College Research Day: from arts education in Tanzania to edible caterpillars in Burkina Faso

7 March 2018

Our annual Research Day this year was expanded to reflect the wealth of research conducted by members of College from undergraduate to post-doctoral level. The subjects were also far ranging and many different departments and faculties were represented.

Two prizes for presentations were awarded. The first winner was PhD student Elisabeth Liddle, who spoke about 'The state of handpump-boreholes in rural Uganda: Realities, challenges, and the way forward', and the second winner was undergraduate Clarissa Hjalmarsson, who spoke about 'Treating the Body Politic: Healthcare of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front and its Politicisation, 1970-91'.

Rebecca Gordon (PhD, Education) gave a presentation entitled ‘Exploring the mechanisms through which Rojiroti microfinance provision impacts on the lives of its female clients and their daughters' education in rural India’. In spite of increased access to education for girls worldwide, those in rural and socio-economically marginalised communities still face barriers to enrolment. Delivering microfinance to women may reorganise familial gender relations, and loans might be used for educating children. However, studies examining the link between microfinance and education have found inconclusive impacts on children's education. This research aims to assess the impact of Rojiroti Microfinance, which operates in Bihar, India, examining its effect on female empowerment and on their daughters' education. Existing panel data will be analysed, alongside data mapping trajectories of loans borrowed for girls' education. One-on-one interviews and focus groups will ascertain, if there has been an impact on girls' education, what unique factors of Rojiroti have enabled this impact.


Elisabeth Liddle (PhD, Centre for Sustainable Development, Department of Engineering) presented ‘The state of handpump-boreholes in rural Uganda: Realities, challenges, and the way forward’. Access to an improved water source has steadily increased in rural Uganda over the past decade. Concerns have been raised, however, over whether these sources are providing safe and adequate quantities of water. Recent findings indicate that 45% of rural handpump-boreholes in Uganda are not working. Previous studies have found the reasons for their failure to be: a) the quality of work conducted during siting and drilling/installation and/or b) the extent, quality, and oversight of operations and maintenance post-construction. This research seeks to understand the siting and drilling/installation process in Uganda, and to identify factors that may be affecting the quality of this work. Qualitative data from eighty interviews highlights a number of key concerns within the siting and drilling/installation process. Elisabeth’s presentation explored these concerns, and explained the steps that need to be taken if these poor practices are to be abandoned.


Genevieve Riccoboni (MPhil, History) talked about ‘Outsourced Labour, “Rising” Modernity – the Origins of the Services Outsourcing Industry in India (1980–2001)’. Several million people are employed in the information technology, business and knowledge process outsourcing industries in India, contributing to substantial GDP and urban growth. Although outsourcing has been extensively studied within the fields of business, economics, and anthropology, the historical literature lacks explanations for how it emerged and prospered. This research places the IT and business process outsourcing industries in the historical context of post-independence Indian macroeconomic and business policy, and preliminarily suggests that outsourcing’s development and growth coincided with significant policy shifts towards economic liberalisation and more business-friendly attitudes in India, with significant effects on labour patterns and urban development. However, it also argues that outsourcing is not merely a ‘new’ phenomenon, but must be understood within the context of global corporate hierarchies and prior structural conditions within the Indian economy.


Dr Stéphanie Swarbreck (Research Associate, Plant Sciences) presented her topic, ‘Can we select for wheat varieties that can tolerate or suppress weeds?’. Plants seldom grow alone; rather, they grow alongside and interact with their neighbours. These interactions can be beneficial, neutral or detrimental. In agro-ecosystems, weeds negatively affect plant performance, leading to severe yield decrease. One species of weed called blackgrass (Alopecurus myosuroides Huds.) is particularly problematic in the UK, as it has developed resistance to many herbicides. Through a detailed analysis of the root system architecture of wheat plants grown in the presence of blackgrass, Stéphanie’s research shows that the wheat lateral roots (important for nutrient uptake) are shorter in the presence of a neighbour only under nutrient-replete conditions. In addition, there is genetic variability in root response to the presence of blackgrass. This suggests that it is possible to exploit genetic differences in wheat varieties to select and breed new varieties with increased tolerance to the presence of blackgrass.


Yun Chiang (fourth-year, HSPS) gave a presentation on ‘A song of fire and water: preservation pathways of organics at Must Farm’. Recent studies have postulated that organic preservation is mainly a biological process. Microbial activity is inhibited in waterlogged, arid, or other extreme conditions. Such focus underestimates the dynamic interplay between mechanical, chemical, biological mechanisms, and time. One clear example comes from the Late Bronze Age site of Must Farm (c. 800 cal BC), Cambridgeshire, where organic remains including bobbins, textiles and wooden artefacts have been discovered. It has been assumed that waterlogging determines the presence of organic remains; however, the preliminary results of soil micromorphological analysis suggest that there have been wet/dry episodes over time. This presentation focused on the combined use of experimental archaeology, archaeobotanical macrofossil analysis, and micromorphological thin section techniques, and how they can shed light on the preservation pathways of organics. Yun concluded that charring, silty clay matrix, and gradual hydrological changes are key factors in determining organic preservation at Must Farm. These results have applications in terms of conservation and policy planning – the policy of in situ preservation may require reconsideration, as archaeological remains are susceptible to changing hydrological states.


Claire Moll (PhD, Social Anthropology) presented ‘Language and Values of Time in Rural El Salvador’. When studying values of time, one must pay attention to how one’s interlocutors express ideas related to such values through the use of specific words and narratives. Using examples from her field site in La Libertad, El Salvador, Claire demonstrated through employing Bear’s analytical tool of time-maps that Evangelicals who interact readily and often with an active organisation in the greater Salvadoran social movement live within the boundaries of several chronotopes. Her presentation explored existing literature on time and language, alongside particular ethnographic examples in Latin America. Returning to her own field site, she proposed that by paying attention to the use of the key phrase ‘seguir adelante’, she could begin to understand the negotiated valuation of time that occurs in the lived experience of Evangelical Christians in rural El Salvador.


Dr Marta Costa (Research Associate, Zoology) talked about ‘Connectomics in the fly: building a map of the brain in 3D’. The major goal of neuroscience research is to be able to explain behaviour, and what circuits and neurons are involved. Technical advances have made it possible to reconstruct every neuron and to identify its connections to others in small brain volumes, giving rise to the field of connectomics. Marta’s work leverages these techniques, using the adult fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model, in a whole-brain reconstruction using an electron microscopy volume. The adult Drosophila brain is capable of generating complex behaviours. Marta and her colleagues are reconstructing the olfactory circuits, whose structure parallels mammalian ones, in order to understand how innate and learned olfactory behaviour is generated and controlled. Insights so far show that there are many instances of regulatory feedback in these networks, and that the number of distinct neuron types involved is much higher than previously thought.


Bethany Haworth (MPhil, Judge Business School) gave a talk on ‘ “Class work” as legitimacy work: Cross class interactions in entrepreneurship’. Drawing on interviews with pub landlords in Rochdale, Bethany’s research considers the ways in which small entrepreneurial ventures in working class contexts attempt to overcome the perceived issues presented by their social class, by presenting themselves as legitimate (defined by Suchman as ‘desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs and definitions'). Bethany’s work considers individuals' capacity to frame or symbolically manage their behaviour and characteristics as a sort of class work undertaken to present themselves as legitimate. She explained that to date, class work has been considered as a theoretical construct, without reference to legitimacy, and social class remains largely unexamined by business school academics. As such, her research aims to develop a framework within which to understand more about working class entrepreneurship.


Sioned Cox (third-year, HSPS) spoke about ‘Edible caterpillars in Burkina Faso and their contribution to nutritional adequacy’. For her final-year dissertation project in undergraduate Biological Anthropology, Sioned spent three months in Burkina Faso, West Africa, conducting dietary interviews with women in rural villages. There is a tradition of eating caterpillars in the region, and she was keen to test the topical idea that sustainable insects may provide a nutritious alternative food resource. Sioned used multiple pass, twenty-four hour recall dietary surveys to gather data on sixteen women’s daily nutritional intake over four days; two days during caterpillar season and two days outside. She is currently analysing her data to investigate how caterpillars contribute towards nutritional adequacy, and how this might vary according to food insecurity status, ethnicity, and by season.


Myriam Goudet (PhD, Plant Sciences) presented ‘Evolutionary history and role of the small subunit of RuBisCO in green algae’. Plants and algae are photosynthetic organisms: they convert carbon dioxide into energy-rich molecules, allowing them to grow. This process is performed by an enzyme called RuBisCO, which is formed by eight large subunits and eight small subunits. RuBisCO is a slow, inefficient enzyme, and photosynthetic organisms invest a lot in its production, making it the most abundant enzyme on Earth. However, the small subunit is a very variable feature. Its structure, for example, varies from algae to plants. These differences influence the enzyme’s efficiency. Myriam explained that, after analyses, she noticed that within green algae the small subunit was also showing structural variations. It appeared that the group of algae, which colonised lands 450 million years ago, exhibits the same small subunit as land plants. The aim of her PhD is to characterise and investigate the evolutionary history of the small subunit, which should give more insight into the origin of plants.


Lu Liu (PhD, Criminology) gave a presentation on ‘Understanding the Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) Police in China’. SWAT police are charged with the most dangerous missions and entrusted with the most destructive weapons, and are usually called in to provide tactical support where the situation can no longer be handled by ordinary law enforcement. SWAT teams have only formally been a feature of policing in China since 2005, in the face of the increasing challenge of terrorist attacks, violent crimes and social unrest. In six years, the presence of SWAT police expanded from zero to more than 900 teams all over China, with more than 48,000 officers. However, we know little about this subgroup of Chinese police. Based on three weeks of ethnographic observations and 22 interviews, this study attempts to depict the basic landscape of the profession by exploring three very basic questions: who are the SWAT team officers; what is the nature of their work; and what do they think of their work, in particular, their use of force?


Lorena Gazzotti (MPhil, Development Studies) presented ‘Who governs migrants’ welfare in Morocco? Discharge, delegation and normativity in migration governance’. Migration scholars have apprehended the implication of NGOs, International Organisations (IOs) and donors in the implementation of migration-related projects in sending and transit countries as an expression of the externalisation of European migration policy and of the diffusion of the paradigm of migration management. This doesn’t explain, however, how these interventions contribute to the consolidation of complex forms of governance of migrants’ welfare in sending and transit countries, or contextualise it within discussions about the neoliberalisation and welfare provision in the Global South. Drawing on over a hundred interviews with donors’ representatives, NGOs and IOs officers and Moroccan civil servants, this paper fills this gap. Providing for the costs of migrants’ welfare is a battlefield negotiated by actors with different funding capacities and political agendas. Building on literature on state privatisation and the governance of marginality, the paper argues that the precarious and always tentative arrangement between the state, civil society and donors replicates many of the features which characterise the neoliberal government of the social in Mohammed VI’s Morocco.


Clarissa Hjalmarsson (first-year, Graduate Medical Course) talked about ‘Treating the Body Politic: Healthcare of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front and its Politicisation, 1970–91’. Using published research, contemporary reportage and interview material, Clarissa provided an overview of the health service offered by the EPLF during the liberation war, exploring its political dimensions and implications. The EPLF organised sophisticated civilian, military and hospital care, and integrated healthcare and health education with life in the EPLF. Relationships developed through the provision of healthcare were used to incorporate population groups into the EPLF project, inculcate EPLF ideology, and transform the national community. However, the politicisation of healthcare allowed it to become an instrument of control, and the service contributed to homogenising political views and suppressing dissent. The healthcare system remains a powerful symbol of the party’s social and political tenacity to the present day.


Alexandra Dreier (MPhil, Education) presented ‘Potential strategies for decolonisation through arts education in the Tanzanian context’. Having researched Tanzania’s colonial legacy, and its relationship to Development, Alexandra developed ‘Jambo Sanaa’, an art educational project at a primary school in Tanzania. Further scrutiny of the meaning of decolonialisation led her to rethink and amend the project. She used Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti’s HEADSUP checklist to critically engage in preventing a hegemonic, ethnocentric, Salvationist, ahistorical, depoliticised, paternalised and ‘uncomplicated solution’ approach to ‘Jambo Sanaa’. She concluded that one of the project’s main goals should be ‘healing’. This means overcoming white fragility in the Global North, as well as using arts education in Tanzania as a form of escapism, psychotherapy or community activism. Her work draws attention to the fact that the process of decolonialisation (of the mind) is not over in the Global South and could be advanced through arts education.


Dr Susan Giorgi-Coll (Research Associate, Clinical Neurosciences) gave a presentation called ‘Developing a rapid point-of-care test for diagnosing infection’. There exists a need for a rapid, low-cost and easy-to-use point-of-care clinical test for diagnostic measurement of inflammation, by analysing patients’ body fluids. The aim of this project was to develop a proof-of-concept version of a novel bedside test for the detection of interleukin-6 (IL-6), an important inflammatory molecule produced by the immune system. Increasing IL-6 can indicate development or advancement of an infection through pathological inflammation, and early detection can facilitate timely clinical intervention. The developed test design uses coated gold nanoparticles designed to bind specifically to IL-6. Tests of this nature offer significant advantages in terms of sensitivity, reliability, cost, and easy storage without refrigeration. The test is simple and quick to perform, without the need for sample pre-treatment, making it useful in a wide range of clinical settings.


Dr Annette Mahon, Assistant Senior Tutor (Graduates) said:

“We all enjoyed a varied afternoon hearing from our students and associates about their fascinating research. The standard of research and of the presentations was very high, and we hope that all the participants will keep us updated on their next steps.

Thanks to all the presenters and to Dr Sarah Morgan, Dr Yvonne Zivkovic, Lu Liu and Erica Cao for organising a very successful event.”

Graduates have regular opportunities to present their research and to hear about other people’s at the weekly Graduate Suppers on Tuesdays at Lucy Cavendish College. Talks this term have included Bitcoin's implications for human rights, what really happens beneath a road and the impact of war violence exposure on youth offending in Colombia.  All members of College are warmly invited to attend and you can find out more on the Facebook page here.

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