U3A at the Ri: space, twins and mutants!

1.45pm to 4.45pm, Monday 15 October

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • The Ri Theatre

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson


Standard £20

U3A members can only book directly through U3A National Office events in the members’ area.

Event description

U3A members and other members of the public join us at the Ri for an afternoon of talks on subjects ranging from twin science to space exploration! Tea and coffee included.

Stuart Eves: Exploring the Solar System

Since the start of the space age in 1957, our understanding of the solar system has increased enormously thanks to both space-based telescopes and spacecraft that have been sent to visit the planets. Although these missions have answered many questions, they have also collected a great deal of information that fundamentally challenges our understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system. Stuart Eves will explain the mysteries of our local neighbourhood that we have yet to unravel.

Tim Spector: Twins, Microbiomes and Personalised Health

The microbiome is the community of 100 trillion microbes that live in our colon that are like a virtual organ. This organ is key to our digestion, appetite, mood, metabolism, and control of our immune system.  It is also key to how we respond to immunotherapy and chemotherapy. The TwinsUK cohort of 12,000+ twins has been running for nearly 25 years and is now the most intensively studied group of humans on the planet (www.twinsuk.ac.uk). Having deep sequence, metabolites, epigenetics, immune traits and dietary and health data, in 2012 we added stool collection for 16S microbiome, metagenomes and metabolomics. We are currently using the microbiome data and cohort to provide novel measures of health, such as the level of microbial diversity and a new measure – the microbial health index and how this impacts overall health outcomes. Our twin work has also enabled us to gain insights into the microbiome and immune interactions of the upper colon and small intestine via colonoscopy and interventions. Every medical professional needs to know about maintaining a healthy microbiome from birth to death.

Alison Woollard: Rise of the mutants

What is a mutant? Would you be surprised to learn that we are all in fact mutants? Or that we are all related to each other? How come we are all so different but all so similar at the same time? Come with me on a voyage of discovery about life, evolution and all things genetic!

U3A members can only book directly through U3A National Office www.u3a.org.uk events in the members’ area.

About the speakers

Stuart Eves is a satellite-system engineer. He has recently joined Vaeros Ltd. after spending 14 years with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and 16 years with the UK Ministry of Defence. During his time with the MOD, Stuart initiated the TopSat satellite programme, which established a new world record for ‘resolution per mass of satellite’, and for a time formed part of the space gallery at the Science Museum. He has recently published ‘Space Traffic Control’, a book which describes the measures needed to maintain the space environment and protect satellites from both natural hazards and man-made threats such as space debris.

Stuart has an MSc in Astrophysics, a PhD in constellation design, and has been a fellow of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society for more than 25 years. He takes an active interest in all things space, and is thus best described as an ‘astro-nut’!



Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London and has recently been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He trained originally in rheumatology and epidemiology. In 1992 he moved into genetic epidemiology and founded the UK Twins Registry, of 13,000 twins, which is the richest collection of genotypic and phenotypic information worldwide. He is past President of the International Society of Twin Studies, directs the European Twin Registry Consortium (Discotwin) and collaborates with over 120 centres worldwide. He has demonstrated the genetic basis of a wide range of common complex traits, many previously thought to be mainly due to ageing and environment. Through genetic association studies (GWAS), his group have found over 500 novel gene loci in over 50 disease areas. He has published over 800 research articles and is ranked as being in the top 1% of the world’s most cited scientists by Thomson-Reuters. He held a prestigious European Research Council senior investigator award in epigenetics and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. His current work focuses on omics and the microbiome and directs the crowdfunded British Gut microbiome project. He is a prolific writer with several popular science books and a regular blog, focusing on genetics, epigenetics and most recently microbiome and diet (The Diet Myth). He is in demand as a public speaker and features regularly in the media.


Alison Woollard is a University Lecturer in Genetics in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Oxford working on the developmental genetics of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Alison gave the 2013 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, ‘Life Fantastic’.


She is also a Fellow and Tutor in Biochemistry at Hertford College, Oxford. Alison was educated at the universities of London and Oxford, achieving a first degree in Biological Sciences in 1991 and a PhD in 1995. Her current work concerns molecular mechanisms of cell fate determination during C. elegans development, trying to unpick the complex mechanisms by which cells become different from one another as an organism develops from egg to adult.  She also has a developing interest in the biology of ageing.

Alison’s current research interests stem from a career-long enthusiasm for using model organisms to understand biological problems; the fact that all organisms share so many similarities at the genetic level means that work on the tiny roundworm C. elegans (and of course many other well-established model organisms such as yeast, fruitflies and zebrafish) can be applied to much more complex organisms, including humans. Work on model organisms remains at the forefront of biomedical research today and has illuminated a myriad of biological problems, from learning more about the genetics of behaviour to understanding the development of cancer. 

She lives in Oxford with her husband and two children

Become a member

Benefit from free and better than half-price tickets, special offers and access to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES ticket ballot.

Join todayGo