Royal Society Research Professorships awarded to leading scientists

06 September 2016

Six world class scientists have been awarded Royal Society Research Professorships. These prestigious posts usually run for up to 10 years and provide long-term support for internationally recognised scientists of exceptional accomplishments from a range of diverse areas including biochemistry, genetics, chemistry, developmental biology and physics.

Commenting on the appointments, John Skehel, Biological secretary and a Vice President of the Royal Society, said:

“The scientists awarded the 2016 Research Professorships are amongst the world’s most distinguished. All six have already made outstanding contributions to science and society and we hope that the professorships will support their current projects, as well as opening up new opportunities to enable them to continue their exceptional work.”   

The full list of 2016 Royal Society Research Professorship appointments is as follows:  

Professor Stephen Barnett FRS FRSE, University of Glasgow (received the Royal Society Research Professorship). Professor Stephen Barnett has made significant contributions to theoretical quantum optics, electrodynamics and was a pioneer of the study of optical angular momentum. He is well known for his solution, with David Pegg, of the longstanding problem of identification of the Hermitian operator that represents the phase of the electromagnetic field, now known as the Pegg–Barnett phase operator.

Professor Barnett also developed the first formalism for the field quantisation in dispersive and lossy dielectrics, with subsequent applications to the spontaneous emission by an embedded atom and the propagation of light through attenuating and amplifying media. This led, in particular, to his resolution of the century-old Abraham–Minkowski dilemma of the nature of optical momentum in a medium. He is currently working on applying these ideas to chiral chemistry. 

Professor Andrea Brand FMedSci FRS, University of Cambridge (received the Royal Society Darwin Professorship). Professor Brand’s research focuses on development of the nervous system, identifying the genes that direct the specific behaviours of cells in the brain. Her main interest is on how the environment influences neural stem cell behaviour, and how nutrition regulates neural stem cell dormancy and growth.

Discovering treatments that can stimulate the survival and rapid reproduction of internal neural stem cells could have the potential to be used as therapies for disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and strokes. 

Professor David Leigh FRSE FRSC FRS, University of Manchester (received the Royal Society Research Professorship). Professor Leigh is one of the world’s leading supramolecular chemists and a pioneer of synthetic molecular machine systems. His work is directed towards the invention of artificial molecular machines and is at the forefront of small-molecule robotics, an important step towards the goal of a useful working molecular nanotechnology.

Professor Gideon Davies FMedSCi FRS, University of York (received the Royal Society Ken Murray Research Professorship). Professor Davies has made discoveries relating to the role of specific parts of an enzyme’s structure in the catalysis of carbohydrate synthesis, modification and breakdown reactions. His insights mean that molecules can be designed to mimic or interfere with these reactions – offering potential new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Professor David Klenerman FMedSCi FRS
, University of Cambridge (received the Royal Society GSK Research Professorship). Professor David Klenermanis known for co-inventing Illumina sequencing (a high-speed DNA sequencing method). His research is focused on developing and applying new biophysical methods, based on laser fluorescence spectroscopy and scanning probe microscopy. Professor Klenerman has developed techniques to image individual protein complexes on the surface of living cells to follow the processes occurring as the adaptive immune response is triggered. These methods are now being used to study neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Professor Charles Swanton FRCP FMedSci, University College London (received the Royal Society Napier Research Professorship). Professor Charles Swanton is a world renowned expert in cancer evolution who specialises in addressing the causes and consequences of tumour evolution, with a focus on lung cancer. Professor Swanton is also the lead investigator on TRACERx (Tracking Cancer Evolution through Treatment (Rx), a project focusing on non-small cell lung cancer and how it changes over time and through it’s course of treatment. The results of the clinical study are set to revolutionise the current understanding and treatments of lung cancer. 

For more information on Royal Society Research Professorships visit our grants pages.