Knowledge for a sustainable world

Hayley Thompson has finally found her ‘ideal job’ – identifying pathogens in rodents – here at NRI, University of Greenwich. Her career journey to become a Molecular Microbiologist has taken her on a circuitous route, and has involved a variety of roles and projects, juggling work with childcare and long commutes along the way. Hayley takes up the story:

“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator”, said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, on Monday 6th November during his opening address at COP27 in Egypt. COP is the United Nation’s Conference of Parties, at which most countries participate in negotiations on coordinated global responses to climate change. He went on to say that time is running out and that the world faces a choice, stating, “We can sign a climate solidarity pact, or a collective suicide pact.”

Rejoice Wadiam Papka was just 18 years old when Islamist terrorists from Boko Haram wreaked havoc on the area of north-east Nigeria that she called home. The violence and residual fear she experienced, influenced her career choices leading to PhD research at NRI and made Rejoice determined to study climate change, peace and prosperity in a bid to bring lasting change to Nigeria and rehabilitate her people. Rejoice takes up the story.

“Humanity today faces a severe and unprecedented climate crisis with devastating consequences for people, nature and the economy,” stated the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation when they launched their ‘Prize for Humanity’ in 2020 – with the aim of “distinguishing those persons and organisations from around the world whose work has greatly contributed to mitigating the impacts of climate change”.

Former NRI PhD student, Dr Manuela Carnaghi, recently took up a position as Professional Teaching Demonstrator for the School of Science at the University of Greenwich, where she leads laboratory classes for a range of BSc and MSc students. Alongside her burgeoning professional career, she has also won a number of academic competitions. Having accumulated a pot of prize money but constrained by ongoing Covid travel restrictions, Manuela set about planning how best to spend her winnings on broadening her scientific network and sharing her knowledge once she was able to travel again. Manuela takes up the story:

NRI’s first Food Accelerator programme has begun and is speeding away from the starting grid. The initiative, which gives practical advice to new start-ups has welcomed its first intake of entrepreneurs, all of whom are developing plant-based food and drink ideas. Many of them started production in their own kitchens at home, but now want to experiment with increasing scale, tweaking the recipe or exploring how to pitch to retailers.


With deep sadness, we mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

We all know that eating fruit keeps us healthy, but often there’s a very small window of opportunity to eat the contents of our fruitbowl when it’s at its best. All too often fruit from the supermarket is either unripe, or about to go off. NRI’s Professor Debbie Rees was asked by Channel 5’s consumer show, “Secrets of your supermarket shop”, to explain how we can choose and store our fruit to get the most out of it.

Yams look similar to sweet potatoes – they both grow herbaceous vines and produce edible tubers. Their taste, however, is quite different – yams are starchier and more potato-like whereas sweet potatoes are sweeter with a creamy texture. In West Africa, yam (Dioscorea spp.) is a preferred staple food for over 300 million people where the crop is prepared in different ways to make a variety of dishes.

Despite progress in many aspects of global development over recent decades, 690 million people experienced hunger in 2020. Degradation of our natural resources – land, water, forests, and biodiversity – continues at alarming rates. The food supply chain faces a series of global issues concerning sustainability, safety and innovation.

The name ‘Steve Belmain’, Professor of Ecology at NRI, is synonymous with rats, mice and any rodent that is a serious pest capable of destroying crops, contaminating food, damaging infrastructure, and transmitting dangerous diseases to people and animals. For over 20 years, Prof Belmain has been carrying out research on the biology and behaviour of dangerous rodent pests, and providing advice, training and guidance on the sustainable management of rodents to a number of intergovernmental organisms and national governments where rodent pests are a severe problem.

A temporary reprieve from the recent heatwaves meant that the graduation ceremony held at Rochester Cathedral in Kent on Thursday 28th July was a pleasant and temperate affair. Friends and families of the NRI graduates filed into the pews to watch the ceremony in the cool grandeur of the ancient edifice.