Spotlight on Research

Spotlight on Research brings into focus research undertaken by academics at Newnham College.

Lucy van de Wiel

Newnham Postdoctoral Affiliate wins prestigious research prize for 'highly original' PhD

Dr Lucy van de Wiel has been awarded the Erasmus Research Prize for her PhD thesis which focused on the socio-cultural dimensions of new reproductive technologies.

Dr Lucy van de Wiel has been awarded the Erasmus Research Prize for her PhD thesis which focused on the socio-cultural dimensions of new reproductive technologies.

Her thesis was titled Freezing Fertility: Oocyte Cryopreservation and the Gender Politics of Ageing and explores whether freezing eggs, which can allow motherhood to be postponed, has had profound consequences on the way female ageing is viewed.

The material her thesis examines is diverse and includes time-lapse photography, documentaries, and news coverage, and Dr van de Wiel synthesizes gender studies, biotechnology studies and ageing studies.

She also analysed the cultural debates around reproductive technological developments, showing how egg freezing can trigger a series of discussions which are similar internationally and indicative about the sign of the times as a whole.

The Erasmus Research Prize is an annual prize, awarded by the board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation – a cultural institution active in the fields of humanities, social sciences and the arts. The Foundation awards a maximum of five prizes of €3,000 to young academic researchers in the humanities and social sciences, who have written a PhD dissertation of outstanding quality and is one of the most distinguished awards in Europe

The judging panel said about Dr van de Wiel: “The jury considers this dissertation highly original, lucidly written and above all an important theoretical contribution to understanding gender constructions, reproduction and ageing.”

His Majesty the King of the Netherlands is Patron of the Foundation and the award ceremony took place at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam on May 11 2017.

Charlotte Chunming Meng

Newnham Graduate Student wins prize at Conference

Graduate student in Land Economy, Charlotte Chunming Meng (pictured), has been awarded the best paper prize at the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association (AREUEA) 2016 International Conference.

AREUEA is the leading organisation for real estate research in the world, and this year’s conference attracted more than 128 papers in 35 parallel sessions, with a record number of 169 papers submitted.

To find out more about the conference and Charlotte’s paper on ‘Loss Aversion and Residential Property Development Decisions in China’ see the conference website.

Ottoman conference

Conference – The Ottomans and Entertainment

A conference on The Ottomans and Entertainment will be held at the Skilliter Centre from 30 June to 2 July 2016.

Anyone who wishes to attend any, or all, of the sessions would be most welcome.  For further information about the Conference and how to attend, please visit the Skilliter Centre website.


Dr Raphaële Garrod publishes book on cosmology and cosmography in early modern France

Dr Raphaële Garrod, Bye Fellow, publishes Cosmographical Novelties in French Renaissance Prose (1550–1630) Dialectic and Discovery.

The book is an exploration of the contribution of dialectic (the art of arguing and reasoning), in its scholastic and humanist guises, to the debates surrounding novelties in cosmology and cosmography in early modern France.

Contemporary historiography holds that it was the practices and technologies underpinning both the Great Voyages and the ‘New Science’, as opposed to traditional book learning, which led to the major epistemic breakthroughs of early modernity. This study, however, returns to the importance of book-learning by exploring how cosmological and cosmographical ‘novelties’ were explained and presented in Renaissance texts, and discloses the ways in which the reports presented by sailors, astronomers, and scientists became not only credible but also deeply disturbing for scholars, preachers, and educated laymen in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France.

It is argued here that dialectic — the art of argumentation and reasoning — played a crucial role in articulating and popularizing new learning about the cosmos by providing the argumentative toolkit needed to define, discard, and authorize novelties. The debates that shaped them were not confined to learned circles; rather, they reached a wider audience via early modern vernacular genres such as the essay.

Focusing both on major figures such as Montaigne or Descartes, as well as on now-forgotten popularizers such as Belleforest and Binet, this book describes the deployment of dialectic as a means of articulating and disseminating, but also of containing, the disturbance generated by cosmological and cosmographical novelties in Renaissance France, whether for the lay reader in Court or Parliament, for the parishioner at Church, or for the student in the classroom.

Picture of carbon conference

Embodied Carbon and Energy Symposium 2016

The First Embodied Carbon Academia-Industry Symposium was held at Newnham College on April 11th 2016, with fifty invited participants representing leading industry practice and academic research in this area within the UK. The purposes of the day were set out by Dr Alice Moncaster in her key note speech as: to identify the current state of the art in both research and practice; to identify key areas for new research; to encourage active knowledge sharing between academia and industry; and to develop future academia-industry collaborations.

Dr Moncaster, Catherine De Wolf, and Dr Francesco Pomponi led the day with presentations of the current cutting edge research within the CUBES group at Cambridge. This was followed by three speakers invited to describe the drivers and challenges for industry practice in the UK; Eleni Soulti explained the current approach of the BRE, Natalia Ford described the support offered by the UKGBC, and Dr Craig Jones updated participants on the Bath Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) database.

The second half of the symposium saw participants work together in detailed focus groups on six key areas, each facilitated by a member of the CUBES team. Concerted engagement by all participants revealed some important shared concerns, each group then using their collective knowledge and expertise to collaboratively develop innovative solutions to the challenges.

Professor Jacqueline Glass from the University of Loughborough closed the symposium with an impressive synopsis of what we had achieved together over the course of a few hours. The day ended with a wonderful dinner in the elegant surroundings of Newnham College.

Our sincerest thanks to all who shared so willingly and cooperatively their experiences and ideas: to our willingly volunteered focus group facilitators, Hannah Baker, Tim Forman, Chris Seeley and Katie Symons; to our excellent photographer Roberta Mutschler; to Jacqui, and all our speakers; and to the wonderful conference and catering staff at Newnham. Very many thanks also to the Newnham Senior Members Research Support fund, who provided full funding to Dr Moncaster to run this event.

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Dr Emma Mawdsley

I completed my PhD in the Geography Department at Cambridge in 1997, although had taken up a Lectureship in Durham from 1996. After seven years in Durham and three years at Birkbeck College (University of London), I returned to Cambridge in 2006. My research work has two main strands: regional and environmental politics in India, and international development politics.

I’m currently focussed on the latter, and in particular on the ‘rising powers’ (like Brazil, China and India) as increasingly important international development actors.

These and smaller countries have long been active in ‘South-South’ development cooperation, building solidarities and assistance in ways that have been very different from mainstream understandings of ‘foreign aid’ to the poor. The policy, media and intellectual field is a challenging one, beset by considerable misunderstanding, contested values, different ideological and historical lens, complex geopolitical motivations, and so on. It is also an exciting and rapidly moving subject area, and a timely one to be involved in.

My aim is to provide rigorous, informed and critical scholarship, and to challenge superficial and/or simplistic readings of this multifaceted phenomenon. As well as researching the wider trend, I have also written more specifically on India’s role in the South Asian region and Africa, and how its growing development role plays out domestically. I am now turning more to look at how the (so-called) ‘traditional’ donors, like the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), are strategically responding to the rapidly changing development landscape.

My research has been published in books (for example, From Recipients to Donors, 2012), international journals, and policy reports for various UK and international think tanks. I have also provided briefings to a number of government foreign affairs and development agencies. Newnham College has provided generous and much appreciated support (financial and academic) for this research work.

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Dr Catherine Lindon

Dr Catherine Lindon, College Lecturer and Director of Studies in Natural Sciences, has been awarded a grant of more than £500K by the MRC. This grant will support Dr Lindon’s research group in the Department of Genetics in a three year project to study ubiquitin-mediated events in cell fate decisions.

Ubiquitin is a key element in signalling pathways within the cell, acting as a universal code in modifying cellular components, often to specify their destruction when they are no longer required by the cell. These modifications frequently go wrong in pathologies such as cancer and neurodegenerative disease. Despite the importance of ubiquitin pathways, they remain challenging to study within the cell.

Dr Lindon and her collaborators have optimized a new cell-based assay for study of ubiquitin pathways that enables identification of pathways and their targets that operate to control the process of cell division (mitosis). A pilot study describing this method was published in September this year in the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics (article available here), with a contribution towards publication costs provided by Senior Members’ Research Support.

The new MRC-funded project will build on this study to find ubiquitin-mediated pathways and their targets involved in cell fate decision-making, a process that may occur during mitosis. A better understanding of critical cell fate decisions, such as the decision made by every cell – each time it divides – to continue dividing or to stop, will provide new routes to therapies that target ubiquitin-mediated pathways in disease.

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Dr Natalie Vriend

Dr. Nathalie Vriend is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin research fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge and a fellow and college lecturer in Physical Sciences at Newnham College, Cambridge.

My research interests cover the overlap between granular, or particulate, flows and geophysical and environmental applications. I have explored different desert dunes on several field trips near Death Valley in California and most recently in a desert near Doha, Qatar. I am interested in sand dune migration and structure and I am using a variety of geophysical techniques to understand the motion of sand dunes as they march across the desert landscape and threaten downwind communities. My research has also brought me to the snowy Alps, where I conducted snow avalanche research in Switzerland and Austria. When I am not traveling, I investigate together with my students granular flows in the laboratory. Most recently, we launched a series of experiments investigating granular segregation, which brings larger particles to the top of an avalanche while smaller particles sink to the bottom. This process is actually present in your kitchen as well, as the large cereal grains end up at the top of your cereal box, leaving you with small, surgery bits at the end of the week. We hope to understand the physics of this process of segregation, as this can impact the flow dynamics and run-out distances of an avalanche significantly!

Caption photo: Conducting Ground Penetrating Radar experiments on a barchan desert dune — the computer is kept in the shade to prevent overheating in 35 degrees Celsius.

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Dr Sam Lucy

After completing a PhD on the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of East Yorkshire at Newnham College, Cambridge, I held a lectureship at Durham University for nine years, before returning to a full-time research role at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit in 2004, and then taking up the post of Admissions Tutor and Financial Tutor back at Newnham in 2009.

Alongside my college roles, I remain an active researcher, and collaborator with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, where I often co-ordinate the post-excavation analysis and publication of major Roman and post-Roman sites. I am particularly interested in the interrogation of large-scale data-sets to answer societal questions around issues of social identity, gender, ethnicity and cultural change.

With Dr Catherine Hills, I recently published the final synthesis and chronology of the major Anglo-Saxon cremation cemetery at Spong Hill, Norfolk (funded by English Heritage, 2013), and I am currently working with Dr Charlotte Roberts and Dr Sarah Groves (both of Durham University) on the publication of the Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Bamburgh, Northumberland. My volume on the Roman settlement and cemeteries at Mucking, Essex, is also nearing publication. Other publications (both sole-authored and jointly with colleagues) include The Anglo-Saxon Settlement and Cemetery at Bloodmoor Hill, Carlton Colville, Suffolk (2009), The Archaeology of Identity (2005), Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales (2002) and The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death (2000).

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Breast Cancer Metastases - when our body allows secondary growth

Dr. Cristina Branco-Price is a Breast Cancer Campaign Scientific Fellow, working in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN), University of Cambridge, and runs her research project in Prof. Randall Johnson’s laboratory. She is a Newnham College lecturer in Physiology and Director of Studies in Biological Sciences (1B).

Dr. Branco-Price studies the organic nature of tumors, and the responses of host tissues that enable tumor invasion and dissemination.

There has been great effort dedicated to prevention, diagnosis and therapy focused on cancer cells, but less interest and funding dedicated to preventing and treating distant metastases: when cells from the original tumor move and grow in other organs. This secondary colonization is ultimately the cause of cancer-associated morbidity and mortality.

The project recently supported by the Breast Cancer Campaign will promote the understanding of parameters affecting cancer dissemination, from the standpoint of non-cancer cells, namely the vasculature and the immune cells: whenwhy and how do healthy organs allow tumor cell colonization and proliferation. The aim is to characterize the nature, regulating pathways, triggers and consequences of the interactions between somatic (i.e. normal) and cancer cells at secondary (metastatic) sites.”

Profile of Dr Branco’s research on the Breast Cancer Campaign Website

Cambridge News article about Dr Branco’s research

Gabriela Ramos publishes book – June 2014

Gabriela Ramos, Fellow, College Lecturer and University Senior Lecturer in Latin American History has had her co-edited book, Indigenous Intellectuals: Knowledge, Power and Colonial Culture in Mexico and the Andes, published by Duke University Press.

Her book is based on a symposium co-organised by Gabriela in 2010 in Cambridge, with support from the Trevelyan Fund (History Faculty), the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciencies and Humanities (CRASSH), the Centre for Latin American Studies, Cambridge, and Newnham College SMRF.

Professor Brigid Hogan awarded Croonian Lecture – 12 June 2014

Professor Brigid Hogan FRS, Honorary Fellow and alumna of Newnham College, has been given the honour of delivering the 2014 Croonian Lecture.

She was awarded the 2014 Croonian Lecture for her pioneering contributions that have transformed understanding of cell specification, organogenesis and morphogenesis in mammalian development.

The Croonian Lecture is the Royal Society’s premier lecture in the biological sciences and has been delivered annually at the Royal Society since 1738.

Royal Society information