GEE News

Congratulations to PhD student Alison Cotton on her publication in Nature 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.

Judith Mank to receive the ZSL Scientific Medal

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Prof Judith Mank

Judith Mank, GEE Professor of Evolutionary and Comparative Biology, will be presented with the ZSL Scientific Medal by the Zoological Society London at their annual awards ceremony in June. The Scientific Medal is awarded to research scientists with no more than 15 years post-doctoral experience for distinguished work in Zoology.  Many congratulations Judith.

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

RA Fisher Centre for Computational Biology UCL/LRI Meeting

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Computational Biology Meeting Nov 2013 (1)

The first Fisher Centre for Computational Biology meeting took place on 8 November at the CRUK London Research Institute. Nearly 100 researchers from UCL and LRI took part in this event aimed at bringing together the computational biology communities of UCL and LRI/Crick Institute. The event started with pizzas and a poster session sponsored by eLife, a new open-access journal for high-profile research. It was followed by 5 stimulating talks covering a wide range of computational biology topics, including biological network analyses, transcriptomics, phylogenetics, molecular dynamics, and gene function prediction.

The next event will take place on Monday 17 Feb at UCL.

The RA Fisher Centre for Computational Biology is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence for mathematical and computational analysis of the fast-growing data in genetics and biology.

Collaboration with Bayer on Crop Genomics

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Crop Genomic Team

The Dessimoz Lab (GEE & CS) and Bayer CropScience NV (Ghent, Belgium) have initiated a collaboration on the development of new methods and resources to better characterise evolutionary and functional relationships between model plant genomes and agronomically-relevant crop genomes.

Lactase and Co-Evolution of Genes and Culture

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Dallas Swallow and Mark Thomas feature in a short educational film revealing the genetic changes and origin of lactase persistence.

Gene tweaking for conservation

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Kate Jones discusses the science and ethics of species conservation using genetic modification.

Guardian Podcast

Senior Professorial Promotions

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GEE is pleased to announce that Max Telford and Francois Balloux have been promoted to Band 2 Professors, and Ziheng Yang has been promoted to a Band 3 Professor.

IHA raises funds for Macmillan

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Macmillan Coffee

Researchers from the Healthy Ageing lab show off their baking skills to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. 

Boom & Bust in Ancient Farming Populations

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Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study is the first to show the existence of a ‘boom-and-bust’ pattern, with decreases in population size as great as 60 per cent following rapid initial population increases of up to three or four times previous levels.

Farewell party for Mari-Wyn Burley

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Burley Retirement

GEE staff past and present, came together last week to wish Mari-Wyn Burley the very happiest of retirements.  Mari-Wyn left GEE at the end of August having joined UCL in 1978 as a technician supporting Prof Sue Povey's work on the molecular genetics of inherited diseases particularly Tuberous Sclerosis.  Latterly Mari-Wyn worked for Prof Andres Ruiz-Linares and ran the in-house sequencing and genotyping facility.

Gargantuan gang of GEE PhDs graduated this week

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PhD Graduation Ceremony September 2013
PhD Graduation Ceremony September 2013 PhD Graduation Ceremony September 2013 PhD Graduation Ceremony September 2013

More on milk and human adaptation by Dallas Swallow’s group

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Published this week together with  colleagues from  University of Addis Ababa and Roskilde University (Bryony Jones, Tamiru Oljira Raga, Anke Liebert, Pawel Zmarz, Endashaw Bekele,  Thomas Danielsen, Anders Olsen, Neil Bradman,  Jesper Troelsen and Dallas Swallow)
in The American Journal of Human Genetics. Diversity of Lactase Persistence Alleles in Ethiopia: Signature of a Soft Selective Sweep.  Read more in UCL News.

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Page last modified on 23 may 11 12:59