Morley Distinguished Lecture

School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

This lecture, which is intended as a prestigious annual event, is named after Edith Morley, who was the first woman appointed a university professor in the UK (1908), at University College, Reading, which in 1926 became the University of Reading.


6th Annual Distinguished Morley Seminar
Monday, 26 November, 2pm, Ditchburn Lecture Theatre, JJ Thomson Building

When to trust a self-driving car...
Professor Marta Kwiatkowska (Professor of Computing Systems and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Oxford)

Abstract: Computing devices support us in almost all everyday tasks, from mobile phones and online banking to wearable and implantable medical devices. We are now experimenting with self-driving cars and robots. Since embedded software at the heart of these devices must behave correctly in presence of uncertainty, probabilistic verification techniques have been developed to guarantee their safety, reliability and resource efficiency.
Using illustrative examples, this lecture will give an overview of the role that probabilistic modelling and verification can play in a variety of applications, including security, medical devices, self-driving cars and DNA computing. It will also describe recent developments towards model synthesis, which aims to build these systems so that they are correct by construction. Finally, it will explore the problems of ensuring that systems that rely on learning will behave correctly, both in situations that they have seen in training, and in situations that they haven't.

A reception will follow at the Polly Vacher building, Artificial Intelligence Lab, room 185 (1st floor).


Details of previous Lectures:

The Fifth Distinguished Morley Lecture was given by Professor Joanna Haigh (Imperial College) on Thursday 25 May 2017. 

"Physics, meteorology, the Sun and how I ended up in an exciting career I didn't anticipate"
Prof Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment at Imperial College

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 will outline some of my work on solar variability and climate and try to offer an objective overview of my career, the decisions I have made and support received.


The Fourth Distinguished Morley Lecture was given by Professor Susan Solomon of MIT on Wednesday 25 May 2016

"Meeting the Scientific and Policy Challenges of the Antarctic Ozone Hole: A Global Success Story"
Prof Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science, MIT

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.


The Third Distinguished Morley Lecture was given by Professor Alison Etheridge, FRS, on Wednesday 30th September 2015

"The pain in the torus: modelling evolution in a spatial continuum"
Professor Alison Etheridge FRS, Professor of Probability and Deputy Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division of the University of Oxford


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.


The Second Distinguished Morley Lecture was given by Professor Dame Julia Slingo OBE on
Tuesday 18th March 2014 

"Weather forecasting and climate prediction: recent successes and future prospects"
Prof Dame Julia Slingo OBE, Met Office Chief Scientist

The seminar addressed recent scientific advances from the Met Office science programme including new developments in local scale weather forecasting, seasonal predication and the pause in global surface warming.

Julia also looked at some of the new developments on the horizon and how increased supercomputer power will help.


The inaugural Lecture was given by Professor Margaret H. Wright (Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University) on Monday 4th March 2013.

"The unfinished story of a popular yet controversial method for derivative-free optimization"
Margaret Wright (Courant Institute, New York University)

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.

The lecture was introduced by Professor Christine Williams PVC.



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