Biology Bites: The Best Biology Snippets

covers the Biology evening. Part of our series on York Science Week

On Wednesday evening the Biosciences society hosted ‘Biology Bites: The Best Biology Snippets’ in the Ron Cooke Hub. Despite an underwhelming turn out and late start the series of short lectures were worth waiting around for. All speakers were from the University of York Biology department, speaking about their research. At the end of each presentation Jamie Duckworth, the societies President lead Q&A sessions, with well thought out questions from audience members and excellent answers from the lecturers.

Palm oil plantations: how can we develop them sustainably? Image credit: a_rabin

Palm oil plantations: how can we develop them sustainably? Image credit: a_rabin

Jane Hill started by giving out Digestive biscuits. It was an engaging touch that complemented her talk on the wide spread plantation of palm oils impacting on rainforest diversity. Her ecological research in Borneo looks at species diversity in areas affected by plantations in order to find out how palm oil can be grown sustainably. She highlighted the economic necessity of the valuable cash crop in food production, cosmetics and detergents.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Image credit: freebird4

Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Image credit: freebird4

Thorunn Helgason carried on the ecological theme talking about the Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, in the context of climate change. Her presentation was informative but the link to climate change was not quite clear enough.

Katie Smith moved onto human physiology and spoke about heart disease. She highlighted the importance of research in this area, as it is the leading cause of death in the developed world.         Her concise and animated description of the cardiovascular system, its evolution and pathology of hypertrophy were captivating. However, there were no questions asked: whether this was because her talk was so encompassing or the audience was getting tired was unclear.

Pilot Whale. Image credit: lowjumpingfrog

Pilot Whale. Image credit: lowjumpingfrog

Dan Franks started his presentation by confessing, “I have a weird interest in menopause”. This was followed by an awesome talk about menopause in whales and why it has evolved in only 3 species – humans, killer whales and pilot whales. The structure of his talk was easy to follow with a series of hypotheses, evidence and a discussion of conclusions and results. The audience was left wandering what is the role of grandfathers in the social life of whales?

Mark Coles was the final speaker. He would have been better placed after Katie Smith as they both spoke about human biology. He discussed the novel technologies for drug and vaccine development in the 21st century, focusing on computer simulations. He and Professor Jon Timmis have developed SimOmics – how the program works and more examples of its use was needed for us to understand how this software could be a better, replacement technique for animal testing and human trials. A £30bn funding gap in the NHS highlighted the need for new technologies and the UK isn’t even the country with the largest gap!

The society’s idea of ‘snippets’ meant that there was something to capture the interest of all audience members. The speakers were all passionate and humorous which made for a very enjoyable evening.

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