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Seven things we learned from TEDxCardiffUniversity

The inaugural TEDxCardiffUniversity on The Power of Ideas brought home an all-alumni line-up sharing their thoughts and experiences on a variety of subjects: from nanoscience to the impact of physical environments on our mental health. Here, we look at seven things we learned from TEDxCardiffUniversity to whet your appetite; you can watch videos from the event on YouTube

1 – “Malaria doesn’t eat the crusts”

Nanoscience can be a pretty unapproachable subject – proper science-y science that’s so tiny you can’t see it happening. Thankfully Josh Davies (MChem 2016) had the perfect visual to explain a key process. Imagine a blood cell is a piece of bread. The crust is the heme, the middle part the globin. Malaria doesn’t eat the crusts! By developing handheld detectors to identify blood cells with only the heme remaining, nanoscience is making diagnosis faster and more portable.

2 – “Pregnancy tests and Roman cups”

One man quote machine Josh also provided our favourite piece of trivia of the day. The same process that turns the line pink on pregnancy tests is used in Roman glass chalice, The Lycurgus Cup. The nanoscience (it’s a gold particle mixed in the glass) is revealed when the cup is lit from behind, changing it from green to red. Gold nanoparticles have a huge range of colours, making them extremely useful for Magneto-Optical Diagnosis.

3 – Period poverty is happening in the 7th richest nation in the world

Fiona Munnelly (BSc 2018) told us about the idea she developed with the group Periods in Poverty: donation points for sanitary products. In a moving talk she outlined the scale of the problem, emphasising that it affects the same groups as those hit hardest by welfare reforms and in-work poverty.

4 – The robots are coming, but you shouldn’t be afraid!

Guto Harri (PgDip 1988) gave an impassioned talk on the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence as it becomes an integral part of our working lives. Rather than something to fear, and with 66 million jobs at risk he understands the impulse, Guto thinks that automating the mundane tasks will allow our human, creative sides to flourish.

5 – Our physical environment has a massive impact on our mental health

Ben Channon (MArch 2012) believes that “we have a responsibility to create buildings that have a positive psychological reaction” on our mental health. He outlined the impact of our physical environment with the results from one Japanese study that found changing the colour of lighting in train stations to blue at night resulted in an 84% decrease in suicides.

6 – Our genetic information is the next big data frontier

Dr Emma Yhnell (BSc 2012, PhD 2016) posed the question “who should know about your unique genetic information?” By talking about her own family members affected by brain disease, and the genetic risks of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Emma challenged the room to think about why, why not, who and how your genetic information should be shared and stored.

7 – Change is ours to grasp

Both Samuel Stainton (MESci 2018) and Rifhat Qureshi (BSc 1999) discussed how the power to change is closer to all of us than we might think. Samuel’s story about how opening up to a stranger changed his life from one of social isolation and loneliness to running for SU president and starting a social enterprise clearly moved the whole room. Rifhat neatly summarised how self-belief can lead us to taking action: “It’s alright if your actions don’t change the world, it’s enough if they change yours.”

It was clear watching all of our speakers, and the stories they brought to the TEDxCardiffUniversity stage, that each of their worlds had been changed by the ideas they discussed. Has our list got you wanting more? You can catch up on each session in full by watching our playlist