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Johnian magazine issue 49, autumn 2022

Top stories

3 min read

Artificial leaves for green fuel

Professor Erwin Reisner, a Fellow of St John’s, has led the research into the development of ‘artificial leaves’ which can be used to generate clean fuels from sunlight and water, and could eventually operate on a large scale at sea. These ultra-thin, flexible devices, which take their inspiration from photosynthesis, are low-cost, autonomous and light enough to float. Outdoor tests of the leaves on the River Cam showed that they can convert sunlight into fuels as efficiently as plant leaves. The results were reported in the journal Nature.

Dr Virgil Andrei from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, who is a Research Fellow at St John’s College, is the paper’s co-lead author. Among co-authors of the paper were Professor Sir Richard Friend and Professor Hannah Joyce, both also Fellows of St John’s, and St John’s alumna Dr Katarzyna Sokół (2014).

Square, green artificial leaf floating down the Cam in front of the Bridge of Sighs.

Read more on the College website.

Alumnus appointed Acting Vice-Chancellor

Dr Anthony Freeling
Photo: University of Cambridge

Dr Anthony Freeling (1975) has been appointed by the University of Cambridge as its Acting Vice-Chancellor with effect from 1 October 2022. Dr Freeling takes up this post following the departure of Professor Stephen J Toope, and his term in office is expected to be six months. Professor Deborah Prentice, the Provost of Princeton University, has been nominated as the next Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge.

Dr Freeling completed an MA in Mathematics, an MPhil in Control Engineering and Operation Research and a PhD in Decision Analysis and Behavioural Economics at St John’s. He became President of Hughes Hall in 2014 and has also been a member of the University Council and Chair of the Colleges Committee.

He was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at St John’s College following the announcement of his new post at the University.

Benefits of gender reveal

Research by Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, a Fellow of St John’s, has shown that finding out the sex of a baby during pregnancy could lead to better life chances. Male baby pregnancies are more likely to result in complications, possibly because they grow faster in the womb and require more nutrients and oxygen than supplied by the mother through the placenta. Some conditions of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction can be more prevalent in women carrying male babies than those carrying females. The new research suggests that designing individual treatment plans and encouraging pregnant women to make lifestyle changes based upon the sex of their unborn babies could have lifelong health benefits for their children.

New born baby being held by medical professionals in green gowns with gloves.
Photo: LittleDogKorat /

St John’s College pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen (left) walking with former Master Chris Dobson through a crowd of clapping children from St John's College school.
The Queen with former Master Chris Dobson at the College’s Quincentenary in 2011
Photo: John Thompson (JET Photographic)

The College paid tribute to the late Queen with a remembrance and thanksgiving service in the Chapel on Friday 9 September. The service included a reading from the Master, Heather Hancock, prayers, a two-minute silence and some music from The Choir of St John’s. A book of condolences was then placed in the Chapel and candles were lit in memory of The Queen.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited St John’s in 2011 to mark the College’s quincentenary and unveiled a commemorative plaque. They listened to a performance by St John’s College Choir before attending lunch with Fellows and students in the Combination Room. This was followed by a garden party on the College Backs where The Queen cut a special 500th birthday cake.

You can read more about the service on the College website.

Honoured alumni

Five Johnians were recognised in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022.

Professor Linda Colley (1988) is Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University. She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to History.

Sir Andrew Goddard (1985) is a gastroenterology consultant and is currently the President of the Royal College of Physicians. He has been made a Knight Bachelor for services to Health and Social Care.

Nigel Topping (1985) is UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). He was made Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for services to tackling global Climate Change and supporting the UK Presidency of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference.

Professor Leslie Croxford (1971) is Senior Vice President of The British University in Egypt. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to UK Higher Education in Egypt.

Sarah Dickson (1992) was the British High Commissioner to The Bahamas from August 2019 to July 2022. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to UK/The Bahamas bilateral relations and to British Nationals in The Bahamas.

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