We’re slowly but surely making our way through November’s events - with two Cultural Programme talks; a LANS Society event and a catch-up with third year Harry Croxford we’ve got a lot to get through!

Last Monday, we hosted Jamie Hannaford, principal hydrologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, to talk about his research analysing hydrological trends and how they are impacted by climate change. He also expressed his involvement in About Drought, a project part of the UK’s Drought & Water Scarcity Programme. The programme has resulted in huge amounts of interdisciplinary progress, with a diverse team of researchers producing a large volume of research on drought and water scarcity from a variety of disciplines, including geology, ecology, urban planning and even how the media, history and economy intersect with the experience of drought.

Hannaford opened the talk by debunking common misconceptions about drought. Despite the fact that we all know the UK as a notoriously wet country, this does not exempt us from being susceptible to droughts – in fact, we’re in the midst of a drought right now. I was surprised to learn that droughts and floods are not mutually exclusive, as both can indicate the wider problem of climate change.

The event was preceded by a lovely drinks reception, where staff and students could mix and anticipate the talk.

LANS Distinguished Lecture - hydrologist Jamie Hannaford speaks on the topic of drought to a packed room of LANS students

Jamie Hannaford presenting his talk.

Last Wednesday, we attended a talk by internationally renowned bio-artist Anna Dumitriu, who combines biological techniques with sculpture. Teeth Marks is her most recent project, which uses her interdisciplinary techniques to explore the emotional and historical relationship between the public and dentistry.

One of her sculptures, entitled ‘Microbe Mouth’, consisted of ‘teeth’ grown from enamel-producing bacteria and glazed using different bacteria which would usually cause tooth decay – producing bizarre concentric circles of teeth tied up into an oddly beautiful necklace. The work has scientific value too, the bacteria used being considered as a tool in bio-remediation projects, which involve removing harmful substances from the environment. Another sculpture displayed was an engraved chloroform mask which conveyed the story of Horace Wells. In 1844, he discovered that nitrous oxide could be used to anesthetise dental patients and, after years of self-experimenting, became addicted to chloroform. Dumitriu’s process was not just desk-based, she explored a site in the Jewellery Quarter, the old site of a hospital, in order to reimagine its history and inspire her work.

Anna Dumitriu in conversation with Dr Melissa Grant about her  art that combines biological techniques with sculpture

Dumitriu in conversation with Dr Melissa Grant;

Anna Dumitriu explaining the mechanisms behind a Victorian set of dentures

Dumitriu explaining the mechanisms behind a Victorian set of dentures

Dumitriu collaborated with University of Birmingham scientists Dr Melissa Grant and Dr Rachel Sammons for some of these sculptures, but often works with the bacterial strains herself. As expected from a pioneer of bio-artistry, Dumitriu’s talk delved into an inspiring, interdisciplinary world.

The annual LANS society trip to Soul Jam took place this week, with society members taking to Lab 11 in Digbeth to party like it’s 1989 – the society event offers a chance for students groups to meet and mingle in a less formal context. A massive thank you is in order for the LANS Society committee for arranging such a wonderful night. Jessie Davies, president of LANS Society, said, “LANSxSoulJam this year was a flurry of activity, and one of the best nights of my semester. A packed pres meant a huge LANS cohort from first to fourth year were having a boogie together in Lab11, and the music was amazing from start to finish.”

We asked Harry Croxford to talk to us about his time in Japan on his Year Abroad. Here’s what he had to say:

LANS student Harry Croxford  in Japan

From typhoons, to the Rugby world cup, and the occasional earthquake my time in Japan has been full of new experiences! Since starting at Keio University I have been having an utterly incredible time, Tokyo has such a rich range of galleries, shops, architectural styles, and subcultures. The people I’ve met so far are likewise a pleasure to hang out with and I’ve found it fascinating learning about their different perspectives and cultures. Japanese cuisine has a well-deserved reputation too, from more upscale restaurants to cheaper chains and family-owned places the food is constantly delicious wherever I go. Arriving in a new country has also inspired me to change old habits and start some new hobbies, so I’ve began writing more, attending some meditation sessions, and because the area in which I live is so beautiful it’s really motivated me to run more. I’ve settled in quite well, which is surprising! Although the language barrier is a bit of a problem, the language lessons at Keio have made me far more confident with navigating the city, reading signs, and asking questions (although understanding the responses is still kind of difficult…often I’ve found myself dumbly smiling, thanking, and bowing to someone, whilst still having no idea what I’ve just been told).

A view down a hill looking out at the sea in Japan
A view of a crowded street in Japan

University culture in Japan contrasts a fair bit with UoB and the classes at Keio have been rather relaxed so I’ve reached the perfect balance of keeping on top of work whilst being able to travel and experience the city a great deal, I’ve even had enough time to start some reading for my dissertation. Although my time here has been phenomenal so far, as with any year abroad it has presented challenges. Tokyo has a bit of a reputation of being quite a lonely city and I’ve found myself succumbing to it every now and then, especially when I’ve gone through phases of really missing family and friends back home, however it’s been a great help having a great friendship circle here and being able to video-call those back home. Other than that, it’s been a transformative few months so far and I look forward to travelling around Japan and East Asia much more over the coming year.

LANS student Harry Croxton on the rocks while the tide is out in Japan
A view through a doorway of a traditional Japanese wood building

Thank you to Harry for contributing! I do apologise that all regularity has gone out the window for the newsletter, but rest assured the others are on their way and we’ll get you up to date with the goings on in LANS as soon as we can – have a wonderful week!