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Honour for University of York plant biologist

Posted on 2 January 2009

Professor Ottoline Leyser has been made a Commander of the British Empire in the New Year’s Honours List in recognition of her pioneering work in plant biology.

Plant Science has a central role to play in successfully meeting the challenges of the 21st century. It’s a true pleasure and a privilege to be able to contribute to this endeavour

Professor Ottoline Leyser

It is the second major honour that the member of the University of York’s Department of Biology has received in the last 18 months – she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2007. Professor Leyser has also won a Rosalind Franklin Award from the Royal Society for an outstanding contribution to natural science engineering or technology, and is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO).

One of her most significant breakthroughs concerns the discovery of the Auxin receptor, the major hormone receptor in plants. Plant hormones integrate environmental, developmental, and genetic factors to regulate development. Understanding how they do this helps us to grasp the agricultural and environmental possibilities of plants.

"I am thrilled that Plant Sciences are being recognised in this way. Plant Science has a central role to play in successfully meeting the challenges of the 21st century. It’s a true pleasure and a privilege to be able to contribute to this endeavour," she said.

Ottoline Leyser was born in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and has a BA and PhD from Cambridge University. She held Post-Doctoral positions at Bloomington, Indiana, USA from 1990 to1993 and at Cambridge between 1993 and 1994. She became a Lecturer at the University of York in 1994, a Reader in 1999 and was appointed Professor in 2002. She is married to Stephen Day, and has two children, Francesca, 18, and Joshua, 15.

Ottoline Leyser is chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Bioscience Skills and Careers Strategy Panel and a member of its Strategy Advisory Board. She has recently been appointed to Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Professor Leyser is among a group of world-leading academics who have helped to establish the University of York’s international reputation as a centre of excellence in plant sciences.

The New Year’s Honours List also saw Professor Alan Maynard, from the Department of Health Sciences, recognised with an OBE for services to the National Health Service. Professor Maynard is Chair of the York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a post he has held for the last 11 years. He was founding director of the Centre for Health Economics at the University and is currently Professor of Health Economics.

University of York alumni were among those to receive honours. Bryan Gray, who received a CBE, graduated in Chemistry in 1974 and is now Chair of the Northwest Regional Development Agency. He was Chief Executive and Deputy Chair of the heating company Baxi Group Limited and is a former Chairman of Preston North End Football Club.

Dr Melanie Lee, who graduated in Biology, received a CBE for services to medical science. Dr Lee is Chair of Cancer Research Technology, a subsidiary of the charity Cancer Research UK. She is also Deputy Chair of CRUK’s Board of Trustees, and Executive Director for Research and Development at biopharmaceutical company UCB.

Victoria Barnsley, Chief Executive of HarperCollins UK, received an OBE for services to publishing. She completed an MA in French and English Literature at York before going on to set up the independent publishing house Fourth Estate in 1984. She is a Trustee of the Tate, Chair of the Tate Britain Council and a Trustee of the National Gallery.


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