A Cambridge biochemist awarded a DBE last year for services to science has been elected the new Master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge with effect from 1 January 2007.

Professor Dame Jean Thomas FRS, FMedSci is currently a Fellow of New Hall, Cambridge and Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, where she leads a team studying the structure and dynamics of chromatin (the complex of proteins and DNA that constitutes chromosomes) and its role in the repression and activation of genes.

Professor Thomas will become the first female Master of St Catharine’s College, which was founded in 1473 by Robert Woodlark and is the ninth oldest Cambridge College. The Master is elected by the President and Fellows of the College.

Professor Thomas said: “I am delighted to be joining St Catharine’s. It’s a well balanced, friendly and welcoming College, and it has a high regard for excellence. My predecessor leaves behind a College in good health and good spirits.”

St Catharine’s has around 60 Fellows, more than 150 graduate students and more than 400 undergraduate students. Its famous alumni include Sir Peter Hall, Sir Ian McKellen and Jeremy Paxman. In addition to a distinguished record of intellectual achievement, St Catharine’s has a strong tradition of sporting, musical and theatrical excellence, together with academic societies in both the humanities and the sciences.

The current Master of St Catharine’s is Professor David Ingram, a plant scientist and former Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (1990-8), who was Royal Horticultural Society Professor of Horticulture from 1995 until he joined the College in 2000.

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