An update for students and staff about funding of doctoral students, how the University is tackling COVID-19, and some featured online podcasts and tours.

Dear all,

We may have all been housebound, but I hope that a long Easter weekend will have at least provided a change in the daily pace of our lives.

On Good Friday I enjoyed the first episode in a new BBC series called "Heavenly Gardens", which featured not only the delightful sights of the Cambridge Botanic Garden but also the delightful music of the Trinity College choir. I also watched Easter from King’s, a glorious programme recorded in King’s College Chapel before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Funding of doctoral students

Some PhD funding bodies have recently announced their plans to support fully costed extensions of up to six months for PhD students in their final year where their research has been affected by the present crisis. The University is working with all its funding partners to develop a co-ordinated approach for the funding for our doctoral students. I will communicate further on this issue as soon as possible.

Tackling COVID-19

I announced last week the launch of a large-scale diagnostic testing facility on our Biomedical Campus, in partnership with AstraZeneca and GSK. The new testing centre will be housed in the Anne McLaren Building. This will be a huge logistical operation, underpinned by the efforts of hundreds of people working both for the University and for our industrial partners.

All of these people will have to be fully and appropriately supported. In the run-up to the Bank Holiday, colleagues in our Estates Division worked tirelessly with our contractors to set up the Welfare Facility that will provide catering and rest areas for up to 200 staff working in the testing facility.

In just three days, a patch of unused land has been turned into a functional unit to support those soon to be engaged in essential efforts to diagnose the virus. The planning for this pop-up unit has been ably led by Debs Griffith, Project Leader in our Estates Division. In her honour, colleagues are calling this building – what else? – Debs’ Diner.

Over the weekend, and continuing this week, teams have been installing testing equipment so that the new testing facility can start piloting its diagnostic operations next week.

In praise of expertise

More than ever, we rely on timely advice and expertise. Our academic community has stepped up not only to advise the government and support our health systems, but to provide clear information about the development of the pandemic.

The Centre for Science and Policy has launched a podcast series on "Science, Policy and Pandemics", produced in partnership with the Cambridge Immunology Network and the Cambridge Infectious Diseases initiative. Led by Dr Rob Doubleday, the podcast discussions focus on sharing the evidence and expertise policymakers need to know as they respond to covid-19.

Meanwhile, colleagues in the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease are hosting weekly webinars (broadcast every Thursday at 14:00) offering updates on the latest developments in biomedical research related to COVID-19.

A guided tour

I end today’s message by extending an invitation to join Amy Tobin, curator of Kettle’s Yard, for a closed-doors guided tour of the gallery’s latest exhibition, Linderism, focused on the work of British feminist and visual artist Linder.

Stay safe.

With best wishes,


Prof Stephen J Toope