Our free TED-style talks address big questions, drawing on the research and experiences of leading University of Birmingham researchers and high-profile speakers including Sir Anthony Seldon, Hannah England and Nazir Afzal OBE.

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Programme for the day

Session 1 (9:30-11:00)

Professor Marika Taylor asks 'Is there a theory of everything?', Professor Alan McNally explores 'How can we combat the threat of infectious diseases?', and Colin Townsend asks 'Tests of life or a life of tests?'.

  • Marika Taylor, Head of College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and Professor of Theoretical Physics researches string theory, quantum field theory and gravitational physics.
  • Alan McNally, Professor in Microbial Genomics in the School of Medical and Dental Sciences, researched Alan research’s evolutionary genomics of pathogenesis, and antimicrobial resistance in bacterial pathogens led the governments first Covid-19 flagship testing facility.
  • Colin Townsend, Principal of the University of Birmingham School, is driven by providing a rounded education for the young people of Birmingham by leading a distinctive and ambitious learning community.

Session 2 (11:15-12:45)

In this session, Sir Anthony Seldon asks 'Does character matter in leaders?', alumna and Olympic athlete Hannah England considers 'Are sportswomen treated differently to men?', and Professor Robin Mason explore 'Must top universities be open to the world's poorest?'.

  • Sir Anthony Seldon is a world renowned educator, social commentator, and British historian. Anthony has led some of the best-known schools and universities in Britain, is a regular newspaper commentator and written the biographies of six British prime ministers including Boris Johnson and Tony Blair.
  • Hannah England is a British middle-distance running athlete, a 1500m World Championship silver medallist, and London 2012 competitor, as well as being a Birmingham alumna and honorary graduate!
  • Robin Mason is Professor of Economics and Pro-Vice Chancellor (International) here at Birmingham, and focuses his research on game theory and how firms respond strategically to uncertainty.

Session 3 (14:00-16:00)

In our final session, Nazir Afzal OBE asks 'What's love got to do with it?', whilst Professor Karen Elliot tackles 'Corporate digital responsibility - whose responsibility is it?'. Dr James Bendle explores 'Past societies and climate change', and Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge considers 'What do the old women know?'.

  • Nazir Afzal OBE is a British solicitor and was Chief Crown Prosecutor for Northwest England for 4 years. During Nazir's 24 year career, he prosecuted some of the most high profile cases in the country and was a national leader on topics including violence against women & girls, child sexual abuse, and honour based violence.
  • Karen Elliott is a Chair and Professor of Practice in Finance and Fintech. As a socio-technologist and entrepreneur, Karen is committed to ongoing research towards establishing an equitable digital society, and sustainable and responsible outcomes for business, society, and the planet.
  • James Bendle is a Reader in Organic Geochemistry specialising in paleoclimatology. His research develops and uses molecular tools to reconstruct past environmental conditions.
  • Lyndsey Stonebridge is the interdisciplinary chair of Humanities and Human Rights here at Birmingham. Lyndsey’s work focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary literature, political theory, and history, Human Rights, and Refugee Studies, drawing on the interdisciplinary connections between literature, history, politics, law, and social policy.