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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 28th January 2015

In this issue

Department News

 University News


Department News


Library News

If anyone has any recommendations for new electronic resources (databases etc., not journals) for consideration to purchase by the University Library Accessions Committee, please send them to Jane Acred by WEDNESDAY 4TH FEBRUARY.


Museum News

This week the old stores and gallery were handed over to Kier, accompanied by the fanfare of champagne corks popping in celebration of hitting the deadline.

The Collections Team are now ensconced either in the Austin building or the new storerooms where they will begin Phase Two of the redevelopment – the cleaning of display specimens and the rationalisation of the new stores! 

Thanks and congratulations go to the collections staff and volunteers in their supreme effort. They not only packed all of the collections by mid-October but also safely moved it lock, stock and barrel within the seemingly impossible timeframe of 12 weeks.

In no particular order; Natalie, Vicky, Stuart, Russell, Ann, Alex, Rachel, Charis, Rick, Kirstie, Emilie, Sheila and Nigel.


University News

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  


Returning Carers Scheme

The third round of the Returning Carers Scheme led to the successful award of grants to 27 members of staff.

We are now seeking applications for the fourth round: applications (covering expenditure during June and July 2015) should be sent to the relevant HR Business Manager by the deadline of 13 February 2015,  together with a statement of support from the Head of Department.   Please note that the guidance clarifies that this statement should include confirmation that the application is in line with the aims of the Scheme,  the items requested are of personal benefit to the member of staff and that there is no other source of funding (e.g. grant funding).  In addition, it should be confirmed that there would be no adverse effect on colleagues, e.g. if the application is for teaching relief.

The updated guidance and application form are available on the HR Division website, as follows:


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).


Request for volunteers - autism research

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:







Request for volunteers - how people learn

Volunteers are sought to take part in a study to help develop a test battery to investigate the way people learn, make decisions and control their actions. You will need to attend a 1 hour-testing session, where you will be asked to fill in some questionnaires and complete a computerized task via a keyboard. You will receive £8 for your participation and you will have the additional chance to win extra money during the task. Testing will be conducted at the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI), Downing Site, CB2 3EB. If you are interested and would like more information, then please contact Matilde Vaghi at or 01223 764759.