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Speaker spotlights

Throughout the Festival period, we turn the spotlight onto one of the speakers each day in a series of Q&As aimed at discovering more about the speaker and their particular area of research or speciality. Informative and insightful, the spotlights offer readers the chance to understand a little more about an area of research prior to the speaker’s event. 

  • Dr John Elvin, Associate Director, Scientific External Liaison for MedImmune – the worldwide biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca – explains what biologic medicines are, why they are revolutionising healthcare and shows how a new biological medicine is taken from conception through to clinic.

  • The story of British Cycling and Team Sky’s rise to dominate cycling is one of the most fascinating and intriguing sporting successes to be told. But what principles underpin this success? Phil Burt, Head Physiotherapist and Tony Purnell, Head of Research and Innovation at British Cycling reveal what it takes to win.

  • Professor Justin Smith from the University of Portsmouth explores the medium of film ahead of his discussion following the screening of the cult classic, The Wicker Man (1973) – presented by Reproduction on Film as part of the history of science, religion, sex and reproduction.

  • Dr Peter Wothers (the Modern Alchemist) from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, talks about his long-standing involvement in the Cambridge Science Festival and this year’s exciting demonstration lecture, Just add water, which explores some of the surprising properties and reactions of water.

  • Dr Hugh Hunt, from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, looks at the engineering challenges of Barnes Wallace in his design of the bouncing bomb and the PoW's who never flew the glider they built in the roof of Colditz. Can this ‘Blitz Spirit’ help us tackle climate change? What would a modern-day Barnes Wallis dream up?

  • Cambridge Junction Arts Producer, Daniel Pitt, discusses his role and the Cambridge Science Festival associated performance events being held at the Cambridge Junction during the next two weeks. 

  • Smartphones are increasingly powerful, sensor-rich and personal devices. Could they also help us to become happier and healthier? Dr Neal Lathia discusses how we use smartphone sensors to track how people behave, and design systems that use these inferences to help us all become healthier.

  • Professor Zoubin Ghahramani explores the fascinating world of machine learning and leads us to the invisible algorithms underlying many of the tools we now use every day.

  • Professor J Andrew Bradley, Head of the Department of Surgery at the School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge, takes us on a journey from the beginnings of transplant surgery to the cutting-edge procedures in use today.

  • Dr Paul Coxon, from the Materials Chemistry Group at the University of Cambridge, explores how the solar revolution began, how solar cells work, and how scientists are now harnessing natural structures and materials to make them more efficient.

  • Naked Scientist, Ginny Smith, explores some of the latest ‘brain’ research and provides a snapshot of her two shows at this year’s Festival.

  • Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, describes how the BBC drama Doctor Who uses science to inform its unique style of storytelling – and just how close it has come to predicting future scientific discoveries.

  • Dr Michelle Oyen, explores natural building blocks and asks can we rethink how we build our future cities?

  • Professor Graham Burton explores how new insights into the placenta offer a fresh approach to addressing chronic disease in adult life.

  • Professor Beverley Glover, Director of Cambridge University Botanic Garden, discusses the current and future role of plants in solving some of our most pressing global challenges.

  • David Greenberg, a PhD student from the Department of Psychology discusses personality quizzes and what our musical taste says about our personalities.

  • Dr Susannah Gibson, author of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? introduces early experiments used to solve the mysteries of life and the fantastical creatures behind them, somersaulting polyps, suspicious sea sponges and frogs in trousers!

  • Ewan Birney FRS FMedSci, Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, explores how genomics and big data – from DNA sequence to high-resolution imaging – present both opportunities and challenges for healthcare.

  • Dr Chris Forman, nano-biophysicist from the University of Cambridge, explains how mimicking biology could improve our own technology and eliminate pollution at the same time.

  • Marleen Lentjes, nutrition and dietetics expert from the University of Cambridge, looks at what reasons there might be for using supplements despite studies observing no benefit or only in sub-optimally or mal-nourished populations. 

  • Professor Raymond Laflamme, physicist and co-founder and current director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Canada, shares the latest breakthroughs and biggest challenges in the quest to build technologies based on quantum properties that will change the ways we work, communicate and live.

  • Dr Jennifer Molloy from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge discusses synthetic biology and its potential uses.  

  • Professor Viren Swami, from the Department of Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, talks about why we fall in love with certain people. 

  • Dr Vicky Leong, Cambridge University Psychologist, discusses new findings regarding the synchronicity of mother and baby brains.

  • Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft UK, talks about the future implications of artificial intelligence.  

  • Professor Richard J Gilbertson, one of the world’s leading childhood brain tumour experts, discusses the enormous challenges involved in treating cancer.