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

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


12th June 2017: New technology for cleaner oceans – biodegradable microbeads from cellulose

Janet Scott Centre for Sustainable Chemistry, University of Bath

Microbeads are little spheres of plastic less than 0.5 mm in size that are added to personal care and cleaning products including cosmetics, sunscreens and fillers to give them a smooth texture. However they are too small to be removed by sewage filtration systems and so end up in rivers and oceans, where they are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life.

Click here for the full story…