Richard Henderson gives Peter Garland Named Lecture with Peter in attendance

Published on 17 October 2018

Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist Dr Richard Henderson gave the Peter Garland Lecture, the 15th Nobel Laureate to do so.

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Dr Henderson was awarded his Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution" in 2017. He continues his research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and gave his lecture on "The increasing power of electron cryomicroscopy". There was standing room only in the lecture theatre as the attendees listened to Dr Henderson describe some of his recent results and discuss the remaining barriers to progress. "CryoEM is already a very powerful method, but there are still many improvements that can be made before the approach reaches its theoretical limits," said Dr Henderson.

Also in attendance was Peter Garland himself. The School was delighted to welcome back the University's first Professor of Biochemistry. He visited the department and colleagues who he helped bring together more than 40 years ago. Peter Garland who joined the University in 1970, said he was delighted to return and show off his legacy to his children, Joanna and Jim. Under Peter’s leadership from 1970 to 1984, the biochemistry department, now the School of Life Sciences, became one of the strongest in the UK.

Peter, now nearly 85 years old, said that it was only by employing the best researchers that optimum results would be achieved. One of his first appointments was Professor Sir Philip Cohen in 1971, who would go on to continue Peter’s ‘people first’ approach, the success of which is still evident today. In the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality in UK, the Research Excellence Framework 2014 – Dundee was ranked the top University in Biological Sciences. Peter was accompanied by his children, Joanna and Jim. They toured the School of Life Sciences before attending the annual Peter Garland Lecture, set up in 1985 to honour his impact in Dundee. Peter said, “I’m very happy to be here amongst old friends. All of the changes I’ve seen here and in the city have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s fantastic to see Dundee flourish.”

Sir Philip, who was recently awarded over £4M in research grants which will take him to more than 50 years of continuous research funding at Dundee. He said it was because of Peter Garland that he and several others come to Dundee in the 1970’s. He said that Peter had been immensely supportive in the early days when there was little money available to do research and that Peter managed to find the money needed to keep his research team going when it looked like it might have to fold. He said, “We are delighted to welcome back Peter to the University today. His impact is still felt to this day in the School of Life Sciences. His vision for making Dundee a pioneering institution in biochemistry was pivotal in our ground-breaking research over the last five decades.”

Peter Garland also had lunch and discussions with Professor David Lilley and Professor Grahame Hardie, whom he recruited nearly 40 years ago and who still run vibrant research groups in Dundee.  They and Sir Philip are world-leaders in their respective research fields, which has been recognized by their election as Fellows of the Royal Society.

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