The Wolfson College Living Lab

The Wolfson College Living Lab encourages and supports the completion of projects that have an actionable or demonstrable ‘green’ impact to the College community, estate, or wider network.

Living Lab Projects 2021-2022

#2 Using Infrared thermography for the assessment of building energy retrofit measures - Hui Ben

Our second Wolfson Living Lab Project has been conducted by Wolfson alumna Dr Hui Ben, who used Infrared thermography for the assessment of building energy retrofit measures on the Wolfson estate. Dr Hui Ben is a researcher in sustainable architecture. She has recently been awarded a doctorate in Architecture at the University of Cambridge, funded by Cambridge Trust.

Hui aims to demonstrate an improvement of monitoring techniques to detect building heat loss when in use. Her work has been published in Journal of Physics: Conference Series - Targeting building energy efficiency using thermal infrared earth observation telescopes

Hui's Living Lab project uses drone-mounted thermal infrared cameras (TIR) provided by the Living Lab award, to emulate data obtained from TIR earth observation telescopes (funded by UK Space Agency with the PI from Institute of Astronomy), with the data feeding back into the prototype design of the satellite. Ground-based thermal infrared cameras are included in the data collection to detect elements of a building that would most benefit from an insulation upgrade. The goal of the project is to help communicate to stakeholders the benefits of the techniques.

(Findings and images will be uploaded upon project completion)



#3 Clean Campuses - applying novel zinc oxide coatings for sustainable education infrastructures - Nicholas Jose

Our third Wolfson Living Lab Project- "Clean Campuses", has been conducted by Wolfson alumnus Dr Nicholas Jose. The project looked at the application of novel zinc oxide coatings for sustainable education infrastructures.  Dr Nicholas Jose was awarded a doctorate in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge in 2019. He is now the founder and CEO of his own company Accelerated Materials Ltd.

Background: Microbes are a major form of contamination and thrive in damp environments. Insufficient cleaning of these microbes can result in building decay and discolouration and can be a major health hazard. The water resources and toxic cleaning materials and chemicals can introduce local environmental damage.

Cambridge CARES and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology have created a form of zinc oxide that is non-toxic, low cost and prevents the growth of bacteria, mould and fungi. Early research indicates that the introduction of this material into household products such as paints could reduce the need for intense cleaning and as a result reduce waste.

Aims: Conduct a small case study on Wolfson estate to test the ability of these materials to provide education campuses with a cleaner and more sustainable environment.


1. The development of knowledge on how the materials perform in a real-world setting.

2. Dissemination of results to Wolfson College and the public.

3. Analysis of the commercial potential of the materials in this particular application


UPDATES (April 2022)

"So far in the project, we have selected potential testing sites near the dining hall and exterior walls and pillars with the college (see attached pictures) and established a collaboration with Crown Paints to make a special interior formulation for Wolfson college with a testing plan. The sites we identified are quite public and will be designed in a way to showcase the project to the Wolfson community. We had a few delays in preparing a sample for Crown Paints due to laboratory disruptions, but we have now provided them with a sample to make a paint with. Once this is made we'll do a few laboratory tests to validate its performance and safety, and then request a time with the college to apply the paint to the indoor test sites."



#4 Waste at Wolfson - Understanding How Waste Management Factors into the Net Zero Agenda at Wolfson College- Sachi Shah


1. Understand whether hyper-local (College level) circularity and recycling is more likely to reduce emissions than exporting/delivering waste to large processors.

2. Understand whether segregation at source is being effectively undertaken at Wolfson and the extent of it bearing on recyclability.

3. Contribute to and/or develop a collaborative knowledge-sharing platform with other waste management initiatives and institutions at the University.

4. Pilot certain circularity-based systems at Wolfson College.



1. Recognize the role of waste in producing carbon emissions

2. Integrate waste management into Wolfson College via the University’s Net Zero strategy as a steer.

3. Begin to develop a circular system within Wolfson College


Living Lab Projects 2020-2021

 #1 Waste to Art - Santiago Sottil


An interview with Santiago on his project can be read here.

      President Jane Clarke opening the exhibition  Santiago presenting one of his artworks

Exhibition information panel 1. Text copied belowExhibition information panel 2. Text copied belowExhibition information panel 3. Text copied belowExhibition information panel 1. Text copied below

     President Jane Clarke and Dr Stephen Hoath presenting Santiago his Living Lab Award         Santiago and Anna Dempster after Santiago receives his Living Lab Award

A word from Santiago: "Wolfson’s Living Lab has allowed me to follow my passions and contribute to the sustainability of the College, even during the pandemic. I have been very fortunate to meet many Fellows and students involved in art and sustainability through the Living Lab, and its support has been essential in getting the Waste to Art project off the ground. I would absolutely repeat the process and encourage any member of the College to join the Living Lab!"


Transcript of text in images:

You are what you [don’t] eat.

Globally, one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted: over 1.4 billion tonnes of food is lost every year.[1] At the same time, 690 million people go hungry everyday.[2] The global food chain, and wasted food which is part of it, is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, responsible for up to one quarter of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions.[3]. When we waste food, we also waste the resources that go into growing, making, packaging and distributing it. The average UK household throws away some 270 kg of food every year. And yet, most adults do not believe they waste much food at all nor do they think of it is an environmental problem.[4]

Food waste is also a stark measure of inequality. In low-income countries, the vast majority of food waste occurs during production, handling and storage. In developed countries, more than 40% of food is thrown away by the consumer.[1]

What can you do?

In the cafeteria:

  • Don’t take more than you can eat or ask for smaller portions

At home:

  • Check your cupboards/fridge/freezer and make a list before you go shopping
  • Avoid going grocery shopping while hungry
  • Get to know your date labels: use-by is the one that counts
  • Leave the packaging on: fresh food lasts up to 2 weeks longer if stored in its original pack
  • Plan your portions/meals: not cooking more than you need saves food, money, and time
  • Use your leftovers: fruit can be transformed into smoothies; wilted vegetables into soup!

About the Exhibition

The Waste to Art project and exhibition aims to draw attention to the food waste taking place every day; in almost every household or community, big or small. A massive environmental problem, it goes nearly un-noticed. A problem which is by definition ‘thrown away’ – ‘out of sight and out of mind’.

In these works, Santiago Sottil draws on the visual language of 17th Century Dutch still life, with all their trappings of the desirable, exotic and luxurious, but turning the idea on its head.

Each still-life is created using leftovers from the cafeteria, food destined to be discarded, thrown away. Data on how many plates of food are used in each image, and the impact on the environment is carefully recorded and presented in the labels.

The works are carefully presented in the style of Old Masters paintings, gilt and dark wood frames underscore their significance. At first glance, you might think this is just another display of establishment tradition. Yet, in the context of a dynamic modern College, each artwork represents an urgent call to action, a challenge to re-think what we have and what we throw away.

From Henri Matisse’s anthropomorphic chair which, looks like it might just walk away, to Marcel Duchamp notorious urinal or ready- made bottle-rack turned upside down and declared a sculpture, finding beauty in the discarded, unwanted or everyday, is a long- standing pre-occupation for artists. Inspired by leading contemporary artists such as Mat Collishaw, who draws on traditional genres to explore difficult debates like the death penalty, this exhibition also challenges us to look and look again, considering a different perspective, an alternative hypotheses.

In a project that has taken the better part of a remarkable and challenging year, this exhibition also inadvertently tracks the changing season of academic Terms – each with its own distinctive colours, scents and flavours. Each object – borrowed, found or salvaged from College – is made more poignant and meaningful as it represents not only what we have, but what we have been denied. Using the medium and language of art, we ask: – what do we need? what do we waste? and, what do we treasure?

Anna M. Dempster, Cambridge, May 2021

About the Artist

Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Santiago Sottil started drawing from a very early age, often exploring themes related to nature, architecture and the environment and inspired by his grandmother – who is an artist.

Increasingly conscious of the devastating economic and social impact of climate change, Santiago became curious about how these new and extreme environmental changes affect the natural world and how they might be explored, explained and communicated in a way that transcends language, borders and cultures.

After 18 years, Santiago swapped sub-tropical climates for the continental summers and very cold winters of Montreal, Quebec, Canada where he completed a Bachelors in Bioresource Engineering at McGill University, also working in sustainability consulting and as an Environment Specialist at Nestlé – where they make more than chocolate.

Santiago came to the UK in September 2020 to pursue an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge, enjoying the support and community of Wolfson College during the remarkable year of 2020-2021.

With a long-standing interest in the way our world can prepare, recover from, or adapt to extreme environmental shocks and increasing uncertainty, his MPhil dissertation explores climate change resilience. At the start of the pandemic he was painting more and more as way to explore the world, even in lockdown.

The Waste to Art project is a direct response to a challenge set by his professors – how to make the invisible visible?

In his free time, he enjoys cycling the trails around Cambridge, gardening, and painting. His parents, and grandmother (who is 94 in 2021) is planning to visit the exhibition in Cambridge this year.

Special Thanks

In a year when the world has been turned upside down by a global pandemic, many amazing people have made this project possible. This exhibition is a testimony to their friendship, support and creativity. A special thanks (in no particular order) to:

Wolfson Sustainability & Conservation Research Hub

  • Charlie Barty King, Richard Fenner, Steve Evans, Rae Scarlet White and Sian Cook for the introduction and ongoing support
  • Dario Illari, Nick Terry & Adam Bridgland and talented team at Jealous Gallery & Print Studio, London
  • Susie and Neville Bidwell @ Framing Talent
  • Karen and Derek Amery @ Brampton Framing
  • Charles Correa, Sam Frost, Darren Smith, and Wolfson’s remarkable Food Services Staff
  • Neil Newman & Wolfson Maintenance ‘All Stars’, Alan and Josh
  • Andrew Fowles & Wolfson’s perfect Porters
  • Wolfson Fine Arts Committee, past and present
  • Oscar Holgate and the amazing Garden’s team, rain or shine
  • Karam Alkatlabe, Michael Villaverde, Charlotte Callaghan

and President Jane Clarke, for believing in this project, start... to finish!


  1. FAO (2011) Global Food Losses and Food Waste.
  2. FAO (2020) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020.
  3. Ritchie, H. (2019) Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Our World in Data.
  4. WRAP (2009) Household Waste Prevention Evidence Review: Impact of Household Waste Prevention Interventions and Campaigns.
  5. My Emissions (2021) Food carbon footprint calculator.
  6. Water Footprint


Any questions, queries, clarification, advice or to chat, contact us anytime 🌐


Sustainability and Conservation Hub logo


Wolfson Living Lab Details

All Wolfson Living Lab projects benefit from mentorship and support from the Sustainability & Conservation (S&C) Hub, with approved projects entitled to receive a £50 cash prize. Additional banded funds of £100, £250 or £500 are available for projects that require specific resources.

Examples of Living Lab project areas might include, but aren't limited to:

  • Humanities through a ‘green’ lens
  • Sociology
  • Sustainable Living
  • Art Projects
  • Wolfson Utilities Research (heating, lighting, electricity)
  • Content Creation
  • Policy
  • Recycling and Food
  • Mental Health
  • Biodiversity
  • The Wolfson estate & gardens
  • Technological Solutions
  • Economics
  • Entrepreneurialism
  • etc… these are a guide only. Compelling ideas welcome! 

Submissions are welcome from individuals or groups from any member of Wolfson College past or present. Students and Fellows are particularly encouraged to apply and can be linked to academic or professional study if desired. Non-Wolfson affiliated individuals may apply as part of a group where at least one Wolfson member is leading or co-leading the project. All submissions must be made in consultation with the S&C Hub. Final approval and the official start of a Living Lab project comes from the College’s Domestic Bursar.

To start the submission process, fill out thius submission form as best you can and email to:, or contact us directly to discuss your idea in the first instance.

Note: The £50 cash prize is made without any deduction for tax, and it is the recipient’s responsibility to report them if appropriate.

Note: Banded funds are provided as expenses. If you're not able to provide the expenses yourself upfront, please let us know on your form and we can provide you an Expenses Advance Claim Form.


Wolfson College Living Lab Award

The Wolfson College Living Lab Award is a mark of excellence that recognises the training and outcomes of a Living Lab project. Awards are made on successful completion of a project. Criteria for completion will be decided on a case-by-case basis in discussion with the Sustainability & Conservation Hub. Examples of completion might be being accepted and presenting at the annual Wolfson Research Event, hosting an exhibition or formal closure event, completing a piece of academic work using your Living Lab project, or producing a non-academic project report for the Sustainability & Conservation Hub that details the work, outcomes, or recommendations.

Where a completion criterion is not met or changes are made during a project (in agreement with the S&C Hub), a Wolfson College Living Lab Award can still be received. In these cases, Awards will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the S&C Hub Conveners group where ‘deemed a success’.

All projects will be asked to fill out a short Wolfson S&C Stories submission on completion of the project to disseminate the work, outcomes, and impacts. All S&C Stories are eventually printed and recorded into the S&C Hub Library Collection at the Wolfson Library. This is so we can celebrate your projects achievements and formally acknowledge your work into the collective Wolfson memory for years to come!


Resources and funding

An initial fund of £3600 is available for all approved Living Lab Awards collectively. Approved projects are entitled to receive a £50 cash prize. Additional banded funds of £100, £250 or £500 are available for projects that require specific resources.

The Wolfson Living Lab Awards are made possible by a donation from the Hoath family “to stimulate the early development of Wolfson College’s Interdisciplinary Research Hub in Sustainability and Conservation; to encourage students, alumni and members to be involved in the Hub’s activities.” Read an interview with Dr. Steve Hoath here.

If you would like to support the Living Lab or the S&C Hub activities, please consider making a donation through Wolfson's Annual Giving page (choose "Other" in Designation and type "S&C Hub Fund"). Alternatively, you can discuss your gift with Sian Cook, our Development Director: Donations of every size, together, make a huge difference.

What's on

Kill or Cure poster

Art exhibition: 'Kill or Cure'

25/06/2022 at 10.00

Lethal or life-giving? Wolfson's exciting contemporary art exhibition explores the potential of animals, plants, and substances from the natural world to ‘Kill’ and/or ‘Cure’ (open to the public, Saturday and Sundays, 10am - 5pm).

special study week lunch

Special Study Week

31/07/2022 at 16.00

A unique opportunity for part-time students to study, relax and enjoy the benefits of Cambridge.

Writing in notebook

Working on Your Dissertation

13/08/2022 at 10.00

This workshop will cover several aspects of formatting and proofreading a dissertation.


Graduation Ceremony

10/09/2022 at 09.00

Graduation ceremonies are the culmination of students’ hard work and commitment, and a moment to celebrate the completion of their Cambridge degree.

A student photgraphs their friend at graduation

Oxford and Cambridge Mature Student Virtual Open Day

17/09/2022 at 12.00

Oxford and Cambridge will be teaming up to host a virtual event for mature students who are interested in applying to either Oxford or Cambridge.