Senior Studentship Holders 2018/19

Vittoria Fallanca

Questions of aesthetics and intention are at the heart of my thesis, which is the first sustained study of Montaigne’s uses of the word ‘design’ (French: dessein) in his sixteenth-century genre-inaugurating work The Essays. By conducting a comparative analysis of Montaigne’s dessein and the Italian art term disegno, I argue that Montaigne’s writing can be deemed drawing-like. The word dessein and its polysemy (its meaning spanning from mental idea to visual design) help us shed light on the relationship between the visual and literary arts in Montaigne’s oeuvre, as well as in the wider context of the European Renaissance. My broader interests lie in the fields of literature, philosophy, and art history and theory - and particularly where these overlap.

Daniela Massiceti

I am a DPhil student in Engineering Science and my research is in machine learning and artificial intelligence. More specifically, I am exploring the combinations of computer vision (teaching computers to see) and natural language processing (teaching computers to communicate). I am primarily interested in data-driven, or equivalently machine learning, approaches to these two tasks. This means that I employ techniques to learn patterns and trends from large amounts of vision and language data in order to teach the computer system to 'see' and 'communicate'. My research's central application is toward building assistive technologies, for example a visual-based chatbot (Siri or Alexa with 'eyes'), that can help visually-impaired people to more safety move through and interact with their environments. 

William Arlidge

My research aims to find novel solutions for managing the incidental capture (bycatch) of protected species in fisheries. The first major theme of my research is to understand if a framework known as the mitigation hierarchy could be effective when applied to fisheries. You can read more on this project in our foundation paper, translating the terrestrial mitigation hierachy to marine megafauna bycatch. Using a case-study fishery in Peru, I am investigating our framework's ability to bring together multiple bycatch mitigation strategies in a structured way to reduce captures of turtles. The second major theme of my research investigates how best to incentivise changes in fisher behaviour to increase compliance with bycatch reduction strategies, with case-studies from fisheries in both the large-scale and small-scale fishery sectors.

Malte Kaller

As a neuroscientist I am interested in how the brain works. Yet, approximately 85 percent of the cells in the nervous system are not neurons, but a type of “supporting” cell called glia (meaning “glue”). Initially neglected as little more than cerebral packing material, it is now understood that glia cells regulate the flow of information between neurons and play a vital role in learning and memory. Furthermore, glia cells are fundamental in repairing the nervous system after an injury or stroke and seem to contribute to many common neuropathologies and psychiatric illnesses. Hence, it has become increasingly clear that to better understand the brain and its pathologies, we need to investigate the vital functions and contributions of this diverse cell type. My research focuses on a subset of glia cells, known as myelinating glia, which wrap around long segments of axons with a multi-layered sheath of extended cell membrane. This so-called myelination enables faster impulse propagation in the brain and was an important evolutionary advancement that allowed for the development of increasingly complex nervous systems. Critically, there is a close anatomical and metabolic relationship between neurons and myelinating glia, such that the health and functioning of each cell type is intimately dependent on the other. In the past, I have contributed to developing and improving cellular models to study this close relationship. At present, I am trying to understand how and why myelinating glia respond to experiences and what role they play in learning and memory formation.   

Clare Neanon

The matter of dust was ubiquitous in Renaissance England. Though in itself apparently mundane and indistinct, contemporary theology, anthropology, and natural philosophy considered dust intrinsic to mankind’s existence: it figured as the very stuff from which man’s body was made, and into which it would disintegrate at death; it was equivalent to the atoms which some theories of matter posited as the basis of the cosmos; and in theology – especially Reformed theology – man’s dusty nature was both the root and result of sin, and a prompt to constant contemplation of human humility. My research considers these paradoxical complexities of unassuming dust across a wide range of Renaissance writing, from biblical commentary to hexameral epic, providing not only new readings of canonical authors, but also revealing facets of intellectual historiography. As my thesis seeks to demonstrate, God’s punitive curse on Adam in Genesis 3.19 - determining that ‘dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ - made dust a matter not to be swept aside in the Renaissance but rather provided writers with a compact yet theologically charged trope of the abject human condition.