College bulletin: 17 May

Normally we frown upon naked men being found in the gardens but when it is a rare orchid, we can make an exception – read on to find out more about this special discovery. 

And don’t miss yet another photograph of the Northern Lights making College look even more spectacular than usual.

College news

Rare ‘Naked Hanging Man Orchid’ reveals itself at St John’s

A protected orchid that looks like a naked man has caught gardeners by surprise in the grounds of St John’s College.

Full story


'Exceptional’ scientists join Royal Society Fellowship

Two alumni and a former Fellow of St John’s College have been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

Professors Tamsin Mather and Frank Nimmo both first arrived at St John’s as undergraduates in the 1990s while Professor Laura Herz was appointed a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the College in the early 2000s.

They were among 90 ‘exceptional’ researchers from across the world to be elected to the society, which is the UK’s national academy of sciences. Recognised for their invaluable contributions to science, Royal Society Fellows are leaders in their fields.

Professor Mather is now Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, Professor Nimmo is Professor of Planetary Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, USA, and Professor Herz is Professor of Physics at Oxford.

Read the full list of new Fellows

Congregation in Chapel tomorrow

Please be aware that there is a large event taking place in College, and the College Chapel on Saturday 18 May. This may mean that some areas of College will be noisy – particularly New Court (from around 9.30-11am) and Chapel Court (from 11am-12.30pm). If you are taking exams, or revising in College, you may wish to find somewhere quieter during these times.

Students launch Freecycle project

A student ‘Borrowbridge’ team has set up a Freecycle project for College members to give away, borrow, share or sell unwanted items.

First-year Engineering student Lisa Milne, one of the organisers of the group, which is supported by Cambridge Zero, said: “Give away carrots that go out of date soon, sell old May Ball dresses, get rid of stuff from your fridge before term ends, or request to borrow a board game.”

Seventeen people who post on the St John’s College Freecycle Facebook page before Thursday 23 May 2024 will be randomly chosen to win a voucher for Jack’s Gelato. 

St John’s writers enjoy a spell in New York

Three ‘generations’ of authors from St John’s swapped stories of holding the College’s Harper-Wood Creative Writing and Travel Award when they met in New York recently.

Mukahang Limbu, the current Harper-Wood Award-holder, lunched with his predecessors Lucy Thynne (2022-2023) and Madeleine Pulman-Jones (2021-2022) in the Big Apple. “I had a wonderful time,” said Mukahang. “It was three generations of Harper-Wood, and it was really interesting hearing about their projects and travels.”

The Harper-Wood Creative Writing and Travel Award for English Poetry and Literature was established in 1949 to inspire an undertaking of creative writing by making it possible for the recipient to engage in relevant, project-related travel and study for one academic year.

Applications for the 2024-2025 awards have closed.

Harper Wood holders
Mukahang, Maddie and Lucy in New York. 

PhD student to lecture at leading congress about heart health 

Rob Fletcher, a postgraduate student at St John’s, is to present a lecture at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in September about his PhD work on the modern epidemiology of heart failure.

The event is taking place in London and online between 30 August and 2 September 2024. Rob, who is in the second year of his PhD, will give his lecture on 2 September during the Advances in Science session. He said: “It’s been my dream for a long time to present at this conference so I’m really happy.” 

He is currently visiting collaborators at The George Institute for Global Health in Australia, where he will be running the Noosa Half-Marathon in Queensland in aid of Cancer Research in memory of people he has lost to the disease. He welcomes donations via his JustGiving page.

Poulets lose out on penalties in spectacular final

A close-run competition saw St John’s lose 4-5 to Catz in the men’s football Cuppers Final last Friday in extra time, after the game went to penalties. Commiserations to the Poulets who fought valiantly to try to bring home the trophy, having reached the final for the first time in a decade.

Chance to nominate St John’s athletes for Sports Awards 2024

The University of Cambridge Sports Awards are now inviting nominations.

The annual awards celebrate students’ sporting achievements across Cambridge in the last 12 months. This year’s categories include ‘College Team of the Year’.

Among last year’s winners were St John’s MPhil student Jordan Mubako for achieving a high level in Rugby Union, athletics and basketball, and Cambridge University Amateur Boxing Club, captained by College medic William Tan, for its historic Varsity victory.

Nominations are open now and the winners in all nine categories will be announced at an awards ceremony on Monday 17 June.

What’s on


Student Communion – Sunday 19 May, 8.30am

Students are warmly invited to attend Holy Communion. Stick around after this half-hour service for a subsidised cooked breakfast in Hall.

Sung Eucharist – Sunday 19 May, 10.30am

The Sung Eucharist will be sung jointly by the College Choir and the Choir of Sidney Sussex College. Music will be by Tallis and Rheinberger and the service includes the admission of Choristers.

Organ recital – Sunday 19 May, 6pm

Tim Parsons of St Edmundsbury Cathedral plays Alain, Blatchly, Messiaen, Beethoven and Duruflé. Organ recitals are open to all, admission is free.

Evensong with sermon – Sunday 19 May, 6.30pm

This week’s sermon in the ‘Brave New Worlds’ series will be delivered by The Rev’d Dr Duncan Dormor, General Secretary of USPG. He will address the future of Christian Mission.

The service includes a canticle setting by Howells, O give thanks unto the Lord by MacMillan, and an organ voluntary by JS Bach.

For all other regular services, see the Chapel webpage

Other events

Art and Photography Exhibition – runs until Thursday 13 June, weekdays only, 9am-5pm

Library Exhibition Space.

All the entries in the 2024 Student Art and Photography Competition are on display from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The competition has closed and the winners will be announced in due course.

Open to all College members, admission free.

Discussion on green economics, trade and geopolitics – Monday 20 May, 1.30pm

Main Lecture Theatre, Old Divinity School.

The St John’s College and Trinity College Economics Societies have partnered with Prometheus on Campus, an educational charity, to hold an interactive event with a panel of interdisciplinary speakers discussing green economics, trade and geopolitics.

Coffee and cake will be available. Admission free, open to all, no booking required.

Aquila rehearsal – Tuesday 21 May, 5.15-6.45pm

New Music Room.

Aquila is a friendly a cappella singing group for female students, Fellows and staff. It welcomes new members – no audition is necessary, simply drop in to one of its Tuesday evening rehearsals to try before joining. The choir is rehearsing for the May Concert.

Talk: The History and Development of Cambridge University – Tuesday 21 May, 6pm

Main Lecture Theatre, Old Divinity School.

A presentation by the Senior Tutor, Richard Partington, for College postgraduates, Fellows, Visiting Fellows and their guests. Part of the Sans Frontières programme.

Admission free, no booking required.

Old Library opening – Wednesday 22 May, 2-4pm

Enter via E staircase, Second Court.

View manuscripts and rare printed books from the collections in the Upper Library. Requests for material to be exhibited can be emailed to Special Collections

Open to College members and their guests. Admission free, no booking required.

Wellbeing walk – Thursday 23 May, 3pm

Meet at the Great Gate.

A weekly opportunity to enjoy some gentle exercise and being outside. Walks go to Stourbridge Common, along the Backs and around Lammas Land.

The day of the walk alternates between Tuesdays (2pm) and Thursdays (3pm). If it is raining heavily, the walk will be cancelled, if rain is light just bring an umbrella or raincoat. For queries email Karen, Health & Wellbeing Nurse.

Pre-Dinner Lecture: The South Sea restructuring of 1720 – Thursday 23 May, 6.15pm

Lightfoot Room, Old Divinity School.

Dr François Velde, Beaufort Visiting Fellow, will present a talk about a famous episode in British and financial history as part of this term’s pre-dinner lecture series showcasing new avenues of research.

The lecture will be followed by questions from the audience and drinks in Central Hall.

Open to Fellows, affiliates and postgraduate students and their guests. Admission free, booking not required.

Workshop: ‘Stress Management in Real Time’ – Friday 24 May, 2-3pm

Lightfoot Room, Old Divinity School.

Workshop presented by neuroscientist and wellbeing coach Bianca Armitage of Live Brighter Now.

Open to St John’s undergraduates. Apply for a place by emailing the College’s Health and Wellbeing Centre. Places are limited so it you are registered and cannot attend, please inform the Health and Wellbeing Centre so another student can join the workshop.

Please note the finish time is now 3pm, not 4.30pm as previously stated.

Palaeography for beginners – Friday 24 May, 3pm

Via Zoom.

Weekly sessions for anyone interested in reading handwriting from c1500-c1700, using documents from the College’s institutional archives. Sessions are informal and aimed at beginners, or those with a little experience who wish to practise their skills.

Sessions are held on Fridays at 3pm and take place online using photographs of the documents. If you are interested in joining, please email the archivist, Dr Lynsey Darby

Open to all, admission free.

Save the date

Musical Heritage from Aleppo with Ibrahim Muslimani – Tuesday 28 May, 3-5pm

Main Hall, Old Divinity School.

Ibrahim Muslimani, an expert in Syrian traditional music, is giving a lecture demonstration on classical Arabic songs (muwashshah) and rhythms. Mez Dubois-van Slageren, a PhD candidate at King’s College London, will give an introductory presentation on Arabic musical heritage. All enquiries to Dr Jacob Olley, College Research Associate.

Admission free, open to all, no booking required.

Pre-Dinner Lecture series talk – Tuesday 28 May, 6.15pm

Main Lecture Theatre, Old Divinity School.

Talk given by Dr Diala Lteif, College Research Associate in History, followed by drinks in Central Hall. Lecture title to be announced.

The pre-dinner lecture series continues on 4 June with biophysical chemist Dr Kadi Saar, a College Fellow, and on 11 June with Dr Anastasia Stylianou, Munby Fellow in Bibliography and a Visiting Fellow at St John’s.

Open to Fellows, affiliates and postgraduate students and their guests. Admission free, booking not required.

Cheese and wine tasting – Wednesday 29 May

Wordsworth Room.

Open to College postgraduates, Fellows, Visiting Fellows and their guests. Part of the Sans Frontières programme. Further details to be confirmed.

Postgraduates Dine with Fellows – Wednesday 5 June, 7.30pm


Open to College postgraduates. Attendance at Postgraduates Dine with Fellows events is restricted to one per academic year.

Free, limited places, register via Upay.

Tour of the College gardens – Wednesday 12 June

A tour of the College gardens by members of staff from the gardening team. The tour will focus on sustainability.

Open to College postgraduates, Fellows, Visiting Fellows and their guests. Part of the Sans Frontières programme. Maximum 15 people. Further details to be confirmed.

May Concert – Monday 17 June

May Ball – Tuesday 18 June

And finally

Many people were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights over St John’s last Friday night including sixth-year medic Firnaaz Mohideen, who captured these celestial shots.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights