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May 2023


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Durham Physicist leads black hole discovery

A team of astronomers, led by Dr James Nightingale from the Department of Physics, has discovered one of the biggest black holes ever found by taking advantage of a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. 

This phenomenon occurs where a foreground galaxy bends the light from a more distant object and magnifies it. Combining this with supercomputer simulations enabled the team to identify an ultramassive black hole - over 30 billion times the mass of our Sun. 

Image courtesy of ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey, Nick Risinger, N. Bartmann 

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Team Durham through to University Challenge semi-finals 
Congratulations to students Harry Scully, Bea Bennett, Alex Radcliffe, Chloe Margaux and Tom Haines-Matos, who last month secured their place in University Challenge’s semi-finals, narrowly beating UCL by 10 points in the closing stages of the quiz. Read more about the team via the button below.
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Remembering Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp

It is with great sadness that we report Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp’s passing at age 93, and we remember with pride her contributions to the field of Archaeology and to the University. 

Rosemary came to Durham in 1955 and was instrumental in founding the Department of Archaeology in 1956 with Eric Birley. Her contributions to archaeology and heritage were far-reaching, and she was also an inspiration to many as the first woman to be promoted to Professor at the University in 1971. 

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Vice-Chancellor calls for higher education funding reform

Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O’Brien has called for changes to the UK funding model for higher education, to support students’ financial needs and the future viability of the sector. 

Speaking as a panel member at ‘Breaking the Impasse: The Great Debate on University Funding’ on Wednesday 12 April, she highlighted that the requirement for highly skilled graduates, coupled with a demographic spike in the young population means universities are needed more than ever, despite facing severe financial sustainability challenges.  

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What does a Durham University education mean to you?

Our time at university provides deep academic understanding, and also allows us to develop wider skills and abilities, and explore attitudes and different approaches to life. These ‘graduate attributes’ provide a foundation for our post-graduation journeys.

Durham is updating its graduate attributes and would like feedback from our global alumni community about the skills, attitudes, approaches and abilities Durham graduates should have.

A long list of attributes has been established following staff and student suggestions. We now invite alumni to share their views via a survey. This should take about 10 minutes to complete and will help the Working Group create a shortlist to recommend for University adoption from the 2023-24 academic year.  

Complete the survey
Our annual telephone appeal returns next month

From Saturday 10 June – Sunday 2 July, our team of student callers are reaching out again to speak to you, our alumni community. You will have the opportunity to donate to our student support Funds. Your philanthropic donations are essential in ensuring that every Durham student has the equal opportunity to succeed.

To learn more about our telephone appeal or if you would like to arrange a call, please use the button below. 

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The Coronation on the big screen

On Saturday 6 May, the University hosted the live broadcast of the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III on a big screen in a marquee directly next to Durham City Rugby Football Club. The event also included family entertainment and was well attended throughout the day by staff, students and members of the local community.  

We are proud to have awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law to His Majesty in 1998. We send our warmest congratulations to His Majesty the King on the occasion of his Coronation.

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Upcoming alumni events

Exeter Alumni Get-together  
Thursday 18 May 2023, 7-9pm 
Join the Exeter Alumni Chapter for an informal get-together! Come along to the Monkey Suit in Exeter for an evening hosted by Alex Dudgeon (Chemistry, Collingwood College, 2010-18) and Hilary Todd (History, Trevelyan College, 1975-78). Register for your free space now. 

Brussels Alumni Gathering  
Sunday 21 May 2023, 3-6pm 
If you’re based in or near to Brussels, why not come along to an informal alumni gathering in the MELI Café? Followed by an optional visit to the Throwaway Exhibition at the House of European History. Places are free, but registration is required. 

Colombo Alumni Meet-up  
Monday 22 May 2023, 6:30-8:30pm 
Alumni based in or passing through Colombo are invited to join Durham University representative Dane Wallace (Faculty International Development Manager) and fellow alumni for an informal meet-up. Attendance is free, but registration is required.

Shakespeare's First Folio Event 
Wednesday 31 May 2023, 6-8pm
Come along to this conversation with Professor Emma Smith (Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Hertford College, Oxford University) and Gregory Doran (Artistic Director Emeritus, Royal Shakespeare Company) as they discuss their encounters with Shakespeare’s First Folio; and their thoughts on its significance on stage, in print and in wider culture. This event can be attended virtually or in person in Cosin’s Library at Durham. Use the link above to register for your free place. 

Kathmandu Alumni Meet-up  
Monday 5 June 2023, 6:30-8:30pm 
Alumni based in or passing through Kathmandu are invited to join Durham University representative Martin Pout (Faculty International Development Manager) and fellow alumni for an informal meet-up. Attendance is free, but registration is required.  

Therapy for Neurodegenerative Disease with Dr Paul Chazot, in celebration of legacies
Thursday 8 June 2023, 6-7pm 
Join Dr Paul Chazot who will showcase his research into drug and light therapy for neurodegenerative disease, which could provide options for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Motor Neurone Disease.

Durham University Delhi Alumni Chapter Cocktail Evening  
Saturday 10 June 2023, 6-8pm 
Durham alumni and their family and friends are warmly invited to a cocktail evening in Delhi. Register for your free place to get together with fellow graduates in a relaxed, fun setting. 

Durham Alumni entrepreneur network event
Thursday 6 July 2023, 7-9pm 
Join us at the Shard in London, courtesy of our friends at Mathys & Squire for an evening of networking, meeting old friends and new. The theme for this event will be angel investing, with a panel of experienced angel investors who will give their insights on what angels are really looking for in investments and advice. 

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Get Involved
Recent Graduate Social in London 

An alumni social gathering took place in London on Tuesday 18 April, where recent graduates got together for a night of quizzing. Rounds included Durham University life, classic quiz topics, word games, and of course, a Klute music round. 

This was a great way to induct some of our more recent alumni into our amazing community and meet other Durham alumni living in London. 

The pub quiz winners were very happy with their prizes.

To connect with your local alumni chapter, use the button below. 

Get involved
Inspire future postgraduate students

Interested in helping attract future postgraduate students to Durham? We would love to hear from any alumni who undertook postgraduate studies.

We have various online sessions taking place with postgraduate offer holders over the coming months and would be delighted for members of our alumni community to inspire future students about where a Durham degree could take them. Read more using the button below to see if this is something you would like to be involved with.

Scroll down to read from alumna Lina, who got involved last month. 

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Lina Dede (MSc Management, University College, 2020-22)
“Speaking about my time at Durham University as well as my career after graduating in front of potential new students was a great honour for me. As an alum, it is a wonderful feeling to know that your experiences are valuable to others and can help them navigate their decision-making. And what better way to help someone than to talk about the once-in-a-lifetime experience I had at Durham.” 
Where has your Durham degree led you?

As well as our online postgraduate offer holder sessions, we’re seeking international alumni to share written experiences of studying at Durham, and how your career has evolved since graduation. We’d look to use your stories when working with University departments, to bring available programmes to life and enable prospective students to visualise their own career pathways, following in your footsteps!

While stories from alumni in any discipline are gratefully received, we’re particularly keen to hear from Engineering and History alumni. Stories can be as long or short as you like – read on to view a recent story provided by alumnus Kushal Gautam.

Get involved
Kushal Gautam (MSc New & Renewable Energy, Ustinov College, 2018-20)
“I joined Durham’s Renewable Energy programme which broadened my understanding of renewable energy technologies. After graduating, I returned to Nepal, established my renewable energy consulting company and have diversified the breadth of services available due to my studies. I cherish my time in Durham – a beautiful historic city with a story to tell in every street – and the scenic walk by the River Wear with the view of the towering cathedral.” 
Could you be an International Chess Federation champion?

Peter Hornsby (Social Sciences Combined, St Cuthbert’s Society, 2013-16) is looking to complete a Durham alumni team to compete in the forthcoming International Chess Federation World Rapid Team Championship.  

Taking place in Düsseldorf from Friday 25 – Monday 28 August 2023, teams of six players + three substitutes will compete to win a prize of €250,000.

Express your interest
Class Notes

Jacquetta Gomes (Economic History & Sociology, St Aidan’s College, 1972-75) represented the South Lakeland Equity and Diversity Partnership in her capacity as Lead of Interfaith and Multifaith at the invitation of HM Lord Lieutenant to a Cathedral Service of Choral Evensong to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. 

Chris Grabham (English, St Cuthbert’s Society,1969-71) releases his latest fiction novel ‘Palace Green’. Our beautiful, ancient city of Durham provides the backdrop for this gentle, sometimes raucous comedy set in the 60s.  

Professor Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE (Arts Combined, Hatfield College, 1981-84) has accepted the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2022 on behalf of Coltraco Ultrasonics in his capacity as Chairman. This is the second Queen’s Award for Enterprise awarded to the company. 

Hugh Pearman MBE (English Language & Literature, St Chad’s College, 1974-77) launches his book ‘About Architecture: An Essential Guide in 55 Buildings’ later this month, exploring the ways in which we construct our built environment, and why. 

Olivia Sparkhall (Music, Hatfield College, 1995-98) has written ‘A Young Person’s Guide to Vocal Health’, aimed at children and young people, showing them the best ways to maintain good vocal health with the aid of colourful diagrams and graphics. 

Roger Spitz (Corporate & International Finance, Graduate Society, 1991-92) is delighted that his recent volume from ‘The Definitive Guide to Thriving on Disruption’ series has become a bestseller, garnering significant praise and media attention since its release at the end of March 2023.  

Angela Swindell (Geography, College of St Hild & St Bede, 1968-72) has been honoured with a Powys Volunteer of the Year Award for Enriching Lives through Arts and Culture for her work as Chair of Cor Llanwnog choir, Chair of The Arts Society Mid Wales and Borders, and helping to bring the community together particularly after the Covid-19 lockdowns had been lifted. 

Dr Anthony Wells (History, St Cuthbert’s Society, 1965-69) recently published ‘Guarding Against Extremism in the 21st Century: A Lesson from the Past. German Public Opinion and Hitler’s Policies, 1933-1939’. It is now available to purchase. 

Ruth Wiggins (English Literature & Latin, College of St Hild & St Bede, 1985-88) has published her first full poetry collection ‘The Lost Book of Barkynge’. Described as ‘a collection of rare ambition and scope…a great cathedral of a thing’, it is a medieval history of Barking Abbey told through the voices of the women who lived there during the nine centuries of its existence. 

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College of St Hild & St Bede 

Planning permission has been granted to develop Rushford Court in Durham (pictured), providing a temporary home for the College of St Hild & St Bede during refurbishments of the College and Leazes Road site. Rushford Court is a city centre location minutes from the rail station. 

The College is working with Rushford Court to build and create common rooms, a café bar and study areas. 

It is expected that refurbishment of the College and work on the Leazes Road site will commence after the Summer of 2024. 

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Collingwood College 

Join us for the final event to celebrate 50 Years of Collingwood on Saturday 15 July from 2.30pm. 

A summer party on the College’s bar terrace includes a drinks reception, BBQ style buffet and hopefully some sunshine! The Stag’s Head will be open for additional drinks.

This a family-friendly event and children are welcome (under 5s are free and do not need to be booked; reduced ticket price for children aged 6-12). 

Book your place
St Cuthbert’s Society 

Booking is open for St Cuthbert’s annual alumni weekend from Friday 7 – Sunday 9 July. 

Friday begins with the Principal’s drinks reception, hot buffet, and informal drinks in the Bailey Bar. On Saturday attendees can experience the Durham Miners’ Gala, before a talk on the history of the Bailey houses, and live music in the Bailey Bar in the evening. On Sunday, the Alumni Association will host a discussion forum and everyone is invited to the Market Tavern for lunch.  

Book your place
Stephenson College 
On Friday 21 April, Stephenson College was thrilled to welcome over 700 Muslim students, staff and members of the local community for Eid prayers. Partnering with DU Islamic Society, two prayer congregations were held in the morning followed by a celebration event including refreshments, cakes and goodie bags for the children!  
Trevelyan College 

Trevelyan College is delighted to invite alumni to the College’s Annual Reunion Weekend in Durham, which is set to take place from Friday 7 – Sunday 9 July, including an Afternoon Tea for registered guests and the Annual Reunion Dinner.

We look forward to seeing alumni and guests there.

Book your place
University College 

Catch up with Castle over canapés at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London from 6pm, Thursday 22 June. Tickets are £15 and places are limited. Book now to secure your spot! 

The College also invites alumni to Durham Castle Lecture ‘The James Webb Telescope: New Insights on the Universe, including Life Beyond Earth’. It will be given by Professor Martin Ward, Emeritus Temple Chevallier, Professor of Astronomy and Leverhulme Fellow at 7:30pm on Wednesday 7 June. 

Book your places
Van Mildert College 

Van Mildert Alumni Association and Van Mildert College are pleased to announce that booking for the reunion weekend is now open from Friday 7 – Sunday 9 July!  

Saturday 8 July will see a fantastic BBQ event on Tees Lawn and our legendary College reunion dinner. Come along for one event, or everything! College accommodation is available from the night of Friday 7 July, so that attendees can catch up with each other in the convivial setting of Mildert's Bar. 

Book your place
Departments and Societies
Department of Classics and Ancient History: UAE research visit 

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History (pictured centre), visited Dubai earlier this spring to conduct research as part of her British Academy Innovation Fellowship, ‘Levelling up through talk; how do oracy skills contribute to social mobility and employability?’.  

Together with Beccy Earnshaw (pictured right), CEO of national oracy charity Voice 21, she observed school lessons to understand better how teachers in the UAE create a culture of effective spoken communication and active listening.  

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Durham Law School: Alumnus in Forbes '30 Under 30'

Durham Law School alumnus Leon Y. Xiao (Law, St Mary’s College, 2016-20) has been listed as one of Forbes ’30 under 30’ on the Europe list 2023 thanks to his policy advocacy and research on the regulation of gambling-like products in video games known as loot boxes.  

Leon’s research stems from his LLB dissertation at Durham and has seen him work with regulators, governments and policymakers to encourage companies to comply with regulatory laws and create a safer gaming experience. 

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Institute for Medical Humanities: New Masters, Diploma and Certificate 

Interested in developing a deeper understanding of why intractable health issues and inequalities exist? Medical humanities can help you explore difficult-to-address health issues and develop tools and research methods to be used in your practice.  

Durham's award-winning Institute for Medical Humanities has launched new postgraduate programmes - available fully online, or with in-person elements. 

Receive interdisciplinary training from our specialists, as well as experts in healthcare, policy, activism, and lived experience.  

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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies: Eat Medieval Summer School 

Learn how our ancestors cooked and ate at a five-day medieval cooking course with our Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle from Monday 4 – Friday 8 September.  

The Eat Medieval Summer School is open to anyone (although places are limited) and includes cookery sessions and discussions at Blackfriars former 13th century Dominican friary, plus field trips to historical locations. The course costs £995 per person, payable by Sunday 4 June. 

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Music Durham: Northern Lights UK crowned champions 
In March, we reported that a cappella student group Northern Lights had reached the UK final of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. We were delighted to hear that they were crowned UK winners, progressing to the World Finals in New York at the end of April. While strong international competition meant that they weren’t successful, they did take the opportunity to perform at the Vice-Chancellor’s alumni event at the Yale Club in New York, showcasing student talent to our alumni community. 
School of Modern Languages and Cultures: Durham Professor takes research to Hollywood  

Professor Santiago Fouz Hernández showcased his specialist research on film director, designer and artist Bigas Luna at The Bigas Luna Tribute in Los Angeles, earlier this year.  

Bigas Luna is recognised as a master of modern Spanish cinema. April 2023 marked the 10th anniversary of his death. He directed 18 feature films including, perhaps his best-known Jamón, Jamón (1992), famous for launching the careers of now global stars Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem.   

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Gifts from Durham University Retail Office  
Here at the Retail Office we strive to provide staff, students and alumni with the best possible merchandise, to commemorate their time here at Durham. With stock ranging from stationery and jewellery to clothing and glassware, there is sure to be something that will take your fancy.
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Newswire is compiled and produced by Lucian Hudson, Tristan Alltimes, Debbie Mayne, Jo Coombs, and Hamish Lehan; along with colleagues across the University and our alumni community.
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