SEB Bulletin July 2005

Each year three outstanding young scientists, nominated by each of the Society’s Sections, are recognised for their achievements by being awarded the prestigious SEB President’s Medal. Presentation ceremony and lectures: Wednesday 13 July.

Holly Shiels, University of Manchester
Animal Biology Medallist

pmholly.Holly's first taste of research science came in the summer before the final year of her BSc (Hons) at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. That summer she took a field course at Huntsmen Marine Station (New Brunswick, Canada) and was introduced to the excitement of research by Dr Louise Milligan and a group of intertidal fish. The field course lead to an undergraduate thesis in the Milligan lab, where Holly was given inspiration and expert guidance in skeletal muscle physiology. After graduation, Holly crossed Canada to trade fish skeletal muscle for fish cardiac muscle. She joined Prof Tony Farrell's lab at Simon Fraser University; first as a Master's student and then as a PhD student. During this time she focused on calcium flux during excitation-contraction coupling in the hearts of fish. She wanted to discover where this calcium came from and how its delivery was modulated by temperature and by adrenergic stimulation.

Throughout her graduate studies, Holly benefited from collaborative investigations. Early on she received expert training from Prof Don Stevens at the University of Guelph, Canada on oscillating muscle preparations. Later, as her work moved from the multicellular to the cellular level, she obtained exceptional tutorship from Prof Matti Vornanen, at the University of Joensuu, Finland where she learned to apply electrophysiology and imaging techniques to study calcium movement in single cardiac myocytes from fish hearts. Under the phenomenal mentorship of Dr Farrell, Holly's graduate work probed the interplay between different cellular calcium sources which enable the fish heart to function over a wide range of environmental conditions. This theme has continued throughout her postgraduate work and now underlies many of her current research questions.

After completing her doctoral degree in Dec 2001, Holly went south to Prof Barbara Block's lab at Stanford University, California to extend her studies of cellular calcium flux in trout hearts to the mighty tuna heart. She then moved across the pond to the UK to take up an NERC postdoctoral fellowship in Dr Ed White's laboratory at the University of Leeds. During this time Holly learned confocal microscopy which allowed her to uncover spatial and temporal properties of calcium movement in fish myocytes. She was also able to make the first measurements of force generation in single fish myocytes. In 2004, Holly moved across the Peninnes to take up a lectureship in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester. Her current research goal is to understand the mechanisms which maintain or adjust heart function in a changing environment.

Julian Hibberd, University of Cambridge
Plant Biology Medallist

pmjulian.Julian read Biology at Bangor, North Wales for his first degree. Here he became interested in Plant Physiology due to lectures from John Farrar, Chris Marshall and Bob Whitbread, amongst others. He stayed in Bangor to complete a PhD with John Farrar and Bob Whitbread, working on the effect of elevated concentrations of CO on 2 interactions between powdery mildew and barley. This involved both determining the influence of elevated CO on the development of powdery 2 mildew, and also investigating alterations in host metabolism induced by the pathogen and the CO 2 environment.

He moved to postdoc for three years in Sheffield with Paul Quick, Malcolm Press and Julie Scholes, working on interactions between parasitic angiosperms and their hosts. This was a productive time with outputs ranging from insights into the photosynthetic ability of hemiparasites, to the source of solutes transferred from host species to non-photosynthetic parasites (holoparasites), and the importance of sucrose transporters in phloem loading. For example, while based in Sheffield, a stay in Würzburg with Dieter Jeschke quantified solute exchange between the holoparasite Orobanche cernua and its tobacco host, leading to a greater understanding of why the parasite reduces host growth. In Wurzburg, Julian was also introduced to the hemiparasite Cuscuta reflexa, reported at that time to be non-photosynthetic; although he went on to demonstrate that Cuscuta is photosynthetically competent, with photosynthesis restricted to a small number of cells deep in the stem, around the phloem. Work on Cuscuta also defined a novel xanthophyll cycle implicated in photoprotection.

In a move to gain molecular biology experience, he took a two-year post with John Gray, in Cambridge. Here, working on chloroplast biology, he was the first to demonstrate that the gene coding for the now ubiquitous reporter 'green fluorescent protein' can be expressed in the chloroplast. He also initiated the generation of a number of chloroplast transformants to understand the control of transgene expression in plastids, used microprojectile bombardment to determine the subcellular localisation of various nuclear encoded proteins, and, as a collaboration with Michael Knoblauch and Aart van Bel (Giessen) showed that a novel injection system could be used to deliver DNA to chloroplasts and cyanobacteria. In 2000 Julian took up a BBSRC Sir David Phillips Fellowship working on the role of photosynthesis around the veins of C3 plants. Significant progress has been made in elucidating the biochemistry of cells around the vasculature in C3 species, and also in developing technologies to manipulate these cells. In collaboration with Mark Tester and Emmanuel Guiderdoni a set of GAL4- VP16 enhancer trap lines in rice were generated. More recently he has become increasingly interested in the evolution of C4 photosynthesis.

Julian now holds a lectureship at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Plant Sciences. Research in his lab is now focussed on the role of photosynthesis in cells around the veins of C3 species, and the extent to which these cells have had to alter for C4 photosynthesis to develop. Using Arabidopsis as a model, projects include: studying the effects of specifically abolishing photosynthesis from around the veins, investigating the regulation of genes that have been co-opted into C4 photosynthesis, determining the role of proteins which have clearly defined role in C4 species, but less clear ones in C3 plants, and technologies to manipulate, study and isolate defined cell-types and the chloroplasts within them. Lastly he is proposing that the most closely related genus to Arabidopsis that contains C4 species should be adopted as a model by labs studying C4 photosynthesis.

Julian would like to thank all present and past mentors, colleagues and collaborators, as well as current members of his lab.

Adam Benham, University of Durham
Cell Biology Medallist

pmadam.Adam Benham has always been interested in biology, and is particularly grateful to his parents and science teachers at school for stimulating his interest in the natural sciences. After studying Zoology, Chemistry, Geography and Maths at A level, Adam did his first degree in Biochemistry at St. Catherines' College, Oxford (1987- 1991), where he came under the guidance of Alan Kingsman and Iain Campbell. It took a little while to adjust to the rarefied atmosphere of Oxford, and Adam only considered a career at the bench after doing his final year project with Bob Sim in the MRC Immunochemistry Unit. Working on Factor H and beta2glycoprotein I stimulated an interest in molecular immunology which persists to this day.

Upon graduating with first class honours, Adam embarked on a PhD with John Fabre, head of the Transplantation Biology Unit at the Institute of Child Health (University College London, 1991-1994). With John, Adam investigated the role of antigen presentation in allograft rejection, and studied how peptides derived from MHC class I molecules could be presented by host MHC class II molecules during a rejection response. Having worked in quite an applied area of immunology, Adam wanted to get back to his biochemical roots to understand in more detail how MHC proteins go about their business. He subsequently went to the Netherlands to work as an EU funded postdoc with Jacques Neefjes at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), Amsterdam (1994-1997).

The move to the NKI was fruitful, as Adam investigated how MHC class I molecules get loaded with peptides in the Endoplasmic Reticulum, and showed that not all alleles are entirely dependent on the proteasome for this process. Working on the early stages of MHC class I biosynthesis stimulated Adams interest in the endoplasmic reticulum in general, and how this organelle deals with protein production and quality control. To develop these interests further, Adam remained in the Netherlands for a second postdoc with Ineke Braakman, first at the AMC in Amsterdam and then at Bio-Organic Chemistry, University of Utrecht (1997- 2001). Whilst with Ineke, Adam began to explore the role of the endoplasmic reticulum oxidoreductases (EROs) in mammalian cells, and showed that the interaction of these proteins with Protein Disulfide Isomerase (PDI) was partly dependent on the ERO CxxCxxC motif.

Having had a terrific experience in the Netherlands, but still unable to speak fluent Dutch, the time had come for Adam to establish himself as an independent investigator back in England. He took up a lectureship at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Durham, and now has a group of three postdocs and a PhD student working on how disulfide bond formation is controlled in the endoplasmic reticulum. The lab’s most recent project is the characterisation of a gonad-specific relative of PDI, whose unusual properties should help us understand how PDI function has evolved and adapted to suit the needs of different cells and tissues. And Adam’s long standing interest in immunology continues, as the lab strives to understand what drives the misfolding of MHC class I heavy chains in conditions such as the rheumatic disease ankylosing spondylitis.

Adam would like to thank all his mentors for their valuable support over the years, and the various funding bodies for financial support, particularly the Wellcome Trust who funded Adams PhD studies and awarded him his first project grant.