Presidents Medallists 2011

This annual award is designed to honour young scientists of outstanding merit: normally under 35 years of age or within 10 years of obtaining their PhD. A presentation of medals to winners by the Society's President takes place at the Annual Main Meeting.

Animal Section

Craig WhiteCraig_White.

Craig’s interest in comparative physiology can be traced to two events.  The first was a question asked by Professor Roger Seymour in an undergraduate lecture in 1999: “why is the scaling exponent of metabolic rate three-quarters?”; the second was an undergraduate field trip to the Australian arid zone, where he and some other students attempted to excavate a burrow constructed by an inland robust scorpion.  These experiences led to an undergraduate research project measuring the energetic of burrowing in scorpions, an honours project investigating the gas exchange properties of animal burrows, and a PhD project examining the scaling of metabolic rate in mammals.  All were conducted under the supervision of Professor Seymour at the University of Adelaide.

After completing his PhD in 2004, Craig moved from Adelaide to the University of Birmingham to work with Professors Graham Martin and Pat Butler on the visual and energetic determinants of pursuit-dive foraging in great cormorants.  The work involved measurements of metabolic rate, visual field topography and visual acuity in hand-reared captive birds and revealed that when underwater cormorants have vision that is only as good as humans without goggles.  This period expanded Craig’s research into the areas of vision and bio-logging, and he continues to work on these topics.

Craig returned to Australia in 2007 to take up a position as Lecturer in Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology and establish a research group at the University of Queensland.  In 2009 he was awarded a QEII Research Fellowship by the Australian Research Council, as well as a Research Excellence Award by the UQ Foundation.  His current research focuses on the evolution of periodic ventilation in insects, macrophysiological and allometric variation in the energy expenditure of animals, and the visual ecophysiology of freshwater fish.  He leads a group including two postdoctoral researchers and three PhD students, working on a range of species which are usually selected according to the August Krogh principle “For many problems there is an animal on which it can be most conveniently studied”. Thus, ongoing research includes slime moulds, scarab beetles, bumble bees, cockroaches, air-breathing fish, rainbowfish, cane toads, and geckos. Much of the groups work is conducted in the laboratory, but field work has recently been undertaken in Crete, the UK, and Fraser Island, Queensland.

Craig would like to thank his postdocs and students for their hard work and enthusiasm, his supervisors, colleagues and collaborators for challenging him and continuing to make animal physiology interesting and exciting, and the Australian Research Council for ongoing support.

Cell Section

Veronica_Grieneisen2.Verônica A. Grieneisen obtained her bachelor's and master's degree in Theoretical Physics at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

(UFRGS) in Brazil. During her undergraduate studies she realised that the complexity of biology was begging to be tackled with methods developed in physics. During her graduate studies she applied physics to biologically inspired problems, focusing on statistical mechanics to understand, among others, cell dynamics within tissues. At this stage, she became fascinated by patterning mechanisms during biological morphogenesis. It became exceedingly clear to her, however, that to truly understand the underlying processes it is essential to combine different levels and scales of biological organisation, calling for a close contact with experiments. Wishing to carry out modelling work in collaboration with experimental data generation, she moved abroad to pursue a PhD at the Utrecht University, the Netherlands, as a collaboration between the Theoretical Biology and Bioinformatics group of Prof. Hogeweg and the Molecular Genetics group of Prof. Scheres. In 2009, Verônica obtained her Biology doctorate degree cum laude for her thesis on dynamics of auxin patterning in plant morphogenesis, for which she later received the Hugo de Vries Prize. In the same year she was awarded the Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship, which she holds through the University of East Anglia, and moved to the UK to start as a Project Leader at the John Innes Centre. Her lab is mainly theoretical and computational, but also has an experimental component. Her group focuses on understanding spatial regulation of intracellular cell polarity, cell shape changes, and intercellular polarity coupling and signalling in plant morphogenesis.

Education and Public Affairs Section

Jenny_Ron.Jenny was born and raised in Ohio, USA, and recalls collecting butterflies and blowing up chemistry sets from an early age.  She worked a few summers in labs at the National Cancer Institute and received a BA in Biology summa cum laudefrom Oberlin College.  Jenny moved to Seattle to earn a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Washington studying the genetic variation of feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), which serves as a good model for both AIDS and cancer. In 1997 Jenny moved to England for her first post-doctoral stint at Cancer Research UK’s London Institute where she investigated the role of the oncogenes c-myc and Akt in survival from apoptosis - a pathway frequently subverted by tumours.

In 1999 Jenny joined a small biotech company in the Netherlands where she led a team of researchers studying the enigmatic and fascinating chicken anaemia virus (CAV), which produces a protein that kills a wide variety of tumour and transformed cells but leaves healthy cells unscathed.  The work she is most proud of is when her team established the cellular signals activated by VP3 and showed how this might be exploited as a cancer drug target. This work led to several patent applications and was taken up by a pharmaceutical company as a potential therapy.

When the company went under Jenny began a productive career in professional writing.  After a long interest in novels about scientists (“lab lit”, a term she coined) she finished off her first two novels Experimental Heart (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2008) and The Honest Look (CSHLP, 2010).  This led to her establishing, a popular e-zine dedicated to promoting the use of science and scientist characters in mainstream fiction to illuminate the world of scientists and laboratory culture.  Jenny also wrote freelance pieces for Science and undertook other commissions. In 2003 she returned to London to become an editor at BioMed Central, and then to the Society of Chemical Industry as a journals manager. 

Jenny missed research and eventually returned via a Wellcome Trust Fellowship. For the past few years she has worked at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at University College London searching for genes that control cell shape, which is important for normal development and homeostasis and for cancer progression. Jenny has appeared in the media as an expert in science films.  In 2010 she founded Science Is Vital, a grassroots campaigning group. In about five weeks they’d garnered support of MP’s and scientists alike and many credible sources credit it as being a decisive factor in freezing the science budget in real terms.

Currently, Jenny stands at a crossroads: with less than a year on her fellowship and an uncertain job market, she needs to decide whether to carry on in research or to move full-time into science engagement and communication. Either way, she’s sure that her passion for science will continue to find an outlet.

Plant Section

Lisa Ainsworth

Lisa_Ainsworth.Dr. Ainsworth received her B.S. in Biology from UCLA and PhD in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she studied acclimation of photosynthesis to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations at Free Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) and open-top chamber experiments in Illinois, Florida and Switzerland.  Following her PhD, she was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Juelich Research Center and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology.  The focus of her research is to understand and integrate the molecular, biochemical and physiological responses of plants to global change.  This fundamental understanding is critical for identifying targets for breeding and biotechnology that may be exploited to maximize crop yields and plant productivity in the coming decades.  Her group uses meta-analyses and time-space modeling to quantify the responses of plants to climate change factors, including rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and rising ozone concentrations.  They are also interested in developing tools for investigating molecular and biochemical responses of plants to climate change, and identifying inter- and intra-specific variation in the response of species to climate change.  Currently, her research focuses on understanding mechanisms of ozone tolerance in soybean and other leguminous species, including pea, common bean, chickpea and alfalfa.