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News archive

News 2014:
 Arthur Neuberger awarded a prestigious Herchel Smith Scholarship
Congratulations to Arthur Neuberger who has been awarded a prestigious Herchel Smith Scholarship. Herchel Smith (1925–2001) was an Anglo-American organic chemist whose discoveries include the key inventions underlying oral and injectable contraceptives. In later life, he became a major benefactor to university science. Arthur will be pursuing his PhD from October 2014 onwards in Dr Hendrik van Veen’s laboratory in the Department, where he will be involved in ongoing fundamental and translational research regarding multidrug transporters. Arthur is currently working in the Van Veen lab as a summer student.


News  2013:

J. RabyPart II student Jonathan Raby published in Physiology News.

Congratulations to Jonathan Raby who having received a Vacation Studentship from The Physiological Society to work in Dr Ewan Smith’s lab in summer 2013 was selected to report on his experience in the recent edition of Physiology News (P51).


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Laura Nadine Schuhmacher receives David James Studentship.

Congratulations to who, as part of the Cambridge BBSRC DTP, has been awarded the Department of Pharmacology David James Studentship. During his life, Dr David James was a much-loved and well-respected departmental administrator at the Department of Pharmacology; today his legacy continues to make a difference to the work of the Department and Laura has received this award in recognition of her excellent achievement, within the BBSRC DTP programme, in the field of Pharmacology. She is pursuing her PhD in Dr Ewan Smith’s laboratory in the Department  where she is studying the molecular mechanisms by which sensory neurones detect noxious stimuli and in particular how acid activates nociceptors in both physiological and pathophysiological states. 

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Prof. Colin Taylor elected to Academia Europaea.

The Academy of Europe includes leading experts from the physical sciences and technology, biological sciences and medicine, mathematics, the letters and humanities, social and cognitive sciences, economics and law. Colin was one of eight UK biologists elected this year.


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Prof. Colin Taylor wins Senior Investigator Award.

Prof. Colin Taylor has obtained a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award. These awards support exceptional, world-class researchers who work on the most important questions about health and disease. Our congratulations!





Dr Hendrik van Veen promoted to Readership.

We are delighted to announce the promotion of Dr Hendrik van Veen to a Readership with effect from 1st October 2013.





Dr Lesley MacVinish wins Pilkington Prize.

In recognition for her contribution to outstanding teaching within the Department, the Faculty of Biology awarded Dr Lesley MacVinish the University’s Pilkington Prize for Teaching in 2013. A big Congratulations to her.



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Prof. Robin Irvine wins Dutch medal. 

Congratulations to Prof. Robin Irvine, who has been awarded the Van Deenen medal by the Institute of Biomembranes in Utrecht. In honour of Prof Laurens L.M. van Deenen, pioneer in biomembrane research in the Netherlands, the Institute of Biomembranes annually awards this medal to a leading scientist in biomembrane research. With this medal Robin will follow in the footsteps of other scientific giants.



Michaelmas 2012 



Pharmacology student wins Biotechnology YES competition.

Congratulations to PhD student Alap Chavda (CWT lab) who was the leader of the University of Cambridge team that won this year's Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs (YES) scheme. The team's hypothetical company Calvitium Solutions won the top prize of £1,000 for their business idea for a hair loss prevention product. The competition was judged by a panel of experts from academia and industry. The team also won the prize for 'Best consumer product'. The team will now represent the UK in the International Rice Business Plan Competition, which is taking place in Houston, Texas, in April.
Press release
Team 'Calvitium Solutions': Left to right - Anastasiia Kamenska, Alap Chavda, Ajoeb Baridi, Liam Hurst,  Linsey Porter. Image: Tim Gander 2012.

Michaelmas 2012

Dr. Lora Heisler
Dr. Lora Heisler has been awarded a renewal of her Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship in Basic Biomedical Science.

Dr. Lesley McVinish

Lesley will help to shape education.
Dr Lesley MacVinish has recently been appointed as a Deputy Director of Education in Biological Science. Her role will be to support Dr David Good, the Director of Education in Biological Sciences, in delivering academic leadership of teaching in the Faculty of Biology. Lesley will have special responsibility for the Medical and Veterinary Science Tripos and she will combine this extra duty with her current role as a Senior Teaching Associate in the Department.

Easter 2012

Drs. Lora Heisler and Ollie Marston
Drs. Lora Heisler and Ollie Marston visited the University of Cambridge nursery preschool in a continuation of the Science Festival.

Michaelmas 2011

Gene responsible for chronic pain identified.
The group of Prof Peter McNaughton identified a gene (called HCN2) responsible for regulating chronic pain. Their research was published in the leading journal Science in September 2011. They used gene knockouts in animal models to show that a member of the HCN ion channel family is important in both inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain results from nerve damage and is evoked by trauma in conditions ranging from shingles and diabetes to cancer chemotherapy. This discovery opens up the possibility of developing specific antagonists to treat neuropathic pain. The work excited a great deal of public interest and was reported in more than 200 newspapers and popular articles around the world following its publication, including on the BBC and on the Radio 4 Today programme.

Top student will present her work at conference.
Ardita Koteci won the prize for the best PartII Pharmacology student last year. Now she has been awarded a prestigious Undergraduate Bursary by the British Pharmacological Society to present a poster at the BPS Christmas Meeting in December 2011. The poster, entitled 'Targeting of plasma membrane-bound proteins by inositol lipids', consists of data that Ardita obtained while doing her Part II Project under the supervision of Dr Gerry Hammond and Prof Robin Irvine.
May - OCT 2011

Katy Everett won Poster Prize
Katy won a Biochemical Society Centenary Poster Prize for her poster on Attempts to improve an Epac2-based sensor for cAMP at 'Signalling 2011: A Biochemical Society Centenary Celebration' held in Edinburgh this summer. The prize was £200 and prize winners also received an invitation to present their posters again at the Biochemical Society Centenary Celebration event in December. Katy is a post-doc in the group of Dermot Cooper.

Lora Heisler won Lilly Scientific Achievement Award
Dr. Lora Heisler is the recipient of the 2011 Obesity Society’s Lilly Scientific Achievement Award which recognises excellence in an established research career and is made possible through an annual grant from the Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company. Lora will present the Lilly Scientific Achievement Award Lecture at the Obesity Society Meeting 4 October 2011 in Orlando, FL USA.

Thelma Ohene-Agyei selected as Faculty for the Future Fellow
Thelma has been selected as a Faculty for the Future Fellow 2011. Each year, the Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future program awards fellowships to women from developing and emerging economies to pursue PhD or post-doctoral studies in the physical sciences and related disciplines at top universities abroad. According to the Foundation, Thelma was selected for her excellence in academics, sound research proposal, leadership qualities and her passion for teaching. Thelma is a PhD student in the group of Rietie Venter. She investigates drug resistance mechanisms in pathogenic micro-organisms with the ultimate aim to aid the development of new antibiotics.

Al Garfield won Young Investigator Prize
Al Garfield was the 2011 recipient of the British Society for Neuroendocrinology’s Michael Harbuz Young Investigator Prize. He gave his Award lecture at the annual BSN meeting, which was held in Cambridge in July 2011. Al is a post-doc in the group of Lora Heisler.

Medicines under the microscope, University of Cambridge Science Festival 19 March 2011
“Could you imagine being transparent and having everyone able to see our heart beating and what you had for lunch?” Is a question we asked children of all ages at our Departmental event for the Science Festival 2011. Children were invited to fish for water fleas (Daphnia) and use a microscope to see their heart, guts (where their consumed food is), eye and eggs. Heart rate experiments were also performed on water fleas exposed to common drugs, such as caffeine (red bull), alcohol, cold medicine and nicotine. This hands-on event allowed children to investigate this common inhabitant of ponds in detail and children were provided with small tanks to bring home their water fleas to continue to explore their lives.

Photograph provided by Dr. Jane Goodall

Medicines under the microscope, University of Cambridge Science Festival 19 March 2011 Lora Heisler and Al Garfield were invited to speak at the hugely popular Science Festival 2011. Their presentation, given at Cambridge Regional College on the 21st of March, focused on the involvement of the brain in controlling the processes that influence our body weight, with particular mind to the neurological systems that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full, and the shocking consequences that arise from disrupting these networks. The talk stirred considerable interest from the mainly adult audience who asked probing questions like: ‘Why does it take more chips to make me full than pasta????’ and ‘Would lacerating the hypothalamus be a good weight loss strategy????’!

Pharmacology Masterclass 2011 On what seemed like the first day of Spring and coincident with the annual Cambridge Science Festival, twenty four year-12 students from schools in Cambridge, Luton, Leicester and Ashby arrived in the Department of Pharmacology to spend a day exploring the workings of smooth muscle. After an introduction to smooth muscle and its importance as a drug target, students worked in groups of three for the rest of the day examining the effects of histamine and acetylcholine on smooth muscle contraction, and measuring the effects of acetylcholine on intracellular Ca2+ concentrations in cultured cells. Tours of our research labs left many students impressed with having examined cultured cells under the microscope, the complexity of the Ca2+ signals revealed by single-cell imaging, and the remarkable opportunities that TIRF microscopy affords to look at single molecules. Lunch with the team from Professor Taylor’s lab and a tour of Pembroke College provided opportunities to talk about life at university and admissions procedures.

Feedback commented on how enjoyable it was ‘having the freedom to design our own experiments’, ‘trying to solve problems and find our own solutions’, being able to reach our own conclusions and design the next experiments’, ‘talking to staff as they were very helpful and willing to answer any questions’, and ‘using equipment that was very different from what we have in Sixth Form’. We’ll be back next year with another Pharmacology Masterclass. Details will be available from our web site (


Simon Bulley has been awarded the BPS AJ Clark studentship Simon did his pre-clinical medical training at the University of Cambridge, culminating in an intercalated degree in pharmacology in 2006. He then defected to the University of Oxford to study clinical medicine, graduating in 2009. This was followed by a move to Leeds to enter the world of gainful employment, working as a junior doctor on an oncology rotation. He will remain in this post until late 2011, at which point he will return to the Pharmacology Department in Cambridge to commence his PhD studies under the supervision of Professor Robin Irvine. Simon received the British Pharmacological Society’s A.J. Clark Studentship to fund this period of research.


Thelma Ohene-Agyei has been awarded the Adam Glinsman Award Thelma has been awarded the Adam Glinsman Award to support her PhD work in Pharmacology. Thelma is a first year PhD student in the group of Rietie Venter. Thelma’s research concerns multidrug resistance and pathogenesis in bacteria, specifically in the ubiquitous drug resistant pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Drug resistance is a major challenge to infection all over the world, and the problem assumes greater significance in developing economies because of the huge cost that comes with treating infections caused by resistant organisms. The Adam Glinsman award supports students from emerging economies for study or research that has the potential to make a significant contribution to life in the developing world.


Rupak Dosi wins a prize for the Best Oral Presentation

Rupak recently delivered a talk titled 'A transporter's tribute to Michael Jackson: Dissection of the conformational cycle of the multidrug/lipidA ABC exporter MsbA' at the eSCAMPS symposium held at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, Cambridge. Although Rupak was nervous because his talk followed right after a talk by the renowned scientist Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan, LMB, Cambridge who is also a Nobel Prize winner, his talk was judged the Best Oral Presentation among student talks. The award was based on audience votes. Rupak is a final year PhD student in the group of Rik van Veen.

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Al Garfield’s documentary has been shortlisted for a national film award
Al, together with colleague Kate McAllister, produced a 3 min short film called ‘The Scanner’ that discusses treatment and research of Prader-Willi Syndrome (a rare obesity disorder). Their film has been shortlisted in Digital Revolutions, a national short film competition and will be shown at the Sheffield Doc/Fest. Judged by a collection of industry professionals, the winners of the Awards will be announced in a ceremony on Friday 5th November 2010. Fingers crossed for Al and Kate! Al’s video can be viewed here:
Ian Fyfe excelled in the public communication of science
The latest issue of BlueSci, the Cambridge University science magazine, features an article by Ian, discussing the way in which science and technology have revolutionised fine art. BlueSci is a student society that provides a forum for science communication and allows any member of the University to try their hand at science writing. Ian, who is a PhD student working with Mike Edwardson, has been President of BlueSci since January.


John Apergis-Schoute has been awarded a Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
John has been awarded a Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship from the Royal Society to investigate the neural circuits linking sleeping, feeding and emotion. As our emotional state can strongly impact our sleeping and eating habits understanding the neural circuits that mediate their relationship will allow us to better understand and treat the neuropathology behind eating disorders. This work will be performed with the laboratory of Denis Burdakov as host and is funded for four years. John also received a Herchel Smith postdoctoral fellowship, but faced with the luxury of choice he opted for the Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship which he started on October 1st, 2010.
Emily Taylor acted as vice-chair for the Marie-Curie Fellowships 2010
Emily, who works with Colin Taylor, was invited to be vice-chair for the EU funded Marie-Curie intra-European (IEF), Incoming (IIF) and Outgoing (OIF) fellowships. These fellowships are for researchers with more than 4 years research experience or who already have a PhD. The panel met in Brussels from 18-22 October 2010. This year there was a 50% increase in fellowship applications (~ 1500). However, the available funding also increased by 40%, so approximately 20% of applicants may get funded. A new subset Marie-Curie panel was also taking place last week (Career after a break fellowship) which follows similar rules as for the above fellowships but has the extra rule that the applicant must have had a 12 month break from research in the last year. This fellowship is to encourage excellent researchers that may have taken a career break because of maternity leave, military service etc. back into research in Europe.


Robin Irvine is awarded the 2010 JR Vane Medal
Congratulations to Robin Irvine who has been awarded the 2010 JR Vane Medal from the British Pharmacological Society (BPS). The medal recognizes his outstanding work in the field of molecular, cellular and signaling pharmacology. The presentation of the prize will be made at the BPS Annual Dinner and Prize Giving of the Society’s Winter meeting, which will be held on Wednesday, 15 December 2010 in London.
An accolade for our Science Festival Activity
Yet again, our ‘Medicines under the Microscope’ activity at the yearly Cambridge Science Festival on the 13th of March 2010 was a big hit with the public. According to Local Secrets our stand leapt out as being outstandingly entertaining. We used water fleas (Daphnia) to examine the effect of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine on heart rate.
Taufiq Rahman won an Early Career Research Award
Taufiq has been awarded an Early Career Research Award from the Biochemical Society in the Signal Transduction panel. Taufiq is a junior research fellow from Pembroke College working with Colin Taylor.
Saroj Velamakani has been awarded a Junior Research Fellowship
Saroj received a Junior Research Fellowship from Wolfson College to study the mechanism of activation of intracellular Ca2+ channels, IP3 receptors and Ryanodine receptors. Saroj is a post-doc in the group of Colin Taylor.
Emily Taylor chaired a major grant panel meeting
Emily was invited by the Research Executive Agency on behalf of the European Commission to Chair the International and European Reintegration grant panel meeting in Brussels, 19-23 April 2010. The International reintegration grants are intended to attract first-class European scientists who have been working outside Europe back into Europe. The European integration grants are to support scientists that have had a previous Marie-Curie fellowship in gaining professional integration in Europe. The total approximate budget for these grants this year is 32,000,000 Euros. Emily works with Colin Taylor.

Pharmacology Masterclass 2010
On the first Saturday morning of the Easter vacation, twenty-four year-12 students from schools across East Anglia arrived in the department to spend the day exploring the workings of smooth muscle. After a brief introduction to the importance of smooth muscle as a drug target, students working in groups of three spent the rest of the day examining the effects of histamine and acetylcholine on smooth muscle contraction, and then measuring the effects of acetylcholine on intracellular Ca2+ concentrations in cultured smooth muscle cells. Tours of our lab left many students impressed with having seen cultured cells and the complexity of the Ca2+ signals revealed by single-cell imaging. Lunch with the team from Professor Taylor’s lab and two students from the Part II class set on careers in teaching provided opportunities to talk about life at university and our admissions procedures. Everyone swapped practicals for the afternoon before finishing with a group photo at about 4.

Pharmacology Masterclass 2010
Feedback from the day commented on how enjoyable it was ‘being able to reach our own conclusions and design the next experiments’, ‘to work with high tech equipment’, ‘being allowed to think and get more involved in the process’, ‘talking to staff as they were very helpful and willing to answer any questions’, ‘having to think on our feet’, ‘using equipment that was very different from what we have in Sixth Form’ and ‘being trusted with such high tech equipment’. We’ll be back next year with another masterclass. Details and applications procedures will be posted on the Excellence East website (

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