My last blog wished you a happy new (academic) year; now I wish you a very happy new (calendar) year!

Joining our academic members of staff who started last term (Jenny Bavidge, University Lecturer in English Literature; Emily Caddick, Teaching Officer in Philosophy; Erica Bithell, Teaching Officer in Physical Sciences) is Ed Turner, Teaching Officer in Biological Sciences.

Ed, Emily and Erica will be giving talks at Madingley Hall on Sunday 25 March, as part of the University’s Science Festival:

Evolution revolution, 10.00am - Dr Ed Turner

Learn how natural selection explains the origin of adaptation in living organisms and discover the roles that sexual and kin selection play in the evolutionary process. Together we will explore the recent revolution in thinking about evolutionary biology.

Schrödinger’s cat repackaged, 11.15am - Dr Emily Caddick

In the infamous ‘Schrödinger’s cat’ thought-experiment, a cat is put in a box with a hammer poised to smash a bottle of poison. Is the cat alive or dead? Common sense says that it is one way or the other. Quantum mechanics seems to suggest that, unless we look in the box to see, it is neither determinately alive nor determinately dead. But what does this mean? This walk will suggest a new account of how to understand what’s going on, and of what we can say about the cat’s state before opening the box.

Deconstructing structures, 12.30pm - Dr Erica Bithell

From steel and concrete to silicon chips and liquid crystals, materials science has given us the building blocks of technology. We will take a look at the extraordinary microscopic structures inside some everyday materials, and see how these influence the uses to which they can be put.

These talks are free of charge but booking is required. Coffee and tea will be available and the gardens will be open for you to enjoy.

If you’d like to know a little more about the research activities of our academic staff – ranging from peat fens to particles, from children in culture to biodiversity in Borneo (I could go on but had better stop there with the alliteration) – then read our new Research News.

Tomorrow evening (30 January), we have the first Madingley Lecture of 2012, which will be given by the incoming Director of CRASSH, Professor Simon Goldhill, who will talk on Victorian Desire and the Classical Body. This will be followed on 5 March by Ann Cotton OBE, founder and Executive Director of CAMFED, who will speak on The justice and imperative on girls' education in Africa. The video of Vice-Chancellor’s Madingley Lecture (Challenges of global health), which concluded the 2011 series, is now available online.

Our new Madingley Weekly Programme of short courses (one session per week for five weeks) started earlier this month and the second set of these courses, starting in the week commencing 20 February, are now available to book:

  • Invasion! Exploring the clash of cultures
  • Saints or sinners: the representation of women in Victorian art and fiction
  • Rights and identity, and our place in the modern world
  • Sex and gender: men, women and social change
  • Health, wealth and poverty
  • Legacies of war

If you like the look of Madingley Hall and our courses then you might be interested in our new Weekend Courses brochure for January to December 2012, and if you are studying with the Institute of Continuing Education for the first time, you could be eligible for a James Stuart Bursary award of £100, or if you are a UK-state-funded teacher, you can apply for a Cambridge University Press bursary of £200. And, new for 2012, we are offering reduced rates for students who share a room (two people sharing a double or twin room will save £40 on a standard weekend course).

If you are a teacher of A-Level Law then you might be interested in our conference in March 2012, or if you are a secondary-school teacher of English or History then our new (part-time) Master of Studies (MSt) in Advanced Subject Teaching, which will take its first cohort of students in the autumn 2012, might be for you. For this MSt the University of Cambridge International Examinations Bursary Fund, sponsored by Cambridge International Examinations, offers a limited number of awards up to a maximum of £7,450 per student to cover course fees for overseas and EU applicants wishing to study the MSt from 2012. Alternatively, we have an MSt in Historic Environment also starting in the autumn. The full range of MSts – all part-time two-year programmes – is given here. We’re delighted that Damian Platt, studying our MSt in International Relations, has been awarded an MBE for his work in the favelas, or shantytowns, of Rio de Janeiro in this year’s New Year’s Honours.

Our International Summer Schools for 2012, including a number of new programmes, are now available for booking.

For further course information visit: www.ice.cam.ac.uk, or for Madingley Hall enquiries visit: www.madingleyhall.co.uk.