Smelly Science

We had our 23rd PubhD Nottingham event last night – and it was also our two year birthday.

PubhD 2nd Birthday

We had three fantastic speakers (Helen Drew, Andy Chick and Sam Morley) talking about subjects as diverse as History, Forensic Entomology and Mathematics. Fascinating talks, very entertaining Q&As.

I wanted to share an anecdote provided by Andy.

But first, some background.

Andy is researching Forensic Entomology – “the application and study of insect and other arthropod biology to criminal matters”. Basically, using insects such as blue bottle flies, and the eggs they lay, to establish an approximate “time of death” of a person – or more accurately, the minimum length of time a body has been lying around in, say, some woodland.

Andy Chick - Forensic Entomology

Andy Chick – Forensic Entomology

Andy’s specific area of research is to investigate if smoking effects the estimates of time of death. Nicotine is known to be an insecticide. If a person was a smoker, does this need to be taken into account during the calculations?

The best human analogue for these types of experiments are pigs. Pigs are similar to humans in many ways (fat content, body mass, hair-to-skin ratio, etc), which makes them the ideal for forensic experiments. Andy’s experiments involved essentially injecting nicotine into (already deceased) pigs that were not fit for consumption. He then observed them over many days to see if the nicotine changed the behaviour of insects, their eggs and their young.

During the Q&A and I asked the obvious question: how smelly was this work?

And here comes the anecdote. Apologies to any sports scientists…

Andy and his colleague shared a lab with the sports science department. As you can imagine, there were a lot of complaints from the sports scientists. The smell. The flies. The smell. The flies. The rotten sticking pigs. The flies. The smell. It was bad.

One day Andy returned to the lab to see another massive argument was in progress between his colleague and one of the sports scientists. Andy arrived just in time to witness his colleague scream:

You know what that smell is? It’s the smell of real science!


Two new PubhDs start this month! Introducing PubhD Norwich and PubhD Birmingham

Exciting times! PubhD Norwich and PubhD Birmingham have just been added to the (growing) list.

PubhD Norwich’s first event is on 26 January 2016 at The Cellar House, which is near the University of East Anglia. PubhD Norwich is being run by Victoria MacDonald and Grahame MacDonald, who conveniently own The Cellar House!

You can find details about their first speakers at

PubhD Norwich

PubhD Norwich

And on 27 January 2016, PubhD Birmingham kicks off. Their first event is at The Victoria pub, which is near New Street Station. PubhD Birmingham is being organised by Emma Dunne and Katie Oliver.

You can find details about the topics of the first event at

Event logo

How’s PubhD going? Very well!

I realised that this blog has not had any posts recently, so I thought I’d write something. New PubhD Logo-200x200-by Barbara Griffin

PubhD is still going strong, and is still spreading to other cities.

At Nottingham we’re fully booked to July 2016. July 2016! We can’t give concrete dates for events beyond that as we have to wait for the football fixtures to be announced in June 2016 (we don’t like to hold an event on the same day as a football match as the pub gets very busy pre-match and makes it difficult to prepare the room ahead of our event). Any speakers that want to speak in August 2016 and beyond can still contact us to leave their details and we’ll get back in touch when we have firm dates.

PubhD Nottingham - we have an average attendance of about 40. Standing room only when 60 people attend!

PubhD Nottingham – we have an average attendance of about 40. Standing room only when 60 people attend!

PubhD Leicester have their 11th event next month and is booked up into 2016. They’re full to February 2016 and have just booked a speaker for May 2016. Get in touch if you want to speak in Leicester.

Recent additions to the PubhD family include Manchester, Dublin and Brighton. Contact details can be found on this page if you’d like to attend or speak.

Karolina Badzmierowska presenting at PubhD Dublin

Karolina Badzmierowska presenting at PubhD Dublin

PubhD speakers only have access to a whiteboard - no Powerpoints allowed! (Image from PubhD Brighton)

PubhD speakers only have access to a whiteboard – no Powerpoints allowed! (Image from PubhD Brighton)

And we’ve finally broken out of the British Isles. PubhD Lisboa now exists!

Pubhd Lisboa

Pubhd Lisboa

They had their first event last week and the organiser, Sérgio Pereira, said:

The first PubhD Lisbon was a success! More than 20 people came to the event and engaged in a lively conversation. The speakers just loved it.

Want a PubhD in your city? They are easy to set up, speakers love speaking at them, and the audience loves hearing about the research happening on their doorstep. Get in touch – we can answer your questions, provide some tips and advice and and hopefully help you get going.