Dr Carrie Soderman works in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Her research investigates how the geochemistry of volcanic rocks links to the processes that are involved in their formation, from their melt source regions in the Earth’s mantle through to transport and crystallisation on their way to the surface. Her PhD work focussed on the application of a relatively new field of high temperature isotope geochemistry, specifically isotopes of elements such as Fe and Mg. These isotopic compositions in volcanic rocks can be used to characterise the presence of recycled crust in the mantle that the volcanic rocks are derived from. Her work ties together modelling the behaviour of these isotopes in the mantle, isotope data collected from rocks from volcanic hotspots such as the Galápagos, and experiments to recreate mantle melting processes at the Earth’s surface.
As part of her fellowship research, Carrie is also applying the same combined modelling and natural data approach to understand the behaviour of rare earth elements in alkaline-silicate rocks. Rare earth elements, which will become vital over the next decades for use in clean energy technologies, are often found in high concentrations in these alkaline volcanic systems, but the processes that lead to their enrichment, from mantle source to crystallisation, are often poorly understood. The application of the modelling approach used during her PhD will allow for investigation of the effects of pressure, temperature, geological setting and magma composition on the behaviour of elements in alkaline-silicate volcanic rocks.
Finding and understanding the nature of the first stars at cosmic dawn is one of the most important and most ambitious goals for modern astrophysics. The first populations of stars produced the first chemical elements heavier than helium and formed the first, small protogalaxies, which then evolved, across the cosmic epoch, into the large and mature galaxies, such as the Milky Way and those in our local neighbour. Equally important and equally challenging is the search, in the early Universe, of the seeds of the first population of black holes, which later evolved in the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies, with masses even exceeding a billion times the mass of the Sun. When matter accretes on such supermassive black holes it can become so luminous to vastly outshine the light emitted by all stars in their host galaxy.Since its launch, about two years ago, the James Webb Space Telescope has been revolutionizing this area of research. Its sensitivity in detecting infrared light from the remotest parts of the Universe is orders of magnitude higher than any previous observatory, an historical leap in astronomy and, more broadly, in science. I will presents some of the first, extraordinary discoveries from the Webb telescope, which have resulted in several unexpected findings. I will also discuss the new puzzles and areas of investigation that have been opened by Webb’s observations, how these challenge theoretical models, and the prospects of further progress in the coming years.
The maintenance of oxygen homeostasis is a key physiological challenge, inadequate oxygen (hypoxia) being a major component of most human diseases. The lecture will trace insights into human oxygen homeostasis from the founding work of William Harvey on the circulation of the blood to the molecular elucidation of a system of oxygen sensing that functions to measure oxygen levels in cells and control adaptive responses to hypoxia. The lecture will outline how the oxygen sensitive signal is generated by a set of ‘oxygen splitting’ enzymes that modify a transcription factor (HIF) to signal for its degradation (and hence inactivation). It will attempt to illustrate and rationalise the unexpected in biological discovery and discuss the interface of discovery science with the development of medical therapeutics.
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