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Fairbrother Lecture 2018 – University of Reading

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  • Bringing doctoral research to the public

  • Showcasing the breadth of doctoral research

Fairbrother Lecture 2018

The Fairbrother Lecture is a University public lecture established in 2014. Named after Jack Fairbrother, who in 1929 became the first student to be awarded a PhD from the University, the Fairbrother Lecture is an annual event at which a current, or recent, Reading doctoral researcher presents their work to a wider audience.

Fairbrother Lecture 2018

Would you let your phone tell you what to eat?
Designing technology for personalised nutrition advice


The 2018 Fairbrother Lecture took place on Wednesday 21 March and was delivered by Rodrigo Zenun Franco, a doctoral researcher in Computer Science. Over one hundred people gathered to hear Rodrigo talk about his doctoral research developing an app that can deliver tailored dietary advice to your phone, tablet or computer.

If you were unable to attend the lecture, you can now watch Rodrigo's talk here:

Rodrigo undertook an undergraduate degree in Brazil, before coming to Reading for his MSc. His PhD is supervised by Dr Faustina Hwang (Biomedical Engineering, School of Biological Sciences) and Professor Julie Lovegrove (Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, School of Chemistry, Food & Pharmacy). The work is supported by the British Nutrition Foundation and the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

Accompanying the lecture, there was a display of work by a number of other outstanding doctoral researchers from across the University: Vincent DeLuca (Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences); Anna Freeman (Geography & Environmental Science - see image to right); Rita Goyal (Henley Business School); Sophie Payne (Literature and Languages) and Suzannah Ravenscroft (Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences).

Anna Freeman - PhD student in Geography and Environmental Sciences


Fairbrother lecture Anna Thomson research display

Anna won our 2016 Research Image Competition for her entry: 'Big world in a small water drop'. Anna's doctoral research is concerned with the factors controlling algal production in river-systems. However, unlike many recent studies that focus on the physical and chemical controls, Anna's work concentrates on the biological aspects; the relationship between algal growth and death and the influence of zooplankton and microbial parasites. Emerging results from Anna's work suggest bacteria and fungi are far more important in the river-systems than previously thought in controlling algal biomass. One other group has identified such a relationship in the lab, but no-one has seen the effect in a river before. As part of Anna's work, she captures video and still imagery of this microscopic world which reveals these rapid growth and death cycles played out by small plants and animals with vivid colours and amazing and unusual shapes. Factors which led themselves to visually appealing presentation. Many people in the UK are familiar with rivers, lakes and wetlands and visit them for recreation especially during periods of warm weather, however few stop to think what lies, hidden-away beneath the surface. Anna plans to submit her PhD thesis this year. She has experience of working both inside and outside of academia so, has a range of options to consider after graduation. Anna says, "I am an explorer by nature, from tiny water drops to large urban environments. I like to draw and photograph. I can spend hours looking at paintings, love theatre and taking photographs of birds. I like presenting and never miss my favourite sports activities. I run every morning, go to step classes, and dance."

Suzannah Ravenscroft - PhD student in the Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences


Suzannah has had a particular interest in developmental psychology since starting her University studies with a BSc in Psychology with Child Development and Language Acquisition at Bangor University and a Research Masters in Development and Socialisation in Childhood and Adolescence at University of Utrecht, Netherlands. It wasn't until completing a summer placement with Dr. Helen Dodd that she focused her attention on anxiety in children. Suzannah developed a keen interest in the application of psychology to children when she worked in a children's home and as a speech and language therapist assistant. She could see that anxiety in young children represented a tangible problem in an area where increased research could influence treatments and had the potential to improve outcomes. Suzannah successfully received ESRC funding in 2013 for a PhD with Dr. Helen Dodd to investigate cognitive biases in children using a multi-method approach. She has recently submitted her PhD and is awaiting her viva in May. Following her PhD, Suzannah will be starting a 5-year postdoctoral position at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland working with Professor Antje Horsch. She will be working on projects investigating the effect of stress and trauma in the perinatal period on mental health and child outcomes.  Part of Suzannah's role will be to build the expertise in psycho-physiological measures within the group. She will be able to make use of all the skills and knowledge she has accumulated during her PhD in her next role and is looking forward to doing this. Suzannah is very excited to be relocating with her husband and daughter to Switzerland but, there is a lot to get ready including trying to get her French up to scratch! Her young daughter takes up most of her free time, whether it be swimming, hunting for spiders in the garden or generally exploring the world. Suzannah also enjoys travelling and photographing all the interesting places she visits.

Rita Goyal - PhD student in Marketing and Reputation, Henley Business School


Rita Goyal

Rita's doctoral research is entitled 'Diversity of perspective: Impact of Director experience on board effectiveness in FTSE companies'. She has submitted her thesis recently and will be defending her PhD soon. The findings of her study suggest that board diversity, when defined broadly, is critical for improving boards' effectiveness in FTSE companies. Board Directors' experiences influence their perspective and hence diverse experiences of Directors' enable them to contribute more meaningfully in boards. Experiences such as Directors' gender, professional background, and nationality have a profound impact on Director's perspective and hence may play a vital role in improving boards' effectiveness. During the course of her research, Rita has interviewed chairpersons, CEOs and board directors of many listed companies in the UK. She has co-authored a book chapter for a Routledge publication and published several journal articles in the realm of board governance. She has presented many co-authored papers based on her research at international academic conferences. Rita's work has also appeared in a number of practitioners' publications and she has presented her work at practitioners' forums. Earlier in her career, Rita worked in the fast track Indian Civil Service for two decades in a variety of middle and senior management roles. Rita holds an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, and a postgraduate degree in History, with a silver medal, from her university in India. Rita speaks Hindi and English fluently and has elementary proficiency in Spanish. She likes to spend time with her family, travel, read and watch movies. She also sponsors a child at an SOS village in India.

Sophie Payne - PhD student in Modern Languages


Sophie has been part of the Modern Languages and European Studies Department at Reading since 2009, when she started a BA in German and Italian, going on to complete an M(Res) in German Studies. Combining an academic interest in linguistics and personal dedication to feminism, in 2013 she embarked on a PhD focusing on linguistic representations of contemporary feminist protest groups in Germany and the UK, under the supervision of Dr Melani Schröter. Sophie's doctoral thesis investigates texts from multiple perspectives that deal with contemporary (2013) feminist protest: the online self-representation of three groups (#aufschrei, The Everyday Sexism Project and FEMEN), mainstream newspaper coverage of the groups and the "Below the Line" comments underneath these articles. Analysing these texts allows us to understand, firstly, in what ways feminists describe and justify their protests today and, secondly, in what ways the newspapers and general public negotiate these protests, whether through rejection or support or something in between. Sophie will complete her PhD in summer 2018. Sophie is currently applying for academic jobs and is planning on producing two articles from her thesis, followed by a monograph next year. She is also starting her next research projects over the summer, which include work on contemporary German feminist magazines and "Below the Line" comments on advertising campaigns featuring female body hair.

Fairbrother Lecture 2017
When healthy foods go wrong: food poisoning and fresh produce

Ruth Barnes, a PhD researcher from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, delivered the fourth annual Fairbrother lecture on Tuesday 14 March. Ruth's doctoral research investigates how to reduce bad bacteria on fresh produce; making our food safer, while still maintaining its taste and appearance.

Ruth's doctoral research is jointly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and AgriCoat Nature Seal Ltd.

You can now watch Ruth Barnes' Fairbrother Lecture here:


In addition to the lecture, there was a display of the doctoral research undertaken by four other outstanding Reading PhD researchers: Ester Lo Biundo (History); Mick Stringer (Classics); Owen Humphreys (Archaeology) and Kieran Hunt (Meteorology). This gave the lecture audience the chance to find out more about the variety of doctoral research taking place at Reading.

Fairbrother Lecture 2016
A slippery situation: melting ice in Antarctica

On Wednesday 4 May, Sammie Buzzard, a final year doctoral researcher from the Department of Meteorology, gave the 2016 Fairbrother Lecture. Sammie's lecture presented her doctoral research into the melting of ice shelves in Antarctica.
You can now watch Sammie Buzzard's Fairbrother Lecture here:


Fairbrother Lecture 2015
Governing Britain's Muslims: how effective is counter-radicalisation?

On Wednesday 11 March, Dr Nadya Ali delivered the annual Graduate School Fairbrother Public Lecture. Nadya's engaging talk addressed a topical and thought-provoking subject, and was based on her doctoral research into British Governments' counter-radicalisation policies in the UK over the last ten years. Nadya provided an insightful overview of the policy changes under successive administrations and how these have manifested in British society and reflected in the media.

Fairbrother Lecture 2014
Can cannabis be used to treat epilepsy?

Isabelle Pérès from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences and the School of Pharmacy delivered the inaugural Fairbrother Lecture on 15 May 2014. Isabelle discussed the research that she has been involved in at Reading to develop an epilepsy treatment from non-psychoactive components of cannabis. This exciting work has resulted in clinical trials and the treatment of children with severe and drug-resistant epilepsy. Isabelle is jointly supervised by Dr Claire Williams (Psychology) and Professor Ben Whalley (Pharmacy). Her research is part of a larger research project funded by GW Pharmaceuticals.

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