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St John's College News

  1. ‘I’ve known for a long time how fragile life is – the rest of the world is just catching up’

    “Having a disability does not mean that the doors of the world’s top universities are closed to you – I have thrived at St John’s”
    When seven-year-old Jonathan Gilmour started bumping into things and falling over, his family initially thought he was going through a clumsy phase. But tests discovered that Jonathan has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Jo Tynan spoke to the award-winning postgraduate student about his life and where he thinks the Covid-19 virus began. “I remember being held down as the doctors did tests with…read more
  2. From digging up news to putting down new roots

    "The setting at St John’s is something else – the river, the buildings, the Courts, the history and the space"
    As David Austrin takes on his new job as College Head Gardener, he tells Karen Clare how his passion for plants saw him divert to the career path that has brought him to St John’s. David Austrin calls himself ‘a classic career changer’. “I was a journalist for 10 years. I was a radio producer at the BBC in a previous life, but I got green fingers in the mid-noughties and started studying…read more
  3. Seeking lockdown solace in art

    "This adventure taught me that some things may seem impossible, but it may still be worth trying to do them anyway"
    Feeling Zoom-weary? Dr Vivienne Westbrook, Lady Margaret Beaufort Visiting Fellow at St John’s, may have the answer. She has produced a video telling the inspirational story of how she has learned to paint during the Covid-19 crisis. Now she hopes her film will help others find creative solutions to their own lockdown blues. Dr Westbrook, who is a cultural historian, was teaching in Kazakhstan…read more
  4. ‘Exceptional’ postgraduates from US named as new Gates Cambridge Scholars

    "I aim to continue investigating how universities can become bastions that reduce - and not reproduce - socioeconomic inequities and promote social good"
    Two ‘extraordinarily impressive’ postgraduates from the United States are set to be welcomed into the St John’s community later this year as part of the Gates Cambridge Scholars programme, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The Gates Cambridge Trust has selected 24 academically outstanding and socially committed US citizens as part of its class of 2021 at the University of Cambridge. The…read more
  5. Stargazer and Fellow of St John’s dies aged 85

    “Roger Griffin transformed the way that stellar radial velocities were measured and his work is fundamental to the way black holes and extrasolar planets are evidenced to this day"
    The award-winning astronomer Professor Roger Griffin, who spent his career studying starlight, has died.  Professor Roger Francis Griffin, BA, PhD, ScD, Fellow of St John’s College 1962-1965 and again from 1972, and Emeritus Professor of Observational Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, died on 12 February 2021, aged 85. The scientist is credited with developing the method that is now…read more
  6. Fellow connects with her roots with election to German National Academy of Sciences

    Neuroscientist Professor Usha Goswami CBE has been elected as a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. The Leopoldina was founded as a scholarly society in 1652 in Schweinfurt, Germany, and is the oldest continuously existing academy of natural sciences and medicine in the world. In 2008, it was appointed as the German National Academy of Sciences and currently has a…read more
  7. The Roman ‘influencer’ whose voice still speaks to us in troubled times

    “Cicero lived in the most extraordinary times, comparable with our own"
    The key political ideas of the famous Roman orator Cicero are as topical now as they were 2,000 years ago, says a leading expert on ancient philosophy. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC) was a scholar, lawyer and politician whose prolific writings form one of the greatest bodies of literary and philosophical work in classical antiquity. His letters and speeches tell us about the final chaotic…read more
  8. Function identified of ‘mystery protein’ that kills healthy brain cells of people with Parkinson’s

    “To cure Parkinson’s we need to understand the function of a protein present in everyone’s brains - this research is a vital step towards that goal"
    Scientists have made a ‘vital step’ towards understanding the origins of Parkinson’s Disease – the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. A study published in Nature Communications today (Wednesday 10 February) presents compelling new evidence about what a key protein called alpha-synuclein actually does in neurons in the brain. Dr Giuliana Fusco, Research Fellow at St John’s…read more
  9. Creative writers on route to success encouraged to apply for Harper-Wood Award

    Funding up to £15,200 available for 2021 creative writing and travel award
    Talented wordsmiths are invited to apply for the St John’s College Harper-Wood Creative Writing and Travel Award for English Poetry and Literature 2021. The award was introduced by the Cambridge College in 1949 and previous holders include Thom Gunn, Michael Hofmann, Giles Foden, Amit Chaudhuri, Gaby Wood, Caitríona O’Reilly, Sarah Howe, Isabella Hammad, Erin Soros and Vahni Capildeo. The…read more
  10. Professor set to reveal findings of Government report into the importance of Nature for global economies and prosperity

    Sir Partha will present a new economic framework, grounded in ecology and Earth Sciences
    A report led by a St John’s academic into how a better understanding of Nature can help us build resilient economies and achieve sustainable prosperity for all is set to be launched at The Royal Society. Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics and Fellow of St John’s, is head of the HM Treasury’s independent global review on the economics of biodiversity – the…read more
  11. New state school access programme will help students on their journeys to university

    "This programme will help you get into university. It will teach you how to make a successful application and give you the skills you need"
    A pandemic-beating access scheme to help GCSE and A-Level students on the path to a place at a competitive university is being launched online today. The new St John’s College Link Area Webinar Programme offers sessions to support high-achieving state school students in choosing the right course and university for them, and taking their first major strides towards making a strong application.…read more
  12. ‘Rosetta Stone’ of the internet could help researchers finally solve puzzle of ancient Minoan language

    "It’s an extraordinary piece of detective work"
    Huge strides have been made towards deciphering a ‘mysterious’ Greek script that could transform our knowledge of a Bronze Age civilization. Known as Linear A, the ancient script from Crete appears on some 1,400 inscriptions, most of which are on clay tablets dating back to c1800-1450 BC, during the island’s flourishing Minoan era. A later prehistoric Greek script called Linear B was cracked in…read more
  13. Male butterflies mark their mates with a repulsive smell during sex to ‘turn off’ other suitors

    "The males want to pass their genes onto the next generation and they don’t want the females to have babies with other fathers so they use this scent to make them unsexy"
    Butterflies have evolved to produce a strongly scented chemical in their genitals that they leave behind after sex to deter other males from pursuing their women – scientists have found. Researchers discovered that a chemical made in the sex glands of the males of one species of tropical butterfly is identical to a chemical produced by flowers to attract butterflies. The study published in PLOS…read more
  14. Student graduates as Millennium Fellow of United Nations scheme

    "Student leaders have been part of a movement positively impacting the lives of people in 20 nations this year"
    Undergraduate Amy Bottomley has ‘graduated’ as a Millennium Fellow of an international leadership programme focused on United Nations goals. The St John’s English student was one of 10 ‘extraordinary’ Cambridge undergraduates to be awarded a Millennium Fellowship by United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and Millennium Campus Network (MCN) last summer. Millennium Fellows are appointed worldwide…read more
  15. Cambridge University Foundation Year to ‘transform lives’ with new route to undergraduate study for disadvantaged students

    “Students will be drawn from a range of backgrounds, the common link being that their circumstances have prevented them from realising their academic potential"
    A Foundation Year offering talented students from backgrounds of educational and social disadvantage a new route to undergraduate study was launched by the University of Cambridge today (13 January 2021) – and St John’s College has signed-up to take part in the pioneering scheme. One-year course offers talented students who don’t meet usual entrance requirements a new pathway to a Cambridge …read more
  16. ‘Mary Wollstonecraft wasn’t a killjoy’ – says author of new book on the trailblazing writer

    “She was both passionate and highly critical when she so chose, but she was also able to revise her views"
    A new book by a St John’s historian paints a richly rounded picture of the writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, aiming to restore her to her rightful place as a major thinker of the 18th century. In Mary Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics, Sylvana Tomaselli throws light on the less salient side of Wollstonecraft, known as the pioneer of English feminism – famous for her…read more
  17. Green by name and Green by nature: memories of a Head Gardener

    "More than half of my lifetime has been spent at St John’s and I feel like this is my garden"
    Head Gardener Adam Green has retired from St John’s after 35 years at the College. He spoke to Louise Hanzlik about his colourful career, from catching foxes and presenting lilies to the Queen, to building snowmen in the Scholars' Garden. Adam Green's first day back after the Christmas break was also his last day as Head Gardener at St John's. In his final few weeks in the job, we chatted about…read more
  18. Queen’s New Year Honour for St John’s academic

    Professor Usha Goswami made a CBE for services to educational research
    World-leading education expert Professor Usha Goswami has been made a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours. The St John’s College Fellow is one of four researchers from the University of Cambridge recognised in the 2021 honours for their outstanding contributions to society. Professor Goswami, Director for the Centre for Neuroscience in Education, and Professor of Cognitive Developmental…read more
  19. Pioneering academic wins European grant for new research into protein failures underlying disease

    “This funding not only empowers bright minds from across Europe but also helps train the youngest generation of researchers”
    A St John’s biophysicist at the forefront of research into the causes of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s has won a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), while a pioneering chemist has been awarded funding towards commercially developing a process that sustainably turns waste into hydrogen. Professor Tuomas Knowles receives a share of a €655 million funding…read more
  20. National leadership award for postgraduate environmentalist

    "This award recognises the serious work in the College regarding sustainability initiatives and tackling the climate emergency"
    St John’s College ‘sustainability star’ Jessica Tearney-Pearce has won a national student award for her green leadership skills. Jessica has been named winner of the Student Leadership Green Impact 2020 National Special Award by Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK), an educational charity created by the National Union of Students (NUS) in response to the climate emergency and…read more
  21. Extracurricular work sees students honoured for supporting and improving education

    "The support and solidarity that students with experience of intermission can offer one another is invaluable"
    Two students at St John’s have been recognised by the University of Cambridge for their outstanding contribution to improving the education of their peers. Emily Winson-Bushby, a second-year undergraduate reading Natural Sciences, was selected as a winner in the category of Peer Support of the Outstanding Student Contribution to Education Award (OSCEA) run by the University’s Cambridge Centre…read more
  22. From Pulp to Fictions: Fellow’s new book uncovers England’s cultural history of paper

    "The moment Medieval people found ways of making paper, they found new ways of using it"
    A St John’s academic is rewriting the story of how paper transformed Medieval England. Dr Orietta Da Rold, an expert in Medieval literature and manuscripts, has examined the coming of paper to England during the Middle Ages, and its influence on the culture and society of the period, in her new book, Paper in Medieval England: From Pulp to Fictions. In the book, she explores the early uses of…read more
  23. Developing in new directions

    "The Telethon gives alumni the opportunity to talk to and interact with current students and vice-versa, it’s a really great way of connecting the community"
    Running the annual Telethon campaign from a kitchen table is not how Amy Reeve, Head of Annual Giving, usually raises money for student support at St John’s. But this year the 35-year-old and her colleagues in the Development Office have shifted key events and fundraising activity online to keep our alumni community in the loop with life at the College during 2020. As part of our series of…read more
  24. Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture 2020

    Infinite Phase Space and the Two-Headed Arrow of Time
    The fourteenth Andrew Chamblin Memorial Lecture, entitled Infinite Phase Space and the Two-Headed Arrow of Time, will be given by Professor Alan Guth (MIT). Andrew Chamblin was a brilliant theoretical physist, who passed away suddenly and tragically in 2006. He studied twistor theory and global methods in general relativity with Professor Sir Roger Penrose at Christ Church, Oxford in 1991-92,…read more
  25. Pioneering biologist wins Prize for mother and baby research that aims to improve life-long health and wellbeing

    “The Prize money will bolster my lab’s capacity to undertake research that explores the causes of pregnancy complications”
    A ‘cutting-edge’ biologist from St John’s College has been awarded a top academic Prize for her ground-breaking research into the causes of complications in pregnancy that lead to poor health for mothers and their children. Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri has won the Hans Sigrist Prize, which recognises an academic researcher or scientist who has done exceptional work in an annually selected research…read more