Past events

LERN Debate 2017 – Big Data

The reduction in price of processing capacity and data storage is allowing us to generate datasets of unmatched size and complexity. This is especially true for the evolutionary sciences, where ever-increasing datasets are fuelled by the improvement of image analysis and sequencing technologies. We now face the challenge of finding the best approaches to manage this accumulation of data. For instance, is it preferable to favour quantity over quality? Will our processing capacity catch up with the pace at which data is being generated?

Four prominent researchers specialised in Big Data discussed these and other pressing questions regarding the future of evolutionary research in our annual debate organised in association with the Linnean Society:

  • Prof Christophe Dessimoz (University of Lausanne; University College London)
  • Prof Kate Jones (University College London)
  • Dr Nicholas Pound (Brunel University London)
  • Dr Vincent Smith (Natural History Museum, London)

Moderator: Kathryn Ford  (Brunel University London)


Seminars in the 2016/2017 academic year

Dr Andrea Dixon (Rothamsted)  At the edge of the species: the effects of gene flow on fitness (25th April 2017)

Professor Nigel Nicholson (London Business School) Adaptive and unadaptive leadership: an evolutionary perspective (20th February 2017)

Dr Camilla Power (University of East London)  The Revolutionary Sex: sexual conflict, language and culture (12th October 2016)

LERN conference 2016

9th of November at Queen Mary University of London (funded by the QMUL Doctoral College).

The theme for our keynote speakers was: the Application of Evolutionary Principles to Agriculture and Medicine. This theme has received a lot of attention recently, having even gotten a special call from the BBSRC. Our keynote speakers were:

Dr Paul Neve (Rothamsted): Running to stand still’: The evolution of resistance to pesticides and drugs in agriculture and medicine

Professor Dallas Swallow (UCL): What can we learn from milk drinking? Life style changes and selection for adult lactase persistence

We also had a number of student talks (Programme and abstracts book available here: lern2016_abstract_book.pdf).


Seminars in the 2015/2016 academic year

Professor Quentin Cronk (University of British Columbia, Queen Mary University of London): Plant extinction and planetary function: business as usual or are we in crisis? (5th May 2016)

Dr Arkhat Abzhanov (Imperial College London): Evolution of the Animal Face: from Principles to Mechanisms (23rd March 2016)

Dr Natalie Cooper (Natural History Museum): Macroevolution in Fossils and Living Species: Were Dinosaurs Bad News for Mammals? (20th October 2015)

Medawar Lecture 2016

Nicholas Humphrey (Emeritus Professor of Psychology at LSE and Visiting Professor of Philosophy, at the New College of the Humanities).

The Invention of Consciousness

In English we use the word “invention” in two ways. First, to mean a new device or process developed by experimentation, and designed to fulfill a practical goal. Second, to mean a mental fabrication, especially a falsehood, developed by art, and designed to please or persuade. In this talk I’ll argue that human consciousness is an invention in both respects. First, it is a cognitive faculty, evolved by natural selection, designed to help us make sense of ourselves and our surroundings. But then, second, it is a fantasy, conjured up by the brain, designed to persuade us of our own metaphysical importance.

6pm, 26th of January 2015, Roberts G06 Sir Ambrose Fleming LT

LERN trip to Down House

LERN organised a trip to Down House, Charles Darwin’s beautiful and inspiring house in Kent, on Saturday the 3rd of October 2015. We all had a great time!

LERN conference 2015

11th of November at Queen Mary University of London (sponsored by the School of Chemical and Biological Sciences). We had a number of student talks and posters. The keynote speakers were:

Prof Judith Mank (UCL): The genomic basis of sexual dimorphism

Dr. Rosalind Arden (LSE): Evolution, intelligence and sex differences

Medawar Lecture 2014

The Evolution of the Living Time Machine by Nicky Clayton and Clive Wilkins (University of Cambridge)

Einstein supposedly said: Time only exists to prevent everything from happening at once. Although physical time proceeds forever forwards, mental time can travel backwards as well, indeed in every direction. Mental time travel allows us to re-visit our memories and imagine future scenarios. We make use of this process to define multiple realities; ones that define our sense of self in space and time. There is, however a downside, for the very nature of mental time travel impedes and disorientates memories. But are we unique among the animal kingdom in travelling mentally in time? What does this tell us about the evolution of mental time travel?

LERN conference 2014

Wednesday, the 5th of November 2015 at SBCS, Queen Mary University of London. Keynote talks by Dr. Chris Faulkes (QMUL) and Dr. Michael Price (Brunel).