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Chemists at the University of York receive prestigious Royal Society Awards

Posted on 21 July 2015

Two distinguished chemists from the University of York have been awarded prestigious Royal Society prizes for their contributions to science.

Lucy Carpenter and Gideon Davies

Professor Gideon Davies has been awarded the 2015 Davy Medal of the Royal Society for his work on the reaction chemistry of enzymes that modify carbohydrates (sugars), and Professor Lucy Carpenter receives the 2015 Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award in recognition of her work in atmospheric chemistry.

Professor Davies’ field – the world of carbohydrate chemistry – is a complex area of life science with relevance ranging from medical to industrial applications.  His work has unlocked pathways to new therapeutic agents and shown how enzymes can work in industrial and domestic environments, and his insights are central to how waste biomass may be converted to fuel.  He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

The Davy Medal

Named after Sir Humphry Davy, the award dates back to 1877 and is made annually for “an outstandingly important recent discovery in any branch of chemistry.”

Previous winners include Marie Curie, Linus Pauling and Dmitri Mendeleev – discoverer of the Periodic Table.

Professor Davies said: “It is deeply humbling to receive an award so steeped in science history.  It is testament to the dedication of my research team, who tackle the challenging areas of carbohydrate chemistry and glycobiology so enthusiastically.  The study of carbohydrates is a fascinating area of work and holds many more scientific challenges, as well as potential solutions to a range of problems facing humanity.

Professor Carpenter’s research focuses on the atmosphere-ocean interactions which play a key role in regulating atmospheric composition and climate, in particular studying the complex chemical reactions in the atmosphere that lead to ozone depletion.  Her group conducts extensive field work and runs a global atmospheric observatory in the tropical east Atlantic.

The Rosalind Franklin Award

Named after the biophysicist whose work paved the way for the discovery of the structure of DNA, the award is made annually for “an outstanding contribution to any area of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM)”, to support the promotion of women in STEM.

Professor Carpenter, Head of Physical and Atmospheric Chemistry at the University, said: “Rosalind Franklin was an inspirational scientist and talented experimentalist, and it is a tremendous honour to receive this Award recognising the work of my research team in exploring atmosphere-ocean connections.”

"I have a 12 year old daughter and she is very interested in science, but I see that around that age the passion for science can tail off and that can be common in girls.  I look forward to using the Award to engage secondary school girls in atmospheric science through summer schools and exhibitions.”

Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University, said the two academics are highly worthy recipients who deserve widespread recognition for their excellent contributions.

She said: “Gideon Davies is an outstanding researcher with a world-class reputation for the quality of his work, which holds a broad significance beyond the discipline of chemistry.  The University is proud of his many achievements that have led to the award of the Davy Medal - these are representative of the research excellence that is the core foundation of York's research strategy.”

“Lucy Carpenter is an internationally-leading atmospheric chemist, carrying out research of global significance, and is also passionate about inspiring young people to get involved in science.  That passion and commitment has been rightly recognised by the Royal Society with her project to get girls involved in science.   It is a tremendous achievement for Lucy to win this award which will have long-lasting consequences outside the University.”