Catz Exchange 2016


This year’s Catz Exchange, an intra-college conference now in its fourth iteration, was a resounding success. The brainchild of College Tutor Bart van Es, the main organisers this year’s Catz Exchange were Serkan Birgel (DPhil Geography), Matthew Fisher (DPhil Inorganic Chemistry), Elizabeth Smethurst (DPhil Oncology), and supported by Jerome Mayaud (DPhil Geography).

After an initial call for papers beginning in Michaelmas term, a very tough selection process ensued that resulted in the stage being set to welcome a record number of twenty speakers to the Bernard Sunley Lecture theatre.

Drawing from a selection of Undergraduates, Master’s students, DPhil’s, Senior Fellows, presenters were given seven minutes to present on a topic from their discipline to around seventy audience members; a delightful measure of the reach of the event in College. The organisers were delighted to see the College Master Roger Ainsworth also in attendance who timed is arrival just as the organisers were having the only spat of technical difficulties loading up a presentation!

math prof


panel discussion
The conference began at 15.00 with an opening address by Bart van Es. The Catz Exchange then delved into a session entitled ‘Ethics, Projects, and Processes’; the first of four sessions which aimed to draw the vast variety of presentations into holistic themes in order to entice cross-disciplinary discussion. Kinga Petrova (DPhil Education), Arpita Mitra (MSc Criminology), Liam Saddington (Undergraduate, Geography), Hibba Mahzary (Undergraduate Geography), Sadeep Jayasumana & Shuai Zheng (DPhil Engineering Science) joined together in this session which explored a range of ideas ranging from gender-based violence, the use of technology in the classroom, and deep learning computer techniques. The presenters were then quizzed by the audience.


The ‘Multiple Scalar Analyses’ session followed and included Isabel Beshar (MPhil Medical Anthropology), Stephen Pates (DPhil Archaeology), Zubin Siganporia (Tutorial Fellow, Mathematics), Cayenna Ponchione (DPhil Music), and Alex Bucknell (DPhil Engineering Science). The speakers took the audience on a whirlwind tour from the scale of the atom to questioning the grand concept of infinity.


Following the tea break where audience members got a chance to ask questions to the presenters over tea and coffee, the ‘Creation and Engagement’ session saw Callum Kelly (MSt History), Georgina Edwards (MSt German), Bo-Erik Abrahamsson (MBA), Laura Tunbridge (Associate Prof., Music), and Daniel Minister (Undergraduate, Politics and History). To give a flavour for this session, we traversed through topics such as Heidegger and the meaning of ‘being’, the significance of historical town seals, and the commanding impact of music across the open seas.

Our final session, ‘Hidden Worlds’, saw Jessie Liu (DPhil Physics), Christoph Dorn (DPhil Mathematics and Computer Science), Julian Malisano (DPhil Engineering), Mette Ahlefeldt (DPhil History), and Johnny Latham (…). The speakers took us on a journey through a variety of hidden worlds with significant contemporary impacts, including the role of churching of women in Medieval Europe, to minuscule yet deadly defects in aluminium casings.

jet engine

Emeritus Prof. John Ockendon from the Mathematical Institute captivated the audience as the keynote speaker. With only three slides to his presentation, John managed to keep the audience hanging on his every word.


The event was followed by an outstanding post-conference dinner at hall. Speakers and their guests, as well as audience members from College came together to enjoy a […] four course dinner. As the eleventh hour, Bart van Es was called upon to deliver the post conference speech and succeeded spectaularly in delviering a speech that covered the length and bredth of the conference. Deliving into each speaker’s presentation and drawing our the connections between them, Bart Prof. van Es succeeded in drawing out the spirit of the conference as a real exchange between different disciplines and different year groups.

As a sign of the conference’s increasing development, this year saw the introduction of the ‘Best Speaker’ Award which, after much deliberation over the outstanding dinner, was given to Stephen Pates (DPhil Archaeology) for his presentation entitled “Trilobites – identifying 500-million-year old lunches”.

pater 2


The Catz Exchange is always a diverse platform for a variety of speakers from across St. Catherine’s College. Next year’s conference will [date, perhaps we must ask Bart about this and make sure that it is not overlapping with Torpids?]. We look towards the continuing development of the event from strength to strength. The organisers which to thank all those involved in making the event a great success.