Our first speaker Ben Stocks is a PhD student in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham and is currently working on the powerhouses of the cellular world:
"Mitochondria are magnificent organelles (specialised parts of cells with certain functions) and I hope to provide a flavour of why I think so! Mitochondria are commonly referred to as the ‘powerhouses of the cell’ for their role in aerobic energy (ATP) production. Originally, mitochondria were an organism in their own right, becoming a part of all modern eukaryotic cells (e.g. animals, plants, fungi) through symbiosis and subsequent evolution. Mitochondria contain their own genome but also rely on proteins coded by the ‘host’ nuclear genome. This introduces an interesting complexity when it comes to stimuli that increase mitochondrial content, such as exercise in skeletal muscle cells, as this relies upon substantial co-ordination between the nucleus and mitochondria. Furthermore, mitochondria do not necessarily resemble the oblong, isolated, structures typically displayed in school textbooks. By undergoing dynamic fusion and fission events mitochondria can form highly connected networks or fragmented structures, both of which have important implications for cell functioning"
Yulia Chmelenko studied ancient Mesopotamian culture for her MRes with the University of Birmingham's Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Archaeology:
Ancient Mesopotamian Culture played a crucial role in the development of Western Civilization. The Sumerians invented writing system, the wheel, calendar and time. They were the first to divid a year into 12 months, a day into 24 hours, and a minute into 60 seconds. Important place in the Mesopotamian civilization took the Akkadians – Semitic tribes who conquered Sumer and organized the first centralized state. Later other Semitic tribe, the Assyrians, founded a great Assyrian Empire. Nowadays the study of the Assyrian bas-reliefs lets scientists get the information about the fortifications of that time, as well as the migration proses in the ancient Near East. The great importance has the study of the sacred compositions on the Assyrian monuments, where the scene of worship sacred tree is dominant.
Thus the subject of my MRes dissertation is the iconography of the worship scene of the secured tree on Neo-Assyrian wall panel reliefs. Of particular interest to me is the meaning of the worship scene and its place in Assyrian culture.
My research is based on studying the relevant iconography, by examining the original reliefs, their location in the Assyrian palaces and a new examination of the relevant textual sources. The core of the research is provided by the relief sculptures from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II (884-859 BCE) in Calah (modern Nimrud), now housed primarily in Vorderasiatische Museum and the British Museum.
Will Evans is currently working at the School of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion at the University of Birmingham where his PhD focuses on political theology:
"My research focuses on contemporary Christian theologies of the Jewish people in relation to modern Israel. I study how Christian identity has played itself out in anti-Jewish persecution and whether post-holocaust attempts to reconcile the two traditions have been effective in neutralising anti-Jewish theologies and maybe even forging a Jewish-Christian hybrid religion. If ineffective, it has significance for how the church engages with modern Israel and its and whether the church's measured criticism of the state is compromised by instinctual anti-Jewish antipathy."
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