School Prizes presented at Review of the Year 2022

Published on 6 February 2023

Review of the Year 20212 took place last week with the Dean, Julian Blow sharing the highlights of activity within the School from 2022.

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The Review included the presentation of the 5-year plan for the School that was recently approved by University Executive Group and the annual School prizes. Here are the winners:

People’s Award

The People’s Award is for positive contributions to School culture.

Individual Award had two winners:

  • Louise Fraser (Reception): An exceptional ambassador for the School and wider University. “Louise’s outstanding personal qualities and experience enables her to deal with the busy, often challenging, demands of a reception that serves ~700 members of staff, students and visitors on a daily basis. Her active signposting and her willingness to help has a hugely positive impact.”
  • Heather Duncan (Admissions, External Relations): Positively impacting our international students and exceptional collaborative working by “…always going above and beyond to help out with admissions queries and solving students’ problems.”

An honourable mention went to Elisa Garcia-Wilson for contributions towards more sustainable research.

Team Award went to the Assess Team in CTIL for outstanding contributions, adaptability and resilience in delivering examinations (both remotely and in-person). “They have worked tirelessly to ensure that our exams are rigorous, well organized and fully supported despite the many obstacles they have faced. The team has shown incredible adaptability and resilience, quickly pivoting to new technologies and processes to support remote exams, and then transitioning smoothly back to in-person exams when the time came.”

PiCLS Best Mentor Award

The PiCLS Best Mentor Award is presented to recognise a person who has proven to be great mentor to a postgraduate student. The Best Mentor was Doreen Cantrell from the division of Cell Signalling and Immunology. Mark Reglinski, a postdoctoral researcher, was named Best Postdoc Mentor.

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 2022. It has two categories, Best Innovation and Best Early-Stage Business Idea.

Best Innovation was awarded to a team comprising of Simone Altmann, Sandra Carvalho, Melanie Ridgway, Anna Trenaman, Michele Tinti, Susan Wyllie and David Horn for parasite gene-editing technology for profiling drug-resistance mutations. "The panel were unanimous in its praise for this impactful innovation that has the potential to accelerate drug development in neglected disease areas. A great example of the impact of team science in DDU."

Two runners-up were named in the Best Innovation category:

  • ACBI Team comprising of William Farnaby, Vesna Vetma and Ross McLennan for the discovery and launch of ACBI2, a freely available protein degradation chemical tool for probing cancer vulnerabilities.
  • Michele Tinti for a new Neural Network for DNA analysis

Best Early-Stage Business Idea was won by Toan Phung (with significant contribution from Raja Nurijogi and team Alessi) for Curtain, a web-based tool, for data visualization and exploration of mass spectrometry-based proteomics. "The panel felt that this was a great innovation with potential for commercialisation via software as a service model and further with Curtains integration into Celsus. It is clear that Toan has the ability to develop many different user enabling solutions and should be encouraged to develop his entrepreneurial ambitions."

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 winner was Thomas Williams, a postdoc in Adrien Rousseau’s lab in the MRC-PPU. It was for work presented in the paper 'Actin remodelling controls proteasome homeostasis upon stress' that was published in Nature Cell Biology. The judging panel stated that they “were impressed by this work and were particularly drawn to the diverse toolkit of molecular and cellular techniques (including genetic screening and super high-resolution microscopy) that Tom used to uncover this fundamental stress response pathway, which has implications for manipulation of cell survival during stress, including in cancer and inflammation."

Brian Cox Prize for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research

Engaged Researcher of the Year was awarded to Thomas Williams. This was in recognition of his development of a suite of games to explain cell biology to children which introduce the basics of cell survival and the cell life cycle. He has introduced these activities to members of the public on several occasions, with great responses. All resources are freely available online.

Project of the Year was awarded to the DNA Daffodil Team. This is a partnership project between the divisions of plant sciences, computational biology in Life Sciences, education and social work, the University Botanic Garden and the James Hutton Institute.  The project aims to bring DNA sequencing technology (and with it all the background to understand cell biology and genetics) to the classroom. Students and teachers get an insight into scientific research and its implications covering all stages of a scientific project, from data acquisition to publishing findings. The judging panel stated it was “an excellent example of a collaboration between schools, teachers, and researchers based in the School of Life Sciences, James Hutton Institute, the Botanic Gardens, and external bodies including National Trust for Scotland.”

Two other projects were also acknowledged in the category with a highly commended:

  • WCAIR Medicinal Garden. The panel particularly appreciated the plans to help develop similar green space developments across the city and the broad outreach that this project has with different communities. This initiative clearly helps integrate the School of Life Sciences into the community and enhances our overall engagement with the public.
  • Parkinson’s Patient Public Involvement led by the MRC-PPU. The judging panel said, "The project is an excellent example of a team of national and international collaborators working to increase the understanding of Parkinson’s disease and related latest scientific research in a manner that involves a constant discussion between scientists and people who have a link with Parkinson’s disease."