The latest news from UCL

Two students chatting in UCL's new state-of-the-art Student Centre


In February 2019, UCL officially opened the doors of its state-of-the-art Student Centre, which has created a new focal point for student life on campus. Providing 1,000 study spaces over eight levels, it offers students space to think, explore, collaborate and achieve. Students have described the new centre as “spectacular” and “exactly what was needed”. It was designed by UCL alumnus James Eades and his team at Nicholas Hare Architects and was awarded the highest BREEAM rating of ‘Outstanding’, reflecting its exceptional environmental, social and economic sustainability performance, just three months after it opened.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs), said: “From the outset we wanted this building to show our commitment in four areas: to our students and their learning; to great design and construction; to sustainability and the environment; and to the public, who can now find a way into UCL and be part of the extraordinary research and teaching that we do. A great team has delivered on all four and I am very proud of what they have achieved. I hope it will inspire generations of students long into the future.”



President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, Professor Paola Lettieri and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan joined UCL Estates at a ground-breaking ceremony on 2 July as work begins on the pioneering new campus, UCL East. The two buildings – Marshgate I and Pool Street West – will house hi-tech laboratories and research space, student accommodation and designated areas for working with schools, charities and local groups. Work will be completed in phases, with Pool Street West opening in 2022, and Marshgate I opening in 2023.



Conditional planning permission has been granted to transform 256 Grays Inn Road, London, into a world-leading hub for dementia and neurological disease research. The state-of-the-art facility will house more than 500 research scientists, with a mission to create a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment that translates UCL’s research power into developing treatments for a range of neurological conditions. The building will be the hub of research activities and the operational headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute, and will house outpatient consulting, and an MRI suite for the UCLH National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.



Water vapour has been detected in the atmosphere of a super-Earth with habitable temperatures by UCL researchers. K2-18b is the first planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System, or ‘exoplanet’, that is known to have the potential to support life.

First author, Dr Angelos Tsiaras (UCL Centre for Space Exochemistry Data), said: “Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting. K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’ as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition. However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?”

The team used archive data from 2016 and 2017 captured by the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope and developed open-source algorithms to analyse the starlight filtered through K2-18b’s atmosphere.

Co-author Dr Ingo Waldmann (UCL CSED), said: “With so many new super-Earths expected to be found over the next couple of decades, it is likely that this is the first discovery of many potentially habitable planets.”

Picture of the black hole


The first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow have been unveiled by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, involving researchers from UCL. The EHT project linked eight ground-based radio telescopes globally to make an Earth-sized virtual telescope with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. More than 200 researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America took part.

The telescope captured a black hole which is 55 million light-years away in the Virgo galaxy cluster. It measures just under 40 billion kilometres and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. “We have accomplished something many thought impossible. It provides the strongest evidence to date that such evasive and enigmatic entities do indeed exist. This observation could play a crucial role in our understanding of the behaviour of light and matter in the most extreme environments in our Universe.” said Dr Ziri Younsi (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory).

People gather for the unveiling of the new Donor Wall art installation at the Bloomsbury Campus


More than 260 guests, including UCL academics, staff and generous donors, gathered to witness the unveiling of the new Donor Wall at the heart of the Bloomsbury Campus. This striking art installation has been created by Slade School of Fine Art 2018 graduate Dr Sarah Fortais. It features aluminium and bronze cast hands of more than 60 of UCL’s most generous donors and recognises the power of philanthropy, and the transformational vision of those who give.

Each hand is completely unique – some have been cast from the donors, other partners have chosen a representative from UCL’s community to have their hands cast on their behalf. The youngest hand cast is 15 years old and the oldest 99 years old. If you are on campus, do stop by the Wilkins Terrace and take a look.

OVER 200,000

The number of volunteer hours committed by UCL alumni community

OVER £550M

The milestone reached by the It’s All Academic Campaign since its launch in 2016


The number of global alumni groups

Illustration showing CAR T-cell therapy


A novel CAR T-cell therapy, developed by UCL researchers and designed to target cancer cells more quickly and cause fewer side effects, has shown very promising results for children and young adults with previously incurable acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The CARPALL trial was led by Professor Persis Amrolia and Dr Sara Ghorashian at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS ICH). In CAR T therapy, immune cells (T-cells) are engineered to contain a molecule called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) on their surface which can specifically recognise cancerous cells. In this approach, the patient’s own T-cells are genetically modified to contain a new type of CAR molecule known as CAT-19, which was developed in Dr Martin Pule’s laboratory at the UCL Cancer Institute.

The modified CAR T-cells were used to treat 14 patients with relapsed ALL at GOSH, Manchester Children’s Hospital and University College Hospital, London. The results show that after receiving the CAR T treatment, 12 out of 14 patients with otherwise incurable ALL cleared their disease after three months and five patients remain leukaemia-free today.



A woman in Scotland can feel virtually no pain due to a mutation in a previously unidentified gene, according to a research paper co-led by UCL. She also experiences very little anxiety and fear and may have enhanced wound healing due to the mutation, which the researchers say could help guide new treatments for a range of conditions. Her pain insensitivity was diagnosed by Dr Devjit Srivastava a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine at NHS Highland, and co-lead author of the paper.

“People with rare insensitivity to pain can be valuable to medical research as we learn how their genetic mutations impact how they experience pain, so we would encourage anyone who does not experience pain to come forward,” said co-lead Dr James Cox (UCL Medicine).


Head shot of Chair of Council Victor Chu

Victor Chu
Chair of Council

Laws graduate and Honorary Fellow, Victor Chu has been an involved and enthusiastic member of UCL’s global alumni community since he graduated in 1979, acting as a valuable advisor and advocate for the university and playing a foundational role in UCL’s now thriving Hong Kong alumni community.

Head shot of Professor Alan Thompson

Professor Alan Thompson
Pro-Vice-Provost (London)

The Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences’ new role will see him engaging with Policymakers, local government, creative and cultural organisations, industry, schools, colleges and HEIs, and other partners, supporters and alumni of UCL across the capital in order to maximise the benefit to London of UCL’s research and translation, education, entrepreneurship.

Head shot of Professor Geraint Rees

Professor Geraint Rees
Pro-Vice-Provost (Artificial Intelligence)

The Dean of the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences will be UCL’s strategic lead for artificial intelligence (AI), ensuring that the university’s AI activity is greater than the sum of its parts, and engaging researchers with industry, policymakers, partners and supporters in mutually beneficial relationships, while helping bring diversity to the sector.


Email your letters to

John Paffrey,
UCHMS, 1948 – 1952

“I would like to congratulate the editor on the recent issue of Portico – I particularly enjoyed the articles on the Bloomsbury Theatre, DNA analysis of the ‘Cheddar Man’, the Institute of Making and dark matter. I thought in each case the article said rather more than ‘isn’t this advance wonderful’ and gave a more serious insight into the subject.”

Matt Hawksworth,
German and Italian, 2004

“What wonderful articles. Beautifully put together and the illustrations in particular are stunning. I read the ‘You make me feel mighty real’ article with particular interest. Bravo to all and to the Out@UCL for all their work. I was out at UCL but only just, and I did find coming out, even in a safe and inclusive environment, quite hard. To read of others’ experiences is brilliant and amazing and very powerful.”

to the editor

“I was delighted to receive the latest issue of Portico, and particularly interested to read about the New Student Centre, as I had been keeping an eye on its construction on my frequent trips up and down Gower Street. I was very impressed to read about the focus on sustainability, and the design centring around the wellbeing of the students. I look forward to visiting the Japanese Garden.
Kind regards.”

4 December
Graduate Open Day

December 2019
Dr Hannah Fry hosts the Royal Institution’s 2019 Christmas Lectures

Spring 2020
Keep an eye out for our next UCL Connect event series

19 and 20 June,
12 September 2020

Undergraduate Open Days

Autumn 2020
It’s All Academic Festival is back!

Sign up to the UCL Minds programme for more events and activities that showcase the brilliant and curious minds at UCL:



Gopal Krishnan recently came to the UK with his wife, Latika, to visit his daughter. Ahead of his visit, he contacted the Alumni Relations team and asked if we could help him find out more about his father, Krishnan Gopalan Unnithan (Bsc Chemistry, 1934) and his time at UCL.

Sadly, Krishnan passed away in 1991 but left a rich legacy for his son to discover. Gopal says: “It’s always been a mission in my life to see where he studied.”

Our Special Collections team showed him Krishnan’s student records containing his handwriting and signature. To give Gopal more perspective on his father’s time at UCL, we also took him behind the scenes of our chemistry department. “Those few hours were some of the most memorable moments of my life!” he says.

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Portico Issue 6. 2019/20