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Worcester is a place of innovative and world-leading research, with academics from a variety of disciplines celebrated for their research, public engagement and teaching. We believe that research excellence is achieved by fostering intellectual exchange and cross-disciplinary collaborations; our aim is to support the development of an ideas-rich environment in College.

Our Heads of Research

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Rank Foundation-Netherthorpe Memorial Fellow & Tutor in Medicine

Professor John Parrington

Headshot of John Parrington

Professor John Parrington

Rank Foundation-Netherthorpe Memorial Fellow & Tutor in Medicine

Associate Professor in Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology

Head of Research (Sciences)

Education

MA (Cambridge), MA (Oxford), PhD (London)

Dr Parrington is a Fellow in Physiological Sciences (Pharmacology) and his research interests are molecular mechanisms of reproduction and early embryogenesis, the role of calcium signals in mediating key physiological events, and genomic and proteomic approaches to understanding cell signalling.

Headshot of Emanuela Vai

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Emanuela Vai

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Dr Emanuela Vai FHEA FRHistS

Senior Research Fellow

Keeper of the Bate Collection

Head of Research (Humanities)

Education

BA MMus MEd (Cambridge), MPhil PhD (St Andrews)

I am Head of Research (Humanities) and Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Hill Collection of Musical Instruments at the Ashmolean Museum; and I lead on all conservation, research and curatorial aspects at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments at the University of Oxford. Previously, I have held positions at the University of Oxford as Scott Opler Fellow; at the University of Cambridge; at the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at the University of York (CREMS); at the Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance de Tours (CESR); and at the Harvard Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, where I was Hanna Kiel Fellow.

My work has received the support of fellowships and grants from the British Academy, the Society for Renaissance Studies, the Royal Historical Society, the Renaissance Society of America, the Kress Foundation, the École Pratique des Hautes Études, the Academia Belgica and the Newton Trust at the University of Cambridge, among others.

I champion the public engagement of academic research, working across a diversity of cultural heritage and digital humanities projects, serving as consultant and advisor for international institutions and associations, with the aim of building and improving partnerships between academia, policy and industry for the study and preservation of tangible and intangible culture. I have appeared on several radio shows on these topics.

I also act as a mentor for early career researchers, and I serve as an advisory member for international cultural heritage projects in Europe and the US. At Oxford, I continue to serve as the Research Staff Representative for the Humanities Division and the Conference of Colleges, and I sit on the Humanities Research Committee and Divisional Board, as well as on Governing Body at Worcester College.

I am the Director in Humanities at AISUK, with the aim of promoting scientific collaborations between Italian and British academic institutions and research centres in the public and private sector, through scientific events and other initiatives such as mentoring and support for graduate students and junior researchers.

Research news

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Strategic Innovation Fund supports digital humanities project

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Worcester philosopher writes best doctoral dissertation

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Research fellowships

Find out more about the programmes and fellowships which contribute to our vibrant research culture. We have junior researchers in areas from literature and architectural history to medical sciences and conservation. Our Israel & Ione Massada Fellowships Programme creates visiting academic partnerships for scholars of all backgrounds, religions and ethnicities from the State of Israel.

Our research fellowships

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Special Collections

From drawings by England’s first classical architect Inigo Jones, to over 1,200 plays printed before 1750, our internationally-significant special collections stretch to over 70,000 items. In addition, the development of Worcester College, its administration, members and former estates is recorded in the College Archives.

Our special collections

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Worcester Bookshelf

Explore some of the recent books published by our tutorial and research fellows, from literature, culture and society to geomorphology, topology and genome editing.

Explore the bookshelf

Meet our doctoral students

Headshot of Martina Carandino

Martina Carandino: DPhil History

Headshot of Martina Carandino

Martina Carandino: DPhil History

The main purpose of my research is to enhance our understanding of the debate on the soul in Gaul towards the end of the fifth century, as well as its socio-political influences, through an analysis of Pomerius’ fragmentary work De natura animae. This debate is reflective of the profound transformations that Gallo-Roman society was undergoing during the last few years of the fifth century, between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the first barbaric kingdoms. It is important to highlight that the theory of the soul has far reaching implications. This was not purely a matter of theological concern, but its extended influence would condition power dynamics and politics. The echo of these themes during Late Antiquity resonates through several authors, whose importance has been diligently analysed. However, limited attention had been offered to Pomerius so far. Therefore, a detailed study of his De natura animae would provide one of the last tiles missing in the complex mosaic of the religious, cultural, political, and economic transformation in the post-Roman society towards the end of the fifth century. I will also strive to offer the first extensive commentary and translation in English of this work, thus opening the possibility for a broader scholarship to understand the pivotal role of this text.

Arles cityscape

Arial view of the southern French city of Arles, showing the Roman amphitheatre

Headshot of Ishaan Vadgama

Ishaan Vadgama: DPhil Engineering Science

Headshot of Ishaan Vadgama

Ishaan Vadgama: DPhil Engineering Science

We cannot normally image small cellular structures with light because of its diffraction limit. By exciting certain structures in nonlinear ways across space and time, and using computational techniques, we can reconstruct what these structures must look like at a resolution limit higher than that imposed by light.

My research focuses on using these ‘super-resolution’ techniques to rapidly identify antibiotic resistance in certain types of bacteria. Current tests for resistance are expensive and can take several days to return only a very simplistic readout of pathogen type and resistance status, during which time patients are given broad-spectrum antibiotics which (i) drive antimicrobial resistance and (ii) have no robust guarantee of action against the specific bacteria present.

These techniques have the potential to massively cut down the time taken in identifying pathogenic bacteria, resolving what antimicrobials they are resistant to, and probing their mechanisms of resistance.

Headshot of Adam Kelly

Adam Kelly: DPhil English

Headshot of Adam Kelly

Adam Kelly: DPhil English

‘Melancholy’ is a feeling familiar to us all: a wistful, contemplative sadness that conjures autumn leaves and rain drumming the windowpane, but it was not always so. Our modern idea of melancholy was born of a tradition that saw such sadness as benign and occasionally fruitful; productive of art, music, and poetry. Yet the word ‘melancholy’ first described a disease in the humoural tradition: a preponderance of black bile that clogged the imaginative faculties and bred sloth and solitude. It was not until Aristotle that the creative potential of a measure of melancholy was considered. A notion that would overleap the early-Medieval period, only resurfacing with the rediscovery of his corpus in the 12th and 13th centuries.

My work focuses upon ‘Medieval Melancholies’: the concepts of complex sadness that developed (and so often died out) in the interstice between Classical Antiquity and the European Renaissance. Before Hippocratic and Aristotelian melancholies were ‘recovered’, how was the experience of deep, consuming sadness written about and read?

I chart diverse ‘melancholies’ across a variety of languages and literatures: from the Church Fathers to Old English poetry in the twinned sadnesses of ‘tristitia’ and ‘acedia’; romantic melancholy in Arthurian romance and how it might delimit the extremes of love; the financial ‘permacrisis’ that bedeviled Thomas Hoccleve and his monetisation of melancholy in an attempt to solve it. These concepts are distinct yet interrelated – ‘family resemblances’ that reveal the diverse ways cultures and writers regard the sadness at the core of our condition.

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Rebecca Garnett: DPhil Primary Health Care

Headshot of Rebecca Garnett

Rebecca Garnett: DPhil Primary Health Care

I am undertaking a DPhil in the Medical Science Division within the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. My research focuses on the subject of ‘deprescribing’, defined as the reduction or cessation of prescription medication(s) that a healthcare professional believes to be no longer appropriate for an individual.

Deprescribing has received growing research attention in recent years, as a potential solution to the issue of ‘polypharmacy’ (the regular intake of multiple different medications). Although some polypharmacy is ‘appropriate’, when all of the medications that an individual is taking are necessary and effective for treating their health condition(s), sometimes patients are taking medication(s) that may be considered ‘inappropriate’. This can occur if they are taking two medication that confer the same therapeutic benefit, if their condition has changed and the medication needs to be altered to reflect this, or if the harms (i.e. side effects) of their medication(s) are beginning to outweigh the benefits.

Inappropriate polypharmacy has both potential negative health outcomes for the patients and places considerable avoidable financial burden on the NHS. Polypharmacy, and hence inappropriate polypharmacy, is increasing for a number of reasons, but the primary cause, and the focus of my research, is aging populations.

I am using a mixture of methodologies to study the attitudes of older adults and their informal caregivers towards deprescribing and assess their willingness to stop/reduce their medication. I am also hoping to learn how healthcare professionals could better engage both groups in conversations and decisions relating to the patient’s medication.

Headshot of Yiu Fung Chiu

Yiu Fung Chiu: DPhil Condensed Matter Physics

Headshot of Yiu Fung Chiu

Yiu Fung Chiu: DPhil Condensed Matter Physics

I am currently studying as a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics student, under the guidance of Professor Andrew Boothroyd and co-supervised by Dr Kejin Zhou from Diamond Light Source, a synchrotron radiation facility. My research interest lies in exploring the intricate interplay among strong spin-orbit coupling effects on quantum magnetism and superconductivity etc.

In my investigation, I focus on examining various materials, including excitonic Mott insulators and double perovskites, utilizing the resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) technique enabled with near light speed electrons with advanced experimental apparatus from Diamond Light Source. This allows me to unravel emergent phenomena in these materials under extreme conditions.

Complementing these experimental endeavours, I actively build and refine mathematical models that describe the quantum properties of these materials. Furthermore, I engage in computational simulations and calculations, comparing and enhancing these models based on experimental data. This comprehensive approach, combining experimentation with theoretical modeling and computational analysis, enables a deeper understanding of the quantum states exhibited by the materials.

Moving forward, I plan to employ the improved mathematical models to identify novel quantum materials with unique phases and properties. The aim is to uncover materials that hold potential applications in electronic and spintronic devices. This approach aligns with my goal of contributing substantively to the evolving narrative of condensed matter physics, unlocking new avenues for technological advancements. The collaborative efforts with Diamond Light Source remain pivotal, providing essential capabilities and expertise for probing materials at both the atomic and molecular levels.

Headshot of Meredith Cutrer

Meredith Cutrer: DPhil History

Headshot of Meredith Cutrer

Meredith Cutrer: DPhil History

One of the most important innovations of the early Insular churches is their creation of penitentials, which are pastoral documents with lists of offenses and appropriate penances that a person is to do if s/he has fallen into sin. The most typical penances found in these documents are usually prayers, fasting, almsgiving, and reciting the Psalms which are all very standard disciplines from Christianity’s earliest period. However, for the most serious sins, we also see penitential exile – the removal of the sinner from his or her home – to go live in a monastery or penitential community elsewhere for a period of time being assigned for men and women alike. This type of penance has its origins in an outgrowth of late Roman legal developments occurring on the Continent, and my research explores the rise and the use of penitential exile and monastic confinement in Britain and Ireland between the mid sixth century when we first see it in Britain through to the ninth century Old Irish penitential to show points of borrowing and innovation among the early Insular Christian communities from late Roman tradition.

Headshot of Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell: DPhil Physical & Theoretical Chemistry

Headshot of Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell: DPhil Physical & Theoretical Chemistry

Whilst the equations describing the behaviour of electrons in molecules have been known for nearly 100 years, their complexity is far beyond what is exactly solvable, even on modern classical super computers. Such complexity arises due to the quantum nature of electrons where superposition and correlation lead to a combinatorial explosion in the number of possible states which need to be considered.

In recent years it has been suggested that quantum computers, in which the traditional ideas of bits are replaced with ‘qubits’ that can exist in a superposition of different states, can usher in a new paradigm in computational chemistry. By already computing with objects in superposition it is believed that quantum computers will be able to tame the exploding complexity demanded of electronic structure calculations leading to better and more accurate predictions of molecular properties and reactions.

Many different architectures have been proposed with which you could build a quantum computer, yet full universal devices of the scale needed to perform quantum chemical calculations are still largely theoretical. In this intermediate, noisy, and non-universal stage: photonics, the practice of manipulating individual particles of light has emerged as a leading candidate for demonstrating quantum advantage at relatively low experimental complexity.

My research aims to investigate whether these intermediate and non-universal photonic devices can be used to perform useful quantum chemical calculations. I am interested in whether protocols such as boson sampling which have already demonstrated quantum advantage experimentally can be applied to quantum chemistry and thus allow for the exponential increase in computational power promised by quantum computers to be utilised before full universal devices are built.

Headshot of Maria Jesus

María Jesus: DPhil Criminology

Headshot of Maria Jesus

María Jesus: DPhil Criminology

My dissertation project lays in the intersections of technology, policing and human rights in Latin America. Particularly, I am assessing the effects that the implementation of body worn camera has on Chilean police practices, rationalities and legitimacy. My research develops from a mix standpoint, combining both individual motivations and affections with social factors, steaming from different theories such as political economy, sociology and social anthropology.

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Gonzalo Fernandez: DPhil Theology & Religion

Headshot of Gonzalo Fernandez

Gonzalo Fernandez: DPhil Theology & Religion

An Examination of the Soteriological Role of Yoginīs in Śākta Tantric Śaivism

The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that certain semi-divine Hindu spirits called yoginīs have the ability to grant liberation to their devotees. Although there are numerous texts that make references to the ability of yoginīs to bestow supernatural powers, there are fewer references to their soteriological role. My main focus will be on those provisions of the Netratantra (circa 8th/9th century CE) that describe novel ways in which yoginīs liberate.

The following arguments will be advanced in support of the principal proposition:

  • Tracing the origins of yoginīs and their subsequent development to show how yoginīs came to be regarded as manifestations of Śiva’s powers or, as agents of Śiva himself. This will demonstrate that, like Śiva, they can liberate his devotees;
  • Analysing the Netratantra closely and chapter 20 in particular, as this describes a novel method by which yoginīs liberate their “victims” by killing them by way of a sacrifice that is characterised as a salvic exercise through the bestowal of grace by Śiva through the agency of the yoginīs;
  • Examining parallels with initiation rituals as ritual encounters with yoginīs closely resemble the effect of a tantric initiation;
  • Considering whether yoginīs’ close association with the chakra system in the body demonstrates that they control these energy centres and thus influence whether liberation is granted;
  • Identifying specific references in the Tantras that explicitly refer to yoginīs’ soteriological role; and
  • Examining whether practices of possession by yoginīs can be understood as salvic.
Interior of yoginī temple

Interior of yoginī temple

Headshot of Ben Yang

Ben Yang: DPhil Mathematics

Headshot of Ben Yang

Ben Yang: DPhil Mathematics

Euler’s Approach to Untangle Organoids Phenotype and Genotype 

Organoids [1], commonly referred to as mini-organs, are complex three-dimensional cell cultures that are generated from stem cells. They demonstrate a remarkable resemblance in terms of their function and structure to their tissue of origin. These attributes make organoids an ideal model system for studying cancer progression and evaluating treatment responses. In particular, organoids undergo significant shape changes during their development. Such processes are heavily influenced by the conditions in which the organoids are cultured and their genetic status [2]. As the use of organoids increases, demand is increasing for methods that can describe, quantify and compare shape changes in organoids with different genetic backgrounds, over time, and in response to treatment.

In this study, we introduce the Euler Characteristic Transform (ECT) [3] from
Topological Data Analysis, as a basic method to describe the shape of organoids by counting the number of points, edges and faces. Given a shape 𝑋⊂ℝ𝑑 and a direction 𝒗, we scan over the organoid in the given direction. At each “time point” t of the scan, we compute the Euler characteristic 𝜒 of the scanned part. The ECT assigns each direction 𝒗 the curve recording the Euler characteristic calculation against how much of the shape we have scanned. The formal formula for ECT is as follows:

𝐸𝐶𝑇𝑋:𝑆𝑑−1×ℝ→ℤ;(𝒗,𝑡)↦𝜒({𝒙∈𝑋:<𝒙,𝒗>≤𝑡})

We then use the ECT to build a descriptor that tracks temporal shape changes in organoids. We combine this descriptor with machine learning models to show its effectiveness in classifying organoids of different genotypes and explain the relationship between organoid phenotype and genotype. We also use the ECT to validate the mechanism of action of treatments designed to shift the behaviour of organoids from one genotype to another. Finally, we interpret the machine learning results by highlighting the most significant structures determined by the machine learning models.

References

  1. J. Drost and H. Clevers (2018). Organoids in cancer research. Nat. Rev. Cancer 18 (7): 407-418.
  2. K. Ishihara, A. Mukherjee, E. Gromberg, J. Brugués, E. M. Tanaka, and F. Jülicher (2023). Topological morphogenesis of neuroepithelial organoids. Nat. Phys., 19: 177-183.
  3. J. Curry, S. Mukherjee, and K. Turner (2021). How Many Directions Determine a Shape and other Sufficiency Results for Two Topological Transforms. arXiv.

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