An ecologically-inspired painting made from the River Cam is now in Trinity Hall's Dining Hall Wikimedia Commons

Artwork made of plants and soil from the River Cam takes ‘pride of place’ in the dining hall of Trinity Hall

During a special dinner at Trinity Hall, the master of the College, Mary Hockaday, unveiled a painting made entirely of plants and soil from the River Cam to replace “one of the more traditional portraits that usually grace the walls” of former Master George Oxenden.

The painting “speaks importantly to ecology and the climate crisis”

Alumna Sophie Mei Birkin made the piece by collecting “materials from the local area (plants, soils and other organic matter from the River Cam) to incorporate into the artwork as a reference to this significant body of water that runs by the College, and its biological life”.

Trinity Hall’s professor Alexander Marr, who commissioned the piece on behalf of the College’s Art Festival, said: “It is very different to the traditional Cambridge college portrait and challenges that stereotype. It is a work that probes the ancient relationship between nature and art and explores other connections, such as the microcosm versus the macrocosm, and stasis and decay. It also speaks importantly to ecology and the climate crisis.”

How can you become a ‘super-memoriser’?

As Tripos exams increasingly encroach and dampen what is otherwise a blissful Easter term, Cambridge scientists have decided it fitting to launch a study to find people who have exceptional memory to understand why some people are much better at remembering than others.

Have you ever wondered why your “super-memorising” supervision partner can rattle off a list of niche and esoteric facts?

Lead investigator Simon Baron-Cohen said: “You don’t need to have won any competitions to take part or to consider yourself neurodiverse – and you certainly don’t need to be able to recite pi to 22,000 digits! We’re looking for anyone who thinks they might be a ‘super memoriser’ to try out our memory tests.”

While being unfortunately slightly too late to explain why your supervision partner has been able to rattle off a list of niche and esoteric facts that may have put you to shame this academic year, the study hopes to explore whether people who are autistic or neurodiverse are more likely to have an exceptional memory.

Vaccinate pigs to reduce disease transmission!

A PhD student, Dr Mariana Perez Duque, argues that vaccinating pigs could be a crucial step to stopping the spread of vector-borne diseases.

“Several communities in Bangladesh raise pigs in their back yards. Therefore, we want to assess the role of pigs in disease transmission.” Mariana’s research focuses in particular on a disease called Japanese Encephalitis, which affects the neurological system, that is spread through mosquito bites and has a transmission cycle that includes water birds and pigs.

“Climate change will increase impact the spread of disease and of mosquitoes and ticks, which is an area we should learn about now so we can be better prepared in the future. With increasing temperature and extreme weather events, it’s possible that mosquitoes will be established in new places, at higher latitudes.”

West Midlands Police/Wikimedia Commons

Pheasant-based dog food could be causing lead poisoning in dogs

Analysis from the University’s Department of Zoology has found that the amount of lead contained in samples of raw pheasant based dog food could pose a potential risk to the health of dogs if regularly consumed. Pheasants used for food are able to be killed using lead shot in the UK, which can potentially seep into the meat. Lead is toxic to humans and dogs, where it is known to particularly damage the nervous system. The mean lead residue levels was found to be as high as 245 times the legal limit in one of the products.

“We were already aware that lead concentrations in pheasant meat sold for human consumption are often far higher than would be permitted in other meats ... However, we were surprised to find that lead concentrations in raw pheasant dog food products were so much higher,” said lead author Professor Debbie Pain. Puppies are known to be particularly at risk due to them being more able to absorb lead and it having a greater effect on developing nervous systems.


Mountain View

Fact free speech is Cambridge’s real problem

HIV drug shows potential for dementia prevention in mice

Huntington’s disease and many types of dementia have been shown to be caused by the build up of misfolded proteins in the brain in clusters called aggregates. These aggregates degrade and eventually kill brain cells and then cause the onset of symptoms. Our brains normally stop this from happening by eating and reabsorbing these proteins, which is controlled by a “switch” on the surface of cells called CCD5. In people with neurodegenerative diseases, this switch is turned off incorrectly by the brain’s immune cells, and allows the build up of these aggregates.

A team from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and the UK Dementia Research Institute have found that a drug typically used to treat HIV called maraviroc when given to mice prevented the build up of these proteins in mice. The drug fights HIV by preventing it from using CCD5 as a doorway into the brain’s immune cells, but also turns on the CCD5 switch in the process, allowing the brain to properly break down the proteins. While the drug may not be fully effective, the team hopes to use it as a way forward to developing a drug that is able to prevent these diseases from forming.