e-Matter News April 3rd 2020

Dear Members and Friends,

Amongst our membership lies great experience, wisdom, and insight, so rather than stay silent (not a modus to which the Development & Alumni Relations Office subscribes!) we thought we should bring you some thoughts and reflections from our own broad community.

This e-Matters features the work of an alumnus, Professor James Moon, and one of our current Research Fellows, Dr Robin Thompson, on the COVID-19 pandemic. We look at a diary entry from Lewis Carroll and take a trip through the archives with archivist, Judith Curthoys, to explore how previous pandemics affected the House. Elizabeth Nurse, Alto Lay Clerk with the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, also reports on the Choir's recent tour to Muscat, Oman. Finally, we hear a little bit about 'virtual reunions' and how they can be arranged. 

To access more of our e-Matters content please do visit the e-Matters webpage. Regular updates on events will also be posted on the Alumni Events page. Please keep looking at our events page as so much has had to be changed. We look forward to sharing with you contributions in regular bulletins over the coming weeks, so please let us know if you’ve anything you’d like to share. 
Best wishes,
Mark Coote and the Development Team

Archive: News from the House - April 3rd 2020

Alumni COVID-19 Research and the Nightingale Hospital 

Professor Stefan Neubauer recently passed on a letter to us from alumnus, Professor James Moon, who is part of the Barts/QMUL and UCLH/UCL COVID research strategy group and Head of Research at the new Nightingale Hospital.

Professor Moon writes: 

We have got a major project off the ground in just 7 days, and are now day 7 of it. This would normally take a year. The study is on Health Care Workers and promises to tell us a vast amount about the disease. 

We cannot just work harder to get out of this pandemic. Though important, we cannot ventilate our way to safety. Research is needed for the second wave. The health care worker study will tell us those critical features about what baseline immunity does - prior virus exposure, the state of your antibodies and cells, who is carrying the disease, what the earliest changes are, what the targets will be for pre or post exposure prophylaxis are and how immunity wanes over time. We should even learn about hospital transmission chains and where the hotspots in a hospital are (highly political issue). The way we have done this is striving for collaborative science - we have taken enough samples for 25 major groups to get going trying to understand this disease. In 6 days we have recruited 360 staff at Barts Heart Centre (the largest cardiac centre in Europe), now focused on COVID with an ITU that has massively expanded to 200 beds. Next week we expand to the Nightingale hospital with another 600 subjects, and focus also on drug trials there to mitigate this disease.

Because of the urgency, we needed to get started first then fundraise after. In 3 months, I believe we will be fine as major funding bodies and grants are submitted, but for the next 2 months we are very short of money for goods and services such as freezer space, sample processing and sourcing scarce consumables.

To find out more please follow this link to watch a short video or visit the Barts COVID-19 JustGiving page.

COVID-19 Research at Christ Church

Portrait of Dr Robin ThompsonDr Robin Thompson is a Junior Research Fellow, working on mathematical modelling of infectious disease outbreaks.

Robin has been conducting research into the COVID-19 pandemic since he first found out about the SARS-CoV-2 virus in early January, when there were only 29 cases in Wuhan, China. His initial research on this topic involved estimating the risk of a sustained outbreak in the UK. He showed that a major UK outbreak was likely unless infectious cases, including those displaying few symptoms, were isolated quickly. Unfortunately, containment at that stage did not occur, and now that a major outbreak is ongoing in this country, Robin has been considering the effects of different possible control interventions including social distancing measures. One of the reasons that social distancing is required is the wide spectrum of symptoms of COVID-19. For SARS, it was possible to control the outbreak by finding and isolating symptomatic hosts, because infectious individuals displayed clear symptoms. In contrast, for the virus causing the current outbreak, some individuals may be infectious when they are only displaying limited symptoms. For that reason, we need to follow public health measures like social distancing, that do not only affect infected hosts, but also have substantial impacts on the rest of the population. 
Robin has recently written an article about the maths of social distancing for ITV News, and appeared as a guest on their coronavirus podcast - as well as being featured in several newspapers and on television and radio shows. Robin will also give a (virtual) public lecture on infectious disease modelling from 5-6pm on Wednesday 8th April. This lecture can be watched on the following platforms: 

Oxford University is producing new research into COVID-19 almost daily. A very useful summary may be found on line here: www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus-research

Donations may be made to Oxford's ongoing research into COVID-19 by following this linkhttps://www.development.ox.ac.uk/make-a-gift/coronavirus-research-fund?utm_source=outlook&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=medimar20&utm_content=body



Judith Curthoys, and the plan of Wallingford CastleFrom the Archivist...

We asked the archivist, Judith Curthoys, about previous pandemics and how they had affected the House:

She responded merrily that her latest Blog was on Plagues!

And continued that: During the 1st World War, Christ Church had been emptied of its students and the younger tutors.  The casualties were horrendous; Christ Church lost 63 men in the first year of the War alone.  16% of the House men who served died, many of them junior officers who led their men ‘over the top’.  When Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, only 42 undergraduates were in residence – youngsters who were lucky enough to miss the call-up or men who had injuries or illnesses which had prevented or cut short their service. 

Perhaps it was just as well there were so few for the influenza which was being almost as deadly as the war had been was ripping through Oxford.  The organist and the choristers were all laid low and the cathedral celebrations had to be postponed.  But they all recovered to participate in a service the following week.

Less fortunate was Violet Moberly, daughter of one of the canons, who died of the flu just two days before the Armistice.  She had contracted the illness while nursing soldiers returning from the front. Read more about Violet here.


Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis CarrollA Note from Lewis Carroll

The House has seen and stood through many outbreaks of varying degrees. 

In Lewis Carroll: A Biography, Morton N. Cohen describes Carroll's reaction to the outbreak of influenza in Oxford in 1892. Carroll, or Charles Dodgson, writes that term is "put off till February 5, as Oxford is so full of influenza...[and] not thought safe to let the undergraduates return. I, however, stay on here: three of the four sisters at Guildford are in bed with influenza. My knee is not well yet, and I live as a hermit, as I have done for two months." 

With thanks to Dr Franziska Kohlt for bringing this to our attention. A video of Franziska discussing Lewis Carroll and her work on 19th-century literature can be found by clicking this link. 

Look out for our next newsletter which will feature a link to our e-Matters page, where Franziska will be discussing Lewis Carroll and his medical links! 


Lay Clerk Elizabeth NurseChrist Church Cathedral Choir Oman Tour 

The Christ Church Cathedral Choir toured Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman from 4th-7th March 2020. One of our Alto Lay Clerks, Elizabeth Nurse, described the experience for us:

This was my first tour with the choir since I started as a Lay Clerk last September and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

The architecturally stunning Royal Opera House, Muscat is the leading centre for arts and culture in Oman. The concert was an annual celebration of the ROHM Pipe Organ. This magnificent instrument comprises four manuals, two 32-foot pedal stops and around 4500 pipes. In case that wasn’t enough, the solo shutters on the instrument face into the backstage area (rather than into the audience) which creates a lot of resonance.

Royal Opera House, MuscatThe concert programme was a showcase for both the instrument and the performers: the choir and organ combined spectacularly during our performance of Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice Op.30 (usually Rejoice in the Lamb), with our very own organ scholar Ben Collyer at the keys. Ben remarked that the organ has practically any sound an organist could ever want. The choir also sang two of Britten’s Five Flower Songs, two Monteverdi Madrigals, and Herbert Howells’s A Hymn for Cecilia. The second half of the concert was no less extraordinary: we took our seats in the audience to watch Simon Hogan (also of The House) perform Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, accompanied by the Orchestra of the Kolobov Novaya Opera Theatre in Moscow. This was conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig.

Determined to make the most of our short trip, we also took every opportunity to explore the city sites, visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the Souqs (market), and the National Museum of Oman in Old Muscat. Needless to say, the choir shared many memorable moments on this tour. It was a fantastic experience and I look forward to our next trip!


Alumni Virtual Reunions

We were so pleased to hear that some of our alumni are going ahead and holding their own 'virtual reunions'!

How do I host a virtual reunion?

1. Decide on your guest list and decide on the type of event. If you would like to invite any specific alumni but do not have their contact details then feel free to send us an invitation via email and we can forward it on for you. Decide whether you'll be having dinner together, sharing a glass of wine or just having a general chat and catch up via the video link! 

2. Register for a video calling site. There are many sites that can be used to make video calls, including sites like Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Make sure you tell your guests which site they'll need to sign up to so that they can participate in the reunion.

3. Call your guests and enjoy your evening!  Please send us a screenshot or a picture of your virtual reunion. You can also post a picture on the Alumni Facebook Group or on your Twitter page with #ChChVirtualReunion. 

We look forward to hearing about your reunions!