Gary Quinn

Gary is an assistant professor and work as a lecturer and researcher at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, teaching on a number of University programmes. He has worked as a consultant to a number of British and international organisations and has published a range of articles on the subject of sign linguistics and Sign Sciences.

Gary's talk will be about how to develop new signs for science terminology, which are not yet established terms in BSL. He will explain why it is very important to take to develop the new signs in semantic ‘families’ as there may often be a ‘root’ sign/s or parts of signs. For example the sign for ‘mass’, is also incorporated into the signs for ‘weight’, ‘density’ and ‘momentum’.

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Kate Davies

Kate Davies is a knitwear designer and author, writing on many topics from disability and design to textile history and women’s history. She’s published eight books about hand knitting, lives in west-central Scotland, and loves her local landscape.

In 2010, Kate Davies’ life turned upside down when she was paralysed by a stroke at the age of 36. Forced to abandon her academic career, Kate turned her hand to something completely different, establishing a small business producing designs for handknitters. Now the director of an award-winning company involved in many aspects of manufacturing and design, Kate talks about how creative endeavour and the hard work of recovery for her went hand in hand. 


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Dr. Tony Gutierrez

Tony Gutierrez is Associate Professor in Environmental Microbiology & Biotechnology at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. In 2008, a Marie Curie Fellowship took him to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study oil-degrading bacteria in the ocean and their intimate association with micro-algae/phytoplankton, during which time he turned his focus also to study the microbial response to the historic Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Did you know you are more microbe than human? That everywhere you go, you leave behind an imprint of your microbiology and share your microbes with other people and animals alike? What would life be were microbes to be wiped off the face of the world? In his talk, Tony will explore the various ways microbes impact us and other life on the planet, why life is as it is today because of microbes, and what they had to do with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Nicola Sobieraj

Nicola is a former psychology graduate from Heriot-Watt University who received a Vacation Scholarship from Medical Research Scotland in 2017 in the final year of her degree, after which she was appointed as a Research Assistant to further explore the ways of restoring and rehabilitating cognitive functions in a way akin to how people function in everyday life settings. She works with the Detecting Alzheimer’s & Enhancing Memory team (DAEM) at Heriot-Watt University which is interested in the development of assessment and intervention methods for individuals experiencing cognitive decline, which impacts on their daily living functions.

Nicola will be talking about her work at the DAEM. The DAEM team has developed a novel assessment and intervention method that integrates Virtual Reality (VR) and theories of cognition to identify the individual’s changing abilities, which they call VRAIS, Virtual Reality Assessment and Intervention System. VRAIS allows measuring performance during activities of daily living (ADL), for example performing kitchen tasks. 

Dr. Calum MacKellar

Dr. Calum MacKellar is the Director of Research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics which encourages the engagement of Scottish society in biomedical ethics. He is also a Visiting Lecturer of Bioethics with St. Mary's University in Twickenham and with King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Having worked with the Bioethics Division of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Dr. MacKellar has, in addition, extensive experience of international bioethics.

Dr. MacKellar's talk will focus on whether it would be ethical to create suffering robots. If it is, what would the consequences be for the concepts of responsibility, justice, compassion, empathy and inherent dignity.

Prof. Alan MacDonald

Alan leads international groundwater research at the British Geological Survey - with currently about 15 projects in 25 countries.  He has written several books and many research articles on African groundwater and is currently focussing on the impact of climate change on groundwater and improving the functionality of water supplies.

Many people in Africa still lack reliable access to safe water, which affects health, livelihoods and the potential for sustainable growth.  Why is this still a problem, given that in other areas, such as mobile phone coverage, Africa is seeing spectacular growth in services?  Has the continent run out of water?  In his talk, he discusses the water available to Africa and explains that the answer is often quite literally under our feet.