Latest news

Dr Michael Rands installed as Master

Dr Mike Rands

02 Oct 2020

Dr Michael Rands was installed as the seventh Master of Darwin College on 1 October 2020.

He was admitted as Master by Vice-Master Professor Fiona Karet, with Professor Jonathan Heeney (Vice-Master), John Dix (Bursar), Julian Evans (College Secretary), and Tim Milner (Deputy Praelector) in attendance. 

Dr Mike Rands installation
L-R: Prof John Heeney (Vice-Master), Dr Michael Rands (Master), Julian Evans (College Secretary), Prof Fiona Karet (Vice-Master), John Dix (Bursar), Tim Milner (Deputy Praelector).

Dr Mike Rands installation #2

Daniel Kottmann, Darwin College PhD student in the Department of Medicine

14 Oct 2020

Daniel Kottmann, PhD student at Darwin college and the Department of Medicine, recently received an Outstanding Contribution to Education Award from the Cambridge University Centre for Teaching and Learning.

His team was highly commended in the Innovation Practice category for their work with the Cambridge MedTech Foundation, where Daniel substantially contributed to develop the Innovation Programme, an educational programme to introduce students to medical device development. The programme focuses on interdisciplinary collaboration to solve unmet needs in healthcare.

You can find the announcement here

Cambridge to lead national consortium examining immune response to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus

29 Aug 2020

The study is one of three new UK-wide studies receiving a share of £8.4 million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The consortium is a collaboration led by Professor Wilhelm Schwaeble and Professor Jonathan Heeney (co-Vice-Master, Darwin College) at the University of Cambridge, and Dr Helen Baxendale at the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Trust. Read more on the national effort by UK immunologists to understand immune responses to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, here.

Cambridge-developed SARS-CoV-2 vaccine receives £1.9million from UK government for clinical trial

26 Aug 2020

Congratulations to Professor Jon Heeney, co-Vice-Master of Darwin College, and his team at the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics, who have received funding for a collaboration between Cambridge spin-out company DIOSynVax (which is contributing an additional £400,000 to the trial), the University of Cambridge and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust for a vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2 which could begin clinical trials in the UK in late autumn or early next year. Read more on this story here.
The news is also receiving coverage by the media including Reuters.

College message on the explosion in Beirut

13 Aug 2020

College Council met this morning and agreed the following statement:

"The College expresses its deepest sorrow over the tragic destruction in Beirut, and sends profound sympathy to all affected, including current and former Darwin members, and to those who know and love that wonderful city and its people."

13 August 2020

The Life Scientific - Professor Andy Fabian on Black Holes

11 Aug 2020

Professor Andy Fabian, Emeritus Fellow and former Vice-Master of Darwin College is interviewed by Professor Jim Al-Khalili on BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific. Listen to the programme here

Meet the volunteers behind the masks

31 Jul 2020

Dr Iosifina Foskolou, the Evelyn Trust Patrick Sissons Fellow at Darwin College, has been one of those volunteering with Covid-19 testing at Addenbrooke's. Read more about some of the scientist volunteers here

Cambridge research team working towards vaccine against COVID-19

23 Jul 2020

The race is on to find a vaccine against the new COVID-19 coronavirus. Professor Jonathan Heeney, co Vice-Master of Darwin College explains why a cautious approach is needed and how his team is using new technology developed for influenza and Ebola viruses to target the new infection. Read more about the research here. The Department of Veterinary Medicine was also featured on the BBC earlier this week and you can see Professor Heeney and members of his team in the item featured here at minute 11.27.

Richard King

30 Jun 2020

Richard Ashton King CBE 1929-2020

Darwin College is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Emeritus Fellow, Richard King, who died on 28 June. 

Richard had enjoyed a long and successful business career in Cambridge, including as Chair of Aveva Group, Founder and former Chairman of Xaar plc, and Chief Executive of Cambridge Electronic Industries. He was one of the key businessmen in the establishment of the Cambridge Cluster.  He had served as Chair of the Cambridgeshire Health Authority, and as Deputy Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

He was appointed CBE in the 1991 New Year Honours.

Richard was elected a Fellow at Darwin in 1986, and he and his wife Anne have been part of the College family ever since. 

Professor Mary Fowler, the Master of Darwin, said: “Richard was a truly great friend to the College, and his advice and encouragement have enormously benefitted the College over many years.  We are also immensely grateful to him for his many benefactions, which have enabled the College to develop its estate and renew student accommodation.  He was also a generous and enthusiastic supporter of the Darwin College Lecture Series.  Our thoughts are with Richard’s family at this time.”

The flag will fly at half-mast on Tuesday 30 June.

Professor Hugh Mellor

22 Jun 2020

The College is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Professor Hugh Mellor, Fellow of Darwin College 1971-2005.

David Hugh Mellor was born in 1938, and studied Chemical Engineering at Pembroke College Cambridge, before studying at the University of Minnesota, where he took an M.Sc. in 1962, with a Minor in Philosophy supervised by Herbert Feigl. After working in ICI for a year, he returned to Pembroke to do a Ph.D. on the nature of chance, supervised by Mary Hesse. Hugh became a University Assistant Lecturer in Philosophy in 1965, a Lecturer in 1970, a Reader in Metaphysics in 1983 and the Professor of Philosophy from 1986 to 1999. He was a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 2000 to 2001.He was awarded an ScD in 1990, and an Honorary PhD from Lund University in 1997.

Professor Mellor was a Fellow of the British Academy from 1983 to 2008, President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science from 1985 to 1987, President of the Aristotelian Society from 1992 to 1993, and Chairman of the Analysis Trust from 2000 to 2008. He became an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2003.  In recent years he became a generous supporter of Darwin, funding studentships in philosophy - for which the College is profoundly grateful. 

The Master of Darwin College, Prof Mary Fowler, said: "I remember Hugh as a Fellow from my own time in Darwin as a PhD student in the 1970s. It was a real pleasure to reconnect with him over recent years.  He was a greatly-valued member of our community and will be sorely missed."

He had been receiving treatment for lymphoma, and he died on Sunday 21 June at Addenbrooke's hospital.   The College flag will fly at half-mast today. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Brain organoids with the potential to predict drug permeability

12 Jun 2020

Dr Laura Pellegrini, postdoctoral research associate of Darwin College,and member of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, is one of the authors of a paper on Human CNS barrier-forming organoids with cerebrospinal fluid production, published in Science, released 11 June 2020. The press release can be read here.

Message from the Vice-Chancellor:

11 Jun 2020

Darwin College fully endorses the following message from Vice-Chancellor, Steven J Toope:

"Like many members of our community – staff, students and alumni of all ethnicities and backgrounds – I have been deeply disturbed by recent events in the United States, and share a sense of outrage and frustration. The death of George Floyd – and its aftermath – has caused distress to us all, as it is yet another horrible incident in a continuing pattern.

I know that for black members of our community these events create heightened anger and anxiety. Although we are by no means perfect, universities stand for shared opportunity and a fundamental commitment to the creation of knowledge across all barriers of race, language, culture, and background. In the face of intolerance and historically entrenched racism, our community must strive to represent the alternative: openness to all with respectful engagement across our differences. We do not always live up to these aspirations.

But as we witness the social division and deep pain caused by abuse of power and racism, I hope that we will all stand shoulder to shoulder to say ‘Enough. This must change and we are committed to being part of that change.’

​If any student or member of staff has been affected by these events you may wish to seek advice from the University Counselling Service or from the Equality and Diversity Team."

Professor Andy Fabian awarded Kavli Prize

28 May 2020

Professor Andrew Fabian, Emeritus Fellow, former Vice-Master of Darwin College, from the Institute of Astronomy has been awarded the 2020 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, one of the world's most prestigious science prizes. Professor Fabian is one of seven scientists from five countries honoured for breakthrough discoveries in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters today announced the 2020 Kavli Prize Laureates in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. This year’s Kavli Prize honours scientists whose research has transformed our understanding of the very big, the very small and the very complex. The laureates in each field will share $1million USD. Read more on Professor Fabian's award here

Joint statement about the academic year 2020/21 from the Heads of all 31 Cambridge Colleges

26 May 2020

A joint statement about the academic year 2020/21 from the Heads of all 31 Cambridge Colleges, including Darwin College's Master, Mary Fowler.

"As heads of Cambridge Colleges we have been concerned in recent days to see headlines around the world making the claim that Cambridge will be moving entirely online next year. These claims have caused unnecessary alarm to students and our wider community. We are a Collegiate University, and our strength is that so much student activity takes place in Colleges, from small-group teaching and pastoral care to music and sport.

We will always take the latest public health advice and clearly there will be challenges in providing all this in the next academic year. Online lectures will make a key contribution. But we are determined to do our best to bring the Colleges and the University back to life with intensive in-person learning in the traditional locations together with the widest possible range of activities.

Yours,

Jane Stapleton, Master, Christ’s College; Athene Donald, Master, Churchill College; Anthony Grabiner, Master, Clare College; David Ibbetson, President, Clare Hall; Christopher Kelly, Master, Corpus Christi College; Mary Fowler, Master, Darwin College; Alan Bookbinder, Master, Downing College; Fiona Reynolds, Master, Emmanuel College; Sally Morgan, Master, Fitzwilliam College; Susan Smith, Mistress, Girton College; Pippa Rogerson, Master, Gonville & Caius College; Geoff Ward, Principal, Homerton College; Anthony Freeling, President, Hughes Hall; Sonita Alleyne, Master, Jesus College; Michael Proctor, Provost, King’s College; Madeleine Atkins, President, Lucy Cavendish College; Rowan Williams, Master, Magdalene College; Barbara Stocking, President, Murray Edwards College; Alison Rose, Principal, Newnham College; Chris Smith, Master, Pembroke College; Bridget Kendall, Master, Peterhouse; John Eatwell, President, Queens’ College; David Yates, Warden, Robinson College; Mark Welland, Master, St Catharine’s College; Catherine Arnold, Master, St Edmund’s College; Tim Whitmarsh, vice-Master, St John’s College; Roger Mosey, Master, Selwyn College; Richard Penty, Master, Sidney Sussex College; Sally Davies, Master, Trinity College; Daniel Tyler, acting vice-Master, Trinity Hall; Jane Clarke, President, Wolfson College; Michael Volland, Principal, Ridley Hall."

There is further information about the position across Cambridge on the university website:
https://www.cam.ac.uk/coronavirus/news/update-from-the-senior-pro-vice-chancellor-education-regarding-the-academic-year-2020-21

Update on the 2020-21 Academic Year

21 May 2020

Darwin College supports the University’s decision to deliver large lectures online in 2020-21 to protect the health of all students and staff. It will have minimal impact on our postgraduate-only community, as postgraduate teaching is rarely conducted via large lectures. Postgraduate students are mostly taught, or conduct their research, in small groups and/or individually with their supervisors. This will continue, within the health regulations and guidelines for social distancing.

The University's latest statement on the 2020-21 academic year can be found via this link.

Cambridge University Graduates help Hospital Preparation for Pandemic

12 May 2020

Graduates from the University of Cambridge, including George Melman, Darwin College MPhil student, have been combining their skills with the latest simulation software to help Addenbrooke’s predict what resources – such as oxygen, ventilators and beds – it needs to get through the COVID crisis.

The group of students and researchers have been volunteering their time and knowledge to help the hospital make sure it has the right resources in place so it can deliver the best care for patients.

Volunteer George Melman (Darwin College), from the Institute for Manufacturing, explained: “We know the COVID curve has now flattened, but will definitely not go away in the foreseeable future. Further waves of hospital admissions can be expected but in unpredictable shapes and sizes. The team (including graduate student Kaya Dreesbeimdiek and researcher Ajith Parlikad) is making use of simulation software to account for different scenarios and large variability in parameters, such as the length of stay of a patient.”

The data-driven approach helps the hospital to make informed decisions about the equipment it will need to use operating theatres and intensive care units. It will also identify bottlenecks in resources and help the hospital prepare for non-COVID care, such as emergency surgery and elective surgery.

Dr Ewen Cameron, Executive Director of Improvement and Transformation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, said: “We are extremely grateful to the graduates for assisting us. Identifying what resources the hospital needs can be challenging at the best of times and the unpredictability of COVID-19 has made that process even more difficult. Any help we can get to manage our resources efficiently and effectively to help us continue to provide the very best care for patients, is gratefully received.”

Former Darwin student Dr Sudarsanam Babu appointed to key US Administration post

22 Apr 2020

Dr Sudarsanam Babu, who was a Darwin student supervised by Darwin Fellow, Professor Sir Harry Bhadeshia, has been appointed to a key US Administration post. The announcement was made by the White House on 20 April 2020. Dr Babu, of Tennessee, will be a Member of the National Science Board for a six-year term. Full details of this appointment and others can be found here. Photo credit mabe.utk.edu

Council for Science and Technology

16 Apr 2020

Professor Chris Bishop, Fellow of Darwin College, has been appointed by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson to the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST). The members are senior figures from the fields of science, engineering and technology. They are appointed by the Prime Minister, in line with guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Full details of the Council and Membership can be found here

Coronavirus Research

08 Apr 2020

A team of a dozen faculty and PhD students at Cambridge Judge Business School is working with Public Health England and the NHS in the East of England on several projects relating to responding to the coronavirus response. Tom Pape is a Darwin College PhD student, and one of a team of Cambridge PhD students working on a major research initiative in the battle against the pandemic.
Working as a team with Cambridge Judge faculty across several subject groups, students are collaborating on a set of projects relating to the coronavirus response. You can read the news item here.

Professor Jennifer Clack ScD FRS

31 Mar 2020

The College is deeply saddened to report the death of Professor Jennifer Clack, who died on 26 March 2020 after being unwell for some time. 

Professor Clack was one of the world's most distinguished vertebrate palaeontologists, who had made a major contribution to evolutionary biology through her work on the evolution from fish to tetrapods.

She studied in Newcastle before moving to Cambridge as Assistant Curator in the University Museum of Zoology.  She later became a Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology in the Department of Zoology in Cambridge, and was elected a Fellow of Darwin College in 1997 (Emeritus Fellow from 2015).  Her work won her renown from many quarters, and she received several honorary degrees and medals.  She became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2009. 

The College flag will fly at half-mast today (31 March 2020) in respect. 

Additional information on her work can be found on Professor Clack's website 

Global human genome study reveals our complex evolutionary history

19 Mar 2020

A new study has provided the most comprehensive analysis of human genetic diversity to date, clarifying the genetic relationships between human populations around the world. "Studying the patterns of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans hints at the structure of human communities more than 50,000 years ago. It is remarkable that patterns of Neanderthal ancestry are so similar in populations around the world today, and may have derived from a single Neanderthal population," said Dr Aylwyn Scally, a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Genetics who was involved in the study.

Cambridge research team working towards vaccine against COVID-19

18 Mar 2020

The race is on to find a vaccine against the new COVID-19 coronavirus. Professor Jonathan Heeney, co-Vice-Master of Darwin College, explains why a cautious approach is needed and how his team is using new technology developed for influenza and Ebola viruses to target the new infection. "It's a complex process. Right now we have our vaccine candidates in mice and they're generating immune responses to the vaccine," said Prof Heeney.
"We're working around the clock with a team of experts and everybody's collaborative. The sooner we can get a vaccine or therapy out there the better." Read more on the research here.

Inflammation in the brain linked to several forms of dementia

18 Mar 2020

Research led by Professor James Rowe (Fellow of Darwin College, Department of Clinical Neurosciences) suggests that inflammation on the brain plays a larger role in dementia than previously thought. The researchers say it offers hope for potential new treatments for several types of dementia. Read more on the research here.

Idomeni - Waiting for Home

19 Feb 2020

Former Darwin College student, Alki Alevropoulou-Malli, has recently published a book about the Greek refugee crisis. Written in both English and German, this documentary photo-book aims to document and tell the story of those trapped in the refugee settlement of Idomeni, along the Greek-North Macedonian border, in 2016. Using a combination of photographs, stories & direct quotes from residents as well as sociological findings, the authors provide insight into the daily life of people living in the camp and their constant fight for their voices to be heard, while advocating for the more dignified and humane treatment of Europe's displaced communities. This project is supported by the Initiative Minderheiten Tirol and has been published by Mandelbaum Verlag.The book can be ordered directly and 10% of proceeds of the book sold directly through this website will be donated to charities still active in Greece.

How is the Fanconi Anaemia pathway activated to remove DNA lesions?

19 Feb 2020

DNA holds the instructions our cells need to grow, develop, divide and, eventually, even to die. This information is fragile and it can be damaged by toxic agents such as sunlight or chemicals (cigarettes, alcohol, etc.). Normally, our cells can cope with these hazards, but if the damage is not repaired correctly, it can cause a range of diseases including cancer. Using electron cryo-microscopy, Dr Pablo Alcón, Darwin College Research Associate, and Dr Shabih Shakeel from Dr Lori Passmore's group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology have visualized the structure of the activated FANCD2-FANCI complex (D2I).

A specific type of DNA damage known as inter-strand crosslinks are repaired by the orchestrated action of proteins of the so-called Fanconi anaemia (FA) pathway. The molecular mechanism of FA pathway activation has been a long-standing question. This step requires the attachment of ubiquitin, a 'protein tag', onto FANCD2. Intriguingly, FANCD2 seemed to be unable to accommodate this tag, due to its interaction with another protein, FANCI.

The results show that DNA itself is the key element that permits the ubiquitination, and that D2I acts as a molecular clamp: D2I grasps DNA, and this reveals the specific site where ubiquitin is inserted. Interestingly, this work also suggests that the role of ubiquitin is not so much to signal the damage directly, but to tightly lock D2I onto the DNA. Then, D2I will recruit enzymes that will excise the damaged DNA, allowing its repair.

The article can be read in nature.com/nsmb and on the news article from Cancer Research UK.

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