The Science Café is a chance to informally explore the latest ideas in science and technology and debate the issues. All are welcome.

13th November 2017: Building with dirt to clean our homes

Dr Daniel Maskell BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, University of Bath

Are modern low carbon buildings detrimental to our health? Modern buildings have been developed to be very airtight, improving their energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint. However, these sealed environments have created unexpected side effects, with research showing that a build-up of potentially harmful chemicals in the air is potentially causing negative impacts on occupants. Dan will present research on how innovation with the use of dirt could result in an improved indoor environment quality.

Bath BaleHaus

Link: Dr Daniel Maskell


9th October 2017: The placebo effect, friend or foe in treatments for mental health

Dr Sarah Chapman, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Bath

Sarah is a psychologist who researches psychological factors influencing patients’ decisions about treatment. In this talk she will explore the role of the placebo effect in mental health care. The placebo effect is when people taking an inactive treatment such as a sugar pill feel better. It is often thought of as a necessary nuisance; an essential comparison for treatments but otherwise basically useless. But, there is a growing body of evidence that placebos can influence bodily and mental processes. There is hot debate over whether placebo effects can be more powerful than some commonly used psychotropic drugs. If we listen carefully to what people tell us about what works for them, can we gain insights into how to improve treatment and individualise mental health care? Do we need to devise placebo comparisons for talking treatments or is this inappropriate? Sarah will explore how an understanding of placebo effects might help us to improve mental health care.

Link: Sarah Chapman


24th July 2017: Bread, wine and genes: evolution of the plant species we eat

Michael Purugganan Visiting Professor and acting Global Chair of the Milner Centre for Evolution and Dean of Science, New York University

Michael is a leading expert in evolutionary, ecological and functional genomics of plants. He has transformed our understanding of the domestication of many of the world’s most important foods. Michael will talk about his research into the process of plant domestication and how whole genome sequencing is used to understand the origin and diversification of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and rice.

Note: This talk is not on the 2nd but the 4th Monday this month. The next talk will be in September as we break for summer.

Link: Milner Centre for Evolution