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The science of beauty Striking images from science – The Wellcome Image Awards 2012


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News Update: UCL and Zoological Society London Cover Story: The science of beauty Alumni benefits

Welcome to the first edition of Life Times, UCL’s Faculty of Life Sciences alumni newsletter. This newsletter is the beginning of what we hope will be a budding relationship with all our alumni. As such, it will develop over time and we’d be delighted to share some of your stories too so please do get in touch. Over the years, UCL’s departmental structures have undergone several changes. This is particularly the case for Life Sciences. So I would like to take this opportunity to explain our position in the School of Life and Medical Sciences. The Faculty of Life Sciences was founded in October 1990 and combines the strengths of UCL’s biological and preclinical sciences. The Faculty is comprised of four areas; two larger divisions - UCL Biosciences and the UCL School of Pharmacy (following the School of Pharmacy merger with UCL in January 2012), and two research units - the UCL MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit. Together with the Faculties of Medical Sciences, Brain Sciences and Population Health Sciences – we form the School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS). SLMS is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious aggregations of academics in medical, brain, life and population health sciences, many of whom are internationally acknowledged leaders in their fields.

Cover image Caffeine crystals © Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy UCL School of Pharmacy. Life Times is produced for UCL Life Sciences alumni and supporters by UCL’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Alumni Relations team.

I hope the next few pages will give you an insight into the remarkable work that is taking place across the Faculty, which now presents an unrivalled environment for students and researchers in life science disciplines to learn and discover. Best wishes for 2013,

DESIGN Darren Leader Studio EDITOR Briony McArdle CONTACT UCL Development & Alumni Relations Office Gower Street London WC1E 6BT +44 (0)20 3108 3833

Professor Mary Collins Dean, Faculty of Life Sciences Director MRC/UCL Centre for Medical Molecular Virology


Calling all bat detectives Nearly a thousand people have joined UCL scientists to help monitor bats across Europe. Bat Detective was launched in October 2012 and enables the public to identify bat calls from recordings collected by volunteers. The scientists behind the project hope that by sorting sounds in recordings into categories (i.e. identifying what is not a bat call), biologists will learn how to reliably distinguish bat tweets and develop automatic identification tools.

One out of every four species of bats is threatened with extinction. Being able to identify them more easily will assist biologists in monitoring population trends and also track environmental changes. Bats are said to serve as an early warning for environmental changes, much like a canary in a coal mine, therefore it is important to monitor their population and habits. In the coming months the scientists hope to expand the collection of sounds to other areas of the world.

More information about Bat Detective can be found online at

Award for UCL School of Pharmacy Professor Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience, Ijeoma Uchegbu, has received the prestigious Pharmaceutical Scientist of the Year award from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, for her work on developing effective treatment for brain diseases. Treatment of brain diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases and chronic neuropathic pain, is challenging due to the rapid degradation of most medicines before they reach the central nervous system. Professor Uchegbu and her team have developed a delivery system using a polymer which protects the drug from degradation and enables it to reach the brain, via both intravenous and oral routes. 3


Transparency in animal research Working with 40 other organisations, UCL renewed its commitment to transparency in animal research in October 2012, by signing the Declaration on Openness on Animal Research. The Declaration commits signatories to work together in establishing a Concordat which develops practical steps to increase levels of openness about the use of animals in research. Numerous research institutions (including Cancer Research UK, The Wellcome Trust and the

A pill a day‌ The onset of chronic conditions such as dementia, heart disease and cancer is often associated with the key risk factor of age. However, Professor Linda Partridge (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) has predicted that, within a generation, a pill could be available which will fight the ageing process in humans. Helping to protect us from such age related illnesses and grow old gracefully. Commonly used medicines, such as aspirin, have already been found to positively affect the body in ways other than their initial purpose. In some cases replicating the life-extending effects of genetic mutation and dietary restriction, both of which have been seen to delay the aging process in animals. Professor Partridge predicts that in the future it will be possible to combine ingredients from drugs such as these into a single pill which, if taken from middle age, should help tackle the individual symptoms of ageing by treating the whole process.


Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) and 14 research-intensive UK universities have joined UCL in signing the declaration. The announcement was made at a joint press conference to discuss recent Ipsos MORI data regarding the public attitude to animal research. The latest figures reveal a 10 percent drop in the levels of public acceptance of animal research, with one third of the people questioned strictly opposing the use of animals in research.


Shared goals UCL’s partnership with the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) world-renowned research division, the Institute of Zoology (IoZ), has already facilitated joint PhD studentships and projects that span research themes; evolutionary biology, genetics, ecology, conservation and wildlife epidemiology. The partnership’s latest initiative ‘Technology for Nature’ sees Microsoft Research, ZSL and UCL working jointly to develop new technologies for wildlife monitoring. An exciting example of this is automatic recognition software, developed by the partnership to identify different marine species photographed at the bottom of the sea off the Greenland Ice Shelf. The UCL and IoZ partnership is also investing in PhD projects that include the invasion ecology of birds and tagging fish to monitor the effectiveness of marine nature reserves. The breadths of these projects demonstrate the far-reaching impact of such a collaboration. “The combination of UCL’s strengths in computing and statistics with IoZ’s strengths in conservation opens up really exciting possibilities to rapidly develop wildlife conservation modelling” says Professor Kate Jones from the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment (GEE). In the future, as Chair of Ecology and Biodiversity, Professor Jones will support the partnership and develop further links with the newly established Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research, opening Summer 2013.

Find out more about the Institute of Zoology by visiting For more information about ‘Technology for Nature’ visit

Biosciences Alumni Event To mark the second year of a successful partnership, join fellow Biosciences alumni, UCL and ZSL staff for an early evening celebration at London Zoo on Thursday 16 May 2013. E-invites will be sent out shortly to all Biosciences alumni – update your contact information at



The science of beauty Each year the Wellcome Image Awards showcase the most beautiful and striking images in science. Hundreds of entries are submitted from all areas of science, representing medical history to present-day healthcare and biosciences. Judged by an independent panel, winning images are displayed in a special exhibition housed at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road, London. 2012 was a particularly successful year for UCL scientists, who produced four of the sixteen winning photographs, with Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy (from the UCL School of Pharmacy) producing three of the winning entries. The winning duo have been entering the competition for 9 years, working together to produce the images alongside their roles at the UCL School of Pharmacy. David is the School’s Experimental Officer for the Electron Microscopy Unit, having been a microscopist for 40 years. The Unit’s services have become essential to many of the School’s programmes through capturing images for research. David produces up to five images a week, using an electron microscope that is powerful enough to magnify samples by 3 million times. The samples are so minute they cannot be lit by lights, but are instead 6

illuminated by electrons implanted in the microscope. The surface of the sample is then scanned, allowing us to see in astonishing detail the depth and makeup of individual particles. All images taken under David’s microscope are monochromatic (black and white), so it’s up to Annie, who David refers to as ‘the artist’, to add the colour. Working with Photoshop to bring the images to life, David describes Annie’s role as being that of a painter, deciding what colour and tone is suitable and applying colours that complement one another. Of their winning entries this year, David and Annie produced two magnificent images of crystals. The first, which is featured on the front cover of this edition, is a false-colour magnification of something most of us see every day; a caffeine crystal. The second (opposite) is a slightly more unusual and less glamorous drug called Loperamide, which is used to slow down movement in the bowel. With the vibrant colours making each image stand out, the crystals appear truly ethereal, clearly showing the potential beauty in science. The work of David and Annie and the Wellcome Image Awards show that there is unexpected and mysterious beauty to be found in everyday science.

All winning images from the exhibition can be viewed online at www.wellcomeimage


Your benefits and services UCL offers alumni an exclusive package of benefits and services, designed to help with day-to-day living, planning that perfect holiday or taking your next steps professionally. Sign up for your FREE alumni benefit card and get access to the UCL Library, Bloomsbury Theatre discounts, Accommodation deals and Travel offers. As part of the alumni network you also receive support for alumni-led reunions, invites to awardwinning professional networking events and can access hundreds of public events taking place at UCL every year.

Keep up-to-date with the latest offers and services by following us online. @UCLAlumni groupRegistration?gid=57385

Life Times  

Newsletter for alumni of UCL Faculty of Life Sciences

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