School Prizes presented at Review of the Year 2019

Published on 15 January 2020

Review of the Year 2019 took place today with the Dean, Julian Blow sharing the highlights of activity within the School from 2019. The presentation closed with the annual School prizes presentation.

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Here are the winners:

Innovator of the Year

Innovator of the Year is for any member or team within SLS that demonstrably achieved scientific, technical or commercial innovation that came to fruition in 2019.

Best Innovation was awarded to the Innovative Targets Group in the Drug Discovery Unit. In 2019 the have created 3 distinct projects with pharmaceutical companies (Takeda for Alzheimer’s treatment development, Bukwang for Parkinson’s and Corbin Therapeutics for neuroinflammation). These projects have a combined potential value of ~£46 million with additional royalties. This is the work of a small team of ~12 cross-disciplinary scientists working closely together using a range of experimental techniques. The judging panel noted, "It is often taken for granted just how innovative the DDU is and the Innovative Targets Group is a good example of this. Combining industry standards with a collaborative academic environment, they have targeted rare and orphan diseases, bringing in £10s millions to the University and enhancing our reputation world-wide. Their process approach is unique and it is this which wins them the innovator of the year."

Early-stage new business idea to David Martin. For a prototype platform that allows lecturers to assess group understanding of the lecture content in real time. The panel felt this innovation promises to radically change the way we engage with students in lectures and significantly improve the teaching environment. The panel also felt that there was significant potential for commercialisation once further development has been undertaken. The market for this innovation is enormous and worldwide.

Howard Elder Prize

Howard Elder Prize is for a postgraduate student or postdoctoral researcher deemed to have published the most significant paper in an area related to cancer research. The award went to Luke Fulcher from Gopal Sapkota's lab in the MRCPPU for his work published in EMBO Reports, ‘FAM83D directs protein kinase CK1α to the mitotic spindle for proper spindle positioning’.  

The judges congratulated Luke on his elegant study and the systematic way he approached the function of FAM38D to uncover and define the critical role of CK1α in spindle positioning during cell division.

Molecular and Cellular Biology Prize

Molecular and Cellular Biology Prize is for a postgraduate student or postdoctoral researcher to recognise excellence in basic research. The award went to Joana Faria from David Horn's lab in the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research. It was in recognition for her exciting work on the mechanism of exclusive expression of a single active variant surface glycoprotein (VSG), which is a key requirement in antigenic variation used as an immune evasion strategy by the pathogens Plasmodium falciparum and Trypanosoma brucei. This work was preceded by earlier work on VSG exclusion 2 (Vex2), the first protein to directly activate a single allele of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) through VSG exclusion. The work made effective use of a wide ranging combination of state of the art molecular genetic and cell biological techniques to obtain new mechanistic insights in a key immune evasion strategy. 

Brian Cox Prize for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research 

Engaged Researcher of the Year went to Miratul Muqit from the MRCPPU and collaborator, artist Daksha Patel for the interconnected art/science projects “Rhythmic Marks” and “Misprints”. Rhythmic Marks was an artist workshop with a small group of people with Parkinson’s, aimed at supporting their creative self-expression using materials and art processes specifically designed for people with impaired fine motor skills. The panel were impressed with the involvement of Parkinson's patients and their positive response to the activities. Misprints involved an artist residency for Daksha in Miratul’s lab which allowed her to generate artworks inspired by her time in the MRCPPU. An interactive exhibition and event in which research scientists engaged in dialogue with the general public about Parkinson’s research was facilitated by those artworks.

Project of the Year was jointly won by the "Medicine Maker Badge" team in the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research led by Fiona Bellany and the "Jalview Educational Resources" team in the Barton lab in Computational Biology led by Suzanne Duce. For the Medicine Maker Badge, the panel were impressed with the fact that the team had been working with the girlguiding groups to develop these activities and the badge to ensure that the outcomes are what was wanted. For the Jalview Educational Resources team, the panel were impressed with scale and range of activities that have been undertaken and the interactive nature of the resources that have been produced.

People’s Award

The People’s Award is for positive contributions to School culture. There were three winners:

- Stores team (Michael Hannan, Gary Anderson, Andrew Pryde, Gordon Bain, George Michie, Doug Robertson): “In recognition of dedication to the School”

- PhD Admin team (Gail Guild, Nikki Wilson, Lesley Coats, Louise Stanley): “For going above and beyond in supporting research students”

- Helge Dorfmueller: “For leading change to increase flexibility and fairness in parental leave policy”

PiCLS Best Mentor Award

New for this year, the PiCLS Best Mentor Award to recognise a person who has proven to be great mentor to a postgraduate student. The winner was Helge Dorfmueller, a Principal Investigator in Molecular Microbiology. An Honourable Mention was also given to Monika Zwirek, a Senior Scientist in the MRCPPU.