Public Lecture Series 2012: What Makes Us Human? - Confronting our Selves

Monday 26 March 2012
7pm - 9pm
Event type Public Lecture
Location Newton Room, Hamilton Centre
Booking Required? No
There are more microbes in the human body than cells, yet humankind is driven by a sense of being at the centre of the universe. Can science and our compulsion to study it help us understand what it means to be human?

Chair: Mariann Rand-Weaver

Speakers: Nigel Saunders, Steven Wainwright, Chris Jenks

There are more microbes in the human body than cells, and Nigel Saunders will argue that as ‘hosts’ to this microbial community we have a duty to nurture our guests in order to sustain our selves. Steven Wainwright will consider what it means to be a scientist, and how biographical research on people with a passion for what they do can help us understand what makes us human. Chris Jenks will explore the humanist paradigm, which elevates humankind to the centre of the universe, and he will take a philosophical view of how this has driven society forward, reflecting on the costs and consequences.


Nigel Saunders

Originally trained as a medical doctor, Professor Saunders pursued specialist training in medical microbiology and infection at the RPMS / Hammersmith Hospital in London.

He started his full-time research career at Oxford University supported by two Wellcome Trust Fellowships, initially at the Institute for Molecular Medicine, and subsequently as group head of the Bacterial Pathogenesis and Functional Genomics Lab in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, prior to taking up the Interdisciplinary Chair of Systems Biology at Brunel in 2011. He is also an honorary senior research fellow at Somerville College, and was also a lecturer at Magdalen College, and a Fellow of University College, Oxford.

Part of early genome sequencing projects Prof Saunders has had a long standing interest in the exploitation of bacterial genome sequences to study the basis of bacterial behaviour, including what underlies the differences between bacteria which lead them to cause infections, and the types of infection that they cause. This led to a focus upon evolution and the ways in which these systems work at deeper levels, to how they evolve, and how they might subsequently be modified, and thus to ‘Systems and Synthetic Biology’ which is his main focus in Brunel.

Steven Wainwright

Steven WainwrightSteve Wainwright is a qualitative (medical) sociologist with an unusual background in the social, earth and biomedical sciences and in the world outside academia. His qualifications include: BSc (Physical) Geography (University of Hull); PGCE (University of Hull); RGN (Charing Cross Hospital, London); MSc Nursing Research (King’s College London); and PhD Sociology (King’s College London).

He worked in intensive care (Charing Cross Hospital, London) and taught intensive care nursing (Royal Free Hospital, London) before joining King’s College London in 1995, where he held posts as Lecturer, Research Fellow, Senior Lecturer and Professor. He worked outside academia for around 15 years between his BSc and his first post as a University Lecturer. For instance, between his Geography degree and his Nurse training, he spent two years with the electrical retailer Dixons PLC as a Graduate Management Trainee and Assistant Branch Manager.

Chris Jenks

Chris JenksChris Jenks is Vice-Chancellor at Brunel University. He graduated from Surrey University in Sociology and Philosophy and did all of his postgraduate work in Sociology at London University. Previously he was Professor of Sociology and Pro-Warden (Research) at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He was at Goldsmith a long time and had headed up the best sociology department in the country which attained a 5** rating at the 2001 RAE.

He has published widely and his work has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Croation, Polish, Danish, German, Turkish, Italian, Portugese.

He is an elected member of the Academy for Social Sciences. He was a panel member for Sociology in the 2007 RAE. For 10 years he was editor of the international journal Childhood. He was previously an accomplished rock climber and mountaineer. He also likes fast cars and red wine.

He is interested in sociological theory; post-structuralism and heterology; childhood; cultural theory; visual and urban culture; and extremes of behaviour. He is a member of the Athenaeum, the Chelsea Arts Club and the MCC and is also a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, The Royal Society of Medicine and also an Honorary Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators and an Honorary Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Institute. He is an Honorary Professor at East China Normal University and holds an Honorary Doctorate from Trondheim University of Technology.

Page last updated: Monday 13 February 2012