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Blueprint Staff News for the University of Oxford • November 2008

▸ Aspiring to Oxford ▸ VC with PM in India ▸ Commercialising research

▸ Oxford remembers  lumni interactions ▸A ▸ New animal facility complete

news in brief

Web welcomers wanted

Bi Scott


More people have applied for places on undergraduate degree courses at Oxford this year than in any previous year. The number of applications received by the deadline of 15 October has increased by nearly 12% over the previous year. More than 15,000 people applied for the approximately 3,000 places on offer, making it the most competitive year in the University’s history.

Jonathan Blum Mary Evans Picture Library


Shimon Peres, the ninth President of Israel, twice Israeli Prime Minister and winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, is to give a lecture on ‘The Globalisation of Peace’ in the Sheldonian Theatre at the invitation of Balliol College. The lecture will take place at 7.45 pm on 18 November and will be open to all members of the University. For details about admission, visit A profile of the first woman to stand for the US presidency, in 1872, has been published by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Victoria Woodhull’s life is remarkably colourful, both in the US and then in Britain where she lived for 50 years. The article was written by the ODNB’s editor, Dr Lawrence Goldman, Fellow in History at St Peter’s, and brings together for the first time both halves of Woodhull’s life, providing new material on her life in England. The article is available until 24 November at



The Oxford Science Blog is inviting readers to send in tricky questions for Oxford scientists to answer. As part of its ‘Any Questions?’ campaign anyone can submit serious or fun scientific questions; hot topics so far include black holes, genes, viruses, chemical bonds and climate change. Anyone interested in asking a question (or providing answers!) should go to scienceblog.


Staff and students of the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art have been helping the Oxford Young Carers Project create artwork to decorate their new centre on Bullingdon Road. The young carers spray-painted canvasses that will be part of a project called ‘This is me’, with each piece representing a young carer’s emotions and feelings. There are plans to display the project around the city, helping create a greater awareness and understanding of young carers.


Professor David Macdonald, Director of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, WildCRU, has been listed 28th in the Independent on Sunday’s list of Britain’s top 100 environmentalists. The ‘IoS green list’ aims to highlight the UK’s most effective green campaigners, broadcasters and scientists. Professor Macdonald was included in recognition of his research with the WildCRU as well as his award-winning films, books and work with conservation organisations around the globe.


Cover: The University launches an online retrospective of wartime artefacts (p3). Photo credit: istockphoto/redmal


Blueprint November 2008

The second in the series of online Oxford Debates launched on 3 November. Focusing on the credit crunch, this term’s motion is ‘The current financial crisis sounds the death knell for laissez faire capitalism’. The debate is being moderated by Professor Colin Mayer, Dean of the Saïd Business School, with Professor Jonathan Michie, Director of the Department for Continuing Education, proposing and Dr Linda Yueh from the Department of Economics opposing. To view the debate and post your comments, go to

Are you interested in appearing on the University website? The Oxford Learning Institute and Public Affairs Directorate are making a series of short videos of staff talking about their work and life at Oxford. The videos will be used as part of a new online ’Welcome to the University’ course and will also feature on a new Staff Gateway website. Filming will take place in early December, with each interview lasting about five minutes. If you are interested in taking part, please email internal.communications@ by Friday 28 November, giving your name, role, department or college, and contact phone number.

Oxford enlightens The Electronic Enlightenment project (, created by the Volaire Foundation and hosted by the Bodleian Library, is now offering unrivalled access to the correspondence of the greatest thinkers and writers of the ‘long 18th century’ (1688–1815). The project, which began a decade ago with funding from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, coordinates the intricate web of correspondence among 6,000 leading political, cultural and academic figures of the 18th centuries. Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Associate Director, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The Electronic Enlightenment promises to become one of the most significant resources for scholars working in the 18th century.’ Oxford Blueprint is published monthly (except August and September) for the staff of the University of Oxford by the Public Affairs Directorate Editor: Sally Croft Contributors: Ruth Collier, Maria Coyle, Wendy Fuggles, Lisa Glanville, Jenny Lunnon, Katie Samuel, Pete Wilton, Jonathan Wood, Clare Woodcock Designers: Laëtitia Velia, Toby Whiting Picture research: Janet Avison Editorial support: Nicola Sweetnam Suggestions and items for possible inclusion in Blueprint are welcome and should be sent to For the latest news about the University, see For Blueprint advertisement information, see p11

The University marked the 90th anniversary of Armistice by launching a new website that will enable educators, scholars and the public to view previously unseen memorabilia from World War I. Created by the English Faculty and Computing Services, the ‘Great War Archive’ ( ww1lit/gwa) brings together 6,500 digital images of items submitted to the University by members of the public. Most of these images are of treasured family heirlooms, which have never been on ‘public display’. Items include a bulletdented tea can which saved the life of an engineer who repaired a bombing post whilst under heavy fire in Bullecort in November 1917, and a souvenir matchbox made by a German POW for a British Lance Corporal after they had fought a fierce fire together, saving many lives.

There are also remarkable sketches of scenes and characters from military and civilian life by Private Percy Matthews, until now an unknown artist. The Great War Archive complements the University’s First World War Poetry Digital Archive, also launched on 11 November, which enables online users to view previously unseen materials such as poetry manuscripts and original diary entries from some of the conflict’s most important poets. It builds on Oxford’s extensive Wilfred Owen Archive. ‘The Great War is arguably the most resonant period in modern British history,’ says project leader Kate Lindsay. ‘The memorabilia and poetry archives will provide easy access to an unrivalled collection of material which will be of use to anyone interested in getting closer to this worldchanging conflict.’

Rob Judges

Smith School looks to the future

Forward thinkers: Dr John Hood with benefactors Elise and Martin Smith and Professor Sir David King

Understanding and pioneering ways for private enterprise, government and academia to work towards solutions to the

environmental challenges of the 21st century is the mission of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, officially


WWI online archive opens to the public

The diary of Sgt Joseph Cecil Thompson, in charge of stretcher bearers at Gallipoli, and (right) James Ryan poses for a portrait

The 90th anniversary of Armistice was marked by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography with an interactive feature that includes a number of new biographies published in the latest update of the dictionary. These include William Coltman, the most decorated other rank soldier of the war, and Jessie Pope, the patriotic poet criticised by Wilfred Owen and the original (critical) dedicatee of ‘Dulce et decorum est’. The feature will be available until early December via

opened last month by the ViceChancellor. The School, which has now moved into premises in Hayes House on George Street, is the result of a benefaction from Martin and Elise Smith. Headed by Professor Sir David King, the School already has over 20 staff members. It will build on existing strengths within the University such as the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, the Environmental Change Institute and the Saïd Business School and more than 40 researchers from the

wider University have also already signed up as Faculty Associates. Two weekly seminar series which will feature speakers from both within and outside the University are planned for the Michaelmas term: environmental and ecological economics; and risk, uncertainty, climate and policy. A Futures Laboratory will work with the private sector to identify potential environmental risks and opportunities, helping decision-makers to develop future strategies.

Blueprint November 2008


papers to the Bod

To lower prison suicide rates, vulnerable prisoners should not be placed in single cells and intervening where mental illness and alcohol problems are evident should be a priority, say the researchers. Being married also leads to an increased risk of suicide among prisoners. This is a surprise as marriage is associated with lower suicide risk in the general population. ‘This may be to do with the experience of loss on being incarcerated,’ suggests Dr Fazel. ‘If you have more to lose, you are more at risk of suicide.’

Viewfinder found These power-producing photovoltaic cells (p12) lie on the roof of the glasscovered atrium at the heart of the new Biochemistry building and produce about 10% of the energy needed to light the building. The atrium itself has been designed to encourage communication and integration.

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An Oxford University Police Force, presided over by the University Marshal or Oxford University Proctors, was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1825. Nicknamed ‘Bulldogs’, the officers’ role continued until 2003 when they were disbanded by the University Council. ‘Bulldogs’ carried warrant cards and were empowered to act as police officers within the University precincts and within areas of Oxford within four miles of any University building. In 2003 they were replaced by Proctors’ Officers who carry out similar duties, but without exercising police powers or holding warrant cards. In April 2008, four Police Community Support Officers took up a new role working with the University and colleges to provide a uniformed official presence in areas of the University. They support Thames Valley Police with their workload and help, when requested, at high-profile University events.


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Blueprint November 2008

living writers and the Bodleian is honoured to become the home of the Bennett Papers and preserve them for generations of scholars to come.’ The Bodleian will later receive Bennett’s annotated editions of his published writings, plus letters and other materials arising from his own marginal notes and afterthoughts. There are also diaries in an unbroken series from 1974 onwards, only a small selection of which have been published. The archive is to be catalogued and will open to researchers in part by January 2010. John Timbers /Arena PAL

Being white, male, married and in a job makes you more likely to die by suicide on being sent to prison, an Oxford University study has found. The strategies used by prisons to prevent suicides rely on identifying those who are most vulnerable. Dr Seena Fazel and colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry set out to determine the risk factors for suicide in prisons so that screening and prevention programmes can be improved. The results of their large-scale study are published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Author and playwright Alan Bennett has presented his papers as a gift to the Bodleian Library. In a reception at the Divinity School on 27 October, he was also surprised with the Bodley Medal, presented by David Vaisey, Bodley’s Librarian Emeritus and a lifelong friend. The medal is one of a limited number of replicas of founder Sir Thomas Bodley’s original 1634 medal. They are awarded to select honourees with whom the Bodleian Library is proud to be associated because of outstanding contributions to the worlds of communications and literature. Alan Bennett’s archive, spanning nearly five decades, includes original manuscripts, handwritten notes and drafts for all his stage and television plays (including those written for the National Theatre), his autobiographical collections and manuscripts of his novellas and short stories. Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘Alan Bennett is one of the world’s greatest

Illustration: David Mostyn


Prison suicide risks revealed Bennett donates literary

Recent major donations to the Campaign include:


A new Chair in the Study of the Abrahamic Religions, created by a benefaction of £2.5m. A £1m gift from Sheikh Mohammed bin Issa al Jaber towards a new auditorium at Corpus Christi College, to be called the MBI Auditorium. Gifts to St Edmund Hall totalling £1.3m from alumni, especially Jarvis Doctorow and Martin Smith, for a new theatre and lecture hall to be known as the Jarvis Doctorow Hall. The creation of Ahmet Ertegun Memorial Scholarships by the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund and the City Charity Trust, for undergraduates (except medical students) of Turkish descent. A Chair in Contemporary Islamic Studies endowed by the Qatar Foundation. The holder of the His Highness Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair will be a member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and a Fellow of St Antony’s College.



Campaign trail goes East and down under

▸▸ ▸▸

Tokyo: Dr John Hood greets Aftab Seth, Christ Church alumnus and former Indian Ambassador to Japan

Many hundreds of Old Members, friends and benefactors of the University attended a series of Campaign receptions and dinners in the Far East and Australia throughout October and November. Senior University Officers and Heads of House had the opportunity to discuss the Campaign, renew old acquaintances and review other collaborations with Oxford. The opening reception and dinner was held in Tokyo, hosted by the Vice-Chancellor. The evening included a viewing

of the Camille Pissarro: Family and Friends touring exhibition by the Ashmolean Museum and was attended by its Director, Dr Christopher Brown. Over 160 people attended the reception, which was the largest ever alumni gathering in Japan. In his speeches, the ViceChancellor drew attention to the long and deep relationship between Oxford and Japan. The events in Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne were hosted by the Chancellor, who shared the goals of the Campaign and


talked about Oxford’s research projects in these countries, the historic links created by academics and students, and the need to further develop successful scholarship schemes such as the Oxford Australia Scholarships and the China Oxford Scholarship Fund. In Sydney the guests attended the Oxford Business Alumni dinner where the former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, was

a speaker together with the Chancellor, Malcolm Turnbull MP and journalist Ray Martin. The Melbourne event was held at the National Gallery of Victoria, whose director is Dr Gerard Vaughan (an alumnus of Wolfson College) and who welcomed guests on the night. Dr Vaughan was Deputy Director for Development at the time of the previous major campaign for the University of Oxford.

Centenary engineers celebrate at Westminster The Department of Engineering Science marked the climax of its Centenary with a celebratory event at the House of Lords, attended by both the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. The host was Lord Jenkin of Roding, Centenary Patron and grandson of Oxford’s first Engineering Science Professor, Frewen Jenkin. Guests, comprising donors, alumni and staff, were treated to a tour of

the Palace of Westminster, a drinks reception in the historic Cholmondeley Room and dinner in the Terrace Pavilion overlooking the River Thames. Head of Department Professor Richard Darton said: ‘The Centenary year has not only enabled us to reflect on past achievements but has also provided an opportunity to look forward. A thriving school of well funded graduate

students will be required to make a vigorous contribution to research life; we have therefore established the Centenary

Fund.’ Details and pictures of the Department’s Centenary celebrations are at www.eng.

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The University’s new Biomedical Sciences building on South Parks

Better for animals, better for science, better for human health


Blueprint November 2008

While existing facilities conform to strict UK regulations on the housing and care of research animals, the buildings themselves are fairly old and are scattered across the science area. We will now be able to close those facilities in favour of a purpose-built, state-of-the-art building.’ Getting to this point has not been easy. The University has been subject to a campaign to prevent the construction of the building which, in addition to lawful protest, has included harassment, intimidation and damage to property. Construction began towards the end of 2003, but work halted in July 2004 due to the illegal actions of a small group of protestors. An injunction obtained by the University in November 2004 helped enable work to restart in 2005, but the protests surrounding the construction of the new facility have caused significant disruption for all those living and working near the site. ‘It has not been easy for members of the University, especially those in the science area, and we would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding,’ says Dr John Hood, Vice-Chancellor. ‘We would never want to prevent lawful protest, but the University has emphasised throughout that it will not accept intimidation and criminal acts. The safety of staff and students is our number one priority. To that end, in addition to the stringent security measures around the building itself, there is an injunction in place to protect all University members, their families, and those that work in

association with the University.’ Details of the injunction can be found at animal_research/legal_protection/. Animal research is a small part of the University’s biomedical programme. Most studies use in vitro techniques or human beings. However, limited animal research for those elements of study that cannot be carried out using any alternative technique is still essential to medical progress. ‘Many people want to know why using animals is still necessary,’ says Professor Buchan. ‘It’s because animal research can answer questions that no other technique can answer. While we know a lot about how a living body works, there is an PA Photocall

In the last couple of weeks, the first mice have been moved into the new Biomedical Sciences Building on South Parks Road, a facility to rehouse research animals currently kept in older facilities scattered throughout the science area. It is the start of a long process of migrating animals, which will take place in phases over the coming months, with the building not expected to become fully operational until mid-2009. It is also the end of a long process of constructing and kitting out the building, one which began towards the end of 2003 and has attracted considerable attention. ‘This facility supports Oxford’s worldclass biomedical research, and in doing so ultimately supports human health,’ says Professor Alastair Buchan, Head of the Medical Sciences Division. ‘Examples of research into devastating diseases that the new building will support include work on cancer, HIV, stroke, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Our goal is to save and improve human lives. ‘In doing that, however, we don’t lose sight of what’s best for animals. The University is committed to replacing the use of animals wherever possible with other research methods. For those cases where animal research is essential, we are committed to a gold standard of care. ‘The purpose of the building is simple: to rehouse research animals in facilities that are better for animal welfare and better for the staff and researchers using them.

Road is now coming into use PA Photocall

Primates, which account for less than 0.5% of the animals in the facility, will be housed in state-of-the-art primate rooms (left), whilst the mouse room (below left) has individually ventilated units maintained at constant temperature and humidity. Research supported by the facility illuminates our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s (below)

translates directly to saving human lives.’ Almost all of the animals – 98% – in the new building will be rodents, the majority mice. There will also be some ferrets, fish, frogs (tadpoles are used as part of research), and primates. The primates, which are all macaque monkeys, account for under half of one per cent (0.5%) of the animals to be housed in the facility. If tadpoles and very young fish are counted, the proportion is even smaller. Reflecting the latest research in animal care, the new building’s standards will easily exceed UK regulations governing animal welfare, which are themselves already among the strictest in the world. Every individual room has its own air supply, whose pressure, temperature and humidity can be controlled. This complex environmental control system both contains the possibility of any pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) spreading and allows for the right temperature and humidity for each species. The high hygiene levels protect both the animals and the staff working in the building, whose exposure to animal allergens is significantly reduced. The Veterinary Services staff, who look after animal health and welfare, will see major improvements in the efficiency with which they are able to carry out their work. The team, which includes both veterinary surgeons and behavioural zoologists, has three main functions: looking after animal health and welfare and advising on best practice; clinical diagnostics including health monitoring; and training those who will work with animals. The Biomedical Sciences Building brings the team under one roof with the animals in their care, whereas previously they had to move between a number of

different buildings. It also provides some dedicated training space, which they have not previously had, together with a muchimproved diagnostic laboratory which will extend the range of services available to improve animal welfare. The Head of Veterinary Services believes that the team’s new facilities will be helpful all round. ‘Clearly for us personally, the working environment is far better, but it’s the animals’ welfare that is important,’ she says. ‘We are here to look after the animals. The better our facilities, the better we can do that.’ And animal welfare, a good in itself, also supports good science. ‘The better the standard of the building, the better the welfare of the animals, the better the science,’ says Dr David Priestman, a researcher who will use the Biomedical Sciences Building. ‘Animals in good health and with minimal stress give reliable, reproducible research data.’ For more information about animal research at Oxford, visit animal_research/. BSIP, MENDIL/SPL

enormous amount we simply don’t know: the interaction between all the different parts of a living system, from molecules to cells to systems like respiration and circulation, is incredibly complex. Even if we knew how every element worked and interacted with every other element – which we don’t – a computer hasn’t been invented that has the power to reproduce all of those complex interactions, while clearly you cannot reproduce them all in a test tube. ‘Humans reproduce all these things, of course, and humans are used more than animals in research at Oxford. However, there are some things for which it’s ethically unacceptable to use humans. There are also some variables that you could not control in human subjects but which you can control in a mouse, such as diet, housing, clean air, humidity, temperature and genetic makeup. ‘Genetic manipulation is especially important here. Mice share over 90% of their genes with humans. In a mouse, we are able to knock out a particular gene so that you can establish what the gene does by observing the mouse. That is increasingly vital for understanding the human body and human disease. ‘Even very young fish and tadpoles can tell us enormous amounts about early development to aid research into what can go wrong here, with results that are directly relevant to humans. ‘My own research area is stroke. My research group studies neurology in rats and mice. This interacts with our studies in human patients. I am also an honorary consultant for the NHS, providing emergency treatment for stroke patients, who without the right treatment at the right time will die or be severely disabled. I see first hand every day how scientific research using animals

Blueprint November 2008


university life

Top teachers recognised Eighty-one members of staff were presented with Oxford University Teaching Awards by the Vice-Chancellor and John Denham MP, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, at a ceremony at Rhodes House on 16 October. The awards scheme, which is run by the University’s Learning Institute, recognises excellence in college and University teaching. Winners are chosen by their departments or divisions not only for their teaching skills, but also for contributions such as devising new courses, introducing new teaching methods, and developing programmes and materials in support of access and outreach. For instance, Dr Stuart Lee, from the Faculty of English and OUCS, uses audio recordings and podcasts and has produced online course material (the Old English Coursepack demonstrates

‘Future leader’ visits Japan

Dr Nicole Grobert, a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Materials, was selected recently as one of ten outstanding young scientists to participate in the 2008 Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum ‘Future Leaders’ programme. The forum brings together key players from academic, scientific, political and

business areas to discuss the promises and risks science and technology hold and the role they should play within society. Nominations were invited from 30 leading research institutions. Dr Grobert, whose research focuses on the development of synthesis, growth and modification techniques for carbon nanotube structures and the characterisation of the properties of these materials, was selected as one of two Future Leaders from Europe. ‘The Forum was a unique meeting place to mix and mingle with very eminent and influential people,’ she said. ‘Under normal circumstances I would not have met them in decades, or even in a lifetime.’

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Blueprint November 2008

Oxford’s teaching in Anglo-Saxon); Dr Derek McCormack from the School of Geography and the Environment uses poetry and video clips to stimulate group discussions; and Louise Gullifer, from the Faculty of Law, received an award for her contribution to extra-curricular activities, developing ‘mini-moots’ that helped with revision. In addition to the awards, 11 grants were made to staff to undertake educational projects they have proposed.

arrivals board Corpus Christi Professor of the Latin Language and Literature Tobias Reinhardt, Fellow and Tutor in Latin and Greek at Somerville College and University Lecturer in Classical Languages and Literature, took up this position on 1 October. Following an Abitur at the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Aschaffenburg and a Staatsexamen in Latin and Greek at JohannWolfgang-Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, he studied for a DPhil in Classical Philology at Corpus Christi College and was subsequently appointed to a number of Oxford posts. Dr Reinhardt’s chief areas of specialisation are ancient rhetoric and literary criticism, ancient philosophy (Greek and Roman), Latin didactic poetry and Latin textual criticism. He is also a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.

César Milstein Professor of Cancer Cell Biology Jordan Raff, Cancer Research UK funded Senior Group Leader at the Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, has been appointed to this post with effect from 1 January 2009. Educated at Bristol University and Imperial College London, he spent four years at the University of California, San Francisco before moving to Cambridge University in 2004. His research is aimed at understanding how centrosomes – the major microtubule organising centres in animal cells – function at the molecular level, with a view to perhaps identifying potential targets for anti-cancer therapies. Dr Raff has a long-standing interest in the public understanding of science and was in 2001 a finalist in the ‘Scientists for the New Century’ lecture competition sponsored by The Times and Novartis. He is a member of the Royal Institution and was in 2006 appointed to the MRC Council of Experts. He will be a Fellow of Lincoln College.

Professor Michael Airs, VicePresident of Kellogg College, has been elected President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. Professor John Allen, now based in the Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, has been awarded the European Physical Society’s 2008 Plasma Physics Innovation Award for work carried out in the Department of Engineering Science with Dr Beatrice Annaratone (now at the Université de Provence). The award cites their development of a novel radiofrequency plasma reactor, based on the phenomenon of plasma–sheath resonance.

Niall McDiarmid

Dr Luciano Floridi, Fellow of St Cross College and member of the Philosophy Faculty, has been elected Gauss Professor by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences for the academic year 2008–09. The Professorship is usually awarded to ‘important scientists in one of Gauss’s

fields of interest’, namely astronomy, mathematics or physics. Dr Floridi is the first philosopher ever to be elected; the honour recognises his work on the philosophy of information. Dr Hugh Jenkyns of the Department of Earth Sciences has been elected to a Fellowship of the Geological Society of America (GSA) for research including his seminal papers on Mesozoic sedimentation in the circumMediterranean area and Oceanic Anoxic Events. He has also been awarded the GSA’s Distinguished Service Award 2008 for exceptional service to the Society and the 2009 Pettijohn Medal of the Society for Sedimentary Geology for his outstanding contributions in sedimentology and stratigraphy.

Dr Tamsin Mather, a Research Councils UK Fellow in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth and Environment, was in July one of four scientists to be awarded a L’Oréal– UNESCO Fellowship for Women in Science. Her work looks at volcanic emissions and their effect on the local and global environment.

Adrian Gill was a distinguished theoretical oceanographer who was based at the Robert Hooke Institute in Oxford and was a Fellow of St Cross before his untimely death in 1986, shortly after being elected FRS.

Michael Metcalf, Emeritus Professor of Numismatics, has been awarded the British Academy’s Derek Allen Prize. The prize goes in turn to outstanding published work by a scholar in one of three academic fields – musicology, numismatics and Celtic studies – in which Derek Allen, a former Fellow and Secretary of the Academy, had particular interest.

Gordon Stanley, Pearson Professor of Educational Assessment, has been presented with the 2008 Meritorious Service to Public Education and Training Award by Australia’s acting Minister for Education, John Hatzistergos. The award, which recognises exceptional contributions to education in New South Wales, acknowledges Professor Stanley’s ten years as President of the New South Wales Board of Studies.

Peter Read, Professor of Physics, has been awarded the Adrian Gill Prize of the Royal Meteorological Society for his many significant contributions that link atmospheric science, planetary science and geophysical fluid dynamics.

Michael Vickers, Professor of Archaeology and co-director of the joint British–Georgian excavation at Pichvnari, was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the Shota Rustaveli Batumi State University, Georgia.

university life

People & Prizes

Marcus du Sautoy = Public Understanding Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics, has been appointed to the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science, with effect from 1 December. Professor du Sautoy has recently presented a four-part TV series The Story of Maths on BBC Four. A Fellow of Wadham College and winner of the 2001 Berwick Prize of the London Mathematical Society, he writes regularly for The Times, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. He presented the 2006 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and has written numerous academic articles and popular books on maths, including the bestseller The Music of the Primes, televised in 2005. His latest book, Finding Moonshine, was published in February.

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Do keep in touch… In mid-September more than 1,000 Oxonians and guests returned to Oxford to take part in the University’s second Alumni Weekend: three sunny autumn days packed with lectures, discussions, entertainment and social events. It was a chance to catch up with friends and revisit old haunts – and learn more about the University’s current teaching and research, and its plans for the future. Many delegates came from other countries, including Argentina, Australia and Vietnam. This reflected the international nature of the alumni body: it is estimated that nearly a third of Oxford’s alumni – around 46,000 people – live outside the UK. Organising this weekend, now an annual fixture, and alumni events and communications all year round, is the responsibility of the Alumni Office, a team of 11 people. They support the work of the Oxford University Society (OUS), the alumni association of which all graduates automatically become members. OUS is managed, under Council, by a Board of Trustees. Its mission is to encourage and coordinate support for the University other than fundraising. Alumni relations and fundraising are clearly complementary activities, because alumni who are in Exclusive academic tours to every corner of the globe


The alumni travel programme is also open to all University staff

regular touch with the University and interested in what it is doing are more likely to offer financial support, but OUS has a much broader remit: to maintain and develop a whole range of ongoing,


Blueprint November 2008

beneficial relationships between the University and its graduates. It does this partly through an expanding network of branches: currently 37 UK regional groups and 121 in 57 other countries. No two are the same. For example, the branch in Cape Town, South Africa, runs a full programme of social activities, while the one in Johannesburg focuses on business networking. Some international branches find venues for video-link interviews for applicants, brief Freshers before they come up, or offer assistance to travelling Oxonians. Members worldwide support the University’s access work and help the Careers Service by facilitating internships for current students and recent graduates. The team also supports specialist networks which bring together fellow professionals, including medics, lawyers, and people working in education, and works closely with Alumni Officers at the colleges on joint activities such as the Alumni Weekend. A new Young Alumni Programme, for people who graduated in the last decade, will be launched in December. They maintain direct contact with individual graduates through the termly magazine Oxford Today, a monthly e-mail bulletin and the alumni website (, and have negotiated a package of benefits for alumni that includes discounts on various products and services and a popular travel programme, as well as opportunities for continuing professional development and lifelong learning, through the Department for Continuing Education. Nancy Kenny has been Director of the Alumni Office for five years. What she enjoys most about her job includes its international nature, and the opportunities it offers to be in touch with every part of the University: ’We work very closely with the International Office, the Careers Service, the Bodleian and Ashmolean, the Student Union, and many others. The whole alumni effort would be totally impoverished if we didn’t have these partnerships, and that goes for our work with the colleges, too.’ Fostering this network involves her being a human catalyst – bringing together people with mutual interests, who may

Dick Makin

oxford interactions

The Alumni Office supports Oxonians worldwide

Old haunts revisited – this year’s Alumni Weekend

be able to achieve something together that they would not have been able to do as individuals, perhaps separated by thousands of miles. She reflects on a challenge that faces everyone working in alumni relations: ‘It’s hard to measure success. You can count things quantitatively, like the number of people attending an event, but it’s very difficult to make a qualitative assessment.’ However, anyone who has forged a friendship or collaborated on a work project – or found a way to ‘give something back’ to Oxford – through using its alumni network is likely to agree that one invaluable aspect of their education has been the chance to form enduring bonds with like-minded people.

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A mixture of wet and dry laboratories and office spaces for spin-out and start-up companies.

Flexible agreements with one month’s notice period.

Permanent high-speed internet and telecom access.

Meeting and conference rooms with on-site catering.

An environment where companies can work alongside world-class scientists.

Oxford University Begbroke Science Park, Sandy Lane, Yarnton, Oxon, OX5 1PF Tel: 01865 854800 Email:

To advertise in Blueprint, please contact Rosalind Cuomo on 01865 280548 or email Editorial contact information appears on p2.

If you would like to receive an email alert when future issues are published, please send a blank email to blueprintlist-subscribe@maillist. The University accepts no responsibility for the content of any material in

Oxford Blueprint. Readers should note in particular that the inclusion of news, editorial items and advertisements does not imply the endorsement by the University of the matters reported, the views expressed or the goods or services advertised.

Blueprint is printed on recycled paper and can also be read online at Printed by Oxuniprint. The Editor reserves the right to refuse advertising and editorial items.

Blueprint November 2008


pigeonhole Why am I



Five Oxford alumni have written Chemistry at Oxford: A History from 1600 to 2005. The book, edited by Professor RJP Williams, Sir John Rowlinson and Dr Allan Chapman, will be launched at 4 pm on 5 December in the Abbot’s Kitchen of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory. A limited number of copies will be on sale at a reduced price (£30) for University staff. All welcome. Refreshments will be served.


A new software system that will transform the University’s online services has been approved. Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) have been chosen to meet the University’s Groupware requirements. Offering a new integrated online environment, including email, shared calendar, document sharing, workflows, personal and group web pages, and document management, it will support online communication and collaboration across the collegiate University. The service will be available to first users in Hilary term 2009. For further information, visit groupware/project/.


Looking for Christmas gifts or stocking fillers? The British Heart Foundation is offering all University staff a 10% discount on products from its online shop at www. Do your shopping whilst helping to raise funds for research to help beat heart disease. To qualify, enter BHFXM08 at the checkout. Illustration: David Mostyn

Viewfinder ▸▸

Where are these green power-savers? Answer on p4.

What’s WebLearn and why do we need it? WebLearn ( is a University-wide Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) run by OUCS and specifically tailored for use at Oxford. It is primarily used to support teaching and learning activities, but can support any University or college activity. It’s an easy way of fostering collaboration, enabling communication and delivering assessment which can also protect material so that only specified people may gain access. And what’s currently happening in the world of WebLearn? This is an exciting time in the WebLearn world! We’re in the process of changing the software upon which WebLearn is based. The new service, which will go into production in June 2009, is based on a system called Sakai which is used at many of the world’s top universities. It will offer some new facilities such as a sophisticated assessment engine, a tutorial sign-up tool, a collaborative wiki (with mathematical notation), email lists with message archive, course evaluation, discussion forums, announcements and student tracking with nice colourful pie charts and histograms! (Test drive it at So should users be doing something? Yes, although not right this minute! We’ll be running both the current and new WebLearn services in parallel for two years, after which the old system will be turned off: users will have to copy their material into the new service at some point before the end of summer 2011. Most content will be able to be moved, including all files/web pages plus questionnaires and surveys. Users will probably want to rationalise their material as they move it, so should schedule time for this. The WebLearn team is currently engaged in writing tools to make the process as painless as possible. What does your own job entail? At present, mostly planning for the switchover: system configuration, administration and enhancement; data migration; publicity and marketing; preparation of training materials; gathering feedback; answering queries; and liaising with the international Sakai community. At the same time I have

Greg Smolonski


Adam Marshall is VLE (WebLearn) Service Manager at Oxford University Computing Services

Blueprint November 2008

to ensure that the current WebLearn service is running smoothly. What do you most enjoy about your job? I like the mix of technical and non-technical work. One day I may be up to my elbows writing code to configure the WYSIWYG editor widget, the next day I may spend the morning helping the Conference of Colleges Secretariat to develop their new intranet (within the new WebLearn) and the afternoon making a short movie to demonstrate how the search tool indexes Word documents, PDFs and web pages. What was your first job and how did you get from there to here? After my PhD I was offered a job at Liverpool University working on a European project investigating a little-known software testing technique known as mutation analysis. This involved spending a lot of time in Bavaria and convinced me that working in a higher education establishment was the life for me! After this I worked on parallel processing before switching to developing web-based training material and then on to writing platforms for delivering such material. What hobbies do you enjoy outside work? After my baby son, music is my big passion. If I wasn’t working with computers I’d love to be a radio DJ – the late John Peel was my idol. I’m also a keen supporter of Liverpool FC (and also my boyhood team, Hull City) and enjoy playing both cricket and football. What’s the most Interesting thing you’ve learned online? The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919: 21 people were killed in a massive tank rupture. What was your last live cultural event? I took my six-month-old son to the Truck Festival – a music festival held on a farm in Steventon near Didcot. He loved it. ‘The Nuns’ even dedicated a song to him – their ‘youngest fan’! Finally, what would your colleagues be most surprised to learn about you? That my band got a ‘Single of the week’ in NME and that I did three sessions for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1.

Blueprint - November08  

Staff news - The University of Oxford

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