27 Oct 2023
by Rebecca Ellerington

SEB Awards

This article was published as a chapter of the "Celebrating 100 years of SEB" book.


Annual Lectures

In 1969, the SEB Council ushered in a tradition of Annual Lectures, inviting distinguished Society members to present at the Christmas Meeting. This platform was supported by the Company of Biologists, who graciously financed an honorarium for the Lecturer and published the lecture in the Journal of Experimental Biology, at no cost to the Society. Subsequently, lectures delivered by botanists were published in the Journal of Experimental Botany. Council decided to bestow the honour of the Annual Lecture with the name of G.P. Bidder, recognising his prominent role in the Society's early history and in the establishment of the Company of Biologists.

Currently, the Annual Lectures are given by three prominent scientists: one from each of scientific sections of the Society. The Animal Section selects the Bidder lecturer, named after G.P. Bidder. The Plant section presents the Woolhouse Lecture, named after Harold Woolhouse, the first president elected from the Plant section in 1977. Finally, the Cell Annual Lecture Award, yet to be named for a specific person, represents the Cell section.


President's Medal

The President's Medal was instituted in 1985 to acknowledge and encourage the contributions of the next generation of experimental biologist researchers. Initially, the award was defined by specific criteria set by the original mandate which stated:

  • the award will be known as the SEB Presidents Medal;
  • the award will be based on evidence of an outstanding original scientific contribution in one area supported by published papers;
  • the research present for assessment may be in any area of experimental biology;
  • the research need not have been done in the United Kingdom;
  • nominations for the Medal will be considered annually;
  • up to three medallists may be awarded on one occasion, but no medal will be awarded when the Socierty considers that there are no candidates of sufficient merit;
  • the candidate shall normally be under 35 years of age on the 1st of January of the year awarding the medal. Career breaks will be taken into account;
  • the candidate may or may not be a member of the Society;
  • a candidate may be nominated by one or more persons independently, or by a section committee;
  • the candidate may be nominated on more than one occasion;
  •  and joint nominations will be considered.

In more recent years, the criteria have been broadened to encompass researchers in the early to mid-stages of their careers, irrespective of age. This inclusive approach recognises diverse career trajectories, accommodating individuals who have navigated career transitions and breaks. The President's Medal is now an annual accolade for those within the first ten years post-graduation from their highest degree level.


Irene Manton Poster Prize

In 1974, the SEB recognized Irene Manton's significant contributions by awarding her the prestigious Bidder Lecture. This accolade, in honour of her dedication and service to the SEB, was complemented by the naming of the Poster Prize in her honour, known as the Irene Manton Poster Prize. Open to students and early career scientists, this award is presented at the SEB Annual Conference. A cash prize of £100 is bestowed upon the best poster in each of the sections: Animal, Cell, Plant and OED. The SEB Young Scientist Poster Awards/Irene Manton Awards recognize the three most outstanding posters presented by a PhD student or a PhD holder in their initial postdoc position.


Young Scientist Awards

The Young Scientist Award Session (YSAS) is a regular highlight at the SEB Annual Conference. It offers a platform for postgraduates and postdocs who have completed their PhDs within the last five years to showcase their research. This session is designed to celebrate the most exceptional young researchers, with three prizes available, one for each scientific section: Animal, Cell and Plant. Cash prizes are awarded to the winners and two runners-up in each category. Established in 2002 by David Evans and Sarah Blackford, the first awards were presented at the 2003 SEB Annual Main Meeting in Southampton. Initially known as the "Young Investigator Award," it underwent a name change to align with the corresponding conference session, aiming to avoid confusion. The award's origins can be traced back to SEB Council minutes from February 2002, where “C. Trimmer specified that the Young Investigator Award, funded by Elsevier, would include a prize of £100.” Sponsored initially by Elsevier, which also published conference abstracts, including those of the YSAS finalists in a journal supplement called "Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology."


Looking to the Future

In 2021, criteria for all both the Presidents Medal and the Annual Lecture were reevaluated and refined to ensure a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to evaluating candidates. The new criteria reflect a modern and diverse scientific landscape, encompassing not just contributions in published papers but also the broader impact of their research, leadership, mentoring skills, contributions to SEB and the scientific community, outreach, advocacy for experimental biology, and professional standing.

In honour of the SEB's centenary in 2023, the Society also unveiled the establishment of an Awards Nomination Task Force. This task force was created with the aim of identifying deserving candidates not only for SEB awards but also for other prestigious awards within the bioscience community. The primary objective of this group is to diversify the pool of candidates nominated for these awards, with the hope of ushering in increased diversity among future award winners. This initiative reflects SEB's ongoing commitment to fostering a more inclusive and equitable scientific community.

In conjunction with the centenary celebrations, 2023 also witnessed the launch of the "Leaders of the Future Webinars." These webinars provided a unique opportunity to connect with past award winners, exploring their career trajectories since receiving an SEB award. Award recipients shared stories about how these accolades influenced their careers; the valuable connections and networks they established through SEB meetings; and the pivotal role that winning an SEB award played in their professional development.