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Tales of discovery: stories inspired by Cambridge research

“There’s no research that can’t be talked about in an interesting way…”

Find out how a traditional storyteller reinterprets your research to present to a family audience, and discover the families' own responses as they make their own stories around your research.

As part of the University Science Festival, the Office of Scholarly Communication will be hosting a storytelling event for families with Marion Leeper, the first Bard of Cambridge. We asked keen researchers with interesting areas of study to apply in order to take part in this event and see their research interpreted in a whole new light.

We are happy to announce the researchers who will join us in this endeavour aimed at sharing University of Cambridge’s open research with members of the community in a unique and novel way.

Katherine Olley, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic

Approximate starting time: 10.00

Katherine’s article explores the drama of childbirth as depicted in the Old Norse legendary sagas that are heroic tales written down in medieval Iceland. Exploring the universal ritual of birth, the first and perhaps most significant life event, provides an opportunity for the public to discover both what was familiar about medieval Icelandic families and what was alien. Moreover, the fantastic nature of these stories brings Icelandic literature and culture vividly to life: a midwife chants a magic spell to help a mother deliver; a slave follows a white stag to a mysterious elvish dwelling in the forest; a queen eats an apple and falls pregnant for six long years before giving birth to a son.  These little-known tales provide a rich introduction to Old Icelandic literature.

Noa Zilberman, Department of Computer Science and Technology

Approximate starting time: 10.40

This article is about the fact that almost every aspect of our lives today is being digitally monitored: from our social networks activity, through online shopping habits to healthcare and financial records. The emergence of the Internet of Things only increases the public's exposure to digital monitoring by commercial enterprises. The story is about how people can have the right to choose where their data is stored and who holds it through new computing architectures: how we use our mobile devices, who can see what we are doing, how we handle technological threats, both as individuals and as a country, and more.  

Trisha Biers, Department of Anthropology

Approximate starting time: 11.15

This article’s focus is a wooden carving from Captain Cook's voyage to the Pacific in the 18th Century. Amongst the knowledge and treasures he brought back was a wooden carving of 2 figures and a dog which has become the logo of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology here in Cambridge. Little is really known about this piece prior to its arrival in the UK and it has long remained a mystery. Researchers at the University tried to uncover the secrets of the piece by examining both its artistic style and the wood it has been carved on in an attempt to discover when and where it was made. By looking closely into this, researchers have been able to think about the way artistic styles were shared and adapted across the Pacific Islands at a time when the only boats used by the indigenous peoples were handmade canoes that had to traverse vast stretches of ocean.

Hannah Jongsma, Department of Psychiatry

Approximate starting time: 11.50

Psychotic disorders are best known for their hallucinations and delusions. Someone's lifetime risk of developing such a disorder is between one and three percent. It was long thought that this risk didn't vary much across the globe, and this in turn lead to the belief that the causes of psychotic disorders were largely genetic. We now know this not to be true. Risk of developing a psychotic disorder is not the same for everyone. We also know that someone's risk of developing psychosis is influenced by many factors, both genetic and environmental. For example, risk is higher in young men and ethnic minorities and also in areas where fewer people own their home. This article investigates which people are most at risk, and which environmental factors (such as unemployment and population density) are associated with variation in risk between places.

Crina Samarghitean, Cambridge Judge Business School

Approximate starting time: 12.25

This story is about how bioinformatics tools help researchers find new genes and doctors find diagnosis in difficult disorders and manage better the treatment and quality of life of patients with primary immunodeficiencies. The article focuses on inherited retinal disease which is a common cause of visual impairment.

When and Where?

This event will be taking place on Saturday 24 March, 10.00-13.00 at the University Library. There is no booking required. For further information pelase visit the Cambridge Science Festival website.

Image copyright: Marion Leeper

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