Annual Edith Morley Seminar
The School's Annual Lecture series is named after Edith Morley, who was the first woman to be appointed a University professor in the UK, in 1908 at University College, Reading, which became the University of Reading in 1926.
"Physics, meteorology, the Sun and how I ended up in an exciting career I didn't anticipate"
Our speaker for the Annual Morley Seminar 2017 was Professor Joanna Haigh, CBE, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College and previously Head of the Department of Physics there. This seminar was held on Thursday 25 May 2017.
Abstract: Having spent most of my research life investigating various aspects of radiative transfer in the atmosphere, it was a chance remark by a solar physicist that sparked my interest in the Sun's influence on climate. I have found it a fascinating and rich subject for research. Solar-climate links have, of course, been the subject of popular and scientific interest since ancient times but over recent decades the topic has acquired new significance in the context of the need to assess the relative contributions of natural and human factors to climate change. So my long-standing interest in weather progressed into a deeper concern with climate and now the opportunity to become co-director of the Grantham Institute has given me a whole new career avenue in climate change. In this talk, I outlined some of my work on solar variability and climate and tried to offer an objective overview of my career, the decisions I have made and support received.
2017 Edith Morley Seminar: Professor Joanna Haigh, CBD (centre left) - Professor Ben Cosh (left) - Dr Joy Singarayer (centre right) - Dr Calvin Smith (right)
Our speaker for the 2016 Annual Morley Seminar was Professor Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Climate Science at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - see Professor Solomon's biography and her background information. The seminar, entitled "Meeting the Scientific and Policy Changes of the Antarctic Ozone Hole: A Global Success Story" was held on Wednesday 25 May 2016 in the Madejski Theatre in the Agriculture Building.
Abstract: The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole shocked the world in 1985 and contributed to remarkable changes in policy as well as in environmental science and public understanding. In this talk, I will review key aspects of the history of ozone science. I will also summarize the roles of science, public engagement, international policy and technology in the international process that has effectively phased out the production of ozone-depleting chemicals. Finally, I will discuss some of the ways in which science continues to advance the understanding of ozone depletion chemistry, including recent research in my group on linkages between volcanic activity and polar ozone chemistry.
Professor Alison Etheridge FRS (Professor of Probability and Deputy Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division of the University of Oxford and Fellow by Special Election at Magdalen College) gave the 2015 Edith Morley Seminar on Wednesday 30 September in Meteorology.
Abstract: Since the pioneering work of Fisher, Haldane and Wright at the beginning of the 20th Century, mathematics has played a central role in theoretical population genetics. One of the outstanding successes is Kingman's coalescent. This process provides a simple and elegant description of the way in which individuals in a population are related to one another. It is based on the simplest possible model of inheritance and is parametrised in terms of a single number, the population size. However, in using the Kingman coalescent as a model of real populations, one does not substitute the actual census population size, but rather an 'effective' population size which somehow captures the evolutionary forces that are omitted from the model.
It is astonishing that this works; the effective population size is typically orders of magnitude different from the census population size. In order to understand the apparent universality of the Kingman coalescent, we need models that incorporate things like variable population size, natural selection and spatial and genetic structure. Some of these are well established, but, until recently, a satisfactory approach to populations evolving in a spatial continuum has proved surprisingly elusive. In this talk we describe a framework for modelling spatially distributed populations that was introduced in joint work with Nick Barton (IST Austria). As time permits we'll not only describe the application to genetics, but also some of the intriguing mathematical properties of some of the resulting models.
2015 Morley Distinguished Seminar: Professor Alison Etheridge FRS (centre) - Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde (left) - Professor Ben Cosh (right)
Professor Julia Slingo (Chief Scientist at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading) gave the second Morley Distinguished Lecture at the University of Reading on 18 March 2014.
Professor Slingo's lecture, "Weather forecasting and climate prediction: Recent successes and future prospects", addressed a selection of recent scientific advances from the Met Office science programme including new developments in local scale weather forecasting, seasonal prediction and the pause in global surface warming. Julia's presentation looked at some of the new developments on the horizon and how increased supercomputer power would help.
2014 Morley Distinguished Seminar: Sir David Bell, KCB (Vice-Chancellor), Professor Julia Slingo (Chief Scientist at the Met Office and Visiting Professor at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading) and Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde (Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences).
Professor Margaret H. Wright, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
"The unfinished story of a popular yet controversial method for derivative-free optimization"
First published in 1965, the Nelder-Mead "Simplex" algorithm remains, after almost 50 years, one of the most widely used methods for derivative-free optimization, despite known flaws such as stagnation and slow/failed convergence. Although its implementation is straightforward, researchers have struggled to obtain minimal convergence results and (even harder) to explain its observed performance, which varies from successful to erratic. This talk will touch on selected interesting properties of the Nelder-Mead method.
2013 Morley Distinguished Seminar:
Professor Margaret Wright (Silver Professor of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University), Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde (Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences), Emeritus Professor Roger Mead (formerly Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading), and Professor Christine Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation.