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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Special lecture series

The Mansfield Lecture

Sir Peter Mansfield FRS

Sir Peter Mansfield

Barriers in translating research discoveries into successful businesses are well recognised and commonly termed ‘the valley of death’ in the start-up world. This lecture series showcases how established entrepreneurs have successfully realised the commercial potential of their fundamental research discoveries. The series aims to highlight models for innovation and entrepreneurship within the University research environment. Both hurdles and rewards experienced through building impactful and sustainable industrial research programmes will be explored.

Sir Peter Mansfield FRS was awarded the 2003 Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine for his investigations on the theory and instrumental setup of Magnetic Resonance Imaging which made this method a versatile diagnostic tool.

Peter Mansfield joined Queen Mary University of London in 1956 to study Physics and as his final year undergraduate project year he was given an individual project to build a portable NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) spectrometer. Following this undergraduate research, he was offered a position to work on pulsed NMR to study solid polymer systems with the Powles team at Queen Mary University of London.

Towards the end of his doctoral studies he discovered solid echoes. In his own group, he continued to study multi-pulse NMR at the University of Nottingham. They examined the atomic structure of fluorine by imposing an external magnetic field gradient and concluded that it would be much easier to study biological specimens. This led to 'Echo-planar imaging' a fast scanning technique invented by Sir Peter which underpins MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) applications. In 1978, the scan of Sir Peter’s abdomen was the first MRI image of organs within the body. 

For over 30 years, Sir Peter and his group enabled further improvements in MRI systems. Over 36,000 scanners are thought to be in operation worldwide, with nearly 100 million scans undertaken annually, Sir Peter’s fundamental research work has transformed patient diagnosis.


2019 Dr Shiladitya Sengupta, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Challenges in Treating Cancer: New Insights and Opportunities

2020 Sir Tom Blundell (Cambridge)

From Basic Biology and Bioinformatics to Drug Discovery:
Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Research Eco-System

Sir Peter Mansield Lecture Blundell Abstract May 2021 [DOC 14KB]



The Bevan Lecture

Professor Alan Bevan

Born and raised in Ammanford, South Wales, Alan Bevan as a teenager at Amman Valley Grammar School was interested in science. Perhaps because his mother was a horticulturist who owned a small plant nursery, he decided to focus on plant breeding and took a first class honours degree in agricultural botany at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, well aware that the famed of Welsh Plant Breeding Station was located there.

Graduating in 1947, he decided to concentrate on microbial genetics and went to Glasgow for his PhD where, under the supervision of the internationally renowned Guido Pontecorvo, he developed modified methods for yeast genetic analysis which became the main focus for many years of his subsequent research.

After three years as a Lecturer in Genetics at Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), he returned to the UK in 1954 as Lecturer in Genetics at the Oxford University Botany School. In 1964 he was appointed Professor and head of the Department of Botany at the then Queen Mary College. Becoming Professor of Genetics in 1976, he remained at Queen Mary until retirement in 1991.

Much of his research followed from his discovery in Oxford of “killer” strains of Saccharomyces yeast. He showed that these carried two types of RNA viruses, the presence of which caused the cells to secrete a toxin which killed “sensitive” strains lacking one or both of the RNA types. “Neutral” strains were also found which neither produced the toxin nor were killed by it. The occurrence of contaminant killer yeast strains has been shown to be responsible the failure of industrial fermentations. The novelty and significance of Bevan’s work ensured that research students, post-docs. and academic visitors came to his laboratory in a steady stream. Serving on the editorial board of genetics journals and on the committees of learned societies, he became a well-known figure at yeast genetics conferences.

He had a major influence on the development of the biological sciences at the Queen Mary College, setting out to widen and modernize his department by making key staff appointments in biochemistry, genetics and microbiology. His inaugural lecture on “The segregation and recombination of the life sciences” reflected his opinion, now widely accepted, that the division of biology into a series of notionally separate sciences was quite arbitrary and he pressed for a unified School of Biological Sciences which became a reality in 1972 in a new building for which he had been the major driving force.

Bevan played a major part in the overall life of the college: Dean of the Faculty of Sciences (1973-6), Member of the Governing Body and of its Standing Committee (1971-4) and, starting in 1969, Member of the BLQ Joint Policy Committee which oversaw the coming together of Queen Mary College, London Hospital Medical College and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School, leading eventually to the present integrated pre-clinical school on the Mile End campus. Last, but by no means least, he took the first steps of what later became the merger between QMC and Westfield College when, in 1982-4, the two biology departments at Westfield (Botany and Biochemistry, and Zoology), together with several chemists, physicists and mathematicians, moved to Queen Mary.

The interests of this remarkably vigorous man extended far beyond Mile End. He was extremely active in the central councils of London University and its various schools, serving on the Court, the Senate and the Academic Council for six years as well as on many other university bodies too numerous to mention here. He also found time to sit on the Audit and Joint Planning Committees of the Institute of Education, the Finance and Executive Committee of Wye College, the Planning and Promotion Committees of Goldsmith College as well as being Governor and Chairman of the Audit Committee of the School of Pharmacy. In his spare time presumably (though it is surprising he had any), he was the University of London’s representative on some of Bromley Council’s education committee and on the Council of Kent University.

His retirement meant the college saying farewell to one of its liveliest academics, a man known, liked and respected throughout the campus community as well as in the halls of the university. It is proper and fitting that this series of lectures should carry his name.

Date Lecturer Title
2009 Professor Lorna Casselton, FRS (Oxford) Fungal genetics - Old triumphs and new challenges
2010 Professor John S Parker (Cambridge) Who taught Darwin? The origin of the Origin considered
2011-12 Professor Nick Barton FRS
The role of recombination in evolution
2012-13 Professor Mark Chase FRS (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) Why are there so many angiosperms with low chromosome numbers when polyploidy has been so frequent? A case study of Nicotiana (Solanaceae)
2014-15 Professor James Shapiro OBE (University of Chicago) What molecular biology teaches us about genomes: 60+ years of surprises
2015-16 Professor Chris Stringer FRS (Natural History Museum) The relationship of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens
2016-17 Professor Anne D Yoder (Duke University) Unlocking the secrets of the genome in Madagascar’s mouse lemurs to infer human impacts on a changing landscape



The Drummond Lecture

Sir Jack Drummond (1891-1952)

Sir Jack Drummond

This lecture series, usually held annually at Queen Mary, University of London, originated in 1978 and is dedicated to Sir Jack Drummond who was the first Professor of 

Biochemistry in the University of London (at University College). Sir Jack graduated in Chemistry from Queen Mary College (then called East London College) in 1912. He pioneered research on vitamins in the 1930s and played a key role during the Second World War in advising Lord Woolton at the Ministry of Food about vitamin supplements to rations. He was also involved with setting up MAFF. He was given a knighthood for his contributions in this area.

The salient points of Jack Drummond's life are:

  • 1912 Graduated in Chemistry (QMC - then called East London College).
  • First Professor of Biochemistry at University College London.
  • 1930's and 1940's - Pioneered research on vitamins.
  • Advised Lord Woolton at the Ministry of food about vitamin supplements in rations during WWII.
  • Knighted during World War II.
  • Key role in setting up MAFF.
  • Murdered with wife and daughter whilst on holiday in France (1952).

Further details can be found in a memoir written by Frank Young (Obit. Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 1954, 9, 99-128).

In the early 1970s a group of chemists and biologists at Queen Mary College (initially G F Betts, R Bonnett, D A McCarthy, V Moses, G P Moss, T G Nichols and D G Springham) sought to raise the level of activity and awareness in the biochemical area at the College, especially in regard to a collaborative approach to teaching and research. In 1976, a Biochemistry Group was set up by the Academic Board for this purpose. As part of its activity, the Biochemistry Group decided to introduce an annual lecture named for Sir Jack Drummond, and the necessary approvals were obtained from both the College and Drummond's family for this. It turned out that Drummond had no surviving blood relatives, but his first wife (Mabel Drummond, who had also graduated from East London College in 1912) warmly approved the proposal. She wrote on March 19th 1978:

Dear Professor Bonnett,
Thank you for much for sending me the poster about the first Drummond lecture. It is thoughtful of you to let me know about it, and a comfort to me to realise that Jack is still remembered in his old college.
Yours sincerely,
Mabel Drummond

We were very pleased to have the family represented at the First Drummond Lecture by Dr Sheila Tyrrell, Jack Drummond's niece by marriage.

The Lecture has been supported since 1978 by the Drummond Memorial Fund set up (at University College, London) for 'the advancement of knowledge and promotion and encouragement of education and research in nutrition and branches of science related thereto', and by Queen Mary, University of London.

The lectures delivered in this College since 1978 are as follows:

Date Lecturer Title
1978 Professor D M Blow, FRS (Imperial College London) Chymotrypsin and its mode of action
1979 Professor R L Wain, CBE, FRS (Canterbury) Chemicals which regulate plant growth
1980 Professor H R V Arnstein (Kings College London) Ribosomes, protein factors and the control of protein biosynthesis
1981 Professor Brenda E Ryman (Charing Cross Hospital Medical School) Liposomes - from model membranes to carriers of therapeutic agents
1982 Professor E M Crook (Bart's Hospital Medical College) Food and the rise of biotechnology
1983 Professor H Baum (Chelsea College, London) The mystery of antimitochondrial antibodies in man
1984 Professor A R Fersht, FRS (Imperial College) Site-directed mutagenesis of enzyme structure and activity
1985 Professor D Robinson (Newcastle) Genetic effects on enzyme levels
1986 Dr Aaron Klug, FRS (Cambridge) The structure of chromatin
1987 Professor J R Postgate, FRS (Sussex) The molecular enzymology of nitrogenase
1988 Professor R J P Williams, FRS (Oxford) Electronic and electrolytic devices in biology
1989 Dr P D J Weitzman (South Glamorgan) The citric acid cycle: variety's the very spice of life
1991 Professor T L Blundell (Birkbeck) Enzyme three-dimensional structure and rational drug design
1993 Professor J John Holbrook (Bristol) Opportunities and limits in the creation of new enzyme proteins by man and nature
1994 Dr P R Rich (Glynn Research Institute) The molecular basis of energy transduction in photosynthesis and respiration
1995 Professor M Akhtar, FRS (Southampton) The dioxygen-iron bond: from rust to sex
1996 Professor R Cogdell (Glasgow) The structural basis of harvesting of light energy in purple photosynthetic bacteria. A circular argument
1997 Professor S K Chapman (Edinburgh) Flavocytochromes: Nature's electrical transformers
1998 Professor S Ferguson (Oxford) Biological nitrogen cycles: how they work at a molecular level
1999 Professor I Campbell, FRS (Oxford) Modular Proteins in cell adhesion and signalling
2000 Dr Bob Baxter (Edinburgh) Vitamins and coenzymes - Nature's magic reagents
2001 Professor Nigel S. Scrutton (Leicester) Particles, waves and bangs: do we really understand how enzymes work?
2002 Professor John Allen (Lund) The balancing act. Redox poise and signalling
2003 Professor C. Neil Hunter (Sheffield) Painting the planet green: from porphyrin to chlorophyll in six easy steps
2004 Professor Chris Abell (Cambridge) From Biosynthesis to Biotech
2005 Professor Jim Barber (Imperial College) Photosystem II, the water splitting enzyme of photosynthesis: Structure and Mechanisms
2006 Professor Sir Alan Fersht, FRS (Cambridge) The structure and stability of the tumour suppressor p53
2007 Professor James H Naismith, FRSE (St Andrews) Carbohydrate export from bacteria
2008 Professor Wolfgang Junge (Osnabrück, Germany) Mechanics of rotary ATP-synthase
2009 Dr Leslie Dutton (Pennsylvania, USA) Engineering artificial protein functions
2010 Professor Martin Warren (Kent) Synthetic biology - new life for molecular science
2011 Professor Alfred William Rutherford
Photosynthetic Reaction Centres – an Evolutionary View
2015 Sir Venki Ramakrishnan FRS  
2016 Professor Paula Booth Biological self-assembly: natural and artificial membranes
2017 Professor Sabine Flitsch (University of Manchester) Biocatalysts for programmable organic synthesis - development of de novo enzyme cascades
2018 Andrea Musacchio (Max Planck, Dortmund) Chromosome segregation: from molecules to function 



The Fogg Lecture

Professor Gordon E (Tony) Fogg, CBE, FRS

Professor Fogg

As a school-boy I was particularly lucky with two things. I spent nearly all holidays on my grand-parents' farm and, when my father, a Methodist minister, was posted to Greenwich, his encouragement to learn and a London County Council scholarship enabled me to go to nearby Dulwich College. From there I went on to Queen Mary College to study botany under the benign but thorough tuition of Professor F E Fritsch, FRS. When the Second World War broke out I was evacuated as a research student with the College to Cambridge. There I was able to do work on nitrogen fixation by blue-green algae off and on but my two major war occupations were to take part in the Ministry of Supply seaweed survey (to locate sources of the essential chemicals agar and alginate) and research on improvement of weedkillers for agriculture. In the course of this I was transferred to St John's College, Cambridge, and obtained my PhD.

After the war I was taken on as a member of his staff by Professor W H Pearsall, FRS, who was re-establishing the Botany Department in the ruins of University College London. He had half-a dozen inexperienced young men whom he guided expertly but light-heartedly - he was the perfect head of department. After fifteen years I was deemed sufficiently competent to become Professor of Botany at Westfield College London to re-establish the department there. I was able to follow Pearsall's path and gathered extremely able staff, amongst whom were three, to become professors themselves in due course - William Stewart, Tony Walsby and Peter Fay - who did splendid work on blue-green algae and earned me an FRS. I think my time at Westfield was the happiest of my academic life and I feel proud that a remnant of the Westfield staff still provides a valuable element in the School of Biological Sciences in Queen Mary, University of London.

By 1971 I was hankering to concentrate on marine microbiology, my wife wanted to live by the sea, and I was tired of commuting into London. The Marine Science Laboratories at Menai Bridge on the Isle of Anglesey had excellent staff, good equipment, and a fine research vessel, but the easy relationships of Westfield were not very evident and soon the general financial hardships of the 1980s set in. I was able to do some reasonable work on organic extracellular products in seawater and on the biological significance of the tidal fronts in the Irish Sea, but I think my major achievement was to hold things in the Menai Bridge Laboratories together until 1985, when I retired, and a new principal of the University College and more money gave them fresh life. In all this time I was involved with various scientific societies and organisations, including the Freshwater Biological Association, the Institute of Biology, the Society for Experimental Biology, the British Phycological Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, the British Museum (Natural History), the Marine Biological Association, and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. All interesting, time-consuming, and, one supposes, useful, but of all of them my predominant devotion has been to Antarctic Science. A casual conversation in 1965 led to three visits under British Antarctic Survey auspices, in which I was able to do research without administrators getting in my way and to be an administrative incubus myself from 1970-86 as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Survey. Later I have been to polar regions on several tourist ships and written three books on polar matters. Now, in retirement and a widower, the growing general interest in the Antarctic gives me stimulus to keep going.

We heard on 2 February 2005 that Professor Fogg has died after a short illness.

The lectures delivered in QMUL since 2002 are as follows:

Date Lecturer Title
2002 Professor G.E. Fogg The Blooming of Phytoplankton Ecology
2003 Professor Tony Walsby FRS (Bristol) Natural Selection in Planktonic Cyanobacteria
2004 Professor Nicholas H Mann (Warwick) The impact of Viruses on Photosynthesis in the Oceans
2005 Cancelled due to illness of the proposed speaker  
2006 Professor Patrick M. Holligan (Southampton) A Changing Global Perspective of Coccolithophore Biology
2007 Professor Paul Hayes (Bristol) From Phytoplankton Ecology to Cultures and Back Again
2008 Professor Paul G Falkowski (New Jersey, USA) The rise of oxygen and frozen metabolic machines in the evolution of plants and animals
2011-12 Dr William Martin (Germany) The origin and early evolution of eukaryotes: endosymbiosis and ocean chemistry
2012-13 Professor David Bastviken
Aquatic methane cycling versus the global greenhouse gas budget
2013-14 Professor Richard J. Geider (University of Essex) Insights into the lifestyle of an important marine microbe, the coccolithphorid Emiliania huxleyi
2014-14 Dr David Atkinson (University of Liverpool) Body size, shape, and the pace of life
2015-16 Professor Jane Memmot (University of Bristol) The conservation, restoration and utilization of ecological interactions


The Wills Lecture

Professor Eric D Wills, Sc.D. (1921-1985)

Professor Wills

Professor Eric Wills unexpectedly died following a heart attack on Easter Saturday in 1985. As the longest serving member of the academic staff at Charterhouse Square, he had become a Bart's institution, rising from Demonstrator in Biochemistry on his appointment in 1948 to Professor (in 1978) and Head of Department in 1982 following Eric Crook's retirement. His wise and sensitive leadership guided the Department through the considerable difficulties of the early 1980s and he left behind a happy and harmonious team of colleagues.

His first degree was in Chemistry at Queen Mary College. During the war he saw active service in command of a R.E.M.E. mobile electronics workshop, prior to work in a training section of the War Office, which he left with the rank of Major.

Returning to civilian life, he spent a year researching into lipid peroxidation at Chelsea College, and then went to Cambridge to study Biochemistry. On graduation he was appointed Demonstrator in Biochemistry at Bart's under the late Professor Arthur Wormall, FRS. His Ph.D. soon followed with some interesting work on the action of trypanocide suramin on enzymes. The degree of Sc.D. (Cantab.) was conferred on him in 1978.

In 1956-7 he won a Senior Fulbridge Travel Scholarship and spent the year at the University of Vermont on an exchange with Professor Arnold Schein. He was greatly struck by the maturity of American medical students and their keen commitment to their studies. He returned bringing with him the innovation of Multiple Choice Questions, which were promptly introduced into Departmental examinations and which he maintained provided an objective yardstick for assessment. He always had a great interest in teaching methods, and was an enthusiastic member of a group which met at the Institute of Education in the sixties to discuss various aspects of teaching medical students. In 1968 he organised at Bart's a very successful small international meeting on practical biochemistry in the medical curriculum.

Meanwhile, he had been building up a research group whose major interest started with studies on the effects of radiation on enzymes, lysosomes and cell membranes using the 15 MeV linear accelerator that had been recently installed in the College, and later a Cobalt-60 irradiation source. This led to studies on the mechanism of lipid peroxidation in cells and the biochemical effects of these peroxides. Later, he and his group investigated the metabolism of drugs and carcinogens in the endoplasmic reticulum, and especially the effects of the lipid composition of the diet. He was internationally recognised as an authority on these topics, and had served for two years on a DHSS advisory committee on irradiation and novel foods.

Eric always took a great interest in furthering the interests of Biochemistry in the University and recently served as Chairman of the University Board of Studies. In addition he was a member of the Boards of Studies in Nutrition and Radiation Biology. In the College he became Treasurer, as well as serving on the College Council, Executive Committee, Joint Research Board and Ethical Committee.

This bare outline of Eric's career and academic interests gives little indication of the man behind it all. He was a shy man who often seemed unduly inquisitive about others, and he may at times have seemed a little intimidating to students. Beneath these appearances lay a friendly and caring personality. He had a real concern for his staff, defending their interests strongly, and a genuine interest in the progress of his students. Eric was blessed with a good sense of humour, and the ability to withstand having his leg pulled would help in defusing awkward or tense moments. He was often provocative in questioning traditional attitudes and opinions so that he caused colleagues think seriously about many subjects. Eric held strong views about the sort of students that should be admitted to Bart's, and it is perhaps a pity that he did not have more say in choosing them.

Soccer was a great interest, and he refereed for many years in amateur league matches in South London. His interest in teaching was apparent here, for he introduced Multiple Choice Questions into the training of would-be referees, though what they thought of this was never revealed. He was a keen yachtsman and kept a good-sized vessel in Poole Harbour where he spent many weekends and holidays in an old house that he inherited and largely refurbished himself. He was also the proud possessor of a vintage Rolls Royce on which much care and attention was lavished. At the other end of the scale, so to speak, Eric was daily to be seen cycling between Bart's and London Bridge and also on many journeys about London.

Wills lectures delivered in this College since 1991 are as follows:

Date Lecturer Title
1991 Professor Bob Williamson (St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London) Molecular Genetics - will it replace Biochemistry completely or only partially?
1992 Professor András Spät (Semmelweis University of Medicine, Budapest) The control and role of voltage-dependent calcium channels in adrenal glomerulosa cells
1993 Professor C N Hales, FRS (University of Cambridge Department of Clinical Biochemistry) Exploring the Pathophysiology of Type 2 Diabetes
1995 Dr Kevin J Catt (National Institutes of Child Health Department of Health & Human Services) Angiotensin-II Receptors: Structure & Signal Transduction Pathways
1999 Professor Misuhiru Okamoto (University of Osaka) Mechanisms of steroid hydroxylation and aldosterone biosynthesis
2002 Professor David Rice (University of Sheffield) From gene structure to protein function; the application of protein crystallography to problems in molecular biology
2003 Professor Christopher Dobson, FRS (Cambridge) Protein misfolding and its links with human disease
2004 Professor Janet Thornton, CBE, FRS (Cambridge) The Proteome and the Metabolome
2005 Professor Sir John Walker, FRS (Cambridge) The swings and roundabouts of F- and V-ATPases
2006 Professor Dame Louise Johnson, FRS (Oxford) Cell cycle protein kinase inhibition and substrate recognition
2007 Professor Sheena Radford (Leeds) Life on a knife edge: tipping the balance between protein folding and aggregation
2008 Professor Geoff McFadden (Melbourne, Australia) Cancelled
2009 Professor Paul Freemont (London) Spatial information at different scales- organising the mammalian nucleus and regulating protein turnover
2010 Professor David Barford FRS (London) Structural and functional studies of the anaphase promoting complex: a macromolecular machine regulating the cell cycle
2011 Sir Tim Hunt FRS (London) Switches and latches: the control of mitosis
2015-16 Andrew Carter (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology) Transporting cargo over long distances: insights from dynein/dynactin structures
2016-17 Professor Nigel Robinson (University of Durham) Metal-protein speciation: the elemental logic of cells
2017-18 David Glover (University of Cambridge) Centriole Duplication: from body coordination in fruit flies to skin cell biology and cancer 
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