SEB Bulletin - March 2007

President's Medallists


Matthew Dalby, University of Glasgow
Cell Biology Medallist

p21-1. (Copyright: Matt Dalby Image)Matthew started his research career studying for a PhD at the IRC in Biomedical Materials, Queen Mary, University of London. His PhD originally focused on osteoblast interaction with hydroxyapatite containing materials with a view to development of novel orthopaedic implant materials. During this time, he was based largely at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital with Dr Lucy Di Silvio and Prof William Bonfield as supervisors.

Whilst he very much enjoyed the orthopaedic part of the project, he developed a keen interest in surface topography and how cells interact with the shape of their environment. Thus, after completion of his PhD, a logical move was to the group of Profs Adam Curtis and Chris Wilkinson and Dr Mathis Riehle - The Centre for Cell Engineering (CCE), University of Glasgow. Adam and Chris had established a long-standing partnership with Chris, and electronic engineer, using the latest techniques to fabricate precise nanoscale patterns and Adam, a cell biologist, using cell culture and microscopy to monitor cell response. Matthew moved to the CCE as part of the EU framework 5 grant 'Nanomed'. During this time, he started combining work with microarrays and microscopy and collaborated with a large number of fabricators from around Europe as well as other biologists.

In 1993, Matthew was awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship. This involved a move back to orthopaedics and a new collaboration with mesenchymal stem cell expert Prof Richard Oreffo, University of Southampton, as well as carry forward fabrication collaborations (Drs Nikolaj Gadegaard (Glasgow), Stanley Affrossman (Strathclyde), Duncan Sutherland (Sweden) and Martha Liley (Switzerland)). This multidisciplinary approach has proved very fruitful and apart from a large number of joint publications, a patent has been applied for and a BBSRC follow-on award given.

Matthew is rapidly establishing himself as an independent researcher and has formed a small research group within the CCE with 3 PhD students, Manus Biggs (funded by a joint grant with Dr Geoff Richards awarded by the AO Foundation, Switzerland), Fahsai Kantawong (funded by the Royal Thai Government) and Laura MacNamara (funded by a BBSRC quota studentship). All are working towards orthopaedic tissue engineering solutions using bioreactors, genomics, proteomics and microscopical approaches. Matthew's personal research now focuses on using materials as a tool to study cell mechanotransduction and he believes that the use of materials as a non-invasive method to change cell behaviour could be of great use in cell biology.

Matthew would like to thank all his mentors - he feels he has been particularly lucky on this score. He would also like to thank the AO Foundation and BBSRC - particularly the BBSRC - for funding him, his PhD students for being great (most of the time) and his technician Andy Hart for his patience and help.

Anthony Herrel, University of Antwerp
Animal Biology Medallist

p21-2. (Copyright: Anthony Herrel Image)Anthony's interest in scientific research was sparked by his undergraduate thesis research project on feeding behavior in lizards under guidance of Prof Frits De Vree in the Functional Morphology lab at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. He continued his research in the same lab to pursue his PhD investigating the morphological and functional adaptations in the feeding system of lizards that include plants into their diets. Under the expert guidance of Frits De Vree he was encouraged to pursue a wide variety of experimental and morphological approaches to study this topic in detail. The presence of Dr Peter Aerts at the Functional Morphology lab was highly influential and stimulated him to include biomechanical approaches into his research and taught him the values of modeling in understanding form-function relationships.

After completing his doctoral degree in Feb. 1998, Anthony was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders, Belgium (FWO-Vl) which allowed him to continue his research at the Functional Morphology lab in Antwerp to investigate the evolution of lizard feeding behavior. A mobility grant from the FWO-Vl allowed him to spend a year at the Functional Morphology and Physiology group in the lab of Dr. Kiisa Nishikawa at Northern Arizona University (USA). There he learned how to use nerve transection techniques to help tease apart the role of sensory information in the neural control of feeding behavior in lizards. While in the lab at NAU he struck up collaborations with other scientists at NAU and Universities across the US. Upon return to the lab in Antwerp, his approach to his research on the evolution of lizard feeding systems was forever altered by the presence of Dr. Raoul Van Damme who had just joined the lab. Raoul's approach to the study of evolution of lizard locomotion using a rigorous framework based on measurements of whole animal performance in a comparative context inspired Anthony to pursue this aspect in the feeding system of lizards and other vertebrate groups.

In 2001 this prompted him to take up another post-doc position at the Functional Morphology lab at the University of Antwerp to study the evolution of the lizard feeding system in an integrative and comparative context. During this term of his post-doc he was again awarded a mobility grant which allowed him to spend a year at the lab of Dr. Duncan Irschick at Tulane University in New Orleans. During his stay at Tulane, Anthony started to incorporate ecological and behavioral approaches into his research program which included a large field-based component. From that point onwards the central theme of his research program became the study of the evolution complex integrated systems using a comparative and integrative approach. Upon his return to the lab in Antwerp he continued his research along these lines and engaged in collaborations with many labs across the world to explore his research interests further. Collaborations with Dr. Jeff Podos (UMass, Amherst) on the evolution of beak morphology in Darwin's finches and with Dr. Betsy Dumont (UMass, Amherst), Dr. Luis Aguirre (U. Cochabamba, Bolivia) and Dr. Rodrigo Medellin (UNAM, Mexico) on the evolution of bat feeding systems further inspired him to take a broad view on the evolution of complex systems using a multi-facetted, integrative approach.

In 2004 Anthony was awarded his final extension of his post-doc at the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders Belgium (FWO-Vl) to continue his research on the evolution of complex integrated systems in vertebrates. During this final term he engaged in further collaborations on the evolution of fish feeding systems with Dr. D. Adriaens (U Gent) and on vertebrate cranial design with Dr. C. Ross (U. Chicago) including new approaches such as finite element modeling and experimental measurements of bone strain. Anthony is currently completing his final year as a post-doc at the University of Antwerp.

Stefan Kepinski, University of Leeds
Plant Biology Medallist

p22-1.Stefan did his first degree in Plant Science at Liverpool University, where he developed a fondness for ecological genetics which would later take him back there to do a Ph.D. In between, he dabbled briefly in scientific publishing, working for Elsevier for just over a year in Leicester on Harry Smith's referencing journal 'Current Advances in Plant Science'. Back in Liverpool but now in Brian Tomsett's lab, Stefan used molecular markers to study the genetics of metal tolerance in parapatric grass populations as a model for understanding gene flow, microevolution and speciation. Although he enjoyed his own Ph.D project immensely, he found that he was enjoying other people's even more, and became increasingly attracted to the idea of tackling developmental rather than ecological problems using the tools of plant molecular genetics.

Having decided that he had probably given all he could to molecular ecology, he set about switching fields, moving first to Bristol for a brief stint in Keith Edwards' group at Long Ashton Research Station, and then to York to postdoc in Ottoline Leyser's lab, working on auxin signalling and plant development. Ottoline was an exceptional mentor and the people and environment of the lab provided an excellent introduction to Arabidopsis genetics. Here, Stefan uncovered one of the central events of auxin signalling, the ubiquitin-dependent degradation of a family of transcription factors called Aux/IAAs in response to auxin. This was a crucial missing piece in a model that had been coming together for several years, based on the work of a number of labs. Part of this work was a collaboration with Mark Estelle's group, then in Austin, Texas, and during a collaborative visit to Mark's lab to work with Bill Gray finishing off a paper on auxin-dependent ubiquitination, Stefan learned several biochemical techniques that would become key to his subsequent work on auxin.

Back in the UK, he and Ottoline set to work trying to understand precisely how auxin regulated Aux/IAA degradation, including the big question of how auxin was perceived in the cell. A sustained and systematic attack on this question eventually yielded the answer that the receptor that they and so many other researchers had been looking for for so long, had been right under their noses: In a beautifully short and simple signal transduction chain, the protein that recruits Aux/IAAs to be ubiquitinated, an F-box protein called TIR1, does so because it also binds auxin at the same time.

In 2004, Stefan was made an associate member of Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden, enabling him to build closer links with researchers working on auxin there, and in 2006 he moved to the University of Leeds on an RCUK Academic Fellowship to establish his own group. Stefan's lab is now interested in understanding how the relatively simple auxin signal transduction pathway conveys context-specific information to control the almost baffling array of developmental events in which auxin is involved. Stefan would like to thank the many remarkable scientists who have made his research career so enjoyable and who, although they may not have known it at the time, have been invaluable mentors.

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