Neurobiologist wins Royal Society award to promote women in science

20 July 2006

Dr Andrea Brand from the University of Cambridge has won the Royal Society's prestigious Rosalind Franklin Award, which recognises excellent scientific research and promotes women in science, engineering and technology, it was announced today  (Thursday 20 July 2006).

Dr Brand has won the award for her groundbreaking contributions to the fields of gene regulation, developmental biology, cell biology and neurobiology.  Her work studying the development of the embryonic nervous system, using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model, has led to new insights into the biology of neural stem cells, and the ability of neurons to regenerate after damage. She identified a novel role for a key regulator in cell division in controlling the strength of neuronal connections. This could help uncover new drug targets in the search for treatments for neural disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.

Professor Julia Higgins, Vice President of the Royal Society, said: "Dr Andrea Brand is an extremely talented biologist. Her work, connecting molecular genetics to the development and repair of the nervous system, has been of a consistently high standard and is directly relevant to tackling human disease."

Dr Brand is the Director of Research in Developmental Neurobiology at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute and the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at Cambridge University.

As the 2006 winner of the Rosalind Franklin award, Dr Brand will receive a medal and an award of £30,000 and will also undertake a project to raise the profile of women in science. Dr Brand plans to organise two lecture series featuring prominent female researchers working in cell and developmental biology one aimed at school pupils and the other at undergraduates and postgraduates. She will also deliver a lecture as part of the Society's public lecture series this will take place towards the end of 2006.

Dr Brand will also use the award to buy a laser to study how cells in the nervous system regenerate after injury.

Dr Brand said: "I am truly honoured to receive the Rosalind Franklin Award. I was inspired to become a molecular biologist at the age of 15 after reading about Rosalind Franklin's work on solving the structure of DNA. I am delighted to be part of an effort to encourage young people to learn about science. It is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate what a terrific contribution women have made, and will continue to make, to the field."

The Royal Society Rosalind Franklin award is given annually and is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry. It is made to someone in mid-career and actively involved in scientific research.

A number of other Royal Society medals were also announced today.
Three Royal Medals have been awarded by the Queen on the recommendation of the Royal Society's Council. The Royal A Medal has been awarded to Sir John Pendry FRS for, "his seminal contributions in surface sciences, disordered systems, photonics and most recently in metamaterials and the concept of the perfect lens." Sir John is from the Department of Physics at Imperial College, London. The Royal A Medal is awarded for contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge in the physical sciences.

The Royal B Medal has been awarded to Dr Tim Hunt FRS, "for discovering a key aspect of cell cycle control, the protein cyclin which is a component of cyclin dependent kinases, demonstrating his ability to grasp the significance of the result outside his immediate sphere of interest." Dr Tim Hunt   who won the 2001 Nobel prize for discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle   is from Cancer Research UK.  The Royal Medal B is awarded for contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge in the biological sciences.

The Royal C Medal has been awarded to Professor David Baulcombe FRS for, "his profoundly significant recent discoveries for not only plants but for all of biology and for medicine." Professor Baulcombe is Senior Scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory. The Royal C Medal is awarded for distinguished contributions in the applied sciences.

The Buchanan Medal has been awarded to Professor Iain MacIntyre FRS for, "his many contributions to his field, ranging from the fundamental discoveries on the cellular origin and biochemical mode of the action of calcitonin to its application in clinical practice." Professor MacIntyre is the Research Director of the William Harvey Research Institute at Barts and the London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry. The Buchanan medal is given biennially in recognition of distinguished contribution to the medical sciences.

The Darwin Medal has been awarded to Professor Nick Barton FRS for, "his major and extensive contributions to evolutionary biology, characterised by the application of sophisticated mathematical analysis but focussed on developing biological understanding rather than mathematical niceties." Professor Barton is Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at the Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology at the University of Edinburgh.  The Darwin Medal is given biennially in reward for work of acknowledged distinction in the broad area of biology in which Charles Darwin worked including evolution, population biology, organismal biology and biological diversity.

The Davy Medal has been awarded to Professor Martin Pope for, "his pioneering work in the field of molecular semiconductors which has now become a large and important area of semiconductor science and technology." Professor Pope is from the Department of Chemistry at New York University.  The Davy Medal is awarded annually for an outstandingly important recent discovery in any branch of chemistry.

The Hughes Medal has been awarded to Professor Michael Kelly FRS for, "his work in the fundamental physics of electron transport and the creation of practical electronic devices which can be deployed in advanced systems." Professor Kelly is from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.  The Hughes Medal is awarded annually in recognition of an original discovery in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism or their applications.

The Rumford Medal has been awarded to Professor Jean-Pierre Hansen FRS for, "his pioneering work on molten salts and dense plasmas that has led the way to a quantative understanding of the structure and dynamics of strongly correlated ionic liquids." Professor Hansen is Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. The Rumford Medal is awarded biennially to a scientist working in Europe in recognition of an outstandingly important recent discovery in the field of thermal or optical properties of matter.

The Sylvester Medal been awarded to Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer FRS for, "his fundamental work in arithmetic geometry and his many contributions to the theory of ordinary differential equations."
The Sylvester Medal is awarded triennially for the encouragement of mathematical research.

The following prize lectures for 2007 were also announced:

Professor Joseph Silk FRS will give the Bakerian Lecture, the Royal Society's premier lecture in the physical sciences.

Sir Aaron Klug OM FRS will give the Croonian Lecture, the Society's premier lecture in the biological sciences.

Professor Richard Fortey, FRS, President of the Geological Society, has been awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize. The prize is the UK's premier award for science communication.

Professor Marc Tessier- Lavigne FRS will give the Ferrier Lecture. The lecture is given triennially on a subject related to the advancement of natural knowledge on the structure and function of the nervous system.

Professor Dario Alessi will give the Francis Crick Lecture. The lecture is awarded to younger researchers working in any field of the biological sciences, with preference given to the general areas in which Francis Crick worked  genetics, molecular biology and neurobiology.

Dr Jeremy Butterfield from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, at the University of Cambridge will give the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture. This lecture covers the social function of science, the philosophy of science or the history of science.