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On Wednesday 8 January 2020, hundreds of staff, students and members of the public joined us for a day of inspirational short talks about the world-leading research happening at York.

Given just 15 minutes each, 16 of our academics introduced their research.

The talks were grouped together into four sessions, followed by a question and answer session. Visitors could attend a single session or all four.

Session one

Singing in a virtual world: understanding the real world benefits of singing together

Helena Daffern,
Department of Electronic Engineering

From computer says no to robot says yes: engineering a positive future for robotics

Ana Cavalcanti,
Department of Computer Science

Interactive competitive esports are revolutionising digital creativity and providing deep insights into human cognition

Florian Block,
Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media

Drawing on the direct testimony of prisoners in the Jewish ghetto at Terezín (in German, Theresienstadt), Dr Lisa Peschel revealed how comedy and cabaret were key to their survival.

Coupling her interviews with the recovery of songs and other dramatic texts created in the ghetto, her research provided deep insights into the ways in which these cabaret narratives helped those trapped in the ghetto to endure their imprisonment. Dr Peschel showed how this vibrant theatrical scene also helped the prisoners reclaim their right to interpret their own experiences. By trivialising even the most shocking events in comic performances, they resisted potentially debilitating fear and were able to carry on with the fight for life.

Session two

The carbon dioxide refinery: turning the challenge of climate change into a solution

Mike North,
Department of Chemistry

Energy down the drain: how microbial communities can aid us in turning wastewater into low carbon energy

James Chong,
Department of Biology

Extreme swimming: inside the secret world of archaea, one of the planet’s greatest survivors

Laurence Wilson,
Department of Physics

The mountains and people of Africa: creating a more sustainable future from the ground up

Rob Marchant,
Department of Environment and Geography

Session three

Food for thought: exposing the hidden consequences of food insecurity in Britain and the poverty of government thinking on work and welfare

Maddy Power,
Department of Health Sciences

Yet another meeting: are LGBT+ networks inside the NHS breaking the mould?

Anna Einarsdóttir,
York Management School

The doctor of everything: the teeming world of a 17th century physician

Kevin Killeen,
Department of English and Related Literature

Counter culture: unearthing the truth about complexity, diversity and inequality in Neolithic times

Penny Bickle,
Department of Archaeology

Session four

Challenging the face race: creating a new emotional framework for face transplants

Fay Bound Alberti,
Department of History

Bodies, bugs and hospital architectures: Designing healthcare for the post-antibiotic age

Nik Brown,
Department of Sociology

Caring about the evidence: changing the face of palliative care for children in the UK

Lorna Fraser,
Department of Health Sciences

Professor Maria Goddard, Director of the Centre for Health Economics (CHE), revealed how her 60-strong team of researchers has shaped the health landscape at a national and global level: from developing robust tools for more effective, efficient and equitable healthcare here in the UK, through to research collaborations with academics and policymakers across Europe, America, Africa and Asia.

She showed that, while former Health Secretary Ken Clarke may have scoffed at taking advice from a newly formed research centre led by ‘a punk professor’ in the 1980s, Ken Clarke’s successors and counterparts across the world frequently seek advice from CHE researchers as they grapple with important questions about how best to spend a global $7.3 trillion healthcare budget.

PhD Research Spotlight competition

Alongside the talks, PhD students from across the University were invited to create exhibition pieces introducing their work. The winners were:

  • Arts & Humanities: Kristal Kirk, Music
  • Social Science: Petronel Geyser, York Law School; James Killen, York Law School (joint)
  • Science: Evelyn Tam, Computer Science
  • Overall winner: Petronel Geyser, York Law School

PhD Spotlight 2020 Booklet (PDF , 2,679kb)

Find out more about the 2020 competition