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Welcome to the regional pages for Thames Valley. Full details of national and local events are available on our events pages.

Upcoming branch events

Watch this space for news of upcoming events. 

Past branch events

Visit the reports section to find out about past events the branch have run.

Social media

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Our members

Visit the branch demographics to see the numbers and locations of our members (Dated January 2023).


Chair: Dr Kerry Broom CBiol FSRB
Vice Chair: Melanie Gelderd AMRSB
Secretary: Professor Ian Michael Hunneyball CBiol FRSB

Members: Dr Ray Gibson CBiol FRSB, Dr John Grainger CBiol FRSB, Dr Mary Nnankya MRSB, Charles Okayo D'Harrington, Olivia Tomlinson, Dr Walter Lucchesi MRSB 

Contact details

Non-members are very welcome at all open Thames Valley meetings and events. If you or anyone you know, would like to receive regular email notices of our programme, please get in touch by emailing us at

Join us

The Thames Valley branch are currently recruiting for new committee members! Why not check out what it involves and send a quick application to

Meet the committee

Dr Ray Gibson BSc PhD FRSB

Ray gained his BSc in botany and PhD in fungal physiology from the University of Nottingham where he held both College and University teaching posts before moving to a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship on fungal viruses at Manchester University. In 1978 he joined a research group at the MOD Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire, where he held a National Research & Development Corporation Senior Research Fellowship on the genetic manipulation of yeasts.

This led to a 25 years career with Cadbury Schweppes plc. First as a senior scientist at the PHLS Centre for applied Microbiology and Research, Porton Down, after which in 1985 he transferred to the company's group research centre at the University of Reading, initially responsible for coordinating the Centre's research programme in biotechnology, microscopy and IT. In 1987 he became a founding director of Reading Scientific Services Ltd. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes and now Kraft Foods, RSSL provides scientific and technical services to the Food & Pharmaceutical Industries. Ray was its Business & Strategic Development Director until his retirement in 2005.

Ray joined the Institute of Biology in 1982 and served on the Biologist Editorial Board 1987-90. He joined the Thames Valley branch committee in 1986 and was its vice chairman from 1998-2012, when he became branch chairman. He was elected to Fellowship of the Society of Biology in 2009, and in 2022 was awarded the Royal Society of Biology President's Medal. 

John Grainger BSc PhD CBiol FRSB

John came to the University of Reading in 1957 to study for a PhD in microbiology following a BSc in bacteriology at the University of Birmingham. This was followed by appointment to the academic staff at Reading and development of research programmes in environmental microbiology encompassing studies on soil, agricultural waste and municipal refuse. His career progressed to a Senior Lectureship and then to Head of Department.

An interest in promoting microbiology in schools led to the founding of the National Centre for Biotechnology Education (NCBE) at Reading and activities abroad including membership of the management committee of the European Initiative for Biotechnology Education (EIBE). He was awarded the Peter Wildy Prize for Education in Microbiology by the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) in 2002. Now retired, John is a Visiting Research Fellow at Reading and a member of the Executive Committee of the Friends of the University. His work for schools continues, principally through being Chairman of the Microbiology in Schools Advisory Committee (MiSAC).

He joined the then IOB in 1980, was elected to Fellowship in 1990, is a past chairman of the Thames Valley branch and has served on Council.

Professor Ian Hunneyball BSc PhD FRSB

Ian has a BSc in Medical Biochemistry and a PhD in Experimental Pathology from the University of Birmingham. He continued his research at Birmingham with post-doctoral studies on the aetiology and pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Ian is currently a consultant to Evotec (UK) Ltd., based in Milton Park, Oxfordshire. He joined Evotec as President of the Services Division in 2003 and held various roles until his retirement in 2021. His current focus is supporting the oncology research and development activities within Evotec and providing research and development advice to other in-house therapeutic areas. Ian also holds the position of Honorary Professor in Biomedical Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University and is on the Editorial Board of the Springer Nature journal ‘Inflammopharmacology’.

Prior to joining Evotec, Ian was Head of Research & Development for Entomed S. A., a French biotech company based in Strasbourg discovering and developing novel anti-microbial agents. Before that, he was Director of Research & Development for BASF Pharma in Nottingham. Previously he held various leadership roles with Boots Pharmaceuticals research department in the UK and USA, ultimately becoming global Director of Research and Development. Ian has over 45 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry covering all aspects of pharmaceutical research, development, and regulatory activities across all therapeutic areas.

Ian joined the Institute of Biology as a Fellow in 1989 and became a member of the East Midlands Branch. On his return to the UK in 2003, he joined the Thames Valley Branch; he was elected Branch Secretary in 2019.

Kerry Broom BSc DPhil CBiol FRSB

Kerry obtained a BSc at Brunel University in 1999 and a DPhil at Oxford University in 2004.
She has worked at the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) for over 18 years and during that time, Kerry has provided scientific secretariat to the UK Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) and to the High-Risk Aerosol Generating Procedures Panel set up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kerry’s research focussed on the neurobiological effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

In 2021, Kerry changed roles and is working to mobilise knowledge generated in the three National Institute for Health and Care Research funded Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) as Knowledge Mobilization Manager, covering the HPRU for Environmental Change and Health (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Chemical and Radiation Threats and Hazards (Imperial College), and Environmental Exposures and Health (Imperial College). Her current work entails maximising research impact, seeking opportunities for the translation of research into practice, policy and commercially, and strengthening the working relationships of stakeholders, the public and partners.

For the past 22 years, Kerry has worked with schools as a STEM Ambassador in the Oxfordshire area. She joined the Thames Valley Branch committee in 2007 and was elected to Fellowship of the Society in 2010. She currently represents (jointly with Ray Gibson) the Thames Valley Branch at the Society’s Branches Working Group.

Dr Mary Nnankya MRSB

Dr Mary Nnankya is a world class professional scientist with expertise in biotechnology and biochemical sciences applications to the research and development of therapeutics. She was awarded a PhD in Biological Sciences in March 1997 by the Dublin City University, Dublin, Eire; a MSc in 1993 and BSc in 1991 from the University of Paris 7, Jussieu, Paris, France.

She is highly proficient, with more than 30 years of international work experience in Europe, Africa and the USA working in the biotechnology sector of consultancy, private SME, academic, and institutional organisations in the use of multidisciplinary approaches in the research and development of therapeutics -drugs and vaccines- to provide accessible and sustainable solutions to treat, manage and control key global public health challenges at basic, preclinical and clinical stages of research and development including clinical trials Phases I/II and II/II.

Although she has worked mainly on infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS and HIV1 infection induced opportunistic infections and malaria; she has transferred knowledge and technology to working on infectious diseases along with comorbid diabetes, hypertension and dementia.

Having worked on the HIV pandemic between early 90s-2004 on the global coalition WHO/ANRS -France HIV1-V3Loop vaccine initiative and on antivirals in the private sector biotech SME; lately Mary and her clinical and public health colleagues at MBC have transferred to working on SARS-Cov-2 infection induced COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to leading clinical research and development programs in management, directorship roles and/or as service providers or sponsor’s principal investigator, she has initiated various strategic and innovative projects in R&D, strategic partnerships and collaborations, a treatment clinic, she is a contributor to global outreach education programs in science & technology and public health, online platform science communications and the promotion of the use of evidence-based science and technology and has 5 languages of communication.

She has served as chair, secretary, treasurer or ordinary committee member on learned society and community organisations including SCI, and organised several successful educational, CPD and networking events and conferences with organising committee colleagues.

Dr Walter Lucchesi MRSB

Walter is a lecturer at Royal Holloway University of London with a great passion for outreach and scientific communication.

Walter obtained a degree in molecular biology from the University of Florence, in the now “feeling-so-far” 2000, and a PhD in virology from Imperial College London in 2008. Walter then spent 6 years as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, studying the mechanisms of memory formation in health and disease, using both in vivo and ex vivo models.

His publication output is largely based on laboratory research but recently, he has developed a keen interest in the application of different teaching methods and the related pedagogical research. Walter is a very sociable character and loves sharing ideas and projects with colleagues and like-minded.

During the 2020 pandemic Walter has developed an outreach project with approximately 20 academics from all over the world, which have been appreciated by the public, leading to a Facebook page with 160k followers and a YouTube channel with over 3k followers.

Charles Okayo D'Harrington

Charles earned a BSc in Food Science & Technology from Egerton University in 2017 and an MSc from the University of Bath in 2020. At Oxford Biomedica, where he currently works as a bioassay scientist, he performs bioassays and analyses the results to determine the identification, safety, purity, quality, and functionality of finished and in-progress cell and gene therapy products.

Charles has previously worked for three years in the food and beverage industry in a variety of roles, including as a B2C product developer, a B2B product developer, and a consultant. During this time, he has helped both domestic and foreign companies with the discovery, development, manufacture, and marketing of their novel products as well as the resolution of quality-related issues with their existing products.

Charles has experience in a variety of sectors, and his long-term goals in business and research are to combine his love of artificial intelligence and machine learning with his knowledge and experience in the biopharmaceuticals and food and beverage industries to create prophylactic and therapeutic products that push the boundaries of precision health technology while also raising industry standards for functional foods. His goal is to make it possible for people to turn 150 and still appear like they are in their fifties.

Melanie Gelderd 

Melanie earned a BSc in Zoology at Royal Holloway University and an MSc in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation at Bristol University and Bristol Zoo. During her bachelor’s degree, Melanie worked with Essex Wildlife Trust to research what information alters the public’s decision to donate to the conservation of UK species. During her MSc, Melanie worked with the Hawk Conservancy Trust to research how the microclimate of raptor nest boxes affects the parasite load of chicks.

With aspirations to work within the field of conservation, she currently works as an intern at Save the Rhino international. She also volunteers with Butterfly Conservation as an iRecord verification assistant for the Isle of Wight moth records.

Melanie has a deep interest in raptors having been a volunteer at various bird of prey centres and more recently working as a falconer herself. She also has an interest in and experience working with a variety of other animals from elephants to armadillos.

Olivia Tomlinson

Olivia graduated with first class honours from her BSc (Zoology) from Royal Holloway University of London in 2023. Her final year research project examined the intersection of the habitats beavers have on bird diversity in Ontario, Canada. She is presently undertaking her masters by research in Australia through Royal Holloway University in collaboration with the University of Melbourne. She is following her passion for sustainable environmental stewardship by researching estuarine pollution and the current management and mitigation techniques that have been implemented along the Yarra River which runs in to Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne.

Olivia was the President of the Royal Holloway Biological Sciences Society from 2021 to 2023. She organised a series of member events from documentary nights, social events, London day trips, explorations to the Jurassic Coast, and an over-subscribed excursion to Greece with a Marine Biology focus and scuba diving.

Notably, Olivia partnered with the Royal Society of Biology in 2022 and 2023 to reinstate and rejuvenate the ‘Young Biologists Forum’ which received high praise from student attendees, university staff and the RSB and was invited to committee by the RSB Thames Valley Branch in 2022.

Olivia has been the UK country manager for ‘Plastic Oceans International’ since 2021 and will be moving into and establishing the position of country manager for the Netherlands at the end of 2024. This management role has seen Olivia organise information and litter collection events throughout the UK with companies, schools and individuals; campaigning for organisations to become more environmentally conscious; as well as educating secondary school children through the organisations ‘Blue Communities’ programmes. Olivia has presented Wildlife Seminars for several years in the Algonquin Highlands in Ontario and she is also the Chair of a Lake Review & Shoreline Preservation Committee based in Ontario, Canada, which aims to ascertain and minimise the effects of increasing urbanisation in remote ‘Canadian Cottage Country’ through education and ultimately legislation.