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December 2018
Newsletter Archive
Staff Information
Staff Information
Health & Wellbeing

New research shows that social marketing campaigns play an important role in the recovery of wildlife species, offering evidence that can help conservationists design more cost-effective future campaigns.

New research shows that social marketing campaigns play an important role in the recovery of wildlife species, offering evidence that can help conservationists design more cost-effective future campaigns.

Co-author Dr Morena Mills, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Twenty years ago, before a conservation campaign was launched, there were more yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots in captivity on Bonaire than there were in the wild.

“Since that time, annual population surveys show that the parrot species is recovering, growing from 294 individuals in 1998 to 1023 in 2018. We wanted to know what initiatives brought about this change.”

Click here to find out more

Dr Cristina Banks-Leite has been shortlisted for a NERC Impact Award for her work preserving Brazil’s biodiversity.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Impact Awards celebrate the positive real-world impacts generated by UK environmental scientists.

Dr Banks-Leite, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, has devoted her career to saving the forests of her homeland in São Paulo. Here, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, the Atlantic Forest, has suffered great losses due to deforestation for agriculture in recent years.

Her research has paved the way for the restoration of a fragile forest ecosystem, safeguarding the biodiversity of the region and providing vital water security for the farmers and residents of Brazil’s most populous state.

Click here to find out more


A bacterial toxin that allows an infectious strain of bacteria to defeat its competitors has been discovered by Imperial College London scientists.

The finding provides a better understanding of the mechanisms behind bacterial warfare, which is the first step for the design of improved treatments for microbial diseases.

Bacteria are some of the most abundant organisms on Earth and they are engaged in a relentless fight for the limited food resources available to them. To fend off and eliminate rivals and predators, they have evolved multiple chemical weapons.

The study, led by Professor Alain Filloux from the Department of Life Sciences, investigated an understudied group of bacterial genes that encode proteins linked to the P. aeruginosa Type 6 secretion system (T6SS). T6SS is a molecular gun responsible for the delivery of multiple toxins which kill or suppress the growth of rival bacteria.

Click here to find out more

Microbes could have performed oxygen-producing photosynthesis at least one billion years earlier in the history of the Earth than previously thought.

The finding could change ideas of how and when complex life evolved on Earth, and how likely it is that it could evolve on other planets.

Oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere is necessary for complex forms of life, which use it during aerobic respiration to make energy.

Other scientists think that cyanobacteria evolved long before 2.4 billion years ago but something prevented oxygen from accumulating in the air.

Lead author Dr Tanai Cardona, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “We know cyanobacteria are very ancient, but we don’t know exactly how ancient. If cyanobacteria are, for example, 2.5 billion years old that would mean oxygenic photosynthesis could have started as early as 3.5 billion years ago. This suggests that it might not take billions of years for a process like oxygenic photosynthesis to start after the origin of life.”

Click here to find out more

Three Imperial scientists have won significant funding from the European Research Council (ERC) to be ‘truly creative in their research’.

The ERC announced the following awards:

Dr Cecilia Mattevi, Department of Materials, Additive manufacturing of 2D nanomaterials for on-chip technologies. Project grant of approximately €2million.
  • Dr Alfonso De Simone (pictured above), Department of Life Sciences, Order and Disorder at the Surface of Biological Membranes. Project grant of approximately €2million.
  • Dr Cristian Cadar, Department of Computing, Program Analysis for Safe and Secure Software Evolution. Project grant of approximately €2million.

Dr De Simone’s project focuses on the characterisation of membrane proteins.

Dr De Simone said “These are essential molecules for function and disease but our ability to study their molecular and structural properties is currently limited to rigid regions of these proteins.”

His team will develop an interdisciplinary project across experiments and theory to characterise the highly dynamical and disordered regions of membrane proteins, which often are the key components of these molecules for their biological activity.

Dr De Simone said: “The ability to characterise disordered regions in membrane proteins will enable understanding of the underlying mechanisms of cellular function as well as diseases such as Alzheimer's or cancer. 

“Applications will go beyond the biomedical context, as the ability to study, and eventually control, disordered protein regions at the surface of membranes can impact fields such as biomaterial sciences and synthetic biology.

“It is an excellent opportunity to engage in long-term research visions with high-risk and high-gain value.

Click here to find out more

Dr Tiago Costa was awarded the Wellcome Trust Seed Award for a grant entitled “Uncovering the Structural Details of the Legionella pneumophila Type IV Secretion System: The Legionnaires’ Disease Nanomachine”. 

Research Associate
Dr Eduardo Alves dos Santos (Dr Matthew Child), Dr Lucas Dias Fernandes (Dr James Rosindell)

Research Assistant
Miss Elena Rodrigues (Prof Gloria Rudenko), Miss Ying Ma (Prof Bill Wisden)

Research Technician
Ms Shraddha Gang, Mr George Taylor (Dr John Heap), Miss Carla Carbajo (Dr Calvin Tiengwe)

Research Fellow

Dr Tiago Cunha Luis (Sir Henry Dale Fellow)

Visiting Researcher
Miss Evelyn Quansah (Prof Jake Baum), Miss Malak Fouani (Prof Martin Buck)

Scientific Programmer

Dr Keith Bloomfield (Prof Colin Prentice)

Congratulations to Steve Cook and Magda Charalambous who have been promoted to Principal Teaching Fellows this year! 
DoLS is committed to implementing Imperial’s Research Concordat
 Key planks of the Concordat’s Action Plan are:

- Recognising the importance of recruiting, selecting and retaining researchers with the highest potential to achieve excellence in research.

- Equipping and supporting researchers to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse, mobile, global research environment.

- Recognising and promoting the importance of researchers’ personal and career development. 

- If you think that DoLS could do more to ensure that the aims of the Research Concordat are being appropriately delivered, please talk to a
member of our EDI Committee or, if you wish to remain anonymous, submit your concerns here
Reminder to staff and students travelling while on College business
A reminder that if you are travelling on College business (staff and students) you have access to the College Travel Insurance provided by Royal Sun Alliance.  Please ensure you complete these key steps:

1. Register your trip online here: Travel Insurance Registration

2. Check the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel information for the      countries you are travelling to: UK FCO

3. Use the ‘Planning Your Trip’ webpages to identify other requirements for immunisations, vaccinations and malaria tablets and other useful information: Planning Your Trip

4. If you complete a risk assessment associated with the travel send it to for review

5. If during the course of your trip you suffer any issues concerning your safety, security or health please report it at the earliest opportunity to Further guidance on the kinds of incidents to report is available here:  Reporting incidents while offsite
DoLS Athena SWAN application
Our application for a renewal of our bronze Athena SWAN award was submitted – with four minutes to spare – on Friday 30th November. Pulling the application together was an enormous effort and particular thanks are due to Anne Dell, Erhard Hohenester, Tim Barraclough, Tika Masters, John Pinney, Pat Evans, Allison Hunter, Giorgio Gilestro, Bernadette Byrne, Pietro Spanu and the rest of the EDI Committee. The application document is rather long but it is data rich. It gives a clear view of where we are in terms of promoting gender equality and sets out an action plan for how we will make further improvements over the coming years. I would encourage people to take a look because implementing the action plan will require a concerted effort by everyone in the department. If you would like to see a copy, please email Tika (we will also upload the application form on the DoLS Athena SWAN web-page in January, so please check back for updates!).

Prof. Stephen Curry
DoLS Athena SWAN Lead

Prizes and Awards

Dr Giorgio Gilestro was awarded an SME engagement application from the FoNS for the value of £20k for a project titled: "Phenoscopes: a high-throughput platform for phenotypical typing of insect strains for the food industry". 

Dr Alfonso de Simone was awarded the ERC consolidator grant for his lab to perform research in the field of disordered states in membrane proteins. Press release: 

Several members of the Department of Life Sciences (Laura de Arroyo Garcia, Patrik Jones, Giorgio Perin, Emanga Alobwede, Viktoriia Nikonova (external)) have been working on a startup this year, Bio-F Solutions.

Two PhD students, Laura de Arroyo Garcia and Marine Valton won the EIT Global Food Ventures 1st prize 2 weeks ago in Paris for the startup and received €25,000 in prize money.  This link has a video of the announcement:

Last week, they were awarded the EIT Food Entrepreneurship Prize awards, and also received the People’s Choice Award.

More information is available on their website 

Dr Roya Haghighat-Khah won the National Childbirth Trust Stars Award for Volunteer of the Year 2018 for her contribution to the charity’s work during her maternity leave in supporting parents at a vulnerable stage of their lives. 


Dr Tiago Costa: Sgro G.S., Costa, T.R.D., Cenens, W., Souza, D.P., Cassago, A., Oliveira, L.C., Salinas, R.K., Portugal, R.V., Farah, C.S., Waksman, G. (2018) Cryo-EM structure of the bacteria killing type IV secretion system core complex from Xanthomonas citri. Nature Microbiology doi: 10.1038/s41564-018-0262-z
Link to paper: 

Dr John HeapTaylor G, Mordaka PM and Heap JT (2018) Start-Stop Assembly: A functionally scarless DNA assembly framework optimised for metabolic engineering. Nucleic Acids Research. gky1182
Lino to paper:

Dr Giovanni Sena's lab: Anne-Mieke Reijne, Ignacio Bordeu, Gunnar Pruessner and Giovanni Sena:
"Linear stability analysis of morphodynamics during tissue regeneration in plants”, Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Prof Alain Filloux: Panayiota Pissaridou, Luke P. Allsopp, Sarah Wettstadt, Sophie A. Howard, Despoina A. I. Mavridou, and Alain FillouxThe Pseudomonas aeruginosa T6SS-VgrG1b spike is topped by a PAAR protein eliciting DNA damage to bacterial competitors.
Link to paper:  

Prof Steve Matthews:  
Chorev DS, Baker LA, Wu D, Beilsten-Edmands V, Rouse SL, Zeev-Ben-Mordehai T, Jiko C, Samsudin F, Gerle C, Khalid ,Stewart AG, Matthews SJ, Grünewald K, Robinson CV (2018). Protein assemblies ejected directly from native membranes yield complexes for mass spectrometry.. Science, 362(6416), 829-834. 
Link to paper: 10.1126/science.aau0976 

Pakharukova N, McKenna S, Tuittila M, Paavilainen S, Malmi H, Xu Y, Parilova O, Matthews S, Zavialov AV (2018). Archaic and alternative chaperones preserve pilin folding energy by providing incomplete structural information. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 293(44), 17070-17080.
Link to paper: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004170

Research Postgraduate Dr Jenna Lawson (Dr Cristina Banks-Leite) got a page-full of her work in the Costa Rican national newspaper. It's in Spanish but cool nonetheless! 

Conferences & Invited talks

Dr Tiago Costa gave a talk describing his work on the Cryo-EM structure of a bacterial killing Type IV Secretion System at the workshop on "Contribution of bacterial injection systems to human disease" held in Baeza/Spain on the 5-7th November.

Dr Anais Menny from the Bubeck lab gave a talk at the 2-day cryoEM symposium “How cryo-electron microscopy meets chemical structure” organised by Aviesan, the French National Alliance for life sciences and health. She was also an invited speaker at the London Structural Biology Club meeting where she presented her latest results: “Membrane Attack Complex and the mechanics of a killing machine”.

Prof Jason Tylianakis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand last month.

Dr Andrew Hammond has been awarded the Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship to undertake a cross-border collaborative project aimed at dissecting the molecular neurogenetics underlying mosquito attraction to humans. Over the course of the next four years, he will work with Dr Tony Southall (Imperial College London), Dr Conor McMeniman (John’s Hopkins University) and Prof. Stephen Goodwin (Oxford) to establish a new line of research in the mosquito vector of malaria.

Prof Vincent Savolainen will Chair the Audit of the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna on 27-30 November 2018.

Tech News
Lord Sainsbury hosted an event for Technician Commitment signatories to launch the attached report and announce 9 new signatories (taking the total up to 75). 

The report and video is on the campaign’s website:  (
Lindsay and Allison Hunter (Department of Life Sciences) represented Imperial at the event and received our achievement award, which was awarded to all first phase signatories to acknowledge the work put into a 24-month action plan.  
Staff Social Events
The EDI Committee want to hear from YOU!

Do you have any suggestions for a Departmental social event? 
Previously we have organised a boat party but this year we would like to do something different. If you have any ideas please let us know by emailing

Equality and diversity at Imperial College - click here.

By completing this course, you will:

  • know what the College is doing to promote equality and diversity and the important part that you play as an employee
  • know what you can do to personally ensure equality and diversity are embedded into your department/area
  • have an understanding of equality legislation
  • know how you can access further information and training

Recruitment and Selection Training
This course provides the basics of what you need to know before you participate in recruiting and selecting staff. It is designed for non-HR people for whom recruitment is a minor, albeit critical, aspect of their role.
Details of the e-Learning course can be found here
You can also apply for 1 day practical session when you have completed the test at the end of the e-Learning course.

HoD Citizenship Awards

Winners will be announced at the DoLS Xmas drinks on Tuesday 18th December!