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Department of Life Sciences Newsletter
July 2018
Newsletter Archive
Staff Information
Health & Wellbeing
A new type of photosynthesis has been discovered. The discovery changes our understanding of the basic mechanism of photosynthesis and should rewrite the textbooks. It will also tailor the way we hunt for alien life and provide insights into how we could engineer more efficient crops that take advantage of longer wavelengths of light. The discovery, published today in Science, was led by Imperial College London, supported by the BBSRC, and involved groups from the ANU in Canberra, the CNRS in Paris and Saclay and the CNR in Milan. Lead researcher Professor Bill Rutherford, from the Department of Life Sciences, said: “The new form of photosynthesis made us rethink what we thought was possible. It also changes how we understand the key events at the heart of standard photosynthesis. This is textbook changing stuff.” Click here to find out more.

Pollution is changing the fungi that provide mineral nutrients to tree roots, which could explain malnutrition trends in Europe's trees. A huge study of 13,000 soil samples across 20 European countries has revealed that many tree fungi communities are stressed by pollution, indicating that current pollution limits may not be strict enough. Lead researcher Dr Martin Bidartondo, from  Department of Life Sciences said: “There is an alarming trend of tree malnutrition across Europe, which leaves forests vulnerable to pests, disease and climate change. To see if changes in mycorrhizae might be behind this trend, we opened the ‘black box’ of soil. Processes happening in soil and roots are often ignored, assumed or modelled, because studying them directly is difficult, but it is crucial for assessing tree functioning. Click here to find out more.

When female birds have chicks as the result of an extra-marital fling, the fathers are almost always older males, and scientists are finding out why. Now, a team of researchers led by Imperial College London have studied the behaviour of a captive population of sparrows at the Silwood Park campus to find out why older males are so successful. Lead researcher Dr Julia Schroeder, said: “Sparrows are socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous, staying with one partner for the security of raising chicks, but with the males not necessarily raising their own chicks." Click here to find out more.
Researchers have used puddle ecosystems to start to unravel the roles different bacteria play in complex communities. The study, published in Nature Microbiology, investigated 753 tree puddles and their bacterial communities, finding patterns that could apply to other ecosystems. Lead researcher Dr Thomas Bell, from the Department of Life Sciences, said: “Rain puddles are relatively simple, tractable, and easy to find - especially in England - and are as much a part of nature as a lake or stream. If we understand how a puddle works, the same general principles should apply to other ecosystems.” Click here to find out more.

Scientists have shed light on DNA ‘melting’ – a crucial process fundamental to all life. The researchers, from Imperial College London, who used bacteria in their experiments, say these findings may provide new insights into eradicating harmful bugs. Co-author Professor Martin Buck, from the Department of Life Sciences said "Protein production can become dysregulated in diseases such as cancer, and these findings could give us greater understanding of how this can happen. The results may also have implications for gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR, which allows scientists to insert or remove genes - as these require targeted gene melting". Click here to find out more.

Letter from Head of Department, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Final Year Project Coordinator

UG Research projects

Dear PhD students, technicians, postdocs and research fellows,

Last week our Biochemistry and Biology exam boards met to award degrees to our undergraduate students. We had an outstanding set of results again this year with over 90% of our students obtaining 1st or 2:1 degrees. We awarded prizes for academic achievement to the top seven students in each stream:  Joshua Lawrence, Tom Snelling, Ivan Zheludev, Rui Quek, Jinkun Zeng, Tomas Voisin, and Yo-Xin Ong (Biochemistry/Biotechnology); Oliver Inge, Rui Ee, Rachel Murray-Watson, Vi Ng, Bora Vardal, Franziska Saller and Nian Tay (Biology).

The authentic research experience provided by the research project was the highlight of the degree for many students. This would not be the case without the superb support that the undergraduates receive from PhD students, technicians, postdocs and research fellows. That more than half of our students will go on to Masters and PhDs next year is testament to the enthusiasm for research conveyed by you and the selfless support that you provide.

It is greatly appreciated by us as well as our students.

Kind regards

Huw, Anne and Peter


Huw Williams, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Anne Dell, Head of Department

Peter Nixon, Final Year Project Coordinator

Welcome to New Staff

Research Associate
Katie Farrant (Huw Williams), Marta Busse (Erhard Hohenester), Berta Anuncibay Soto (Bill Wisden), Anja Krueger (Stuart Haslam), Emma Randle

Research Assistant
Marion Joch (Jake Baum), Gordon Beattie (Gloria Rudenko), Chuin Lean Tham (Kostas Beis), Adam Devenish (Joe Tobias)

Research Technician
Thomas Courty (Carla Siniscalchi), Nicola Iannotti (Andrea Crisanti), Antonios Kriezis (Andrea Crisanti)

Teaching Fellow
Josh Hodge

Finance Officer for Target Malaria Project
Peta-Ann King

2018 Promotions

Congratulations to the following academic staff in DoLS who were successful in the 2018 promotions round:

Promotion to Senior Lecturer

Michalis Barkoulas

Tolga Bozkurt

Lauren Cator

John Heap

Tony Southall


Promotion to Reader

Konstantinos Beis

Marc Dionne

Joseph Tobias


Promotion to Professor

Stephen Brickley


The following publication has been highlighted because the 1st author is Bethan Critchley a Life Sciences UG student. This publication was part of her UROP placement last summer.

Critchley BJ, Isalan M and Mielcarek M (2018) Neuro-Cardio Mechanisms in Huntington’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Disorders. Front. Physiol. 9:559. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00559

To see more publications from DoLS click here.

Prizes and Awards

Myriam Haltalli, PhD student Cristina Lo Celso's group was awarded the poster prize at the Novo Nordisk Foundation conference on stem cell niches held in Copenhagen in May, and her abstract was selected for an oral presentation at the EMBL conference on Haematopoiesis taking place in Heidelberg June 7-9th.

Robert Endres was awarded with giving the Tom Duke Prize lectures from the Institute of Physics.These are comprised of four lectures over two years at non-Russell group universities to promote biological physics. Robert will give the first at the Biennial British Biophysical Society meeting at the University of Southampton, from 11-13th July.


Nadia Guerra gave a talk at the Annual International Conference of the Natural Immunity society (May 28th -June 1rst), presenting novel findings from the lab  to immunologists and experts in NK cells and ILC biology gathered in San Antonio Texas (Sheppard et al. Cell reports March 2018).

Jake Baum was selected speaker at Multilateral Initiative on Malaria in Dakar, Senegal (April 2018). Title: “A high-throughput screen for antimalarials targeting parasite transmission, towards the altruistic antimalarial”.

Robert Endres has been invited to speak at the Gordon Research conference on Directed Cell Migration at Hotel Galvez in Galveston, TX, 20-25th January 2019.   


PhD student Joss White-Lyons' (Supervisor- Andrew Knight) work was featured in The Independent on 2 June. The article is based on research on commitments to 'zero-deforestation' by companies in the palm oil sector which was published in Global Environmental Change.

Other News

Courtney Boyd from the Bubeck lab successfully defended her PhD thesis. 

CSB Open Day 2018

The Centre for Structural Biology (CSB) Open Day took place on Thursday 31st May. It was a great success with over 150 people from in and around London present.

The following were awarded poster prizes:

1. Poster Nr. 12 (Yates et al.)
2. Poster Nr. 11 (Chernyatina and Low)
3. Poster Nr. 7 (Noguchi and Speck)

Please see page 28 of the CSB programme booklet to find out titles etc.

Imperial celebrates long serving staff

Long serving staff with almost 2000 combined years of experience at Imperial have been celebrated by the College by hosting a dinner for the 16 long servers who reached between 35 and 50 years of service last year. 

President Gast congratulated those staff for shaping the College and making enduring contributions at one of two events held to recognise members of staff who reached a significant milestone in their service to the College.

Fiona May, Senior Laboratory Technician, in Life Sciences attended the dinner to celebrate 40 years at Imperial.

Looking back on her time at Imperial, Fiona said: “I started working at Wye College in Kent and then moved to Imperial’s South Kensington Campus. The job has always changed and I’ve had a lot of things to do, with modern technology of course having an impact. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve always had great people to work with.”

Presidents Awards for Excellence in Research and Education in FoNS
Allison Hunter has been awarded a  President’s Awards for Research Support Excellence at the Imperial Garden Party.
Allison has made an outstanding contribution to the Department of Life Sciences, having worked tirelessly to facilitate substantial improvements to much of the research infrastructure. She is an exemplary role model for technical and research support staff and a beacon of innovation and inclusivity. Her proactive contributions have lasting impact on many individuals and on the department as a whole. Congratulations!
Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee Activities
The Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee is now working towards the department's next Athena SWAN award due in November. A key part of the application is to devise an Action Plan that will result in palpable progress on gender equality. Though the committee takes the lead on this, we would be grateful for any suggestions for actions that you would like to see incorporated into the plan. To find out more about the Athena SWAN award and the EDI Committee visit our web pages here. 
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
Silwood Bugs' Day
SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday 25th July
There will be a BBQ following the activities...more details coming soon!

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.

Active Bystander Training

The College’s Active Bystander training programme has won an ‘Excellence in HR’ award at the 2018 Universities Human Resources (UHR) Awards. The UHR Awards celebrate the most exceptional initiatives and projects in Higher Education Human Resources. Imperial’s Active Bystander programme triumphed in the Organisational Development and Culture Change category. Click here to find out more.

The training aims to empower staff to challenge poor behaviours, and bring about cultural change through the reinforcement of messages defining the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour.

We have had some great feedback from the session organised by the Department in May:

'Very nice session, especially being so short. For once one does not feel like the half a day could have been condensed in 20 minutes!'

I haven’t had a chance to put the new skills to test yet, but I believe that it has given me confidence and assurance not to be a passive bystander in the future.'

'I found it useful, especially the practical tips of how to respond in such situations'

To find out more about Active Bystander training click here.

HoD Citizenship Awards
Throughout 2018 we will be showcasing staff who were presented with a HoD Citizenship Award at the end of 2017.
For the month of June we have Rich Bowman....

I’ve been the Departmental Manager (Research) since 2012, and I can be found on Level 5 in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building. I’m Responsible for managing and ensuring the provision of an effective infrastructure and professional operational service across DoLS – SK in support of research.

What this means is I manage a team of Research Administrators, most of whom you’ll have had dealings with on a daily basis. I’m here to help with the preparation, submission and management of grants and research projects (though I tend to mainly be involved in the awkward or unusual ones)!

I also and serve on the Fellowship and Honours Committee and help internal and external candidates with their fellowship applications