Skip to main content Skip to footer
Post header Skip post header

Top 2020 College news

Posted on Dec 9

3 min read

College Events & News

As 2020 draws to a close, we highlight the most-viewed stories on the College website to summarise the year at St John’s.


Three Johnians were recognised for their contributions to society in the New Year Honours 2020.

Professor Timothy Minton was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to relations between the UK and Japan; Susannah Storey was awarded a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) for public service; and Arthur Tait was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his ‘hands-on’ service to the local community in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, Dr Mary Dobson and Jimbo at Graduation 2019


The late Master’s family featured in a film describing the joy and comfort that retired racing hound Jimbo brought to Sir Christopher after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Laura van Holstein in the Old Library at St John’s College, Cambridge, with a first edition of Charles Darwin’s seminal book On The Origins of Species. Photography: Nordin Ćatić


Laura van Holstein, a PhD student in Biological Anthropology at St John’s College, discovered that mammal subspecies play a more important role in evolution than previously thought, proving one of Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution for the first time.

St John’s vlogger Elena Handtrack. Photography: Cie Jen Wong


Second year undergraduate Elena Handtrack was shortlisted for an award celebrating the best legal social media users of 2020. Her videos cover all kinds of law study content, centred around her life at St John’s, and to date (December 2020) she has over 79,000 Youtube followers.


The College named four new Honorary Fellows.

Dr Heidi-Ann Doughty, President of the Blood Transfusion Society, Dr Claire Craig, Provost of The Queen’s College, Dr Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, have all been announced as Honorary Fellows of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to their respective fields.


A project to provide free sustainable sanitary products to St John’s students launched after receiving financial backing from the College. The new scheme tackles the issue of period poverty and aims to provide a sustainable alternative to single-use sanitary products that see 200,000 tonnes of waste go to landfill or end up in waterways every year in the UK alone.

The team entering the Chiquihuite Cave. Photography: Devlin A Gandy


DNA scientist Professor Eske Willerslev led a study with archaeologist Dr Ciprian Ardelean, of the University of Zacatecas in Mexico, which revealed that a cave in a remote part of Mexico was visited by humans around 30,000 years ago – 15,000 years earlier than people were previously thought to have reached the Americas.


St John’s welcomed the scrapping of the regrading algorithm. This meant that the College was able to admit all offer-holders whose Centre-Assessed Grades met the conditions of their offers, along with all the students who had already received confirmation of their offers.

A mass grave of around 50 headless Vikings from a site in Dorset, UK. Photography: Dorset County Council/Oxford Archaeology


Professor Eske Willerslev debunked the modern image of Vikings with a study including cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland.


Professor Sir Roger Penrose, alumnus and Honorary Fellow of St John’s, Professor Reinhard Genzel and Professor Andrea Ghez together scooped the 114th Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on blackhole formation and the discovery of a supermassive blackhole at the centre of our galaxy.

Sebastian with his daughters (from left) Maggie, Rosie, Trixie and Eleanor. Photography: Nordin Ćatić


Sebastian Brimblecombe, Evening Porter and husband of Dr Jodi Gardner, is the first male employee in more than 500 years of College history to take parental leave. He talks about his experience following the birth of their fourth daughter during the last lockdown.

Read stories about and by fellow Johnians on our news page.