Girton150: An exceptional gift announcement during an exceptional celebration of the founding of a pioneering College

June 29, 2019 Alumni & SupportersGirton150News

As over 1,000 alumni, Fellows, guests and students gather to mark 150 years of excellence and inclusion at the Girton150 Festival the Mistress, Professor Susan J. Smith, with great gratitude, is delighted to announce that the College has received one of the largest gifts in A Great Campaign. A Great Campaign was launched in 2012 with the aim of growing the endowment to secure a sustainable financial future for this unique institution where diversity and excellence go hand in hand.

Colin Tyler has donated a seven-figure gift in memory of his wife Margaret Tyler (née Hughes), who read Geography at Girton from 1953 to 1956. The gift will endow an early-career Research Fellowship in Geography that will help the incumbent establish a world-class research profile and gain significant teaching experience to form an all-important first step of their academic career. The post will be known as the Margaret Tyler Research Fellowship in Geography.

‘Girton is enormously grateful to Colin for this generous gift. The College has a rich tradition of supporting early career scholars through its Research Fellowship and post-doctoral engagement schemes. As a Geographer, I am especially thrilled to see Girton’s longstanding commitment to, and excellence in, that subject underpinned in this way. It is fitting that the first Girton Geography Research Fellowship can be announced in 2019, when not only does the College celebrate the 150th anniversary of its Foundation but the Geography Department, to which this award is linked, celebrates the Centenary of the Geography Tripos. That said, not only did Girton’s entrance exam include a compulsory Geography question from the very beginning and well into the 1890s, but a diploma was offered in the early 20th century. By the time the tripos was established Girton was ready to build Geography into one of its largest subjects. So this really is a very special gift.’ – Professor Susan J. Smith, Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge

Margaret greatly enjoyed her time at Girton and Cambridge. She once commented that ‘Being an only child I enjoyed the company of so many intelligent youngsters in my age group who came from all over Britain and abroad.’ It was during her undergraduate years that Margaret met Colin (who read Law at Emmanuel College). After graduation Margaret went on to teach Geography in Nottingham, Walsall and Solihull. Her family describe her as a vivacious person who enjoyed travelling, painting and the outdoor life. Margaret’s passion for Geography was present on every family trip and her sons, David and Richard, recall fondly her efforts to teach them about the world around them.

‘Mum thoroughly enjoyed her three years studying Geography at Cambridge in the decade after the war as better opportunities opened up for women. She was always interested in geology, geographical features of the landscape, plants and the outdoor life. In her final year, she specialized in Geomorphology. Jean Grove was her Director of Studies and supervised her Regional Essay on Ludlow. Dad and the family feel that it is very fitting that he has been able to set up this endowment in Girton’s 150th year. Richard and I are very proud of our parents’ achievement considering they both came from such humble, working class backgrounds.’ – David Tyler, son

Geography at Girton has been consistent and distinctive in its strength, vibrancy and endurance. Today, as in the past, there is a large and thriving community of undergraduates, graduates, and Fellows working together to create a lively and supportive learning environment. Both socially and academically, Girton Geographers have a tremendous sense of identity and belonging, both to the College and to the discipline.

Fellows past and present include experts in human, physical and environmental geography. The late Dr Jean Grove changed the way physical scientists understand climate change, for example, while Life Fellow Dr Roland Randall has challenged conventional wisdoms around British and Mediterranean coastal ecosystems, Dr Harriet Allen is, amongst other things, an expert on the reintroduction of the Iberian lynx into Spain, while Dr Mia Gray, is a sought-after commentator on employment and austerity. Early Career Fellows in Geography include Dr Amy Donovan, who researches the interface between the human and physical geographies of risk on volcanoes and Dr Anna Barford, whose projects on youth employment and regimes of austerity explore the intersection of economy, society and policy. Girton is, finally, the only Cambridge College to have a geographer as the Head of House. Professor Susan J. Smith’s work is centrally concerned with geographies of inequality especially as mediated by the housing system.

Geography has always been an important and prominent subject here at Girton. This exceptional gift will be game-changing in Girton’s ability to attract and support Geography students and underwrite career development in Geographical research and teaching.

For more information, visit:

Published: 29 June 2019

GLASTONBURY’S GOT NOTHING ON GIRTON! A Festival of ideas and inspiration to mark 150 years

June 28, 2019 Girton150News

Girton College – the first in the UK to provide degree level instruction and examination for women – is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Over 1,000 people from all corners of the world will gather over three days to reflect on a radical history, engage in cutting edge debate, and enjoy a remarkable display of music and the arts.

Highlights include the world premiere of Jasper Dommett’s ‘Fanfare to Girton’, a keynote lecture by Britain’s top diplomat, Her Excellency Dame Karen Pierce, a performance of Jessica Swale’s game changing play ‘Blue Stockings’, and a ‘march through time’ with historical re-enactment, period costume, and a Victorian band.

There are more than 90 individual events to choose from, with special guests, including Baroness Hale of Richmond, Professor Lord Martin Rees, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, Professor Stephen Toope. There will be debates on 100 years of women in law, the future of higher education, and the challenges of ageing, and a full programme of lectures and conversations.

The online programme with the line-up of scholars, artists, musicians, magicians and more is here:

The Head of Girton College, the Mistress – Professor Susan J. Smith said:

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate the game changing role that Girton has played in the history of higher education. It is also a great moment to plan for the future of a College steeped in Excellence, Inclusion, Inspiration and Resilience.”

Published: 28 June 2019

Notes for Editors:

About Girton College

Girton College, University of Cambridge, was founded by in 1869, principally by Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon, as the first UK residential institution for the higher education of women.

Today, having been the first women’s college to become co-educational for nearly 40 years, and with an almost 50:50 gender balance, the College remains committed to the founding principle of inclusive excellence.

As Girton celebrates its 150th Anniversary, it has spent more than half that time educating brilliant women to levels of excellence comparable with, or better than those of men, but they were unfortunately not allowed to graduate until 1948. The College has therefore always set the pace on matters of equality and inclusion and continues to prioritise widening participation, alongside academic achievement and all-round personal development for students and staff alike.

Girton is one of the larger University of Cambridge Colleges, admitting students from undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in almost every subject available within the University of Cambridge. There are currently about 516 undergraduates, 283 postgraduates and 136 Fellows.

Website links:

Social media:

Hashtags: #Girton150 #G150Festival

For more information, please contact:

Communications Officer, Hannah Sargent.

Email: tel. 01223 765834 (limited access to phone, please leave a message)

Come and celebrate Girton150 with us!

May 30, 2019 News

Girton’s 150th Anniversary celebrations are well underway having started with a fantastic gathering of minds in New York and continuing on with world-class lectures, captivating events in unique venues, sports matches and more. Five new Honorary Fellows have been elected and a new Choir CD has been launched. There is still a lot more to come, not least the Girton150 Festival, and there are many ways that you can take part wherever you are in the world.


Girton150 Timeline

Please visit the Girton150 website and view the fascinating timeline that provides a glimpse of the many milestones and achievements of Girton and Girtonians.


Your Story, Girton’s Story

An important aspect of the Anniversary is hearing from Girtonians about their experiences; whether it is about their route to Girton, their time at College, or their lives since leaving. These recollections will add a richness to the College’s records that is invaluable for telling the story of Girton. Please add your voice.


Into the Future

It is an exciting time and as we look to the next 150 years Girton would welcome your thoughts on what direction the College might take. What quality or characteristic of Girton would you always keep? What innovation would you make? Your thoughts will add a new voice to the strategic plans as they are developed for the next phase of this unique institution.


Share our news!

Tweet, share, like, love. Follow any of our social media channels (see links below) and please spread the news about Girton! Share our news stories, our social media posts, tag the College in posts about Girtonians doing wonderful things or if you’re having your own Girton gathering wherever you are! We need social media ambassadors too so get in touch if you would like to know more.


Join A Great Campaign

There are a many ways to support the College’s transformational fundraising campaign. Whether it is joining a Class Gift to create a much-needed bursary, supporting a vital Fellowship post or helping Girton to improve the funding options available to graduate students, a donation of any amount is appreciated. You can make a gift online, over the phone or by post and gifts can be a one off or made on a regular basis – the choice is yours. For something a little different look out for our dynamic (and fun!) Anniversary Giving Week in October.


Gifts in Wills

Remembering the College in your Will is another style of giving that is vital for the College. Since launching A Great Campaign the number of Girtonians who have notified the College of their intention to remember Girton in their Will has more than doubled. If you feel able to join this band of supporters in helping the College to deliver its world-class learning, teaching and research experience that is changing lives – please do get in touch. Girton recognises that such pledges, and any estimates of bequest amounts, are not legally binding but they help us to say thank you and find out more about the aspects of the College that are important to you.



An exciting range of merchandise is being created to celebrate the Anniversary including a book, CDs, mugs, puzzles, tote bags, prints and more. Look out for the soon-to-be-launched merchandise section of the website.


Forthcoming Events

The jam-packed Anniversary events calendar continues! From the Girton150 Festival to reunions, concerts, celebrations of Geography, marking the College’s excellence in music, and of course the Spring Ball there is much more to come. Keep an eye on the events section of our website or the Anniversary website for more details.

The National Jane Martin Poetry Prize 2019 Winners Are Announced!

April 24, 2019 News

Girton College is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Jane Martin Poetry Prize, a national poetry competition established in 2010 in memory of Girton alumna Jane Elizabeth Martin.

The winning poems can be found below (PDF links):

– First prize: Felicity Sheehy 
– Second prize: Oliver Newman

Felicity Sheehy grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York and has since lived in Connecticut, Corsica, and Cambridge. Her poems are featured in The New Republic, The Yale Review, Kenyon Review, The Adroit Journal, Shenandoah, Southern Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. She has received awards and scholarships from the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, the Academy of American Poets, Narrative’s 30 Below Contest, the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, Brooklyn Poets, and the Connecticut Poetry Society. She has a B.A. from Yale University and an MPhil from Cambridge University, where she studied on a Paul Mellon Fellowship.

Oliver Newman studied at the universities of Warwick and Oxford. He lives and works in Bristol.

Felicity and Oliver will be visiting the College on Thursday 25 April, along with the Judges, to attend the presentation evening and read some of their poems, which will be held in the Stanley Library from 6-7pm. All are welcome to attend and refreshments will be served.

Published: 24 April 2019

Girton150 Alumni Profiles: Nelson Loh (2000 Economics)

April 8, 2019 Alumni & SupportersGirton150News

Nelson Loh (2000 Economics)

Nelson Loh is a businessman at the cutting edge, having won numerous prestigious business awards in recent years for his distinguished track record. Nelson was awarded FORTUNE Korea magazine’s Global Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and in that same year recognised in the first ever 40 Under 40 Awards by Prestige Asia. Born in Singapore – where his family was involved in the trade of luxury cars in China – and after studying Economics at Girton he worked for JP Morgan as an M&A Banker for almost a decade. Then, with his cousin Terence, he decided to engage in a new adventure. Together they formed the DORR Group, a revolutionary investment vehicle which now manages over US$4 billion dollars of assets across various industries. The acronym? Comes from Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan, the two smart Las Vegas protagonists of the blockbuster movie Ocean’s Eleven: an inspiration, they say, for their ability to improvise in tricky situations and come up with ingenious solutions.

Their biggest initiative so far? Novena Global Lifecare Group, set up in 2010 was awarded Ernst & Young China’s Most Promising Enterprise in 2017 and also named Singapore’s Best Regional company in 2018. It has grown to become one of the largest health provider chains in Asia, with over 250 clinics in eight different countries. From disease prevention to affordable diagnostics to aesthetics, Nelson and Terence’s business is expanding rapidly, with the plan to treat over 8 million patients in the next two years. Nelson and his cousin Terence share many passions, not only the traditional one of the family interest in fast cars, but also for fine wine and sport. But there is something more to it than just an interest in the good life. Sport builds character, and strengthens mental discipline, says Nelson who is also an accomplished triathlete – Nelson was ranked the top IRONMAN Triathlete in Singapore in 2018. That is why the Loh Foundation is committed to support Singapore’s achievements in sport: ‘It is about getting kids off the streets’. Sport pairs with education, and access for all to learning. The Loh Foundation is now working with Girton College to create a scholarship for Singaporean students from less-privileged backgrounds, to come to study in Cambridge. Nelson’s love for the College is unequivocal: thanks to his and Terence’s generosity and vision, Girton’s Choir will be performing at the Asia Pacific Girton150 Anniversary weekend from 12-14 April 2019 in Singapore ( ‘You have to learn new things, get new ideas, meet new people, if you want to grow’. A good education, Nelson Loh believes, is the place to start.

Published: 08 April 2019

The Ridding Reading Prize 2019

April 1, 2019 Girton150News


The Ridding Reading Prize: Nicholas Porter with Simon Weppel (2019 Winner)

The annual Ridding Reading Prize took place in the Fellows’ Drawing Room on Monday 4 March 2019. The competition is a Girton tradition founded in honour of Caroline Mary Ridding, who won a scholarship to Girton to read Classics in 1883, and became a renowned Sanskrit and Pali scholar.

There were eight competitors, two graduates and six undergraduates, reading a range of subjects in the Sciences and Arts: Eleanor Bladon, Herby Bowden, Harry Camp, Will Johnston-Wood, Amjad Khalaf, Simrhan Khetani, Rebecca McNeill and Simon Weppel.

This year the Girton-based judges were Dr Emma Weisblatt, Dr Jill Jondorf, Professor Grevel Lindop, joined by guest adjudicator Mr Nicholas Porter. The external adjudicator was due to be Ms Christina Koning, Girton alumna and author of crime fiction, most recently End of Term, but unfortunately she was unable to take part and was much missed. The panel were most grateful to Nicholas  for stepping in as external adjudicator at the last moment.

Four of the five readings were by Girtonian authors: in the first round the contestants read an extract from This is the life: a novel  by Joseph O’Neill, a current and well-known barrister-turned-novelist, and the poem “Seen in a Glass”, by Kathleen Raine, who studied natural sciences at Girton in the 1920s and was a renowned scholar of W. B. Yeats and William Blake. The prose extract was a light-hearted illustration of the relationship between barrister and pupil. All the contestants read the passage with enjoyment, energy and engagement. The poem was an exposition of the wonder behind the material world, with subtleties of syntax conveying the meaning.

In the first interval, the Librarian, Mrs Jenny Blackhurst, gave some brief background about Caroline Mary Ridding to the audience.

The judges selected four of the eight contestants to proceed to round two, having been impressed by the overall very high standard in round one.

In the second round, the prose passage was an extract from Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann, also a Girtonian . This is a bitter-sweet passage, vividly evoking the anxiety and loneliness of starting at university as well as some lighter aspects. The poem for the second round was “Look, stranger”  by W. H. Auden (not a Girtonian). This poem takes the reader into a world of light, sea and cliffs, with onomatopoeia and alliteration to relish, which all the contestants clearly enjoyed.  The contestants were then asked to read an unseen poem, with two minutes to prepare: “A Nocturnal to Poetry”  by Oliver Fraser, who had also studied at Girton though graduated from Aberdeen.

Having come close to requiring the services of the tie breaker, the judges after lengthy and lively discussion chose the winner, Simon Weppel. Simon showed great depth of understanding of all the passages, and a wide variety of reading styles appropriate to the different texts.

Our thanks go to all those who competed, and to everyone who contributed to making the evening enjoyable and a resounding success. The Committee would like to convey many congratulations to the winner.

Published: 01 April 2019

Dr Emma Weisblatt

Ridding Prize Adjudicator and Official Fellow

Girton150 Fellows’ Profiles: Research Interests of Dr Colm Durkan

March 20, 2019 Girton150News

Colm Durkan in the lab next to the Scanning Tunneling Microscope

Colm Durkan in the lab next to the Scanning Tunneling Microscope

Nanotechnology has been a buzz word for almost 20 years now, and it’s time to deliver on the initial promise.  This is one of my guiding principles.  I carry out research, which although rooted in fundamental science, aims to answer some of the big questions facing us today, such as (i) how can we increase efficiency and safety of oil recovery and reduce the environmental impact of doing so; (ii) can we go beyond anecdotal evidence as to the efficacy of personal care products; (iii) using nanotechnology to improve healthcare; (iv) what are the ultimate limits to device performance using graphene; (v) what role do surfaces play in chemical reactions and (vi) the relationship between shape and size in determining the properties of matter.  Quite a mixed bag of interests, which may seem utterly devoid of a common link at first glance, but looking closer, all involve using the fact that nano-sized things behave differently to larger things.

Much of this research is funded by industry, and finding meaningful answers to these questions lies within our grasp.  This breadth of interests has always been a trait I have possessed, and while it has turned out to be extremely fruitful, this was not always so – it used to be seen as a lack of focus.  I never wanted to just work on one topic as I would invariably end up getting bored very quickly.  As I was coming to the end of my undergraduate days, I had an offer of a PhD position in Oxford, to work on the fusion project there.  Very exciting, I thought, but in a similar way to Bruce Lee who said he studied Philosophy so he could “think deep thoughts about being unemployed” I was concerned that I may end up highly qualified but largely unemployable. I therefore decided to work on a new topic-  Near-field Optics, which was a new type of microscope that allows us to observe materials with a resolution around 10 times better than conventional optical microscopes, and that’s the size range where all sorts of interesting properties of materials start to be noticeable. That opened my eyes to the possibilities of exploring materials at the nanometer scale, and the treasures that lay within, and it has evolved into the list of interests above, which is merely the tip of the iceberg.  I spent a few years pouring much of this into a popular science book which will appear on the shelves mid-March. After much soul-searching, I decided to go for the risky title “Size really does matter – the nanotechnology revolution” as I figured if nothing else, people would look twice!

In my role as a Faculty Member at the University, I have taught a Masters course in Nanotechnology and Quantum Mechanics for 20 years, and no two years have been the same as there is so much change afoot.  I have also developed and spent 10 years teaching an electronics course for part 1 Engineering, and am currently in the middle of writing a textbook on that for Cambridge University Press.  At the lab, we have a suite of microscopes, some bought and some home-made, which we use daily to carry out the experiments mentioned above, and as my students can attest, my favourite place is being hands-on in the middle of an experiment in the lab.  Inevitably, the time available to do this has dwindled over the years with other roles, tasks and challenges.  At the College level, I have been a Fellow of Girton since 2001 where I am Director of Studies for part II Engineering, a Tutor, and also Admissions Tutor for Engineering.  The atmosphere and ethos of College has always been one that I am proud to be a part of, as it is inclusive and values the individual, and there is a genuine warmth amongst the Fellowship.

Published: 20 March 2019

 Dr Colm Durkan

Official Fellow, Girton College
Reader in Nanoscale Engineering, University of Cambridge