in return. I will consider the negative connotations of words like ‘diva’ and how those connotations bred misogyny, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. I will chart the journey of the diva trope from the prototype ‘Prima Donna Novel’, Corinne, ou l’Italie (1807) by Germain de Staël, to The Improvisatore (1835) by Hans Christian Anderson, and finally, to Daniel Deronda (1876) by George Eliot. Understanding this multi-lingual, mercurial ‘stock’ character of the Nineteenth Century reveals the societal double standards for female artists at the time, but also the women who were prepared to challenge and subvert these expectations.

27 November: Leah Brainerd (MCR), 'Investigating the Introduction of Agriculture in Japan during the Jomon-Yayoi Transition'

The introduction of rice and millet farming to Japan during the Yayoi period (2,800-1,750/1,700 BP) was a significant turning point in Japanese history that subsequently led to the emergence of early states in the archipelago. Rice and millet agriculture were introduced via a migrant community from the continent coming into Japan, entering in the west, and moved steadily east interacting with the existing complex hunter-gatherers, the Jomon people. This spread of agriculture was not uniform across Japan. Academics assume that this was due to environmental variation in the landscape, but none have actually tested this hypothesis. My part of the Encounter project seeks to determine how environmental and social factors impacted the spread of culture, specifically agricultural cultivation of rice and millet, and settlement patterns across the landscape. I am using a theoretical framework of Ideal Free Distribution, which examines habitat suitability and population data. This involves characterising the nature of environmental variation so that I can later study it in conjunction with population data. To characterise habitat suitability, I am looking at the ecological niche of rice and millet using multiple kinds of ecological modelling, examining temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors, as well as looking at historic rice yields as a proxy for suitability. Preliminary results indicate past settlement location cannot be explained by the location of the ideal habitat for rice and millet (established based on temperature), as the regions where it was adopted later have similar temperature niches to those that adopted it earlier.

Leah Brainerd is a computational archaeologist, with interests in the use of quantitative analysis, modelling in archaeology, and cultural evolution. She is a PhD student in the Department of Archaeology and a part of the Encounter Project, which is looking at the Jomon-Yayoi transition in Japan and the migration of people and culture occurring throughout this period. Her research aims to explore, in-depth, exactly which processes were at work in the dispersal of the agricultural package introduced during the Jomon-Yayoi transition. In particular, the project will be examining environmental and social factors that impacted the spread of agriculture, selection of settlement location, and resulting settlement patterns during the Early/Middle Yayoi period. Leah has an MSc in Computational Archaeology from UCL looking at urban tissue in Early Islamic Merv, Turkmenistan using ABM modelling and a BA in anthropology from McGill university.