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Serpentarius contains important information about what is happening in the Department and staff news. It is published fortnightly on Wednesdays during term-time.

Wednesday 25th February 2015

In this issue

Department News

 University News


Department News

Congratulations to recent research grant award winners in the department 

Warm congratulations are offered to the following researchers in the department who have won competitive awards in January and February 2015:

Principal Investigator


Type of grant


Dr Andrea Manica

European Research Council

ERC Consolidator Grant

Detecting Local Adaptation with

Climate-Informed Spatial Genetic Models

Professor Nick Davies

Natural Environment Research Council

Research Grant

Host defences against cuckoo parasitism in a changing world

Dr Jimena Berni

Wellcome Trust

Sir Henry Dale Fellowship

Hox Genes and the Diversification of Neuronal Circuits

Dr Paul Conduit

Wellcome Trust

Sir Henry Dale Fellowship

The Spatiotemporal Regulation of Microtubule Nucleation in Drosophila

Dr Walter Federle

Isaac Newton Trust

Research Grant

Characterisation of Biological Adhesion Using Surface-Energy-Patterned Substrates

Dr Tim Weil

Isaac Newton Trust

Research Grant

Mechanisms of Microtubule Formation in Drosophila Oocytes

Dr Marcus Zoettl

British Ecological Society

Research Grant

Testing the group augmentation hypothesis – An experimental approach

Mathew Lowe

Isaac Newton Trust

Research Grant

Conservation of Vertebrate Specimens at University Museum of Zoology


Change of date: assistant staff meeting

Assistant staff are asked to note that the meeting on 19 March has been postponed to the following week: 11.45, Thurs 26 March, Tea Room.


Starlab exhibition

Please come along to our Starlab mini-exhibition, which will be held in the main department tea room on Monday 9th March from 9.30am to 3.30pm.

Starlab are liquid handling technology specialists: the TipOne system for pipettes is the market leader in the UK, and after 18 years of an excellent product Starlab has just launched a next generation of the system. The system offers a balance of quality, affordability, convenience, accuracy and Green Impact with a FREE RECYCLING scheme. Starlab has grown to become the largest pipette calibration provider. Other key portfolio areas include PPE (laboratory gloves), Protection (disinfectants, benchtop safety), bench top instruments, sample storage and racking, and general laboratory consumables including the newly launched CytoOne tissue culture range.

Katie, the Starlab representative will be available to answer any questions, and there will be freebies on the stand - so do come along and take a look!


Science Café Cambridge - please join us on 14th March

Kirsty MacLeod and Rose Thorogood are looking for participants for a public engagement event they are running as part of the Science Festival. 

The event is "Science Café Cambridge" ( and as part of this they will be running a session featuring science from across the dept on March 14th on the Downing site. Caffe Mobile ( will be providing hot drinks and cake as part of the event – adding to the informal café atmosphere and making this a friendly and enjoyable experience for both the audience and speakers! 

Every year Science Festival attendees say that their favourite part of whatever event they attended was meeting and talking to "real scientists". This has also been our experience  –  "Science Café Cambridge" was conceived by Rose after spending many hours drinking coffee and chatting about her research with the customers she met at the Caffe Mobile stall. 

We will encourage market-goers to stop by and "Spin the Wheel". The image it lands on will be the cue for one of our group of scientists (hopefully including you!) to talk for a few minutes about their field of research shown in the image, before participating in an informal, audience-led discussion.  We will facilitate and provide lots of verbal support to get conversations going – although we suspect this won't be necessary! 

The event will run for three hours (12-3), and we expect that audience members will drop in for 10 – 15 minutes, rather than stay for the whole time – so you could choose a couple of images to talk about in the session, or repeat the same one. We hope that including participants from a wide range of fields will make the event not only entertaining for the public, but also an interesting event for us participants too!

Please let Kirsty know if you would like to be a part of this event as soon as possible.


Seminar Day, Friday 27 March, reminder 

Organisers Bill Amos, Alecia Carter and Barbora Konopova would like to remind colleagues to reserve the date (Friday 27 March) and venue (Fisher Building, St John’s College) for this showcase event for the department.  An exciting list of speakers is building up, covering a very diverse range of Zoological science.  There are still a few places left, so please contact one of the organisers if you would like to speak.  We are also still looking for group posters which could be the same as last year's but we would particularly welcome new products!


Library News

The ebooks Advisory Group has arranged free trial access to the newly launched Routledge Handbooks Online collection, this is now live and will end on Thursday 12th March 2015.

You can access the RHO platform from here and there are further links and details about the collection and functionality on this blog post. The titles can be accessed both on and off campus during this trial.

Subjects covered by the collection include bioscience, earth sciences, environment and sustainability, mathematics and statistics and psychological sciences.

Please send any feedback on this trial to


Museum News

Insect Pollinators At the Botanic Garden, Cambridge
Friday 13th March from 2pm-4pm.

As part of Orchid Festival and Science Festival, join experts from the Zoology Museum to hear about the insect collection and get a closer look at some
of the insect pollinators that orchids are dependent on. Then visit the orchid festival display in the Botanic Garden glasshouses. Suitable for 12+
£10 (includes entry to the garden).

Book via or 01223 331 875.


Look in to the polar light: family day 
Saturday 14th March from 10.30am-3.30pm. 

The Zoology Museum will be popping up at the Polar Museum as part of their Polar Light family day with the British Antarctic Survey. Find out what changes we see in polar region animals as the light changes with the seasons. Get your hands on real animal specimens from the Zoology Museum, play games and make crafts to take away with you 

Suitable for all ages. Free, drop-in activities.


University News

Contract research staff: termly exercise for the awarding of contribution increments

Applications are invited for the next termly round of contribution increments for unestablished research and comparable staff. An increment may be requested either on the basis of outstandingly good work achieved by the member of staff in comparison with others of the same grade; or on the basis of the need to retain the specialist skills possessed by a particular member of staff.

Requests should reach the HoD no later than 5pm Monday 9 March 2015, so that agreed cases can be forwarded by the University deadline of 20 March 2015. Awards approved in this round will take effect from 01 April 2015.  A request to the HoD should take the form of a completed HR37 form.  Researchers can self-nominate by completing Part 1 and then forwarding this to your PI for them to complete Part 2; or managers can nominate by completing Part 2 only.


2015 GSLS Poster and Image Competition

This competition is the Graduate School of Life Science's annual outreach event as part of the Science Festival. It is an opportunity to explain your research to the public and get constructive feedback from judges representing a range of people. Over the past few years, this has become a high profile event, and a focal point for the GSLS, which has received coverage in the national media (TV and newspapers).

The competitions

  • Research poster – an A0 size poster to explain your research to the public
  • Impact poster – an A2 size poster to communicate a simple message related to your research
  • Images – any impressive photographs or images from your research


All winners will be invited to the prize lunch, which will be an exclusive event with high table college dinner with a VIP guest. The guests in the last two years have been Nobel Laureates Venki Ramakrishnan and John Gurdon – so keep your eyes open for updates.

The research posters will be categorised as listed below so everyone has a fair chance to compete:

  • MPhil/1st year PhD
  • 2nd/3rd year PhD
  • 4th year PhD/Postdoc

Key Dates

The deadline for submitting your work is 1 March 2015.

The exhibition of the work will be 18 March 2015.

Examples of Work

You can see examples from all the competition categories at:

Full Rules and Regulations

Before you go any further, please read all the rules and regulations at;


Building Bridges in Medical Sciences

6th March 2015, Robinson College, Cambridge

Building Bridges in Medical Sciences (BBMS) is hosting its seventh conference organised by graduate students of the Graduate School of Life Sciences! 

The conference aims to bring together scientists from different disciplines, career stages and countries and emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary approaches to tackling the biomedical research and global health challenges of the 21st century. This year will feature prominent speakers from various scientific disciplines, such as basic research, clinical practice, public health policy, industrial enterprise and more. Featured key note speakers this year include two outstanding female scientists: Prof. Fatima Bosch I Tubert (Gene Therapy, Spain) and Prof. Joan Taylor (Diabetes, Leicester).

Registration is free for all attendees and includes complimentary lunch and refreshments.  This year we will be joined once again by graduate students from abroad. We will also be hosting a poster competition, lunchtime workshops and networking sessions. Anyone interested in giving a short student talk, do get in touch with us with an abstract.

Registration is now open at  


Stereology course

24th – 26th March, 2015

The University of Cambridge, in association with the Centre for Trophoblast Research, will host a practical course in Stereology.

This stereology course has been approved by the International Society for Stereology (ISS) and takes place from 24th to 26th March 2015. Unbiased quantification of biological structure using contemporary stereological techniques is increasingly being used as an essential research tool. The techniques can be applied efficiently if built into the overall study design.

The course will be delivered by Professors Nyengaard and Andersen from the University of Aarhus, Denmark. The Stereology Research Laboratory in Aarhus, has developed almost all existing design-based methods used at laboratories worldwide. The emphasis will be on basic stereological theory and practical implementation to provide a firm background framework. The course is general and can be used in all research areas and the examples span from brain to bone. There will be ample opportunity to discuss participants’ own research projects and needs.

Topics to be covered include:
• Unbiased sampling strategies:
- Systematic Uniform Random Sampling (SURS)
- fractionator design
- plane of sectioning
• Estimation of volume, surface area, length and number
• Shrinkage issues and the corrections.

Accommodation will be provided in a nearby College; course fees of £750 will cover all tuition, plus accommodation and meals for the duration of the course. See; registration is now open (closing date of Monday 23rd February, 2015).

 Students are currently being recruited for an online survey looking at empathy, sensory sensitivities and social behaviours. The survey takes around 20 minutes to complete and you will be entered into a draw for a chance to win an IPad at the end!

This nationwide screening will lay the foundations for important future research and mental health initiatives:


Innovation Forum: Innovation Leaders Conference (ILC) 2015

The ILC 2015 is the Innovation Forum's premier annual event bringing together approximately 300 of the UK's leading innovators from across sectors.

When: Thursday 16th & Friday 17th April 2015

Where: Cambridge Judge Business School

Register:  For more information and to register please go to!about-ilc15/c173i

Cambridge, UK: Innovation Forum Business Idea Competition

Part of the Innovation Leaders Conference 2015


What: Innovation Forum Business Idea Competition (BIC)

When: Thursday 16th & Friday 17th of April 2015

Where: University of Cambridge

Submission deadline: 15th March 2015

Do you have an innovative business idea that you want to push forward? If so, you can gain significant traction by entering IF Business Idea Competition and submitting a 1000-word executive summary of your innovative business idea in one of four categories: Life Science & Healthcare, Engineering, Clean Energy or Digital Technology.

Following rigorous screening, the top 10 teams will be selected to pitch their ideas at Innovation Leaders Conference in front of our judges: 

- Dr David Cleevely: Serial tech entrepreneur and business angel

- Mary Anne Cordeiro: Director, Albion Ventures

- Dr Andy Richards: Serial bioentrepreneur and business angel

- Dr Ann Connolly:  Senior Director, New Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centre


All the pitching teams will receive a written feedback from the judges. 

The winning team will receive £6.5K worth prize, which is a combination of cash and free services from leading legal, financial, and consultancy firms. 

Participants may enter as individuals or as teams. 
Submit your idea by 15th March 2015 to: