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Department of Life Sciences Newsletter
September 2017
DoLS Newsletter Archive
DoLS Committees & Initiatives
DoLS Committees & Initiatives
Health & Wellbeing
The way that some bacteria produce the materials that form 'biofilms', which help them evade antibiotic attack, has been uncovered by scientists. The latest finding could eventually lead to new ways of getting around antibiotic resistance and help in making new, biologically inspired nanomaterials. Lead researcher Professor Steve Matthews, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Biofilms make bacteria more resistant to antibiotic attack and discovering more about their assembly will open new avenues for tackling antibiotic resistance." Find out more here.
Sexually aroused male flies are unable to sleep after close encounters with females. The team, led by Dr Giorgio Gilestro, used equipment they designed themselves to video and monitor the flies constantly for signs of sleep, courtship and sleep deprivation. While the same exact mechanisms are unlikely to be at work in humans, Dr Gilestro thinks that a lot of what they observe in fruit flies is applicable to higher animals: “Sleep is a fundamental process for all animals, and many of the results the community has obtained with fruit flies have been replicated in other animals, including mammals and humans." Find out more here.
Birds' unique skulls linked to young dinosaur brains. Dr Arkhat Abzhanov said: “The skulls and brains of birds are dramatically different from those of adult non-avian dinosaurs and other reptiles, and we can show that these differences reflect how birds evolved to become species of forever-young dinosaurs." This study was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The team discovered that in birds, this change in the brain-skull relation never occurs, and the roof of the skull continues to match brain shape throughout development. In other words, birds retain their original embryonic brain and skull configuration into adulthood. Find out more here.
New research overturns the idea that keeping cool controls leaf size with latitude, instead finding that resisting frost damage is the main driver. Until now, leaf size was thought to be determined by a balance between trying not to overheat and the amount of available water. Leaves keep cool by the evaporation of water from their surface, but if there isn’t enough water they heat up – and large leaves heat up more than small leaves. Prof Colin Prentice said "The most surprising result was that over much of the world the maximum size of leaves is set not by the risk of overheating, but rather by the risk of damaging frost at night." Find out more here.
Suggestion Box

The Department of Life Sciences is committed to becoming a place to work and study that is inclusive and supportive.
We want to enable everyone in the department to help us in achieving that goal.
If you would like to make suggestions or raise issues relating to gender balance, diversity and inclusion, please visit our NEW online suggestion box. 
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Alain Filloux has been awarded a £486,413 BBSRC research grant entitled “A bacterial c-di-GMP responsive enzyme modulates LPS structure and triggers immune evasion”.

Giovanni Sena has recently received affiliation with the prestigious Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University (Boston, USA). As part of the Center's program "Reading and Writing the Morphogenetic Code", Giovanni's lab at Imperial has been awarded with a research grant for USD 98,000, to study endogenous bioelectric patterns in Arabidopsis roots.

Prizes and Awards

Stuart Haslam has been awarded the 2017 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Molecular and Cellular Proteomics (ASBMB MCP) Award.

PhD student Kiran Bountra (Kostas Beis) was awarded best poster prize at the 24th Congress and General Assembly of the International Union of Crystallography, Hyderabad, India.

Cristina Lo Celso received the new investigator prize from the International Society for Experimental Haematology. This involved a plenary talk at the annual meeting, August 24-27 in Frankfurt. 

PhD student, Linda Ibeto won the ISSTD best basic science poster award at the International Society of the Study of Trophoblastic Diseases (ISSTD) meeting in Amsterdam 21-24 September.


Click here for the latest publications from DoLS.

DoLS at Conferences

Colin Prentice gave an invited keynote talk at the Tenth International Carbon Dioxide Conference (Interlaken, 21-25 August). Colin also presented at the Fourth International Conference on Earth System Modelling (Hamburg, 28 August-1 September).

Matteo Fumagalli gave a talk at the 7th Congress of the Italian Society of Evolutionary Biology in Rome (Italy), 28-31 August, on the inference of population parameters from sequencing data.

Kostas Beis was an
invited speaker at the CBMNet and BIOCATNET: Import and Export of Small Molecules for Biocatalysis conference 12-13 September. The talk was entitled "Structural basis for the ins and outs of peptide transport across bacterial membranes”.


Arkhat Abzhanov was involved with the organisation of the UK Evo-Devo Symposium at the Natural History Museum on 8th September alongside Drs Peter Olson, NHM and David Ferrier, Uni of St Andrews. This symposium gathered the entire community in their field of developmental evolution in the UK.  Arkhat also gave one of the major talks at this symposium.

DoLS Travel Awards

The department funds travel awards for our Postdoctoral Research Associates, Research Fellows and PhD Students to enable them to present their work at conferences or to attend scientific workshops. The scheme operates twice a year and is advertised by email. The scheme was launched in response to feedback from feedback from postdocs in the department.

For this past round in September 2017 the judging panel consisted of Prof. Stephen Curry (EOC Chair), Prof Neil Fairweather, Dr Julia Schroeder and Dr Masue Marbiah. Thanks to the co-panellists for putting in the effort to assess the applications.

‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌September 2017 - 40% of the applications were awarded as follows:
Bruno Gallo (Guy Woodward) - PhD student
Fiona Angrisano (Andrew Blagborough) - PhD student


For more info on DoLS Travel Awards and to read reports from previous winners click here.

Other News

Kate Wright (Sir Henry Wellcome Post Doc Fellow) spent 3 weeks of August working at The Times newspaper as a science journalist. This was as part of the British Media Fellowship scheme, run by the British Science Association, which places practicing scientists into the media to experience firsthand how science is disseminated.  Kate published a number of articles in The Times, in print and online. The Royal Society of Chemistry funded her placement at The Times. Click here to see Kate's articles. Click here to find out more about the scheme.

The Matthews, Cota and De Simone groups enjoyed an action packed and stimulating retreat in West Somerset.
Congratulations to Alain Filloux who competed the OCC which is part of the Ultra-trail Mont Blanc (UTMB). Alain completed the 56 km, 3500 meters height difference course in 11h 52min. Click here to check out his stats.