Latest news

Professor Jennifer Clack ScD FRS

31 Mar 2020

The College is deeply saddened to report the death of Professor Jennifer Clack, who died on 26 March 2020 after being unwell for some time. 

Professor Clack was one of the world's most distinguished vertebrate palaeontologists, who had made a major contribution to evolutionary biology through her work on the evolution from fish to tetrapods.

She studied in Newcastle before moving to Cambridge as Assistant Curator in the University Museum of Zoology.  She later became a Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology in the Department of Zoology in Cambridge, and was elected a Fellow of Darwin College in 1997 (Emeritus Fellow from 2015).  Her work won her renown from many quarters, and she received several honorary degrees and medals.  She became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2009. 

The College flag will fly at half-mast today (31 March 2020) in respect. 

Additional information on her work can be found on Professor Clack's website 

Global human genome study reveals our complex evolutionary history

19 Mar 2020

A new study has provided the most comprehensive analysis of human genetic diversity to date, clarifying the genetic relationships between human populations around the world. "Studying the patterns of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans hints at the structure of human communities more than 50,000 years ago. It is remarkable that patterns of Neanderthal ancestry are so similar in populations around the world today, and may have derived from a single Neanderthal population," said Dr Aylwyn Scally, a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Genetics who was involved in the study.

Cambridge research team working towards vaccine against COVID-19

18 Mar 2020

The race is on to find a vaccine against the new COVID-19 coronavirus. Professor Jonathan Heeney, co-Vice-Master of Darwin College, explains why a cautious approach is needed and how his team is using new technology developed for influenza and Ebola viruses to target the new infection. "It's a complex process. Right now we have our vaccine candidates in mice and they're generating immune responses to the vaccine," said Prof Heeney.
"We're working around the clock with a team of experts and everybody's collaborative. The sooner we can get a vaccine or therapy out there the better." Read more on the research here.

Inflammation in the brain linked to several forms of dementia

18 Mar 2020

Research led by Professor James Rowe (Fellow of Darwin College, Department of Clinical Neurosciences) suggests that inflammation on the brain plays a larger role in dementia than previously thought. The researchers say it offers hope for potential new treatments for several types of dementia. Read more on the research here.

Idomeni - Waiting for Home

19 Feb 2020

Former Darwin College student, Alki Alevropoulou-Malli, has recently published a book about the Greek refugee crisis. Written in both English and German, this documentary photo-book aims to document and tell the story of those trapped in the refugee settlement of Idomeni, along the Greek-North Macedonian border, in 2016. Using a combination of photographs, stories & direct quotes from residents as well as sociological findings, the authors provide insight into the daily life of people living in the camp and their constant fight for their voices to be heard, while advocating for the more dignified and humane treatment of Europe's displaced communities. This project is supported by the Initiative Minderheiten Tirol and has been published by Mandelbaum Verlag.The book can be ordered directly and 10% of proceeds of the book sold directly through this website will be donated to charities still active in Greece.

How is the Fanconi Anaemia pathway activated to remove DNA lesions?

19 Feb 2020

DNA holds the instructions our cells need to grow, develop, divide and, eventually, even to die. This information is fragile and it can be damaged by toxic agents such as sunlight or chemicals (cigarettes, alcohol, etc.). Normally, our cells can cope with these hazards, but if the damage is not repaired correctly, it can cause a range of diseases including cancer. Using electron cryo-microscopy, Dr Pablo Alcón, Darwin College Research Associate, and Dr Shabih Shakeel from Dr Lori Passmore's group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology have visualized the structure of the activated FANCD2-FANCI complex (D2I).

A specific type of DNA damage known as inter-strand crosslinks are repaired by the orchestrated action of proteins of the so-called Fanconi anaemia (FA) pathway. The molecular mechanism of FA pathway activation has been a long-standing question. This step requires the attachment of ubiquitin, a 'protein tag', onto FANCD2. Intriguingly, FANCD2 seemed to be unable to accommodate this tag, due to its interaction with another protein, FANCI.

The results show that DNA itself is the key element that permits the ubiquitination, and that D2I acts as a molecular clamp: D2I grasps DNA, and this reveals the specific site where ubiquitin is inserted. Interestingly, this work also suggests that the role of ubiquitin is not so much to signal the damage directly, but to tightly lock D2I onto the DNA. Then, D2I will recruit enzymes that will excise the damaged DNA, allowing its repair.

The article can be read in and on the news article from Cancer Research UK.

Professor Donald West

03 Feb 2020

The College is sad to announce the death of Professor Donald West, who died on Friday 31 January 2020. 

Professor West trained as a psychiatrist, and later became a criminologist, and published in the fields of Criminology, Parapsychology, and Psychology. 

Born in 1924, he studied at Liverpool University before completing postgraduate work in London and Cambridge. He was one of the earliest Fellows of Darwin, where he became a Fellow in 1967.

After his retirement in 1984 he was named the Emeritus Professor of Clinical Criminology by the University of Cambridge. 

He was particularly known for his 1955 book, Homosexuality (revised 1968), which argued for tolerance.

Information on Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

31 Jan 2020

Please see link to the University advice on the Coronavirus for your

Further information will be circulated as and when this guidance is

Astronomers just got a deep peek at a black hole

24 Jan 2020

Dr William Alston (Research Associate, Darwin College) discusses how scientists were able to map the region around a black hole’s event horizon.

Tube patrols create 'phantom policing' effect, study finds

24 Jan 2020

Research led by Professor Larry Sherman, Emeritus Fellow, Darwin College, suggests that police patrols at London Underground stations could help cut crime. 

Over-hunting walruses contributed to the collapse of Norse Greenland

07 Jan 2020

The mysterious disappearance of Greenland’s Norse colonies sometime in the 15th century may have been down to the overexploitation of walrus populations for their tusks, according to a study of medieval artefacts from across Europe. Dr James H. Barrett, Fellow of Darwin College and member of the Department of Archaeology, argues that the Norse abandonment of Greenland may have been precipitated by a “perfect storm” of depleted resources and volatile prices, exacerbated by climate change. Read the full report

Expedition finds tallest tree in the Amazon - Dr Tobias Jackson

19 Dec 2019

Dr Tobias Jackson, a Research Associate member of Darwin College, was part of a team from the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, who joined Professor Eric Gorgens on an expedition to the Amazon. The team travelled in August along the Jari river, in the north east of the Amazon. Read the full story at

Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholar

14 Oct 2019

Darwin is delighted to welcome our first Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholar, Jonathan So.  Jonathan is commencing PhD research on probabilistic representation learning in the Department of Engineering.  He joins us from University College London, having previously worked as a software developer.
The Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarships are made available through the generosity of the David and Claudia Harding Foundation. They provide fully-funded scholarships for the most talented PhD students from the UK and around the world.

Dr Kiyoshi Nagai FRS

Kiyoshi Nagai

03 Oct 2019

The College is deeply saddened to announce the death of Emeritus Fellow Dr Kiyoshi Nagai, who died on 27 September 2019 after a short illness. 

Dr Nagai was a structural biologist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, who was known for his work on the mechanism of RNA splicing and structures of the spliceosome.

After studying at Osaka University, Dr Nagai moved in 1981 to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he worked as a post-doc with Max Perutz (coincidentally, Max Perutz became an Honorary Fellow of Darwin in 1984) on overproduction of eukaryotic proteins in E. coli. Kiyoshi later became a group leader at the LMB and was joint head of the Division of Structural Studies from 2000 to 2010. He was elected as a Fellow of Darwin College in 1993, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2000.

The Master, Professor Mary Fowler, said: "We are enormously saddened by Kiyoshi's untimely death.   He was a great scientist and scholar, and one of the many distinguished researchers at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge who have been, and are, associated with Darwin College.  He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time."


Kiyoshi Nagai (1949 – 2019) - MRC LMB obituary
Dr Nagai's page at the Royal Society

Election of the next Master of Darwin College

Dr Mike Rands

01 Oct 2019

Darwin College is delighted to announce that Dr Michael Rands has been elected to succeed Professor Mary Fowler as Master from 1 October 2020.

Dr Rands is currently the Director of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the internationally focused cluster of biodiversity conservation organisations based around Cambridge. He will take up the office of Master after the retirement of the current Master, Professor Mary Fowler on 30 September 2020.

After studying Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, Dr Rands took a DPhil in Zoology at Wolfson College, Oxford (coincidentally Darwin’s “twin” College). An early career as a research ecologist followed, studying farmland biodiversity in the UK and developing innovative methodologies for increasing wildlife populations in agricultural ecosystems, some of which became enshrined in UK and EU policy.  In 1986 Dr Rands moved into international conservation, directing  a programme of multidisciplinary  projects in over 100 countries for the International Council for Bird Preservation, based at its headquarters in Cambridge. In 1996 he was appointed Chief Executive of BirdLife International, a global partnership of national conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats, and global biodiversity, working with communities towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. As the Director of CCI, Dr Rands heads an initiative which seeks to transform the global understanding and conservation of biodiversity through the integration of research, education, policy and practice . He is a Fellow in Management Practice at the Cambridge Judge Business School, and a Fellow Commoner at Magdalene College in Cambridge.

Dr Rands is broadly interested in interdisciplinary approaches to conserving the natural world; environmental governance and capacity development;  and innovative solutions to global challenges, especially environmental change and sustainability.

Commenting on his election, Dr Rands said: “I am delighted to have been elected as the next Master. I believe the College’s intellectually rich and vibrant international community - combined with its collaborative, informal and non-hierarchical ethos - make Darwin an exceptionally important and attractive part of the Cambridge collegiate community. I very much look forward to playing my part in its growth and development.”

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, who chaired the search committee, said: “We are delighted that Mike Rands has agreed to be the next Master of Darwin College. These are important times for our Collegiate University as we look to the future. Mike’s appointment reflects his commitment to education and research at Cambridge and his dedication to tackling the global challenges that we face more widely. We look forward with enthusiasm to working with Mike as our new Master.”

October 2019

Professor Amrita Narlikar

23 Sep 2019

Professor Amrita Narlikar (@AmritaNarlikar), former Fellow of Darwin College from 2008-2015, has been re-appointed as President of GIGA, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies for a second term by the Board of Trustees. The Trustees acknowledged and appreciated the positive developments the GIGA has shown, under her leadership, as a world-recognised institution for research and advice in the area of international politics. Read more on

Willy Brown, 22 April 1945 - 1 August 2019

Prof Willy Brown

06 Aug 2019

William Arthur (Willy) Brown, 22 April 1945 - 1 August 2019

The College is deeply saddened to announce the unexpected death of Professor Willy Brown, much-loved Master of Darwin College 2000-2012, who was an expert in the field of Industrial Relations. 

As well as being a former Master of the College, Willy Brown was an Emeritus Fellow of Darwin since 2012 and also an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge, where he had been a Professorial Fellow 1985-2000.  He held the Montague Burton Professorship of Industrial Relations in the University for 27 years until his retirement in 2012. 

An Oxford graduate, he made his early career at the University of Warwick, and prior to moving to Cambridge was Director of their Industrial Relations Research Unit, which gained an international reputation for excellence and influence under his leadership.  Willy's achievements in the fields of industrial relations and labour economics were exceptional.  For many decades an eminent scholar in these areas, not only in the United Kingdom but also internationally, Willy was arguably one of the most influential academics of his generation in both research and policy formulation.

His seminal publications included Piecework Bargaining (1973), The Changing Contours of British Industrial Relations (1981), The Evolution of the Modern Workplace (2009) and The Emerging Industrial Relations of China (2017).  An Honorary Professor at Renmin University in Beijing, he was instrumental in bringing together international and Chinese scholars to examine developments in Chinese employment relations

Willy provided academic leadership through various senior administrative roles at Cambridge, including membership of the Council, and Chairing the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. President of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association 1986-1989, he was a member of the Executive of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (formerly the International Industrial Relations Association) 1989-1995.  Government appointments included founding membership of the Low Pay Commission 1997-2007 and senior membership of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service Council and Panel of Arbitrators.

Appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002 for services to employment relations, Willy was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sydney in 2015, in recognition of his contributions to industrial relations scholarship and policy in Australia and internationally.

Willy’s PhD students and research associates have offered the following tributes to him. 

“We are so lucky to have known him, but that only seems to make his sudden loss all the more difficult to comprehend.”

“Willy Brown’s greatest impact may have been through his personal connections and friendships.  He strived to make the world not only a better place but also a fairer one and in this respect he lived by example.  Willy was a truly magnificent person with a marvellous capacity to speak with anyone on equal terms.  He was so selfless, so humble, so generous, and so kind.  He was greatly loved and will be sorely missed.”

Professor Mary Fowler, the current Master of Darwin College, said: “Willy was a wonderful man: kind, a superb academic, a man of integrity.  We will miss him terribly.”

The College flag will fly again at half-mast on the day of Willy’s funeral (date to be confirmed).

Thanks to Mike Sheppard, Andy Fabian, and to Willy’s PhD students for providing material for this announcement.

Honorary Degree awarded to Jane Goodall

12 Jul 2019

Darwin College is very pleased to announce that the Governing Body has elected Jane Goodall DBE PhD (Hon) ScD to an Honorary Fellowship.  Her long study of chimpanzees in Tanzania revealed their social structures and use of tools.  The founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, a global wildlife and environment conservation organisation and the Roots and Shoots global youth programme, she is the Scientific Director of the Gombe Wildlife Research Institute in Tanzania, a United Nations Messenger of Peace and the recipient of many awards including the Kyoto Prize. Dr Goodall was awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Cambridge in June 2019.  The Orator delivered these speeches when presenting the recipients to the Chancellor.

Gorillas found to live in 'complex' societies, suggesting deep roots of human social evolution

10 Jul 2019

Recent Darwin graduate Dr Robin Morrison is the lead author of a new study into the social structures of gorillas, which has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The study found that Gorillas have more complex social structures than previously thought, from lifetime bonds forged between distant relations, to "social tiers" with striking parallels to traditional human societies. The study used over six years of data from two research sites in the Republic of Congo, where scientists documented the social exchanges of hundreds of western lowland gorillas.

Robin Morrison, a biological anthropologist who recently completed her PhD at Darwin College, said "Studying the social lives of gorillas can be tricky.  Gorillas spend most of their time in dense forest, and it can take years for them to habituate to humans. Where forests open up into swampy clearings, gorillas gather to feed on the aquatic vegetation. Research teams set up monitoring platforms by these clearings and record the lives of gorillas from dawn to dusk over many years."

Full story (University of Cambridge website)
Study Proceedings of the Royal Society B
"Gorillas a party animals just like us" (the Times)
"Gorillas form lifetime bonds" (the Independent)


Cambridge scientists recognised by major European research organisation

19 Jun 2019

Researchers from the Cambridge Biomedical Campus have featured prominently in this year’s election to the prestigious European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), including Professor Paul Lehner, Fellow of Darwin College.

Cambridge University has the highest number of new members of any institution within Europe. Five University of Cambridge researchers are among the 48 scientists from 17 countries elected. News item available here

Image credit: CDC/ Melissa Brower

Dr Miltos Allamanis, former Microsoft Research Fellow, winner of Distinguished Dissertation Award.

11 Jun 2019

The winner has been announced of the Distinguished Dissertation, a prestigious academic award, run jointly by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, in collaboration with the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC).

Dr Miltos Allamanis, University of Edinburgh, and former Microsoft Research Fellow at Darwin College won the competition for his PhD ‘Learning Natural Coding Conventions’.

Dr James Poskett, former Adrian Research Fellow (2015-2017), has recently published his first book, Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press).

07 Jun 2019

Dr James Poskett, former Adrian Research Fellow (2015-2017), has recently published his first book, Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press). The book was written during James’s time at Darwin, drawing on collections in Cambridge and beyond.

Materials of the Mind tells the story of the most popular mental science of the Victorian age. From American senators to Indian social reformers, this new mental science found supporters around the globe. This is a story of skulls from the Arctic, plaster casts from Haiti, books from Bengal, and letters from the Pacific.

Drawing on far-flung museum and archival collections, and addressing sources in six different languages, Materials of the Mind shows how the circulation of material culture underpinned the emergence of a new materialist philosophy of the mind, while also demonstrating how a global approach to history can help us reassess issues such as race, technology, and politics today.

Cambridge's Annual Canadian High Commissioner's Dinner

06 May 2019

Darwin College was pleased to host Cambridge’s Annual Canadian High Commissioner’s dinner. Honoured were the inaugural Canada-UK Postdoctoral Fellows (CUF) in Innovation and Entrepreneurship along with the Deputy High Commissioner, Sarah Fountain-Smith and former Ambassador to China, John McCallum. From left to right are Dr Saif Ahmad (CUF), Dr Nikki Weckman (CUF), Prof Jonathan Heeney Vice Master and Canada-UK Foundation Trustee, Dr Matais Acosta (CUF), Deputy High Commissioner Sarah Fountain-Smith, Karina Vold (CUF), John McCallum, and Professor Mary Fowler, Master of Darwin College. The event was organised by Connor MacDonald of the Cambridge Canadian Club and co-sponsored by the High Commission of Canada and the Canada-UK Foundation. Further details on the Canada-UK Postdoctoral Fellowships in Innovation and Entrepreneurship are available through

or by contacting the foundation

New environmental appointment at the University

25 Apr 2019

Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE, Fellow of Darwin College, has been appointed the first Director of the Cambridge Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative. Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor "This is a critical appointment. Emily is the ideal person to lead this initiative".

Professor Andrew Pitts is joint winner of the 2019 Alonzo Church Award and the 2019 LICS Test-of-Time awards

19 Apr 2019

Professor Andrew Pitts, Fellow of Darwin College, and Dr Jamie Gabbay (Heriot-Watt) have been selected for the 2019 Alonzo Church Award for their work on nominal techniques, begun when Jamie was a PhD student with Andrew in the Computer Laboratory in the late 1990s.

Professor Pitts has also been awarded the Lics Test-of-Time award with Professor Marcello Fiore.


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