About Us

This page is about the people who are behind the blog. If you want to know about the blog itself, check out the F.A.Q., read this introduction post, or contact us at trenchesofdiscovery@gmail.com. We are also part of the Collective Marvelling blog network. You can go here to see who is in the network and how it works (or read our post that introduced the network here).

James Felce

I started my scientific career at Oriel College, University of Oxford, where I read Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry as an undergraduate. It was there that my interest in the molecular processes of life was able to develop into an informed passion for the subject. In 2009 I began working towards my D.Phil at St Cross College, also in Oxford, within the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine. Whilst it may not seem like it to people outside the field, my current work is actually quite distinct from my undergraduate studies in that I am the sole biochemist amongst a hell of a lot of immunologists and cell biologists. Far from being detrimental, I've found the cosmopolitan atmosphere to being extremely useful for getting opinions from specialists in different fields and for bouncing ideas off a number of people. This is one of the reasons why I am excited by the prospect of this blog and the potential for sharing ideas and opinions with an ever wider and more varied audience.

As present, my work focuses on the organisation and dynamics of protein receptors within the membranes of living cells. Specifically, I am studying the organisation of G protein-coupled receptors, an immensely large and important family of receptors that, amongst other things, allow your eyes to read this blog, your brain to understand it, and your heart to speed up in excitement over all of the interesting things you've read! I also look at the structure and dynamics of the T Cell Receptor, which is vital for protecting you against all manner of horrible pathogens and the lack of which leaves you in a nasty state. More information about my and my lab's work can be found on our website.

Aside from science, I'm a keen sportsman and represent Oxford University at both Water Polo and Triathlon. I like to get out on the golf course whenever I can and try and get a few marathons under my belt each year. I'm originally from Southport in northern England and try to get back there whenever I can.

I'm now back in New Zealand. I currently live and work in Auckland at the University of Auckland. Before that I was based in Brighton, England and before that Helsinki, Finland. I study Cosmology and High Energy Physics. I did my doctorate at Oxford University which I finished August 2010. I grew up here in Auckland, New Zealand. My undergraduate degree was also here at the University of Auckland.

My doctorate concerned the very early stages of the universe's history (or at least the part of it we can make any inferences about). It involved studying bits of the theory known in cosmology as inflation. Inflation is supposed to do many things, but one of them is to provide the expansive force that basically set the big bang going. However since moving to Helsinki, and now Sussex, I have done work more related to the current universe. This has involved studying galaxy clusters and very large over and under-densities in the universe. The motivation is still to learn things about the early stages of the universe, but now by studying the relics of the big bang, rather than the causes of it. You can look on my postdoctoral work as something like a forensic scientist studying the remnants of an explosion to try and piece together what the explosives were that caused it. The early universe stuff is definitely more hard-core, but the late universe stuff has been more rewarding.

I don't run marathons, but I have recently started to try running, a little. I do play water polo though. I've played now for teams in NZ, the UK and Finland. If I could have one superpower it would be to be able to write about myself without feeling awkward. Outside of doing research, trying to keep fit and thinking I should be blogging more often I also help to run the Life Beyond School programme.

Michelle Menzies

I live and work in Wellington, New Zealand, Chicago, U.S., where I’m also a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago (ABD in the lingo). I study media aesthetics—a contemporary topic that, to my mind, implies an investment in both theory and practice, because it is oriented to the actual existence of culture in the world.

My research moves between methodologies and objects in English literature (my home department), cinema and media studies, Continental philosophy (particularly phenomenology, the Frankfurt School and French post-structuralism), and art history. My undergraduate degree was a conjoint BA/BFA from the University of Auckland. My graduate training has been very enabled by Chicago’s tradition of rigorous interdisciplinarity, the company of amazing peers and inspiring mentors, and the intellectual intensity for which Hyde Park is rather ambiguously notorious. But art school in Auckland was the really formative environment where I learned how to work collaboratively and manage ‘making’ and ‘conceptualizing’ as fundamentally related activities: a perpetual back and forth, in which each fuels the other.

The topic of my dissertation is the persistence of the aesthetic in a world saturated by new media. I try to find a historically and critically nuanced vocabulary for the emerging field of digital aesthetics by tracing its oft-denied history through both mass culture and high culture, and by locating the status of the virtual in a longstanding phenomenological tradition. I love theory, but works of art are recalcitrant, with their own logic and language. As a critic I privilege close formal analysis and an attention to the realities of cultural history.

Despite the immersion I do read for pleasure, go to the movies, and enjoy a good cocktail. I miss the sea am happily reunited with the Pacific, and am toying with the idea of turning surfer.

I moved home to N.Z. in mid-2012, to a curatorial position at a University art gallery: very much a space between theory and practice. I've left this bio more or less intact since it speaks accurately to the research impetus of this project.