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BA awards lectures

Press release issued: 11 February 2004

Two of the prestigious British Association Award Lectures will be given by Bristol University staff this year.

Two of the prestigious British Association Award Lectures will be given by Bristol University staff this year after their talks on the chemicals of pleasure and how to survive an earthquake were named among the five best lectures submitted to the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science).

Dr Harry Witchel from the University's Department of Physiology was chosen as the winner of the Charles Darwin Award in the Agricultural, Biological and Medical category for his lecture The chemicals of pleasure: good or evil?

The lecture will explore our experience of pleasure and its connection with chemicals in the brain.  It will take the audience on a journey through the brain's pathways of pleasure, discussing how our brains react to sex, music, thrill seeking and addiction to drugs.  The 45-minute lecture is aimed at the general public aged 15 and over and will include audience participation and animated displays.

Dr Adam Crewe from the Department of Civil Engineering won the Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award in the Engineering, Technology and Industry category for his lecture Surviving an earthquake: how can we design earthquake proof buildings?

Using live shaking-table demonstrations, animated computer simulations, and images of actual earthquake damage, 'Surviving an earthquake' will develop and explore the fundamental design issues facing earthquake engineers, such as flexibility and mass distribution, weak storeys, and changes in building shape.  The lecture will consider how these concepts can be used by earthquake engineers to control the performance of structures during earthquakes and design safer buildings.

Bristol University was the only research institution in the country to win more than one award.

The Award Lectures aim to promote open and informed discussion on issues involving science and actively encourage scientists to explore the social aspects of their research, providing them with reward and recognition for doing so.

Dr Roland Jackson, Chief Executive of the BA, said: "We would like to congratulate the winners of this year's BA Award Lectures.  The lectures are always a highlight of the BA Festival of Science and recognise the speakers' outstanding communication skills and willingness to explore with their audience the implications of their research."

The Award Lectures will be presented at the BA Festival of Science 2004 in Exeter [6-10 September 2004].

Harry Witchel

In addition to his research and teaching in the Department of Physiology at Bristol University, in the last year Dr Witchel has appeared on BBC Television on Simon Singh's Mind games and lectured at the Royal Society for the National Forum of Genetic Futures, and the Cheltenham Festival of Science on the subjective experience of time.

Adam Crewe

Dr Crewe is a lecturer in the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre at Bristol University.  In 1995 he visited Kobe, Japan, to study the structural failures caused by this earthquake.  Much of his research involves laboratory testing using the shaking-table at Bristol University to investigate how to prevent these types of building failures.  He has run earthquake engineering design competitions in the UK, Taiwan and Japan and gives talks and demonstrations about the behaviour of structures in earthquakes for the regional science centre, At-Bristol.

The British Association

The BA is the UK's nationwide, open membership organisation dedicated to connecting science with people, so that science and its applications become accessible to all.  The BA aims to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science and technology and their implications.

Established in 1831, the BA organises major initiatives across the UK, including the annual BA Festival of Science which is the UK's longest-established science festival, attracting over 300 speakers and around 10,000 visitors each year.

For more information about the BA, visit

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