August Newsletter 2020

Trials of Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald’s (e2002) cytosponge have shown that the ‘pill on a string’ is ten times more effective at diagnosing patients with the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s oesophagus than conventional diagnostic methods. The findings, published in The Lancet, will pave the way for GPs’ surgeries to use the cytosponge, which could be rolled out to practices within the next three to five years. Read.

We were delighted that so many alumni registered for Professor Fitzgerald’s Trinity Research Talk ‘Catching Cancer Early: How Long is a Piece of String’ on Tuesday 11 August, during which she shared her latest research findings and their potential impact, along with fascinating footage of the cytosponge in action. Thank you to everyone who joined us online and who submitted questions for the Q&A session. If you missed the event you can now watch it on YouTube.

The College bade a very fond farewell to superb Sub-Librarian Sandy Paul, who retired this month after 11 years in the role and a total of 25 years at Trinity. Sandy shares some of the most memorable moments of his career and his plans for the future in an interview on the website. Read.

Congratulations to Professor Catherine Barnard (e1996) who has been elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy. Professor Barnard shares her thoughts about living and working in Cambridge, researching EU migrant experiences in the UK, and her role as Senior Fellow in the UK in a Changing Europe programme in an interview on our website. Read.


We are grateful to the large number of alumni who contacted the College following the recent A-Level results situation. A tremendous amount of work took place in a very short space of time, both in College and across the University, to ensure that we did the very best for our prospective students. Dr Glen Rangwala (1993), Admissions Tutor, said:

‘This will be the largest cohort of students starting at Trinity in modern times. We are pleased to say that this cohort includes the highest number of students from Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) backgrounds and from the lowest undergraduate participation areas (POLAR quintile 1) to be admitted in a year to Trinity.’

You can read the full College statement on undergraduate admissions 2020 and watch the great new welcome film for Freshers on the website.

Research by Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian (e1994), Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Senior Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, has shown for the first time that four-stranded DNA structures, known as G-quadruplexes, play a role in certain types of breast cancer. The familiar two-stranded, double helix structure of DNA was discovered in 1953, but the team led by Sir Shankar has found that an unusual four-stranded configuration of DNA can occur across the human genome in living cells. Read.

A Cambridge-developed vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2 could begin clinical trials in the UK in late autumn or early next year, thanks to a £1.9million award from the UK government. Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, has provided the funding for a collaboration between Cambridge spin-out company DIOSynVax (which is contributing an additional £400,000 to the trial), the University of Cambridge and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.  Read.

The University and Colleges have collaborated on the #StaySafeCambridgeUni campaign, which launched this week in preparation for the next academic year. A clear set of measures designed to help keep the Cambridge community as safe as possible during the fight against COVID-19 have been tested and refined in consultation with over 300 students and staff, and are included on the University website along with other guidance and resources. Read.

Take a bow Robin Barnwell (1991), BAFTA TV award-winner in the Current Affairs category for ‘Under Cover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag‘, which he directed, filmed and produced. Click here to watch Robin’s acceptance speech via Twitter, and you can read an interview with Robin on page 15 of the latest issue of The Fountain.

Throughout the lockdown period, Trinity musicians have been determined that the ‘band must play on’ and have found innovative and inspiring ways to keep making music, and to soothe and support communities coping with the effects of the pandemic. Read.

It has been a busy few weeks for Trinity in Japan with two fantastic events organised by their Chair, Dr Gerhard Fasol (1978). On Friday 31 July, Lord Martin Rees (1960) joined the group via videolink to discuss astronomy, Trinity, and existential risks to humanity. You can now watch the event on YouTube. Professor Venki Ramakrishnan (2008), President of the Royal Society, will join the group online on Friday 28 August, and we will share the recording as soon as it is available.

Do read Gerhard’s article ‘The Fountain, Boltzmann and Japan’ on page 12 of the latest issue of The Fountain, about his great-grandfather, the mathematician, physicist and philosopher, Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906), who inspired his great-grandson to follow him into the field, ‘He sparked my deep curiosity and passion for physics, which brought me to Trinity for more than 12 years.’ Read.

Dr Ravi Solanki (2011) and Raymond Siems (Pembroke) received a Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Award for Pandemic Service, in recognition of their exceptional engineering achievements in tackling COVD-19 throughout the UK. Both Ravi and Raymond volunteer for HEROES, the NHS charity founded by and for NHS workers, and they created a secure website for the charity in under two days, providing much-needed support for frontline NHS workers. Read.


Tuesday 8 September, 1-2pm BST Professor Greg Hannon (e2016), Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, Trinity Research Talk – Lessons from Studies of Tumor Heterogeneity. Register online.

Thursday 24 September, 1-2pm BST – Dr Alyce Mahon (e2000), Fellow in the History of Art, Trinity Research Talk – How Art Can Break Down Barriers: The Marquis de Sade and the Avant Garde. Register online.


The University’s Alumni Festival is celebrating 30 years in 2020. The free online programme of events featuring the world’s foremost thinkers runs from Thursday 17 September to Saturday 26 September including Trinity contributors:

  • Friday 18 September, 5.00pm – 6.00pm Dr Stephen Barclay (1975) on ‘The medical condition with 100% incidence: the Cambridge contribution to end of life care.’
  • Saturday 19 September, 5.00pm – 6.00pm, The Exoplanet Revolution. Nobel prize-winner Professor Didier Queloz (e2013) will discuss the exoplanet collection identified over the last 25 years and the implications of recent findings.
  • Sunday 20 September, 3.00pm – 3.45pm Join authors Laura Robson Brown and Katherine Mann (1990) for a book reading of Fitz and Will the Cambridge Cats, the highly popular children’s book set in Cambridge. Ideal for children aged 2-8, but purr-fect for cat and Cambridge lovers of all ages.
  • Friday 25 September, 6.30pm – 7.30pm. Brexit: what next? Professor Catherine Barnard (e1996) discusses the state of affairs of Brexit. Will a future trade deal be concluded and on what terms? Is this the end of the story or merely the beginning of a new story?
  • Saturday 26 September, 4.00pm – 5.00pm – Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope (1983) will lead a discussion with Dr Emily Shuckburgh (1994), Director of Cambridge Zero, and esteemed guests on the critical choices we need to make to address the challenge of climate change and achieve a resilient and zero-carbon future.

Congratulations to three Trinitarians who have been recognised by the Royal Society. Professor Julia Gog (1994) has been awarded The Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture 2020 for her achievements in the field of mathematics. Former Fellow, Professor Daniel Wolpert (2005-18) is the recipient of the Ferrier Medal and Lecture 2021 for ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of how the brain controls movement, and Dr Marta Zlatic (1996) has been awarded the Royal Society’s Francis Crick Medal and Lecture 2020 for discovering how neural circuits generate behaviour.


This dynamic, immersive and truly unique short futuristic fiction novel takes the readers on a journey to 2279 where 30% of the population elect for Body Freezing yet no one has even been woken-up. With mass hysteria crying out for a solution to the global turmoil, pressure mounts on pioneering London family business ‘Life Beyond’ to wake up a previous US President. However scientific complications, strained egos, unravelling technology and personal mistakes are just some of the challenges on the horizon. Enjoy the thought-provoking, plausible future world through:

Set in a fictional ‘luxury retirement village’ off the A21 in Kent, The Thursday Murder Club stars four retirees who meet every Thursday to solve cold cases, and who encounter a live case in their first literary outing.

Since the Global Financial Crisis, a surge of interest in the use of finance as a tool to address social and economic problems suggests the potential for a generational shift in how the finance industry operates and is perceived. J.C. de Swaan seeks to channel the forces of well-intentioned finance professionals to improve finance from within and help restore its focus on serving society. Drawing from inspiring individuals in the field, he proposes a framework for pursuing a viable career in finance while benefiting society and upholding humanistic values.

If you have a recent or forthcoming book and you haven’t shared the details with us yet, please get in touch.

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Header photo: Early August morning in the Fellows’ Gardens.