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Rosalind Franklin Lecture

The annual Rosalind Franklin Lecture, which is part of our Athena SWAN programme, celebrates the life and work of one of Birkbeck's most distinguished and inspirational scientists. We invite a leading woman scientist to present her work to the College community and to the wider public. 

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958), biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer, is perhaps best known as the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. She ran her own research group at Birkbeck in the 1950s and her work contributed to a greater understanding of molecular structures in RNA, the tobacco mosaic virus, coal and graphite. 


Professor Francesca Happé, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, King's College, London: Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum. Professor Happé explored some possible reasons why people with autism experience higher rates of mental health difficulties (including anxiety and depression) than their peers, and how these can be addressed to improve quality of life for everyone on the autism spectrum.


Professor Emily Rayfield, Professor of Paleobiology, University of Bristol: Engineering a dinosaur: how computational tools are reshaping our understanding of form and function in fossil animals.

Professor Rayfield described how she and her lab team use imaging analysis and computational tools more commonly used to design-test cars to uncover how dinosaurs fed, how mammal jaws evolved and how the earliest terrestrial vertebrates adapted their skulls for the challenges of life on land.

Read a blog post about Emily Rayfield's lecture




Professor Eva Nogales, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley: 'Structure and Functional Interactions in the Regulation of Human Gene Expression'. 

In this lecture, Professor Nogales reported on research from her lab to decipher multi-protein complexes used in the first stage of gene expression using the technique of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). 

Read a blog post about Eva Nogales's lecture



Professor Gaia Scerif, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Oxford: 'Attention, Nature and Nurture'. 

Professor Scerif’s lecture presented data from children with a high risk of attention deficits in late childhood who are receiving early genetic diagnoses. This suggests that early attention, and its development over time, predicts later behavioural problems and classroom outcomes. By assessing attention development in both atypical and typical populations, this research reveals the dynamic interplay between attention and experience. 



Professor Elspeth Garman, Professor of Molecular Biophysics, Oxford: 'Crystallography: From Chocolate to Drug Discovery'. 

For the inaugural Rosalind Franklin Lecture in 2016, Professor Garman discussed the science behind crystals and crystallography. Crystals help scientists to define the three-dimensional shapes of molecules, from chocolate molecules to the DNA that carries genetic information. The technique of crystallography can identify new drug treatments, by revealing the shapes of biomolecules in the human body that drugs can effectively target to fight disease. 

Read a blog post about Elspeth Garman's lecture