Interdisciplinary blog

MDR Week: Blog no 5- Poetry and Science: The Litmus Project

March 13, 2013
by Luke Goater

Join Rough Guide travel writer James McConnachie, transport engineer Dr Ben Waterson, and English Professor Peter Middleton to discover how innovative research can link literature and science at the exhibition ‘Poetry and Science: The Litmus Project’ on Monday 18th March. An insight into this exciting and multidisciplinary research field can be found below.


Poetry and Science: The Litmus Project

By James McConnachie and Professor Peter Middleton


  James McConnachie-


I’m one of the university’s Royal Literary Fund Fellows. We’re here to help all students with their academic writing, offering one-to-one consultations. I am a travel writer and have also written a biography of the Kamasutra, The Book of Love (Atlantic, 2007) The Rough Guide to Sex (Rough Guides, 2009) and the co-authored, Conspiracy Theories (Rough Guides, 2008). Our co-leader, Will May (who is on sabbatical this semester) convenes the MA in Creative Writing and is committed to projects that use writing to bring different communities together supporting  interdisciplinary research on twentieth-century issues.

Details of the Litmus Project can be found at:

I’ve been participating in the Litmus Project as a writer, working on my poetic response to the Southampton University scientist, Dr Ben Waterson, a transport research engineer based in Engineering. The challenge is considerable – come and see how I did! Fresh ideas do not grow from stale soil. That’s as true of writing as anything else. And when writers meet scientists, they often find they have to lift their game.


  Professor Peter Middleton-


I’m a professor in English.  My research interests include science and literature, modern and contemporary poetry, poetry performance, ecology and climate change, critical theory, gender studies, and philosophy and literature. I’ve published books on gender, memory, poetics and teaching poetry. I have also published a book of poetry, and short works of creative non-fiction.

People will enjoy the event because it is bound to surprise them – in a good way. To discover how science can be communicated through poetry is a very stimulating experience and gives people an unexpected viewpoint which is very refreshing. The Litmus project is inspiring and that is why the audience will like it.

Litmus is a team effort. Will May, James McConnachie, and myself, share a belief that creative writers benefit from direct encounters with scientists. Creative Writing is a significant part of what we do in English, attracting students at all levels. This project gives us a chance to offer them a multidisciplinary element and the students who have volunteered their research time to collaborate with science graduate researchers for the project, clearly appreciate that. Will May is a prize-winning author of a study of the writer Stevie Smith and he also has a keen interest in science, James McConnachie you now know from this blog! And I am one of a group of researchers in English who are investigating the interrelations between literature and the sciences. How have writers been influenced by the sciences, and how have they investigated, in novels, plays and poems, the social consequences of scientific ideas and discoveries? How might discoveries in the literary arts of relevance to questions being asked by current scientific researchers be made more accessible to them? How can we encourage researchers in the humanities and the sciences to improve their communications with each other? This is why multidisciplinary research is vital and this is what Litmus is all about.




For the latest news and events about the Multidisciplinary Research Week 2013, visit our Multidisciplinary Research website:

or follow us on Twitter @MultiSoton #MDRWeek

MDR Week: Blog no 4- New Horizons in Imaging

March 13, 2013
by Ian Sinclair

Join Professor Ian Sinclair for the seminar: ‘New Horizons in Imaging’ on Tuesday 19th March to hear how extraordinary advances in imaging lies at the heart of our current research activity. An insight into this exciting and multidisciplinary research field can be found below.


New Horizons in Imaging

By Professor Ian Sinclair



Our perspectives on the universe, to the structure of a molecule, are all brought graphically home by images.  The power of imaging lies in the development of new instrumentation and critical computational approaches.  Combined, we’ve seen new horizons, borrowed approaches from multiple disciplines, and opened up fresh fields for study.  In imaging, Southampton excels, but in novel and unique ways.  New Horizons in Imaging Science will demonstrate some of the exciting and different approaches to imaging being developed, and used for diverse purposes, within the Southampton community.

It’s become clear that many critical questions in contemporary science and engineering require a broader perspective than traditional disciplines can muster.  This may be a reflection of changes in fidelity of understanding, the emergence of new tools for manipulation of the world around us, the vastly increased availability of data, or simply a greater appreciation of the interconnected nature of the natural and manmade systems that we exist within.

Events such as the Multidisciplinary Research Week at the University of Southampton are a vital component in creating the links between research communities.




For the latest news and events about the Multidisciplinary Research Week 2013, visit our Multidisciplinary Research website:

or follow us on Twitter @MultiSoton #MDRWeek

MDR Week- Blog no 2: Ethical Fashion Futures – An Oxymoron?

March 12, 2013
by Eleanor Tighe

Join Emma Waight and Eleanor Tighe for the lively debate on Tomorrow’s shopping: sustainable consumption in retail & ethical fashion’ on Thursday 21st March. An insight into this exciting and multidisciplinary research field can be found below.


Ethical Fashion Futures – An Oxymoron?

By Emma Waight and Eleanor Tighe



On Thursday 21 March, post-graduate researchers Emma Waight and Eleanor Tighe will be presenting the outcomes of their recent event ‘Ethical Fashion Futures: Changing Habits in Retail’. This small event bought together students, academics and industry professionals to discuss prevailing social and environmental issues involved in clothing manufacture.

The day kicked off with a talk from Charlie Ross, of the Offset Warehouse who got us to think about clothing supply chains at their origins. She raised the controversial issue of cotton production, drawing attention to the huge stress mass cotton production places on public goods, drawing on the example of the Aral Sea. We then flicked over to the end of the supply chain, and consumer practices with Emma Waight, making a case for ‘repair, re-use and re-sell’. Tania Phipps-Rufus a lecturer from Hertfordshire University then drew the morning to close, drawing attention to the legal debates surrounding what constitutes an ‘ethical fashion’.

The afternoon’s discussions were centred on high street fashion at site of production. Dr. Kanchana Ruwanpura, senior lecturer in Geography and Environment here at the University of Southampton highlighted the problems inherent in ‘Codes of Conduct’ corporate practices, drawing on the example of Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Dionne Harrison, Business and Capability Director of the ethical retail consultancy Impactt, UK, introduced the ‘Benefits for Business and Workers’ approach, which works in partnership with six UK retailers and the UK Department for International Development, to improve working conditions at sites of production through cuts to waste and enhanced dialogue and human resources management. Eleanor Tighe then presented some of her research findings on the clothing industry in Bangladesh, looking at the role of apparels production in national development strategy and the challenges faced by organisations attempting to improve relations in this field.

The day was then rounded off by a summary and discussion by Dr. Jeffrey Bray, senior lecturer in Marketing and Retail Management at Bournemouth University. Dr. Bray opened up the table to a great discussion on the foundation of an ethical fashion, and indeed how something which by definition relates to trends, can at the same time be sustainable?

The event was truly multidisciplinary in its approach with speakers from backgrounds in fashion, human geography, law and retail management. This in turn attracted a wide range of participants interested in international development, corporate social responsibility (CSR), business management, sustainable design and retailing. Fashion and clothing is a global industry which we are all engaged in as consumers, at the very least. Who is the average clothes shopper and what do they care about?

Multidisciplinary Week has given us a platform to disseminate outcomes from a day of lively discussion. Come along on Thursday to pick up these debates.




For the latest news and events about the Multidisciplinary Research Week 2013, visit our Multidisciplinary Research website:

or follow us on Twitter @MultiSoton #MDRWeek

PGR coffee morning

March 11, 2013
by Tom Brughmans via Digital Humanities

We welcome all Humanities PGR students to our first PGR digital research coffee morning Join your fellow Humanities PGRs to discuss everything related to digital research (issues, questions, possible benefits, practical help, brainstorming) in a one-hour morning session fuelled by coffee and cakes! When? Wednesday 13 March 2013, 10-11AM. Where? Room 1085 (film editing suite, with […]

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MDR Week- Blog no 1- Keynote Lecture: The Acoustic Bubble by Professor Tim Leighton

March 11, 2013
by Timothy Leighton

Join Professor Tim Leighton for the keynote Lecture: The Acoustic Bubble on Wednesday 20th March to hear how acoustic sensors can also locate reserves of gas in the seabed. An insight into this exciting and multidisciplinary research field can be found below.


Insights into ‘The Acoustic Bubble’- having fun with curiosity…. and curiosity with fun.

By Professor Tim Leighton


I am interested in the way sound travels through liquids, and liquid-like materials, such as the atmospheres of Venus and the Gas Giant planets. I am particularly interested in gas bubbles underwater, because these are the most powerful acoustical entities that occur underwater. Gas bubbles injected underwater sound notes – the smaller the bubble, the higher the note (just as a large wineglass emits a deeper note than a small wineglass when tapped with a spoon). Listening to these notes allows the measurement of bubble size. But like any object that can produce sound, bubbles vibrate sympathetically when sound of the correct pitch is projected at them: they emit notes in response, and can even implode (just as a certain voice can ‘ring’ and shatter a wine glass). An imploding bubble can damage its surroundings. This needs to be controlled as sometimes damage is desirable (as in ultrasonic tumour treatment) and sometimes it is not (e.g. during ultrasonic foetal scanning).

I was asked to talk about how we use the sounds emitted by bubbles to locate gas leaks underwater. These can be either from naturally-occurring reserves of gas in the seabed, or be leaks of gas from undersea gas pipelines, or from carbon capture and storage facilities. However, as soon as I start talking about bubbles I wander off topic and I am bound to cover such questions as ‘what does a waterfall sound like in space?’ and ‘do dolphins think nonlinearly?’

Whenever sound in liquids is an issue, bubbles become an important and difficult consideration, so to work out the implications of the fundamental bubble physics I do, I must follow through to other disciplines. This means gaining expertise in other fields myself, and working with experts: with chemists in working out how to use sound with bubbles to make cold water clean as well as hot (so saving on electricity bills); with archaeologists to look at how sonar can be used to look at wrecks buried in muddy seabeds; with oceanographers with examine the possibilities of storing atmospheric carbon in disused oil reservoirs in the seabed; with medics to work out what is the safe level of ultrasound to give a pregnant woman… that sort of thing. Providing it is fun, and rigorous, I will get into that field.

Multidisciplinary Research Week could be seen as making contacts for new funding opportunities, and these are important, but I see it primarily as having fun with curiosityand curiosity with fun.




For the latest news and events about the Multidisciplinary Research Week 2013, visit our Multidisciplinary Research website:

or follow us on   Twitter @MultiSoton #MDRWeek




Art, Archaeology and New Technologies

March 4, 2013
by Nicole Beale via Digital Humanities

This post was originally published at the Basing House: Community, Archaeology and Technology Project blog: Photos Acknowledgements: All of the photos in this post were taken by Alick Cotterill, so a big thank-you to him for letting us include them in this post.  Touring (*a small part of*) the Archaeology Collection stores Last week […]

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