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St John's College News

  1. Presidency in a pandemic

    “I always say the academic pressure at Cambridge is worth it because you also get all the good bits, but we knew this term was going to be difficult”
    In January when Candela Louzao Carabel became Co-President of the JCR (Junior Combination Room), the student-elected committee that represents undergraduates at St John’s College, she was looking forward to a fresh challenge and a fun year, the chance to ‘make a difference’. Then the pandemic struck, students went home, and all her plans went out the window. In our latest pandemic story from St…read more
  2. Academic from St John’s honoured to be elected Fellow of British Pharmacological Society

    “Through their leadership, and contribution to Society life, they inspire and support members at earlier stages of their career or study”
    A biomedical research scientist from St John’s has been elected a Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society for his inspiring work. Dr Graham Ladds is one of 32 members of the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) to be awarded a 2020 Fellowship for demonstrating distinction and peer recognition in pharmacology. Twelve Honorary Fellows were also elected by the BPS, which is the leading UK…read more
  3. Undergraduates’ mentoring social enterprise takes off

    “We’ve moulded our organisation to fit into a post-pandemic landscape"
    A St John’s undergraduate has co-founded a non-profit organisation to help disadvantaged students successfully navigate the Cambridge and Oxford admissions process in light of the pandemic. Kavi Mehan, a third-year geography student, has helped to set up The Oxbridge Launchpad (TOL) partly prompted by the Covid-19 crisis, which has disrupted the education of state school students across the UK…read more
  4. New online exhibition puts vital work of pandemic service engineers in sharp focus

    “I am totally in awe of these human beings who were saving lives in the best way they knew how - through their engineering skills and talents”
    The work of University of Cambridge engineers honoured for their exceptional dedication to fighting Covid-19 is being highlighted in a new virtual photography exhibition. A group from the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) led by Professor Duncan McFarlane, a Fellow at John’s, was one of 19 awardees to receive The Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Award for Pandemic Service in…read more
  5. Putting in the work

    “We do a lot of lifting – we get muscles on our muscles!”
    Robert Petch is a Gyp, a College handyman and part of the backbone of the workforce at St John’s, who help to keep life functioning behind the scenes. Here he tells us of his experiences during the first lockdown, as part of our pandemic series of stories from St John’s. I’ve been at St John’s 15 years now, working as a Gyp. We basically move furniture and other bits and pieces around the…read more
  6. 'Exceptional’ climate change academic from St John’s awarded rare honour

    Election to Fellowship is ‘icing on the cake’
    A marine geologist from St John’s has been made a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a rare honour from a leading international organisation that promotes discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. Professor I Nick McCave is an expert in deep sea sedimentation and the geological record of climate change in the deep ocean, and is one of 62 new AGU Fellows…read more
  7. New access programme empowers black STEM state school students to achieve academic goals

    “Outstanding black students need to know Cambridge welcomes students of all backgrounds and gives them the academic environment to thrive"
    Black state school students hoping to pursue careers in STEM subjects will be supported by a partnership launched today by St John’s College and Generating Genius. The new STEM @Cambridge access programme will guide able black students from non-selective secondary schools in London through applications and interviews at the University of Cambridge and other Russell Group universities, to give…read more
  8. ‘My tears are tears of joy because I cannot believe how lucky I am to have survived Covid-19’

    ‘I only remember being asked if I consented to having a tracheotomy and then I slipped into very vivid dreams, some included being looked after back home at John’s’
    For 45 years St John’s has been Professor Peter Johnstone’s home and he was a familiar sight in College - until March when he was hospitalised with Covid-19.  For several weeks Peter was kept alive by a ventilator and the prognosis was bleak. He tells Jo Tynan about his brush with death during the coronavirus pandemic.  Peter Johnstone starts our interview by telling me not to be embarrassed if…read more
  9. Tales from the Library

    "I like books, I like the smell, the touch, the feel of them"
    When the nation first went into lockdown, Janet Chow, Academic Services Librarian, was determined the Library team at St John’s College would give students the best support available, even if it was virtual. By the time students arrived in Michaelmas term, the Library had fully adapted to meet the challenges of Covid-19 to keep its services accessible – and safe. Next in our series of pandemic…read more
  10. Postgraduate’s debut book examines dream metaphors in English and Chinese writings

    “East-West literature comparisons have been made before but this is the first time I know of that these themes have been explored in this way”
    A dream has come true for a PhD student at St John’s who has transformed her Master’s thesis into a published book. Flavia Xi Fang’s debut book, La luna nell’acqua: metafore oniriche tra la letteratura cinese ed europea, has been published in Italy, where she studied for her Master’s, and in English means Moon in the Water: dream metaphors in Chinese and European literature. The third-year…read more
  11. Lessons from austerity - how to address national debt and inequality

    “We need to ensure that it's not the most vulnerable people who can afford it the least that suffer"
    A new interdisciplinary book that brings the inequalities created by austerity into sharp focus recommends ways to build a fairer society in the aftermath of the pandemic. Debt and Austerity: Implications of the Financial Crisis was published on Friday (13 November). Dr Jodi Gardner, Director of Studies for Law at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, is one of the editors and writers of…read more
  12. The best of all worlds

    "I really do love this job because I get to have the kids all day, and then I get to come into College and have adult conversations and be inspired by the people and surroundings"
    Sebastian Brimblecombe, Evening Porter and husband of Dr Jodi Gardner, a Fellow at St John’s, is on parental leave following the birth of their fourth daughter last lockdown. The first male employee in more than 500 years of College history to do so, he is blazing a trail for dads, even more so during the pandemic. In our latest story from the Covid-19 crisis, he talks College life, kids, and how…read more
  13. Planning permission granted for Community Hub Development

    "The Community Hub will enhance Second Court as the social centre of the College and encourage the opportunity for interdisciplinary interaction"
    A plan to transform the social space around the 17th century Second Court at St John's College has been given the go-ahead by Cambridge City Council. The Community Hub Development in Second Court has been granted planning permission and Listed Building Consent. It will mean the existing Buttery dining room, which was built in the 1970s, will be demolished and replaced with new dining facilities…read more
  14. Discovery of shape of the SARS-CoV-2 genome after infection could inform new Covid-19 treatments

    “Our team of scientists helped solve a fundamental puzzle about how SARS-CoV2 works"
    Scientists at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Justus-Liebig University, Germany, have uncovered how the genome of SARS-CoV-2 - the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 - uses genome origami to infect and replicate successfully inside host cells. This could inform the development of effective drugs that target specific parts of the virus genome, in the fight against Covid-19. This…read more
  15. Raising the bar

    "The catering staff have made a huge contribution to people’s wellbeing; we are always here, come rain or shine, that’s what we do"
    Jason Barker, the Bar Manager at St John’s, could often be found pulling pints before the pandemic, but the Covid-19 crisis saw him step out from behind the pumps to turn courier, shopkeeper and even counsellor. In our latest pandemic tale, he reveals how the Catering team is working hard to provide a safe port in the storm. Before I joined the College in January 2017, I worked in the pub…read more
  16. Keeping house in a pandemic

    “We look after the bedmakers, and they look after the students”
    Belinda Peat is Forecourt Senior Supervisor in the Housekeeping Department at St John’s and worked in College throughout the lockdown, supporting students and Fellows still in residence as Covid-19 fastened its grip on the outside world. In our latest pandemic story, she tells us why our housekeeping staff are at the heart of life at St John’s. I’ve been here 32 years and I love this job. I…read more
  17. Silver medal awarded to St John’s physicist for ground-breaking work in quantum technologies

    The Thomas Young Medal and Prize is presented for distinguished contributions to optics
    A world-leading scientist from St John’s has been awarded a medal and prize from the Institute of Physics for his contribution to advancing the understanding of light. Professor Mete Atatüre has won the 2020 Thomas Young Medal and Prize for his pioneering contributions to quantum optical phenomena in semiconductors and diamond, creating ‘exciting applications’ in quantum technologies. The…read more
  18. New scheme to encourage more BAME students to apply to university

    "By collaborating, we’re able to put our energy into some really great progressive programmes that can be well-targeted to individual groups"
    St John’s has joined forces with other Cambridge Colleges to help equip young people from underrepresented ethnic groups in the UK with the information and skills to apply to selective universities. The Colleges are working together on the year-long ClickCambridge programme to provide two different streams of webinars: one for Year 10 black and mixed heritage black students, and the other for…read more
  19. Tributes paid to Professor Chris Abell who has died aged 62

    “We are devastated by the shocking news of the death of Chris Abell, our warm, wise friend. He has long been held in the greatest esteem”
    Professor Chris Abell, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and an alumnus of St John’s College, has died suddenly at the age of 62. Professor of Biological Chemistry and Todd-Hamied Fellow of Christ’s College, Professor Abell FRS, FMedSci, was a pioneer in the field of fragment-based drug discovery, a successful entrepreneur, a founding director of Cambridge Enterprise, and the…read more
  20. Books, babies and breastfeeding

    "I submitted the manuscript to the publishers just after 11pm on 30 April and I had my new baby daughter a few hours later"
    Dr Jodi Gardner, Director of Studies for Law at St John’s, had a remarkably busy time in lockdown. She finished two new books with three young daughters at home, taught classes online, and gave birth to her fourth child. As part of our series of pandemic stories from St John’s, she tells us how she did it. One of the best things about teaching at St John’s is the connection you have with your…read more
  21. Writer-in-residence nominated for £25,000 prize

    “We were unsettled, captivated and compelled. Poetry is the most resilient, potent, capacious and universal art we have”
    A book by Sasha Dugdale, St John’s College writer-in-residence, has been shortlisted for the most valuable prize in British poetry. Sasha is one of 10 poets in the running for this year’s £25,000 TS Eliot Prize for collections of poems that the judges said ‘unsettled, captivated and compelled’. Her book, Deformations, was published in July and features poems themed around the creation and…read more
  22. Molecular biologist honoured for PhD findings

    “His fundamental discovery is of broad importance and impact”
    An ‘exceptional’ young scientist has been given an international award for new discoveries he made in mammal cell biology while a postgraduate student at St John’s. Dr Patrick Chitwood is one of just six biologists worldwide to receive this year’s International Birnstiel Award for Doctoral Studies in the Molecular Life Sciences from the Research Institute of Molecular Biology (IMP) in Vienna, in…read more
  23. Dining room to Old Divinity School

    "When students turn up to start their courses, there is a sense of completion and fulfilment, because that's the real aim of the whole admissions process"
    In the second article in our series of pandemic stories from St John’s, Ross Agnew, Undergraduate Admissions Administrator, talks about starting a new job during lockdown, navigating the A-Level results crisis, and the unexpected silver linings for Cambridge Admissions. April was a strange time to begin a new job. I had just done my final weeks in the Cambridge Admissions Office, where I was…read more
  24. Library tiling inspired by work of Nobel Prize-winner Sir Roger Penrose

    All calculations must be done by hand, which would put off most people, but the tiles were invented purely for fun by Sir Roger
    'Ingenious' Professor Sir Roger Penrose, alumnus and Honorary Fellow of St John's, has just won a Nobel Prize for Physics for his research on the formation of black holes, but did you know that he also designed a mathematical tiling system? Known as Penrose tiling, it shows what is known as fivefold symmetry and an example of the tiling decorates the floor at the entrance to the Library at St…read more
  25. Room where D-Day landings were planned has lockdown refurbishment

    “The Normandy Invasion may seem a million miles from the sedate atmosphere of the Combination Room of St John's but for three days at the end of March 1944 the room played a very significant role in the preparations for the Landings”
    Army officials planned the D-Day landings in the Senior Combination Room at St John’s College – now 76 years later the oak floor of the historic room has been returned to its 17th century roots. The 93ft Senior Combination Room on the first floor of Second Court was a key location for planning the D-Day landings because its lengthy floor space was ideal for poring over maps. The D-Day combat…read more