Eagle Eye Magazine Issue 1 2023

Take a dive into the research and work that's going on at The Queen's College and beyond its walls within the community of Old Members. In issue one, we celebrate Shakespeare's First Folio, ask our history Fellows what makes them passionate about their subject, explore the new accessible Porters' Lodge, ask a current student about how to engage positively with climate issues, and much more.

Take a dive into the research and work that's going on at The Queen's College and beyond its walls within the community of Old Members. In issue one, we celebrate Shakespeare's First Folio, ask our history Fellows what makes them passionate about their subject, explore the new accessible Porters' Lodge, ask a current student about how to engage positively with climate issues, and much more.


You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.


THE QUEEN’S COLLEGE | OXFORD ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong>

EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />


3<br />


4<br />


8<br />


12<br />


16<br />


18<br />


21<br />


23<br />


26<br />


28<br />


30<br />


32<br />


Cover photograph by David Fisher

The Provost at the <strong>2023</strong> College Garden Party | Tom Weller<br />

FROM THE<br />


It is a delight to write that the College has been celebrating the<br />

completion of a full academic year unaffected by pandemic<br />

restrictions: the first one for four years. And it has been a<br />

good year. September saw the beginning of the new outreach<br />

initiative to support disadvantaged young people in the North<br />

West of England with work actually starting in the classrooms<br />

of schools in Whitehaven and Darwen. This project, as well as<br />

being an important initiative in its own right, re-invigorates the<br />

College’s historic links to the homeland of its Founder, Robert de<br />

Eglesfield, and is entirely due to the generosity of Old Members.<br />

A College like Queen’s, rooted in history, often finds itself taking<br />

the long view both backwards and forwards. We own copies of<br />

all four of Shakespeare’s folios and in Trinity Term we took part<br />

in the country-wide celebrations to mark 400 years since the<br />

publication of the First Folio in 1623. Meanwhile, the Choir were<br />

delighted to sing at a service in St James’ Palace attended by King<br />

Charles III and the President of Portugal celebrating UK-Portugal<br />

650. The College also celebrated 100 years of the Harmsworth<br />

Visiting Professorship in American History, which was set up by<br />

Lord and Lady Rothermere in memory of their son Vyvyan, who<br />

died in the First World War. Several of the former Harmsworth<br />

Professors came back to Oxford for a weekend of events organised<br />

by the Rothermere American Institute, and a gala dinner<br />

at Queen’s.<br />

Looking forwards, we elected our very first Visiting Professor<br />

in a wholly new scheme, again established by generous Old<br />

Members, to mark the centenary of the introduction of the<br />

iconic Oxford PPE degree. The first holder of this, the Centenary<br />

Visiting Professorship in PPE, to be based at Queen’s, will<br />

be Professor Christina Davis, who will be joining us from<br />

Harvard in 2024. Meanwhile, the College has continued its<br />

investment in the Tutorial system, which is the heart of what<br />

we do here, strengthening our presence in Law from one to two<br />

Tutorial Fellows.<br />

The College continued to become more porous, deepening its<br />

connections with other places of learning and leading figures<br />

outside academia. We welcomed the first arrivals under a new<br />

Distinguished Visitor scheme, in James Unwin, a cosmologist and<br />

Jacky Wright, the former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft.<br />

At the annual Provost’s Lecture, we had the pleasure of hearing<br />

from Honorary Fellow and founder of the World Wide Web,<br />

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and his co-founder at the World Wide Web<br />

Foundation, Lady Rosemary Leith.<br />

Student musical and sporting activity returned in full force,<br />

perhaps with even greater energy than before the pandemic.<br />

Recently the College echoed to the annual Eglesfield Musical<br />

Society performances. At least partly because we were able<br />

to remove student subscriptions, the College had a record six<br />

crews on the river this year and, with the Chaplain, I had the<br />

pleasure of christening two new boats donated by Old Members.<br />

At Torpids, the College broke another record when the women’s<br />

first boat had its best performance ever, bumping six times. Last<br />

year the men’s first boat had their best performance since 1840 so<br />

we hope next year they will both break records at the same time!<br />

This year’s most visible major improvement to the College’s fabric<br />

is the elegant new Porters’ Lodge. The new Lodge replaces the<br />

lean-to that had been in use for several decades and now provides<br />

level access to the College from the High Street for the first time.<br />

Finally, I would like to pay brief tribute to my predecessor but<br />

one, Sir Alan Budd, whose memorial service was held in the<br />

chapel at the start of Trinity Term. Sir Alan’s eminence as an<br />

economist was demonstrated by the fact that both the current<br />

and past Governors of the Bank of England attended. One of his<br />

legacies to the College is, of course, the way in which he was the<br />

first Provost significantly to reach out to Old Members and to<br />

begin systematically to build the relationships that have meant<br />

so much to the College since, and which have enabled us to do so<br />

much more for students and Fellows than we otherwise could.<br />

Dr Claire Craig<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

THE NEW<br />

LODGE<br />

Photo: 4 David Fisher

At the end of Trinity Term <strong>2023</strong>, we opened the doors to a new Lodge, which is the greatest<br />

change to the College’s frontage in modern times. Above all, the new Lodge provides level access<br />

to the Front Quad from the High Street for the first time.<br />

We asked our architects for the new Lodge, Burd Haward, to talk us through the project.<br />

From where did you take inspiration for the overall design of<br />

the new Lodge?<br />

Designs were developed following an initial design competition<br />

in 2014 for a new Porters’ Lodge. Our aim was to create an<br />

improved sense of arrival at the College by expanding the entrance<br />

‘threshold’ and improving accessibility for all, while at the same<br />

time making a new functional space for the porters.<br />

The previous Lodge – a narrow, free-standing glass and timber<br />

structure dating from the 1960s – occupied half the width of the<br />

south loggia and protruded awkwardly into the entrance gateway.<br />

We carried out detailed studies of the existing lodge functions<br />

and associated social interactions at the entrance and explored<br />

the architectural significance and qualities of the loggia and<br />

the surrounding spaces. This provided the basis for us to think<br />

creatively about potential new locations for the Lodge.<br />

Locating the new Lodge at the south-west corner of Front Quad,<br />

within the former Domestic Bursar’s office, offered a good<br />

relationship with both the existing entrance route, other College<br />

offices, and, significantly, gave an opportunity to connect into<br />

Beer Cellar Yard. By lowering the floor level in this corner room<br />

and adding a small lift in the Beer Cellar Yard, wheelchair access<br />

could be provided from the High Street into the new Lodge and<br />

through into Front Quad.<br />

The design of the new Lodge is rooted in its context. The new<br />

opening formed between the Lodge and Front Quad has been<br />

detailed to respond to the profile of the existing stonework<br />

and pilasters. Internally, the arrangement gives porters direct<br />

line of sight to the main entrance, and the plethora of keys and<br />

equipment of a modern-day lodge are discretely housed in new<br />

built-in joinery. The fluted oak detail to the desk and partition<br />

echoes the curved form of the stone aedicules on the High Street<br />

elevation and the vaulted ceilings in Front Quad. The material<br />

palette of stone, dark oak flooring, light oak joinery, and dark<br />

metalwork follows that used elsewhere around College.<br />

The patterning of the new metal gates at the High Street entrance<br />

to the Beer Cellar Yard is taken from the distinctive vermicular<br />

rusticated carving of the Doric columns located either side of the<br />

main College entrance. This pattern was traced and abstracted<br />

to create a laser-cut profile. By referencing the existing entrance<br />

detail, the design is rooted in history, but its materiality marks it<br />

as clearly of its time. Its semi-transparent nature retains a visual<br />

separation between the shopfronts to the west and the classical<br />

plinth of the College quad to the east.<br />

What were the challenges of creating something new within<br />

our site?<br />

Much of the building fabric at Queen’s is Grade 1 listed, which<br />

meant it was complex to initiate change. Great care was taken to<br />

minimise damage to the historic fabric through careful detailing.<br />

Removal of sensitive historic fabric as a result of forming the new<br />

opening into the lodge was justified both by improvements to the<br />

Photo: David Fisher<br />

“By referencing the existing entrance detail,<br />

the design is rooted in history, but its<br />

materiality marks it as clearly of its time<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

Photo: David Fisher<br />

architectural qualities of the quad as a result of removal of the<br />

existing Lodge, and by the significant public benefits of providing<br />

improved access for all.<br />

Spatial constraints of the site have also been challenging, not just<br />

in terms of design, but also during construction. The restricted<br />

nature of spaces required careful survey and design work,<br />

alongside tight fabrication tolerances, in order to achieve the new<br />

wheelchair accessible route through the Beer Cellar Yard and<br />

into the quad.<br />

What traditional trades have been used in the restoration of<br />

the Drawda building?<br />

A key component of the works was the removal of a relatively<br />

modern (1950s) external brick chimney from the Drawda<br />

building, which projected into the Beer Cellar Yard and restricted<br />

access to the new platform lift. Unfortunately, once the external<br />

wall had been opened up it became apparent that the historic<br />

timber frame behind had suffered from significant decay –<br />

primarily due to moisture ingress and entrapment behind an<br />

inappropriate cement render system.<br />

Externally, all cement render was removed from the gable<br />

elevation and replaced with a breathable, lime render on timber<br />

laths – enabling the existing structure to begin to dry out.<br />

New lead flashings and cast-iron rainwater goods were installed<br />

to improve weathering. Behind the external render, substantial<br />

repairs were carried out on the historic structure; sections<br />

of decayed oak frame replaced and repaired using traditional<br />

carpentry techniques. Internally, historic timber panelling and<br />

lime plaster has been repaired. More noticeable perhaps are the<br />

areas of new and repaired stone around the lodge opening and in<br />

the quad, where new stone was carefully matched to the existing,<br />

and elements of existing stone reused.<br />

What’s your favourite element of the new Lodge?<br />

The uninterrupted view both into and from the quad, achieved<br />

by the removal of the old Lodge and opening up the south-west<br />

corner, is one of our favourite elements. The new Lodge is the<br />

culmination of a myriad number of small moves, and in many<br />

ways appears modest architecturally, but opening up the loggia<br />

has significantly improved the sense of welcome around the<br />

entrance and has transformed the experience of the quadrangle.<br />

Peeking through from the new Lodge<br />

into Front Quad during the construction<br />

works; Before the wall came down<br />

What sustainability considerations have been taken into<br />

account as part of the work?<br />

The environmental strategy for the project followed a holistic<br />

approach, striking a delicate balance between conservation of<br />

historic fabric, improvement in energy efficiency, and thermal<br />

comfort. Throughout the design process we have looked at<br />

different ways the existing buildings and spaces could be put<br />

into full use rather than building anew. Re-purposing the<br />

existing office space to suit the functions of the Porters’ Lodge is<br />

inherently sustainable – helping to minimise embodied energy<br />

and carbon emissions.<br />

Within the Lodge, existing sash windows have been refurbished<br />

with new seals and secondary glazing has been added to both<br />

reduce heat loss and improve acoustics. Thermal blinds have been<br />

added internally to limit solar gain. Alongside the timber frame<br />

repairs to the Drawda building and new lime render, breathable<br />

sheepswool insulation has been fitted within the external walls to<br />

reduce heat and energy loss.<br />

Hard-wearing, durable, and renewable materials have been<br />

specified to maximise their effective service life. Use of locally<br />

sourced or reclaimed materials has helped to minimise embodied<br />

energy. The timber joists and flooring in the lodge, for example,<br />

are original – these were carefully removed during the works, then<br />

reinstalled at a lower level and restored. Where the nature of the<br />

works necessitated removal of materials every effort was made to<br />

secure a suitable new home.<br />

What’s happening to the old Porters’ Lodge?<br />

The old Porters’ Lodge has been carefully dismantled and taken<br />

away by a local architectural salvage company (LASSCO) for<br />

re-use.<br />

Nathan Ireland, Associate, Burd Haward Architects<br />


THE OLD<br />

LODGE<br />

Photo: David Fisher<br />

Governing Body (GB) and Buildings Committee<br />

Minutes show that the old Porters’ Lodge was<br />

constructed at some point shortly after 1906. Until<br />

then, the main entrance to the College had been on<br />

Queen’s Lane, likely a hang-over from the medieval buildings,<br />

since the main gate had been on the east side of College at that<br />

time, opposite what is now the entrance to Teddy Hall. This<br />

set-up was deemed ‘unsatisfactory’ in a report presented to GB in<br />

December 1906. The entrance on Queen’s Lane was henceforth to<br />

be reserved for ‘servants, tradespeople, for luggage and goods, for<br />

vehicular traffic, and for admission after Midnight’.<br />

As you can see from old photographs from the early 1900s<br />

(see Front Quad, Queen’s College, Oxford, Oxfordshire, 1903. Artist: Henry Taunt<br />

on gettyimages.co.uk) the set-up in Front Quad was originally<br />

quite different: while the small wooden structure appears to be<br />

the same one that was tacked on to the end of the post room in<br />

the old Porters’ Lodge, it was positioned directly under the cupola,<br />

rather than to the west of the main entrance.<br />

Size was a recurring issue with the old Porter’s Lodge: too<br />

small for comfort or for sorting the post, but evidently large<br />

enough that, in 1925, GB empowered the Dean to put up notices<br />

forbidding undergraduates from loitering at the Lodge and ‘using<br />

it as a waiting room’.<br />

But the general unsuitability of the space was recognised more<br />

implicitly in plans for building work from the 1950s onwards,<br />

when it was listed (fairly near the bottom) on a proposed schedule<br />

of work to be undertaken in College.<br />

Photo: David Fisher<br />

In the mid-1960s, after the new Provost’s Lodgings had been built<br />

and when the work on the Queen’s Lane Annexe (i.e. Carrodus<br />

Quad) was well underway, the College began to think more<br />

seriously about rebuilding the Porters’ Lodge. We have a letter<br />

from this period from the College organist who appealed to<br />

the Buildings Committee for the Lodge to be rebuilt, citing its<br />

unattractiveness and the impractically small space available to the<br />

porters, especially for sorting the post.<br />

The College engaged the architect Marshall Sisson, who had<br />

recently overseen the redesign of the Queen’s Lane Annexe, to<br />

offer proposals for a new Porters’ Lodge and for improvements<br />

to the Night Porter’s lodgings near the entrance into College on<br />

Queen’s Lane. Sisson proposed that two structures should be built<br />

on the south side of Front Quad, one on either side of the main<br />

entrance between the cloister wall and the supporting pillar of<br />

the cupola, creating two separate spaces: one to house the porters<br />

and another to serve as a space to sort the post. Nothing came of<br />

this proposal, however. In 1970, there was some further discussion<br />

by the Buildings Committee of altering the Lodge to expedite the<br />

process of sorting post, and even of moving the main entrance<br />

to College back to Queen’s Lane, although neither suggestion<br />

was adopted.<br />

After 1970, there were sporadic suggestions that the Porters’ Lodge<br />

should be redesigned (and in 1980, the Clerk of Works drew up<br />

another scheme for the transfer of the Lodge back over to the<br />

Queen’s Lane entrance) but these never went very far. It looks<br />

as though other building projects always cropped up which<br />

overshadowed interest in the lodge project.<br />

It’s perhaps surprising to note the Lodge’s relatively recent<br />

relocation to the High Street but there is further confirmation<br />

of this in an article from the 1938 Record, which ponders the<br />

differences between ‘modern’ Queen’s and the College during<br />

the 1880s:<br />

‘It seems strange to us to think of the quiet Oxford of the 1880s, the Front<br />

Quad with its gas-lamps, a gravelled Back Quad not yet floodlit, the porter’s<br />

lodge not as now in the High, but at the side-door in Queen’s Lane, so that<br />

you drew up your hansom there on the first day of term, paid off the driver,<br />

and bundled your bags in through the narrow entrance way as you inquired<br />

the way to your rooms.’<br />

Amy Ebrey, Assistant Archivist<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />



Photo: David Fisher<br />

<strong>2023</strong> marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Queen’s joined the<br />

celebrations with a one-day exhibition of our First Folio in College on 23 April, and with a<br />

special trip to London where it was on display at Stationers’ Hall for our London Reception<br />

for Old Members. At the event, College Librarian Dr Matthew Shaw, Career Development<br />

Fellow Dr Jen Edwards, and actor Alfie Enoch (Modern Languages, 2007) explored in a<br />

panel discussion what a First Folio actually is, how we use our copy at Queen’s, and why<br />

Shakespeare’s works have endured on stage. You can catch up on their insights here.<br />



(MODERN LANGUAGES, 2007)<br />

Do you remember when you first encountered the work<br />

of Shakespeare?<br />

I was probably about seven. My father was in the opening season<br />

at Shakespeare’s Globe. To celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, they<br />

organised walking tours from Westminster Abbey to the Globe<br />

with actors performing sonnets along the route. Outside what<br />

is now The Tate Modern, I performed a sonnet my father had<br />

taught me. I think it was the first thing I ever performed.<br />

What’s your earliest memory of going to the theatre?<br />

I remember watching Henry V which opened that first season at<br />

the Globe. I loved history as a kid and walking into that theatre<br />

was like walking into the past; the costumes, the set... They even<br />

had young men playing the female characters, as they had done<br />

in Shakespeare’s time (although then they would have been boys).<br />

And to top it off my father played the King of France. I think that<br />

was the first time I saw him on stage. Afterwards, I asked my<br />

mum to paint my room blue and put Fleurs de Lys on the cornice!<br />

You recently played Orlando in a production of As You Like it at<br />

the West End’s newest theatre. What excited you most about<br />

this role?<br />

I wasn’t sure about Orlando at first. I had seen a Globe touring<br />

production of As You Like It in the Bodleian quad and loved the<br />

play, but I didn’t think the part would be particularly interesting.<br />

However, as always with Shakespeare, the more you dig into it,<br />

the more you find to play with.<br />

The production was interesting because the company had two<br />

deaf actors, both of whom chose to play their characters as deaf.<br />

(Rose Ayling-Ellis, who played Celia; and Gabriella Leon, who<br />

played Audrey.) The introduction of deaf characters opened<br />

up all sorts of possibilities on a creative front and led to many<br />

discoveries in the playing. It also made the production more<br />

accessible. There were subtitles throughout, which was good<br />

for deaf members of the audience as not everyone was signing,<br />

but also good for those who didn’t know British Sign Language,<br />

for when people were signing. It created a bit of a level playing<br />

field because it meant that almost everyone engaged with the<br />

subtitles to some extent, and many people commented afterwards<br />

how much the subtitles had helped them better understand<br />

the language.<br />

What do you enjoy most about performing<br />

Shakespeare’s plays?<br />

The richness of his work and the possibilities it affords. There’s a<br />

great line in Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill: ‘I loved<br />

Shakespeare. I would have acted in any of his plays for nothing,<br />

for the joy of being alive in his great poetry.’<br />


Why do you think we’re still engaging with Shakespeare’s work<br />

400 years on?<br />

Sometimes it’s for the wrong reasons. With Shakespeare<br />

being widely regarded as the pinnacle of English culture, that<br />

engagement can feel like an exercise in veneration, or worse; some<br />

kind of vague, woolly nationalism. That’s a shame because it does<br />

a disservice to the work. The plays really are extraordinary, but<br />

we need to recognise the gulf between them and most people<br />

in a contemporary audience. It’s not enough to go through the<br />

motions on the basis that everyone agrees that Shakespeare is<br />

wonderful. You have to make a case for the plays every time you<br />

put them on.<br />

“As always with Shakespeare, the more<br />

you dig into it, the more you find to<br />

play with.<br />

Alfie Enoch (Orlando) in As You Like It at Soho Place | Johan Persson<br />

Many people struggle with the language used by Shakespeare<br />

and might find it a barrier to his humour or to enjoying the<br />

issues and themes he explores. As a former student of Modern<br />

Languages, in what ways can we use a similar approach<br />

to understanding Shakespeare as those we use to study a<br />

foreign language?<br />

The language does represent a real challenge. I studied a lot of<br />

Spanish Golden Age literature as part of my degree, and I’ve<br />

often felt that 16th and 17th century Spanish is less alien to the<br />

contemporary Spanish speaker than Shakespearean English is to<br />

a contemporary English speaker.<br />

On my year abroad, I attended classes with a Spanish actor who<br />

stressed how important it is to pay attention to the grammar.<br />

I’d never heard that piece of advice given to actors before, but<br />

the point was to really make sure you understand what you’re<br />

saying. It goes for contemporary as well as classical texts, but if<br />

you’re dealing with a 400-year-old play where the vocabulary and<br />

the syntax can be totally different to what we’re used to, then it’s<br />

particularly important. We spend a lot of time in rehearsals<br />

working out exactly what is being said.<br />

As an actor, how do you help the audience overcome any<br />

difficulties with understanding the language?<br />

Clarity is key. It would be overly optimistic to imagine that<br />

everyone is going to understand every single word, but as actors<br />

we need to know what we’re saying to give the audience a chance.<br />

If you’re new to tennis but you see two great players on the court,<br />

you‘ll get a sense of what’s going on and it will be exciting to<br />

watch. If you see two people who don’t really know the rules and<br />

don’t know what they’re doing, then you wouldn’t stand a chance.<br />

Similarly, we actors need to know what we’re saying (and why), or<br />

people won’t be able to follow and will lose interest.<br />

But it’s also important that striving for clarity doesn’t come at<br />

the expense of nuance and detail, because then you’re left with<br />

something inauthentic and uninteresting.<br />

You have played a variety of roles on film and in the theatre;<br />

which has been your favourite?<br />

That’s like asking what’s your favourite cuisine; you might get<br />

a different answer on different days. I’ve always loved doing<br />

Shakespeare, and playing Romeo at the Globe was a real highlight.<br />

Another highlight was a play called Red that I did in the West End<br />

about the artist Mark Rothko. Alfred Molina played Rothko and I<br />

played his assistant. It was just the two of us. I’ve always admired<br />

him as an actor, so to do that with him was an absolute joy. But<br />

there are many other parts that I’ve loved playing; on stage, on<br />

screen, and on the radio.<br />

How did you find balancing your degree work with being in the<br />

Harry Potter films?<br />

It was disruptive in the sense that I would sometimes have to<br />

miss lectures or tutorials because of filming, but I think it was<br />

probably more of a concern for my teachers and professors than<br />

it was for me. After all, I had been balancing my work with my<br />

studies from the age of 11. The worst bit was missing time from<br />

my year abroad. I went to Seville but I was only there for five<br />

months. If it had been up to me I would have spent double that<br />

time there.<br />

Did you have the opportunity to get involved with student<br />

theatre while at Queen’s?<br />

I was in more plays in Oxford during my final year than all the<br />

others put together. I wish I could have done more but I couldn’t<br />

really commit to a play knowing there was a chance I could be<br />

away filming. By my final year the films were done, so I was able<br />

to get more involved.<br />

Can you think of a particularly memorable tutorial?<br />

I can think of a memorable set of tutorials. They were on the<br />

Argentinian writer Jorge Luís Borges with Professor Edwin<br />

Williamson and a good friend of mine, who’s probably one of the<br />

cleverest people I know. If I had my time again, I would be a little<br />

more diligent with the work I did for those tutorials, but I did<br />

enjoy them. It’s also thanks to Professor Williamson that I fell<br />

in love with Don Quixote. I attended his lectures on the novel<br />

before I had actually had a chance to read it. The lectures had me<br />

hooked before I had even opened the first page. They really were<br />

so good.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

QUEEN’S<br />


In June 1844, one of the first Great Western Railway trains<br />

to arrive in Oxford halted at the newly-constructed station<br />

in Grandpoint. Along with passengers, the train carried post<br />

and packages including – it seems likely from contemporary<br />

correspondence held in the College Library – a box of books<br />

from Thomas Rodd, a London bookdealer. One of these, Rodd<br />

suggested to the College, would ‘complete all of your series of<br />

early editions’ of Shakespeare. The College took Rodd up on the<br />

suggestion and agreed to pay him £100 for the 1623 edition of<br />

Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies (roughly £10,000<br />

in today’s money), adding this volume to the 1632, 1664, and 1685<br />

editions of Shakespeare’s plays held by Queen’s.<br />

Although the title of the volume explains its contents, it is better<br />

known to us today as the First Folio. As such, it was the first<br />

collected publication of Shakespeare’s works, containing 36<br />

of Shakespeare’s plays, 18 of which would be unknown to us<br />

otherwise, including The Tempest, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar. Published<br />

seven years after Shakespeare’s death by his friends and fellow<br />

actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell, the text also helped<br />

to consolidate his stature as a dramatist. The ‘folio’ format was<br />

typically reserved for important texts, such as editions of classical<br />

works or religious texts. Prior to this, those plays that had been<br />

published were done so in ‘quarto’ format, meaning the single<br />

folio sheet of paper had been folded twice, making eight smaller<br />

pages. The ‘folio’ format, with the large sheets of printed paper<br />

folder in half to make the pages of the book, was a much more<br />

impressive publication: prior to Shakespeare, only Ben Jonson had<br />

been published in this way. We also owe to the Folio our image of<br />

Shakespeare: his portrait engraved by Martin Droeshout (apart<br />

from this image, the only other known contemporary image, the<br />

more flattering Chandos portrait, is preserved at the National<br />

Portrait Gallery).<br />

In 1841, a donation by an Old Member, Revd. Robert Mason,<br />

placed the College in the enviable position of being able to<br />

purchase such a valuable and sought-after text. The son of a<br />

wealthy mill owner, Mason bequeathed £30,000 to the College,<br />

stipulating in his will that the sum was to be spent on books<br />

within three years. He also donated a substantial collection of<br />

Members of the public viewing the Folio on Folio Day<br />

Photo: David Fisher<br />

Egyptian and other<br />

antiquities, and £40,000 to<br />

Shakespeare’s portrait engraved<br />

the Bodleian. In the end, it took<br />

by Martin Droeshout<br />

some 10 years to spend the bequest,<br />

Photo: David Fisher<br />

with much of the resultant Mason<br />

Bequest collection now on display in the Upper Library (the more<br />

valuable items, like the First Folio, are stored elsewhere).<br />

The Folio had been up for a sale a couple of times. Its first, and<br />

most significant, owner was the actor, playwright, producer, and<br />

theatre manager, David Garrick, who purchased the Folio in the<br />

mid-eighteenth century for £1 16s (the rough equivalent of £200<br />

in today’s terms). Garrick left his collection of ‘English Plays’ to<br />

the British Museum library, but his widow held on to this copy,<br />

along with several other volumes. The Folio retains Garrick’s<br />

bookplate, and it is possible that some of the annotations and<br />

markings within volume belong to him. In many ways, there is no<br />

better association copy to possess, given Garrick’s importance in<br />

placing Shakespeare at the centre of the English canon.<br />

Was the purchase worth it? Certainly, it can be justified on a<br />

number of grounds. Mason’s enormously generous bequest created<br />

perhaps the finest collection of any British college library in the<br />

19 th century, and the First Folio cemented its reputation, as perhaps<br />

the most famous book by the most lauded of English writers. Its<br />

acquisition helped to establish the intellectual coherence of the<br />

collection, as well as burnishing the College’s reputation: only<br />

Wadham and, until it was sold to Paul Getty in 2003, Oriel<br />

colleges could boast a First Folio on their shelves (the Bodleian holds<br />

two copies). More importantly, the Folio has been used. For example,<br />

one Fellow, Henry W.G. Markheim, appears to have consulted the<br />

1623 copy in advance of his lectures in the late 19 th century.<br />

More recently, the Folio has been examined by scholars, including<br />

Oxford’s Professor of Shakespeare Studies. Excitingly, Prof. Smith<br />

identified for the first-time printer’s proof marks on one page in<br />

King Lear (for example, correcting ‘mads’ to ‘mad’), placing the<br />

Folio in very select company indeed. Only five other copies are<br />

known to contain proof sheets, which provide valuable evidence<br />

on the production process: if you look at the copy in the Bodleian,<br />

for example, these errors have been corrected by the time that<br />

section came to be printed. The text is a valuable aid to teaching,<br />

and is carefully brought out and inspected under supervision<br />

by students in the English renaissance literature seminar, for<br />

example. And this year, to mark the 400 th anniversary of<br />

its registration at Stationer’s Hall, the Folio has had several<br />

memorable outings at College events, as well as a particularly<br />

special viewing by Old Members at Stationer’s Hall itself in a<br />

vitrine next to the very register in which its publication was<br />

recorded. It’s hard not be pleased that the College accepted the<br />

delivery in 1844.<br />

Matthew Shaw, College Librarian<br />




Career Development Fellow in English Dr Jen<br />

Edwards* uses the First Folio in her teaching.<br />

We found out more about how and why she<br />

uses this treasure to inspire current students.<br />

How do you use the First Folio in your teaching, and what do<br />

you think this approach brings to the students’ understanding<br />

and appreciation of the works?<br />

I tend to hold my first class of the teaching term in the library<br />

with Librarian Dr Matthew Shaw – it’s a bit of a literary<br />

‘sweet shop’, where we look at Shakespeare’s Folio(s) and an<br />

assortment of other early modern texts from the vault: religious<br />

proclamations; anatomy books; pamphlets; poems. Beyond being<br />

a real treat, looking at the Folio in particular is useful in helping<br />

unsettle the idea of Shakespeare’s works as fixed, stable entities<br />

from the get-go: the Folio was published after Shakespeare died,<br />

the tripartite splitting of plays into categories of Comedy, History,<br />

or Tragedy isn’t his, and some of the plays existed in different<br />

versions before the Folio was printed. So, we start with this book,<br />

looking at the famous image of Shakespeare (also done after he<br />

died), the title page, some of the typos and annotations, and use<br />

this to think about what exactly it means to study ‘Shakespeare’.<br />

My hope is that students leave the room feeling that these works<br />

remain ‘up for grabs’ and open to interpretation.<br />

Shakespeare is unusual in that he has his own paper on the<br />

English degree at Oxford, but I think it’s important that we don’t<br />

just think about him in a vacuum, as being somehow separate<br />

from other concerns and work of the time. What excites me as<br />

a researcher, and as a teacher, are the crosscurrents between<br />

Shakespeare’s work and those of his contemporaries – putting his<br />

work in dialogue with, say, writing about medicine or philosophy,<br />

can really bring the texts to life. We know Shakespeare borrowed<br />

lots of material too so it’s useful to look at some of his sources<br />

and see what he takes and what he changes. I guess I also don’t<br />

agree with the idea that Shakespeare’s plays are just meant to<br />

be performed and not read, which is something you hear often<br />

but I have always found this a bit frustrating and reductive –<br />

there is so much we can gain from reading these works and from<br />

thinking about them as material, printed texts.<br />

How do you think students today respond to Shakespeare?<br />

One of the great things about studying Shakespeare at Oxford is<br />

that students can approach the plays and poems from so many<br />

different angles: there is no set way to read or think about these<br />

texts, so responses to Shakespeare can be shaped by, for example,<br />

an interest in gender studies, critical race, the environment,<br />

politics, medicine, translation etc.. It is important for us to keep<br />

asking ourselves about Shakespeare’s place in our canon (and to<br />

note that our responses don’t necessarily need to be positive to<br />

be productive), but each year I have found that students respond<br />

to these plays and poems in ways that position these texts not as<br />

out-of-date and stuffy, but as timely and urgent.<br />

Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play and why?<br />

Yes and no (I know that is cheating!). I have definitely had<br />

favourites, at various points, but my favourite changes –<br />

Othello was the first play I ever studied, ever saw, so it holds a<br />

particular power for me, but Hamlet is probably the play I find<br />

myself returning to and thinking about the most (surely, I can’t<br />

say Hamlet is my favourite? How unoriginal!). I guess my honest<br />

answer is that I just really enjoy whatever I am working on at<br />

the time, and that that will likely be in contention for top spot<br />

whenever I’m asked this question. Right now, that would be<br />

The Comedy of Errors and the narrative poems – the latter aren’t plays,<br />

obviously, but I want to plug them a little: the poems often get<br />

overlooked, and Venus and Adonis was far and away Shakespeare’s<br />

most popular work at the time, and it’s brilliant.<br />

Can you tell us a bit about your project that looks at issues of<br />

distraction at Shakespeare’s Globe?<br />

This project began back when I was in post at the Globe in 2019,<br />

where I led an oral history project that asked actors and directors<br />

how they responded to distractions in the space (a question<br />

informed by Hamlet’s line about ‘this distracted Globe’, as well<br />

as the grumblings of a particular theatre critic). We tend to think<br />

of distraction as a negative thing, but answers to this question<br />

often veered towards the positive – yes, noisy planes, bad weather,<br />

audience members wandering around can be a bit annoying, but<br />

there was a keen sense that distraction could also constitute and<br />

contribute to performance in this space in wonderful ways: that it<br />

is part of the ‘liveness’ of theatre, a shared experience that brings<br />

everyone in the space together during that particular show.<br />

The project weaves together things like actor interviews, show<br />

reports, and reviews, and pays attention to various distractions<br />

like the weather, fainting audience members, the recent global<br />

pandemic, and thinks about how those elements generate<br />

meaning. My book on this – This Distracted Globe: Attending to Distraction<br />

in Shakespeare’s Theatre – has just been published by Cambridge<br />

University Press.<br />

Jen’s tutorial with a Shakespeare First Folio | David Fisher<br />

* Dr Edwards left her post at Queen’s at the end of the academic year 2022-23 to take up a post<br />

as Assistant Professor in English and Theatre at the University of Warwick.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />


AT QUEEN’S<br />

Jarrow, St Paul’s Monastery<br />

Many Old Members who read History at<br />

Queen’s will have been taught by Professors<br />

John Blair and John Davis who both retired in<br />

the past three years. Find out more about our<br />

two new Fellows in History as we introduce<br />

them in the following interviews.<br />



(THEOLOGY, 2010)<br />

What first sparked your passion for history?<br />

I was initially interested in English Literature but at the start of<br />

my undergraduate study, I was fortunate to be taught by some<br />

extremely charismatic people in the area of the Late Roman<br />

Empire. Dr Jennifer O’Reilly showed us these old-fashioned slides<br />

with gorgeous multi-colour close-ups of objects and illuminated<br />

manuscripts and I was hooked. I knew nothing about this area,<br />

but it all came to life for me very quickly. I had always enjoyed<br />

studying the past, but it was then that I realised it’s also what I<br />

really cared about.<br />

How do architectural remnants of the past help us understand<br />

the worldviews of medieval people?<br />

I work in such an early period that there’s not much left that<br />

people can actually see so it’s very special when we do have things<br />

to look at. The UK is home to stone churches that were built<br />

before the year 700. The oldest stained glass in the country can<br />

be found in Jarrow. It’s an incredible place to visit. You can see<br />

the history there matters a lot to the local community: they have<br />

a very strong sense of being grounded in the past and a sense of<br />

“I teach my students to be intellectually<br />

empathetic and willing to incorporate<br />

other, often very different, points of<br />

view in our explanations. Too often<br />

people assume those in the past<br />

behaved and thought the way we do.<br />

continuity that creates a firm regional identity. In York the Yorvik<br />

Centre is incredibly popular and the Roman walls you can see<br />

in the city provide ways for people to think about how the past<br />

shapes their identity. In Oxford you can see a Romanesque door<br />

just next to the big Sainsburys; it’s a completely unexpected ghost<br />

of an earlier Oxford and you don’t have to be an academic to find<br />

this juxtaposition fascinating and to be excited about the people of<br />

the past who used that door. It makes real the humanity of those<br />

who went before us.<br />

To what extent does context matter when understanding<br />

human behaviours and experiences in the past?<br />

It matters a huge amount. One thing we want students of<br />

History to be able to do is think about context in the sense of<br />

Photo: John Cairns<br />


understanding the whole connectedness of society and not just<br />

learn about slices of things through time. Clearly, we have to<br />

break things down into themes and topics to teach them, but we<br />

need to look at context in order to bring it all back together. Life<br />

was as complicated in the past as it is now, so we need to think<br />

about people as individuals with specific experiences shaped<br />

by who they met and their environments. We ask questions<br />

about background to figure out the larger picture.<br />

More broadly, the human element<br />

in History as a discipline is the fact<br />

that you are being forced to grapple<br />

with other people: people who are<br />

different and separated by time and<br />

space. We ask our students to explain<br />

why things happened the way they<br />

did, and they don’t always think<br />

about how people at the time might<br />

have explained their own behaviour.<br />

If people then did things that appear<br />

strange to us now, to begin to explain<br />

them, we need to work with the grain<br />

of their thought to find out what’s<br />

going on. All of this is good practice<br />

for thinking about being a person<br />

and dealing with other people. I<br />

teach my students to be intellectually<br />

empathetic and willing to incorporate<br />

other, often very different, points of<br />

view in our explanations. Too often<br />

people assume those in the past<br />

behaved and thought the way we do.<br />

In a recent article you argue against<br />

the popular view that people in the<br />

early Middle Ages didn’t draw a<br />

clear distinction between religious<br />

and secular life; what led you to<br />

Stained glass at Jarrow | The World According to Bede<br />

this conclusion and what are the key<br />

considerations when making this assessment?<br />

The assumption that people didn’t divide religion and non-religion<br />

before a certain period in time felt very generalised to me, as<br />

though at some defined point a switch was flicked, and people<br />

then did things a whole new way. I am always suspicious of grand<br />

narrative theories and so I explored the possibility that things<br />

were messier and more complicated than this. This was what I<br />

saw reflected in the sources I read. People are adaptable: there can<br />

be shifts in where the predominance of focus lies but this does<br />

not preclude the idea that people have always used a distinction<br />

between religious and secular life when it suited them to do so.<br />

How have other disciplines influenced your research?<br />

I started out as a Literature and History student, so I have always<br />

been interested in reading source material. I am very open to<br />

‘non-hard’ historical sources. We can get evidence from poetry<br />

and cultural artefacts in general. I am interested in reading<br />

anthropology and religious studies: my interest in religion means<br />

there’s many disciplines to take into account. People everywhere<br />

always talk about the past so there’s an inevitable blurring of<br />

the lines between different disciplines. I am interested in human<br />

society on a larger scale then just my specialist period so I want to<br />

engage with bigger ideas about humanity and see what the study<br />

of my period can contribute to the wider story.<br />

What excites you about history at Queen’s?<br />

Undergraduate teaching is at the core of what I do and, for me,<br />

the tutorial system remains the most<br />

rewarding and meaningful way of<br />

teaching history. I joined Queen’s<br />

in October 2020, in the middle of<br />

a lockdown. It was a happy accident<br />

that small-group teaching was<br />

‘COVID-19 secure’ so we were able<br />

to continue to a large extent. This<br />

brought home to me how personal our<br />

style of teaching is: we get to know<br />

our students rather than teaching<br />

them online in large groups. Each<br />

year we think hard about the different<br />

cohorts and how we can enable them<br />

to flourish.<br />

What do you enjoy about teaching?<br />

Seeing people change. Students change<br />

very dramatically between the ages<br />

of 18 and 21: they change their minds,<br />

and they change themselves. The<br />

College community creates a special<br />

relationship where you devote a lot<br />

of time to individual students and<br />

feel very connected to doing the good<br />

work of teaching, helping students<br />

find their niche and nurturing their<br />

passions. You are teaching them, not<br />

just teaching.<br />

What will you be working on over the Long Vac?<br />

After exam board, I will get back to my book, which is due<br />

in September 2024. The book examines the rise of Christian<br />

Kingship and is related to my earlier research on de-secularisation<br />

in Europe in the Middle Ages. Essentially it asks: why did people<br />

think you had to be a good Christian to be a good ruler?<br />

What’s your favourite place in Oxford?<br />

The Lower Reading Room in the Old Bod is a very special place.<br />

It’s where I worked for my doctorate and after that on Saturdays<br />

for my research. My primary sources are on the shelves there.<br />

Apart from that, I like the green spaces: the meadows and the<br />

parks. So, reading and then relaxation!<br />

Can you give us a book recommendation?<br />

The book I recommend to every undergraduate is The Dawn of<br />

Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow. It’s an energising<br />

read that prompts us to think about big historical changes that<br />

have led us to where we are today.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />




What first ignited your passion for history?<br />

I’m not sure there was one thing – it was probably a series of<br />

moments. One of these moments was when I was in Guyana,<br />

in the Caribbean, with my parents at the age of about nine.<br />

It was my first trip there and I was confronted with a level of<br />

poverty I had never encountered before in Canada, where I am<br />

from. A little boy about my age approached me outside a bank<br />

begging. I remember how ragged he looked: he didn’t have any<br />

shoes on, and his shirt was torn and dirty. I offered him the loose<br />

change jangling in my pocket. But then the bank security guard<br />

approached us and shooed him away by threatening him, not just<br />

for being near the bank entrance but also for begging change from<br />

me. My parents quickly moved me away, but the poverty and the<br />

way in which this child was treated really shocked and upset me.<br />

I also identified with him in some ways. My mum is from Guyana<br />

and grew up poor. What I saw in that boy was a poverty that<br />

I felt could have been my own. After that, I had a conversation<br />

with my parents about the experience and listened to the way they<br />

discussed the wider condition of the country, at least as much as<br />

I could understand, basically the history and politics. I suppose<br />

that was my first lesson in the way the past and present are<br />

intrinsically connected.<br />

What draws me to history is that it can provide an explanation for<br />

why things are the way they are. I learned from an early age that<br />

history is not just about dates and names, the kind of things kids<br />

are often taught to memorise in school. I learned to look beyond<br />

school. The only thing I learned about people of African ancestry<br />

in school was that our ancestors were enslaved—the teacher<br />

showed us the TV show, Roots. This was the eighties. That was<br />

about it. I learned the vibrant and radical history of the Caribbean<br />

and Black folks not from my teachers, but from my parents and<br />

my community.<br />

You have talked about history as a tool of change. Can you<br />

explain what that means and how it motivates you as<br />

an historian?<br />

History has always been mobilised for a purpose. History is<br />

not just a retelling of the past, it’s a constructed narrative based<br />

on interpretations of pieces of archival records or testimony. I<br />

always say that history is more of an art or craft then it is any<br />

science. And the stories we craft, the history we produce, can<br />

be used in all kinds of ways. How do we tell stories about who<br />

we are and where we have come from? How do we tell stories<br />

about what matters to us? It is also very political and can be an<br />

incredibly powerful and divisive tool, as well as a way of bringing<br />

folks together.<br />

For me, I use history to challenge what people generally assume<br />

to be normal and what we take for granted as the way things have<br />

‘always been’. Part of the history that I do is focused on ideas<br />

“I love teaching something I’m working<br />

on: you get quite different responses and<br />

views, and it feels like a real exchange, like<br />

I’m also learning from them.<br />

of “race” as a social construction, the cumulation of ideas and<br />

practices that emerged in European colonial expansion, slavery, and<br />

the Enlightenment. One of the things I’m looking at in my current<br />

project is the ways in which ideas of both whiteness and blackness<br />

were being refined and the boundaries of racial difference hardened<br />

in the late 18 th century. The ways we think of racial difference<br />

today, what it means to be a white person or a black person,<br />

and even who we label as such, were not the same way folks in<br />

the 18 th century thought about such categories and themselves.<br />

So, the way we think about racial difference is something that is<br />

constructed; part of my work is trying to unpick some of this to<br />

show how the beliefs we have about racial difference in Britain<br />

have been formulated and embedded over time.<br />

Your current research focuses on the life of an Afro-Jamaican<br />

woman in the late 18 th century. What interests you about her?<br />

I am writing a book on Amelia Newsham, a woman born enslaved<br />

and with albinism in Jamaica who was then brought to England as<br />

a child so that she could be exhibited as a curiosity and studied by<br />

anatomists, naturalists, and philosophers. More specifically, I’m<br />

tracing the archival fragments of her life to talk about the ways<br />

in which ideas of racial difference are being defined and refined<br />

during this period.<br />

For an enslaved woman in Georgian Britain, Amelia is very<br />

present in the archives. I’ve been able to find details about her<br />

everyday life that are often not recoverable in the archives of Black<br />

British life during this period. For instance, I know that she liked<br />

to sew, read, and sing. And that she had smallpox as a young girl<br />

in London. Part of the reason I’ve been able to trace her life is<br />

Photo: David Olds<br />


ecause, unlike so many other people of African ancestry brought<br />

to England as a curiosity, Amelia survives. And she survives at<br />

least into her 50s. I know this may not seem like much, but you<br />

have to understand that I am so often confronted with Black lives<br />

cut short in the archives.<br />

What can we learn about wider<br />

social changes from examining the<br />

everyday lives of individuals?<br />

I am interested in the ways in which<br />

people are able to live within social<br />

structures that are very oppressive,<br />

that are meant to keep them in a<br />

subjugated position, that devalue their<br />

lives. I am thinking here specifically<br />

of Black lives, poor lives, the lives of<br />

the socially marginalised. I’m also<br />

interested in the legacies of these<br />

structures and systems we assume to<br />

have ended because there have been<br />

changes in the law but are still present.<br />

By looking at things on a macro level,<br />

you think you can see big changes<br />

but by looking at individuals you see<br />

what those changes mean, or don’t<br />

mean, and you start to see how little<br />

might have actually changed. As a socio-cultural historian, it can<br />

be frustrating to see this – you see how things are articulated<br />

differently but the intrinsic ideas are still there.<br />

What aspects of Caribbean research methodologies do you<br />

draw upon in your work?<br />

I’m particularly interested in a Caribbean research methodology<br />

that draws on storytelling as a key part of the process and sitting<br />

with multiple, sometimes contradictory, interpretations, different<br />

ways of seeing and understanding. It puts me in mind of the<br />

way my parents relayed history when I was young. It was told<br />

almost parable-style with one message cloaked in another. They<br />

were giving me and my siblings tools from the past to use in<br />

the present. One of my forthcoming projects is to bring people<br />

together from different generations to ‘lime’ (to chat) and share<br />

stories or rather, their own interpretations of the past and its<br />

legacies. It’s more than information-sharing, it’s also different<br />

ways of communicating the feelings of the past, of what it meant,<br />

and continues to mean. And in doing this, articulating what we<br />

hope and imagine for the future.<br />

What do you most enjoy about teaching history?<br />

The joy of seeing someone encountering something for the<br />

first time. It’s incredibly rewarding to see students develop<br />

intellectually over the course of one term, let alone their whole<br />

degree. As teachers, we make an investment in young people,<br />

both intellectually and emotionally. I value giving them a tool<br />

for understanding the world around them. The other thing I love<br />

is teaching something I’m working on: you get quite different<br />

responses and views, and it feels like a real exchange, like I’m also<br />

learning from them.<br />

What do you think of the new Netflix drama Queen Charlotte:<br />

A Bridgerton Story, which follows the imagined life of Queen<br />

Charlotte who was Queen Consort to George III and patron of<br />

Queen’s in the 18 th century.<br />

I’m a fan of the Bridgerton series. I think<br />

it is fiction done well because it doesn’t<br />

take itself too seriously. What a<br />

series like Queen Charlotte show us is a<br />

different way of using the past to talk<br />

about the present. Questions around<br />

Charlotte’s race are not new, but the<br />

series raises interesting questions for<br />

the public about what “race” was in the<br />

18 th century and what could have been,<br />

which I think is a useful conversation<br />

to have.<br />

Can you give us a book<br />

recommendation?<br />

I have two for you: In the Wake:<br />

On Blackness and Being by Christina<br />

Sharpe, which is an important text<br />

for me in my research and in thinking<br />

about the continued legacies of slavery<br />

and the formulations of anti-blackness<br />

A sketch of Amelia Newsham during the Enlightenment. It’s also<br />

beautifully written and I have found myself moved to tears by<br />

her writing.<br />

My other pick is Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang, which<br />

is classed as young adult fiction, but is still great! It’s a cross<br />

between historical fiction and sci-fi, set in Oxford in the early<br />

Victorian period. I found myself really drawn into the world<br />

crafted by Kuang, a testament to good writing. It’s about empire<br />

and the power of language, but also how we use the power and<br />

privileges we have, even if they are limited, to do right.<br />

If you would like to support the teaching of History<br />

at Queen’s, you can do so by making a gift to the<br />

John Prestwich Fellowship in History.<br />

Thanks to the generosity of Old Members and<br />

Friends, the Fellowship is currently at £2.5M of its<br />

full endowment goal of £3M.<br />

Once complete, the Prestwich Fellowship will join<br />

with the Brittenden Fellowship (endowed in 2020<br />

thanks to a legacy gift from Fred H. Brittenden<br />

(1946, Modern History)) to ensure that the teaching<br />

and study of History at Queen’s is safeguarded<br />

in perpetuity.<br />

To make a donation, please visit<br />

https://bit.ly/485ofUG or contact<br />

development@queens.ox.ac.uk<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />



“We desperately need scientists<br />

to better explain their science in<br />

a language that engages people.<br />

I also think that knowing more<br />

about biology can really enrich<br />

your everyday experience. I always<br />

see something interesting every<br />

time I leave the house!<br />

Spotted (variable) sea hare | iStock.com/Daniel Poloha<br />

Michel Fellow and Tutor for Plant Sciences Professor Lindsay<br />

Turnbull has just published a beautifully illustrated and accessible<br />

book on the story of life on Earth. We asked her to tell us about<br />

the book and why it’s indispensable both for students of biology and<br />

anyone curious about how life works.<br />

Your book Biology: The Whole Story is published in August <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

What was your motivation for writing this book?<br />

When I arrived in Oxford in 2013, I had to give tutorials to<br />

support the first year of our course. I’m an ecologist, so had to get<br />

up to speed on a whole range of biological topics, but I absolutely<br />

loved it! So, I had the idea to produce a book that covered the<br />

whole span of biology but focussed only on the essentials. Biology<br />

has grown enormously, and I noticed that<br />

the students were a bit lost in the details<br />

and lacked a big picture. This book seeks to<br />

remedy that.<br />

Who is the book for and what do you hope<br />

readers will enjoy about it?<br />

It’s really pitched at A level students or bright<br />

GCSE students, but I hope that many adults<br />

who stopped studying biology years ago might<br />

enjoy it too. Biology is often presented as a<br />

mass of unrelated facts, so I hope this book<br />

helps people to see how different areas of<br />

biology fit together. My main hope is that all<br />

readers, whatever their age, enjoy reading it.<br />

Science is too often presented in a dry way,<br />

and I’ve tried hard to make it a fun read.<br />

The book features beautiful illustrations by scientist and<br />

artist Cécile Girardin. To what extent did you conceive of these<br />

illustrations when planning the book and what was it like to<br />

collaborate on this project?<br />

The illustrations are a vital part of the book, but I only started<br />

drafting them once the text was finalised. They are much simpler<br />

than most textbook diagrams, which in my opinion are often<br />

too complicated. In essence, they are the kind<br />

of diagrams that a tutor might sketch on a<br />

whiteboard – just the essentials that will make<br />

the concept clear. But Cecile really took them<br />

to the next level! She’s so talented and working<br />

with her and the book designer, Katie Bennett,<br />

was a hugely enjoyable and intense part of the<br />

creative process.<br />

You have also recently published a book<br />

called Scientific Papers Made Easy with a focus<br />

on teaching others to pass on knowledge<br />

clearly to have impact on the wider world.<br />

Why is accessibility of expertise a key theme<br />

in your work?<br />

Many of the greatest challenges facing<br />

society are biological: antibiotic resistance,<br />


the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, sewage in rivers, etc.<br />

Yet misunderstandings persist and disinformation is rife. We<br />

therefore desperately need scientists to better explain their science<br />

in a language that engages people. I also think that knowing more<br />

about biology can really enrich your everyday experience. I always<br />

see something interesting every time I leave the house!<br />

You’re leading a long-term study into the value of the<br />

Ridgeway National Trail for conserving the biodiversity<br />

associated with chalk grassland. Can you explain what<br />

biodiversity means and why it’s so crucial?<br />

Biodiversity is an overused word, but it’s just a shorthand for all<br />

biological variation. Most people probably think only of species<br />

diversity, but there’s important genetic variation within species<br />

that needs to be preserved. For example, the red kite wasn’t<br />

extinct in the UK, but the tiny remnant population in Wales was<br />

incapable of spreading further. Once new birds were brought from<br />

a large Swedish population, the population boomed, and it’s now<br />

common to see them over the College. I don’t know for certain,<br />

but I suspect that the new birds are in much better genetic health,<br />

and that’s the main reason for their success.<br />

What will be the focus of your work on this project over the<br />

summer vacation?<br />

On The Ridgeway we are trying to restore degraded chalk<br />

grassland on the verges of the National Trail. When properly<br />

managed, chalk grassland is one of the most species-rich habitats<br />

on the planet. But if you don’t manage it properly, you lose all the<br />

wildflowers and grass takes over. Grazing animals used to manage<br />

it naturally but keeping animals on the trail isn’t compatible with<br />

public access, as so many people have dogs. We have trialled a<br />

mowing regime that takes place in late August, once plants have<br />

set seed, and it’s been very successful. We are also sowing back<br />

the species that have been lost. Now we want to scale up from<br />

our small experiment and engage the farmers in the management<br />

regime. In fact, we’ve already started doing this, so I hope that<br />

in a few years, you will be able to see an incredible variety of<br />

wildflowers along The Ridgeway, instead of a monoculture<br />

of grass.<br />

When you’re not teaching or doing research, you are also the<br />

Garden Fellow at Queen’s. What has been your vision for the<br />

College gardens?<br />

A good garden is one with a particular atmosphere and at Queen’s<br />

I think Andrew Timms (the current Bursar) sums it up when he<br />

says we’ve gone for cottage garden on steroids! We’ve done a lot in<br />

the past eight years. My first action was to plant the cherry trees<br />

in Front Quad, which was quite contentious at the time, but I love<br />

the way they change with the seasons. The area under the holm<br />

oak has also been transformed and is now planted with shadeloving<br />

shrubs (thanks to a comment from an Old Member!).<br />

We’ve also thinned the canopy of the oak to reduce the shade it<br />

casts, and to stop it encroaching on the buildings.<br />

Restoring the Provost’s Garden following the New Library project<br />

was probably the biggest challenge, but I’m very happy with the<br />

outcome. The overall vision for the garden is to support biological<br />

diversity, and therefore the local wildlife, but also to have a garden<br />

that looks good all year round. On the wildlife front, we have<br />

nesting blue tits, wrens, blackbirds, doves, and even ducks. We<br />

also have solitary bees nesting in the bee boxes. An inter-collegiate<br />

study found that we actually have the highest diversity of bees<br />

across all colleges, perhaps because we don’t use any chemicals in<br />

the borders and have such a high diversity of plants.<br />

It’s also important that people can enjoy the gardens, so we<br />

ordered more garden furniture, which is now used for picnics,<br />

studying, teaching and some meetings (like this interview!).<br />

What’s the best thing people can do in their own gardens to<br />

support biodiversity?<br />

One crucial way that gardeners can help is to support insects,<br />

which have declined terribly and are essential food for other<br />

animals, like birds. Insects are best supported by native perennial<br />

plants – if you’ve got space for a small area of meadow – that’s<br />

really the best. I’ve been amazed how many insects I get in my<br />

own ‘meadow’, but it does look a bit untidy, so it’s not everyone’s<br />

cup of tea. Otherwise, try to plant perennials, rather than bedding<br />

plants, which normally produce little or no pollen. My top tip for<br />

acquiring new plants for your garden: ask your neighbours to split<br />

plants and share cuttings. Chances are, if it flourishes in their<br />

gardens, it will in yours too.<br />

Tell us what makes your favourite animal, the sea hare, special?<br />

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I chose the sea hare because,<br />

although they can be found in the UK, they’re really quite exotic<br />

and fundamentally strange. I’ve spent years hunting for them<br />

in rock pools and it brings me a lot of joy to wonder at their<br />

weirdness.<br />

Greater Yellow-rattle<br />

Photo: iStock.com/Toro Attila<br />

And, since your full title is Fellow in Plant Sciences, do you<br />

have a favourite plant as well?<br />

I don’t really have a favourite, but I marvel at the yellow-rattle.<br />

It’s hemi-parasitic and lives in UK grasslands, parasitising the<br />

grasses but not the wildflowers. For this reason, it’s also known<br />

as the meadow-maker, as it helps wildflowers to thrive among the<br />

dominant grasses.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />



Queen’s has launched a new initiative to appoint one academic and<br />

one non-academic Distinguished Visitor each year. Such visitors<br />

are leading figures from academia and throughout the public and<br />

private sectors. During their residency, it is expected that they<br />

contribute actively to the intellectual life of the College at all levels:<br />

undergraduate, postgraduate, Fellowship, and Old Members. Our first<br />

two Distinguished Visitors spoke to us about their time in College.<br />

Jacky Wright, Chief Technology and<br />

Platform Officer at McKinsey and former<br />

Chief Digital Officer at Microsoft:<br />

non-academic Distinguished Visitor<br />

(May <strong>2023</strong>)<br />

How has your curiosity shaped your career?<br />

I have been curious from a young age. My dad bought me<br />

a fabulous thick book of places all over the world and I<br />

thought, when I grow up, I want to go to all of them. I loved<br />

reading and I used to write my own stories. I would go to the<br />

library every week. I think my curiosity was born from that,<br />

nurtured by my family, and it has stayed with me through<br />

life. It has made me travel and want to find out more about<br />

different people and places.<br />

Clearly one of the major digital innovations at present is<br />

the development of AI and you have previously spoken<br />

about AI as an augmenter. Can you explain what you mean<br />

by this?<br />

I am interested in both people and technology. When I started<br />

my career, I automated a piece of my work and then taught<br />

myself to code. I wanted to see how I could use the technology<br />

to help people. AI is an augmenter in the macro sense. It<br />

can help people to varying degrees: it could completely<br />

replace humans for some tasks or augment some tasks. The<br />

acceleration of its current development is at a rate that has not<br />

been seen before. We need to keep abreast of it in thoughtful<br />

18<br />

From left: Ethnic Minority JCR Representatives Soumia Bouda and Angelica<br />

Kanu, Jacky Wright, and JCR President Roisin Quinn in the Shulman Auditorium

and responsible ways and spend time<br />

looking at different possible scenarios.<br />

AI can be seen at the intersection<br />

between people and technology. How<br />

should we shape our ethics to make the<br />

best of this relationship?<br />

I am a firm believer in the necessity of good public and private<br />

partnerships to solve problems. There are existential problems<br />

contained in big issues such as AI and climate change so we need<br />

to create partnerships between thought leaders and business<br />

partners to shape ethical practices that can be globally applied.<br />

These problems are disruptive to humanity across the board and<br />

must be addressed collectively.<br />

There is evidence to show that humans are prone to doing what<br />

machines tell them to do in the context of decision-making<br />

(e.g. we have moved from a garbage in/garbage out mindset to<br />

garbage in/gospel out mindset). How can we make sure that<br />

keeping humans ‘in the loop’ is managed effectively to produce<br />

the best results?<br />

In order for the ‘human in the loop’ approach to be effective, it<br />

must be embedded into the development lifecycle of a project.<br />

This means that the review process relating to the development<br />

of models needs to have an ethical framework and expertise<br />

from different fields (e.g. law, economics) embedded and set to<br />

ask prompt questions, including around risk, at the right time,<br />

every time. Only by having humans interjecting throughout the<br />

development of technological models can we uncover unintended<br />

consequences. And we need policies to make this happen.<br />

Now that the technology is in the hands of everyday citizens,<br />

we have to ask: how do we govern this? It is both exciting<br />

and worrying.<br />

“The most powerful thing<br />

is that if people can see<br />

something, then they believe<br />

they can make it happen for<br />

them too.<br />

There was a recent piece from a<br />

current student at Oxford about her<br />

experience of what is being termed<br />

‘eco-stress’, the feelings of anxiety<br />

and sadness associated with major<br />

environmental and climate issues. I<br />

know many of us share these feelings.<br />

How can we look to both people and<br />

technology to give us hope?<br />

Technology has engendered anxiety in a way never seen before.<br />

In the past, humans had relatively limited exposure to things<br />

based on what they read. Now it is pushed to us 24/7. This can<br />

help with raising awareness of issues, but it also trains our brains<br />

to look for instant knowledge. I think technology is completely<br />

instrumental in creating the levels of eco-stress that we are seeing.<br />

So, what do we do about it? I think we need to govern the use of<br />

technology, we need to consider mental health aspects, perhaps<br />

even require technologists to think about mental health as a core<br />

part of tech evolution.<br />

What key questions do you ask within a business setting that<br />

would also be useful in an educational institution?<br />

What is our purpose? How do we make our talent fit for purpose?<br />

How can we make the best of generational differences? How do<br />

our policies shape us? Do we have understanding partnerships?<br />

How is our work shaping the world at large?<br />

As an institution, how can Queen’s most effectively build trust<br />

to attract as diverse a pool of talented applicants as possible?<br />

Use storytelling. If your reputation differs from your brand, then<br />

show people why the reputation is wrong. Pay attention to the<br />

stories told about you and build external relationships so that the<br />

stories you tell about yourself get heard.<br />

In 2022 you were named the UK’s most influential person of<br />

African or African Caribbean heritage by The Powerlist. What<br />

does this accolade mean to you?<br />

A year on, it means I am in the public eye a lot and, being an<br />

introvert, that is hard. But the visibility means I can create a<br />

platform for the good of all. The most powerful thing is that if<br />

people can see something, then they believe they can make it<br />

happen for them too. I have a responsibility to bring people along<br />

– both people who look like me and people who do not. I am<br />

humbled and honoured by it.<br />

How can businesses make positive changes for the long-term?<br />

I believe that in all settings, people have a responsibility to their<br />

constituents, to those they work for, and to the greater good.<br />

This needs to be considered when developing a brand strategy<br />

in order to be successful and it needs to be communicated to all<br />

employees and stakeholders so they know what they stand for.<br />

To what extent does culture and purpose have to be engendered<br />

from the top before it can be communicated more widely?<br />

Grassroots efforts are important, but the tone absolutely has to be<br />

set from the top.<br />

How can older companies or institutions transform their<br />

traditions by taking the best of what’s gone before and<br />

moving forward?<br />

Spend time identifying your core competencies and distinctive<br />

features. What are you known for? Keep these. Then think about<br />

what you need to bring in and build the new things around the<br />

core identity. Boundaries, real and perceived, need to be removed<br />

and process and rewards will help to drive changes.<br />

Tell us about your time at Queen’s so far.<br />

It feels like a community of deep thinkers! I met some students,<br />

and they had some excellent questions for me. I can see it is a<br />

place that engenders a diversity of thought. So, my question to<br />

them is how can we harness the power of deep thinkers to help<br />

both them and society? I hope my visit has encouraged College<br />

members to think about how they can engage, adapt, and get their<br />

voices heard.<br />

For my part, I have seen the way that teaching is delivered here<br />

in a highly personalised way through the tutorial system. This is<br />

truly priceless. It has made me think about ways my own team<br />

might benefit from Oxbridge’s unique approach.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

Looking out across the gardens towards the Radcliffe Camera on<br />

a clear day, sitting by the fireplaces, enjoying a dinner in the hall,<br />

and most of all talking to people who have deep knowledge and<br />

great passion for their areas of expertise.<br />

Can you tell us a bit about the questions you ask in your<br />

research and the ideas you explore?<br />

My primary research focus is at the intersection of particle<br />

physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. In particular, I enjoy<br />

working on topics in which new or upcoming experiments are<br />

focused, which gives the opportunity for new discoveries or<br />

mysteries. Our current understanding of the universe is very deep,<br />

we can describe the constituents of matter at the smallest scales<br />

and give the history of the universe back to the first few minutes<br />

with remarkable success. However, many puzzles still remain,<br />

such as the why the elementary particles have different mass ratios<br />

and what comprises the so-called “dark matter” — being matter<br />

that can be inferred from gravitational interactions but has not<br />

been identified directly through experiment.<br />

Prof James Unwin, Assistant Professor of<br />

Physics, University of Illinois, Chicago:<br />

academic Distinguished Visitor, 2022-<strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Professor Unwin undertakes research related to new physics<br />

beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics at the intersection<br />

of particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. He has worked<br />

on a range of topics in theoretical particle physics, including<br />

Supersymmetry, LHC searches for New Physics, and Grand<br />

Unified Theories. In theoretical astrophysics and cosmology, he<br />

is interested in exploring novel dark matter models with distinct<br />

implications for experiments and observations.<br />

What attracted you about coming to Queen’s as a<br />

Distinguished Visitor?<br />

Aside from the world-class researchers,<br />

the quality that makes Oxford one of<br />

my favourite universities to visit is the<br />

college system. Being part of a college<br />

provides an opportunity to socialise with<br />

like-minded individuals and learn about<br />

recent advances in fields beyond your own.<br />

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been invited as a<br />

Distinguished Visitor and hope I will have the opportunity to<br />

return in the future.<br />

How have you found your time in College so far?<br />

My enjoyment in college life has most distinctly come from things<br />

that one can take for granted after spending several years at<br />

Oxford, but when returning as a visitor they are fresh once more.<br />

What’s the value of an interdisciplinary approach?<br />

Some of the greatest advances in science have come through<br />

interdisciplinary approaches. Indeed, communication between<br />

mathematics, particle physics, and condensed matter physics<br />

have led to some of the deepest insights in my own field. More<br />

generally, I am interested in applying mathematical frameworks<br />

to other types of problems and I have written papers in areas such<br />

as politics, economics, and geography. I find that thinking about<br />

research questions in other fields can be a refreshing change and<br />

can lead you to find new applications of the tools with which you<br />

are already familiar.<br />

Tell us about the children’s book Reaching for the Stars that you<br />

wrote during the COVID-19 pandemic and what inspired you<br />

to do this?<br />

We all needed some diversion during the pandemic, in particular<br />

we had a newborn in 2020, so we were being especially careful<br />

and rarely venturing outside. My wife and I had read hundreds of<br />

books to our firstborn during this time and so we decided to try<br />

our hand at writing our own books. My wife, Laura Schaposnik,<br />

had a friend who was an aspiring illustrator and so we teamed<br />

up to write this book Reaching for the Stars, while my wife wrote her<br />

own series: Ene and the Magic…. I’m<br />

very proud of how the book turned<br />

“Queen’s, of course, is one of the<br />

most beautiful colleges in the<br />

city, and I was glad to learn it<br />

was also extremely welcoming.<br />

out and we even got 200 copies<br />

printed as board books to donate<br />

to Northwestern’s Lurie Children’s<br />

Hospital in Chicago.<br />

You were a graduate student at Oxford so no stranger to the<br />

city; do you have a favourite place?<br />

Oxford is one of my favourite cities in the world and still feels<br />

like home. I especially love Jericho, which is always where I try<br />

to stay when visiting. Places that I love to spend time include<br />

Port Meadow (especially when it’s filled with horses), the rooftop<br />

cafe of the Ashmolean, and punting along the quieter parts of<br />

the Cherwell.<br />


“The ocean makes up 70% of the Earth’s<br />

surface area, yet the majority of species<br />

inhabiting the ocean remain undescribed.<br />

OCEANS<br />

Racing against time to complete the<br />

largest ocean census in history<br />

COUNT<br />

Photo: iStock.com/Nuture<br />

Dr Denise Swanborn (Environmental Research, 2018) tells us about her<br />

work with Ocean Census, the largest ever ocean survey.<br />

You are part of a project called Ocean Census which aims to<br />

accelerate the discovery of ocean life. Can you share a bit more<br />

about the programme?<br />

Ocean Census launched on 27 April <strong>2023</strong>. It has been set up<br />

by two founding partners, Nekton and the Nippon Foundation,<br />

and has set the ambitious target of finding at least 100,000 new<br />

marine species in the first decade. Oxford is the headquarters<br />

of Ocean Census. The programme is a global open alliance<br />

of partners, and we are actively seeking research institutes,<br />

universities, and, in particular, taxonomists to partner with us.<br />

Why is it important to do this now?<br />

The ocean makes up 70% of the Earth’s surface area, and ocean<br />

life is fundamental to all life on Earth. It produces the oxygen<br />

we breathe, isolates carbon dioxide, creates food for billions of<br />

people and is constantly providing vital scientific advances to fight<br />

disease. Yet the majority of species inhabiting the ocean remain<br />

undescribed, especially in the deep sea. Today, scientists believe<br />

they have described little over 10% of the species that exist. Ocean<br />

Census aims to significantly change this, as we cannot protect and<br />

sustain what we do not know.<br />

To conserve and sustain the life that you uncover in the ocean,<br />

what measures are being taken as part of the project?<br />

We set up a series of global expeditions to the ocean’s biodiversity<br />

hotspots to find new life from the surface to full ocean depth<br />

(10,925 metres). These expeditions will be run on vessels from<br />

the philanthropic, government, academic, and commercial fleets.<br />

We are deploying a combination of advanced subsea technologies<br />

with divers, human submersibles, and remotely operated vehicles<br />

(ROVs). As Expedition Manager, I work on the implementation of<br />

these expeditions.<br />

Specimens collected on expeditions will be sent to Biodiversity<br />

Centres, where they will be analysed and described. All resulting<br />

data will be uploaded into a database so that networks of<br />

taxonomists will connect virtually to draw on the aggregated<br />

data set created. This aggregated, open-sourced data is added to<br />

a network of data centres globally and made freely accessible to<br />

scientists, marine policymakers and the public.<br />

How will you use machine learning and other new technologies<br />

to analyse the data?<br />

Recent technological advances in high resolution imaging,<br />

DNA sequencing, and machine learning mean scientists can<br />

now massively accelerate the process of species discovery and<br />

description. Ocean Census will deploy high-precision sampling<br />

tools to collect corals and other large organisms during<br />

expeditions. This means that a small number of individual<br />

samples will be collected and then preserved for further analysis<br />

in museums or other laboratories. Sub-samples will be taken for<br />

DNA analysis. Smaller organisms that live in sand or mud will be<br />

collected as small samples of sediment, preserved and then later<br />

extracted. We work with scientific and business partners for the<br />

latest and most efficient technology to accelerate the process of<br />

DNA analysis and species description.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

Denise Swanborn<br />

with Prof Alex Rogers<br />

Photo: Valentina Lanci<br />

What is the purpose of the proposed Biodiversity Centres,<br />

the first of which will be in the Oxford University Museum of<br />

Natural History?<br />

Specimens collected during expeditions will be sent to Ocean<br />

Census Biodiversity Centres, where the main analysis will take<br />

place. Taxonomists working in the Biodiversity Centres will use<br />

technological advances across high resolution imaging and DNA<br />

sequencing to analyse and describe the collected specimens and<br />

upload the results to a virtual database. As more scientists and<br />

partners get involved in high, middle-and low-income nations,<br />

we aim to set up more centres globally.<br />

Your recent trip to the Arctic Ocean was the first expedition<br />

that Ocean Census participated in; what challenges did<br />

you encounter?<br />

Professor Alex Rogers, the Science Director of Ocean Census,<br />

and I were very excited to join this expedition run by the Arctic<br />

University of Tromso. We surveyed eight different sites in the<br />

Barents Sea, collected a large number of biological, geological and<br />

water chemistry samples and discovered the second mud volcano<br />

in Norwegian waters. Unfortunately, we were hit with some bad<br />

weather in the first days of the expedition, which is something<br />

that is often beyond our control. This meant we had to deal with<br />

changes in our expedition plan (and sea sickness…).<br />

The analysis work will take place over the next few months, but<br />

I can share that there were quite a few things we were not able<br />

to identify!<br />

Where will you be travelling to next?<br />

We aim to run seven expeditions each year for the next 10 years,<br />

focusing on marine biodiversity hotspots that have been little<br />

studied. We have not announced yet where we will be going next,<br />

but we’d encourage you to follow us and stay tuned!<br />

How can we follow and support this work?<br />

We welcome all partners from government, science, expeditions,<br />

media, philanthropy, business and civil society to join the alliance<br />

and be part of Ocean Census. Please contact us through the<br />

website; there are a multitude of ways that different partners can<br />

get involved, which are listed there: https://bit.ly/3Lo1ce1.<br />

You can also find the latest news, films, content, and events across<br />

our social media channels:<br />

Instagram: @oceancensus<br />

Facebook: /oceancensus<br />

LinkedIn: /oceancensus<br />

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@oceancensus<br />

What was your most fascinating discovery?<br />

We collected 400 samples, which have now all returned to<br />

Oxford and are safely stored in the Natural History Museum.<br />


“Research has shown how to create<br />

hydrogenases for cleaner, accessible<br />

energy sources.<br />



Photo: iStock.com/Arthon Meekodong<br />

Recent graduate Jack Badley (Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry,<br />

2018) was part of a research team whose findings were recently<br />

published in top journal Nature. The team discovered an enzyme that<br />

converts air into energy.<br />

Analysis of a hydrogen-consuming enzyme from a<br />

common soil bacterium showed that it used low<br />

amounts of hydrogen in the atmosphere to create an<br />

electrical current. Here, Jack tells us more about the<br />

remarkable discovery and the role he played on the team.<br />

What started the research group thinking about the possibility<br />

of using an enzyme from common soil bacterium to convert<br />

air into energy?<br />

Hydrogenases are enzymes which reversibly convert molecular<br />

hydrogen into protons and electrons. These generated electrons<br />

can be utilised by cells to produce energy, similar to how we<br />

derive energy from glucose. Initially discovered in the 1930s,<br />

hydrogenases and hydrogenase-containing bacteria have been<br />

an invaluable resource for multiple biotechnological fields for<br />

some time. These include wastewater management, hydrogen<br />

production from cheap substrates like glucose, the direct<br />

production of clean and reproducible electricity from hydrogen via<br />

enzymatic biofuel cells, as well as cheaper and more eco-friendly<br />

methods to produce biologically active compounds like medicines.<br />

Despite the number of biotechnological processes that rely<br />

on these enzymes, there has been a significant challenge in<br />

utilising hydrogenases effectively. These enzymes evolved in<br />

an era when the Earth’s atmosphere had significantly higher<br />

hydrogen levels and very little oxygen. These two gas molecules<br />

are very similar in terms of shape, size, and charge meaning most<br />

enzymes have little means to separate them, which is a concern<br />

as oxygen is capable of binding to the same metal centre that<br />

normally converts hydrogen, but for a significantly longer period.<br />

Sometimes this even produces bi-product like hydrogen peroxide<br />

which can permanently damage the protein. Consequently,<br />

modern hydrogenases are extremely sensitive to oxygen inhibition,<br />

reducing or even halting their efficiency when exposed to air,<br />

significantly hindering their practical application.<br />

Since their discovery almost 90 years ago, countless research<br />

groups have been working hard to modify or discover<br />

hydrogenases that could function quickly and efficiently in<br />

atmospheric conditions, while maintaining the ability to<br />

specifically bind hydrogen strongly enough to source it from the<br />

extremely low atmospheric concentration. However, while great<br />

improvements were made, the level of discrimination between<br />

oxygen and hydrogen required to function efficiently when<br />

exposed to air was not able to come close to existing within<br />

any characterised lineage or variant of hydrogenase. However,<br />

in recent years, several high-affinity hydrogenase lineages have<br />

been discovered that show remarkable functionality in aerobic<br />

conditions with near-immunity to oxygen inhibition, efficiently<br />

converting hydrogen even at concentrations lower than those in<br />

our current atmosphere.<br />

Importantly, up until this project, no such oxygen-tolerant<br />

hydrogenase had been successfully isolated, making our group the<br />

first to successfully resolve one of their structures, which is vital<br />

in understanding how this immunity to oxygen is achieved for<br />

future study and the production of more efficient hydrogenasebased<br />

biotech. Grinter et al. successfully resolved the structure of<br />

Huc Hydrogenase from M. smegmatis, to a resolution which at the<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

Figure 1: Huc hydrogenase - The large subunit<br />

and small subunit are shown in lime and<br />

orange respectively. Magnesium is shown as<br />

a magenta sphere. The iron-sulphur clusters,<br />

which transfer electrons to and from the active<br />

site, are in translucent yellow, while the active<br />

site itself is in a translucent blue-pink gradient.<br />

Figure 2: High occupancy volumes, representing areas where A) oxygen and<br />

B) hydrogen is present > 4% of the time during the simulations. Two major<br />

cavities were found within the enzyme which are significantly involved in gas<br />

transportation, show in red and blue respectively.<br />

time was the second best ever achieved on any protein by CryoEM,<br />

confidently allowing the structure-to-function relationship of the<br />

hydrogenase to be determined for the first time, which is where the<br />

computational protein dynamics work I did began.<br />

Your research focused on molecular modelling and<br />

simulations. How did this work fit into the overall<br />

research project?<br />

My work involved determining how the structure of the<br />

hydrogenase could allow efficient discrimination between<br />

hydrogen and oxygen, despite their similarity. This involved<br />

establishing the different tunnels and pathways which allowed<br />

the gases to diffuse closer to the reaction site. Along these paths,<br />

I witnessed differences in how oxygen and hydrogen moved<br />

between areas of the protein.<br />

The diffusion pathway in Huc traverses multiple bottlenecks and<br />

other points of selection where hydrogen, with weaker non-polar<br />

interactions and a slightly smaller radius, can diffuse far more<br />

easily than the bulkier oxygen. Most of the identified bottlenecks<br />

were found to be caused by large branched apolar residues, simply<br />

discriminating according to size. These specific residues have<br />

been identified in other hydrogenase homologues with increased<br />

oxygen, slowing the rate that oxygen accesses the active site<br />

compared to hydrogen. However, since proteins are dynamic,<br />

the channel changes shape and size over time allowing some<br />

oxygen through, which is why hydrogenase up until this point has<br />

retained oxygen sensitivity.<br />

Crucially, I identified a selection point close to the active<br />

site which was 100% efficient at occluding oxygen in all my<br />

simulations, which hasn’t been seen in any other hydrogenases.<br />

I then studied the effect of various mutations on the selectivity of<br />

hydrogenase, to help determine which residues specifically within<br />

Huc hydrogenase are responsible.<br />

My further research, after submission of the paper, suggests that<br />

a nearby residue at this site moves in response to the quadrupole<br />

of the oxygen molecule, occluding the channel to prevent access<br />

to the active site only when oxygen is present. This work<br />

has confirmed that the effects of selection are due to specific<br />

mutations with the gas channels, which was suggested by the<br />

group and has determined residues likely responsible for selection,<br />

aiding further research in vivo and in silico to create hydrogenases for<br />

cleaner, accessible energy sources.<br />

What was most challenging about this research?<br />

Within molecular dynamics, one of the hardest hurdles to<br />

overcome is the interaction of metal ions with proteins. Classical<br />

molecular dynamics utilises simple Newtonian mechanics to<br />

simulate the interactions between atoms. This essentially defines<br />

the interactions within a system, including steric restraints like<br />

distance and angles like a series of balls and springs, applying<br />

greater force the further they are from an equilibrium position,<br />

while also accounting for non-polar and charge-based interactions.<br />

This method uses the position of all atoms in a system with<br />

respect to each other to calculate a net force based on a set of<br />

parameters which we help define.<br />

The issue is that while this classical interpretation works well<br />

for most atoms, the interactions between metal ions and protein<br />

residues are far more complex, greatly relying on complex<br />

quantum interactions involving the overlap of electron orbitals.<br />

Defining quantum behaviour through purely classical means<br />

to even a moderate level of accuracy is extremely difficult,<br />

yet actually calculating these interactions would be far too<br />

computationally expensive. For most simulations, the force on<br />

each atom is normally calculated for every one 500,000 th of a<br />

nanosecond, meaning that the time the supercomputer would<br />

take to calculate simulations of the length required for studying<br />

hydrogenase dynamics in a partially quantum system would likely<br />


far exceed the short timespan I had for this project. Thus, I had<br />

to compile a purely Newtonian set of parameters which could<br />

reliably reproduce similar dynamics for each of the four metal<br />

sites within Huc, which took hundreds of attempts.<br />

The breakthrough discovery has been described as a ‘natural<br />

battery’. Although it’s early days, can you describe how the<br />

enzyme could be used in applications that support a more<br />

sustainable future?<br />

The potential green applications of an efficient oxygen tolerant<br />

hydrogenase are widespread. Sustainable electricity is, of course,<br />

key among these: recently it has been discovered that aerobic<br />

bacteria such as M. smegmatis are responsible for oxidising<br />

approximately 60 billion tonnes of hydrogen per year, which is a<br />

huge untapped energy source.<br />

Existing hydrogenase biofuel cells use hydrogenases to produce<br />

electrons at an anode and couple this to an oxygen-reducing<br />

oxidoreductase at a cathode to create an electric current fueled<br />

only by the reaction of molecular hydrogen and oxygen into water,<br />

producing no greenhouse gases or any other pollutants. These<br />

systems have been highly constrained previously, since the entire<br />

cathode would have to be placed in protected anaerobic conditions<br />

and would require hydrogen to be pumped in manually from<br />

sources which would carry some level of environmental cost.<br />

However, with Huc hydrogenase, and similar variants immune<br />

to oxygen inhibition, this issue will hopefully no longer exist.<br />

Eventually, oxygen-tolerant hydrogenases could be used to create<br />

cells which can be exposed to aerobic conditions and source<br />

hydrogen directly from the atmosphere alone. This hydrogen<br />

is pre-existing, produced from fermentation and other natural<br />

processes happening across the globe. It is theorised that hydrogen<br />

functions indirectly as a greenhouse gas, thus fuel cells removing<br />

this from the atmosphere is potentially beneficial.<br />

Of course, this is not the only way in which these hydrogenases<br />

can be used towards sustainability. In another example, modern<br />

enzyme technology allows the production of medicines and<br />

other bioactive compounds via eco-friendly methods. However,<br />

enzymes containing cofactors like NAD(H) and NADP(H) are<br />

required for certain redox reactions. These cofactors and their<br />

enzymes are expensive, and their ability to regenerate is key to<br />

making sure that companies afford to use them rather than turn<br />

to other methods which involve cheaper unsustainable reagents<br />

with high carbon footprints and toxic by-products. Luckily,<br />

hydrogenases can regenerate these cofactors relatively easily and<br />

as a result of creating hydrogenases which require fewer controlled<br />

conditions, less specialist equipment and no external fuel sources,<br />

this incentivises companies to use these more environmentallyfriendly<br />

methods.<br />

What are you working on now?<br />

My current work is looking into antibiotic resistance, specifically<br />

towards the last resort drugs called polymyxins. These drugs<br />

are normally only used when all other treatments have failed,<br />

but increasing use in recent years has resulted in resistance<br />

to even these treatments. Polymyxins are positively charged<br />

lipopeptides which are proposed to kill bacteria via interacting<br />

electrostatically with negatively charged lipid A, an endotoxin<br />

located in gram-negative bacterial membranes, eventually leading<br />

to membrane rupture. To combat this, many strains of multidrug<br />

resistant bacteria, including nosocomial Salmonella, Pseudomonas and<br />

Staphylococcus lineages, modify lipid A with specific chemical groups,<br />

like positively charged sugars, which prevent the membrane from<br />

being targeted by polymyxins via charge-charge interactions.<br />

This project extends upon the techniques used during my masters,<br />

creating computational structures of known Lipid A modifying<br />

metalloenzymes, including MCR-1 and recently resolved<br />

ArnT, allowing me to determine the chemical and structural<br />

mechanisms behind each step of their respective catalytic cycles<br />

through combined classical and quantum mechanics.<br />

My current focus is on the use of emerging techniques to study<br />

how the dynamics of these enzymes change over time in response<br />

to perturbations such as pH or substrate binding, allowing<br />

me to determine functionally important residues and track<br />

the propagation of signals throughout the protein to identify<br />

allosteric, therefore druggable, binding sites. Essentially, this<br />

means that I can identify specific areas which could bind small<br />

molecular inhibitors to prevent functionally important dynamic<br />

changes, allowing me to potentially design lead molecules for codrugs<br />

which could reverse polymyxin resistance.<br />

Excitingly, this project will allow me to work in vitro so that I can<br />

iteratively use my computational work to inform and design<br />

tests on these enzymes in real life, studying specific mutants and<br />

determining the chemical groups and conditions responsible for<br />

certain mechanisms for each step of the cycle, which I can then<br />

use to improve my work in silico. Multidrug resistance is currently<br />

estimated to kill nearly 5 million people per year; my major aim<br />

for this work is to allow significant progress in our understanding<br />

of how we can treat the most severe cases of resistant bacterial<br />

infections and to hopefully go some way to help develop medicine<br />

which could be used to overcome this emerging crisis.<br />

Antibiotic resistant bacteria inside a biofilm | iStock.com/Dr_Microbe<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

THE<br />


Current student Elyse Airey (Biology, 2021)<br />

tells us about her drive to make optimistic,<br />

accessible, and engaging climate<br />

journalism the norm.<br />

“Scientific research is paramount: conversations<br />

about global problem solving must be centred<br />

around scientific evidence. This is a pillar upon<br />

which The Earthly was founded.<br />

Elyse Airey | David Fisher<br />


What motivated you to co-found The Earthly, a digital<br />

publication examining climate issues?<br />

The initial idea for a new climate-focused publication came<br />

from Joe Tester, a third-year Biologist at Magdalen College.<br />

I immediately jumped at the opportunity to get involved, and<br />

together we developed what is now The Earthly. We identified three<br />

key issues we wanted to tackle, and came up with our aims:<br />

‘optimistic, accessible, engaging’.<br />

Firstly, so much popular climate media is very ‘doom and gloom’,<br />

which often precedes the sentiment that ‘it’s too late’ or ‘there’s<br />

no point’ in fighting for action anymore (which is very much not<br />

true). While we are dealing with serious and heavy topics, we<br />

believe it is important to frame issues from a perspective which<br />

will motivate rather than demotivate, hence, ‘optimistic’.<br />

Secondly, a lot of climate writing is jargon-littered and difficult<br />

for any non-expert to understand. As well as this, research<br />

is often published in subscription-only journals, which are<br />

not publicly available. The climate and biodiversity crisis is<br />

something that will impact all of us, and so we wanted to create<br />

a space where anyone can access climate information, and be able<br />

to understand our articles without extensive prior knowledge.<br />

Hence, ‘accessible’.<br />

Thirdly, many articles dealing with climate issues are information<br />

dense and difficult to digest. We wanted to make our articles are<br />

short and as vibrant as they can be, hence, ‘engaging’.<br />

What’s your main goal with The Earthly?<br />

We post a regular flow of new articles with the aim to educate,<br />

and through this, to inspire change. Each article deals with<br />

a different climate-related topic, presenting an issue and<br />

discussing potential solutions.<br />

What do you think is the most<br />

important approach when dealing with<br />

issues of climate change?<br />

I think that we should attack issues with equal amounts of<br />

fervour and compassion. By fervour, I mean the urgency and<br />

agency required to push for immediate and permanent change. By<br />

compassion, I mean understanding the nuanced struggles that the<br />

non-human and human inhabitants of the planet will face as a<br />

result of the climate and biodiversity crisis and keeping empathy<br />

for this at the forefront of decision making.<br />

Significantly, I think problems will be best solved through<br />

collaboration, between researchers in diverse disciplines, policymakers,<br />

communities, and intergovernmental organisations.<br />

“I think problems will be best<br />

solved through collaboration<br />

How do you balance your degree work with working on<br />

the publication?<br />

This year I’ve shared the role of Editor-in-Chief with our Founder,<br />

Joe, which makes the workload a lot more manageable. We are a<br />

fairly small publication with a relatively large team – The Earthly<br />

really wouldn’t exist without the help of our committed editors.<br />

Also, as a Biology student, things I learn as part of my degree<br />

often inspire our articles, and in the same way, the research for<br />

articles supports my degree. The skills I have gained through The<br />

Earthly, in researching, writing, and organising, have been hugely<br />

beneficial to my academic life as well.<br />

How involved have other students at Queen’s been<br />

with The Earthly?<br />

We’ve had a really good amount of Queen’s involvement this<br />

year – with students studying subjects from Biology, to History &<br />

Politics, as well as Classics, becoming writers and editors.<br />

How can other students take part next term?<br />

We are always keen for new writers to take on commissions or<br />

pitch articles to us. We have already put together our editorial<br />

team for Michaelmas term, but we will be looking for new editors,<br />

illustrators, and a new Editor-in-chief for Hilary term. Anyone<br />

who is interested in getting involved in any way can drop us an<br />

email at editors@TheEarthly.co.uk.<br />

How important do you think local and individual measures<br />

are versus the endeavours of top researchers and policy-makers<br />

in the context of solving the world’s big problems?<br />

I think global problems require global solutions, but local efforts,<br />

if coordinated, can have huge positive benefits. Individual<br />

measures are important - I believe we<br />

all should do as much as we can to live<br />

more sustainable lifestyles. But critically,<br />

I think individual empowerment can drive<br />

community mobilisation, which can, in turn, encourage large-scale<br />

change from policy-makers, government, and industry.<br />

Scientific research is paramount: conversations about global<br />

problem-solving must be centred around scientific evidence.<br />

This is another pillar upon which The Earthly was founded – to be<br />

entirely scientific evidence-based.<br />

What’s your favourite place in Oxford?<br />

I really like the Botanic Gardens – students can go in for free, and<br />

there is a bench right by the river where I love to sit and read or<br />

just gather my thoughts.<br />

What are the most interesting things you have learned so far as<br />

a result of gathering content for The Earthly?<br />

I’ve come to realise how interconnected and intersectional the<br />

majority of climate and biodiversity issues are. The biosphere is<br />

just a series of complex interactions, so it is very difficult to deal<br />

with a single issue in isolation.<br />

Can you recommend a book?<br />

One of my favourite popular science books is Incredible Journeys by<br />

David Barrie. It describes the fascinating ways in which animals<br />

navigate. It’s actually the book that inspired me to apply for<br />

Biology at Oxford!<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />

THE<br />


Aerial shot of Biker Fen substation under construction in July 2022<br />

Old Member Sara Habib (Mathematics and Philosophy, 1997) has<br />

over 20 years’ experience at National Grid in a variety of roles, from<br />

operational asset management to strategic corporate roles. Most<br />

recently she has worked on the early East Coast Strategy, shaping<br />

the policy and process requirements for Electricity Transmission<br />

infrastructure to facilitate the connection of offshore wind.<br />

She is currently focussed on the next regulatory price<br />

control framework for National Grid Electricity<br />

Transmission as Head of Future Price Controls. This<br />

framework will be critical to facilitating the investments<br />

required to reimagine the Transmission Network as part of a<br />

decarbonised Energy System by 2035.<br />

We spoke to her to find out more about her passion for her work<br />

and the future of energy in the UK.<br />

Your role at the National Grid is directly involved in enabling<br />

the government to achieve its ambitious net zero targets for<br />

2030 and beyond. How are you approaching the challenge of<br />

this major upgrade?<br />

At National Grid, I’m focussed on our electricity transmission<br />

network. We build and maintain the big motorways of electrical<br />

power that form the backbone of our energy infrastructure<br />

and that backbone needs upgrading and reimagining. The<br />

infrastructure we have was built for a very different type of<br />

energy generation in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s and we now need a<br />

grid that can collect very different types of energy generation in<br />

very different locations, and get it out to people when they need it.<br />

How are you balancing the three priorities in energy provision,<br />

namely energy security, affordability, and decarbonisation?<br />

We’re coming to a very interesting period now where what we<br />

term the ‘energy trilemma’ is converging. Having been in tension<br />

with each other, suddenly getting to net zero and connecting green<br />

energy sources is also a route to affordability because the cost<br />

of that energy is much cheaper. We continually invest to adapt<br />

and develop our network, around £1 billion each year, in order to<br />

connect homegrown green energy which will help reduce energy<br />

bills for everyone in the long-term. In time, it will also increase<br />

our own energy security because we’ll be less reliant on sources of<br />

energy from elsewhere, something which has felt very real given<br />

recent geopolitical instability, and the crisis in Ukraine.<br />

You have spoken about the importance of collaboration in<br />

providing successful solutions. How are you working with<br />

stakeholders outside of the energy sector?<br />

I think this is so important. We work closely with Ofgem,<br />

our regulator, because they decide the framework by which<br />

our funding is set, and we need to ensure that we have the<br />

right funding arrangements to build infrastructure and attract<br />

investments. We work with Government, so we understand their<br />

carbon targets, energy policies and what that means for the grid.<br />

We work with local governments and authorities to understand<br />

their regional decarbonisation aspirations.<br />

We also work with much wider stakeholders than this to<br />

understand what our customers need, how we can best serve<br />

our communities by enabling them to understand why we need<br />

to build infrastructure, engaging with them before and during<br />

the infrastructure build, and explaining how they’ll benefit from<br />

it. We also work with wildlife groups and NGOs so that when<br />

we build, we enhance the natural world rather than simply not<br />

damaging it. This concept of net gain means we leave more behind<br />

than we take away. It’s vital that we think about the whole system<br />

and look at the whole picture in terms of our investments.<br />

How are you factoring in things like the impact of electric cars<br />

and domestic solar panels?<br />

When we look at what we need to build and what our grid will<br />

need to look like, we think about this in the context of net zero<br />


targets for 2035, and that includes electrification. This means<br />

looking at the needs of solar farms and offshore wind farms,<br />

as well as seeing that distribution networks are signalling that<br />

they’re seeing growth in terms of connections, for example for<br />

electric charging points at people’s homes or electrification of<br />

domestic heating. We look at the information we have in front of<br />

us today and alongside that, we are increasingly using scenariomodelling.<br />

So, we take what is known and think about what is not<br />

yet certain and try to understand what it means for our network<br />

in the future and the investments we need to make today. We’re<br />

focused on the concept of anticipatory investment and developing<br />

our investments with the future in mind.<br />

Today’s grid was built to facilitate a 275-kilovolt network so<br />

people could have all the new household electrical appliances that<br />

became available in the 1950s onwards but they built the grid to<br />

be capable of carrying 400 kilovolts. It was built with upgrade<br />

capacity; it was built with the future in mind. We need to do the<br />

same thing now as we rewire the grid and build in an even more<br />

anticipatory way than we have ever done before to support the<br />

growth we predict is coming. This all means we need a change<br />

to our regulatory framework. Our future way of working will<br />

have to be different from the way we<br />

have built things in the past couple of<br />

decades when the focus has been on<br />

least cost and building just what you<br />

need, when you need it.<br />

Wind and solar energy are very dependent on the weather and<br />

time of day so can the grid store it to be used when we need it?<br />

National Grid Electricity Transmission doesn’t own storage,<br />

but we see storage (technology that acts like a battery storing<br />

and releasing power when needed) playing a vital part in the<br />

whole network solution in the future, both in managing system<br />

operations and mitigating the need for infrastructure.<br />

At Oxford, we are just down the road from JET, the world’s<br />

largest and most advanced tokamak used to study fusion<br />

energy. Where do you see nuclear power, fission or, further<br />

ahead, fusion, fitting into the energy mix?<br />

Nuclear is definitely part of the mix; our Hinkley Connection<br />

Project will enable us to connect Hinkley Point C, EDF Energy’s<br />

new nuclear power station in Somerset, along with other new<br />

sources of low-carbon energy to homes and businesses. We will<br />

need all sorts of renewable power solutions to get to net zero:<br />

solar, batteries, onshore and significantly offshore wind, with<br />

government targets of 50GW by 2030.<br />

National Grid employees were some of the unsung key workers<br />

during the COVID-19 pandemic. What did you have to do<br />

during that time to keep the lights on for everyone?<br />

One of the things we had to do was build a little impromptu<br />

village on our core site. We have roles in our control rooms and<br />

centres which have to be staffed 24/7. While we have a degree of<br />

resilience in our shift teams, it was clear that we couldn’t afford<br />

for a whole shift team to be unwell and/or isolating. We adopted<br />

very stringent hygiene arrangements early on and segregated our<br />

“We continually invest to adapt and<br />

develop our network in order to<br />

connect homegrown green energy<br />

which will help reduce energy bills<br />

24/7 workers from the rest of the workforce. As part of being<br />

very cautious from the outset, we built on-site ‘glamping’ pods<br />

so these key workers could be literally in a bubble. Many of<br />

them heroically stayed on site away from their families for long<br />

periods of time, making a sacrifice to ensure the running of this<br />

crucial service.<br />

It’s always good to see women in leadership positions,<br />

particularly in industries where they are traditionally<br />

underrepresented. What would you say to a young graduate<br />

looking for a role in your sector?<br />

It was very different when I started over 20 years ago. I was<br />

laughing at an internal conference just last week that I actually<br />

had to queue for the ladies’ toilets. I’m pleased to say that it<br />

feels like a very diverse workplace now and I don’t feel like an<br />

outlier. National Grid has very good flexible working policies and<br />

provision for families. We have diversity in our people and also in<br />

our thinking.<br />

My advice would be, if you’re passionate about industry, which<br />

I am because there’s nothing better than getting your hands on<br />

stuff that really powers a nation, and<br />

you’re interested in STEM, there’s<br />

nothing to hold you back. If you want<br />

a role with a real sense of purpose<br />

in the energy industry then it’s a<br />

brilliant place to be and there’s an<br />

unbelievable transformation taking<br />

place, which you can be a part of. We need more people to join<br />

us: we need problem-solvers and policymakers so, although we<br />

have many people coming from a STEM background, I also see<br />

people coming to us from a multitude of other backgrounds, from<br />

archaeology to the performing arts. You just need a passion for<br />

problem-solving.<br />

How did your degree in Mathematics and Philosophy prepare<br />

you for the kind of creative and strategic thinking needed to<br />

address the complex and urgent issues facing the industry?<br />

I think it equipped me to walk into a role with a good problemsolving<br />

mindset. I think the two subjects are often about<br />

understanding and constructing good arguments and being<br />

able to communicate those clearly. Often, we are trying to take<br />

complex engineering solutions and translate them into something<br />

people will find compelling in a wider social context, and I think<br />

the process and approach of my degree has set me in good stead<br />

for this.<br />

What do you enjoy most about your work?<br />

I love my role. It’s incredibly satisfying: I feel every day that I’m<br />

having conversations about how we’re contributing to the running<br />

of the UK and that keeps me very motivated. I think the thing I<br />

enjoy most is how the work links so directly to something I deeply<br />

value, namely the journey to net zero. I care passionately about<br />

the environment and the fact that I can get up every day and do a<br />

job that contributes in a tangible way towards helping it is great.<br />

I also like the level of transformation we’re undergoing now: it’s<br />

daunting at times, but I relish it.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 | <strong>2023</strong><br />



The College has had a Carbon Committee since 2019 to discuss and<br />

recommend action that takes account of, and seeks to limit, carbon<br />

production. Dr Richard Nickerson, Fellow in Physics and Secretary to<br />

the Committee, tells us more about its role.<br />

Photo: iStock.com/LukeP77<br />

What were your goals in setting up the Carbon Committee?<br />

Queen’s has been active in attempting to reduce its net carbon<br />

footprint since 2012 when the first proposal for installing Photo<br />

Voltaic (PV) panels on the College’s buildings was developed<br />

and implemented. Since then, we have gone on to work on<br />

waste reduction, recycling, food choices, reduction in energy<br />

consumption, and other initiatives aimed at limiting the CO 2<br />

production caused by the College, as well as (recently) putting in<br />

place monitoring to allow progress to be assessed.<br />

The College established its Carbon Committee in 2019 to build<br />

on this work and to monitor its performance in terms of energy<br />

efficiency (subsequently changed to carbon dioxide production).<br />

The Committee was asked to bring proposals to the Governing<br />

Body (GB) concerning measures to assist in reducing the College’s<br />

carbon footprint to a proportionate minimum. In 2020, GB<br />

approved a policy on greenhouse gas production.<br />

Our Carbon Control policy calls for all College committees to<br />

consider carbon production as part of its deliberations. Every<br />

aspect of College operations is undertaken with carbon control as<br />

part of normal considerations. Any new building or refurbishment<br />

must consider carbon control, and other sustainability issues. For<br />

example, the auditorium completed in 2011 has a ground source<br />

heat pump for heating and cooling.<br />

The Carbon Committee evaluates proposals for carbon control<br />

initiatives to attempt to disentangle the hype from the reality;<br />

unfortunately, a process that is becoming increasingly important.<br />

Are you more in favour of carbon off-setting or a net zero<br />

approach?<br />

Views vary on this, even within College. My own view is that<br />

this is not either or, and although we should all look to reduce<br />

our carbon footprints to the extent we can, there is no way to get<br />

to genuine net zero with our existing technology. The best way<br />

for College to help therefore, is through our research. Alongside<br />

this, and vigorous attempts to reduce local consumption, genuine<br />

offsetting is an unavoidable component of a real net-zero. This<br />

does not mean buying carbon credits, or other schemes of dubious<br />

value, but investing in something which actively sequesters<br />

carbon, possibly actively planting new trees, carefully, in a way<br />

which actually reduces carbon.<br />


ut unfortunately the reality is that they require time and effort<br />

to use and those doing so are likely already converts to low<br />

carbon lifestyle. The college has therefore decided to provide<br />

information in a more ‘in your face’ way, something which<br />

students at Queen’s have been supportive of: We are currently<br />

creating a poster for each room to explain how much CO 2 people<br />

cause on average per year and to provide some simple guidance<br />

for how people can make efforts to reduce this number. Travel is<br />

one element, but there are several other important contributors.<br />

The College’s plan is to encourage consideration of an overall<br />

budget, which includes travel.<br />

A series of experimental trials were<br />

conducted in Back Quad to assess the<br />

effectiveness of double-glazing. Please<br />

can you tell us about what was learnt<br />

during this process and what the next<br />

phase is?<br />

A prototype double-glazing unit<br />

(approved for Grade I listed<br />

buildings) was installed in one of<br />

the College rooms in Back Quad.<br />

Below is a picture taken of the South<br />

range of Back Quad in the near<br />

infrared. The two windows circled<br />

are the same room but one window<br />

has been equipped with secondary<br />

double glazing. The trials, which were<br />

interrupted by Covid, suggested that<br />

it would be an extremely good idea<br />

to fit double-glazing to Back Quad.<br />

In fact, the improvement is so good<br />

that it requires further analysis to see<br />

what other factors might be at play.<br />

At the same time, we also trialled the<br />

use of thermostatic radiator controls<br />

(TRVs) that allow remote monitoring<br />

and local thermostat control.<br />

Thermal imaging of Back Quad<br />

showing the benefit of double-glazing.<br />

The GB has asked the Clerk of Works to develop a detailed plan<br />

to secondary glaze main College with double glazing panels and<br />

installation of TRVs. It is highly likely that the GB will approve<br />

this work when the plan is available.<br />

Some organisations have a carbon budget for their travel; do<br />

you think the concept of a carbon budget or calculator could<br />

work in College too?<br />

The College thinks it’s a good idea for every individual to<br />

have a commitment to, and a plan for, reducing their carbon<br />

budget. A lot of great calculators are available online already,<br />

How do we check if seemingly sensible schemes have the<br />

impact we want and avoid supporting or instigating greenwashing<br />

measures?<br />

One of the founding goals of the Carbon Committee was to do<br />

just that: separate the wheat from the chaff and advise people<br />

accordingly. It takes time to analyse proposals. These issues are<br />

highly complex and even the experts<br />

debate and disagree. We always ask<br />

for the data. For example, we were<br />

asked by the City Council to join a<br />

local delivery scheme here in Oxford<br />

designed to reduce CO 2 production<br />

but when we asked for the evidence<br />

for, and carbon goals of, the project,<br />

there were none: it was simply<br />

assumed to be a good course of<br />

action. We then undertook our own<br />

analysis and found it probably does<br />

not help with carbon production, and<br />

so we did not join as it is expensive.<br />

What ideas do you have for<br />

next steps?<br />

Our biggest contribution to reducing<br />

the impacts of climate change (and<br />

reducing biodiversity loss) remains<br />

through research and education.<br />

However, in addition to the small<br />

local improvements we must continue<br />

to make on site, double glazing,<br />

further energy efficiency gains,<br />

further reduction of waste etc, and<br />

to building carbon control into any<br />

building and refurbishment plans, the<br />

Carbon Committee is now exploring what the College can do in a<br />

more global way.<br />

Educating ourselves seems to be key in all these matters so do<br />

you have any recommended reading on the climate crisis?<br />

It would be great if education was all it took; that we could do.<br />

At our first Carbon Committee meeting I recommended How Bad<br />

are Bananas? by Prof Mike Berners-Lee. The book details the<br />

carbon footprint of a wide range of activities and helps guide<br />

people towards less carbon-costly lifestyle options. It’s also<br />

quite fun and there are copies in the Senior, Middle and Junior<br />

common rooms.<br />


EAGLE EYE | ISSUE 1 |<br />


<strong>2023</strong><br />


YOUR WILL?<br />

Could you make a legacy gift to<br />

help Queen’s provide a world<br />

class education for our students:<br />

the innovators, problem-solvers,<br />

experts, and creatives of the future?<br />

Legacy gifts are used to support our<br />

students achieve their ambitions and<br />

prepare for their futures.<br />



• Request our legacy giving leaflet: oldmembers@queens.ox.ac.uk<br />

• Check out our webpage: www.queens.ox.ac.uk/support-queens/leave-a-gift-in-your-will<br />

• Contact our Legacy Giving Officer, Catherine House: +44 (0) 1865 279218<br />


Photo: Gareth Ardron<br />

32<br />


14 OCTOBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Jubilee Matriculation Gaudy Lunch (1953,<br />

1963, 1973) | The Queen’s College<br />

12.15 – 4 pm<br />

15 OCTOBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Choir of The Queen’s College at the Oxford<br />

International Song Festival | The College<br />

Chapel | 7.30 pm | https://oxfordsong.org/<br />

events/shakespeare-byrd<br />

19 OCTOBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

The Taberdars’ Society in London<br />

Timings and venue to be announced<br />

1 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Choir of the Queen’s College perform Handel<br />

Messiah | The Sheldonian Theatre | 7 pm<br />

https://bit.ly/45P3V8C<br />

4 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Queen’s in the US: Miami | Fisher Island Club<br />

Timings to be announced<br />

5 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Queen’s in the US: LA<br />

Timings and venue to be announced<br />

7 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Queen’s in Canada: Toronto | The University<br />

Club of Toronto | Timings to be announced<br />

15 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Carols from Queen’s | The College Chapel<br />

7.30 pm | https://bit.ly/48qZkLJ<br />

16 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Boar’s Head Gaudy (1998 & 1999)<br />

The Queen’s College<br />

Timings to be announced<br />

17 DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Carols from Queen’s | The College Chapel<br />

2.00 pm | https://bit.ly/48qZkLJ<br />

6 JANUARY 2024<br />

Needle and Thread Gaudy (2006 & 2007)<br />

The Queen’s College<br />

Timings to be announced<br />

Holywell Press<br />

Editor:<br />

Emily Downing,<br />

Head of Communications<br />

Design & Print:<br />

Holywell Press, Ltd., Oxford<br />


The Queen’s College<br />

High Street<br />

Oxford<br />

OX1 4AW<br />

www.queens.ox.ac.uk<br />


Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!