Leading scientists awarded Royal Society Research Professorships

27 March 2018

Six world class scientists have been awarded Royal Society Research Professorships.

These prestigious posts will provide long-term support for internationally recognised scientists of exceptional accomplishments from a range of diverse areas including biochemistry, genetics, mathematics, chemistry, developmental biology and physics.

The Royal Society Research Professorships are the Society’s premier research awards and help release the best leading researchers from teaching and administration to allow them to focus on research.

The full list of 2018 Royal Society Research Professorship appointments is as follows: 

Professor Caroline Dean DBE FRS, John Innes Centre

Professor Dean’s research focuses on the genetic controls used by plants to judge when to flower. She is specifically interested in vernalisation — the acceleration of flowering by exposure to periods of prolonged cold.

Her work aims to define the core molecular event underpinning an epigenetic switch. A well characterized plant gene system, where switching is triggered by cold, will be exploited. Through combination of molecular, biophysical, structural and computational approaches, this work will provide mechanistic insight relevant for gene regulation in many organisms.

Professor Manuel del Pino, Universidad de Chile, Chile (award will be held at University of Bath)

Manuel del Pino has made significant contributions to the theory of asymptotic patterns in nonlinear partial differential equations. He is a member of the Chilean Academy of Science (2010) and was awarded Chile’s National Prize of Science (2013).

Professor del Pino will use the Professorship to investigate how and when singularities occur in natural phenomena. His research can help us understand climate change, the spread of a tumour or black holes. Singularities occur in a number of fundamental scientific problems and their analysis is a fascinating mathematical challenge.

Professor Clare Grey FRS, University of Cambridge

Professor Grey is a chemist and expert in the application to materials of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), a physical phenomenon that allows observations of atomic nuclei. In particular, she uses NMR to study rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (LIB) and their potential for use in energy storage applications that benefit the environment.

Clare Grey will use the Royal Society professorship to improve our understanding of the chemical processes that underlie battery degradation, developing new approaches to monitor the chemical state-of-health of the batteries and to detect failure modes before they occur. The work will contribute to the development of longer-lasting, cheaper and safer rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and storage on the electricity grid.

Professor Nicholas Higham FRS, University of Manchester

Nick Higham is a mathematician working in the field of numerical linear algebra. He is renowned for his studies on the accuracy and stability of numerical algorithms. His work is fundamental to the success of very large matrix computations and has strongly influenced the development of widely used software, including MATLAB and LAPACK.

Professor Higham’s research will develop a new generation of numerical linear algebra algorithms that exploit evolving computer architectures.  The problems treated are the innermost kernels in many scientific and engineering applications, so the algorithms will be designed to be fast and numerically reliable even for the largest and most difficult problems.

Dr Gavin Salam FRS, CERN, Switzerland (award will be held at University of Oxford)

Dr Salam is a theoretical particle physicist, whose main research focus is on the strong force (Quantum Chromodynamics). He is interested in the ways in which it can be exploited to cast light on the other fundamental particle interactions, notably the sector associated with the Higgs boson, and also how it can be harnessed to search for possible new particles. 

To study the Higgs boson and other elementary particles, physicists collect vast amounts of data from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Interpreting the data often requires comparisons to simulated collisions. Dr Salam’s aim is to rethink the theoretical foundations of those simulations, furthering our ability to establish the fundamental laws of physics.

Professor Benjamin Simons, University of Cambridge (received the Royal Society EP Abraham Research Professorship).

Benjamin Simons has developed theoretical approaches to study quantum coherence phenomena in superconductors, disordered compounds, coupled matter-light systems and ultracold atomic gases. In biology, he has pioneered the application of quantitative methods to reveal common strategies of stem and progenitor cell fate in normal and cancerous tissues.

Professor Simons studies how principles of self-organization and emergence provide predictive insights into cellular mechanisms of tissue development, and how these programmes become subverted during the transition to diseased states. In a multidisciplinary approach, his lab applies concepts and methods from statistical theory to uncover conserved patterns of cell fate.

Five of the Royal Society Research Professorships are generously supported with the kind support of the Government’s Research Talent investment programme, and one through E P Abraham Cephalosporin Research Fund.