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Four Cambridge Neuroscientists elected as Fellows of the Royal Society

Congratulations go to Andrea Brand, Nicky Clayton, Roger Hardie and Michael Hastings for their election to the Royal Society, on the 20th May, 2010, in recognition for their scientific excellence and contributions to society.

Andrea, Nicky, Roger and Michael join this prestigious Fellowship consisting of the most distinguished scientists from the United Kingdom, other Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland.

In total, for 2010, the Royal Society elected 44 new Fellows (including eight in total from Cambridge), 8 Foreign Members and 1 Honorary Fellow.

Professor Ray Dolan (University College London) and Professor Robin Murray (Kings College London) were the other neuroscientists elected to the Fellowship for 2010.

Following this 2010 election the Royal Society Fellowship now comprises more than 30 Cambridge Neuroscientists including last year's Cambridge Neuroscience recipients of the Award: Christine Holt, David Mackay, Wolfram Schultz and Karen Steel.

Andrea Brand (pictured left) is the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Biology at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute and Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge. Andrea is distinguished for her pioneering work on the development of the nervous system. Using Drosophila as a model organism, and employing the most sophisticated and innovative live imaging techniques, she has explained how cell fate determinants become localised to one side of a cell, allowing neural precursors to divide asymmetrically in a stem cell-like fashion. In earlier work Andrea characterised the first transcriptional silencer and originated the GAL4 system for targeted gene expression during development. The GAL4 system has been adapted for use in many other model organisms; it has had a major influence on developmental biology.

Nicky Clayton (pictured right enjoying her hobby dancing) is Professor of Comparative Cognition at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge. Nicky has made three major empirical contributions to the study of animal cognition. She has pioneered new procedures for the experimental study of memory, planning and social cognition in animals, all attributes that have been claimed to be uniquely human, and this work has been a tour de force in expanding our appreciation of animal intelligence and its relationship to human memory and cognition. Her research has resulted in a re-evaluation of the cognitive capacities of animals, particularly birds, which led her to develop a theory that intelligence evolved independently in the apes and the corvids. Her work has not only been a major influence in shaping the contemporary study of comparative cognition but has also had an important impact in two other fields, the neurobiology of memory and the study of cognitive development.

Nicky exclaimed, on hearing the news:

"I am over the moon. It's my dream come true!"

Before commenting:

"One of the many benefits of Cambridge is that the university actively fosters intellectual curiosity and creativity, "thinking outside the box" so to speak. I feel very privileged to have worked in such a productive setting for the past ten years".

Roger Hardie (pictured left) is Professor of Cellular Neuroscience at the Department of Physiology Development and Neuroscience, Cambridge University. Roger is distinguished for his versatile and extensive studies on invertebrate visual transduction, which have transformed our wider understanding of cell signalling. In particular, his demonstration that the Drosophila trp and trpl genes code for selective calcium channels was the seminal observation that launched the TRP channel field, now a major part of calcium signalling and a focus of medical research. His subsequent investigations using these prototypical dTRP channels have been marked by elegant technological innovations, leading to groundbreaking and novel insights into the complex regulation of this class of channels by calcium and by lipid messengers.

Michael Hastings (pictured right), Staff Scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge is distinguished for his highly influential contributions to the understanding of biological clocks through the study of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. He was instrumental in taking circadian neurobiology to the molecular and cell biological level. Hastings extended to mammals the clock model based on transcriptional negative feedback loops and identified important differences with the original Drosophila model. He unravelled the powerful influence of the SCN on the mammalian transcriptome and established it relevance for medicine. In pioneering studies, Hastings discovered the importance of intercellular signalling for intracellular clock function, defining the SCN as neuronal circuit.

Michael commented on receiving the news:

"Naturally, I'm delighted, overwhelmed and not a little humbled by it.  I was certainly fortunate to be in a relatively new field (circadian clocks) that really took off with the new tools provided by molecular neurobiology.  One of the challenges now is to translate this new biological knowledge about clocks into something helpful for people's physical and mental health."

For further details on the other recipients of this prestigious Award and information regarding the Royal Society please click here.

Posted on 21/05/2010

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