London Branch Annual Lecture: Sir Paul Nurse, ‘Science and the public good’

Sir Paul Nurse delivers the 2019 London Branch Annual Lecture


Scientific research is aimed at generating knowledge of the natural world and of ourselves, and also at developing that knowledge into useful applications, including driving innovation for sustainable productive economic growth and better public services, improving health, prosperity and the quality of life, and protecting the environment. – Sir Paul Nurse

Robert Dufton (LLB 1983, Honorary LLD 2014):

The London Branch of the University of Bristol Alumni has organised an annual lecture every year since 2006. This year it attracted a record crowd of 209, no doubt because of the speaker, Sir Paul Nurse, Chancellor of the University of Bristol since 2017, Director and Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute, and 2001 Nobel Prize winner for his research on protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells in the cell cycle.

The evening was hosted by London Branch Committee members: Chair Julian Metcalfe (BSc 1978); Treasurer Martin Lunnon (BSc 1973, PhD 1976) and Secretary Alan Ingham (MEng 1999). A brief AGM, involving the presentation of the annual report by Julian, the annual accounts by Martin and a vote of thanks given by Alan about outgoing branch committee member David Snoxell (BA 1966), who chaired the London Branch from 2005 to 2010 and who had inaugurated the annual lecture, was ably chaired by Julian and lasted 6 minutes, which may have contributed to his being re-elected for a second term as Chair!

Jonathan Phillips (BSc 1994), Chair of the Alumni Association Committee, spoke about the work of the association, and his aim that the association will in time become one of the reasons why students choose Bristol over other universities.

Sir Paul welcomed the audience to the Francis Crick Institute, the UK’s leading biomedical research institute which focusses on the fundamental biology underlying health and disease. The state-of-the-art building opened in 2016.

His lecture ‘Science and the public good’, (science meaning research of all disciplines) emphasized the importance of combining discovery research and its translation which then directly helped people. Great research required excellence, academic freedom and diversity of thinking/institutions and a determined curiosity about big questions. In addition to his current work at the Crick Institute, Sir Paul drew on his experiences at the universities of Sussex, Oxford, Harvard and Rockefeller, and his time as President of the Royal Society for five years.

Questions from the audience followed and conversation continued over a reception.

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