MEETING MINDS

Telescopes, tours and doodling

We were thrilled to welcome alumni from all over the world for our three day event in April.

We had a variety of engaging live talks and panels, plus hands-on interactive sessions, including:

  • Hear from Oxford astrophysicists on the latest news from the James Webb telescope
  • Tomi Makanjuola (Queen's, 2010) leads us through starting with vegan cookery
  • An interactive 360° tour of the Oxford you never noticed
  • Asking the Vice-Chancellor your questions
  • Wytham Woods' Writer in Residence Dr Alice Little runs a workshop on writing fiction
  • Learning how to build your own start-up

There were also opportunities to network with fellow alumni, your college and department.

Join us for our 15th anniversary of Meeting Minds from 16–18 September with some very special speakers and guests.

MEET THE MINDS FROM APRIL

DR WEIMIN HE
Weimin He, Artist in Residence at Green Templeton College
DOODLING FOR RELAXATION AND CREATIVITY

WHEN: 1pm (BST) / 8 APRIL

Weimin He is Artist-in-residence at Green Templeton College.  He was appointed in 2018 following a connection to the college stretching back almost a decade. Weimin’s artworks have been widely exhibited and collected worldwide, including the British Museum, Ashmolean Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the China National Gallery.

Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk

  1. This workshop is designed to let people enjoy the art of doodling as a means of relaxation and creativity. I will first show some slides to present some master drawings of different times, to let people understand the overall history of art and how art transformed from primarily depicting the physical world to depicting metaphysical world.
  2. Using basic shapes and forms, showing people fundamental doodling ‘vocabularies.
  3. Drawing ‘readable’ objects using those vocabularies, such as trees and simple building forms.
  4. Automatic drawing, scribbling, and doodling with subconscious mind including blind drawing, drawing with music etc. The result could be abstract or figurative.

What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?

My primary focus has been on woodblock printmaking. It is one of the oldest art forms but has great potential to develop. I feel cutting tools are the most expressive tools for me, and can better express my feelings, and I would like to transform the aesthetic quality of ancient seal cutting and Chinese calligraphy into contemporary woodcut language. At the same time as an artist, I have been interested in most media and techniques, such as drawing, watercolour painting and ink painting etc. Doodling is also an important part of my creative career; it is a more personal means of self-expression.

Which is your favourite iconic Oxford building, college, or landmark to doodle and why?

A short answer is the Observatory tower of the Green Temple College. The tower has inspired me to create lots of artworks and I have been the artist-in-residence of the college since 2018. I think the tower connects the past with the future. It has been witnessing the transformation of the university. But each college has its own distinctive features and all worth to be depicted, they are all valuable pearls to make the best crown of the university.

PROF SIMON HOROBIN
Professor Simon Horobin
BATTELS BUTTERY AND BODDER: THE LIFE OF OXFORD SLANG

WHEN: 6pm (BST) / 8 APRIL

Professor Simon Horobin is a professor of English and the author of books on the history of English, spelling and the etymology of everyday words and phrases.

 

Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk

Discover the fascinating stories behind the mysterious world of Oxford slang.

What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?

The English Language - its history, structure and the way it's used today. I'm fascinated by its variety and how it continually adapts to meet new demands.

Your favourite unusual three words

  • Amphibology
  • Stravaig
  • Neorxnawang
DR ALICE LITTLE
Dr Alice Little
CREATIVE WRITING MASTERCLASS WITH DR ALICE LITTLE

WHEN: 9pm (BST) / 8 APRIL

Alice (St Edmund Hall, 2003) is a music historian and author of fiction. Her academic work focuses on music collecting, particularly the eighteenth-century folk tune collection of John Malchair. She is a Research Fellow in the Music Faculty where she recently published a biographical catalogue of the Anthony Baines Archive. She is Administrator for the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and runs Didcot Writers. Alice has had five anthologies of short fiction published, and is the current Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, the research woodland of the University of Oxford.

 

What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?

As an academic my area is music history, particularly the history of collecting. I'm interested in why people collect things and how they make their way into museum collections. Most of my research is about collections of music or musical instruments. Oddly, I hardly ever write fiction about music or museums! In my fiction writing I love telling stories of dilemmas, and considering how people see things from different points of view. At the moment I'm writing a collection of stories that interlink and overlap and am having a lot of fun playing with structures.

Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk

You might also ask - what is nature writing, or what is climate writing?

Name a story set in a wood. From Snow White to Hansel and Gretel, from The Lord of the Rings to Winnie-the-Pooh, woodlands and forests have inspired storytellers for centuries. But, these days, I don't think it's possible to write about nature without addressing the issue of climate change. As a writer, I think it's necessary to think carefully about how the books we read and the stories we tell - and how we tell them - might help us learn about nature, connect us to it, and even encourage people to take action that might help mitigate the climate emergency. In this workshop we will discuss books where nature or climate play a significant role, and ask to what extent fiction can change the world. We will also put our pens to paper and try writing something of our own.

How has Oxford inspired your short stories?

I write a lot of stories set in Oxfordshire, and like to use familiar places as my setting. It's great being Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, because there are so many different parts of the wood to use - from the woods themselves to the meadows, from the labs and workshop spaces at the chalet to the canopy walkway used by researchers to get a bird's-eye view of the woods. All of these feature in the anthology I'm writing as part of my residency.

What are your top 3 tips for budding fiction writers?

  1. Keep writing - set time aside for it, and keep going. It's amazing how much you can get written in short bursts once you're in the habit. And don't put it off until you've got a full day - it'll never come!
  2. Find writing friends: writing can be a lonely pastime so it's important to have people around you. I run a 'Shut Up and Write' session for Didcot Writers, and an Oxfordshire network for the Society of Authors, both of which help writers find each other: you don't have to do it all yourself!
  3. Get feedback, and offer feedback (from people other than your family!). As writers we often compare our work to what we read in books - but this isn't a fair comparison as these books will have been through rounds of edits before ending up in print. I run a life-writing feedback group for Oxford Writing Mentors, where we share work for constructive comments - it's a really supportive way to get feedback. In a group like this you learns as much by reading others' work as from having others look at yours.
TOMI MAKANJUOLA
Tomi Makanjuola, The Vegan Nigerian
TOP TIPS TO MASTER VEGAN COOKING

WHEN: 6pm (BST) / 6 APRIL

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria Tomi (Queen's, 2010) has loved food for as long as she can remember, whether it was shopping for it, making it or watching programmes on it.

During her year abroad in France, whilst at Oxford, she started her blog The Vegan Nigerian to showcase all her vegan experiments. Since then she has published The Plantain Cookbook and her blog has become a global success.

 

What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?

I am a vegan chef and content creator, and I am passionate about making delicious plant-based Nigerian food accessible to members of my community and beyond. I truly believe that veganism is the future as the benefits to our health, the planet and animals are innumerable.

Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your Meeting Minds talk

My talk will shed light on the fundamentals of plant-based cooking. Attendees will be inspired to try new and creative recipes, and delve deeper into effective cooking techniques for tasty vegan meals every time.

Which of your recipes has been the most successful in encouraging people to try vegan food? What makes the recipes so popular?

My veganised versions of traditional Nigerian soups and stews (e.g. Egusi Soup and Pepper Soup) are always a hit. By showing ways to substitute the meatier elements, people get to discover how they can achieve a similar taste, texture, and not feel like they will miss out.

ADELE SANTELLI
Adele Santelli
REPORTING THE BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CRISES IN THE WORLD'S GREATEST ENVIRONMENTAL POWER

WHEN: 11am (BST) / 6 APRIL

Adele Santelli is an environmental journalist based in São Paulo, who specialises in Environmental, Sustainability and Global Policies. She currently works as a reporter at TV Cultura and National Geographic Brasil, writing mainly on climate change and biodiversity loss.

 

Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk.

Environmental crises are the most relevant stories of our time. Knowing to report these stories can mean the difference between involving people to seek solutions for problems or losing them. Journalism offers the chance to contribute to build a net of engagement and support that may be one of the most important tools that we have to put pressure on governments and to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss or plastic pollution. Join me if you agree that telling good stories is a positive way towards change!

What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?

I am an environmental journalist working mainly on climate change and biodiversity loss. Since I was a child, my parents used to teach me about the importance of every little aspect of nature and how everything is connected. So, as long as I can remember I have been passionate about animals, plants, ecosystems and all types of living beings.  I also remember enjoying writing very much. As I grew up I focused on deepening my learning on the environment and other subjects that surround this topic. Reporting on the environment really makes me happy as I feel that I may be helping other people to have the same opportunity that I had to fall in love with nature and therefore to protect it.

What are your 3 top tips for anyone wanting to enter a career as an environmental journalist?

  • Get used with science; read as much as you can, follow environmental news and reports, learn how to find specific information in scientific papers, exercise translating scientific expressions.
  • Enjoy nature; get to know natural places and species, dedicate some time to just observing plants and animals, and try to connect yourself with nature. You don't need to go far away, begin noticing what is in your backyard or in a place you travel for holidays, When you feel the connection in your heart you are ready to report.
  • Be curious and learn to listen; there are plenty of good stories out there. Potential stories can pop up from anywhere, stay tuned! And remember to listen first. Get to know all the information you can about it and be ready to tell the story with details, checked info and some creativity!
DR BECKY SMETHURST
Dr Becky Smethurst
REACHING FOR THE STARS: WHAT WILL THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE TEACH US?

WHEN: 6pm (BST) / 7 APRIL

Becky's (Pembroke, 2013) research is focussed on low-redshift galaxy evolution studies; particularly the mechanisms responsible for the quenching of star formation. She is currently working with SDSS-IV MaNGA data to determine whether negative AGN feedback is occurring on a population-wide scale. Complimentary to this, she is also interested in the growth and powering of AGN in galaxies with merger-free evolutionary histories.

 

Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk

The James Webb Space Telescope is going to revolutionise so many different areas of astrophysics. Tune in to find out how and why.

What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?

My research is focussed on the growth of supermassive black holes. I’ve always been naturally curious, and I think black holes are the ultimate enigma!

Favourite three space facts we might not know

  • If you could find a bath tub big enough, Saturn would float on water. 
  • In every teaspoon of space in the Solar System you’ll find a proton’s worth of dark matter
  • If you get too close to a black hole, you’ll get spaghettified! The gravity is so strong around black holes that objects get stretched out into spaghetti. 

Fancy a taster? Check out our live stream with food expert Dr Johnny Drain: From trash to treasure? Rethinking "waste" in the world's best bars and restaurants

 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/kzuqJfQBk7c?list=PLwz5ILZ81D_5GYbjwnBvC9XhOEI1yzuRG

Dr Johnny Drain (St Anne’s, 2009), Food Designer, CTO of WNWN Food Labs

Fermentation is a tool to amplify flavour. Join Johnny for a cook-along, as he demonstrates a simple ferment and shows how vegetable scraps and unloved ingredients can be transformed into something delicious. Johnny will also be discussing his career; from a PhD to cooking in the world's most lauded bars and restaurants.