A perspective from the Head of Department, Professor Michael Akam.
Zoology is a Department that brings together researchers from a great diversity of disciplines, ranging from cell biology to field ecology. What unites us is an interest in the whole organism, and in how systems interact across different levels of organization to generate the complexity of form, function and behaviour that are observed in the living world. Evolution is a theme that underpins and unites much of our work, as does an appreciation of the interaction between living organisms and their environments.
We make no apology for maintaining a broad department with an old fashioned title like “Zoology”. Genetics and genome science is transforming ecology and evolution, as much as it is molecular and cell biology. It is often at the boundaries of traditional disciplines that exciting new ideas arise – for example the impact of developmental genetics on evolutionary biology, or of neuroscience on behavioural ecology. Within the Department, there is a genuine sense of engagement across these different intellectual disciplines. Chance encounters in the tea room, or a seminar from a different group, may lead to a whole new avenue of research. Our final year undergraduates can choose for themselves a combination of course modules that gives them an almost unique perspective on the subject.
It is only possible to support such a diversity of research because Zoology is part of the much larger community of the School of the Biological Sciences at Cambridge. Research themes organized across the School bring together specialists in individual disciplines – for example, in Cell and Developmental Biology, in Neuroscience or in Conservation Science. These interdepartmental themes provide specialized research facilities, focused seminar programmes and major research initiatives. For most of us it is important that we are both members of Zoology, and part of a cross departmental research community.
It is central to the ethos of the Department that both teaching and research are highly valued. We are proud that so many members of the Department are acknowledged leaders in their fields, recognized by prizes and awards. We are equally proud that our teaching gains consistently good scores in the National Student Survey, and high praise in a recent .
Finally, the Zoology Department is a friendly place to work where we strive to value all members of the Department. We are applying this year for an Athena SWAN Silver award and, as part of this process, we have reviewed the ways in which we support our diverse staff. A recent staff survey showed us that people are proud to work in the Department, but we want to do more to make it a fulfilling, collegiate and stimulating place for everyone who works here.