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The Frank Terry Memorial Lecture with Professor David Owen (OR 1979-1986)

We were delighted to welcome David Owen (OR 1979-1986), Professor of Structural Cell Biology at the University of Cambridge, as our guest speaker for this year’s Frank Terry Memorial Lecture on Thursday 18th November.

David left Reading School in 1979 to read Biochemistry/Molecular Biology at the University of Oxford. David spoke with fondness of his Reading School education. In particular, he spoke of the inspiration and influence of his former Biology teacher, Mr John Oakes (Former Head of Biology & Boarding House Master-1970-1997), who was in attendance.

The Frank Terry Memorial Lecture is an annual lecture series in memory of the late Frank Terry (History Teacher and Boarding Headmaster from 1946-1982). Mr A M Robson (Headmaster) introduced the lecture with some words in his commemoration before David delivered his lecture on ‘Using Structural Biology to understand the ‘white van’ delivery system of the cell’ to Year 12 Biology and Chemistry students in Big School.

He focused on one of the most common white vans, the ‘Ford Transit’ of the cell, which mediates internalisation of the membrane and its embedded protein cargo from the cell surface — a process called endocytosis. The way this process occurs is key to our understanding of how a healthy cell functions, and what can go wrong in diseased cells. It is also the route by which many pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 that has disrupted all our lives, infect our cells.

Aryan B (12FEH) commented:

“The lecture by OR David Owen was an excellent one, perfectly integrating our vested interest in Biology and Chemistry with real-life applications to do with his impressive research. His inviting, practical and erudite style of speaking allowed us to understand the sheer depth of the biological research field easily. The links he made between the complex process of protein delivery to a “white van” were detailed and impressive.

The lecture was not solely an informative one, with a clear significance on the importance of letting creativity drive intellectual curiosity. It was an insightful and intriguing lecture on the hard work, commitment and perseverance involved in discovering the structure of a specific polypeptide complex vital to the process of endocytosis.

We also had an insight into the impact of his research on the development of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, which showed us how an intellectually driven research project became a potentially lifesaving piece of information.

I would like to thank Professor Owen for such a great lecture.”

Omar A (12) said:

“Thank you to Dr David Owen from CIMR for visiting Reading School to give a fascinating lecture on the White van delivery system of the cell. The topic discussed was presented in a very interesting and informative way. The complexity and depth of the theory motivates and inspires me to work hard in the field of biology. The lecture also gave insight into the research process and evolution of scientific theory over time. Dr David Owen also talked about some of his personal experiences and advice, for example, the importance of creativity in science which resonated with me.”

Francis Terry (OR 1956-1963), son of the late Frank Terry, said:

“I can honestly say that his lecture was one of the best in the series, and reflected a great deal of careful preparation and empathy on his part. He has the knack of seeing his subject from the point of view of a non-specialist outsider as much as a seasoned expert. And that is exactly what was needed for the audience. The graphics were especially helpful in providing a perspective on both the physical scale of what he deals with in the lab and the wider significance of his discoveries.”

A copy of Professor Owen’s presentation can be found here: Nature’s “white-van” cellular delivery network- Professor David Owen

We would like to thank the Old Redingensians Association and Francis Terry for enabling this lecture to take place.

Professor David Owen also visited the Phillip Mitchell Science Centre, ahead of the Frank Terry Memorial Lecture.  Here he saw Year 7 students demonstrate the simple distillation of Ink. They discovered that the solvent (water) and the solute (ink pigments) can be separated from a solution (ink) in their Chemistry practical lesson (above).  Also, Year 12 Biology students explained the genetic engineering practical set, called 'pGlo bacterial transformation' by BIORAD.  They genetically engineer bacteria with a gene from jellyfish (Green Fluorescent protein) so they glow in UV light.

Special thanks to Mrs J Chhokar (Society Manager), Miss P Hutchinson (Society Assistant) for arranging this event, the Estates Team and Mr G Bridges for assisting with the set-up and Mr D Singh (Community Relations Manager) for recording this event.

To view the recording of the lecture, please click here: Frank Terry Memorial Lecture 2021 ( 

If you would like to present the Frank Terry Lecture 2022 or share your professional expertise with our students through a short talk, workshop, tutorial or inspire lecture, please contact Miss P Hutchinson or Mrs J Chhokar at

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