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Session 138 Autumn Schedule

Strange Material

Prof Mark Miodownik, University College London

Tuesday 1 October 2013

The development of the silicon chip fifty years ago was the materials science innovation that sparked the information technology revolution. Such new materials do more than transform technology, they change behaviour and shape the urban landscape, from our cities, to our hospitals, to our homes, to our art. Thus, materials are a defining characteristic of society: its history, culture and economic welfare. As a result materiality is one of the central themes of study in every university. However in contemporary universities the scientists involved in making new materials (e.g. physicists, chemists, materials scientists) very rarely get involved with those who study the cultural & environmental significance and impact of materials (e.g. humanities academics and social scientists), and are often further distanced from those who use materials (e.g. nurses, medics, engineers, architects, designers). This has a serious detrimental effect on the teaching culture of universities and their capacity to engage with the wider world, since many of the important issues of contemporary society, such as health, security, climate change and economic sustainability, require a multi-disciplinary approach in order to arrive at solutions that benefit society as a whole, and not just limited sectors of the economy or community. This talk describes a project to build a Materials Library and to use the stuff it contains as a material language to engage in a multidisciplinary approach to research and teaching.

Click here to read an article on this lecture, posted on the UCL Chemistry department blog.

To Beer or Not to Beer

Derek Prentice, Brewing Manager at Fuller, Smith and Turner

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Memorial to Catherine Side.

Ever wanted to know more about beer? Derek Prentice has worked in the brewing industry for over 40 years – and what he doesn’t know about brewing and beer isn’t worth knowing. The talk will cover beer flavour and how this is developed from the raw materials used in, with samples of raw materials and beer to highlight the important points. Samples will also be used to demonstrate the ageing of stronger beers.

You can read the departmental blog post on this talk here.

Plastic from Potatoes, Rubber from Rice

Prof Andy Abbott, University of Leicester

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Over 80% of organic carbon is present in the form of cellulose, lignin and starch – so it isn’t surprising that many groups have attempted to use these as feedstock chemicals and materials. Extensive hydrogen bonding between carbohydrate polymer chains, however, makes the plasticisation of starch and the dissolution of cellulose difficult.

This talk discusses the incorporation of a simple quaternary ammonium salt, which can lead to a flexible plastic with mechanical properties similar to oil-derived plastics – but most importantly these carbohydrate-derived plastics are recyclable and compostable. Thermoplastic starch can also be used in place of formaldehyde-based resin in the manufacture of MDF; thermoplastic starch MDF is compostable and the resin’s thermoplasticity allows the potential for remoulding and recycling.

An article on this lecture is available on the UCL Chemistry Department blog.

Your Career: Advice from Alumni

Various Guests

Tuesday 22 October 2013

The careers evening is back!  Each speaker will give a brief talk, followed by a general question and answer session at the end.

• James Skuse - Nature Magazine

• Emma Corke - Postgraduate Medicine student

• Carolina Carlstedt - Associate at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP

• Calvin Chu - PGCE Teacher

•Andrew Nightingale - Head of Business Development, Strategic Innovation, RSC

• Simon Hook - Retired

• Henna Nathwani - Science Editor on resources for aged 11-18, Pearson Education

The Chemistry and Physics of Bitumen and Asphalt

Ian Lancaster, NYNAS

Tuesday 29 October 2013

To maximise the performance of bitumen (and therefore also the asphalt it is used to make), its physical properties and how these affect its performance must be known. But bitumen is difficult to chemically analyse, so the link between its chemical and physical properties hasn’t always been well established. This area has become an important area of research in recent years: several models have been developed which focus on the macroscopic structure of bitumen and relate this to overall physical properties. This talk will cover the structural chemistry of bitumen and how this relates to its physical properties; the complexity of chemical species within bitumen; and the chemistries of bitumen ageing and adhesion.

Read about this lecture on the departmental blog.

Is Man Just Another Animal? - The View from Genes

Prof Steve Jones, University College London

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Many people are alarmed by the discovery that humans share a substantial proportion of their DNA sequence with other creatures, and with primates most of all, for they feel - as did the Victorians after the publication of The Origin of Species - that this brings us down towards their level. To do so is to misunderstand what evolution can say about ourselves; and in this talk Prof Jones will discuss how we have changed in comparison to our relatives and how this is largely irrelevant to the question of what makes us human.

An Evening at the Grant Museum

Tuesday 12 November 2013


The Grant Museum of Zoology is one of UCL's (many) museums - and is the only remaining university zoology museum in London. Its 67,000 specimen cover the whole animal kingdom. Founded in 1828 as a teaching collection, the museum is packed full of skeletons, mounted animals and specimen preserved in fluid. Many of the species present are now endangered or extinct including the Tasmanian Tiger, the quagga and the dodo.

Instead of a lecture, we will have a guided tour around the museum.  This means that timings are slightly different to usual: tea, coffee and doughnuts will be served in the Nyholm Room from 5.30pm.  Then at 6pm we will walk as a group to the Grant Museum (or you can make your own way there), with a wine reception at the museum after the tour.

The address is Grant Museum, Rockefeller Building, UCL, 21 University St, WC1E 6DE; you can see a map here.

Exploring Microstructure in Food and Pharmaceuticals using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)  

Prof Peter Belton, University of East Anglia

Tuesday 19 November 2013

NMR has proved to be a powerful and versatile method for the exploration of material structures on a range of length scales. NMR imaging is the best known methods but becomes very difficult when distance of interest are of the order of microns or less. The talk will consider the way in which NMR (which uses wavelengths of the order of metres) can be used to probe structures on length scales from nanometres to centimetres. Examples of the use of NMR to explore various aspects of structure in foods and pharmaceuticals using relaxometry, diffusion measurements and spectra will be given as well as a discussion of the limitations of these techniques

Mercury in the Oil and Gas Processing Industry

Warren Corns, PS Analytical LTD

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Mercury is a naturally occurring trace contaminant distributed in all phases in hydrocarbon reservoirs. The presence of mercury may affect the oil and gas industry in a number of areas including damage to the processing plant, contamination of Hg in hydrocarbon products, environmental emissions and waste disposal – as well as the health and safety issue. Perhaps surprisingly, little is known about the fate and transportation of mercury from the raw to final products and to the environment. This talk will provide a general summary what we understand and believe to be fate of mercury and the potential impact of mercury from the oil and gas industry as a global pollutant.

Chōshū Five

Dr Andrew Cobbing, University of Nottingham

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Why did five young samurai escape their native land in 1863 and travel across the world to enrol at UCL? And why did they go on to make such an impact in Meiji Japan? Some went on to achieve high places in the new government, including the country’s first cabinet minister, but for all of them science and technology were central to their success. It was no coincidence, after all, that they all worked at some point in the Ministries of Public Works and Finance. This talk focuses on what they took with them back to Japan from Britain, and how the experience influenced their subsequent careers and the shaping of modern Japan.

‘An eminently heritage operation’: the anarchic rise of the Science Museum

Ben Russell, Science Museum

Thursday 5 December 2013

Since its genesis as the collections of the Patent Office Museum in the 1850s, the Science Museum has evolved into the world’s pre-eminent museum of science and technology. However, if its appearance suggests rational planning and careful organisation, the museum’s history in its formative decades was, by contrast, haphazard and even chaotic, taking in elements of blackmail, curatorial skullduggery, and even unauthorised exhumation. In this talk we will explore the exploits of the museum’s director, Bennet Woodcroft, in the museum’s formative years, and trace some of his adventures, which largely go unrecorded in the official histories of the institution.