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January 2019
Newsletter Archive
Staff Information
Health & Wellbeing

A new approach to restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest could triple biodiversity gains while reducing costs by US$28 billion.

The findings, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, will be used by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment and could guide restoration projects around the world.

A team of 25 international researchers, including Senior Lecturer in Conservation Science at Imperial Dr Morena Mills, developed a customized software to determine the best route for restoration. Using this software, they identified the best way to divide space in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest to maximize biodiversity and climate change mitigation while minimizing costs.

Click here to find out more

An Imperial team has won two EU innovation competitions for pioneering eco-friendly fertilisers made from algae.

Bio-F Solutions, a startup run by staff and students from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, aims to improve the sustainability of food production while minimising the impact of agriculture on the environment. 

They are developing sustainable and organic alternatives to synthetic fertilisers using micro-organisms such as algae, which can replenish essential nutrients in the soil and promote health crop growth. 

The team includes PhD students Marine Valton and Laura de Arroyo Garcia as well as Imperial staff members Dr Patrik Jones, Emanga Alobwede and Dr Giorgio Perin, and Viktoriia Nikonova from Cranfield University. 

Click here to find out more

Two free interactive platforms that teachers could use to help students learn about molecular biology have been developed by researchers.

The first is a free web-based molecular imaging program (EzMol), which is linked to an A-level tutorial on the structure of proteins and nucleic acids. The second is a free mobile game (BioBlox2D) based on docking molecules, which includes an educational quiz.

EzMol brings to life the complex three-dimensional shape of proteins and nucleic acids. Via the EzMol web site, students can upload the structure of a molecule, choose a view, interactively select and colour the regions of interest, and then save images to use in essays.

Professor Sternberg, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: “We are thrilled to provide school students with a free and accessible program to interactively view the complex shape of proteins and nucleic acids, which they previously may only have seen as flat pictures in their textbooks.”

Click here to find out more

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Imperial College London is now registered with CITES as a Scientific Institution, number GB038, for the exchange of animal and plant samples.

Using CITES labels, Imperial can now exchange material  between CITES-registered institutions for non-commercial loans, donations and exchanges of legally obtained scientific specimens and samples, which trade is normally regulated by CITES and requires CITES permits.

These CITES labels are available from Professor Vincent Savolainen and Dr Alba Herraiz in Life Sciences.

This CITES registration will facilitate research on the conservation of threatened animal and plant species.

Click here for more info

Research Associate
Dr Christian Bortolini (Prof Bernadette Byrne), Dr Montse Tersa Penacoba (Dr Ernestro Cota Segura), Dr Mathieu Nollet (Professor Bill Widsen)

Research Assistant
Miss Megan Coomer (Dr Bob MacCallum), Miss Olivia Morris (Professor Guy Woodward)

Research Technician
Miss Nayomi Illansinhage Don (Dr Carla Siniscalchi), Mr Florian Zirpel (Professor Stephen Brickley),  Miss Arianna Palma (Dr Patrik Jones)

Prizes, Awards & Funding

Dr Matthew Child's group received funding through the NC3Rs for a 3 year PhD studentship in November 2018.

The Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society will be funded, to the extent of £10M altogether spread over a 10-year period. This is a fantastic opportunity to develop a new, interdisciplinary wildfire science. The Director is Apostolos Voulgarakis in Physics; the five Associate Directors include Colin Prentice from Life Sciences, along with two from Kings College London, one from RHUL and one from Reading. A launch event is being planned for September.

Dr Giovanni Sena's group secured a small grant from BBSRC Impact Acceleration Account for a project titled “Towards a novel root guidance system for intelligent agriculture”, to characterize root electrotropism in crop plant species.


Dr. Michalis Barkoulas' Lab: "Antagonistic paralogs control a switch between growth and pathogen resistance in C. elegans". Kirthi C. Reddy, Tal Dror, Ryan S. Underwood, Guled A. Osman, Corrina R. Elder, Christopher A. Desjardins, Christina A. Cuomo, Michalis Barkoulas, Emily R. Troemel 
Link to paper:

Dr Tolga Bozkurt's Lab have had their recent work accepted recently. It is available to read on bioRxiv.

Dr Doryen Bubeck: Menny A, Serna M, Boyd C, Gardner S, Joseph AP, Morgan BP, Topf M, Brooks NJ, Bubeck D. CryoEM reveals how the complement membrane attack complex ruptures lipid bilayers. Nature Communications. 2018 Dec 14; 9(1):5316. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07653-5.
This paper has been recommended by Faculty 1000 and has an Altmetric score in the top 5% of all tracked articles of a similar age.
Link to paper:

This paper arose from data collected by students on the taught field course on the MRes Tropical Forest Ecology. All the students are co-authors on it. A nice link between teaching and research. 
Qie, L., A. D. Elsy, A. Stumvoll, M. Kwasnicka, A. L. Peel, J. A. Sullivan, M. S. Ettinger, A. J. Robertson, J. K. Brisbane, A. L. Sawyer, Y. N. Lui, S. Ngim Ow, M. Sebastianelli, B. Majcher, M. Duan, H. Vigus, G. Pounsin, R. Nilus, and R. Ewers. 2019. Impending regeneration failure of the IUCN Vulnerable Borneo Ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri). Tropical Conservation Science 12:1940082918823353.

Dr Matteo Fumagalli

A GWAS in Latin Americans highlights the convergent evolution of lighter skin pigmentation in EurasiaAdhikari et al. Nature Communications.

Prof Bill Rutherford: 

i) The news item from our big paper in Science in June was the No 1 in the number of reads of 2018. Big on the web.
ii) Voted no 2 science advance of 2018. No 1 was the Mars landing.
That makes us the top science paper of 2018. (In this case the voters were The Chinese Academy of Science and The Chinese Academy of Engineering.)
So there you have it "Big in China".

Conferences & Invited talks

BSG Winter meeting 2018 at Imperial College London:

The Centre for Structural Biology (CSB) at Imperial College London was very happy to host the  Biological Structures Group (BSG) Winter meeting on December 17th 2018, which is traditionally held by the British Crystallographic Association (BCA) in the UK. The meeting entitled Structures of Macromolecular Complexes took place in the Sir Alexander Fleming building. A total of nine invited speakers, both from Imperial College London and other universities or research institutes in the UK, presented a variety of top-class research results from biochemistry, x-ray crystallography and electron microscopy. Over the whole day, the meeting attracted approximately 90 participants as well as five companies, who joined as sponsors and exhibitors to showcase their latest products during the day. The meeting was organised by Thomas Meier, Bernadette Byrne and James Murray (DoLS), it was an overall very enjoyable event and great experience for all structural biologists.

Dr Nita Shah from the Bubeck lab won the award for best talk at the “Christmas Bioenergetics Meeting” at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Doryen Bubeck was an invited speaker at the British Crystallographic Association “Biological Structures Group Winter Meeting 2018”.
Tech News

Allison Hunter has been selected as one of the judges for S-Lab 2019 awards for Excellence in Laboratory Design, Management and Operation:
Winners will be announced at the joint S-Lab/UKSPA Conference taking place at the University of Birmingham 2-3 April 2019.

Dr Robert Endres continues as the Postdoc Champion for DoLS. He works closely with the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre (PFDC) to ensure that the voices of postdocs are well-represented at the departmental level. By providing advice on available development training and support, receiving feedback, facilitating networking between postdocs from different research groups and other staff within the department, Dr Endres’ role is integral to this effort. More information can be found on the DoLS and PFDC web pages.

Congratulations to the winners of the Xmas Quiz!!! 

Success attributed to an international team composed of German, French, Austrian, Greek, Swedish and British students. (Dr Nadia Guerra's Lab)

Be part of the first ever Malaria Area at the Great Exhibition Road Festival 2019

Following a successful Festival proposal, we are delighted to announce that we will be coordinating the College Festival's first ever dedicated Malaria Area at this year's Great Exhibition Road Festival (an expansion of the Imperial Festival).

This is a unique opportunity to raise the profile of your work among a new audience, develop engagement and communication skills, collaborate with researchers from different disciplines and world-leading institutions, gain new perspectives on your work and research, help raise the aspirations of younger visitors, help locals to feel more confident around STEM, have fun and be part of a special and memorable event. 

We would like to invite you to be a part of the Malaria area and/or share this opportunity with your various teams and colleagues. We welcome all types of contributions, whether they are in form of ideas, loans of equipment/materials that you have from any previous public engagement activities, or your help hosting activities during the festival itself. Any small contribution would be greatly appreciated.

The Festival takes place across 29th-30th of June 2019 at South Kensington Campus, and the dedicated Malaria Area will be set within a large new “Infection zone”, which will be hosted within SAF (Sir Alexander Fleming Building, South Kensington) with the Malaria Area upstairs on the mezzanine level.

To be a part of the Malaria Area, please complete this survey by 10pm, 11th February 2019 and we will be in touch.

If you have any questions, please contact Christo Hall or Roya Haghighat-Khah
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

Throughout 2019 we will be showcasing staff who were presented with a HoD Citizenship Award at the end of 2018.

For the month of January we have James Andrewes
As the Education Office Manager, I oversee the day to day running of the Education Office and the Biochemistry/Biotechnology and Biological Sciences undergraduate programmes. I have frequent contact with academic staff and students on a wide variety of issues and am responsible for ensuring effective and efficient coordination of all undergraduate courses.