Imperial College London

The ten most popular Imperial news stories of 2021


Person in protective clothing works in nuclear chamber

Well into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic Imperial research continues to save lives and generate headlines around the world.

Eight of the most read Imperial news stories in 2021 feature work undertaken by Imperial’s scientists linked to the pandemic. An elusive owl and an exciting breakthrough in nuclear fusion make up the top ten. 

We look back at the most popular stories on the Imperial news site in 2021. 

10.  Potential link between menstrual changes and COVID-19 jab should be investigated

Sanitary products and calendar with red crosses on it

A BMJ editorial by Dr Victoria Male from the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction argues a link between menstrual changes and COVID-19 vaccination is plausible and should be investigated. 

9. COVID vaccines effective but household transmission of delta a risk for 1 in 4

Elderley woman in mask sits in bed.  Man in mask gives her medication.Imperial research on COVID-19 transmission between household contacts found that fully vaccinated people can contract and pass on COVID-19 in the home, but at lower rates than unvaccinated people. 

8. Long COVID: Unpicking the lasting impact of COVID-19

Greyscale illustration of mixed race people wearing blue medical masksIn July Professor Danny Altman of the Department of Immunology and Inflammation was interviewed about long COVID and how a new Imperial research project was entering uncharted territory.  

7. COVID-19 vaccine response blunted by common inflammatory bowel disease treatment

Medic prepares to inject woman in the armIn April people who take a commonly-prescribed drug for inflammatory bowel disease were warned not assume they are protected after a first dose of vaccine. 

6. Almost all double vaccinated people in England have antibodies to coronavirus

Contents of COVID-19 antibody test laid out  including swab, cotton wool and boxA major coronavirus antibody surveillance survey showed the impact of England’s vaccination programme on antibodies in the population after tests on more than 207,000 adults. 

5. Major nuclear fusion milestone reached as ‘ignition’ triggered in a lab

People wearing protective clothing working in large chamberIn August, a new experiment appeared to trigger ignition for the first time, recreating the extreme temperatures and pressures found at the heart of the sun. Ignition amplifies the energy output from nuclear fusion and could provide clean energy and answer big physics questions. 

Read what BBC News said about the breakthrough. 

4. Latest models suggest smaller third wave in late summer but variant risks remain

Woman wearing medical mask walks down London streetModelling done by Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Team in May looked at stage three and four of England’s roadmap out of lockdown. It found that if the roadmap was followed England could expect a smaller third wave in late summer or autumn, but that risks of new variants of concern remained. 

3. COVID-19 antibodies persist at least nine months after infection

Medic in protective clothing holds childs armResearchers from Imperial and the University of Padua tested more than 85% of residents of an Italian town to show that antibody levels remain high nine months after SARS-CoV-2 infection, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. 

Read what Sky News said about the study. 

2. Owl unseen for 150 years photographed in the wild for the first time

Owl sits on tree branch facing cameraIn October, two British scientists made the first confirmed sighting of a Shelley’s Eagle Owl in the wild for 150 years. Dr Joseph Tobias, from the Department of Life Sciences and Dr Robert Williams, a freelance ecologist, spotted the owl in the Ghanaian rainforest. 

Read what Newsweek said about the sighting. 

1. Coronavirus infections three times lower in double vaccinated people - REACT

Medic in protective clothing injects patientResearch that showed double vaccinated people were three times less likely than unvaccinated people to test positive for coronavirus was the year’s most popular story. The results from Imperial’s REACT study received twice as many views as the second most read story. 

Read what ITV News said about the findings. 


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Sarah Saxton

Sarah Saxton
Communications Division


Nature, Vaccines, Coronavirus, Accelerator-physics, Nuclear-energy
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