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PubhD Sheffield - Event #6 - April 2017

Wednesday 5th April 2017

Its almost Easter, and would you believe it, PubhD Sheffield is now six months old! Happy half-Birthday to us! And after the success of our SFOSE Special in mid-March, there was no delay in finding speakers for our sixth event! Missed it? Don’t worry, heres a run down of the night, just for you.

As usual, we hosted the event in the side room of Harrisons 1854 Bar, and this time had two researchers talking about their work.

We kicked off the night with Lucy Morris, a final year PhD student in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Sheffield. Lucy introduced us to macrophages, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight against infections. She explained that they do this by ‘eating’ as many bacteria as they can, and then trying to destroy them inside special compartments of the cell – acting sort of like cellular assassins! However, if they eat too many, or they have tried all they can to kill the bacteria inside them, they will then undergo cell suicide, also referred to as ‘apoptosis’. This means they kill themselves, the bacteria, and also prevent any damaging inflammation to the body. Lucy also described how these cells can shape shift into different roles, depending on what they can sense in their local environment – for example, other types of macrophages don’t like to fight bacteria, but will instead clean up the debris from others that do. In Lucy’s research, she is looking at these different types of macrophages, how they kill a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae – a common cause of pneumonia – and also if apoptosis is needed to help fight off overwhelming bacterial infections. Here are a couple of Lucy's cartoons too:

Our second speaker was Josh Thomas, a third year Philosophy researcher, who is researching the question “What is the meaning of life?”. Josh first described to us that answering this question is impossible, until we know what it is really asking, and to do this, philosophers will often first look at the individual words and structure of the sentence. For example, the word ‘is’ here suggests there will be an answer and that it is present, or the word ‘the’ could imply that there is only one, single answer. Josh is specifically interested in addressing the word ‘meaning’ in this question, and what ‘meaning’ really means in the “meaning of life”! He suggested five alternative synonyms in reference to what it could imply here:

Through his research (and a lot of reading) Josh perceives the most relevant suggestion here to be ‘sense and intelligibility’ – and he nicely compared this to breaking up a fight! He envisioned a brawl taking place between two sides, and an external person walking into the room to say “what is the meaning of this?”. Josh explains that until this person understands why or how the fight first began, or why it is important, you cannot fully apprehend the answer to the question. He also talked about how this question could be para-phrased to ask a different question, for example, “what makes life meaningful” or “is life intentional or valuable?”. Josh’s thesis will address his views in answering this question, and also the relevance of death in our perspectives of life.

We would like to say a massive thank you to both Lucy and Josh for sharing their work, and also for everyone who attended the event – it was lovely to see so many of you and to have such inquisitive questions from the audience! Our next event will be held on Weds 3rd May. We hope to see you then.

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