Eco-entrepreneur: we speak with Alumna Rhea Singhal (BSc 2004), Founder and CEO of Ecoware

Rhea Singhal, Founder and CEO of Ecoware – India’s first and largest sustainable food packaging company – tells us about her move from Pharmacology to environmentally friendly tableware, what she learned from her time at Bristol, and how to confidently follow your passion.

I fell in love with Bristol on my open day at the University. The city had such a nice feel to it, not too large but big enough to be interesting. It was easy to navigate as a student and I always felt at home, which was particularly important, as I was an international student. I made a great bunch of friends at Bristol that I’m still in touch with today.

I had wanted to be a medical doctor since I was very little, but when it came to actually attending university I wavered, and I wasn’t so sure. So instead I chose to study Pharmacology. But I found the degree to be very research based and I personally didn’t like that, I wanted more face-to-face interaction. It was very hard, but I also knew that nothing lasts forever. I was also lucky in that the faculty were always super supportive and honestly felt like family. And I loved all of the societies and extracurriculars that I was part of. (more…)

Alumni gain exclusive insight into China job market 

This November, we were pleased to bring a series of events online to our Chinese alumni and students, as a response to the cancelled central delegation to China.

As part of Bristol Connects Live– our online series of career and professional development events, members of our Chinese alumni community shared their experiences at two webinars focussed on Top Accounting firms, and Entrepreneurship to an audience of students and recent graduates.


Alumni around the world share their post-grad study stories

In a challenging year for making decisions about your study, 130 alumni around the world offered their words of advice to over 5,000 students considering Bristol at our postgraduate open week, 16-20 November.

Our international community of alumni volunteers responded to a call for their stories, memories and experience, explaining the impact their post-graduate study at Bristol has had on their career, the support offered during their time here and tips for making the most of life in Bristol over more than 100 different sessions during the week.


University of Bristol Alumni of Eastern Canada Virtual Reunion!

Heather Proctor (BSc 1964):

On Tuesday 22 September 2020, the University of Bristol Alumni of Eastern Canada held their first ‘virtual’ reunion. Joanna Sochacka from the Development and Alumni Relations Office gave a very interesting overview of how Bristol has coped during Covid-19. Joanna informed us that the Eastern Canada Alumni group is the oldest continuously-running group in the world. The group has been organising annual reunions for the past 18 years.

Among the group, there were several old University of Bristol scarves to be seen, as well as photos of Bristol on walls. Dennis Osmond (MBChB 1954) showed a big photo of our dear Eastern Canada founder, John Bull (BSc 1958), and we virtually toasted him as Dennis waved a bottle of Bristol Cream! We talked of canoes, bears, a bobcat, skis snowshoes, a kayak, a wedding and a cross Canada drive, as well as ways we’re coping and trips we haven’t taken. All agreed it was so nice to hear from each other, and to meet a new member, Roger Moore (BA 1966).

Next year we look forward to welcoming as many alumni as possible to the 2021 reunion, it may be held in Kingston, if it is safe to do so.

If you are interested in holding your own online reunion and would like us to help please contact

Message from the US Foundation Chair: engagement drives philanthropy

Lesley Silvester, Chair of the US-based University of Bristol Foundation, reflects on the importance of  the US Foundation giving in making Bristol great. 

To quote our Vice Chancellor and President Hugh Brady, ‘Philanthropy will increasingly be a critical determinant of Bristol’s success’, asserting that it is a key component in supporting students, recruiting world-class staff and funding research. The Board of the US Foundation understands that such giving can make the difference between a good university and a great one. To that end we are playing an increasingly significant role through our focus on several specific philanthropic goals.

A primary objective has been and continues to be to increase both the amount of support and the number of alumni donors within the US based alumni community. A second goal – complementing the first – is the development of an increasingly strong and vibrant alumni community. Happily, though not surprisingly, the more we reach out and expand our alumni network in the States, the more it becomes apparent that we have a wide and accomplished group with whom to engage. At best count, which we believe in all probability is understated, we have over 5,500 alumni residing here. And we’d like to connect with every one of you.

Key to us achieving our goals is the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) strategy of significantly growing engagement and volunteering partnerships not only in the UK but internationally. The relationship between DARO and the US Foundation has been considerably strengthened over the past few years, as we have aligned around shared goals, communications and events. We can clearly see the powerful mutual benefits to both Bristol and its alumni by building community across all University stakeholders.

At our September Foundation board meeting, Jim Rucker – who has served as a Foundation Director for ten years and has contributed to many of our efforts – retired, and two new directors were elected and welcomed to the group. They are Tim Richie (BA 1978) who resides in Massachusetts and California and Tim Parton (BSc 1986) who lives in the New York area.

During the week of 11 November alumni events were held across the US, in New York, San Francisco and Boston in connection with the Vice Chancellor’s visit. We were delighted that many of you joined us, and hope that you are enjoying being part of the University’s burgeoning community, and are as excited as I am about the University’s vision for its future.

On behalf of the entire Foundation Board we wish you a very happy holiday season and look forward to further engagement in 2020.



US Foundation: a message from the Chair

Lesley Silvester, University of Bristol Foundation Chair based in the US, highlights the significant role the US Alumni play in funding key initiatives and programmes including the Sanctuary Scholarships.  

Each month we see more concrete examples of initiatives and programmes that realise the ambitious strategies committed to within the last five years. The alumni in the US are playing an increasingly significant role in the philanthropic funding of such initiatives channelled through the US Foundation.

For example, at our Foundation meeting in March, it was reported that the US is contributing one-third of the total philanthropic giving towards the Sanctuary Scholarships. These are scholarships provided to refugee and asylum-seeking students in the UK. Another example is the $75,000 we have contributed to the Bristol Futures Scholarships. You may recall the moving video that was recently distributed featuring a student who is a very grateful recipient of such a scholarship and which has given her the means to fully participate in all the University has to offer. These scholarships, as you know, are a key component in facilitating wider participation in the University.

Further, there is evidence that US alumni have a greater propensity to give than those in the UK – perhaps this comes from exposure to the culture in the US of supporting one’s alma mater, perhaps it is a matter of greater valuing at a distance what Bristol provided? We hope it is evidence of the US alumni community continuing to gather strength.

For those of you that have contributed, the US Foundation Board thanks you! For those alumni still considering such gifts, we hope you will be motivated by the inspiring developments afoot at Bristol.

Made in Bristol – Dr. Una Ryan ‘Bristol set me on a path for a lifelong career’

As part of the ‘Made in Bristol’ interview series, alumna and  U.S. Foundation Director Dr. Una Ryan reflects on her Bristol experience

Why did you choose Bristol?
At Bristol, I studied for a BSc in Zoology, with Chemistry and Microbiology as subsidiary subjects. I chose Bristol because it offered me an Open Exhibition based on merit, not need (in fact I was means-tested out of the financial benefits, so my gratitude to Bristol is not based on funding). I very much enjoyed my scholarship interview, I couldn’t answer any of the questions and was therefore asked to extemporize on how I would approach the problems presented. This became the basis for one of the interviewers later recommending me for a fellowship at Cambridge for my PhD.

How did the University experience influence you?

Bristol set me on a path for my life-long career. I now live in San Francisco and have spent a rewarding life in academia, the biotech industry, investing and as an artist. Always science was the muse, I have made discoveries, made medicines, made money and made art…. all based on the science I began at Bristol and developed further at Cambridge. So from saving many lives to decorating a few walls, Bristol was with me.

As a Foundation Director, you’ve chosen to stay closely connected to the University. Why?
I have remained in touch with Bristol out of gratitude and a wish to see others get the same start. My grandson will be a fresher this September

and I will be able to go back and visit him.

Any best memories?

I am not telling about my best memories!

Fair enough. And the future? For Bristol, that is.

I am delighted with the emphasis that Bristol has placed on being a civic university. I think the Temple Meads campus is thrilling and a wonderful meld of the future bond between academia and industry as well as a clear appreciation of Bristol’s roots.


Dr. Una Ryan’s biography describes her as an executive, entrepreneur, board director, investor and artist. Yet somehow that doesn’t do her justice. The honors, for example. Since Una graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Science degree, she went on to Cambridge for her Ph.D. and has been cited for her research by the Howard Hughes organization, the American Heart Association and the United States National Institutes of Health. Over the past 12 years she received the Albert Einstein Award, the Cartier Award and the Economic Forum Tech Pioneer award, all for her work in biotechnology. They were preceded by her receiving the Order of the British Empire in 2002 from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Bristol caught up in 2009 with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Ryan — who resides in San Francisco, the only U.S. Foundation Director now based on America’s West Coast — has led a variety of public, private and non-profit companies. She’s currently on the boards of Cortexyme, RenovoRx and Elemental Machines, and a partner or director in the investment firms Breakout Ventures, Golden Seeds and Astia Angel. Somehow, she has also found the time to create art from her work in bioscience; you can find it online at


Alumni recognition finds the spotlight

Ely J Kahn reports on how the University of Bristol is connecting with alumni communities outside of the UK

University of Bristol Alumni Awards 2019

For the past several years, the University of Bristol has placed increased emphasis on its alumni communities outside the United Kingdom. The United States, where the University’s American Foundation holds sway, has received — along with the alumni communities in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore — increased attention over recent years. This mirrors a heightened overarching recognition by the University on the importance of alumni and their support, both financial and, if you will, emotional.

It was the latter that was most striking this Spring, when Bristolions young and old gathered on March 12 at City of London Lord Mayor Peter Estlin’s (a 1982 graduate who studied economics and accounting at the University) magnificent Mansion House for a first-ever Alumni Awards Night, honoring 10 eminent alumni from finance, sport, science, politics, literature and a variety of other fields, including naturalist/author/broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. Sir David, recipient of a lifetime achievement award, credited the University for being both a fount of zoological expertise and a talent pipeline for the BBC’s Natural History Unit, where his authoritative documentaries are produced.

“Young people are much more aware of how important the natural world is than they were 60 years ago when I began my career,” Sir David told the sold-out gathering, which included a table hosted by American Foundation Chair Lesley Silvester. “The natural world is under greater pressure than it has ever been, not just in my lifetime but since humans existed…The history of humanity is a disaster – of arguing, of quarrelling, of wars. That’s got to come to an end. My message to young people is ‘get engaged, come together and do something about it’.”

The inaugural Alumni Awards Night, reported the University’s website, led Vice-Chancellor Hugh Brady to say, “All the pioneers, innovators and leaders we’ve celebrated through these awards are inspiring role models for our students and we’re thrilled to honour them.”

The heightened outreach effort was mirrored by activities on both coasts of the US, with visits to San Francisco, New York and Boston by Vice Chancellor Hugh Brady and Pro-Vice Chancellor Global Engagement Dr. Erik Lithander. Equally significant was the University’s participation in a joint delegation led by the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and the Mayor of the West of England Tim Bowles, as well as delegates from the wider City Council, Department of International Trade, Business West, and local leading companies. The delegation held meetings in both Boston and Chicago, with alumni joining receptions at the Consulate Generals’ residences in historic Beacon Hill and in a high-rise above Lake Michigan.

Across all the delegations at events and in person we’ve met with over 100 Bristol alumni in the USA,” reflected Andrew Monk, the University’s Deputy Director of Development and Alumni Relations, looking back at the year. “We’ve made some incredibly exciting and strong connections to further Bristol’s collaborations across strategic partners.”

Setting the stage, at the same time, for future success, recognition…even awards.

Made in Bristol: Steve Kay and pursuing passion

As part of our ‘Made in Bristol’ interview series, alumnus Steve Kay (BSc 1981, PhD 1985, Hon DSc 2014) takes us through his journey from Bristol to becoming one of the world’s leading scientists.

My job as a scientist is to come into work each day and see something new in Nature that nobody else has seen before. Engaging the incredible diversity of life that has evolved on this planet makes my hair stand on end some days. Bristol nurtured that awe. I initially went to Oxford to do medicine (and play rugby), but frankly found the classes there rather boring after one term.

I realised I’d gone down the wrong path for me. I wasn’t pursuing my passion. I grew up on the island of Jersey where a myriad of marine creatures would be exposed during very low tides. They fascinated me. One day my elementary teacher brought in a microscope from mainland England and we spent hours with our eyes glued to it, staring at creatures swimming in pond water. That fascination and excitement with natural science couldn’t be matched.

After some reflection, I recalled how much I had enjoyed interviewing with Bristol’s Biochemistry department during campus visits. I contacted the department and entered the following autumn and found it to be absolutely the best place for me – a rigorous curriculum combined with a sense of belonging to an academic family.

I loved it so much, and I am proud to be a “triple” alum. Bristol taught me rigor and discipline in science. Professors like Nigel Brown, Owen Jones and my PhD advisor Trevor Griffiths demanded independent thought (and hard work). But they also valued collaboration and collegiality. These principles have stuck with me throughout my career – how to aggressively pursue the truth, while not taking yourself too seriously.

In terms of opportunity, the USA has a science economy like no other and I was keen to explore new horizons. Over the last 25 years, we have generated a deep knowledge base of how circadian clocks are built and function in a variety of organisms. California remains a hotbed of innovation and a fantastic place to translate our knowledge into products that provide some benefit to mankind. In the case of agriculture, this can be crops that are more resistant to stresses due to climate change. In humans, there is the real possibility of developing drugs that target the clockworks to treat diseases like diabetes and cancer.

If I could give one word of advice to students today it would be to constantly seek out people smarter than yourself to work with. That translated into some wonderful discoveries in my own field, such as identifying many of the key clock genes in plants and humans, that are now relevant to advances in either agriculture or medicine.

I am incredibly grateful to the University for the training and scholarship I received while there, and the memories: walking across the downs in all kinds of weather from Wills Hall to classes every day, (Southern California can make you soft!), picking up cider (“scrumpy”) from our own “Department of Pomology” at the Long Ashton Research station on a Friday afternoon, and meeting the Oxford Dangerous Sports club at a party in Clifton the night before they did the world’s first bungee jump in 1979!

It reminds me that it pays to take a leap into the unknown, to embrace the wrong turns, dust yourself off and get right back in there. Bristol continues to dare to be different, and I very much enjoy staying involved with the University as chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for BrisSynBio, a world class synthetic biology centre. A good piece of both my heart and brain will always be at the University of Bristol and the wonderful city. Like me, it too is looking for something new, something that nobody else has seen or done before, and that’s an exciting place to be.


Professor Steve A. Kay (BSc 1981, PhD 1985, Hon DSc 2014) is Director of Convergent Biosciences and Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. As one of the world’s top experts on genes and circadian rhythms, he has published more than 200 papers and is named by Thomson-Reuters as a highly cited scientist. He has been cited in Science magazine’s “Breakthroughs of the Year” three times since 1997, and has received numerous awards, including election to the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Kay has served on the advisory boards to Althea, Bayer AG, Monsanto, Novartis, Toyota Motor Corp and BP, amongst others.

US Foundation: Your alumni network

A year’s end perspective to our U.S-based alumni by Lesley Silvester, Chair University of Bristol Foundation.

The year’s end approaches, and typically drives an appraisal of the happenings of the past 12 months. In terms of the presence of the U.S. Foundation across America there is much to be happy about: first, the increase in financial support from the U.S.-based alumni community, and, equally important, the engagement of community members in alumni gatherings and the exchange of information between the University and its alumni not just in the U.S. but across the globe. A vital underpinning of such exchanges continues to be the desire of the University to both communicate Bristol’s strategic initiatives and, importantly, to openly discuss the key drivers of these initiatives.

In recent gatherings held by the Vice-Chancellor and his team, he discussed the strategic initiatives and challenges being focused on. In summary, they relate to increased diversity in the student body, internationalization, world-class research, campus redevelopment (with a huge focus on building community space), and the mental health well-being of students. These topics resonated with many of the alumni participating in the meetings; a number of us have long questioned why the University of Bristol of which we are proud has had a relatively low profile internationally. To me, what was particularly powerful in the Vice Chancellor’s discussions was the investment that the University is making in truly understanding the nature of its students’ mental well-being. Bristol is moving towards becoming a national leader in mental health research and remediation.

The relevance of these strategies and investments was additionally reinforced by four exchange students from Bristol, two of whom are studying at the University of California, Berkeley and two of whom are at Boston College. They shared some very interesting insights about their experiences and perspectives, which helped reinforce the path forward being articulated.

The Directors of the Foundation greatly appreciate those alumni who have become engaged with our efforts and those who are contributing to the University through the Foundation. Thank you! We would also like to thank the team at Bristol, under the leadership of Steve O’Connor, who have provided such terrific support of our aspirations in the U.S. to increase the impact of the Foundation.

Fulbright Scholarships

This year, the US Foundation have funded two Fulbright scholars thanks to generosity from alumni in the US.

One of these is Samantha Berman, pictured left, who recently graduated from Tufts University, with a BA in Environmental Science and Biology. She will pursue an MSc in Experimental Psychology, working to improve psychological patient care for individuals with cleft lip and/or palate, under the leadership of the University of Bristol’s Cleft Collective and the Person Perception and Person Knowledge Lab (PPPKL).


Personally and on behalf of the Directors of the U. S. Foundation I send very best wishes for the holidays and 2019. We look forward to seeing you and welcoming you at future events.