Interdisciplinary Discussion Groups


The IDG allow students in fields which have often little contact to come together in an informal setting and discuss research, both within and without their own subject, from a variety of disciplinary viewpoints – a rare and valuable opportunity.


Academics, artists, authors, scientists, and experts from all fields are invited to spark up the discussion; in the past, we have welcomed Lord John Krebs, Lord Robert Winston, Edwina Currie, Philip Pullman, and Alice Smith – and more is yet to come.


This term we will set out on a journey to explore what ‘patterns’ can mean in different disciplines. To ensure a cosy and lively discussion, places are limited to 20 students.


Coffee, tea, and a free sandwich lunch are offered by the college, with both meat and vegetarian options. Please do not hesitate to email for any additional dietary requirement.


To reserve a spot, or for questions, suggestions and further information, contact Valeria at



Hilary Term 2017 – Programme:


Week 3 – Thursday 2 Feb, 12:45-2pm, Seminar Room 3
Patterns in poetry: Mr Clive Wilmer – ‘Metre and Rhythm’


In poetry (as one critic has expressed it) ‘Metre is the arithmetical norm, the purely theoretic structure of the line; rhythm is controlled departure from that norm.’ The speaker will illustrate this distinction and then consider two ways of – so to speak – breaking the pattern.


Clive Wilmer taught English Literature at Cambridge, where he is now Emeritus Fellow of Sydney Sussex College. He published several volumes of poetry; his last works are the complete collection New and Selected Poems (2012) and the prose poems of Urban Pastoral (2014).


Week 5 – Thursday 16 Feb, 12:45-2pm, Seminar Room 3

Patterns in physiology: Prof. Andrew Parker – Pattern Recognition in the Human Visual System

The human eye and its attached nervous system have an extraordinary capacity to pick out patterns in the visual world. In this brief talk, I shall introduce the neural apparatus that performs these tasks, demonstrate the exquisite sensitivity of our visual neurons and explore how we use stereoscopic depth, motion, symmetry and repeated pattern elements to segregate and parse different elements of the visual scene.


Andrew Parker is Professor of Physiology, Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford. He presently holds a Presidential International Fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Week 7 – Thursday 2 March, 12:45-2pm, Seminar Room 3
Patterns in international politics: Dr Simukai Chigudu, ‘Health Security and the International Politics of Zimbabwe’s Cholera Outbreak, 2008-09’

The key debate that I speak to in this talk centres on the question: does the security framing of epidemics actually improve or diminish international attempts to govern them more effectively? This is a pattern widely seen in the international politics of epidemics from SARS to H1N1 to Ebola. I use the case study of the 2008 cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe to evaluate the conceptual and normative value and limitations of the ubiquitous ‘health security’ frame in global health governance.


Simukai Chigudu is a DPhil Candidate in International Development at the Oxford Department of International Development. He has an eclectic academic background having received training in medicine, public health, African studies and international development. Before beginning his doctoral studies, he worked as a medical doctor in the UK’s NHS.


Week 8 – Thursday 9 March, 12:45-2 pm, Seminar Room 3

Mathematical patterns in art: Prof. Jon Chapman,’The Mathematics of Escher’s “Print Gallery”‘.


I will explain the mathematics behind Maurits Cornelis Escher’s print “Picture Gallery”, and show how it can be used to create new Escher-style pictures.


Jon Chapman is Professor of Mathematics and its Applications at Oxford, and fellow of Mansfield College. He directs OCIAM, the Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.



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