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Cardiff scientists honoured by The Royal Society

20 Mai 2011

Prof Parkes & Prof DaviesProfessor John Parkes and Professor Alun Davies

Two Cardiff University scientists have been elected Fellows of The Royal Society, the world's oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

Professor Alun Davies, Cardiff School of Biosciences one of the world’s foremost developmental neurobiologists and Professor John Parkes, Head of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, an international leader in Geomicrobiology have both been elected.

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The Royal Society awards the lifetime Fellowships to the world’s most eminent scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technologists. The awards are widely regarded in the scientific world as second only to a Nobel Prize in prestige. The Royal Society has elected 44 new Fellows from the UK and the Commonwealth and 8 new Foreign Members from other countries around the globe. Currently, there are c1500 Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society, including 75 Nobel laureates, and in its 350 year history just 8,200 individuals have been elected.

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society said: "It is a true pleasure to welcome this year’s new Fellows to the Royal Society. They join the ranks of the UK and Commonwealth’s leading scientists, counting themselves among early Fellows such as Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and Charles Darwin. The Society aims to expand the frontiers of knowledge by championing the development and use of science, mathematics, engineering and medicine for the benefit of humanity and the good of the planet. It is the contribution of excellent individuals such as these which makes this possible."

Dr David Grant, Vice-Chancellor said: "I congratulate both individuals on this outstanding achievement. Their election is testament to the excellence they have achieved in their fields of expertise and the recognition they have earned from their peers. It is also a resounding endorsement of the strength of research at Cardiff University."

Professor Alun DaviesProfessor Alun Davies

Professor Davies’ research is focused on the development of nerve cells, which are the fundamental building blocks of the nervous system. One of the world’s foremost developmental neurobiologists, he is best known for his fundamental research on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the survival of nerve cells and the growth and elaboration of their processes. He is responsible for many important discoveries and fundamental concepts in the field. Professor Davies’s active research lab in the Cardiff School of Biosciences involves many post-doctoral fellows and PhD students carrying out research on cellular and molecular aspects of nerve cell development, neurotrophic factor biology and cell signalling.

Professor Davies, FRS Cardiff School of Biosciences said: "I’m absolutely delighted to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society, it is a great honour indeed and has come as a wonderful surprise. My election to the Royal Society doesn’t just reflect the work I’ve done, it’s a recognition of the research carried out by many outstanding PhD students and post-doctoral fellows in my laboratory over the years and research we’ve done in collaboration with colleagues from around the world, so it’s a collective recognition of all of our work and is an honour for everybody involved. I am also indebted to the Wellcome Trust, Research Councils, European Commission, Royal Society and other charities for generous funding throughout my career, without which none of this would have been possible."

Professor John ParkesProfessor John Parkes

Professor Parkes was the first scientist to comprehensively investigate the microbiology of deep marine sediments. He demonstrated, contrary to previously held views, that they contained large numbers of active microbes. He estimated that an additional 10% of the total living biomass on Earth was present in sub-seafloor sediments. He also demonstrated that these microbes were well adapted to their deep sediment habitat and not just buried cells dying slowly. He showed that the surface microbes grew very, very, slowly, on "geological" time scales of 1,000’s of years, due to limited energy supply. One of many impacts of this research has been to demonstrate novel deep sediment energy sources and sub-seafloor biosphere:geosphere interactions.

Professor Parkes, Head of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences said: "Of course I am delighted with the election, which reflects the recognition of my research achievements by national and international colleagues, many of whom are members of their own National Science Foundations. As an environmental microbiologist and biogeochemist, it is particularly pleasing to have this multidisciplinary area recognised. I have been very fortunate in being able to obtain research funding over a long period of time for investigating bacterial processes in a range of extreme environments, including deep sediments, so that a really significant body of new knowledge could be established. I have also benefitted greatly from having a team of researchers and colleagues to interact with, and for this, I am very grateful."

Full Royal Society Citation

Alun Davies & teamProfessor Alun Davies (centre) is pictured with L-R Dr Helen Waller-Evans, Dr Lilian Kisiswa, Dr Tom Vizard, Matthew White, Michael Newton, Tom McWilliams, Dr Laura Howard and Pedro Chacón Fernández. Also part of the lab is Catarina Osório.

Professor Alun Millward Davies

Distinguished Research Professor, Cardiff School of Biosciences
Alun Davies is one of the world’s foremost developmental neurobiologists whose elegant innovative research has transformed our understanding of how neurotrophic factors regulate key aspects of neuronal development. He is responsible for many of the major discoveries and fundamental concepts in the field, including neurotrophin independence, neurotrophin switching, neurotrophin autocrine signalling, the relationship of sensory modality to neurotrophic factor requirement, neurotrophic factor receptor identification and characterization and the discovery of fundamental control mechanisms regulating neuronal survival and the growth of axons and dendrites. Time and again, Davies has described novel developmental mechanisms and predicted the correct model explaining his discoveries

Prof Parkes & teamProfessor Parkes (centre) is pictured with L-R: Andrew Watkins, Erwan Roussel, Louise O'Sullivan, Barry Cragg; Gordon Webster, Xiaohong Tang and Henrik Sass. Also part of the lab is Shaun Thomas.

Professor (Ronald) John Parkes

Head of School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Distinguished Research Professor
John Parkes is an international leader in Geomicrobiology, focusing on quantifying sedimentary prokaryotic processes and indentifying the responsible organisms, their interactions and controls. In particular, Parkes has pioneered detection of micro-organisms in a range of sub-surface environments and demonstrated the significance of temperature increases during burial in sustaining prokaryotes over kilometre depths and in My old sediments, and in biosphere:geosphere interactions, including production of hydrocarbons and energy sources for deep bacteria. His research has been seminal in establishing sub-seafloor sediments as one of the largest prokaryotic habitats on Earth and this has resulted in major new initiatives in international research programmes.

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