Professor Sir Christopher Dobson PhD Scholarship in Protein Misfolding

Sir Christopher Dobson, former Master of St John’s College, Cambridge, was and a Trustee of the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation and an outstanding researcher in the area of protein folding. This work is leading to new approaches to the treatment of diseases of ageing such as Alzheimer’s disease. In order to help ensure that this important work continues, the Foundation has endowed a PhD studentship at St John’s College in memory of Sir Christopher.  It is anticipated that the first student to be funded through this studentship should start work later in 2021.

Full details are available at the St John’s website:

St John’s Cambridge: Scholarship in Protein Misfolding

Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Prizes; Global Inorganic Discussion Weekend

During the Covid-19 pandemic, face to face conferences have not been possible. However, on-line conferences and poster competitions have been flourishing. The Foundation funded prizes for the Global Inorganic discussion weekend on-line poster competition.

The event was a major success attracting 165 participants from 20 countries, and 50 judges from around the world. The tweets accrued 7600+ likes, 1000s of retweets, offered a social reach of 18,000+ people, and trended 4th in Canada on the morning of July 9th! 

The winners of the Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Prizes are pictured below. Many congratulations to all of them and to the organisers led by Marcus Drover, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Geofrey Wilkinson Prize Winners 2020.
The Sir Geofrey Wilkinson Prize Winners 2020.

Sir Christopher Dobson†, FRS

It is with deep sadness that we report the death, on Sunday 8th September 2019, of Sir Christopher Dobson, FRS, a Trustee of the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation.

Chris Dobson was born in Germany in October 1949 to parents who were stationed there with the British Army. It was his father’s military career that led him to spend some of his youth abroad in countries including Nigeria. Chris was educated in the UK first at Hereford Cathedral Junior School then at Abington School.

BSc and PhD Degrees at Oxford were followed by Fellowships in Oxford and a short spell in Harvard before returning to a Lectureship in Chemistry at Oxford and Fellowship of Lady Margaret Hall. He quickly rose through the ranks being appointed Professor in 1996, the year he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Chris Dobson built a strong and world leading group in Oxford before moving to Cambridge as John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology (2001), subsequently becoming Master of St John’s College in 2007. Chris Dobson founded the Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases in 2012 and cofounded Wren Therapeutics, a spin-out company, in 2016. He was knighted in the Birthday Honours, 2018.

Most of Chris Dobson’s research concerned studies, mainly using NMR methods, of how proteins fold and misfold. He postulated that misfolding can lead to disease states and discovered that, under some circumstances, proteins can spontaneously degrade into amyloid plaques. Since amyloid plaques are found in brains of people who have died from Alzheimer’s disease, it appeared that there might be a clear connection between protein misfolding and Alzheimer’s disease.  Much of the recent work of Chris’s group has involved obtaining a detailed understanding of how proteins misfold and how that misfolding can be reversed or interrupted. The group has made remarkable progress and the possibility of a cure for Alzheimer’s and related diseases has become much closer as a result of their pioneering studies. Wren Pharmaceuticals has been set up to exploit these findings and to develop therapeutic agents arising from them. Chris Dobson authored around 900 publications with an h index of >130 and around 5000 citations per year. Aside for his Fellowship of the Royal Society and Knighthood, Chris Dobson has been awarded accolades from countries as diverse as India, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, German and the United States. Amongst his many UK medals and prizes are both the Davy and Royal Medals of the Royal Society.

Sir Christopher Dobson supervised and mentored a very large number of postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, showing that balance of total academic integrity and rigour with compassion and humanity that is the mark of an outstanding supervisor. He also employed these skills to be a much loved and highly successful Master of St. John’s College Cambridge.

Chris Dobson became a Trustee of the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation about 3 years ago bringing a deep knowledge of Chemistry and very significant financial experience. He has helped steer the Foundation towards the funding of many chemistry related projects always offering advice with great charm and tact.

Chris Dobson is survived by his wife Mary, formerly Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine in Oxford and their two sons, Richard and William. He touched the lives of everyone he met and will be very sorely missed by so many.

David Cole-Hamilton
16th September, 2019

Photo: Jussi Puikkonen/KNAWKNAW Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Oldest printed periodic table finds a new home

Oldest printed Periodic Table Wallchart hanging in Burlington House.

The world’s oldest printed Periodic Table Walchart, printed in 1885, finds a new home on the wall at Burlington House. It is the first time it has been seen in public for over 100 years. The Foundation funded its transport to Burlington House from St Andrews. It is hanging alongside the EuChemS Periodic Table showing element scarcity. The picture was taken at the Royal Society of Chemistry Summer Party (2019).

The RSC Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Dalton Poster Symposium 2019

Photo of prize winners © Royal Society of Chemistry
From left to right: Andrew Shore, Executive Editor, Journals, RSC. Dr Pooja Goddard, RSC Dalton Division Council Member, and Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, Loughborough University. Sacha Fop, prize winner 2019, University of Aberdeen. Caitlin McManus, prize winner 2019, University of Oxford. James McAllister, prize winner 2019, University of Glasgow. Alice Johnson, prize winner 2019, University of Oxford. Professor Warren Piers, Professor in Chemistry at the University of Calgary [behind Alice Johnson]. Claire Brodie, prize winner 2019, Durham University. Richard Yuze Kong, prize winner 2019, Imperial College London. Photo © Royal Society of Chemistry

The RSC Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Dalton Poster Symposium is an annual event, supported by the Wilkinson Charitable Foundation, and hosted by the Dalton Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In odd years, the conference takes place as a standalone event at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s London headquarters, Burlington House. In even years, the event is a part of the popular biennial Dalton Joint Interest Group meeting, and takes place at the University of Warwick.

Above: Gallery of winners from 2019, all photos © Royal Society of Chemistry.

The poster symposium, which has been running since 2015, provides an opportunity for talented young inorganic chemists undertaking a PhD or postdoc to present their work to the wider community, practice their presentation skills, raise their visibility and make research connections for future collaborations. Posters are assessed by a panel of expert judges, and the winners receive bursaries to attend an international conference.

Find out more about the 2019 event through the link below to the RSC:

RSC Dalton Poster Symposium 2019

Lucy Johnstone, Philanthropy Lead.
Royal Society of Chemistry

Synthetic processes for plasmonic materials

The Wilkinson Charitable Foundation funds a PhD studentship at Imperial College. The current student (since September 2019) is Filip Aniés, who is studying for his PhD under the direction of Profs Martin Heeney and John de Mello.

Filip Aniés

Originally from Sweden, Filip came to the UK in 2014 to study Chemistry at Imperial College London. He gained his first experience of academic research as a research intern at KAUST, Saudi Arabia, where he worked on organic photovoltaic devices (OPVs) with Prof Iain McCulloch and Prof Derya Baran. Having thoroughly enjoyed this experience, he continued to work in the area of organic semiconductors (OSCs) through his Master’s project, where he synthesised new OSCs with applications in organic field-effect transistors (OFETs) under supervision of Prof Martin Heeney. This experience fuelled his passion for the synthesis and design of functional materials.

Being awarded the Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Studentship Prize in 2018, Filip was given the opportunity to enrol for PhD studies under joint supervision of Prof Martin Heeney and Prof John de Mello. Shifting his focus to inorganic functional materials, Filip is currently researching synthetic processes for plasmonic materials.

Synthetic processes for plasmonic materials

Controlling the reaction conditions varies the size and shape of gold nanoparticles. As the size increases the colour changes from pale yellow to deep red.
Controlling the reaction conditions varies the size and shape of gold nanoparticles. As the size increases the colour changes from pale yellow to deep red.

Surface plasmons are collective electron oscillations confined to a material surface, and they interact strongly with light waves of equal frequency. Because the optical properties of plasmonic nanoparticles are mainly dependent on particle size and shape – rather than on the intrinsic properties of the material – there is widespread interest in the control of such features. Plasmonic nanoparticles have several applications, including biosensing and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), and by tuning the optical properties of the particles they can be optimised for specific purposes.

The focus of Filip’s current research project is the synthesis of silver nanoprisms. By combining flow synthetic methods with in-line optical characterisation, Filip aims to automate the synthesis and facilitate the tunability of silver nanoprisms via live product monitoring and facile adjustment of reaction conditions. This approach could potentially be extended to a self-optimising system, or be applied to further plasmonic and optical materials.

Have you ever wondered about what the elements of the periodic table would be like if they were teenagers?

Daniel Estrada Ramírez, Petronela Oltita Ghitoaica, Emma Juanpere Colomina and Jhasmin Edith Suarez Santalla created this winning video by thinking exactly this, and placing the best known chemical elements into their High School environment! How does reactivity relate to the way a chemical element behaves at school? Watch the video to find out!

Background to the video competition: 2019 marks the 150th annniversary of Dimitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The United Nations proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT 2019), and EuChemS came up with the idea to launch a video competition for younger scientists to engage with this international festival. The Wilkinson Charitable Foundation was proud sponsor of the under 18 category – whose winning video can be seen above.

Other winners of the EuChems Video competition can be found through the link below:

EuChemS – Chemistry Rediscovered (video competition prize winners)

Oldest printed Periodic Table Wallchart

Worlds oldest periodic table acter conservation.

The Geoffrey Wilkinson Foundation are to provide the bulk of the costs to transport this unique artefact from St Andrews where it has just been conserved to the Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly where it will be on display throughout July, August and September, This artefact has not been seen in public for over 100 years.