October Newsletter 2020

Dr Peter Biar Ajak (2013) is the first South Sudanese national to have been awarded a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He received his PhD at a ceremony on 24 October, nine months after a global campaign saw his release from South Sudan’s Blue House prison, where he was incarcerated for 18 months. Read.

Students Wanipa Ndhlovu (2018) and Serena Cole (2019) were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement to organise Trinity’s Black History Month programme, running throughout October. The programme of activities and events include Succession, an exhibition of students’ portraits by Henry Kamara, and an accompanying short film by Sonum Sumaria (2008) charting the students’ journeys to the College and their plans for the future. Read.

Freshers and returning students received a right royal Trinity welcome at the start of term, thanks to Trinity College Students’ Union and the Tutorial Office, who recruited founder Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to greet students and convey COVID-19 messages to keep the community as safe as possible. Read.

Three Trinity members were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, announced earlier this month. Congratulations to the Downing Professor of the Laws of England, Sarah Worthington (e2011) who was awarded a DBE for services to English private law, to Director of Music at Trinity, Stephen Layton (e2006) who received an MBE for services to classical music, and to Julia Gog (1994), Professor of Mathematical Biology at Cambridge, who was awarded an OBE for services to academia and the Covid-19 response. Read.

Research recently published in Nature Communications, led by Dr Laith Alexander (2011) of the Cambridge Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, suggests that over-activity in one brain region links depression, anxiety, and heart disease. Read.

Master of St Edmund’s College, Catherine Arnold (1997), and Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope (1983) feature in the University’s Unexpected Experiences series, sharing how they have coped with the unforeseen, found new opportunities over the last few months, and are facing the future with hope.

On Friday 23 October the Trinity Engineers’ Association held a very successful virtual meeting on the theme of re-opening during a pandemic using engineering solutions. Dr Hugh Hunt (e1990) talked about ‘Coping with COVID-19 in Cambridge’, and Dr Shaun Fitzgerald (Girton) discussed ‘COVID mitigation measures and the challenges of re-opening public venues’. Following the presentations, attendees split into breakout sessions for further discussion and networking. Thank you to everyone who joined the TEA and made it such an interesting and enjoyable evening.

Do join Trinity in Japan in central Tokyo for their next meeting on Friday 6 November from 7pm, for a video discussion with Professor Didier Queloz (e2013) on his discovery of exo-planets; extra-terrestrial life; and winning a Nobel Prize in physics in 2019. Please register by 31 October. Register.


Artist Davey Jose (2001) was interviewed about his series ‘The Cure’ that explores his spinal cord injury for BBC Two’s the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which was broadcast on 17 October. You can catch up on the programme on iPlayer.

Consultant Spinal Neurosurgeon Rodney Laing (1977) featured in episode one of the BBC Two series ‘Surgeons: At the Edge of Life’, which focuses on pioneering work from some of the UK’s top surgeons, operating to remove a bundle of abnormal blood vessels near the top of a patient’s spinal-cord. Catch up on iPlayer.

Eddie Redmayne (2000) stars in Aaron Sorkin’s film ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’, chronicling the trial of seven anti-Vietnam War protestors who are tried for conspiracy and the intention of inciting riots and violence in Chicago during the 1968 National Democratic Convention. The film is available on Netflix.

Dr Seena Rejal (1997), Founder and CEO of Shapes AI, was featured in the ‘Safe to Work?’ episode of the BBC’s Click programme on 19 September, discussing Sociadex, a recently launched AI platform that uses CCTV footage to monitor and mitigate workplace COVID-19 risks. To help keep staff and visitors as safe as possible, push notifications are sent out when social distancing levels fall below thresholds, and up-to-date insights enable managers to review trends over time with risk heatmaps. You can catch up on the episode on iPlayer.

Pip Torrens (1978) plays newspaper editor Joe Lapidus in ‘Roadkill’, the political thriller about a cabinet minister on the verge of promotion when a secret from him past threatens to jeopardise his future. Written by David Hare, the series is currently showing on Sunday evenings at 9pm on BBC One. Episodes are also available on iPlayer.

Congratulations to William Dalrymple (1984) who is one of the three finalists for the Cundill History Prize 2020 for The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. The prizewinner will be announced on 3 December – we wish William the very best of luck! Read.


Freya Berry (2010): The Dictator’s Wife, Headline Review, early 2022

In post-Cold War Eastern Europe, Marija Popa, glamorous, ruthless, goes on trial for the crimes of her dead dictator husband. A young female lawyer, whose family fled the regime, returns to her homeland to defend the case – and finds herself not only bewitched by Marija’s captivating presence, but on the trail of a terrible secret which threatens to tear her family, and her country, apart.

Jonathan Coe (1980): Mr Wilder and Me, Viking, 5 November 2020.

‘In a novel that is at once a tender coming-of-age story and an intimate portrait of one of cinema’s most intriguing figures, Jonathan Coe turns his gaze on the nature of time and fame, of family and the treacherous lure of nostalgia. When the world is catapulting towards change, do you hold on for dear life or decide it’s time to let go?’

Sally Davies (e2019) & Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard: Whose Health Is It, Anyway? Oxford University Press, 19 November 2020.

Covid-19 has shown how vulnerable society, our economy, and day-to-day lives are, but we have not valued the pivotal role of good health. Our healthcare system is now an illness service with little resilience, importing illness rather than exporting health into communities, not leveraging the digital technology innovations harnessed in other industries. Whose Health Is It, Anyway? outlines why health is truly our most untapped opportunity for prosperity and happiness in the 21st century, individually and jointly as whole nations.

Caroline Laske (1985): Law, Language and Change. A Diachronic Semantic Analysis of Consideration in the Common Law Leiden: Brill/Nijhoff, September 2020.

In this monograph, Caroline Laske traces the advent of consideration in English contract law, by analysing the doctrinal development, in parallel with the corresponding terminological evolution and semantic shifts between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is an innovative, interdisciplinary study, showcasing the value of taking a diachronic corpus linguistics-based approach to the study of legal change and legal development, and the semantic shifts in the corresponding terminology.

Gregory Leadbetter (1993): Maskwork, Nine Arches, September 2020.

‘In his second poetry collection, Maskwork, ideas of mystery, the supernatural, theatre and ritual combine to reveal much more than they disguise. Masks, in these perceptive, resonant poems, act as a way of becoming, seeing, and knowing – permission to enter altered states and otherworlds, to mysteries hidden within and beyond ourselves, to experiences that call to and quicken powers of life and being.’

Tim Taylor (1989) & Alan Dorin: Rise of the Self-Replicators: Early Visions of Machines, AI and Robots That Can Reproduce and EvolveSpringer, July 2020.

Is it possible to design robots and other machines that can reproduce and evolve? And, if so, what are the implications: for the machines, for ourselves, for our environment, and for the future of life on Earth and elsewhere? The authors provide a chronological survey and comprehensive archive of the early history of thought about machine self-reproduction and evolution. They discuss contributions from philosophy, science fiction, science and engineering, and uncover many examples that have never been discussed in the Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life literature before now.

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


We hope to welcome back alumni from the matriculation years listed below for their Annual Gatherings in 2021.

Please note that the dates are subject to change due to the ongoing pandemic:
1996, 1997, 1998: Saturday 17 July 2021
1968, 1969, 1970, 1971: Wednesday 21 July 2021
2008, 2009, 2010: Saturday 11 September 2021
1965, 1966, 1967: Wednesday 15 September 2021

We want to hear from you! Do keep us up-to-date with your latest achievements and activities for our Global Alumni News pages in The Fountain and the Alumni Achievements section in the Annual Record. Please send your news, appointments, and publications to: alumni-comms@trin.cam.ac.uk.


Tokyo: Trinity in Japan Meeting, with Professor Didier Queloz (e2013) online, Friday 6 November 2020, 7pm. REGISTER.

Online: Trinity Research Talk – ‘The rise of nation-states? Alternative pathways of political change in late medieval and early modern Europe’ with Dr Duncan Hardy (e2016), Thursday 19 November, 6-7pm. REGISTER.

Online: Trinity Research Talk – ‘Quantum Light from Atomically Thin Materials’ with Dr Hannah Stern (e2017), Thursday 3 December, 1-2pm. SAVE THE DATE.

Online: Trinity Alumni Carol Service, December 2020, date TBC – please keep an eye on the events pages.

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