Our first speaker was Dr. David Button, a Vertebrate Palaeontologist who recently completed his PhD at Bristol University on the cranial biomechanics of sauropod dinosaurs:
"The sauropods – the iconic group of long-necked, long-tailed dinosaurs – were the biggest land animals ever to have lived, with the largest weighing in at twenty times the mass of an elephant. Vast amounts of food would have been required to sustain such bulk, but studying behaviours like feeding in extinct animals can be extremely problematic. Fortunately, a variety of new techniques are allowing us to flesh out old bones. To get inside the workings of nature’s mightiest eating machines I took CT scans of sauropod skulls and used these to reconstruct the jaw muscles from clues left on the bones. I then used methods borrowed from engineering to construct biomechanical computer models. These allow us to compare the feeding capabilities of different sauropods, providing insight into their ecology. By then looking at features of the feeding apparatus of sauropods and their ancestors we can also investigate how diet would have driven the evolution of their extreme and unparalleled gigantism"
Our second speaker was Joulie Axelithioti from the University of Birmingham's School of Education who spoke passionately about her current PhD research on the teaching of chemistry in secondary schools:
"My research is currently titled Critical thinking and Chemistry Education in secondary education. It looks at how students fair when their chemistry classroom resembles more a battlefield rather than a tidy classroom-disguised-into-lab. My viewpoint of my research (I know that sounds weird but I am not the only one with an opinion on the subject) is that critical thinking is a very theoretical concept and that is why it is very challenging to implement it to chemistry/science teaching. Counter-arguably, isn't critical thought inherent in science? Well, I'm trying to find out. Come share your point of view."
Our final speaker was Derren Cresswell from the Structural Geology group at the University of Birmingham. Derren's PhD involves deciphering images taken by soundwaves of the ocean floor:
"Over deep geological time the Earth’s continents have slowly wandered about the surface, colliding to create mountains and splitting apart to create oceans; the so called Wilson Cycle. The evidence for the transition between continents splitting and oceans forming often lies deep beneath the ocean off the edges of the continents. Such evidence can be imaged by creating sound waves near the surface of the ocean and ‘listening’ to the reflection from below the sea bed. The data obtained from this reflected energy shows a complex three dimensional jigsaw of continental fragments that are difficult to piece together."
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