Because they’re worth it
13 October 2011
Four of the UK's top female postdoctoral researchers were awarded L'Oreal-UNESCO Fellowships For Women In Science earlier this year, and all four have links to BBSRC-funded research.
Former BBSRC-funded PhD student Dr Heather Whitney is using her experience in plant biochemistry and insect behaviour to study the function of blue iridescence in plants.
Heather, who trained under Professor Johnathan Napier and Professor John Pickett CBE, FRS at the former BBSRC-sponsored Institute of Arable Crops Research to investigate insect-attracting pheromone in plants, has worked as a postdoctoral researcher on a number of multi-disciplinary research projects with BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Cambridge, including studies of the production of vitamin B5 in plants with Professor Alison Smith and Sir Tom Blundell FRS, and the behaviour of insect pollinators with Dr Beverley Glover and Professor Lars Chittka (Queen Mary, University of London).
Now based at the University of Bristol, Heather's Fellowship will allow her to look at blue iridescence found in the leaves of an evolutionarily ancient plant group called the spike mosses. If leaf iridescence is shown to enhance photosynthesis or deter herbivores, it could potentially be used to improve crops and food security.
Dr Vicky Coker from the University of Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences is part of a research team led by Professor Jonathan Lloyd that developed a simple, one-step process for the production of magnetic palladium nanoparticles for use as an environmentally friendly catalyst. Their patented method, developed with support from BBSRC, allows the precious palladium metal to be more easily recovered and reused than in conventional catalysts and could have widespread commercial use, from the production of pharmaceuticals to the remediation of groundwater contaminated with toxic metals or radioactive waste.
Left to right: Dr Heather Whitney, University of Bristol; Dr Monika Gullerova, University of Oxford; Dr Vicky Coker, University of Manchester; and Dr Emily Flashman, University of Oxford, pictured at the Royal Society following the award ceremony in June.
Image courtesy of L’Oreal UK
Vicky's Fellowship will allow her to use state-of-the-art imaging to uncover the role that bacteria have in heavy metal toxicity in real-world environments, such as arsenic and uranium contamination. Ultimately, the impact of this work will be to influence policy in order to treat heavy metal contamination and to optimise management policy for arsenic and nuclear legacy materials.
Based in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, Dr Emily Flashman's research into oxygen sensing enzymes, much of which is in collaboration with BBSRC-funded researcher Professor Chris Schofield, is helping to uncover the molecular mechanisms that normal animal cells use to cope with depleted oxygen conditions. The enzymes in question, HIF hydroxylases, are often inhibited in cancer cells, and understanding how to activate them is an attractive target for cancer therapy.
Emily's Fellowship will enable her to purchase a key piece of equipment to facilitate her goal of revealing how one such enzyme, PHD2, may be pharmaceutically targeted to provide new therapeutic strategies in the fight against cancer.
As a postdoctoral research associate in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford, Dr Monika Gullerova has been involved in a Europe-wide research project, coordinated by the European Science Foundation, which examined RNA surveillance mechanisms within cell nuclei. UK-based researchers, led by Professor Nick Proudfoot and funded by BBSRC, helped develop tools and methodologies to understand the cell's built-in quality control system right across the RNA assembly line, from production, through to maturation and degradation, and from yeast to mammals.
Monika's Fellowship will allow her continue her research to understand another cellular mechanism that helps duplicate chromosomes to align correctly prior to cell division.
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