St John's College News

  1. Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture 2023

    Public talk on ‘Illuminating the Dark Universe with Gravitational Waves’
    The 17th Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture, entitled Illuminating the Dark Universe with Gravitational Waves, will be given in Cambridge by Professor Alessandra Buonanno, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics based in Potsdam, Germany. The public talk will take place on Tuesday 14 November 2023 at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge. For centuries, humans…read more
  2. Poster competition helps prospective Cambridge students shed light on their academic passions

    “I was delighted with both the number and the quality of entries this year”
    A competition to design an academic poster saw 125 young people from 90 UK schools take up the challenge laid by down by St John’s College on the theme of ‘dark’. Ten sixth-formers have been awarded National Book Tokens as prizes after their research projects impressed the judging panel made up of Fellows, Directors of Studies and other academics, chaired by The Rev’d Dr Mark Oakley, Dean, tutor…read more
  3. Designs of pioneering architect reveal Modernist ideas for rebuilding post-war Germany

    “The main focus of the curatorial process was on identifying the stories the drawings tell, and conceal, and not the tangible reality they shaped” 
    A major exhibition about the architectural drawings from the studio of the ‘Father of Modernism’ has opened in Berlin after being curated by a new Fellow of St John’s College. ‘Alvar Aalto in Germany: Drawing Modernism’ focuses on the German projects of Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto (1898-1976), the Finnish pioneer of modern architecture and design whose work included buildings, furniture, textiles,…read more
  4. Dean and ‘voice for the voiceless’ honoured with Doctorate

    “I have been interested over many years in how the arts, and especially poetry, can help us listen, speak, and think less thinly”
    The Rev'd Canon Dr Mark Oakley, Dean of Chapel and Fellow at St John’s College, has today been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Chester in recognition of his championing of education and human rights. Dr Oakley received an Honorary Doctor of Education during a day of graduations featuring more than 150 graduands from the University Centre Shrewsbury who descended on St Chad’s…read more
  5. Two new portraits join College Hall of fame

    “The most successful portraits are not just about the likenesses but they actually say something about the subject themselves”
    For hundreds of years students and Fellows of St John’s have enjoyed communal dining in Hall seated beneath portraits of distinguished members of College. Now an official portrait of Heather Hancock, the first female Master of St John’s College, has joined the gallery adorning the wood-panelled walls along with a new painting of Professor Jane Heal, philosopher and St John’s Fellow who served as…read more
  6. Don’t panic! New exhibition gives peek into the improbable world of Douglas Adams

    “We don’t know how much time Adams spent in the Library at St John’s but we’re delighted that his papers made their way to us”
    The historic Old Library of St John’s is hosting a special exhibition about the life and genius of Douglas Adams, College alumnus and late author of cult sci-fi comedy franchise The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. ‘Improbabilities: A Douglas Adams Exhibition’ takes place on 15 and 16 September as part of this year’s free Open Cambridge festival of history and culture. Curated by Dr Adam…read more
  7. The Ancient Greek philosopher who can still surprise after 2,400 years

    “However many times you’ve read one of Plato’s texts, you always notice things you didn’t spot before”
    Plato’s ingenious ability as a writer is the focus of a new book by a world-renowned academic of ancient philosophy. Known as the father of Western philosophy, Plato (427-347 BCE) was a student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle in Athens, Ancient Greece. There he founded the Academy, the first ‘school’ of philosophy, where vigorous discussion of all manner of topics took place. Plato’s most…read more
  8. Girls talented in maths spend summer school at St John’s College

    Camp aims to encourage more women to consider studying Mathematics at Cambridge
    A group of teenage girls from the UK and across the world have discovered what it is like to study Mathematics at Cambridge during a free residential summer camp at St John’s College. The 16 to 18-year-olds took part in Women in Mathematics, which was held to encourage more women to consider applying to study maths at Cambridge. Featuring lectures and workshops run by Cambridge academics,…read more
  9. Fellows’ Butler rocks silver service at St John’s College

    “It’s an unusual job and a traditional role but I love it as every day is different”
    John O’Sullivan is just as at home behind a keyboard as he is behind a serving platter in a career at St John’s spanning 25 years. When not supervising Fellows’ lunches in the historic St John’s Combination Room or polishing the College silver, the Irish-born Fellows’ Butler – who marks his silver anniversary at St John’s on 27 July – is keyboard player in local rock band Common Ground. The…read more
  10. Unborn babies use ‘greedy’ gene from dads to ‘remote-control’ mums into feeding them extra food

    “It’s the first direct evidence that a gene inherited from the father is signalling to the mother to divert nutrients to the fetus”
    Fetuses use a copy of a gene inherited from their dad to force their mum to release as much nutrients as possible during pregnancy, Cambridge scientists have discovered. The unborn baby ‘remote controls’ its mother’s metabolism so the two are in a nutritional tug of war. The mother’s body wants the baby to survive but needs to keep enough glucose and fats circulating in her system for her own…read more
  11. Painting of Lady Margaret Beaufort smuggled to Cambridge to protect it from King Henry VIII’s henchmen unveiled

    Lady Margaret’s original facial expression in the portrait had been painted over and changed to be made more ‘pious and sombre’
    A painting of Lady Margaret Beaufort, matriarch of the Tudor dynasty and grandmother of King Henry VIII, has gone on display at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery after a painstaking restoration project.  The ‘extremely rare’ 16th-century painting, owned by St John’s College, is the earliest large-scale portrait of an English woman and one of the earliest large-scale portraits of a…read more
  12. Academic wins European Heritage Award for ‘unprecedented’ study

    “Each winning achievement is the result of extraordinary skills and commitment spanning heritage places and traditions across Europe”
    An architectural historian from St John’s has won Europe’s top heritage award for her ‘inspiring’ research. Professor Deborah Howard is among 30 winners in the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2023 for her study into the architectural heritage of industrial development of the Veneto, Italy, in the 16th-century, which was described by judges as ‘unprecedented’. The awards, funded…read more
  13. Archbishop of Canterbury confers education and scholarship award upon Dean of Chapel

    The Rev’d Dr Mark Oakley is honoured for building bridges between the Church and poets ‘with enormous energy and skill’
    The Rev’d Dr Mark Oakley, St John’s College Dean of Chapel, has been presented with a prestigious award for ‘outstanding’ education and scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Lanfranc Award was conferred upon Dr Oakley by The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby during a ceremony and reception at Lambeth Palace in London on 22 June 2023. The presentation, which was also…read more
  14. Clean, sustainable fuels made ‘from thin air’ and plastic waste

    “We can cut out the fossil fuel industry from the process of fuel production, which can hopefully help us avoid climate destruction”
    Researchers have demonstrated how carbon dioxide can be captured from industrial processes – or even directly from the air – and transformed into clean, sustainable fuels using just the energy from the sun. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, developed a solar-powered reactor that converts captured CO2 and plastic waste into sustainable fuels and other valuable chemical products.…read more
  15. College gets Platinum sustainability award for third year in a row

    “Each year it’s exciting to see the strengthening of our evidence for different elements of our submission”
    St John’s has been awarded the highest accreditation in the University of Cambridge Green Impact scheme for the third time. The annual programme supports and encourages departments and Colleges across the University to act collectively to reduce their environmental impact and to implement different sustainable policies that lead to positive change. The Platinum Colleges accolade awarded to St…read more
  16. The risk taker who jumped from Big Pharma – and never looked back

    “I'm not fazed by carving my own path. I never felt that being a woman has held me back in any way”
    A willingness to take risks, resilience and a “can-do attitude” are the keys to success for the Johnian woman who became UK president of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca – then walked away to rescue a struggling biotech start-up. In the latest episode of the new St John’s podcast Souvient, Lisa Anson explains the thrill of working for Redx Pharma, a small cancer drugs developer she joined after…read more
  17. Rather be at St John’s

    “I really like meeting and interacting with people so the community side of College life really appeals to me”
    A new Domestic Bursar has started at St John’s to oversee the operational management of the College. Alison Cox spent the best part of 30 years at Sir Robert McAlpine where she rose through the ranks of the construction company, progressing from student engineer to managing director of the London unit with responsibility for a £750m budget and 800 staff. The Oxford graduate talks about what…read more
  18. Reasons to be cheerful: the scientist pioneering solar technology to tackle the climate crisis

    “Today I am a huge optimist. The fact that wind – even offshore – and solar are cost-comparable against fossil fuel for new electricity generation is a miracle”
    In the latest article of our series focusing on energy, we profile Professor Sir Richard Friend, Fellow of St John’s, whose research is transforming the efficiency of solar cells, dramatically boosting the prospects of cheap electricity powered by the sun. In an age when efforts to reverse the climate crisis are fraught with challenges, Professor Sir Richard Friend – physicist and expert on…read more
  19. Winners revealed in Student Art & Photography exhibition 2023

    Nearly 100 entries in this year's competition showcasing creative skills
    Talented winners and runners-up in the 2023 St John’s College Student Art and Photography Competition have been announced. Submissions in the form of photographs, paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, jewellery and digital films were invited for this year’s competition, which was open to all Junior Members of College in residence, with prizes of up to £200 offered. The…read more
  20. Lifetime honour for Fellow recognised by Royal Irish Academy

    Pioneer in study of medieval Irish history, literature and language awarded Ireland’s highest academic honour
    A pioneering academic at St John’s College has been formally admitted as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), Ireland’s leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities. Professor Máire Ní Mhaonaigh was elected to the Academy with 27 other new members chosen for their exceptional contributions to the sciences, humanities and social sciences, and to public service. She…read more
  21. A life extraordinary: meet Chris Gray, new Director of Music at St John’s

    Cambridge is a very cerebral place where people spend a lot of time in their frontal cortex, as it were, but music can speak to your heart
    Christopher Gray has joined St John’s as the new Director of Music, having led Truro Cathedral Choir and bringing it international acclaim. An exceptional musician, Chris tells us about climbing trees with the choristers, being on Britain's Got Talent and the secret to what makes The Choir of St John’s so magical. You started at St John’s at the beginning of Easter Term, how did you break the…read more
  22. Delving into the archives: energy in days gone by

    Accounts reveal a centuries-old struggle to fend off the Fenland cold and bring light and warmth to the lives of the St John’s community
    The mental image of the shivering student in a freezing garret, peering at his books by candlelight, is perhaps as old as scholarship itself. But how true a reflection is it of life at St John’s in the days before central heating and electricity? As the College takes steps towards more sustainable energy consumption, and addresses the wider theme of energy in an online series of articles, a dip…read more
  23. Fellow elected to German National Academy of Sciences

    Pioneering plant scientist ‘humbled’ by her achievement
    Professor Uta Paszkowski, a Fellow of St John’s College, has been elected a member of the Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Sciences. Professor Paszkowski is leader of the Cereal Symbiosis group at the Crop Science Centre – a coalition between the University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany Trust (NIAB) – and College Director…read more
  24. Driving on sunshine: clean, usable liquid fuels made from solar power

    An important step in the transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy
    Researchers have developed a solar-powered technology that converts carbon dioxide and water into liquid fuels that can be added directly to a car’s engine as drop-in fuel.   The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert CO2, water and sunlight into multicarbon fuels – ethanol and propanol – in a single step. These fuels have a high energy…read more
  25. Musicians from St John’s shine during ‘magnificent’ showcase of British talent at King’s Coronation

    “It was an extraordinary and joyful experience to be chosen to direct the music for the Coronation”
    An impressive array of former choristers, composers and clergy from St John’s College took part in the spectacular Coronation Service of HM King Charles III and Queen Camilla in Westminster Abbey. People taking major roles include Andrew Nethsingha – Director of Music at St John’s from 2007 until December 2022 – who directed the music throughout Saturday’s service, watched by millions of people…read more