St John's College News

  1. Lattes, laptops and listed buildings: College’s new social spaces combine ancient and modern

    "We identified a pressing need for more and better communal space, responding to the ways we now prefer to work, eat, and socialise.”
    How do you move with the times at a Cambridge College, responding to the changing needs of a modern-day community while respecting the fabric and history of a 500-year-old institution? That was the challenge facing St John’s as the College embarked on a landmark project to update the dining spaces to ensure they were fit for the 21st century and beyond. Steered by Heather Hancock, Master of St…read more
  2. Opening of new social spaces transforms 500-year-old tradition of community dining at St John’s

    "A new Buttery, Café and Bar have opened at St John’s to meet the demands of 21st century studying and eating"
    A spectacular new Buttery, Café and Bar have opened today at St John’s College to meet the demands of 21st century studying and eating. The contemporary social spaces set within historic buildings, featuring stylish interiors blending the traditional and contemporary, represent one of the most significant projects so far as the College fulfils its estate masterplan, a 20-year development…read more
  3. Gravy protests, coffee houses and corrupt cooks – digesting the history of student eating at St John’s

    “A raucous two-hour Hall meeting in which students complained about the quality of gravy, beer and pastry and sat on the Steward in protest”
    Mention food and Oxbridge Colleges, and a vision of luxury springs to mind: a parade of apple-stuffed boars’ heads and sides of roast beef, perhaps, punctuated by the occasional elaborately trussed swan. Feasting, it’s true, has historically been woven into the fabric of College life: a means of bringing together scholars for the discourse and sociability that encapsulate the collegiate ideal.…read more
  4. Memorial service to be held for Professor Andrew Wyllie

    Fellow to be remembered in St John’s College Chapel on 04 February 2023
    A memorial service for Professor Andrew Wyllie FRS, FRSE, F.Med.Sci., Fellow of St John’s College and Emeritus University Professor of Pathology, will be held in the College Chapel on Saturday 4 February 2023 at noon. Professor Andrew Wyllie. Credit: Gairdner FoundationProfessor Wyllie FRS, who died on 26 May 2022, aged 78, was part of a team of researchers at the University of Aberdeen who…read more
  5. Eagles, daisies and a mythical beast: new social space graphic designs take inspiration from College’s history

    “The specially commissioned branding, unveiled for the first time, translates classic iconography drawn from the College’s 500-year history into fresh and contemporary form”
    The flick of a raptor’s wing, delicate flower petals and the swivelling horns of a mysterious mythical creature will give a unique new visual identity to a transformed social centre opening at St John’s at the end of January. The specially commissioned graphic designs, unveiled for the first time, translates classic iconography drawn from the College’s 500-year history into fresh and…read more
  6. Scientists invent solar device to convert waste into clean energy

    “We urgently require new innovations for a sustainable future and this work is a real advance in creating a circular economy”
    Plastic rubbish such as single-use drinks bottles could be turned into chemicals to make skincare products after scientists built a sunlight-powered reactor to recycle environmental waste.   In a world-first, scientists can now also convert harmful greenhouse gases into renewable energy using the hand-held solar-powered prototype. The results of the ground-breaking work by researchers from St…read more
  7. Economist who warned world to count cost of declining biodiversity is one of three Johnians awarded New Year Honours

    “The College's emphasis on inclusion, identity and diversity of thought are all qualities which have stuck with me and inevitably played a part in my award.”
    The economist Sir Partha Dasgupta, whose landmark 2021 report into the economics of biodiversity warned that the world faces ‘extreme risk’ because wealth measures fail to take nature into account, is among three Johnians to be recognised in King Charles’ first New Year Honours. Sir Partha, the Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s, is made a Knight…read more
  8. Dyslexia expert to give prestigious annual lecture at St John’s College

    "Breakthrough findings on the way the brain encodes speech rhythm patterns"
    World-leading education expert Professor Usha Goswami, whose pioneering research has revealed that children with dyslexia hear speech rhythms differently, will give the 2023 St John’s Linacre Lecture. The St John’s College Fellow, who is Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience and Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at Cambridge, has revolutionised the global…read more
  9. St John’s College Review of the Year 2022

    Looking back at 2022
    As we say goodbye to 2022, we look back on 12 months in the life of St John’s. From the discovery of two-million-year-old DNA to the story of a trapped cygnet that made national news, it's been a busy and colourful year. December A grammatical problem that has defeated Sanskrit scholars since the 5th century BC is finally solved by Rishi Rajpopat, an Indian PhD student at St John’s: Ancient…read more
  10. Thank you for the music

    "The way Andrew listens and hears music shapes the way he listens and hears people"
    As St John’s College bids farewell this week to Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha, who is taking up the role of Organist and Master of Choristers at Westminster Abbey, he is remembered with enormous fondness. At Andrew’s final Evensong when he led the Choir of St John’s for the very last time, The Rev’d Dr Mark Oakley, Dean of Chapel and Fellow of St John’s, paid tribute... Friends, Well,…read more
  11. Ancient grammatical puzzle solved after 2,500 years

    “A major milestone in the history of human interaction with machines”
    A grammatical problem that has defeated Sanskrit scholars since the 5th century BC has finally been solved by an Indian PhD student at St John’s College. Rishi Rajpopa made the breakthrough by decoding a rule taught by 'the father of linguistics', Pāṇini. The discovery makes it possible to 'derive' any Sanskrit word – to construct millions of grammatically correct words including ‘mantra’ and ‘…read more
  12. ‘Swish’ pop-up clothes swap event comes to St John’s College

    “Swish events reconcile this natural desire for self-expression and creativity with sustainable practices that bring communities to life”
    St John’s is to hold its first ‘Swish’ clothes swap party to encourage sustainable fashion habits among the College community while supporting local charities. ‘Swishing’ is a widely popular style of event that enables you to donate your own good quality, unwanted clothes to swap with others – meaning everyone taking part can recycle and refresh their wardrobe, while taking steps to protect the…read more
  13. Discovery of world’s oldest DNA breaks record by one million years

    “For the first time we can look directly at the DNA of a past ecosystem that far back in time”
    Two-million-year-old DNA has been identified for the first time - opening a ‘game-changing’ new chapter in the history of evolution.  Microscopic fragments of environmental DNA were found in Ice Age sediment in northern Greenland. Using cutting-edge technology, researchers discovered the fragments are one million years older than the previous record for DNA sampled from a Siberian mammoth bone…read more
  14. Exceptional students dedicated to helping others receive prestigious College prizes

    The Larmor Awards recognise ‘intellectual qualifications, moral conduct, or practical activities’
    Seven new graduates of St John’s have been honoured with 2022 Larmor Awards for ‘outstanding’ academic work and contributions to the life of the College. The awards began in the 1940s to recognise ‘intellectual qualifications, moral conduct, or practical activities’ and are named after Sir Joseph Larmor, a 20th-century physicist and mathematician who was both a student and Fellow at St John’s.…read more
  15. New species of tulip discovered in Asia by Cambridge student

    “We really need to understand what species exist before we can work out which ones are in most urgent need of protection”
    Many Europeans are familiar with tulips from Amsterdam but it is a new tulip from Kyrgyzstan that has got hearts and minds racing for conservationists. DNA testing at the University of Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences has found that a tulip discovered in Central Asia is a newly identified species of the flower.  St John’s postgraduate student Brett Wilson is a member of the expedition…read more
  16. UN’s highest environmental honour awarded to St John’s economist

    "I would apologise to future generations, but that's hardly doing anything. Our job is to take dramatic and transformative action"
    A St John’s academic has been named as a United Nations ‘Champion of the Earth’ for his ‘transformative’ work to halt ecosystem damage. Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta was honoured in the Science and Innovation category for his landmark UK government review on the economics of biodiversity, which calls for a fundamental rethink of humanity’s relationship with the natural world to prevent critical…read more
  17. Academic’s exhibition on 16th-century industrial heritage of the Veneto has lessons for today’s innovators

    “Inventors came to make the Venetian Republic a hub of international exchange in new technologies”
    A new exhibition curated by an architectural historian from St John’s College explores the ‘spirit of enterprise’ underpinning industrial buildings of the Renaissance in the stunning region of north-eastern Italy once ruled by the powerful Venetian Republic. Acqua, Terra, Fuoco (‘Water, Earth, Fire’): Industrial Architecture of the Renaissance in the Veneto, curated by Professor Deborah Howard,…read more
  18. Prehistoric chefs’ culinary skills revealed after discovery of ancient charred food

    Flavour was important for Neanderthal and early modern humans up to 70,000 years ago, say archaeologists
    Analysis of the oldest charred food remains ever found has revealed some of the cooking tricks used by early modern human and Neanderthal chefs to make their meals more palatable. The archaeologists also found that prehistoric people had a diverse diet in which plants played a major role. Research has often focused on the importance of meat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers. However, Dr…read more
  19. Introducing ‘Souvient’ – a new Cambridge podcast series inspired by Lady Margaret Beaufort

    “We’re taking listeners behind the scenes at St John’s as we talk to some fascinating members of College”
    St John’s is today launching new podcast series Souvient to intrigue, inform and inspire listeners. In each episode host Heather Hancock, Master of St John’s, will be joined by a notable person from across the St John’s community for lively and thought-provoking conversations about their life and work. St John’s College combines eight centuries of tradition at the University of Cambridge with…read more
  20. Undergraduate takes Snowdon by storm for Charity Week

    “There was a thunderstorm and it was very cold but we made it to the summit”
    Geography student Rayyaan Hector swapped fieldwork for mountain effort when he climbed Snowdonia in Wales in aid of charity, helping to raise a staggering £12,349. The third-year St John’s undergraduate was among around 50 members of Cambridge University Islamic Society (ISoc) on the trek, which took place as part of the annual Islamic Relief UK Charity Week. Rayyaan at the summit of Snowdon. …read more
  21. St John’s College announces Christopher Gray as its new Director of Music

    “In Chris’ hands, the St John’s College Choir will sustain and enhance its reputation for breath-taking musicality and originality”
    ‘Exceptional musician’ Christopher Gray has been named as the new leader of The Choir of St John’s. Gray, currently Director of Music at Truro Cathedral, will conduct the world-famous choir which is renowned for launching the careers of many globally recognised musicians. Under Gray’s leadership since 2008, Truro Cathedral Choir's recent recordings have attracted praise from critics in the…read more
  22. Synthetic biology meets medicine: ‘programmable molecular scissors’ could help fight Covid-19 infection

    “It’s a really exciting and rapidly developing field, with enormous potential”
    Cambridge scientists have used synthetic biology to create artificial enzymes programmed to target the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 and destroy the virus, an approach that could be used to develop a new generation of antiviral drugs. Enzymes are naturally occurring biological catalysts, which enable the chemical transformations required for our bodies to function – from translating the genetic…read more
  23. Postgraduates awarded research prizes

    St John’s students recognised in fields of English, Law and Politics
    Three postgraduate students at St John’s have been awarded prizes by UK and international bodies to recognise and support their research. Lewis Roberts, a second-year PhD candidate and Supervisor in English, has won a Stephen Copley Research Award from the British Association of Romantic Studies. Maxence Rivoire, a second-year PhD student in Law, came first in the Nappert Prize in International…read more
  24. Spotlight on postgraduate research

    “Enjoy the opportunity to hear from our excellent speakers and learn more about their work”
    ‘Innovative and important’ research being done by PhD students at St John’s College will be given the chance to shine at an annual presentation event. The St John’s Postgraduate Research Symposium will see 10 postgraduates from the College give short presentations on their research across a wide range of topics, from tiger conservation and green technologies, to the treatment of depression,…read more
  25. Tributes pour in for historian with generous spirit who loved St John’s

    “Of all the places he lived in the US, Japan, Hong Kong and the UK, St John’s was where he felt so at home”
    A leading historian of China and Fellow of St John’s known for his ‘intellectual energy’ and kindness has been remembered with great affection after his death. Dr Joseph (‘Joe’) P. McDermott died on Sunday 30 October, only days before his 77th birthday, after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in May. The US-born academic, who took his PhD at St John’s in the early 1970s and has…read more