St John's College News

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. Trapped cygnet avoids swan song after firefighter rescue

    ‘When cygnets are six months old, parents cut ties with them and chase them away, sometimes quite aggressively’
    A swan got into a flap when it nestled in a narrow drainpipe on the side of The Old Library at St John’s College and promptly got itself stuck.  The juvenile swan was spotted by a student who was working in the computer room of the Library and he reported it to the College porters.  Steve Poppitt, Head Porter, said: “The trapped cygnet was given time to see if it would be able to free itself…read more
  15. A telling life

    ‘Creative writing is the mining of one’s own personal sensations and experience in order to create language that is convincing, elegant, intelligent’
    Prize-winning poet and author Vona Groarke has joined St John’s College as the new Writer in Residence. She is available to all students and to staff for one-to-one meetings and workshops about writing poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Ahead of the publication of her 13th book, Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O’Hara, she tells us about the value of creative writing, Covid’s impact on…read more
  16. Professor Ashoka Mody gives the Hinsley Memorial Lecture 2022

    College’s 22nd lecture entitled ‘Viewing Economics through a Moral Lens’
    The 22nd Hinsley Memorial Lecture was given by Professor Ashoka Mody, Charles and Marie Robertson Visiting Professor in International Economic Policy at Princeton University, on Tuesday, 18 October 2022. The lecture is entitled Viewing Economics through a Moral Lens and took place in the Old Divinity School at St John’s College. Listen to the lecture below or follow this link.   The Hinsley…read more
  17. Academic finalist in Vice-Chancellor’s Awards

    "The nominations... reflect the huge efforts and strong commitment of each of you to make a real difference to people’s lives"
    A Fellow at St John’s College has been recognised in the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Research Impact and Engagement 2022 for improving understanding of high-cost credit and the cost-of-living crisis. Dr Jodi Gardner was named a runner-up in the Established Academic category at the awards ceremony held yesterday (6 October) in the Old Divinity School at St John's College. Academics from across…read more
  18. Interim Director of Music to lead The Choir of St John’s

    “Stephen is an exceptionally experienced choral director and I know that the Choir, College, and our congregations, will all benefit from his skill, wisdom and warm humanity”
    One of the UK’s leading choral conductors has been appointed to temporarily direct The Choir of St John’s. Professor Stephen Darlington MBE was Director of Music and Tutor in Music at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1985 to 2018.  Previously he was Master of the Music at St Alban’s Abbey and Artistic Director of the world-famous International Organ Festival. Stephen will take up the post in Lent…read more
  19. Three world premieres to take place at St John's

    “It is very important for each generation of church musicians to keep refreshing and adding to the repertoire”
    Acclaimed composer Jonathan Dove has written a new service for The Choir of St John's in memory of the College's late Master, Professor Sir Christopher Dobson.  The new setting of the evening canticles will become an important addition to the repertoire the Choir performs in their evensong services.  The St John's service is ones of three world premieres taking place at St John's this term and…read more
  20. Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture 2022

    Public talk on ‘Black Holes, Thermodynamics and Information Loss’
    The 16th Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture, entitled Black Holes, Thermodynamics and Information Loss, will be given by Professor Robert Wald from the University of Chicago. A black hole is a ‘region of no escape’ produced by the complete gravitational collapse of a body. Black holes occur in nature and are of considerable importance in astrophysics. Black holes are also extremely important as…read more
  21. Hinsley Memorial Lecture 2022

    Professor Ashoka Mody will give the lecture, ‘Viewing Economics through a Moral Lens’
    The 22nd Hinsley Memorial Lecture will take place on Tuesday 18 October and will be given by Professor Ashoka Mody, Charles and Marie Robertson Visiting Professor in International Economic Policy at Princeton University, USA. The lecture is entitled Viewing Economics through a Moral Lens and will take place in the Main Lecture Theatre in the Old Divinity School, St John’s College, at 5.30pm.…read more
  22. Tributes paid to stalwart of College community

    “He was a really outgoing, fun character, always making people laugh”
    A popular former member of College staff has died at the age of 62. Peter Noble, a Building Services Labourer in the Maintenance Department at St John’s, retired from the College in April after 17 years’ employment and died on Wednesday 28 September from cancer. Tim Waters, Head of Capital Projects at St John’s, said: “Pete was a very much loved member of the College and especially within our…read more
  23. Memorial service to be held for PhD student Jonathan Gilmour

    Postgraduate to be remembered at College Chapel service
    A memorial service for Jonathan Gilmour, a postgraduate student who died in April, will be held in the St John’s College Chapel on Saturday 5 November at noon.   Jonathan, who first came to St John’s as an undergraduate in 2005 to study Theology and Religious Studies, has been described as a ‘shining light’ in the College community for more than a decade. The 35-year-old had Duchenne Muscular…read more
  24. Discover life at St John’s College at Cambridge Open Days

    “This is a real opportunity for people who are planning to apply to Cambridge to find out what it is like to live and study here”
    St John’s is throwing open its gates for University of Cambridge Open Days on 15 and 16 September to give a real flavour of what it is like for undergraduates to live and study in the College. Following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8 September, the University of Cambridge has taken the decision that the Cambridge Open Days will go ahead. The Colleges of the University…read more
  25. Act of Remembrance at St John's College for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

    “The Queen remained an antidote to raw political power by embodying loyalty, service, the human touch and that quiet dignity on which true relationship and transformation is built”
    An act of remembrance and thanksgiving for the life of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was held at noon in St John's College Chapel today (Friday, 9 September 2022). The brief service included a reading by Heather Hancock, Master of St John 's College, prayers, two-minute silence, music from The Choir of St John's and the following introduction by The Rev'd Dr Mark Oakley, Dean of Chapel…read more