The Royal Society announces election of new Fellows 2021

Cambridge scientists are among the new Fellows announced today by the Royal Society.

Over 60 outstanding scientists from all over the globe have joined the Royal Society as Fellows and Foreign Members. The distinguished group of scientists consists of 52 Fellows, 10 Foreign Members and one Honorary Fellow and were all selected for their exceptional contributions to science.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Its Foreign Members are drawn from the rest of the world.

The Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

“The global pandemic has demonstrated the continuing importance of scientific thinking and collaboration across borders,” said President of the Royal Society, Sir Adrian Smith.

“Each Fellow and Foreign Member bring their area of scientific expertise to the Royal Society and when combined, this expertise supports the use of science for the benefit of humanity.

“Our new Fellows and Foreign Members are all at the forefronts of their fields from molecular genetics and cancer research to tropical open ecosystems and radar technology. It is an absolute pleasure and honour to have them join us.”

University of Cambridge:

Professor Julie Ahringer FMedSci FRS

Director and a Senior Group Leader of the Gurdon Institute

Professor Ahringer has made wide-ranging contributions to molecular genetics through her work on the nematode C. elegans. She carried out the first systematic inactivation of all the genes in any animal, which pioneered genome-wide reverse genetic screening.

Her research has illuminated our understanding of the processes underlying cell polarity and gene expression. This includes showing that spindle positioning is controlled by heterotrimeric G protein signalling, discovering a connection between chromatin marking and mRNA splicing, and most recently revealing mechanisms and principles of genome organisation and gene expression regulation.

“I am honoured to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society,” said Ahringer. “Much of science today is done in teams, and this reflects the tremendous contributions of my past and present lab members.”

Professor Sadaf Farooqi FRCP FMedSci FRS

Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Metabolism and Medicine, Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science

Professor Farooqi is distinguished for her discoveries of fundamental mechanisms that control human energy homeostasis and their disruption in obesity. Farooqi discovered that the leptin-melanocortin system regulates appetite and weight in people and that genetic mutations affecting this pathway cause severe obesity. Findings by her team have directly led to diagnostic testing for genetic obesity syndromes world-wide and enabled life-saving treatment for some people with severe obesity.

Farooqi said: “As a clinician scientist, I am absolutely delighted to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. This prestigious honour recognises the work of many team members past and present, our network of collaborators across the world and the patients and their families who have contributed to our research.”

Professor Usha Goswami CBE FBA FRS

Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, and Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education

Professor Goswami has pioneered the application of neuroscience to education. Her research investigates the sensory and neural basis of childhood disorders of language and literacy, which are heritable and found across languages. Goswami’s research shows a shared sensory and neural basis in auditory rhythmic processing. The acoustic ‘landmarks’ for speech rhythm provide automatic triggers for aligning speech rhythms and brain rhythms, and Goswami has shown that this automatic process can be disrupted, thereby disrupting speech encoding for these children.

“It is a huge honour to be elected to the Royal Society and a wonderful acknowledgement of our research in the Centre for Neuroscience in Education,” said Goswami. “I have been interested in children’s reading and language development since training as a primary school teacher, and we have used neuroscientific insights to understand the mechanisms underpinning developmental language disorders. It is fantastically rewarding for our work to be recognised in this way.”

Professor Rebecca Kilner FRS

Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Director of the University Museum of Zoology

Professor Kilner researches the evolution of animal behaviour, and how this behaviour then affects the pace and scope of subsequent evolutionary change. Using experimental evolution, her current work investigates how quickly populations can adapt when environmental conditions change.

Kilner discovered novel ways in which social behaviour drives evolutionary change. She used elegant cross-fostering experiments in birds and insects to expose how family members exert selection on each other, and discovered hidden evolutionary conflicts between parents and their offspring, and among adults caring together for offspring.

Kilner said: “I’m astonished, honoured and delighted to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. This honour is shared with everyone I have ever worked with. Science is a team effort and I’ve been incredibly lucky to collaborate with brilliant colleagues throughout my career.”

Professor David Rowitch FMedSci FRS

Professor and Head of the Department of Paediatrics, Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator

Professor Rowitch’s basic and translational research on glial cells, comprising 90% of cells in the human brain, has been transformative. Rowitch’s established how embryonic central nervous patterning specifies myelinating oligodendrocytes through essential functions of Olig2, a study that helped initiate genetic methodologies in glial biology, and how astrocyte functional diversification is critical for support of neural circuits in the spinal cord. He has applied a developmental neuroscience perspective to better understand human neonatal brain development and white matter injury in premature infants, multiple sclerosis and leukodystrophy.

Rowitch said: “It is a great honour to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, joining many of my esteemed Cambridge, and other scientific, colleagues.”

Professor Richard Samworth FRS

Professor of Statistical Science and Director of the Statistical Laboratory

Professor Samworth has made fundamental contributions to the development of modern statistical methodology and theory. His research concerns the development of statistical methods and theory to address contemporary data challenges, often posed by the large volumes of data that are routinely collected in today’s Big Data era.

“I was incredibly honoured when I found out I’d been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society,” said Samworth. “It’s a real thrill to become a small part of such a respected institution.”

Professor Benjamin Simons FRS

Royal Society EP Abraham Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Senior Group Leader of the Gurdon Institute

As a theorist, Professor Simons has contributed to a diverse range of fields, from quantum condensed matter physics to developmental and cancer biology. His research translates concepts and approaches from statistical physics to gain predictive insights in the collective dynamics of complex systems. In biology, his studies have revealed common mechanisms of stem cell regulation, and how these programmes become subverted during the early phase of tumour growth.

Simons said: “I am delighted to be elected to the Fellowship. I hope that my election may serve to emphasise the value of multidisciplinary research that stands at the interface between physics and the life sciences.”

Wellcome Sanger Institute:

Dr Peter Campbell FMedSci FRS, Head, Cancer, Ageing, and Somatic Mutations Programme, Wellcome Sanger Institute (and Wellcome-MRC Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge).

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology:

Dr Christopher Tate FRS, MRC Investigator, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

British Antarctic Survey:

Professor Dame Jane Francis DCMG FRS, Director, British Antarctic Survey

Professor Richard Horne FRS, Head, Space Weather and Atmosphere, British Antarctic Survey

 

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