Old Boys' News -

We are very pleased to announce and warmly congratulate two Old Boys on their recent appointments to Professorships:


Robert 'Bobby' McFarland has recently been appointed Professor of Paediatric Mitochondrial Medicine at the University of Newcastle.

Professor Bobby McFarland

Professor Bobby McFarland

‘Bobby’ McFarland, a former Head  Boy, left the Academy in 1987 to read Medicine at Oxford. After graduation, he spent three years studying clinical medicine at King’s College Hospital in London, qualifying in 1993. He then undertook a further three years of paediatric training in London and in Newcastle and began his PhD in 2000 on a Wellcome Trust Clinical Scientist Fellowship. This was followed by a Medical Research Council Scientist Fellowship which led to his appointment as Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant Paediatric Neurologist to Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Professor McFarland’s research aim is to understand the processes that cause mitochondrial disease in children.

Mitochondria are responsible for producing energy in cells – thus enabling them to function in the organs and tissues of the body. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from one’s mother, and disease is caused by gene mutation, acquired or inherited. Mitochondrial disease causes the cells to cease functioning or to do so imperfectly. The commonest parts of the body affected are those which have the highest energy needs, such as the brain, the liver or the kidneys.

Professor McFarland leads the Newcastle paediatric mitochondrial disease service. His research is focused on understanding the processes that cause mitochondrial disease including the identification of mitochondrial and nuclear genetic defects. This work will hopefully enable the development of treatments. Mitochondrial disease, for which there is no cure at the moment, was given particular prominence recently as a result of media sensationalism with respect to what was described as ‘three-parent babies’, that is, in attempts to prevent mitochondrial disease, in vitro fertilisation was undertaken as a result of which an unborn baby’s mitochondrial DNA came from a third party." Prof McFarland, together with colleagues in Newcastle, now runs the only regulated service in the world offering this technique for women affected by mitochondrial DNA disease.

Further information about Bobby's work can be found here:


PROFESSOR MICHAEL SEMPLE BA (Sussex) MPhil (Oxon) DUniv (hc) (Sussex)

Michael Semple has been appointed a Professor at QUB.

Professor Michael Semple

Professor Michael Semple

The University press release states:

"QUB – Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences - New Practitioner Chair at the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, focusing on the intersections between practice and the academy, enhancing engagement with non-academic practitioners and leading on knowledge transfer on conflict-related research. Michael Semple researches the Afghan Taliban Movement and the challenges of peace-making involving Islamist militant groups.  He has contributed internationally to policy-making in this field. In his new role he will help to strengthen the Institute’s links with conflict transformation practitioners and to build its global impact."

An update on Michael's career was published in the The Owl of Christmas 2014:

"Michael left BRA in 1979 and after graduation from Sussex and Oxford universities, he accepted a posting with Oxfam. Shortly afterwards he became a political officer with the United Nations in Afghanistan, and successively, an adviser on human rights to the British government and to the European Union. In all, he has lived and worked in Asia for over twenty years and is acknowledged to be one of the most experienced and knowledgeable western officials to have worked in Afghanistan.

In a much-praised memoir of his time in Afghanistan, Cables from Kabul, Britain’s former ambassador to the country, Sherard Cowper-Coles, writes with particular regard of Michael Semple’s commitment to securing a lasting settlement for the people of the country.

Michael has been a visiting professor at Harvard University, and he currently holds a similar position at Queen’s. A familiar face on television news programmes, he has also published a number of scholarly works on a part of the world which is known to most of us only in terms of war and tragedy. His wife and their two children live in Dublin."