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York academics elected Fellows of Royal Society

Posted on 29 April 2016

Two University of York scientists have been elected to the fellowship of the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

Professor Pratibha Gai and Professor Ian GrahamProfessor Pratibha Gai and Professor Ian Graham

Professor Ian Graham, Head of York’s Department of Biology and Weston Chair of Biochemical Genetics, and Professor Pratibha Gai, Founding Co-Director of York’s JEOL Nanocentre and Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, join the UK’s most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists to be honoured in recognition of excellence in science.

Professor Graham has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge and understanding in the fields of plant metabolism and seed biology over the last 20 years. This is exemplified by his recent, transformative research on the synthesis of bioactive compounds in two of the world’s major medicinal crops, opium poppy and Artemisia annua.

Professor Graham’s Fellowship comes after his recent award of the Biochemical Society’s 2017 Heatley Medal and Prize for exceptional work in enhancing the reputation of biochemical research as a source of wellbeing and prosperity.

Professor Gai, Professor of Electron Microscopy in York’s Departments of Chemistry and Physics, studies dynamic atomic processes in reacting solids during chemical reactions. Her many research highlights include the development of new nanomaterials and chemical processes for use in a range of high technology applications, including catalysis, energy, healthcare, chemicals and food coatings, and novel electron microscopies.

Professor Gai is a pioneer in advanced electron microscopy to analyse dynamic gas-catalyst reactions on the atomic scale, which are at the heart of industrial processes for producing chemicals, energy sources and industrial products. Her chemical process and electron microscopy inventions are used worldwide. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was awarded the L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Award as the 2013 Laureate for Europe. Prior to her York assignments she held positions in the USA and at the University of Oxford after a PhD in Physics from the University of Cambridge.

Professor Gai said: “I am greatly honoured to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society and delighted that my research has received this wonderful recognition. This prestigious Fellowship belongs to all the outstanding co-researchers and staff I have collaborated with. I am grateful to the main funders EPSRC and their staff.”

Professor Graham said: “It is a great honour to be elected to the fellowship of the Royal Society. Joining the ranks of many of the world’s most eminent scientists, past and present, is really quite humbling.

“Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many excellent, dedicated students and staff in my research group. They can all take credit for this recognition. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Department of Biology and across the University of York as well as my collaborators and funders. Their continued help and support is very much appreciated.”

Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and former Head of the Biology Department at the University of York, said of Professor Graham’s success: “Ian Graham’s election as a Fellow of the Royal Society could not be more deserving. Ian is an outstanding scientist and an inspirational leader; his pioneering research will impact on the lives of millions around the globe. I am delighted that Ian’s work has received this recognition at the very highest level.”

Professor Brian Fulton, Dean of Faculty for the Sciences at the University of York, said of Professor Gai’s work: “Pratibha’s election is well deserved recognition of the international impact of her research and follows a number of other prestigious awards she has received. She has achieved this whilst also giving her time to support many young colleagues and providing leadership as the founding Director of the York-JEOL Nanocentre, guiding its development over the last decade.”

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