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GEE News

David Murrell promoted to Senior Lecturer

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Congratulations to Dr David Murrell who will be promoted to Senior Lecturer as part of this year's academic and research promotions round.  Promotions will take effect from 1st October.

Analysis by Dr Oliver Davis and collaborators show the correlation between reading and mathematics ability at age twelve has a substantial genetic component

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The analysis published in Nature Communications, show, using twin and genome-wide analysis, that there is a substantial genetic component to children’s ability in reading and mathematics, and estimate that around one half of the observed correlation in these traits is due to shared genetic effects (so-called Generalist Genes). Thus, the results highlight the potential role of the learning environment in contributing to differences in a child’s cognitive abilities at age twelve.

See UCL News for more background details and information.

2014 Faculty of Life Sciences Excellence in Teaching Awards

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Congratulations Nick Lane on being one of the 2014 recipients of the Faculty of Life Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award.  The award is made in recognition of outstanding achievements in both the classroom and in support of our students' education.  

Judith Mank receives the ZSL Scientific Medal

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Prof Judith Mank

Judith Mank, GEE Professor of Evolutionary and Comparative Biology, was presented with the ZSL Scientific Medal by the Zoological Society London at their annual awards ceremony on 17 June.

Green Impact Award for Darwin Building

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Green Impact Award Presentation

Congratulations Darwin Green Team on receipt of a Platinum Award presented by the UCL President & Provost Michael Arthur at the Green Impact Awards Ceremony held at the Grant Museum on the evening of Wednesday 11 June.

Recent PhD successes

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A number of PhD students in GEE have successfully defended their theses in recent months.  Many congratulations to them.  They are:

Congratulations Stephen Montgomery who has been awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

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Early Career Fellowships aim to provide career development opportunities for those who are at a relatively early stage of their academic careers, but who have a proven record of research. The expectation is that Fellows should undertake a significant piece of publishable work during their tenure, and that the Fellowships should lead to a more permanent academic position.

The 3-year fellowship will allow Stephen to continue his research on evolutionary neurobiology in tropical butterflies.

GEE / UGI Researcher, Garrett Hellenthal, awarded BBSRC New Investigator Award

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Garrett Hellenthal

The aim of the BBSRC New Investigator Award is to assist newly employed university lecturers, and researchers at BBSRC-sponsored, and certain other research institutes in their first open-ended appointments to obtain their first research grant.

Garrett has received £500K in funding, including a three-year post-doctoral researcher. He will be working in collaboration with GEE Professors David Balding and Mark Thomas, Dr Neil Bradman and researchers from Addis Ababa University, Cambridge and Harvard.  The project entitled "Evolutionary processes shaping genetic structure in Ethiopia and the Sudans" is a three year project that involves genotyping 2,000 individuals (from samples stored at UCL) to learn about the ancestral history of >90 different ethnic/regional groups from Ethiopia and the Sudans.

The project will develop novel statistical methodology to identify which geographical and sociological (e.g. language, religion) features contribute most to genetic diversity -- or act as barriers to gene flow -- among different human groups. The project will also assess genetic diversity in this part of Africa in relation to the rest of the world, helping to dissect the initial migrations of early humans out of Africa when colonizing the rest of the world.

Helen Chatterjee awarded AHRC Grant

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Helen Chatterjee

Dr Helen Chatterjee (GEE) has been awarded a £550,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to investigate the value of museum encounters in social prescribing.  Social prescribing links patients in primary care with local sources of support within the community which can improve their health and wellbeing. The 3 year project, called Museums on Prescription, will target socially isolated, vulnerable and/or lonely older people who will be referred from the NHS and Adult Social Care departments to partner museums in Camden and Kent, including UCL Museums, the British Museum, Sir Johan Soanes Museum, Islington Museum, Canterbury Museums and Galleries and Tunbridge Wells Museums and Gallery. Other partners include AgeUK, Arts Council England, the New Economics Foundation and  the Royal Society for Public Health. The project, which kicks off in July this year, is led by Helen, who is the Principal Investigator, Paul Camic who is a Professor of Psychology & Public Health and a Co-Investigator, at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Dr Linda Thomson (GEE and UCL Museums), who will be the lead Research Associate.

Steve Jones awarded the Stephen Jay Gould Prize

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Steve Jones has been awarded the Stephen Jay Gould Prize in recognition of his efforts in advancing public understanding of evolutionary science.

UCLU Student Choice Teaching Awards - nominations for 2014

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Students have selected their nominees for outstanding teaching in this year's UCLU Student Choice Teaching Awards. 

On the list of nominees this year are Hazel Smith, Astrid Wingler and Richard Pearson from the Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment.

Further details can be viewed on the UCLU website

Congratulations to PhD student Alison Cotton on her publication in Heredity

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The results of PhD student Ali Cotton's research into the presence of meiotic drive and male eyespan, a sexually selected ornamental trait in wild-type stalk-eyed flies (Teleopsis dalmanni), have been published in Heredity (Heredity (2014) 112, 363–369

Ali's PhD Supervisor, Prof Andrew Pomiankowski talks with Geoff Marsh, about the results and their significance.  Listen to the podcast.


Ursula Mittwoch celebrates her 90th with colleagues, past and present

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Ursula Mittwoch 90th - Group Photo

Professor Ursula Mittwoch, possibly one of UCL's longest standing associates, celebrated her 90th birthday with friends and colleagues from GEE, from the former Galton Laboratory and from the wider-UCL academic community.

Nick Lane to receive 2015 Biochemical Society Award

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Biochemical Society Award Image

The award is in recognition of Nick Lane's sustained and diverse contribution to the molecular life sciences, with a special emphasis on education and the public understanding of science.

See UCL news page for further details

BBC Inside Science: Kate Jones talks about Technology for Nature

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The tools and gadgets available to remotely track animals and monitor populations and their habitats are getting better and more mechanised. Cameras mounted on birds can record where they fly; audio recordings capture bat calls; satellite images monitoring habitat change. However all this digital data needs to be analysed. Professor Kate Jones, an expert on biodiversity at University College London, thinks that this is where more technological advances are needed. She wants image recognition programmes to scan through millions of remote camera images, or sound recognition of hundreds of thousands of bat calls to be developed.

Download the podcast


Judging the effects of climate change on extinction may be easier than previously thought

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Published today in Nature Climate Change, a study led by Richard Pearson (UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research) and by Resit Akçakaya (Stony Brook University in New York) shows that climate change may not be fundamentally different from other extinction threats in terms of identifying species in danger of extinction. The study identified factors that predispose species to high extinction risk due to climate change in order to help conservation efforts to classify species that are most in danger.

Press Release

Professor Lorna Casselton CBE FRS (July 1938 – February 2014)

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Lorna Casselton - Old Life Boat House 1965

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor Lorna Casselton CBE, FRS, who passed away on the evening of Thursday 13th February.  She was an alumnus of UCL having obtained both her BSc and then her PhD in 1964.  Lorna carried out her PhD on Fungal Genetics under the supervision of Prof Dan Lewis.  

Nick Lane gives inaugural UCL Life Sciences Alumni New Year Lecture

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Lane - FLS Alumni Lecture (Feb 2014)

How did life invent itself? Where did it start? Will life be common in the universe?

On 5 February, UCL alumni, staff, students and guests gathered to hear Nick Lane give the inaugural Life Sciences Alumni New Year Lecture on the Origins of Life.

The Lecture was followed by a drinks and canapés reception and Nick was there to sign copies of his book Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, winner of the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

Viva success for Dr Liam O'Hara

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Liam O'Hara successfully defended his PhD thesis yesterday. The title of his thesis is "The role of trehalose-6-phosphate in the regulation of plant development and stress response".

Anton Flügge PhD Success

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Congratulations to Anton Flügge for passing his PhD viva with no corrections. Anton's thesis is entitled “Linking pattern and process in tropical rainforests” and he was supervised by Dr David Murrell and Prof Sofia Olhede (Statistical Science).

MRC Career Development Award for Doug Speed

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Congratulations to Doug Speed who has been successful in gaining an MRC career development award in biostatistics.

The MRC has identified advanced biostatistics as a methodology of strategic importance to UK science.  The MRC Biostatistics Fellowship is one of a number of qualitative and quantitative schemes supported by the MRC under the Strategic Skills Fellowships banner. The scheme expects to make up to 3 awards a year.

The aim of the scheme is to encourage broad training programmes in biostatistics to support talented researchers who have recently completed their PhDs and wish to move into statistically based health related research.

The aim of Doug's fellowship is to develop methods for better understanding the genetics behind complex traits, then to apply these methods to improve prediction and classification of diseases. There are many diseases which we know to be highly heritable, but for which we have struggled to understand the genetic factors influencing risk.  For example, twin and family studies have shown that at least 50% of an individual's risk of developing epilepsy can be explained by genetics, but so far, we have discovered only a handful of genetic mutations impacting risk which in total explain less than 1% of the variation.

To better understand these diseases, we need to devise methods which allow for the fact that there are likely to be many hundreds, if not thousands, of variants affecting risk. Even though we are unlikely to discover the majority of these, we can still benefit greatly by determining which types of variants are causal. This information can then be accommodated in prediction models, which can be used to select individuals at high risk of developing a condition, and also for classification; many diseases, especially neurological traits, are highly heterogeneous, so diagnoses and prognoses will benefit by being able to use genetics to group individuals into subtypes.


Winter tidal storm surge at Blakeney Point

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Blakeney Point - Old Life Boat Houses

Blakeney point, home to the UCL ecological research station, lies on the North Norfolk coast.  In early December 2013, a tidal storm surge hit much of the East coast of the UK, including Blakeney.  The surge resulted in flooding of the research station, causing some structural damage to the building, the Old Life Boat House (right side of picture), as well as the National Trust “New” Life Boat House (left side of picture).  Not the first, but certainly one of the largest inundations the old building has withstood over its 100 plus years of existence.  The force of the deluge upturned furniture and fittings, and contents have sadly been ruined.

Dr Michal Malecki (Bahler Group) awarded prestigious Newton International Fellowship

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Michal Malecki

Dr Michal Malecki has recently secured a prestigious Newton International Fellowship which is jointly run by The British Academy and the Royal Society. This postdoctoral fellowship is to work on the function of cytoplasmic non-canonical RNA polymerases in fission yeast.

Non-canonical RNA polymerases (ncPAPs) modify RNA molecules by adding nucleotides to their 3’-ends without the need of a starter or template. Modifications catalyzed by ncPAPs have different consequences on RNA fate: they can destabilize and rapidly degrade transcripts, but they can also stabilize transripts, facilitate processing steps, or regulate translation ability. The ability to modify pre-existing RNAs makes ncPAPs ideal candidates for shaping the transcriptome at a post-transcriptional level.

Appointment to NERC Peer Review College Pool of Chairs

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Kevin Fowler has been appointed by the Natural Environment Research Council as a Chair with their Peer Review College (Evolution portfolio) from January 2014. Responsibilities will include chairing Responsive Mode moderating panel meetings, Fellowship sift and interview panels, reporting to NERC's Science & Innovation Strategy Board and advising on NERC funding policy.

Prof Georgina Mace comments in Nature: Ecology must evolve

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Georgina Mace comments in Nature on the fresh approach needed to tackle global problems.  

Link to Nature Comment

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Page last modified on 23 may 11 12:59