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The campaign which launched on the 15th April 2024 celebrates the stories and achievements of students who were the first in their family to go to university.

Image credit: Helen Fospero

Featuring celebrity ambassadors, 100 Faces seeks to challenge the narrative that university is for a particular ‘type’ of person. 71% of first-generation UK graduates say that going to university opened doors for them. Universities totally transform lives through social and development opportunities as well as career progression. Today, more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are applying to university than ever. Universities are offering life-changing opportunities through their access schemes and funds.

Russell Foster is Head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Director of the Sir Jules Thorn Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute. He is also a Senior Fellow at Brasenose College. Prior to this, Russell was at Imperial College where he was Chair of Molecular Neuroscience within the Faculty of Medicine. His research addresses how circadian rhythms and sleep are generated and regulated and what happens when these systems fail because of societal pressures, ageing and disease. A key finding has been his discovery and characterisation of an unrecognised light-detecting system within the eye that regulates circadian rhythms and sleep and, most recently, the translation of these findings to the clinic. Russell graduated from the University of Bristol in 1980 with a BSc in Zoology. He also carried out postgraduate studies at Bristol under the supervision of Sir Brian Follett, and was awarded a PhD in 1984. Between 1984 to 1987, he worked in both Holland and Germany learning new biochemical and neuroanatomical techniques to study photoreceptors.

The experience was truly transformative. It opened-up countless opportunities, and I was liberated to follow my passion for science”. 

- Russell Foster, CBE

From 1988–1995 he was a member of the National Science Foundation Center for Biological Timing at the University of Virginia and worked closely with Michael Menaker. In 1995 he returned to the UK and established his group at Imperial College. For his discovery of non-rod, non-cone ocular photoreceptors he has been awarded multiple prizes including the Honma prize (Japan); Cogan award and the Peter C. Farrell Prize (USA); the Zoological Society Scientific & Edride-Green Medals (UK); the Holst Medal (The Netherlands); the Feldberg Prize (Germany); Sourkes Memorial Prize (Canada) and the Daylight Prize (Denmark). He is a fellow of: The Royal Society, The Academy of Medical Sciences and The Royal Society of Biology. Russell was honoured by being appointed as a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2015 for services to science.

He has done much to increase public understanding of science. He established and led for six years the Royal Society Public Engagement Committee. He was the Chair of the Cheltenham Science Festival for six years and a Trustee of the Science Museum for eight years. He is currently a member of the scientific advisory board of the Eden Project. His TED talk "Why do we sleep" has had nearly 9 million views, and he has written five popular science books, including his latest "Life Time" which reached the best-seller list in both hardback and paperback. To date, Life Time has been translated into twelve different languages.