May 26, 2011

ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum

Peter Arnott

A playwright has moved from Charles Darwin to genomics in his efforts to bring advances in biological sciences to the attention of a wider audience. Peter Arnott has been named resident playwright at the Economic and Social Research Council Genomics Policy and Research Forum. He said the move was "a natural follow-on" to his previous role at the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland, where as resident writer he delivered lectures on the social context and impact of On the Origin of Species. Despite this, Mr Arnott said he had not been a keen student of biology: "Biology was a soft option when I went to school, mainly because it mostly consisted of cutting up frogs," he said. "It wasn't taught that seriously." He credited popular science writer Stephen Jay Gould for interesting him in the subject in later life: "His essays gave you what you didn't get at school: a sense of wonder." In his new role at the Genomics Forum, Mr Arnott will explore moral, intellectual and social issues around genomics, culminating in a play at the end of the year. He said that he felt scientists were quite shy about questions of morality: "Therefore they are shy in making arguments for policy because, generally speaking, policy is not based on logical arguments, it is based on political arguments," he said. "So I see my role as being an interested layman in the scientific field trying to interrogate what people say."

Institute of Physics

Cherry Canovan

A journalist-turned-scientist has been named Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year by the Institute of Physics. Cherry Canovan studied politics and economics at Durham University before embarking on a career as a journalist, working for the Times Higher Education Supplement, as this publication was then known, and its sister title, the Times Educational Supplement. It was a move to Lancaster and a role as science reporter for TES that proved the catalyst for Ms Canovan's career shift. "I wrote so many stories about the shortage of women in physics that I decided to do something about it myself," she said. She began a degree in physics at Lancaster University and, after a break to have her second child, graduated in 2008 with a first. She has now embarked on a doctorate and founded the physics department's Women in Physics Group at Lancaster. Ms Canovan was given the prize, which includes a £1,000 cash award, for her published work on problems in classical electrodynamics, as well as her interest in helping other women to get involved in physics. She said of her career move: "It's hardly a path to riches, changing your career mid-flow, but it's certainly a path to happiness if that's what you need."

University of Alberta

Lori West

Lori West, Canada research chair in cardiac transplantation at the University of Alberta, has been recognised for her "legendary" work with young children. Professor West has been awarded the Clinical Science Established Investigator Award by the American Society for Transplantation for her research demonstrating that infants may safely receive donor hearts from non-matching blood types. She said she was appreciative of the award, particularly of the recognition of the impact her work has had on patients. "They recognised the whole body of my work, and how combining the science and the research and the clinical service has made a lasting impression on patient care." Professor West qualified as a doctor at Tulane University in 1983 and completed a PhD at Balliol College, Oxford in 1995. She joined Alberta as adjunct professor of immunology and has spent her career at the institution. Outside academic work, Professor West lists her passions as horse-riding, building construction and fishing.

American Philosophical Society

Alexandra Navrotsky

"In science, as in life, every day is a new adventure." That is the motto of Alexandra Navrotsky, who has just been elected to the American Philosophical Society. Professor Navrotsky, distinguished interdisciplinary professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of California, Davis, is one of 36 academics who have been elected to the society. She said that she was looking forward to meeting scholars from a variety of disciplines. "The nice thing about APS is that it's so eclectic, from the sciences to the humanities, and intellectually focused," she said. Professor Navrotsky studied for her undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral qualifications at the University of Chicago and undertook post-doctoral work at Pennsylvania State University before joining the faculty of Arizona State University. She then moved to Princeton University and remained there for more than a decade before moving to UC Davis in 1997. In addition to her distinguished professorship, Professor Navrotsky also holds the Edward Roessler chair in mathematical and physical sciences and is director of the Nanomaterials in the Environment, Agriculture and Technology Organized Research Unit at the university.


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Ann Oakley, professor of sociology and social policy at the Institute of Education, University of London, has been awarded one of the first lifetime achievement awards from the British Sociological Association.

The University of Glasgow has announced the secondment of Julie Fitzpatrick to the post of professor of food security within the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences.

The University of Hull has made two appointments. Steve Kelly has been appointed dean of the Faculty of Science after fulfilling the role of acting dean since January. Terry Williams has been appointed dean of Hull University Business School.

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