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The New Student Centre on Gordon Street

The perfect place to study, meet, learn and collaborate. The Centre will include 1,000 new extra study spaces, student enquiry services, IT clusters, new landscaping and public space, and a roof terrace

The building will be a flagship for sustainability, aimed at reaching the highest possible levels of environmental performance

Sustainable technologies include approximately 400m² of electric solar panels on the roof, a ground-source heat pump to cool the building in the summer, and efficient sanitary fittings to reduce water consumption by more than 50 per cent, compared with equivalent buildings

Study spaces will be designed to be healthy and productive, optimising daylight and indoor air quality and providing a comfortable internal climate

The building will be home to world-class contemporary art including new artworks by Jon Thomson, Alison Craighead and Turner Prize-winning sculptor Rachel Whiteread

Biodiversity enhancements include planting in the Japanese Garden, and a green roof that will have a positive influence on the microclimate



– the sum raised by the It’s All Academic Campaign since its launch in 2016. Lori Houlihan, Vice-Provost (Advancement) says: “Philanthropy sits at the heart of UCL and allows us to continue to be innovative, deliver world-changing research and reach the next generation of researchers, entrepreneurs and community leaders.”


– the number of hours committed by UCL volunteers. As James Davis, Executive Head of Alumni Relations, comments: “We are immensely proud of all of our volunteers. Their generous gift of time and experience benefits and supports an ever-growing community of alumni around the world.”


– the number of UCL alumni groups around the world. Alumni groups create communities that guide and mentor students, provide new graduates with the chance to meet experts in their field across the world, and offer wonderful social gatherings to ensure that UCL is truly London’s global university.


Calling all UCL supporters! We hope you enjoy this issue of Portico and that it sparks ideas, conversations and debate. If you have your own memories of the Bloomsbury Theatre, we would love to hear them. Or do you remember when a UCL team discovered ‘Cheddar Man’? Have you always wondered where the next breakthrough in materials will come from, or what the universe is actually made of? We look forward to hearing your thoughts on all of these and your memories of your time at UCL. So, wherever are you in the world, and whether you graduated last September or last century, join us in print, by email and on social media to share your thoughts.   

Email us at alumni@ucl.ac.uk or write to us at: Portico Magazine, Office of the Vice-Provost (Advancement), Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT. Please mark your letters “For publication”. Letters may be edited for length.


UK Dementia Research Institute opens at UCL

A leading neurological professor says that the opening of the new UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) marks ‘the beginning of the end for dementia’.

Professor Nick Fox, Associate Director at the UK DRI at UCL, says: “We have no other choice: we can, will and must find treatments. We will look back at today and see this as the start of a change.”

The UK DRI is made up of world-leading academics from UCL and five other universities: the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and King’s College London. Its aim is to find scientific solutions to one of society’s biggest health challenges: more than a million people in the UK are expected to have dementia by 2025.

The UK DRI has received significant investment from three founding partners: the Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Sir Malcolm Walker, CEO of Iceland Foods Limited, has been a major supporter of dementia research at UCL and has given £10m in support of this initiative.

UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, says: “Opening the interim home of the UK DRI feels like we are on the precipice of something really exciting. These new labs have been designed for the specific needs of the scientists who will work here.” Professor Bart De Strooper, UK DRI Director, added: “We have a huge knowledge gap in dementia – our mission at the UK DRI is to fill that gap.”


UCL launched its largest alumni survey to date this year – thank you to everyone who completed it. Your views are helping us to review and change the activities we offer alumni and how we share information with you, so that you are able to make the most of your connection to UCL.

The results of the survey showed that the majority of the alumni community: have a strong sense of pride in UCL’s academic leadership, the integration of research and teaching; are happy with the level of communication received from the University; are most interested in events with professional development and academic content; and feel a very strong connection to their former faculty or department, and would be keen to learn more about opportunities to give their time to support UCL.

The survey will be available to view on the Campaign website, and we plan to come back to you regularly to see how we are doing.

Artificial intelligence used for referral decisions.

UCL, DeepMind Health and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can recommend the correct referral decision for more than 50 eye diseases.

More than 285 million people worldwide live with some form of sight loss, with eye diseases one of the biggest causes. Many can be prevented with early detection and treatment, but often that doesn’t happen in time.

Dr Pearse Keane, NIHR Clinician Scientist at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says: “The number of eye scans we’re performing is growing at a pace much faster than human experts are able to interpret them. There is a risk that this may cause delays in the diagnosis and treatment of sight-threatening diseases, which can be devastating for patients.”

The breakthrough research, published online by Nature Medicine, describes how machine-learning technology has been successfully trained on thousands of historic depersonalised eye scans to identify features of eye disease and recommend how patients should be referred for care.

Researchers hope the technology could one day transform the way professionals carry out eye tests, allowing them to spot conditions earlier and prioritise patients with the most serious diseases before irreversible damage sets in. “With further research,” says Keane, “it could lead to greater consistency and quality of care for patients with eye problems in the future.”

Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw, director of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology says: “The results of this pioneering research with DeepMind are very exciting and demonstrate the potential sight-saving impact AI could have for patients.

“I am in no doubt that AI has a vital role to play in the future of healthcare, particularly when it comes to training and helping medical professionals so that patients benefit from vital treatment earlier than might previously have been possible.”


As the LGBT staff network Out@UCL turns 10, it will be celebrating by creating the Queer Tapestry, a project that will uncover the rich histories and voices of UCL’s LGBTQ+ community from the past 50 years.

Out@UCL has grown in size and voice over the years to become a visible and instrumental part of UCL. And now it needs your input. Can you share your experiences of life as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer student at UCL during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s? The stories will be represented in written and visual forms to form part of the Queer Tapestry project, which will be placed on public display at UCL in February 2019.

Share your story and find out more by contacting out@ucl.ac.uk


Four ‘mourning rings’, originally commissioned by Jeremy Bentham in 1822, are now pride of place in UCL’s Museum collection.

The rings, containing Bentham’s silhouette and a strand of his hair, are some of the 26 originals – two others are known of, but 20 remain lost. One of the rings in the UCL collection, belonging to John Stuart Mill, was purchased by two UCL alumni in a New Orleans jewellery shop.


IOE alumna crowned world’s best teacher.

A UCL Institute of Education (IOE) alumna has been announced as the world’s best teacher, after winning the $1m Global Teacher Prize 2018.

Andria Zafirakou (PGCE Art and Design), an art and textiles teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent, was shortlisted from more than 30,000 people for the award. She was nominated not just for her subject teaching, but for earning the trust of her pupils and their families, helping her to understand their complex lives. She used this knowledge to work alongside other teachers to redesign the curriculum across all subjects from scratch, ensuring it would resonate with her pupils.

She also helped vulnerable pupils to stay out of danger by escorting them home, visiting their families, and setting up clubs and societies to keep them off the streets, and could greet pupils in each one of the 35 languages spoken at the school.

The ceremony took place at the Global Education & Skills Forum, an event that saw speakers including former prime minister Tony Blair, Olympic champion Mo Farah and IOE Director Professor Becky Francis.

In her acceptance speech, Zafirakou, the first UK winner of the prize, said: “I’m so humbled to accept this award, not just for myself but on behalf of every teacher who is making an amazing amount of difference in their communities.”

She paid tribute to her pupils and colleagues, and teachers throughout the world, and had a message for students everywhere. “Whatever your circumstances, whatever your troubles, please know that you have the potential to succeed in whatever your dreams may be. And that is a right that nobody should take from you.”

The Global Teacher Prize was set up four years ago by the Varkey Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world.


UCL has appointed international consultancy and construction company Mace to deliver Marshgate 1, UCL’s landmark 35,000 square metre development in Stratford. Professor Paola Lettieri, Academic Director for UCL East, says: “Marshgate I is central to our academic vision for UCL East, providing research, innovation and teaching spaces to span the core themes of experiments, arts, society and technology.”


UCL is now a global ‘star’ university, along with Harvard and Oxbridge. New analysis of the World University Rankings by Times Higher Education found that UCL, already ranked as one of the top 20 institutions in the world, is now in the highest category – those that have the strongest academic reputations and broadest citation impact across disciplines – as a result of hitting high overall scores for the arts and humanities, alongside excellence in science.



Cisco is partnering with UCL to open a new AI research centre. It’s a part of the company’s £100m investment in the UK to help accelerate digital innovation. Prime Minister Theresa May said that she ‘particularly welcomed’ the announcement, adding: “Research has shown that AI could add £232bn to the UK economy by 2030 and developments like this will help with our ambition to put the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution.”

  • DeconstructedDeconstructed
  • Jeremy Bentham SpeaksJeremy Bentham Speaks
  • Into the darkInto the dark
  • CloisteredCloistered
  • Little grey cellsLittle grey cells
  • Body of workBody of work
  • Free RadicalFree Radical
  • Extra CurricularExtra Curricular
  • University mattersUniversity matters
  • The Strong RoomThe Strong Room
  • This idea must dieThis idea must die
  • London  vs  WorldLondon vs World
  • You make me feel mightly realYou make me feel mightly real
  • Living in a Material WorldLiving in a Material World
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My LifeLast Night a DJ Saved My Life
Portico Issue 5. 2018/19