Press Release

Dundee academics honoured by RSE

Published on 29 March 2021

University of Dundee academics leading in fields as diverse as cleft palate research, contemporary art, infectious diseases and reproductive medicine have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

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Side by side headshots of Chris Barratt and Calum Colvin

University of Dundee academics leading in fields as diverse as cleft palate research, contemporary art, infectious diseases and reproductive medicine have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

The RSE is Scotland’s national academy, focused on delivering its mission of ‘knowledge made useful’. Fellows are elected in recognition of their impact in improving the world around them.

The new Fellows from the University are:

Professor John Rowan, Vice-Principal (Research, Knowledge Exchange and Wider Impact), said, “The election of our four new RSE Fellows is recognition of their achievements in their own fields. The fact that artists, dentists and doctors are being honoured is testament to the diverse and unique university Dundee is.

“Professors Barratt, Colvin, Mossey and Nathwani have made a great impact over the years and their Fellowships are richly deserved.”

The four Dundee academics are among a new intake of 87 fellows for the RSE, joining the current roll of around 1600, representing the full range of physical and life sciences, arts, humanities, social sciences, education, professions, industry, business and public life. 

Those who are nominated, and then invited to join, have undergone rigorous assessment of their achievements, professional standing and societal contribution. Fellows, who give of their time freely, play a fundamental role in enabling the RSE to deliver its mission ‘Knowledge Made Useful’, contributing to the cultural, economic and social well-being of Scotland and the wider world.

Professor Dame Anne Glover, President of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, said, “As Scotland’s national academy we recognise excellence across a diverse range of expertise and experience, and its effect on Scottish society.

“This impact is particularly clear this year in the latest cohort of new Fellows which includes scientists who are pioneering the way we approach the coronavirus; those from the arts who have provided the rich cultural experience we have all been missing, and some who have demonstrated strong leadership in guiding their organisations and communities through this extraordinary time.

“Through uniting these great minds from different walks of life, we can discover creative solutions to some of the most complex issues that Scotland faces. A warm welcome is extended to all of our new Fellows.”

Christopher Barratt

Professor Barratt is recognised as one of the world’s foremost authorities in the field of male fertility. He is Head of the Reproductive Medicine Group at the University, and his research primarily focuses on understanding the function of the human spermatozoa and identifying the key factors in the process of sperm-egg interaction.

Professor Barratt has received multiple honours for outstanding contributions to the discipline and has helped devise a new system for the diagnosis and treatment of infertile males. He has worked on numerous World Health Organisation initiatives around the growing issue of male infertility and alongside colleagues at Dundee, he is attempting to develop a safe and effective male contraceptive pill as part of work funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“I am genuinely very excited by this honour, not just for me but also for our team as this Fellowship is a recognition of all we have achieved together over many years,” he said.

“It wasn’t an obvious vocation to spend your life studying sperm, but reproduction was what interested me the most. It fascinated me that so many millions of sperm would be produced when you only needed one to fertilise the egg. There’s a dual side to my work now – making sperm work better to aid conception and stopping them from working to take the burden of contraception off women.

“Male infertility is a substantial and growing global health issue, and we are uniquely placed to study it at Dundee thanks to the strength not only of the School of Medicine, but also our School of Life Sciences and its Drug Discovery Unit. These links have really expanded over the past few years and we are now leading on the global stage through work with the WHO and others.”

Calum Colvin

Professor Colvin is one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary artists. He is internationally renowned for challenging the boundaries of photographic media over the past four decades, while last year saw the publication of a major retrospective of his career and a prestigious exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy paying tribute to his work and influence on Scotland’s art scene.

Professor Colvin’s photographs are complex constructions composed of three-dimensional stage-sets, populated by everyday household objects and overpainted with subjects that relate to fine art, popular culture, global history, identity and ecology.

He said, “I am delighted to be awarded Fellowship to Scotland’s national academy of science and letters. It is a great honour and I am looking forward to interacting with an array of people who have done exceptional things in their fields.

“The RSE is cross-disciplinary and raises the possibility of very interesting conversations and potential collaborations with influential practitioners in science, technology, humanities, social science, business and public service.

“This echoes the synergies that I have seen emerge through Duncan of Jordanstone being part of a university with such a wide variety of disciplines and areas of expertise and the RSE is very much in this spirit. Being able to bring together disparate academics, researchers and practitioners is the great strength of organisations like this.”

Side by side headshots of Peter Mosey and Dilip Nathwani

Peter Mossey

Professor Mossey is one of the 1% most published authors worldwide on cleft lip and cleft palate. His work has helped significantly improve outcomes for people with these birth defects across the world. Research showing that up to 85% of all cleft babies born in India die within their first five years created shockwaves but also led to dramatic improvements in access to the multi-disciplinary care required by these children across low- and middle-income countries.

Professor Mossey also demonstrated that a smaller number of cleft surgery centres resulted in an improvement in patient outcomes due to surgeons acquiring greater levels of expertise. This led to the number of centres in the UK being reduced from 57 to 12 and an accompanying improvement in results. For many years Professor Mossey has also studied extensively the genetic causes of cleft lip and palate and is looking to develop screening tests and other methods to reduce the number of these defects.

“I am absolutely delighted and deeply honoured to be elected a Fellow of the RSE,” said Professor Mossey. “Clefts are a niche area and one I never imagined I would work on when I qualified as a dentist. In my specialty training post in Kirkcaldy, I was on call to produce feeding plates for babies born with a cleft palate because they are unable to feed.

“Meeting parents devastated to find out their child had been born with a birth defect had a major impact on me. They would ask “why?” and “will it happen again?” so I pledged that if I ever did a PhD it would be on the inheritability of clefts. The situation is graver in the developing world, so I am proud to have played my part in helping improve the lives of babies born with clefts.”

Dilip Nathwani

Professor Nathwani retired last year after many years of outstanding work in the field of infectious diseases and now holds the title of Honorary Emeritus Professor of Infection. He previously headed a national project to provide antimicrobial stewardship for Scotland. The impact of this work led to a significant reduction in antibiotic resistance and in mortality from C.difficile infections in Scotland.

Professor Nathwani received an OBE for services to the treatment of infectious diseases and education in 2015, and his leadership in the field of antimicrobial stewardship and disease management has been recognised internationally.

He has advised prestigious international institutions, including the World Health Organisation, where he was influential in developing antimicrobial stewardship toolkits for lower- and middle-income countries. Professor Nathwani previously served as NHS Director of Medical Education, and his passion for education continues through his involvement in several projects related to training healthcare staff.

“It is always nice to be recognised for the work you have done and, while I am planning on enjoying my retirement, there is still much I want to do,” said Professor Nathwani. “The RSE Fellowship will help me build the connections to achieve this.

“I always wanted to reach out beyond the field of infectious diseases in order to develop global resources for education, training, and e-learning. We have great plans for how learning can support great research and technology around antimicrobial resistance.

“Education is what links everything together in healthcare. No matter what drugs, tests and vaccines you develop they won’t work unless people are trained in their use. That’s what will help us fight the massive global battle against antimicrobial resistance, and that’s what continues to drive me.”

Enquiries

Grant Hill

Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768

G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk
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