Monday, 17 November 2014

Biosciences Seminar Speaker - 20 November 2014

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2014
20 November 2014 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

How natural enemies shape plant defences

Dr. Lindsay Turnbull

Image from

Ecology as a scientific discipline mainly focussed on plant ecology first. In fact one of the oldest and most prestigious journals, the Journal of Ecology, still only accepts papers on the ecology of plants! Hence, in our seminar series we should cover also plant ecology and this is the week - our speaker is Dr Lindsay Turnbull, member of the Plant Ecology Research Group and Associate Professor at the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University.   

Lindsay is a plant ecologist, widely interested in what generates the large diversity we observe between plants and what consequences this has for the characteristics and dynamics of ecosystems. In her lecture she will focus on plant-herbivore interactions and the costs and benefits of plant defences.

Plants are renowned for producing a wide variety of secondary compounds, many of which are associated with defences against herbivorous insects. However, there is wide variation in both the quantity and type of defence compounds produced. 

Here I describe work on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which demonstrates the costs of the production of plant secondary compounds called glucosinolates, which are known to be effective against herbivores. I also describe work demonstrating that different aphid species can select for different types of these glucosinolates in a controlled setting, which may explain the variation observed in different chemotypes of Arabidopsis across Europe.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Communicating Science - Swansea Mres Video Blogs -- Social behaviour at the level of the genes

Swansea Biosciences MRes Course 

Communicating Science (BIB 700)

Video Abstracts

Video Abstract on the seminar by Dr. Seirian Sumner on social behaviour at the level of the genes (more info on the seminar here).

click here for the video

Monday, 10 November 2014

BioMaths Colloquia - 14/11/2014

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2014/15
14 November 2014 - 3pm - Maths Seminar Room (room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Computational and Mathematical Approaches in Cancer Modelling and Treatment Prediction

Dr Gibin Powathil

Image provided by Gibin Powathil

For our second BioMaths Colloquium seminar we will host a talk by Dr. Gibin Powathil from Swansea University. Gibin recently joined the Maths Department and is broadly interested in Mathematical Biology and Computational Mathematics, with a special interest in Mathematical Oncology. Specifically, Gibin's research concerns multiscale cancer modelling, modelling anticancer therapies as well as developing applications of imaging techniques in cancer modelling, but extend also to modelling wound healing.

The issues addressed by Gibin's talk this week are especially exciting for the broad aims of the BioMaths series, as understanding how individual differences and individual interactions scale up to the population level is a hot topic also in current research in biosciences, especially in ecology and evolution.


Each individual cancer cell within a cancer cell mass is unique, with its own internal cellular pathways and biochemical interactions. These interactions contribute to the functional changes at the cellular and tissue scale, creating a heterogeneous cancer cell population. Multiscale mathematical models incorporating such complex interactions can help in studying cancer progression and serve as an in silico test base for comparing and optimising various multi-modality anticancer treatment protocols such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

In this talk, I will consider a hybrid individual cell-based mathematical and computational model, incorporating single-cell based intracellular dynamics, the cell microenvironment and cell-cell interactions to study the growth and progression of cancer cell mass. The model will be then used to study cell-cycle-based tumour heterogeneity and analyse how it contributes to the potential chemotherapeutic drug resistance within a heterogeneous tumour.

Hope to see many of you!

BioMaths Colloquium 2014/15

The BioMaths Colloquium Series 2014/15 has started!

We are excited and proud to have assembled now a great list of speakers for our first full series of the Swansea BioMaths Colloquium Series. The series started at the end of October (see below) and will feature a monthly Feiday afternoon seminar during term time between October 2014 and June 2015, for a total of eight speakers from the UK and abroad (calendar of talks here). 

All seminars will be held at 3pm in the Maths Department (seminar room 224, 2nd floor of the Talbot Building), unless otherwise noted, and will be followed by tea, coffee and biscuits to continue the discussions.

We started with a superb talk by Dr. Jonathan Potts, which generated many interesting questions and discussions:

Towards predictive models of animal movement and space use: a case study of multi-species bird flocks in Amazonia

Dr. Jonathan Potts

Photo by Billtacular:
Though the movement of inanimate objects can typically be described by well-known physical laws, our knowledge of what governs the movement of animals is comparatively very poor. This is not surprising.  There are myriad factors affecting animal movement, from their desire to eat, mate and avoid predation, to social interactions such as flocking and swarming, to physical limitations to movement. 
Disentangling these factors, and placing them into predictive models of animal movement, is a formidable challenge.  

In this talk, I will describe some techniques recently developed to help scientists begin to rise to this challenge.  Though the tools are general, I will demonstrate how they have been used to give insight into a particular study system: multi-species flocks of insectivorous birds in the Amazon rainforest.


This week the series will continue with a talk by Dr. Gibin Powathil from Swansea University on "Computational and Mathematical Approaches in Cancer Modelling and Treatment Prediction" (Abstract here).

Hope to see many of you! 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Biosciences Seminar Speaker - 06 November 2014

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2014
06 November 2014 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Social behaviour at the level of the genes

Dr. Seirian Sumner

Image from Sumner (2014) DOI: 10.1111/mec.12580

Social behaviour is about interactions among organisms. Well, true - but underlying the propensity (or not) to engage in social behaviour are the genes, their regulatory networks, the proteins they express, and this is the level of analysis our seminar speaker of this week is interested in. Dr. Seirian Sumner is interested in eusocial insects (wasps, bees, ants) and tries to use them as model systems to understand how genomes can produce this remarkable diversity in social behaviour among species.

Seirian is also very actively involved in science communication and among her many activities she is maybe most famously known for having founded and organising the Soapbox Science initiative.


Understanding how phenotypic diversity arises from inherited genomic material is a fundamental question in modern biology. Social phenotypes (queen and worker castes) in the eusocial insects have evolved at least 11 times independently, and arise through differential expression of shared genes in response to environmental cues. To what extent do conserved genomic process and genomic novelty contribute to convergent evolution in insect castes? 

I explore this at the transcriptional, network and regulatory levels in convergent behavioural castes of simple eusocial insects, with contrasting evolutionary routes to eusociality. 

Everyone is welcome as usual!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Communicating Science - Swansea Mres Video Blogs -- Ecological drivers of lifespan variation

Swansea Biosciences MRes Course 

Communicating Science (BIB 700)

Video Abstracts

Video Abstract on the seminar by Dr. Natalie Cooper on ecological drivers of lifespan variation in mammals and birds (more info here).