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Northern Temperament Projects Launch

James Cusack

Programme Directors: Doctor Isobel Cameron and Professor Peter Davidson welcomed all those invited to their start up meeting on 1 February 2013, in the Sir Duncan Rice Library, Aberdeen University.

By early 2013 all PhD students and a post-doctoral fellow commenced work in the programme and were welcomed and introduced to the programme team.

Dr Arnar Arnason gave a presentation relating to anthropological methods.

Professor Helen Macdonald detailed the methods relating to measurement of Vitamin D, light exposure and health.  This meeting included following presentations: 

  • Investigating facial expression using automated measurements - Dr James Cusack
  • Reconsidering the tonality concept by increasing the understanding of intonation and tonal variation in traditional singing - Ms Kristin Borgehed
  • Anger in Iceland: an example of anthropology of emotion in the North - Dr Arnar Anason
  • The Health benefits of UV light and vitamin D - Professor Helen MacDonald

Dr James Cusack (Research Fellow in Psychiatry) has been developing protocols, seeking out potential funding schemes and validating methods for computerised analysis of facial expression. He has also made collaborative links with academics in facial expression research at the University of Tampere, Finland.

Ms Kristin Borgehed (PhD student with the Elphinstone Institute) has made a great start to her PhD studies with fieldwork in Sweden, Estonia and Poland, and is made 10-minute presentation to the group.

Ms Sophie Dietrich (PhD student in the History of Art) has been orienting herself by reading literature in her field. 

Ms Gemma Matthews (PhD student with the Psychiatry Group) has been orienting herself by reading literature in her field. 

Earlier a meeting was hosted on 4 May 2012 in the Psychiatry Clinical Research Centre, Royal Cornhill Hospital with  Dr Isobel Cameron, Professor Peter Davidson and Dr Tom McKean who gave brief presentations to introduce the team to research methods used in the fields of History of Art, the Elphinstone Institute and in Cultural psychology and psychiatry respectively.

A second meeting on 6 September 2012 held in the Department of History of Art, allowed Dr Justin Williams to give presentations on fields of facial recognition and imitation research with Advaith Siddharthan detailing computational techniques in sentiment analysis.

These meetings will continue quarterly, with the hosting venue rotating round different colleges to allow members of the team to directly conduct research within the programme and to report on progress. It will also give PhD students an opportunity to develop presentation skills and receive feedback.

It is also their intention to conduct annual meetings where we will invite members of the three other North programmes and members of the North Board.

The runner-up applicant for the art-history PhD studentship (awarded to Sophie Dietrich) was an able young Scottish visual artist who proposed an innovative doctoral project, partly practice-based.  A residency and exhibition may be arranged for her, within the programme.

Chief Scientist Office Doctoral Training Fellowship was secured for Nooreen Akhtar: An investigation of how patients, public and stakeholders perceive and interpret information about antidepressants in UK newspapers. Principal supervisors: Cameron IM, Siddharthan A, awarded £108,500. September 2012.

Professor Helen Macdonald was successful in securing funding from the Rank Prize Funds on the topic: Effects of dietary-derived Vitamin D and sunlight-derived Vitamin D on immune function.

Professor Peter Davidson jointly organised a public event, for which the Director of the North Project gave the opening plenary: A Festival of Walking, Writing and Ideas. (29-29 August) This brought the well-known writers Andrew Greig, Robert Macfarlane and Raja Shehadeh to the university, as well as the contemporary artist Tim Brennan. There were sessions which focused particularly on the experience of walking in northern territories and on the writings about the Cairngorms of the Aberdeen writer, Nan Shepherd. The event was well-attended, and there was much lively discussion with an informed and engaged audience.

Links continue to be strengthened between the Northern Temperament programme team and academics with expertise in the study of culture and depression (Dr Andrew Ryder, Concordia University, Montreal and Dr Yulia Chentsova, Georgetown University, Washington). A teleconference is planned for February. Dr Cusack is building collaborative links with Professor Jari Hietanen at the University of Tampere and he also visited Dr Bernie Tiddeman at the University of Aberystwyth.  This visit was extremely valuable for plans for the development of computer vision and machine learning methods for the automated analysis of facial expression.  Ms Borgehed continues to build links for her fieldwork across Northern Europe

The Institute of Northern Culture at the University of Lapland visited the University of Aberdeen, and the opportunity was taken to form a tentative link with the institute, with a view to potentially creating a scientific exhibition.  This visit will help increase the research output within our research programme.

Final negotiations are in progress for Professor Peter Davidson to be appointed to a visiting Professorship at the University of Stockholm, visiting for three weeks per annum for an initial period of five years. This initiative is being supported by Stockholm and the University of Aberdeen and is intended to strengthen links with leading universities in Scandinavia and open up possibilities for funding applications in northern Europe.

Dr Isobel Cameron and Dr James Cusack attended a knowledge exchange meeting (on 1 October).  Since then, an ongoing dialogue has been initiated with Ken Skeldon (Public engagement unit), and exploratory proposals have been formed with a view to ensuring the programme has wider impact. 

Author: Jill Barber


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