Updates

MCR Welcome Letter from the 2017 President, Christof Gaunt   09 May 2017

A welcome to MCR members from Christof Gaunt, the MCR President, can be found here.

A welcome letter from the 2016 MCR President to Freshers   14 Sep 2016

A welcome to Freshers from Sarwat Baig the MCR President can be found here here.

New 2016 Fresher's Guide and Fresher's Week Timetable now available.   13 Sep 2016

The new 2016 Fresher's Guide can be found here.

The 2016 Fresher's Week Timetable can be found here.

Continuing Graduate Room Ballot 2016   18 Mar 2016

Details of the rooms in the ballot can be found here.

Continuing Graduate - Room Ballot 2015   06 Mar 2015

Details of the rooms in the ballot can be found here.

Graduate Conference - Saturday 28th February - Mong Hall - 11:00 Registration - Programme Available Now   24 Feb 2015

We look forward to seeing you all there. The conference programme is available here.

This year's Graduate Conference will take place on Saturday 28th February in the Mong Hall.   17 Feb 2015

As always we will feature an exciting and diverse array of talks spotlighting the fantastic research that is being conducted by Sidney graduates. This year we will hear presentations from:

The conference is *free* to attend and those in attendance will be given morning and afternoon tea, as well as lunch. As the conference is open to the whole College community (staff, fellows, and undergraduates), there are limited spaces available. Sign-up for this event opened on Valentine's Day. As the College was founded on St Valentine's Day 1596 this is entirely appropriate.

Finally, there will be a dinner following the Conference - places for this will be extremely limited and sign-up for this dinner will open at a later date.

Sidney MCR Graduate Seminar Monday 1st December at 18:00 in the Mong Hall   25 Nov 2014

Darren O’ Byrne (Faculty of History) and Muzaffer Kaser (Department of Psychiatry). Seminar details.

Sidney MCR Graduate Seminar Tuesday 11th November at 18:00 in the Mong Hall   11 Nov 2014

Sarwat Baig (Department of Engineering) and Nick Hoffman (Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic). Seminar details.

Sidney MCR Graduate Seminar Tuesday 3rd June at 18:00 in the Mong Hall   03 Jun 2014

Sidney MCR Graduate Seminar - Tuesday 3rd June, 18:00 in Mong Hall.

Damon Civin: Faculty of Mathematics

Teaching machines to think

Developments in the field of machine learning and the vast oceans of data available today are bringing us ever closer to 'the singularity': the moment when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. This has long been a favourite topic in science fiction. This talk will lie at the point where this fiction has become reality. I'll talk about self-driving cars, seeing with your tongue, how Amazon knows what you want and how Terminator acquires his targets (in a completely accessible and maths-free way).

Philip Hitchings: Faculty of History

Disparate, yet essential, allies: Anglo-Austrian Habsburg Relations, 1702-13

Abstract TBA

Sidney MCR Graduate Seminar Tuesday 6th May at 18:00 in the Mong Hall   06 May 2014

Lou Cantwell: Faculty of History

The politics of chieftainship in 'the African miracle': Kgosi Kgafela II's Bakgatla in Botswana
Botswana – the landlocked Kalahari state in southern Africa – rarely receives much attention in African history or international media. When it has, it has been lauded for its huge economic success and political stability despite unfavourable circumstances at independence in 1966, in sharp contrast to the doom-laden, dramatic and conflict-ridden trajectories of other areas of the continent. Botswana’s success has been largely attributed to its adherence to ‘good governance’ and the orthodox economic policies promoted by international organisations, alongside a ‘political modernisation’ demonstrated by free and fair elections within a participatory and multi-party democratic system.

What is missing from this picture is the continued significance and relevance of the institutions of chieftainship that have been critical to this success, and remain so for effective local governance. Though often presented as inimical to democracy and development, these hereditary traditional institutions continue to play a major role in the social and political life of the country. My research focuses on the Bakgatla people, whose community straddles the international border between Botswana and South Africa. The dramatic recent history of the Bakgatla – which has culminated in the dethronement of the current Kgosi (chief) – has sent shockwaves through Botswana’s political sphere, and provides important insights into the role of traditional authority within the context of a successful and stable nation state in independent Africa.

Ariel Goldberg: Faculty of Education

Teach For America
As a student at Princeton University, Wendy Kopp wrote her senior thesis on the American school systems that were failing impoverished youth. Shortly after graduating from Princeton, she founded Teach For America, a program that she believed would close the American achievement gap. Her vision for the program was to recruit the most-highly capable college graduates who, as she put it, “would throw themselves into their jobs, working investment-banking hours in classrooms instead of skyscrapers on Wall Street” (Kopp).  This graduate seminar will explain Teach For America’s model, discuss notable research relating to the program, and describe how it has revolutionized the field of education throughout the world.

Room Ballot: Rooms now available   13 Mar 2014

Rooms are now available for continuing students who have had 6 terms or less of college accommodation (excluding as an undergraduate or Graduate Warden). The information about how to enter the ballot will be distributed by the Graduate Office (graduatetutor@sid.cam.ac.uk), and the draw will be made on 24th March. The procedure for the ballot will be distributed by the Graduate Office, but in summary you will have 24 hours to pick your room and pass the list on to the person next on the list. The information here has been compiled to help you select a room.

Next Graduate Seminar - Thursday 6th March 6.15PM (NOTE LATER TIME)   26 Feb 2014

The next Graduate Seminar will be held on Thursday 6th March at *6.15 p.m.*, with the later start time to enable attendance at the Testimony talk. Arathi Ramachandran (Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy) and Ian Quigg (Department of Sociology) will be presenting aspects of their research. Everybody welcome, and refreshments will be served.

Arathi Ramachandran: Designing Responsive Structures

We live in a dynamic world that is constantly changing. Current research aims to create responsive chemistries and structures that allow the built environment around us to adapt. These responsive structures can be used in medical devices, soft robotics, and buildings. Actuation of all of these devices relies on a clever coupling of material and structure.

An intelligent combination of structure and material allows for the optimization of these devices performance to a given external stimuli like temperature, voltage, magnetic field, etc.

In this talk I will briefly discuss some existing responsive polymer materials; show some videos of what kinds of devices can be created with these materials; one way in which structure and chemistry can be combined to achieve motion of these elements using minimal energy (my PhD); and lastly my vision for the future and the promise of some of this research.

Ian Quigg: The University Degree: 'Magic Bullet' or 'Empty Promise' for Career Success

Once upon a time a university education was the preserve of a social elite, but fast-forward to post-1992 Britain and the grand 'old universities' had been joined by a multitude of 'new universities'. The expansion of higher education was towards serving both a social and an economic end. Assuming the reality of a knowledge-based economy, the university degree was framed, in social, education and labour market policy, as necessary for remaining globally competitive. If the degree is the means of accessing high-value & high status graduate employment, then government policy in the last 20 + years can be said to have done an astounding job in equalizing life chances. Young people now see it as almost a rite of passage to head off to university, and the labour market is now awash with graduates. But as the supply of graduates outstrips graduate jobs, has the promise of labour market rewards off the back off a university education become an empty one? And how are graduates trying to 'add value' to the degree in order to 'win' the best positions?

Winning this game may be through the reputational capital of a university, as well as the use of socio-cultural and economic resources that are class-based. Social inequalities in the labour market remain in spite of the expansion of higher education. While a student from a new university may be as 'employable' as a student from an older university, or a non-traditional graduate performs as well or better than a 'traditional' graduate, these dynamics do not carry over into the labour market. Getting the graduate job goes beyond rational human capital investment in academic credential, and is perhaps even topped by socially exclusive forms of positional capital. 

MCR Graduate Seminar - Tuesday 4th February - Mong Hall - 6pm   31 Jan 2014

The next MCR Graduate Seminar will be on Tuesday 4th December at 6pm in the Mong Hall.

Samuel Ottewill-Soulsby (History) and Tommaso Leonardi (Biological Sciences) will be presenting their research.

Samuel Ottewill-Soulsby: Charlemagne’s Elephant and Carolingian diplomacy with the Muslim World

In 802 an elephant arrived at the court of Charlemagne from the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. The journey of this elephant from the most powerful man in the east to the most powerful man in the east formed part of a wider diplomatic engagement between the Carolingians and the Muslim world. This presentation will introduce my research, the questions I hope to address, and the empires of Charlemagne and Harun al-Rashid. It will then discuss some of the problems involved in tracing contact between the empires by looking at the nature of the sources, before moving onto a case study looking at Charlemagne’s elephant, considering the implications it has for our wider understanding of the period and its importance.

Tommaso Leonardi (Pluchino group, John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair and Enright group, EMBL-EBI):  Exosomes: deciphering a new language of cell-to-cell communication

In recent years, various works have shown that the transplantation of Neural Stem Cells is an effective therapeutic strategy in the treatment of various diseases of the Central Nervous System, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Spinal Cord Injury. Inflammation often plays a negative role in such diseases and it is the cause of additional damage. Our lab has shown that upon transplantation, Neural Stem Cells are able to protect the Central Nervous System from this type of damage. In fact, the transplanted Neural Stem Cells are able to engage a complex cell-to-cell communication mechanism through which they modulate the immune system and, consequently, decrease inflammation. Our recent work focuses on how this type of communication happens. We have found that Neural Stem Cells are able to release small particles – called exosomes – that travel from one cell to another conveying a message at a distance. We have also looked at the content of the exosomes using a number of techniques and we are now applying computational methods to decipher this message. Understanding this novel and fascinating mechanism of communication between cells will give us insights into a fundamental biological process and – at the same time – will help us towards the development of novel reparative therapeutic approaches aimed at restoring the function of the diseased brain.

Sidney Sussex Graduate Conference - Saturday 1st March   30 Jan 2014

On Saturday 1st March, Sidney Sussex will hold the second Graduate Conference, generously sponsored by the annual fund. A large number of excellent abstracts were received, and the nine have been selected to be presented on the day.

The Conference will take place in the Mong Hall, with refreshments and lunch provided. The Conference dinner will be held in the evening, in the Old Library.

Also on display will be the research posters that have been selected as finalists in the first Graduate Poster Competition.

Everybody in the Sidney community is invited to join us at the conference – Fellows, Staff, Undergraduates and Graduates. More information on registration will be available soon – for Fellows and Staff, please email the PA to the Graduate Tutors: graduatetutor@sid.cam.ac.uk.

Alex Campsie: The state and civil society: lessons from an alternative ‘radical tradition’.

2013 saw the Labour Party unveil its flagship ‘One Nation’ campaign. In his July ‘One Nation speech’, leader Ed Miliband promised a collective politics more closely ‘rooted’ to the values of ‘community’.

The substance of this vision has most notably been elaborated by thinker Maurice Glasman. In his essay ‘Labour as a Radical Tradition’, Glasman argues that the Party derived its early electoral strength from close links to mutualist institutions within working-class life, chiefly co-operatives, religious bodies and friendly societies.  Its contemporary policies should seek to replicate this, using third-sector organisations to re-build society around a shared belief in ‘the common good and common life’.

This paper argues that Glasman, and the ‘One Nation’ project, presents a simplified reading of the British Left and its historic relationship to civil society. Using extensive archival research, it re-assesses some of the ideas behind the Labour Party’s programme of social reform from the early to mid-twentieth century, and reframes some of the key questions facing contemporary policy-makers in light of these findings.

It is shown that while many key left-wing thinkers did believe that group associations were important, they equally understood that ordinary people held an array of differing interests and identities which were experienced at a private, individual level. Labour’s policies sought to fairly redistribute economic and social resources in the hope that this would empower each and every citizen to fully express themselves as individuals.

In a world where new lifestyle patterns and technologies increasingly seem to favour ‘individuated’ modes of experience, attempting to entirely structure civil society around traditional ‘collective’ modes of organisation is unrealistic. It also misses that the British Left has always been concerned with celebrating social diversity and ensuring individual freedoms. It is this ‘tradition’ which progressive politicians and policy-makers need to pay attention to, and which holds the real key for future success.

 

Nora Galland: Shakespeare’s insults: is talking about racism an anachronism?

I would like to introduce my research about Shakespeare’s insults – quite a fascinating topic. I intend to develop my analysis of Shakespearean racist insults and precisely emphasize to what extent it is problematic. Of course, the first question that comes to mind is: can we speak of early modern racism without falling into the trap of anachronism? Well, I do think so.

Racism is not the monopoly of the modern period: of course, we won’t be talking of the same form of racism but this does not mean that it did not exist at the time. As they say, the proof is in the eating… and it is worth noticing that many plays by Shakespeare do have racist insults in it.

I would like to emphasize the variety of racist insults in several plays by Shakespeare. So, what did the Shakespearean racist insult teach us about early modern racism? How did Shakespeare want to introduce the normalized race thinking of his time? Did the characters fit easily into the early modern racist categories?

Interestingly, the characters were not properly in keeping with the racist stereotypes insofar as Shakespeare always managed to find a way to introduce an ambiguity thus breaking the absolute character of those racist categories. I will focus on the characters’ failure to fit the racist images of the insults and develop from this a dialectics of the insultor and the insulted. Eventually, I would conclude that the racist insult is a tool for the construction of identity – but not really of the insulted but most of all of the insultor.

 

Meg O’Brien: Developing a regulatory framework around “revenge porn”: theoretical bases and practical challenges.

Individuals in common law jurisdictions who have been the subjects of “revenge porn” have few adequate legal remedies available to them.  “Revenge porn” is the popularised term for the publication and distribution of sexually explicit materials including photographs and video via the internet and through other means of information and communications technology, usually by the subject’s former sexual partner or a hacker, and without the subject’s consent. 

The proliferation of “revenge porn” websites (in addition to their contents) and several high-profile cases have provoked predictable levels of shock and ire amongst lawmakers and the general public.  Responding adequately to this issue has proved more difficult, and highlights the challenge of regulating online communications more generally. 

Attempts have been made to make the posters of revenge porn liable through various means including tort law, privacy/communications law and copyright law.  All these attempts have proved largely inadequate and are often prohibitively expensive for the plaintiffs.  There are only a few jurisdictions where posting revenge porn can amount to a crime, and even where the relevant criminal laws are adequately drafted, the criminal law cannot prevent or address the harm suffered by a “victim” of revenge porn, other than their desire to see the perpetrator punished.  There are also ongoing questions about the liability of internet service providers, website hosts and search engines in relation to online communications. 

This paper will discuss the challenges of regulating online communications, and whether that is possible or even desirable.  To this end, the following questions will be posed: are existing legal frameworks adequate or do we need a different approach tailored explicitly to communications that occur in cyberspace? Is it still fair to characterise the internet as “the legal wild west”?  Is the concept of privacy redundant?  Is revenge porn best characterized as a form of sexual abuse?  What are the limits of the law?

 

Megan Sim: A descriptive analysis of how the police caution is administered to juvenile suspects.

You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. (Home Office, 2012, C.10.5). In England and Wales, people suspected of criminal offences must be given the above caution before they are questioned about their suspected involvement. Suspect understanding of the caution is paramount because it explains the right to silence as a protection against selfincrimination.

Yet findings from experimental studies have suggested that caution comprehension is poor, even when it is delivered under optimal conditions. Researchers have hypothesised that the performance of actual suspects being interviewed by the police may be even worse, but no research has explored this in a corresponding field sample. Thus the present study examined tapes of police interviews with juvenile suspects (aged under 17) in order to describe the speed at which the caution was delivered, whether or not the suspects demonstrated understanding of the caution, and how the caution was explained by police officers.

The results indicated that police officers delivered the caution at the rate of almost 300 words per minute, which is above the optimal speech rate for adolescents’ comprehension. In addition, while juvenile suspects often claimed to understand the caution, they failed to demonstrate complete comprehension when asked to do so. On the other hand, police officers were able to provide good explanations of the caution to juveniles, but often emphasised the potential negative consequences for suspects if they chose to invoke their right to silence.

Taken together, the current findings suggest that the way the caution is administered renders it unlikely to safeguard juvenile suspects in the way it was meant to.

 

Jenna M. Shapiro: Development of a Model of the Bone Microenvironment

Cells both shape and are shaped by their surroundings, or microenvironment. The microenvironment, which contains neighbouring cells, soluble growth factors, structural elements, and various signalling molecules, is a potent regulator of normal cellular function. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key component of the microenvironment, providing not only structural support, but also spatial and temporal regulation of biological, chemical, and mechanical signals. By studying how cells create and change their microenvironment and by examining how altering this can subsequently change cellular behavior, we not only learn about basic biological processes, but also understand how to manipulate the microenvironment to provoke desired biological responses. This is critical for designing tissue engineering constructs for regenerative medicine.

However, due to the complexity of this two-way interaction, it is difficult to study the response of a cell to individual signals in the body. Synthetic structures can instead be utilised as a simplified model for studying these interactions. This project aims to model two aspects of interactions in the bone microenvironment. The first explores how Carney complex, a genetic disease causing multiple endocrine tumours, changes the extracellular matrix, a major element of the microenvironment. Bone cells are genetically modified to mimic mutations causing Carney complex, and resulting changes are observed. In turn, we want to understand how changing mechanical properties of surrounding substrates influences cell behaviour, particularly, bone formation. Hydrogels, materials with large water contents, are appealing for biological applications, especially synthetic microenvironments. Hydrogel mechanical properties are characterized to determine their effect on cellular response. Studies incorporating both hydrogels and cells lines are underway to explore more complex cell-microenvironment interactions.

 

Guangzhi Zhang: Evaluation of Dedicated Bus Service using an Artificial Transportation System Based on London Transit Network

Dedicated bus service is a new high-end urban transit service that bridges traditional public transport service and ride sharing. By directly connecting high-demand OD pairs, with modestly higher fare than buses and the underground, dedicated bus service is expected to: 1) attract auto drivers to use public transit service; 2) relieve the pressure of high demand public transit lines during rush hour; and 3) provide better service and save time for passengers. However, there are several important and interesting problems need to be evaluated before full-scale launch, such as, which OD pairs should be covered first, how many auto drivers will stop driving their own cars and what impacts will the traditional bus network encounter. We develop an artificial transportation system for London, which has an agent-based model with the travelers’ mode choices under the auto/dedicated bus/traditional transit scenario between origins (households or Park and Ride sites) and destinations (working places). By designing and performing computational experiments, we prove that if designed properly, dedicated bus service is able to attract enough passengers (including auto drivers and previously public transport commuters), leading to better traffic conditions and traffic experience.

 

Gabrielle L. Davidson: Salient eyes deter same-species nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula)

Animals often respond fearfully when encountering eyes or eye-like shapes. These responses have been attributed to an instinctive tendency to avoid stimuli that resemble predator eyes. Although eye avoidance has been most heavily studied in a predator-prey context, there is some evidence to suggest that eyes may also play a role during conflict between members of the same species (conspecifics).  Gaze aversion has been documented in some mammals when avoiding group-member conflict, but the importance of eye colouration during interactions between conspecifics has yet to be examined in non-primate species. Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), a member of the crow family, have near-white irides which are conspicuous against their dark feathers and visible when seen from outside the cavities where they nest. Cavities are typically a limiting resource, so competition for nest sites is intense and jackdaws occasionally approach or enter (i.e. prospect) nest sites  which are not their own. Because jackdaws compete for nest sites, their conspicuous eyes may act as a warning signal to indicate that a nest is occupied and deter intrusions by conspecifics. We tested whether jackdaws’ pale irides serve as a deterrent to prospecting conspecifics by comparing prospectors’ behaviour towards nest boxes displaying images with bright eyes only, a jackdaw face with natural bright eyes, or a jackdaw face with dark eyes. The jackdaw face with bright eyes was most effective in deterring birds from making contact with nest boxes, while both bright eye conditions reduced the amount of time jackdaws spent in proximity to the image. We suggest bright eyes in jackdaws may function to prevent conspecific competitors from approaching occupied nest sites. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that eye colouration may be important for communication between conspecifics outside of the primate lineage.

 

Julie Sapsford: The “Lived Experience” of obsessive compulsive disorder: intrusive thoughts, distorted dreams

The frequently consuming “lived experience” of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is often shrouded in secrecy, and this silence is mirrored in the gap that exists in the academic literature.  OCD has been cited as the fourth most prevalent mental health condition globally.  Despite this, it is often referred to as the ‘hidden epidemic’, being commonly misrepresented, under-recognised, concealed and under-diagnosed – meaning many people with OCD lead a secret double life. 

OCD obsessions and compulsions manifest in many different ways, (e.g. contamination fears and associated washing being commonly cited).  Obsessional thoughts in OCD may be concerned with a fear of harm coming to self or others (e.g. catching a disease or having an accident).  In other cases, the obsessions relate to more taboo subjects, and such ‘intrusive thoughts’ are a lesser known manifestation.  This term refers to recurring thoughts that are ego-dystonic (i.e. do not fit with the individual’s value set), and in OCD such thoughts are commonly concerned with aggressive, blasphemous or sexual themes.  The thoughts are generally accompanied by physical and/or mental rituals.  Thoughts with such content are proposed to be normal in the general population – where, among non-clinical population they are perceived as meaningless and can be dismissed relatively easily with minimal distress or preoccupation.  However, an individual with OCD may interpret them differently, attaching great significance, feeling responsible, and inferring aspects of their character from them.  This results in anxiety and a need to neutralise the thoughts, leading to the development of compulsions, or avoidance behaviour, and the resulting cycle of OCD. 

Individuals experiencing intrusive thoughts often believe them to be immoral or criminal and, tragically, mistakenly conclude that they are dangerous or evil, fearing what they might be capable of.  The possible implications of such beliefs on the self and aspects of life will be considered.

 

Dorothea Floris: The differential role of the two halves of our brains and how this relates to autism

At first glance the two cerebral hemispheres look like two mirror images of each other, however a fundamental aspect of the organization of all of our brains is that each half is specialized for specific cognitive functions.

The most well-known functional specialization is hand preference, with most people exhibiting left-hemisphere dominance for (right) handedness. In addition, some other motor functions as well as language functions are left hemisphere dominant and lesion to this side of the brain more often results in apraxia or language impairments. The right hemisphere is not jobless – most visuospatial abilities are represented in the left side of the brain.

How does all this relate to autism? Individuals with autism primarily have deficits in language and communication, show motor impairments very early on, and are twice as likely to be left-handed (20%). On the other hand they often excel at visuospatial tasks characterizing their excellent systemizing skills. Based on this observation theories have been put forward suggesting that autism might be related to left-hemisphere dysfunction.

In my work I’m testing this assumption looking at a male sample of 84 adults with autism compared to 84 controls. I use two different techniques called Region of Interest analysis and Voxel Based Morphometry which both allow to investigate volumetric differences in the brain. Comparing the left and the right side I found that individuals with autism show the opposite pattern of lateralization in several language regions, the motor cortex and some limbic regions involved in spatial memory.

Strikingly, atypical language asymmetry was related to more autistic symptoms, whereas atypical lateralization of limbic structures was associated with better performance on a visuospatial task. Thus atypical lateralization might underlie both disabilities and strengths seen in the disorder. Future research has to establish whether disturbances in the establishment of the normal pattern of laterality occur early in development and could therefore be altered by behavioural interventions based on the inherent plasticity of the human brain.

MCR Graduate Seminar
  03 Dec 2013

The next MCR Graduate Seminar will be on Tuesday 3rd December at 6pm in the Mong Hall.

Sarah Graham (Biology) and Toby Norman(Management Science and Global Health) will be presenting aspects of their PhD research.

Sarah Graham: The first steps in making a mouse

The fertilized egg has the most potential of any 'stem’ cell, being able to give rise to all the tissues of the embryo, as well as to extra-embryonic structures that will support the embryo throughout development. In mammals, the fertilized egg first divides into progressively smaller cells that become organized into a blastocyst composed of three distinct cell lineages. In this talk I will discuss how these different cell types are specified in the mouse embryo and demonstrate how the interplay between cell position, cell polarity and gene expression can regulate cell fate.

Toby Norman: Applying Management Science to the Challenges of Global Poverty

Despite unprecedented advances in technology and an influx of international funding, the challenges of global poverty remain as daunting as ever. We have an ever-increasing array of tools at our disposal to combat disease, hunger, and unemployment, yet to this point our performance has not kept pace with our capabilities. Why is it so hard to deliver poverty solutions that work? And can we use management science to increase our performance with the tools we already have? Tapping into the exciting new methodologies from economics and psychology, our team has been working in rural Bangladesh for the past two years looking for answers to these questions. Working closely with human rights programs, health initiatives, and major NGOs we've been looking at how the fundamental question of human performance in the pursuit of social impact may be more critical than any one idea or technology alone. Join us on an exploration from the rural villages of Kenya through the mountains of Haiti and the slums of Dhaka as we seek to gain a better understanding what it really takes to improve the lives of the poor.

The seminar will last around one hour. Refreshments will be served, and all are welcome to attend.


MCR Graduate Seminar   06 Nov 2013

The first MCR Graduate Seminar of the academic year will be on Tuesday 12th November at 6pm in the Mong Hall. These seminars are a fantastic opportunity to hear about some of the research work being undertaken within the MCR community at Sidney.

This time, Yuddi Gershon (Classics) and Adam Solomon (Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics) will be presenting what look set to be two very interesting and complementary talks. For their brief abstracts, see below.

Yuddi Gershon (Classics) and Adam Solomon (DAMPT) will be presenting about the research they are conducting as part of their PhDs.

Yuddi Gershon: "Ancient Greek Space Travel: Lucian's A True History"

In an adjunct to his work on ancient Greek literature, Yuddi will be presenting an brief introduction to the so-called 'Second Sophistic' primarily through Lucian's bizarre account of a journey across sea and through space, A True History. The flowering the Greek Literature during the Roman Empire provides us with some of the most exciting material in the Classical corpus. Lucian is renowned as being the wittiest and most satirical of these late writers and rightfully was widely studied in the early modern period before falling into obscurity.

Adam Solomon: Mysteries of the Dark Universe: Was Einstein Wrong?

Over the past few decades we've learned that galaxies, stars, planets, people, Cambridge colleges, and all of the other matter we're familiar with make up less than 4 percent of the mass and energy content of the Universe. What is the other 96%? We have no idea, so we just call it "dark energy" and "dark matter" and throw our hands up in exasperation.

According to the theory, dark energy is an invisible, exotic substance which is behind the observed phenomenon that the expansion of the Universe is speeding up, rather than slowing down as conventional theories of gravity predicted. However, history has taught us that conclusions about mysterious new matter may be premature, and that it may be those conventional theories which need revising instead.

Could gravity behave differently than we've thought? To say so would run up against the greatest achievement of one of the giants of physics: Albert Einstein, whose theory of gravity, general relativity, is still the gold standard today.

In this talk I will explain how we discovered this dark energy conundrum, and discuss the two different approaches to solving it: adding mysterious dark energy, and changing the laws of gravity. Along the way, we will learn the story of two new planets, only one of which turned out to be real, discover the most horrifically wrong prediction in the history of physics, and encounter bizarre theories of gravity in which matter lives on not one but two fabrics of spacetime which interact with each other in a strange dance.

Freshers' Week 2013 timetable now available   08 Sep 2013

A very warm welcome to everyone who is getting ready to join Sidney MCR this year. We're really looking forward to meeting you all and an exciting start to Michaelmas term. Freshers' Week will start on Friday 4th October, and we've put together a packed schedule to keep you busy over the following ten days, settle in, and get to know everybody else - old and new. Check out the timetable here, and join the Facebook group here to make sure you keep up to date with everything that is going on if you arrive in Cambridge before the 4th.

Minutes from meeting 24 Apr   01 Jul 2013

The minutes from the most recent MCR meeting are now available. Access them here.

The next MCR seminar will be at 6pm on Thursday 6th June.

Moira Faul and Philip Hitchings will be giving short presentations about the research that they are conducting as part of their PhDs.

  03 Jun 2013

Moira Faul: Power and partnerships in international development: the case of the education Millennium Development Goals.

Networks are now established with the goal of enacting global multi-stakeholder partnership and recipient government 'ownership' in development cooperation. Yet, research has yet to address satisfactorily the ways in which disparate global policy actors work together to overcome global poverty. Without such an investigation we are left with an inadequate analysis that creates the conditions for ill-informed policy decisions and the perpetuation of extant power asymmetries. My research seeks to fill this gap. Rather than investigating individual policy actors, I present analysis of the global policy network in education, using an innovative combination of network and narrative analysis. My study offers the first treatment of this multi-stakeholder network, analysing documents and interview data from key contemporary global education policy actors from international organisations, governments, civil society, private sector, and think tanks.

Philip Hitchings: The honour of the kingdom: Sir George Carew's Embassy to France, 1605-1609

From 1605 to 1609 the Stuart kingdoms of James I and VI were represented at the court of Henry IV of France by the diplomat, lawyer, and scholar, Sir George Carew (c.1555-1612). I intend in my talk to discuss this brief yet significant period as a means of illuminating the often neglected field of Jacobean foreign policy and international relations. Carew was a man of great diplomatic experience who had previously been envoy to Poland under Elizabeth I. He was a committed servant of the state and this can be seen in the details of the French embassy. Aside from developing a close working relationship with Henry IV and a number of his ministers, Carew went out of his way to gather information on all aspects of French history, society, and economy as a means of preparing himself for the needs of the mission. England's relationship with France at this time was a complex one and Carew's judgement upon the future of English policy was eloquently written up in a unique document The Relation of the State of France. The professionalism of Carew was mirrored widely within the Jacobean diplomatic service. A small group of dedicated men worked consistently to uphold the interests of the Stuart kingdoms. Furthermore, far from the image of isolationism so commonly associated with the Jacobean polity, it is my contention that diplomats like Carew worked within the context of a monarch and state keen to extend and enhance the prestige and influence of the three kingdoms within a turbulent international scene. The seminar will last around one hour.

Refreshments will be served, and all are welcome to attend. For more information about the seminars please contact the MCR President Lou Cantwell.

MCR Committee 2013/2014   09 May 2013

The MCR committee for 2013/2014 are:

  • President: Lou Cantwell
  • Treasurer: Calum Robertson
  • Secretary: Paolo Heywood
  • Social Officers: Rebecca Noorderhaven, Telma Almeida & Mat Dalton
  • Womens and Welfare/External: Zoe Petkanas
  • External Officer: Philip Hitchings
  • First Year Representative: Isabel Thompson
  • Green Officer: Katie Forsyth
  • Film Officer: Daisy Scholten
  • Computer Officers: Laurie Young & Tony Harris (Deputy)
  • Minutes from meeting 24 Apr   29 Apr 2013

    The minutes from the most recent MCR meeting are now available. Access them here.

    Meeting minutes   18 Nov 2012

    Interested in what happens at MCR meetings? Minutes of the MCR Committee meetings are located here. The Committee meets about twice a term, feel free to contact the President if you want anything to appear on the agenda.

    Freshers Week timetable ready   17 Sep 2012

    Less than two weeks to go before Freshers Week starts. Wondering what to do? Download the timetable here.

    Freshers Guide Updated   02 Jul 2012

    Starting at Sidney in the 2012-2013 academic year? Fear not, for the MCR Committee have compiled a brand-new guide to help you adjust to the curious life at Cambridge. Or, you can access the less-recently-updated guide here.

    Garden Party   08 Jun 2012

    Sign-up for the MCR garden party is now open. Join the Facebook event here.

    Minutes from meeting 25 Apr   07 May 2012

    The minutes from the most recent MCR meeting are now available. Access them here.

    MCR Committee 2012/2013   23 Apr 2012

    The new MCR committee for 2012/2013 has been formed.

    President: William Menz
    Treasurer/External: Lou Cantwell
    Social Officers: Jim Ross, Kelly Accetta, Adam Solomon
    Womens and Welfare/External: Kim Wagenaar
    Green Officer: Ingrid Rembold
    Film Officer: Sebastian Gibson
    Computer Officer: Laurie Young

    MCR elections   29 Feb 2012

    Voting for the positions of MCR Treasurer and President is now open. Go to CUSU voting to cast your vote!

    Two swaps coming up   31 Jan 2012

    In addition to the graduate formal next week, we will be swapping to Christ's College and Wolfson College in the following week. Christ's will be on Tuesday the 14th, while Wolfson on Friday the 17th of February.
    Sign-up opens tomorrow night (Wednesday the 1st) so don't miss out on your chance..!

    Events organised for Lent Term   17 Jan 2012

    We have lots of exciting events organised for Sidney's graduate community this term. An important note is that formals are not consistently on Tuesdays due to the Hall's busy schedule this term. To make up for this weird spacing however, we've organised lots of swaps.

    Please note that this is a preliminary schedule, so events are subject to change. More information about each event will be posted closer to their respective dates.

    Thu 26th Jan: Sidney Burns' Night
    Wed 1st Feb: swap to Clare Hall
    Thu 2nd Feb: swap to Queens'
    Mon 6th Feb: MCR Graduate Guest Night
    (Tue 7th Feb: Graduate Supper)
    Tue 14th Feb: swap to Christ's
    Fri 17th Feb: swap to Wolfson
    (Tue 1st Feb: Graduate Supervisors' Dinner)
    Tue 28th Feb: MCR Graduate Guest Night
    Wed 7th Mar: swap to Trinity Hall
    Tue 13th Mar: swap to Homerton
    Tue 20th Mar: MCR Graduate Guest Night

    Welcome back!   13 Jan 2012

    Hope you had a happy festive period, welcome back to all new and returning students. The MCR will kick-off its first formal of 2012 on the evening of Thursday the 26th of Jan and will be our annual Burns` Night. For the uninitiated, this means the traditional meal of haggis (vegetarian options available of course) plus plenty of ceilidh dancing. More information coming soon - watch your inboxes and Facebook!

    Christmas Formal   18 Nov 2011

    The Christmas Formal will be on Monday the 28th this year. Be sure to sign-up to the even on Sunday night, and join the Facebook event here

    Swaps   31 Oct 2011

    We have swaps organised to Selwyn and Churchill in the next few weeks. Watch your inbox or this website for more information.

    Halloween formal   22 Oct 2011

    The next MCR formal will be Halloween themed. Attendees are expected to be in their most terrifying Halloween best. RSVP to the Facebook Event here or sign-up for it online here.

    First MCR formal for Michaelmas term!   05 Oct 2011

    The first MCR Graduate Formal will be on Tuesday the 18th of October. Sign-up will open from Monday 10th. More details to follow!

    Casino Formal   11 Nov 2010

    Monte Carlo comes to Sidney, with a professional casino, vodka martinis, white russians, and hundreds of other cocktails made especially for you by professionally trained staff. Sign up online now!

    Whisky Night   09 Nov 2010

    Whisky, wine, cigars and chocolate cake night is back! This Friday 12th November! sign up online now!

    Freshers' Guide updated for 2009-10 and wireless network access now in the MCR   13 Oct 2009

    Info in the Sidney MCR Freshers' Guide and computing section was updated in September and a Lapwing hotpoint has just been installed in the MCR (thanks Pat Gates) - grads can now take their laptops there and surf the web. SP

    New Skills Portal for Cambridge grads launched   04 Jun 2009

    A new transferable skills portal for Cambridge postgraduate students was launched on 14 May. It is hoped students will take advantage of this resource to find opportunities to develop transferable skills and think about their career path. SP

    Committee webpage updated for 2009-10   10 May 2009

    The Committee profile page and mailing lists have been updated following the Lent 2009 MCR executive elections and appointment of the new officers. Info has been added to the accounts page, and the green pages have been updated with current college recycling facilities. Simon Payne is filling in as Webmaster until someone competent can be found. Special mention must go to Simon Hopkins, who moulded this website into what it is today and wrote much of its content. SP

    Green pages updated   14 Oct 2007

    The green officer's page has now been updated with more details about recycling and ethical issues, as well as links to information about Cambridge University Green Week 2007. The Committee page and mailing lists have also been updated, as we bid farewell to last term's social assistants and welcome back Jen (in place of Brendan) as Green Officer.

    Information for freshers updated   29 Aug 2007

    The freshers' guide has been updated, cross-referenced with information from the Graduate Union, and a new section about funding added. Additional information for new students has also been added, including advice on travel arrangements and what to bring. A copy of the college's handbook for graduate students is also available for download from that page.

    MCR Website Relocates to the SRCF   09 Sep 2006

    This website is now located at http://www.srcf.ucam.org/sidneymcr/ - please update your links.

    Previously, the site was split between this location (on the SRCF) and http://students.sid.cam.uk/~mcr/. The site has been moved because the server students.sid has been unreliable - if you have been unable to access the MCR website, we apologise for the inconvenience.

    During a short transitional period, a few links may be broken or pages missing - if you can't access the page you are looking for, please contact the MCR Computer Officer.

    Recycling Information Now Online   24 May 2006

    The Green Officer's page has now been updated with information about recycling for people living in college hostels and private-sector accommodation, as well as for those in the main college site.

    Minutes discussing the MCR relocation now available; freshers' information updated   28 Sep 2005

    The online archive of MCR Committee meeting minutes has been updated with details of our recent discussions, mostly about the relocation of the MCR and the planning of Freshers' Week. The freshers' information page has been updated with more information about Freshers' Week, including a downloadable timetable, and there have been some minor updates to the Freshers' guide. Full event details are available from the online events calendar.

    Annual accounts and proposed budget online   26 Jun 2005

    The MCR's 2004-5 accounts and proposed 2005-6 budget are now online (accessible from computers on the Cambridge network or with your Raven password). Minutes of recent MCR committee meetings are also available.

    New GU events calendar launched   16 Mar 2005

    The GU has launched a university-wide events calendar. This is intended to be a single, central database of events of interest to graduate students (whether arranged specifically by/for them or not). Events can be viewed on a weekly or monthly basis, and filtered by type, or alternatively in calendar software on your own computer.

    Any member of the university can add an event to the calendar - you will just need to log in with your Raven password.

    Forum update and modified posting system   24 Feb 2005

    Recently a large number of inappropriate posts have been generated automatically by a malicious script or user. These have all been removed, hopefully before they were widely viewed or indexed. However, as a result there has been a small change in posting policy. It is still possible to post as a guest, but if you do so you will now be required to type a confirmation code disguised in an image. This is to prevent automatic posting from scripts, and shouldn't be a significant inconvenience. Users are still recommended to register - registered users (after confirming their registration via a valid e-mail address) will not be required to enter a code when posting. The forum software has also been updated to the latest version.

    Forum update - polls, new design   25 Jan 2005

    It is hoped that there will be more contributions to the MCR forum in future, both from members of the MCR and from applicants or new students. To encourage this, polls related to issues under discussion in MCR Committee meetings will be created - one about the uses of MCR funds is currently available.

    The appearance of the forum has also been adjusted to better integrate it with the rest of the MCR website.

    New "what's new" front page design   09 Jan 2005

    The "what's new" section of the front page has been redesigned, with the intention of improving the visibility of event, booking and news details. Latest news from the GU will now also be displayed. Please inform the Webmaster if you notice any problems with the new layout.

    The removal of the tab system and auto-advance also reduces server load and eliminates Javascript problems that had been reported in some browsers.

    MCR accounts online   11 Dec 2004

    The MCR accounts and proposed budget are now available online (access is restricted to Cambridge university and its members). The conversion of all available MCR committee meeting minutes is also now complete.
    A few navigational enhancements have also been made.

    New website search facility   01 Dec 2004

    A search page has been added to the MCR website, allowing searches of the MCR, Sidney Sussex and University servers. The website is indexed by the University web search, which allows Sidney MCR information to be returned from searches of the University page. The MCR website is now also linked directly from the university's colleges page.

    Updated events calendar   24 Nov 2004

    The events calendar has now been modified to contain events of interest to Sidney MCR organised elsewhere in the college, university or city. It is hoped that events we are asked to advertise to our members will appear on the website, and e-mails about them will be kept to a minimum.

    To help with identifying events of interest, the events calendar still shows only Sidney MCR events when it is first loaded, with an indication of how many other events are stored. Clicking on one of the other categories (Sidney, University, Cambridge) will show events organised at that level or below - select Cambridge to view all events.

    MCR Minutes Online   24 Nov 2004

    Minutes of MCR Committee meetings are now being recorded formally and made available online. Minutes of past MCR meetings are also in the process of being reformatted for display on the website. If you have any comments on the minutes or you wish to raise any issues at our next meeting, please make a post in the MCR Feedback forum or contact a member of the Committee.

    Changes to Forum registration   18 Nov 2004

    In response to several recent forum registrations using non-existent e-mail addresses for users who appear to be more interested in advertising websites than the MCR, registering in our Forum will now result in an e-mail being sent automatically to the address you specify. You must follow the instructions in that e-mail to complete your registration. Users without valid e-mail addresses may be deleted; note that your e-mail address will not be displayed to visitors unless you choose to make it available. Visitors can still read and post in the forum without registering.

    Anyone who is a member of the MCR, or has an interest in it, is still encouraged to register. The more people who are actively involved in the Forum, the more useful it will be.

    New links page   13 Nov 2004

    A new, large and growing collection of links is now available. If there is anything you would like to see on the list, or if there is an error, please contact the Computer Officer.

    New website navigation system   11 Nov 2004

    The links on the old site banner have now been replaced with a drop-down menu system (for recent Javascript-enabled browsers). Hopefully this should make it easier to access information without returning to the front page. If you have any comments on the new system, and especially if you spot a problem, please inform the Computer Officer.

    Substantial new content on the Computing pages.   07 Nov 2004

    The Computing pages now contain information about MCR, College and University computing facilities. You can also apply online for an account on the MCR computer.

    Freshers guide updated for 2010-11, information for international students updated, and orientation information added.   01 Jan 1970

    First Graduate Seminar: 12th November, 6 p.m., Mong Hall.   01 Jan 1970

    Dear all, The first MCR Graduate Seminar of the academic year will be on Tuesday 12th November at 6pm in the Mong Hall. Yuddi Gershon (Classics) and Adam Solomon (DAMPT) will be presenting about the research they are conducting as part of their PhDs. Everybody warmly encouraged to attend!