“There’s no such thing as a typical scientist”: Celebrating Women in Science day

Today is International Women and Girls in Science day and we’re celebrating the work of one of our cardiovascular researchers, 21-year-old Ffion Jones from Swansea, who is studying on the University’s British Heart Foundation PhD programme.

During her time at Bristol, Ffion has worked on several outreach projects and even won the Biochemistry Good Citizen award in 2019. We caught up with her to talk about her research and why she’s proud to be a woman in science.

Throughout my life I’ve seen the impact that cardiovascular diseases have had on my friends and family, so when we learnt about hearts at school the subject really resonated with me. After studying physiology in my second year I was even more drawn towards choosing cardiovascular science for my postgraduate study.

Currently, I’m on the first year of my PhD and am working as part of a team conducting research into atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory condition involving the build-up and retention of lipid. In this condition, fatty deposits in the arteries form a plaque, causing them to harden and narrow.

Everyone has some buildup of lipid in their arteries, but this can become unstable as a result of immune activation – when white blood cells called macrophages infiltrate into the atheroma (or plaque). This process can cause the plaque to rupture, which can lead to blood clots forming. These blood clots can restrict blood flow and cause serious, or even fatal, cardiac events. Currently, there’s no way to detect when the plaque has become unstable, which is problematic as people often only find out after they’ve had a heart attack or a stroke.

We are investigating whether small molecules, called micro-RNAs, could be used as biomarkers to indicate the kind of atherosclerotic lesion you have in your body. This would hopefully allow us to identify patients who may be at risk before they experience a cardiac event. By identifying which micro-RNAs are associated with stable plaques, it is possible that scientists in the future might even be able to use them to create new treatments for people living with heart disease.

The thing that drew me to this PhD is that even though you may be focusing on an incredibly specific area, you’re always referring to how your work could be used in a clinical setting.

It can be frustrating when your research doesn’t provide you with the results you’d hoped for, or the answers are harder to find than you’d expected. But at the end of your day, you remember that your work might go on to help someone else in the future, and that’s what keeps you going. It would be amazing if the work we’re doing now could contribute to further discoveries in years to come.

British Heart Foundation PhD studentships like mine are fully funded places, so they help to open up the course to a wider variety of students. Having people from all walks of life taking part in scientific research is invaluable, which is why I’ve always tried to get involved in outreach projects in Bristol. On one of my favourite projects I got to teach primary school children about the science behind DNA. There’s nothing like watching children have that ‘eureka’ moment when they suddenly learnt something new!

I’m passionate about making science more accessible. I was lucky enough to have some brilliant teachers at my school who encouraged me to push for a career in science. But not everyone has a science teacher or role model that they can look up to. That’s why it’s so important that there are fantastic initiatives like Stemettes, and the WISE campaign which are dedicated to getting more women and girls into STEM subjects.

Something I love about studying at Bristol is that I get to work alongside inspiring female colleagues and supervisors every day.

At the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) for example, for every male supervisor overseeing a mini project there’s an equivalent female supervisor. It’s great to know that I work in a department that is so committed to achieving equal representation.

When I’m not running experiments, I’m either doing yoga, playing the violin or dancing. I’ve done ballet since I was two and a half years old and I’d never be able to give it up now – I’d miss it too much! I feel like sometimes people have a pre-conceived idea of the type of person you need to be if you want to work in research, but there’s no such thing as a typical scientist. It should be a career that’s open to absolutely everyone.

The British Heart Foundation has funded PhD studentships in Bristol since 2016, when they generously pledged £2.4 million to create 16 PhD places at the University. The programme also benefits from gifts from our incredible alumni and friend community. To find out more about how you can support the programme contact the Development and Alumni Relations team at alumni@bristol.ac.uk

Geography alumni get together to mark their Ruby graduation anniversary

Nick Roberts (BSc 1979)

Nearly 40 Geography alumni got together in Bristol last summer to mark the Ruby anniversary of their graduation in 1979. They travelled from very near (Bristol), very far (e.g. Canada, South Africa and New Zealand) and from many places in between for an afternoon get-together full of memorabilia, memories and 40 years of catching up.

The School of Geographical Sciences very kindly hosted the event, allowing everyone the chance to be photographed in the very lecture theatre that they knew and loved from 1976 to 1979. Many partners attended too, and Tony Payne, David Richards and Ed Thomas from today’s teaching staff very kindly gave up their Saturday afternoon to join in the nostalgia, arrange tours and update everyone on Geography at Bristol today. Various other events are now planned for the Class of ‘79, from a walking weekend this summer to possible further Sapphire and Gold anniversary reunions in 2024 and 2029. For further information please email 232nickroberts@gmail.com.

Photographs accredited to Duncan Unsworth.

Bristol Hong Kong Alumni Dinner, 14 January 2020

Alumni and friends gathered in Hong Kong on Tuesday 14 January for dinner, which was a great success.

The dinner was hosted by the Bristol Hong Kong Alumni Network, the network also welcomed Sir Richard Alan Field, who had just arrived in Hong Kong the day before as he begins his appointment as a Deputy Judge of the High Court of Hong Kong.

A special thanks goes to Hau-yin Raymond Yuen (MSc 2009) for coordinating the event and making it such a success. Events such as these are central to building a strong network of alumni in Hong Kong.

Bristol Mentors: ‘It’s fantastic to feel you have helped give someone the confidence to reach for their goals’

Image: Bristol Mentor of the Year Sam Rose (left) with one of her mentees Tien (right)

Sam Rose (MA 2006) won Bristol Mentor of the Year 2019 for her remarkable mentoring of two students last year. She shares her experience of the programme and talks to us about what it meant to her to support an aspiring lawyer and policy maker.

What inspired you to join as a Bristol Mentor?
I loved my time studying at Bristol and mentoring was a fantastic way to re-connect with the Bristol community in a meaningful way. I remember finding the leap from studying law to moving into a career quite challenging. I couldn’t decide what sort of lawyer I wanted to be or even whether I wanted to stay in academia and study law at PhD level. I didn’t know anyone who had experience of those careers and it would have been really valuable for me to have been able to chat through the options with someone who had been there.

The team at Bristol Mentors was fantastic – really supportive and inspirational so once I had made contact with them, they made it an easy decision.

Can you tell me a bit about your mentoring partnership – who did you mentor? How did you structure the mentorship and what do you think your mentee gained from the experience?
I was spoiled to have two mentees in the first year of the scheme. As I live near Oxford and work in London, the majority of our catch-ups, which were about once a month, were over Skype, Google Hangouts or the phone.

I also reviewed application forms and CVs for them and provided written comments. We met in-person and I arranged for one mentee to do work experience at my office and for the other to have a networking lunch with two of my colleagues who had worked at law firms she was interested in.

I hope I was able to give them some professional insight into the careers they were interested in and to help them to feel confident to pursue them.

Is there anything that worked particularly well with your mentoring that you would use again with another partnership?
I think it worked well for both mentees to get insight from my colleagues as well as from me. I am lucky that in my current role I have lovely colleagues who were happy to dedicate time to have career conversations with them.

What do you enjoy most about being a mentor?
I have met two bright and inspiring young women. The scheme ended in the summer but I have had contact with both of my mentees since then and met with Tien (pictured, right) this weekend to catch up whilst she is home from her year abroad.

Why do you think mentoring is valuable?
It’s a way to pass on what you have learned to people who really value it, which is enormously rewarding. It’s also a lovely way to meet charming and intelligent young people and to stay connected with Bristol.

Do you have any tips for people who are thinking about joining as a mentor, or people who have just started a mentorship?
Don’t underestimate the value of a calm and encouraging chat with your mentees. It’s fantastic to feel that you have helped to give someone the confidence to reach for their goals.

In three words, how would you describe Bristol Mentors?
Flexible, rewarding and insightful.

Are you interested in becoming a Bristol Mentor for 2020/21? Find out more about Bristol Mentors here or get in touch with our team at alumni-mentoring@bristol.ac.uk

Wills Hall Association 90th Anniversary Celebration

WHA 90th Anniversary - 005
Charles Gunter  (BSc 2006, MSc 2009)

On Saturday 14 December, 200 alumni, current Wills residents and guests from the University and the city, celebrated the 90th Anniversary of the opening of Wills Hall. At 5 pm, David Dewar, Director of Chapel Music and doctoral student, gave an organ recital in the Dame Monica Wills Chapel. From 6-7 pm a drinks reception was held in the entrance and bar areas. The aperitifs included in a specially commissioned anniversary gin, “Old Wills”.

Guests took their seats in the Dining Hall by 7 pm and guests of honour processed into the Wills Hall Fanfare. Brief introductory addresses by the two most recent Wardens, Professors Robert Vilian and Julian Rivers (PhD 2005) preceded dinner, and speeches by the JCR President (1st year law student Terri Boardman), alumnus and Patron Robert Marshall-Andrews (LLB 1965, Honorary LLD 2015) , and our guest of honour, the Rt Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE (Hon LLD 2002, Honorary Fellowship 2017), concluded the evening. Entertainment after dinner was provided by the Bristol Hornstars and Michael Richardson from Special Collections prepared an exhibition of archive materials from the history of Wills and the University which was on display in the Michael Wong Pakshong lounge.

“There are few impossible challenges”: Interview with Dr. Andrew Sheng

Following his recent appointment as one of the University’s Pro-Chancellors, we caught up with Bristol alumnus, Dr. Andrew Sheng, to talk about his career, his time as a student and lessons for the future.

After graduating from the University with a degree in Economics (BSc 1969)‌‌, Andrew rose through the ranks of the Bank Negara in Malaysia, to become Chief Economist and Assistant Governor. He later worked at the World Bank as a Senior Manager, where he undertook pioneering work on bank restructuring.

Now, Andrew is a distinguished fellow at the Fung Global Institute, chief adviser to the China Banking Regulatory Commission, and a board member of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia. Andrew has published widely on monetary, economic and financial issues and is a regular contributor to leading economic publications throughout Asia.

What initially made you want to attend the University of Bristol?
I came to England to try and learn something about Britain. Bristol was my first choice as I wanted to get a first-class education and get to know many English friends and the countryside.

What was your fondest memory from your time in Bristol?
Good friends, fabulous wines and Bristol sherry. It was where I met my wife, Suan Poh, who came to do her doctorate in social psychology in Bristol.

How did studying at the University help you in your career?
I learnt a lot from my tutors through the personal interaction. One of them went on to become the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran. Getting a First in Economics helped when it came to getting interviews for jobs. But it also really gave me the confidence to appreciate that there are few impossible challenges, the only barrier being your own will to tackle them.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career to date?
We must appreciate that every achievement is always that of a team and never of one’s own doing. There have been many moments when I felt, looking back, how did we manage to survive that crisis? The best moments come after you get through the hottest fires. You learn never to take the future for granted.

What is the best career advice that you have ever been given?
The day you wake up and don’t feel like going to work, that’s the time to move on. The best job is the one that you enjoy and I must say I’ve enjoyed them all, so far.

You have always been a believer in the power of education. Could you give us an example of something interesting that you’ve learnt recently from an unexpected source?
Education is all about continually learning, adapting and honing your skills. An old friend told me over Christmas that she wanted to spend more time educating her grandchildren because they will face the greatest challenges from climate change and have much less opportunities because of technology disruption. Her children are too busy working to re-tool themselves for the New Age. We, the baby-boomer generation, created the greatest wealth, but also the greatest inequality and endowed the next generations with the highest debt. In effect, we consumed more than our fair share of planetary resources at the expense of social and planetary justice. The next generation will pay for most of this. I totally agree with her. The young, including the young at heart, must think out of the box to survive the tough days ahead.

As one of the newly appointed Pro-Chancellors, what are your ambitions for the University of Bristol in the future?
The experiences and mental attitudes of students, as well as their exposure to projects, are becoming increasingly important to employers. This means that universities need to have much more multi-disciplinary approaches to education and skilling, with good feedback mechanisms from employers to change curricula, with students working as employees or start-up interns much earlier than before. The future for graduates today is far tougher than when I graduated. It will be far tougher in the days to come, so the University needs to prepare its graduates for this.

Climate change, disruptive technology, intense geo-political rivalry, widening social inequality, migration and aging demographics are all wicked problems* that require new skills and paradigms to tackle. We won’t have simple answers. We just have to adapt by becoming more flexible, creative and open-minded to radical ways of dealing with problems and learning by doing.

* “a social or cultural issue or concern that is difficult to explain and inherently impossible to solve.” study.com/academy/lesson/wicked-problem-definition-examples.html

Healthy Minds: Supporting wellbeing through university and beyond

Bristol alumnus, Ashley Dunn, is a man who’s always on the move. Currently working as a postman, he keeps his step count sky-high by delivering letters and parcels up and down the hills of Bristol. Since graduating in 2018 with a degree in Philosophy he’s also chalked up two triathlons, a half marathon and a 10K. Next year, the 30-year-old will tackle the challenge on every runner’s bucket list: the London marathon.

But running wasn’t always a way of life for Ashley. He started his fitness journey with the University’s Health Minds programme. This initiative, which started in 2016, aims to help students experiencing mental health difficulties to support their wellbeing through a bespoke exercise programme. Students benefit from the physical activity itself, but also by being paired up with a mentor – a member of the fitness team with advanced mental health training – who coaches them throughout. For Ashley, taking part gave him a much-needed boost during a very difficult time.


University of Bristol Alumni in Queen’s New Year’s honours 2020

Following the announcement of the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, we’re delighted to congratulate Bristol alumni, staff and friends who have been recognised for their outstanding achievements and service.


  • Sir Peter Kenneth Estlin (BSc 1982) Lately Lord Mayor of London. For services to International Business, Inclusion and Skills.


  • Dame Gillian Guy (LLB 1976, Hon LLD 2019) Chief Executive, Citizens’ Advice. For services to the Public and Voluntary Sectors.
  • Professor Dame Lynn Faith Gladden CBE FRS FREng (BSc 1982, Hon DSc 2013) Executive Chair, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. For services to Academic and Industrial Research in Chemical Engineering.
  • Professor Dame Sarah Jane Whatmore (DSc 2000) Professor of Environment and Public Policy, University of Oxford. For services to the Study of Environmental Policy.
  • Dame Julia Unwin CBE (Hon LLD 2017) For services to Civil Society.


  • Mary Jane Fiona (Polly) Neate (BA 1988) Chief Executive, Shelter. For services to Homelessness.
  • Professor Gillian Margaret Hague ( Cert Soc.Sc. 1984, PhD 2000)  Activist, Consultant and Researcher. For services to the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children, and in support of Survivors of Abuse.
  • Professor Peter David John (PhD 2000) Vice Chancellor, University of West London. For services to Higher Education.


  • John Clive Cecil May DL (BA 1985) For services to Young People.
  • Geoffrey Michael Boyd Pick (BA 1977) Director, London Metropolitan Archives. For services to the Management of Records and Archives in London.
  • Professor Timothy Rutland Walsh (PhD 1995) For services to Microbiology and International Development.
  • Paul Ramsbottom (friend of the University of Bristol) Chief Executive, Wolfson Foundation and Wolfson Family Charitable Trust.


  • Professor Kalwant Bhopal (PhD 1996) Race Equality Champion. For services to Equality in Education.
  • Caroline Gillian Mawhood (BSc 1975) Non-Executive Director, Debt Management Office. For services to the Economy.
  • Kenneth Walter Stradling (Hon MA 1998) For services to the Arts in Bristol.
  • Jane Marian Goldingham (BA 1978) Lately Head of Operational Development, and Principal Social Worker, East Sussex County Council. For services to the Social Work Profession.
  • Dominic James Boddington (CertEd 1976) Founder, Respect4us and lately Vice Principal, Open Academy. For services to Alternative Education in Norfolk.
  • Cassandra Stravrou (LLB 2005) Chief Executive Officer, Propercorn. For services to the Food Industry and Exports.
  • Dr Jason Weng Leong Wong (Dip 2011) General Dental Practitioner, The Maltings Dental Practice, Grantham, Lincolnshire. For services to Dentistry and Oral Health (Leicestershire).
  • Dr Adeela Ahmed Shafi (BSc 1994, MEd 2013, PhD 2018) Reader of Education, University of Gloucestershire. For services to Social Justice in Bristol.


  • Geoffrey William Wickham (BSc 1957, CertEd 1969) For services to Music in Bristol.
  • Helen Countess of Rosslyn (BA 1981) Trustee and Chair of Management Committee, Rosslyn Chapel Trust. For services to Charity.


If you’re a Bristol graduate and we haven’t listed you here, it may be that we don’t have your details. We’d love to hear from you, so please do get in touch with us at alumni@bristol.ac.uk to share your achievements.

New Year, Become a Bristol Volunteer!

Start the new year as you mean to go on, join Bristol’s strong community of experts by volunteering your time and expertise. We work with departments, schools and faculties across the University to match our alumni volunteers with relevant and rewarding opportunities.

Current volunteering opportunities are listed below. 

Share your career insights with students

London Career Insights event
We are looking for alumni who can share their career stories and give exclusive insights into their industries at our upcoming graduate careers event in London.

  • London, 12 March 2020. *We are particularly interested in hearing from alumni who work in Government or the third sector for this event.

If you could support current students and recent graduates at our London Insights event, please get in touch with the Bristol Volunteers team at alumni-volunteers@bristol.ac.uk.

Alternative Careers with an Engineering or Computer Science Degree
The Faculty of Engineering are looking for Engineering and Computer Science alumni now working in non-traditional careers to share their experience with students at a networking event. The date of the event is to be finalised but will most likely be an evening in the week commencing 16 March 2020.

If you are interested in getting involved, please email holly.delafield@bristol.ac.uk.

Social Sciences and Law’s Careers Week
The Careers Service and Faculty of Social Sciences and Law are organising a week of talks and events for students to enable them to explore a variety of careers, recognise the value of their degree and approach their career planning with greater confidence. If you are interested in volunteering for either of the events below please email ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.

  • Careers in Marketing and Communications – Wednesday 12 February 1 – 2 pm
    Join a panel of alumni to do a short (5-10 minute) talk, followed by audience Q&A.
  • Charity mingle – Thursday 13 February 5.30 – 7.30 pm
    Join an informal networking event for students interested in working in the not-for-profit sector. You would be required to simply come along and chat to our students over refreshments.

Geography alumni careers event – Thursday 6 February, 5 – 7 pm
The School of Geographical Sciences and the GeogSoc student society are looking for alumni to share their career stories with their current students. Join a panel of alumni to share insights into your career path and answer questions from the audience. If you could help students explore the variety of careers available please contact james.palmer@bristol.ac.uk.

Careers in Tech Week, 2 – 6 March 2020
Do you work in tech but don’t have a technical background? The Careers Service are looking for alumni to take part in a panel event during their upcoming Careers in Tech Week. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact employer-services@bristol.ac.uk.

Mathematics Alumni evening
The School of Mathematics are looking for maths alumni from a variety of sectors to discuss their career journey with students. You can choose to take part as a speaker or a networker. For more information please contact maths-alumni@bristol.ac.uk.

Offer your time as a mentor

Faculty of Social Sciences and Law 2019/20 Professional Mentoring Schemes
The Professional Liaison Network (PLN) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law are currently recruiting for their 2019/20 Professional Mentoring Schemes, which match students to a relevant professional who has studied a related degree and is now using this in their current role.

If you fit any of the following criteria and are interested in becoming a mentor, please use one of the sign-up forms below. For further information about our mentoring schemes please contact nora.pau@bristol.ac.uk.

    • Studied an MSc relating to social sciences policy and are now working in public policy – Public Policy sign up form
    • Studied an education-related degree or qualification and are using it in your current role – Education sign up form
    • Have studied a finance-related degree and are working in a risk or compliance role within in a bank OR are working within audit or consultancy in a role advising banks – Banking sign up form

Build our global alumni networks

Working in partnership with the University, we have alumni networks, professional groups, Halls Associations, sports groups and networks in many locations all over the world. These networks help members to gain new social and professional contacts, benefit from advice and expertise, connect with other like-minded alumni, and gain access to exclusive activities.

To find out how you can connect with our groups, or for more information about starting a new network, please contact the Bristol Volunteers team at alumni-volunteers@bristol.ac.uk.

To keep up to date with our latest volunteering opportunities sign-up to our Bristol Volunteers digest, or explore our ongoing volunteering opportunities online.

Cambridge Branch annual dinner, 20 October 2019

Alison Wilson (BA 1966) 

The Cambridge Branch held its Tenth Annual Dinner on 20th October 2019 in the sixteenth century Hall of Christ’s College Cambridge, a romantic setting for this special occasion. Eighty members and friends sat down to enjoy the superb cooking that the college chefs provided, complemented by wine from the cellars. Previously many of them enjoyed tours of the college with alumna Una Dinning, a professional guide, and a visit to the Old Library where the Librarian had laid out a carefully-chosen selection of rare books. Dinner was preceded by a drinks reception in an upstairs room overlooking the Hall.

As coffee was served, Alison Wilson thanked the many people who had helped to make the dinner a success and mentioned that she would be stepping down as Chair at the next AGM. (Later she was presented with a bouquet.) She then introduced the after-dinner speaker, political economist and Master of Hertford College, Oxford, Will Hutton. Will is an alumnus of the University of Bristol and has an honorary degree. Will had been in London all day on the march for a second referendum and spoke passionately about his belief that Britain should remain in Europe. He generously answered very many questions from the floor, speaking altogether for nearly an hour. Even those of a different political persuasion found it a stimulating encounter.

Over the years the Branch has steadily built up its numbers and has many loyal members who come to all the events. The Committee would like to thank them and the Alumni Relations staff at Bristol for their continued support.