Trinity Hall TogeTHer
We recognise the many ways Trinity Hall students, staff, Fellows and alumni are helping the community during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Your stories have reached us. Stories of alumni on the front line, medical students helping in hospitals, postgraduates and Fellows involved in research and alumni donating PPE. Amongst our alumni are numerous key workers, volunteers and those who have adapted their businesses to help the wider community. Members of Trinity Hall are using their skills and entrepreneurial spirit to keep communities in touch and informed.
Here are some of the people and stories that have reached us. We would love to hear from you too.
In January 2021, I signed up with Royal Volunteer Service (RVS) to help with the Covid Vaccination effort. Through RVS, I also signed up with St. John Ambulance (SJA) to train as a Volunteer Vaccinator. I have no medical training (my background is Engineering, Banking and Finance!), so I looked forward to learning some new skills and to helping in the fight against Covid-19.
The application process involved a telephone interview with SJA, as well as having two referees to support my application, and a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check. I asked my former boss at Network Rail (I had retired in October 2019 from NR) to be one referee and Dr Rachelle Stretch at Trinity Hall to be the other – I am pleased to say both readily agreed to act as my referee!
I then embarked on quite a lot of online training both directly with SJA and also with the Health Education England/ NHS elearning. The training included both general training, e.g. manual handling, and Covid vaccination-specific training, including both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech vaccines. Whilst quite time-consuming to do, I did find the online training generally quite well thought out, if a bit repetitive at times, and I learned a lot.
The final step in the training process was a full day of practical training with SJA in Redhill at the end of February. This was a great day of practical learning about the three volunteer roles along with 10 other like-minded individuals all keen to help in the vaccination programme:
Volunteer Advocate – meeting and greeting people for their vaccination at the vaccination centre and helping them through the process prior to vaccination;
- Volunteer Vaccinator – administering the vaccine
- Volunteer Carer – providing care post-vaccination whilst the person is at the centre for the required 15 minutes after their vaccination.
As well as being trained in the actual administering of vaccine – with the help of foam pads acting as dummy arms! – we were also trained in basic first aid, including the use of a defibrillator.
My first shift with Royal Voluntary Service as a Volunteer Steward at the Wimbledon Vaccination Centre was at the end of April: 500 people were scheduled to be vaccinated that day.
Philip Nias (1976)
I matriculated at Trinity Hall in 2016 to study Natural Sciences. I stayed on to do Part 3 Biochemistry, having done Part 2 Genetics, graduating in absentia in 2020. My final Lent term in Cambridge was brought to an abrupt end in March as my plans rapidly changed from spending the spring break in Cambridge to study, to spending Easter at home just in case, to realising that my final term, and exams, would have to take place online! Having spent most of the first lockdown studying and working on my dissertation I was able to graduate with a 2:1 in the summer and immediately started looking for jobs or PhD programs that were still hiring despite the pandemic.
I was lucky enough to find a PhD place in St George’s University Hospital London working on the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and after a rapid turnaround between submission and interview I was offered the place to start work in October. Since arriving at the university I have been getting to grips with learning many of the techniques I will need throughout my PhD, researching the literature surrounding my project and starting to collect data both to allow the optimisation and development of new assays and model systems and to contribute to my thesis more directly. My primary areas of work so far have included infecting cultured cells with live virus and being trained to work safely with this pathogen and setting up an artificial experimental system to allow investigation of viral tropism and neutralisation in a more controlled and easily manipulatable setting. I have also written a 4,000-word literature review on the origin and microbiology of SARS-CoV-2 as well as its possible effects on different parts of the human body. Alongside this, I have helped out in the university’s SARS-CoV-2 testing initiative and have been assisting with the training of a masters student in the lab.
I’ve been living in London and working on this project for almost six months and although it’s been challenging moving to a new city and starting to a new project mid-pandemic I’m enjoying the opportunity to work in such an important and fast-moving field. I’m extremely grateful for all the new friends I’ve made at George’s since moving to London and look forward to a chance to meet up and catch up with my friends from Trinity Hall again once lockdown restrictions are over!
Matthew Bagley (2016)
Volunteering in the COVID testing lab
On a chilly Saturday morning in March 2020, I arrived at Milton Keynes with hundreds of nervous volunteers at the UK Biocentre national COVID testing lab. We were undergraduates, postgraduates and seasoned researchers all looking to help the national response however we could. There was a palpable sense of trepidation as we were informed that they were scaling up from 8,000 to over 50,000 tests, per day, running 24-7. The work was difficult, particularly manual handling of live virus samples. Eventually, I found my niche managing robots who prepare the final plates for PCR testing with an amazing team of young scientists. It was difficult early on, particularly seeing plates from care homes with very high rates of infection. I was humbled to work with so many talented young people who dealt with the inevitable challenges head-on with tireless good humour and confidence, despite gruelling 12 hour shifts day and night.
Image: Preparing a plate for lysis and RNA isolation. Some of the samples arrived in pink buffer and some with yellow.
The Cambridge Clinical Trials Unit under the leadership of Professor Ian Wilkinson, Trinity Hall Fellow in Clinical Medicine, has launched an important trial to test treatments for COVID-19. The trial, which is known as TACTIC, will test whether re-purposing existing drugs will stop the body’s immune system overreacting.
Dr Waheed Arian is working as emergency medicine doctor on the front line in the NHS. He has been raising awareness and answering public’s questions related to COVID-19 appearing on various media channels, such as NBC News and the BBC.
He’s also leading Arian Teleheal telemedicine charity’s efforts in providing virtual training and support to medical colleagues in low resource countries in response to COVID-19.
Postgraduate student Marianne (2013, 2016), is continuing her lab work within the Department of Medicine as part of Cambridge’s research into COVID-19.
“We are collecting blood samples from SARS-Cov2 infected patients. Some of these patients are very unwell and are in intensive care. We follow these patients over several weeks to look at changes in their immune cells to try and understand how the virus is causing disease, and if more severe disease correlates with certain features.”
- Owlstone Medical (Billy Boyle, 1997) has donated PPE to Addenbrookes and is researching the possibility of capturing COVID-19 samples from breath.
- Seven Trinity Hall medical students graduated early this year to help the NHS.
- More than 300 Trinity Hall alumni work in the NHS on the crucial front-line of the pandemic.
- Professor Simon Wessely (1975 & Honorary Fellow) has undertaken research into the psychological effects of quarantine and moral injury in healthcare workers.
May Week Alternative 2020
Following the cancellation of May Week, Cambridge’s May Week Alternative (which has raised over £100k this year), RAG (the main student fundraising body), and the May Ball Presidents’ Committee have come together to put on the May Week Mega Event. This will be a live-streamed evening of entertainment on Sunday 28th June, featuring well-known acts from across Cambridge and beyond, as well as content contributed from more than 300 staff, students and alumni from across the university – including Trinity Hall. This will include music, comedy, uplifting features showcasing Cambridge’s lockdown heroes, and much much more. As part of this, they’re working with the Big MAC charitable campaign to raise money for local coronavirus causes, building on the huge £28,000 already raised through May Ball refunds.
In a time when productions have been postponed or even cancelled, a group of students have founded a collective called Cambridge Creatives. They hope to inspire, inform and entertain.
The group, which includes a Trinity Hall student, is running a virtual series of talks and Q&As with world renowned professionals in film, TV and theatre. Participants will have the opportunity to ask these amazing speakers how they entered the industry and became so successful. Hopefully, students can find out some tips and tricks on how to progress in the creative industries, post coronavirus.
There is a stellar line up organised, with guests such as Jonathan Pryce and Lenny Abrahamson (director of Normal People).
To find out more information about upcoming events, have a look at the Facebook page.
Keeping people connected across the generations
Alumna Charlotte Whittaker (2013) is co- founder and director of InCommon, a social enterprise bringing generations together. They connect groups of primary school children with older neighbours in retirement homes to build friendships and learn together.
However in early March they had to stop their face-to-face workshops because of fears of the spread of coronavirus.
“We felt it was still important that people connected across generations, and that young and old could support each other right now,” explains Charlotte. “So we launched InCommon Buddies to provide families with resources that keep the younger and older members connected.”
Each week InCommon releases a set of Buddies activities, which 7-11 year olds can use. A parent downloads each week’s activities and helps their child phone or video call an older friend or family member. There’s a new theme for each week, with different games and discussion topics to help keep conversation flowing.
There’s always a reason to smile
After returning home at the end of Lent Term, fresher Sophie Thumfart, began feeling frustrated by the constant stream of bad news.
“Every five minutes I seemed to be getting negative information on the phone and it was overwhelming.” explains Sophie, “I felt it needed to change. I wondered what we could do to put a smile on people’s faces – a website or a newsletter to highlight something positive.”
The app ‘tarts’ – there is always a reason to smile – is designed to give bite-sized slices of knowledge and uplifting information. It is designed to be a source of purely positive news and ensure that you can celebrate something everyday.
Sophie now receives messages from countries across the world in response to the app. “I never expected it to be so popular,” she confessed “and it is so lovely to hear that people use it as part of their daily routine now. In times like this, solidarity and helping others remain positive is of the utmost importance and we are pleased we can contribute in achieving this.”
Food, Housing and Essentials
Donate your dinner
Andrew Hollingsworth (1976) has been involved since 1983 at The Passage, a central London charity working with people who are homeless on the street. Nick Gibb (1976) also serves on their finance committee.
Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, The Passage has been on the front line working hard to keep homeless people safe. We have moved hundreds of vulnerable people from the street into bed and breakfast hotels normally used by the budget end of the tourist market. The only disadvantage is the buildings have no catering facilities.
We have created a new Food Hub delivering a hot meal and two packed cold meals to 320 people each day. This is more than double the number of people we had been providing meals to prior to the pandemic. To fund this project we have launched a #DonateYourDinner campaign and seek to raise £300,000 over the next ten weeks.