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From liver disease and childhood cancer globally, to the history of logic and the concept of care.

Hughes Hall’s 2024 Research Symposium covered ambitious ground last month (22 April) as we were treated to a fantastic array of specialisms, and highlights of some of the leading research going on across College.

Twelve Fellows gave quick-fire talks on their chosen subjects to an engaged audience of Senior Members, and staff.

Many of the presentations addresses challenges in tackling cancer and other major diseases; whilst a theme of challenging dissemination – in many forms and in many countries – was evident in a number of other talks.

Sir Laurie Bristow, College President, said “This is my second Hughes Hall symposium and it didn’t disappoint. It reminds me of exactly what we are all doing here – and that is we are doing good. Tackling disease, and inequality, and discrimination, and enabling the distant past to shine a light on what matters today. Thank you to the many colleagues who make being part of Hughes Hall such a privilege.”

Sir Laurie Bristow, President, and Professor Nidhi Singal, Vice-President, introduced this key event in our College’s academic programme.

Professor Sara Hennessy chaired the first research panel, exploring the theme of education. Dr Sonia Ilie explained how her lab helps higher education institutions produce better evidence about their practice in order to equalise opportunities for access, good experiences, learning and skill development, and other outcomes, including through randomised control trials, econometric methods and theory-based approaches.

Dr Fei Morgen explored how foreign language teaching can meet the challenges of globalisation and the advancement of technology by fulfilling its educational function using experiential exercises to uncover hidden barriers to intercultural communication by making the unconscious conscious. By adapting theories and practices from counselling psychology, the proposed curriculum focuses on emotions to help learners uncover emotional barriers that arise when confronted with cultural difference.

Dr Frances Foster explored learning the ‘Jewelled Style’ which refers to highly complex Latin poetry and literary aesthetics which Roman students learnt, not just to read, but to emulate. Frances examined how Roman students learnt this linguistic register despite, much like children today, finding this type of Latin extremely difficult; their teachers very aware of the challenges.

And, Dr Ariadna Albajara Saenz completed the education research panel by evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of Mental Health Support Teams in schools by examining the provision’s Green Paper of 2017 particularly the creation of support teams to provide extra capacity for early intervention and ongoing mental health support in schools.

Dr Roman Vater, Hughes Hall Academic Convenor, said: “It was brilliant to be involved in bringing together so many inspiring people from across our community for this year’s symposium. It is always a highlight of the college calendar and we were once again treated to a wealth of new and unique research, as well as lively and engaging Q&A sessions. Many thanks to all who took part, making it such a special – and very interesting – occasion.”

Final research panel, from left, Ira Chadha Sridhar, Sheheryar Banuri, Spencer Johnston, Bin-Bin Chen.

We moved into more pathology-based discussion next, chaired by Admissions Tutor, Dr Carole Sargent, and starting with Professor Suzanne Turner who leads research looking at how, although childhood cancer affects children all over the world, access to drugs and healthcare is not equitable resulting in worse outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. Suzanne’s lab studies the biology of Burkitt lymphoma in both the global North and Sun-Saharan Africa towards identifying achievable and realistic treatment approaches to help reach the target of a global 60% cure rate for children with cancer globally by 2030.

Dr Derya Cavga explained how her work is helping to develop new treatments for liver disease using human liver models, big data, and AI. She explained how AI helps us analyse liver tissue images to evaluate cell death and fat accumulation. Dr Islam Alshamleh looked at enhancing radiotherapy responses in Glioblastomas through the development of genetic markers, followed by Dr Vasiliki Mavridou who discussed voltage-gated sodium channels (essential regulators of neuronal excitability) and how they are expressed in the peripheral nervous system, playing a critical role in nociception and pain perception. Her work determines high resolution structures of this protein, using cryogenic electron microscopy, by investigating toxin and antibody binding patterns.

The third panel, chaired by Dr Roman Vater, begun with Dr Ira Chadha Sridhar exploring the concept of care through the series of real-world scenarios, asking which, if any, are examples of care, and how ought we decide this question in practice. Among the cases that do constitute care, she also explored what distinguishes good care from bad care.

Dr Bin-Bin Chen explained how his work investigates how sibling status, and the sex of younger siblings, influences Chinese adolescents’ relationships with their fathers and mothers as a function of resource dilution and preference for sons, using a sample of 1,093 Chinese adolescents.

Dr Sheheryar Banuri looked at gender-based discrimination when using advice in the labour market despite the enactment of policies targeting discrimination in hiring practices. He explored how and why research subjects find advice from male advisors more persuasive regardless of advisor competence, but only advice from highly competent female advisors persuasive.

And, discussions concluded with Dr Spencer Johnston, College Admissions Tutor, and Logician. Spencer introduced some themes in the history of logic by looking at two significant accounts of modal logic, one due to the 10th-11th century polymath Ibn Sina, and the other due to the 14th century Parisian Arts Master John Buridan.

With many thanks also to Dr Konstantina Maragkou and Dr Boyang Mao for their poster presentations on gender gaps in high-stakes teacher assessments, and 2d materials of tomorrow, respectively.