News

2023 Society Awards

Last call for the 2023 JBS Haldane Lecture, Genetics Society Medal, Mary Lyon Medal, and the Balfour Lecture.  Send your nominations to secretary@genetics.org.uk by midnight on Thursday 30th June 2022.

Nominations for the Bruce Cattanach and Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prizes are due 31st October 2022.


Mendel’s 200th Birthday Garden Party

Image credit: Joana Carvalho

Join us at RHS Wisley, Surrey, on 20th July 2022 for a garden party of science to celebrate Mendel’s 200th Birthday. Free registration for members, including lunch, 2022 award lectures, drinks reception and birthday cake by The Goldfinch Kitchen! ECR members can apply for a Scheme A junior scientist grant, and a Carer’s award is available to all members to help with attendance.  The event will also be available online.  For more information and details of how to register, see our events page.


Committee Vacancy

The Genetics Society invites applications for the role of Partnership and Membership Officer.  The role of the Partnership and Membership Officer will communicate with Society partners, ambassadors, and members to ensure continuing growth of the Society..

We also invite applications for committee roles Policy Officer and Evolutionary, Ecological and Population Genetics.

More details about all roles can be found on the Committee Vacancies page.

All posts are commencing 1st January 2023, until 31st December 2026.

Applications all posts close at midnight Monday 31st October 2022.


Mendel Medal 2022 – Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter

The Mendel Medal 2022 was jointly awarded to Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter for discovery of genomic imprinting.  Genomic Imprinting has been pivotal for advances in epigenetics and mammalian development, showing that parental chromosomes retain a memory of their origin with heritable DNA methylation tags, which regulate the expression of parental alleles with a role in mammalian development, growth, behaviour and human diseases.  The integration of the imprinting cycle into the mammalian germline cycle allows for epigenetic resetting, including the erasure and reestablishment of imprints.  Genomic imprinting was critical for the evolution of placental viviparity, with a fundamental impact on strategies for mammalian development.

Azim Surani received a PhD at Cambridge University in 1975 under Sir Robert Edwards (Nobel laureate, 2010), working on early mammalian development.  After moving to the Animal Research Station Cambridge in 1979, he continued to investigate if both parental genomes are essential for mammalian development, which led to Genomic Imprinting in 1984.

Read more

Surani was elected Marshall-Walton Professor at Cambridge University in 1992 and subsequently Director of Germline and Epigenetics Research in 2013 at the Gurdon Institute.  He elucidated the hitherto unknown genetic basis for mammalian germ cell specification in mice and humans and the mechanisms regulating the unique germline epigenetic program. He is also studying in vitro models of early human development, the germline and in vitro gametogenesis.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and his awards include the William Bate Hardy Prize, a Royal Medal for mammalian development, Rosenstiel Award for epigenetic regulation of gene expression in mammals, ISSCR McEwen Award for Innovation, and the Canada International Gairdner Award for genomic imprinting and epigenetics.

 

Davor Solter, M.D. (1965), Ph.D. (1971) both from the University of Zagreb, Croatia.  Assistant and Associate Professor in the Departments of Anatomy and Biology, University of Zagreb Medical School 1966-1973.  In 1973 moved to the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia and became Member and Professor in 1981 as well as Wistar Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

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In 1991 he was appointed Member of the Max-Planck Society and Director of the Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg.  From 2008-2014 Research Director, Institute of Medical Biology, A*STAR, Singapore and Professor, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.  Currently Visiting International Professor Siriraj Center for Excellence in Stem Cell Research, Mahidol University Medical School, Bangkok.  He was and is a member of numerous editorial and advisory boards and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, EMBO and Academia Europea.  In 1998 received March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology for pioneering the concept of imprinting, in 2007 Rosenstiel Award (shared with Mary Lyon and Azim Surani) for discovery of imprinting and in 2018 Canada Gairdner International Award for discovery of imprinting

Davor Solter contributed significantly to many areas of mammalian developmental biology, namely: differentiation of germ layers; the role of cell surface molecules in regulating early development; biology and genetics of teratocarcinoma; biology of embryonic stem cells; imprinting and cloning.  His current research interest focuses on genetic and molecular control of genome reprogramming and of activation of the embryonic genome.


Mary Lyon Medal 2022 – Prof Irene Miguel-Aliaga

Irene Miguel-Aliaga is Professor of Genetics and Physiology at Imperial College London, and MRC Investigator at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences.

Irene has an interest in the crosstalk between organs – in particular, how and why the intestine communicates with other organs, such as the brain.  Her lab was one of the first to tackle the study of the brain-gut axis using the powerful genetics of Drosophila: work that they have now extended to mouse and human models.

Irene and her team discovered that the brain-gut axes of males and females are very different, and that these intestinal sex differences impact food intake, gamete production and tumour susceptibility.  They have also investigated how the intestine senses nutrients, revealing unexpected
roles for metal sensing in the regulation of feeding and growth.

Irene trained as a biochemist in Barcelona, Spain and she received her PhD in Genetics from the University of Oxford (UK).  She investigated how neurons develop during postdoctoral work at Harvard (USA), Linköping University (Sweden) and NIMR (now Crick Institute, UK).

Irene was the recipient of an ERC Starting Grant and currently holds an ERC Advanced Grant.  She was elected to the EMBO YIP programme in 2012, to EMBO in 2017 and to the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2019.  She was also awarded a Suffrage Science Women in Science award in 2018.

Irene will receive her medal at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.


Balfour Lecture 2022 – Dr Sam Behjati

Sam Behjati is a Group Leader / Wellcome Intermediate Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Honorary Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.  Originally from Germany, he read medicine at the University of Oxford.  Subsequently he underwent academic clinical training in London and obtained his PhD from Cambridge.  He started his current position at Sanger in October 2018.

Sam’s research focuses on the origins of childhood cancer.  In one line of enquiry, he uses somatic mutations as barcodes of human development which enable the reconstruction of the embryology of tissues.

Sam has applied this approach to study normal tissue development, most notably, of the placenta, and to childhood cancers.  For example, in Wilms tumour, his analyses showed that many seemingly sporadic tumours arose from developmentally acquired clonal expansions.  In another line of research, Sam studies single childhood cancer cells, through the direct comparison of cancer with developmental cells, to place childhood cancers on trajectories of human development.

Sam’s work has been recognised by several awards such as the Pezcoller Foundation-EACR Rising Star Award, the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award of the St Baldrick’s Foundation and the Science / SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. He is an EMBO Young Investigator and has recently been awarded a Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship.

The Genetics Society is delighted to add to Sam’s accolade by awarding the 2022 Balfour lecture.  Sam will deliver his lecture at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.


Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2020 – Rosa Cheesman

The 2019/20 Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize is awarded to Dr Rosa Cheesman.

Rosa’s outstanding thesis  ‘Leveraging family data for complex trait genomics’ was nominated by her PhD supervisor, Dr Jonathan Coleman, at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London.

The thesis demonstrated how family-based quantitative genetics is not only the foundation for genomic research on complex psychological traits, but is of enduring value, especially when integrated with new genomic tools.

Rosa is now working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo’s new PROMENTA Centre where she is very excited to be investigating how genetic variation and social environments combine to shape children’s mental health and educational trajectories, using rich genetic, psychological and socio-demographic data.

The Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize rewards a BSc, MSc or PhD student of any UK University or Research Institution who has shown outstanding performance in the area of quantitative or population genetics.  The prize is awarded annually by The Genetics Society and The University of Birmingham and pertains to a project report, dissertation or thesis submitted during the academic year in question.

Rosa will receive her prize at the Society Mendel’s 200th Birthday event on 20th July, 2022.


Genetics Society Medal 2022 – Prof Robin Lovell-Badge

The 2022 Genetics Society medal is awarded to Robin Lovell-Badge.  Robin will receive his Medal at the Society autumn conference, Genetics of Reproduction, on 18th November 2022 at the Royal Society, London.

Robin Lovell-Badge is a senior group leader and head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute.

He obtained his PhD in embryology at University College London (UCL) in 1978, carrying out mouse stem cell and embryo research with Martin Evans.  It was during his postdoc in the Genetics Department at the University of Cambridge when Robin began to consider genetic approaches.  An EMBO Long Term Fellowship in Paris allowed him to develop methods for studying gene function and regulation, via embryonic stem cells and transgenic mice.  He then established his independent laboratory in 1982 at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Mammalian Development Unit,  UCL, directed by Anne McLaren. It was here that Robin began to study sex determination, combining embryology with molecular genetics and mutation studies in the mouse to test and find candidates for the Y-linked testis determining gene.  In 1988 he moved to the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (which was incorporated into the Francis Crick Institute in 2016), becoming Head of Division in 1993.

It was in 1990, in collaboration with Peter Goodfellow’s lab, that Robin identified Sry/SRY as a new candidate for the testis determining gene in mice and humans.  He went on to prove that Sry was the gene and the only one on the Y chromosome required to initiate testis rather than ovary differentiation.  Subsequent work by Robin’s lab and others have identified and tested the function of many other relevant genes and established many of the genetic pathways involved in the initiation and maintenance of gonadal sex.

At the same time as finding Sry/SRY, Robin’s lab also discovered the first members of the Sox gene family.  He went on to show, using genetic methods, the importance of Sox2 for pluripotency in the early embryo, and for Sox1, Sox2, Sox3 and Sox9 for the development of the central nervous system, the pituitary, and for stem cells in these systems.  In addition to being of fundamental interest, Robin’s work is of clinical relevance, providing better diagnosis and understanding of the etiology of disorders of sex differentiation and of disorders affecting the CNS and pituitary.

Robin was elected a member of EMBO (1993), a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1999), the Royal Society (2001), the Royal Society of Arts (2002), the Royal Society of Biology (2011), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2018), and the Galton Institute (2018).  He has received the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (1995), the Amory Prize (1996), the Feldberg Foundation Prize (2008), the Waddington Medal of the British Society for Developmental Biology (2010), and the ISSCR Public Service Award (2021).  He was awarded a CBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.

Robin was a Distinguished and is now a Special Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong (where he has also been a visiting professor since 1996); an Honorary Professor at UCL, (since 2003), and a Visiting Professor at King’s College London (since 2016). He is President of the Institute of Animal Technologists.

Robin is also very active in both public engagement and policy work, notably around stem cells, genetics, human embryo and animal research, and in ways science is regulated and disseminated.


JBS Haldane Lecture 2022 – Prof Mike Fay

The Genetics Society is delighted to announce Professor Mike Fay, Kew Gardens, as the winner of the 2022 JBS Haldane award.

Professor Fay graduated from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in Genetics and Plant Breeding, and then carried out research on genetic resources in clover for his PhD at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (now Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University).  After two years working for the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International as a Scientific Information Officer, he moved to Kew (where he still works) in 1986, as Head of the Micropropagation Unit.  In 1995, Mike established a program in Conservation Genetics in the Jodrell Laboratory.  Subsequently, he became Head of Genetics, and is now Senior Research Leader in Conservation Genetics and Molecular Ecology.

For many years, Mike’s research has focused on the application of genetic and other data in the formulation of conservation management plans, working extensively with Natural England and other organisations.  Major projects include population genetics of orchids and studies of polyploidy, hybridization and apomixis in endemic whitebeams and rowans (Sorbus species).

Mike has published > 220 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and he is joint author of Plant of the World – An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Vascular Plants (2017).  He has been Chair of the Orchid Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of IUCN since 2006 and Chief Editor of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society since 2008.

Mike’s interest in genetics extends beyond his professional life, and he is a keen amateur genealogist.

Awards:

  • Bicentenary Medal, Linnean Society, 2000
  • Individual Merit Promotion, 2011 (to date)
  • Adjunct Professorship, University of Western Australia, 2016 (to date)

Professor Fay will present the JBS Haldane Lecture on the 17th November at the Royal Institute, London.


Haldane Lecture 2020 – Jonathan Pettitt

Jonathan Pettitt will present the 2020 Genetics Society Haldane Lecture at the Royal Institution from 7:00pm – 8:30pm on Tuesday 14th June 2022:

“Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”  Non-Darwinian routes to the evolution of life’s complexity.

Image: Jonathan Pettitt, adapted from Ernst Haekel, Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 14: Peridinea

The standard view of evolution is that complex living things arise through gradual refinements of simpler precursors; each successive version becoming better adapted through natural selection, leading to exquisitely refined, complex mechanisms.  But there is another route for life to evolve complexity.  Rather than being fine-tuned creations of natural selection, complex features can arise simply because biology is messy and noisy.  In this talk, Professor Jonathan Pettitt will explain how living systems tend to make simple mechanisms more complicated than they need to be.  He will show how such ‘unnecessary complexity’ can both restrict and expand an organism’s evolutionary potential.

The event will be held in hybrid format, enabling all members to attend either remotely or in person.  Non-members are welcome.

Theatre attendance:
To enable the Ri to meet current regulations, tickets for theatre are limited and must be booked in advance via Eventbrite.

Cost:
Non-Genetics Society members – £16,
Concession – £10,
Ri members and Ri patrons – £7.
Genetics Society members – FREE using the secret code emailed to members.

Remote attendance:
To receive a link to the live event, please book in advance using Eventbrite, following the instructions.

If you are a member and do not receive the email, please, contact Theteam with your membership number.

There will be a drinks reception for members from 6pm.  We look forward to seeing you there!


Hap-pea Birthday Mendel!

To help the Genetics Society in celebrating Gregor Mendel’s 200th birthday anniversary on the 20th of July 2022, we invite you to submit artwork based on Mendel’s discovery of the rules of inheritance! The best artwork will be featured on the cover of a special issue of the official journal of the Genetics Society, Heredity, and will win some money.

Who can participate:

Students from primary and secondary schools based in the UK.

How can you participate:

Submit an image of your artwork that depicts Mendel’s work.It can be a drawing, collage, sculpture, or other creative composition. Please send a high-resolution image of your submission, with the artist’s name, age, materials used and school’s name to theteam@genetics.org.uk with the subject line: ‘Hap-pea Birthday Mendel’. Each student can submit up to three pieces of artwork.

Deadline:

13th May 2022

Prizes:

The winning student will get a £100 voucher and their school will get £500 towards science equipment. The winning artwork will also feature in a special issue of Heredity (https://www.nature.com/hdy/), celebrating Mendel’s birthday.

Judges:

All artworks will be judged by the Genetics Society committee.

If you want to find more about Mendel’s work:

https://gregormendel200.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mehz7tCxjSE

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/teaching-wiki/gregor-mendel

https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/gregor-mendel-and-the-principles-of-inheritance-593/


Public lecture: Genomic “Dark Matter” and its role in health and disease

As part of our Spring Meeting in Edinburgh we will have a public lecture Genomic “Dark Matter” and its role in health and disease on Wednesday, 13th April at 7pm.  The event will be hybrid, so there will be a live audience and an online audience via Zoom webinar.  The event is free to attend but you need to register for either the live event or online.


National Career’s week

It’s National Career’s week! If you want to find out more about a career in genetics check our our career’s webpage featuring many examples of career paths outside academia.


2022 February Newsletter

The February 2022 issue of the Genetics Society Newsletter is now available for download.

“In this issue we are exploring diversity and inclusivity in genetic research. Feature articles cover studies on genetic diversity in underrepresented populations, research that aim to make data and information more accessible to families and communities, and research careers in countries with limited resources. It is a complex and varied topic, and the following articles provide a thoughtful glimpse into many issues and fascinating research topics:

Human variation is an interesting phenomenon observable at many levels of our existence, but perhaps most fascinating at the molecular level. Nothing attests to each human’s uniqueness as well as the DNA. […] Many of the underrepresented populations exhibit the greatest genetic diversity. Their genomes have evolved in response to their unique environment and lifestyle choices, therefore, this inequity means that vast amounts of genetic variants are missed since they are either absent or present in low frequencies in the European population

(Oyewumi Akinpelu, page 32)

[P]recision medicine seems to be closer than ever. However, not all populations will benefit equally. Nor will the architecture of diseases be fully understood without the adequate representation of all human diversity

(Maria Jose Palma Mart nez, page 35)

We continue to explore the career evolution and impact of research experience on the past years Summer Studentship grant winners: students shared their experience and hopes with us in “Genetics Society Summer Studentship – Share your story”, page 42. For more interviews, see issue 85.

The Newsletter is growing! Be prepared for new material, from “picture of research” to book reviews and scientific games! Would you like to be part of this change? For more information see page 58.

If you have any comments or suggestions for future themes or articles, please send them to me: newsletter@genetics.org.uk

Enjoy!

Best wishes,

Margherita Colucci


Functional Regulatory Genomics and Disease

Do join us 11-13th April in Edinburgh for our spring 2022 Scientific Meeting, Functional Regulatory Genomics and Disease.

Free registration and grant of up to £150 is available to early career researchers (including students) on submission of a relevant abstract.

Full details available here.


FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND GLOBAL COVID-19 GENOMICS TRAINING PROGRAMME LAUNCHED

A new, global training programme that aims to provide deeper understanding about SARS-CoV-2 genomics and biodata, and how this knowledge can be used to prepare for future pandemics has been launched by COG-Train.  This is a partnership between Wellcome Connecting Science (WCS) and the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, alongside their international collaborators,
including Wellcome’s Africa and Asia programmes.

The first course in this programme − The Power of Genomics to Understand the COVID-19 Pandemic − launches on 7 February 2022 and will be hosted online on the FutureLearn platform.  This course is the first in a series of five, all of which will be released online.

It is free to learners across the world and will show how genomics has improved the response to COVID-19, how COVID-19 vaccines and other therapies are developed, and how sharing genomic sequencing helps healthcare professionals understand disease epidemiology, allowing them to give better advice to policy makers and governments.

It was developed with an international audience in mind, with scientists working on SARS-CoV-2 genomics based in Argentina, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Thailand, and the UK contributing their knowledge and expertise to this course.  A larger group of experts from Asia, Africa and Latin America have provided advice on the training needs in their regions.

The first course will provide a broad introduction to COVID-19 genome sequencing, and is designed for anyone interested in learning more about the genomic response to the current pandemic.  This includes early career researchers, healthcare professionals, science journalists, policymakers, and those working in public health, or anyone who wants to know more about how genomics has helped
to shape the global response to the virus so far.

A series of more technical online courses for researchers and healthcare professionals will follow.  These will concentrate on multiple topics, such as sampling and data acquisition, and the associated legal and ethical issues along with the sequencing and analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomes, including the identification of new variants.  In addition to this, one will focus on genomics in clinical practice and the implications for public health policy, including how to advise policy makers and health ministries.

The wider programme will also feature ‘train-the-trainer’ courses, supporting scientists and healthcare professionals to learn about bioinformatics analysis and sequencing.  This is so they can acquire the knowledge to develop and deliver their own courses, and train more healthcare workers in their own countries.

A ‘remote classroom’ model will be used to increase the reach and impact of the learning materials, with training being delivered simultaneously in multiple classrooms across many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  This allows the knowledge and the experience gained from this pandemic to be shared globally.

Overall the programme will help create a global network of experts and frontline workers who will share data, support and advise on further developments in the fight against COVID-19, or other infectious disease outbreaks.

Dr Catherine Ludden, Director of Operations for the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) and Director of COG-Train, said: “Alongside Wellcome Connecting Science and the Unviersity of Cambridge, we have created this programme for those working at the frontline of the pandemic all over the world.  As genomics continues to play a key role in the fight, it is vital that healthcare workers and researchers are provided with free access to training to develop their knowledge and skills in genomics.  We want to ensure that we are doing everything that we can to support them so that globally, we are more prepared to track SARS-CoV-2 and any other pandemics in the future.”

Dr Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz, a member of the focus group for COG-Train, from the Institute of Human Genetics, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila said: “The pandemic underscored the huge roles that genomics and bioinformatics play in public health response to emerging infectious diseases.  This training gives opportunities for countries with limited resources to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to address their own needs and to prepare them towards precision medicine, the future of healthcare.”

Dr Gerald Mboowa, who contributed to the course content, from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of integrating as well as strengthening pathogen genomics in every National Public Health Laboratory or Institution disease surveillance programme.”

Dr Treasa Creavin, Head of Conferences and Online Training at Wellcome Connecting Science said: “Sharing international expertise and knowledge about genomics is important to help health agencies around the world to identify and inform public health strategies to control disease outbreaks like COVID-19.  This programme provides free, accessible training for people globally who are working at
the forefront of COVID-19.  It will use a unique blend of online courses, virtual versions of train-the-trainer and remote classrooms to deliver high quality training that can strengthen the capacity of scientists worldwide.  This programme can also help create a network of professionals, so that information and support can be shared freely.”


Haldane Lecture 2021 – Matthew Cobb

Matthew Cobb will present the 2021 Genetics Society Haldane Lecture at the Royal Institution from 7:00pm – 8:30pm on Tuesday 22nd February 2022:

Dreams and nightmares of the genetic age

Image: Cotton is one of many GMO crops. Credit: southerngal via Pixabay

For the last 50 years, new genetic techniques have transformed science. They’ve been turned into technology, putting food in the fields, healing bodies and, hidden from history, constructing terrifying weapons.

Join Matthew Cobb as he explores how every new development has been rapidly counterbalanced by fears of disaster. From genetically manipulated humans, to the inadvertent or deliberate release of dangerous organisms.

In this talk, Matthew shows how genetic engineering has shaped the last half century as surely as the atom bomb shaped the post-war world. Exploring science, business, culture and protest, he reveals the alarming power of the new genetics and explores how it can be controlled.

Theatre attendance:
To enable the Ri to meet current regulations, tickets for theatre are limited and must be booked in advance via Eventbrite.

Cost:
Non-Genetics Society members – £16,
Concession – £10,
Ri members and Ri patrons – £7.
Genetics Society members – FREE using the secret code emailed to members.

Remote attendance:
To receive a link to the live event, please book in advance using Eventbrite, following the instructions.

If you are a member and do not receive the email, please, contact Theteam with your membership number.


New Committee Members 2022

The Genetics Society welcomes two new members to the committee – Dr Jason Mellad and Dr Laura Dixon,  and the return of Professor Jonathan Pettitt.

Jason Mellad takes up the Corporate Genetics and Biotechnology post vacated by Alison Bentley.

Dr. Jason Mellad is a scientist entrepreneur passionate about translating innovative technologies into more effective therapies and better patient outcomes.  He founded Start Codon to identify and recruit high-potential and disruptive healthcare startups worldwide, seed fund them, and leverage the exceptional resources of the Cambridge (UK) Cluster with an aim to minimise risk and drive their success.  Previously, Jason was CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix which has developed a proprietary epigenetic biomarker discovery platform for the development of new diagnostic assays and the identification of novel drug targets.  While at Cambridge Epigenetix, he transformed the research tools company into a leading liquid biopsy player and led two successful fundraises (Series B and C) for a total of $49.8m.  He has also served as an associate at Cambridge Enterprise, the technology transfer office of the University of Cambridge.  Jason was awarded a Marshall Scholarship to obtain his PhD in Medicine from the University of Cambridge with a focus on the molecular mechanisms regulating vascular remodelling within coronary artery bypass grafts. He has a BSc (Summa Cum Laude) in Molecular Biology and Chemistry from Tulane University.  Through this position, Jason hopes to bring an entrepreneurial perspective to the Genetics Society to help drive the translation of further genomic innovations into the clinic.  He also aims to promote the broad adoption of next generation analytical techniques including epigenetics and chromatin conformation capture. 

Dr Laura Dixon takes up the Applied and Quantitative Genetics post vacated by Alastair Wilson.

Dr Laura Dixon is a lecturer in Crop Genetics and Physiology and UKRI Future Leader Fellow at the University of Leeds, UK.  She received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh (understanding plant circadian rhythms) and her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge (Natural Sciences).  Her research group works to understand how cereals respond to temperature signals and use this knowledge to adapt and increase the robustness of the plants developmental response to these signals.  The group’s work combines fundamental discovery science at the molecular and genetic level with the translation of this into realistic in-field environments.  Their work focuses on reproductive plant biology including the vegetative to floral transition, floret formation and flowering time regulation.  Through understanding these processes they aim to increase the developmental robustness of cereals, in particular wheat, under the increasingly variable climate conditions to enable an improvement in yield potential stability.  These research interests have developed from Dr Dixon’s previous work as a post-doctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre, Norwich where she investigated spikelet regulation and ambient temperature responses during the vegetative to floral transition in wheat.

Jonathan Pettitt returns to the committee after a short break to take over the post of Vice president for the Public Understanding of Genetics.


Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2021 – Robert Hillary

I am delighted to have received the Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize.  I want to extend my gratitude to the Genetics Society and the University of Birmingham.  I would also like to thank my brilliant PhD supervisors Dr Riccardo Marioni, Dr Kathryn Evans, Prof Craig Ritchie, Prof Ian Deary and thesis chair Prof Caroline Hayward who nominated me for this award.  I feel very fortunate to have had such supportive supervisors and mentors to guide me through my PhD and beyond.

I embarked on a Wellcome-funded PhD programme in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh.  My PhD thesis was titled: ‘A multi-omics approach to understand the role of plasma proteins in cognitive ageing and dementia’.  The overarching aim of my work was to determine whether blood-based molecular markers can predict dementia risk.  First, I performed genome- and epigenome-wide association studies on the levels of over 400 blood proteins measured in either The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 or Generation Scotland.  I applied these data to causal analysis methods and found a small number of blood proteins whose levels might causally associate with dementia risk.  Second, I showed that an existing blood-based predictor of mortality termed ‘DNAm GrimAge’ robustly associated with multiple measures of brain health but did not associate with the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer, Edinburgh and hope to pursue a fellowship to continue my work in molecular epidemiology and common disease.


2022 Awards

Image: Frank Hailer

Mendel Medal 2022 – Professor Azim Surani and Professor Davor Solter

JBS Haldane Lecture 2022 – Dr Mike Fay, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Genetics Society Medal 2022 – Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Francis Crick Institute, London

Mary Lyon Medal 2022 – Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga, MRC LMS

Balfour Lecture 2022 – Dr Sam Behjati, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2020/21 – Dr Robert Hillary, University of Edinburgh

 


Professor William G Hill

photo: Anne-Katrin Purkiss

The Genetics Society is saddened to learn of the death of Professor William G. Hill FRS, on 17th December 2021.  Professor Hill was an eminent quantitative and population geneticist and recipient of the Society “Centenary Year” Mendel Medal (2019).

Professor Hill (Bill) was also a friend and much respected colleague of many Genetics Society members and beyond.  We send our sincere condolences  to his family, and plan to publish a longer tribute in 2022.

The Society has compiled a special tribute of personal memories, anecdotes and photographs of Bill.  If you have anything of your own that you would like to add, please forward to the website editor or honorary secretary


Call for Papers

Special issue of Heredity in honour of Mendel’s 200th birthday.

Mendel (born 20 July, 1822) is best known for his three laws of inheritance:

1) Law of independent assortment

2) Law of dominance

3) Law of segregation

However, the field of genetics has been enriched by considering exceptions to these laws.  Examples include: epigenetics and genomic imprinting, epistasis, paramutation, gene conversion, meiotic drive, social effects, symbiosis and the microbiome, quantitative genetics, cultural inheritance.

Heredity is seeking submissions of short essays, reviews, perspectives or research articles that address how Mendel’s ideas have fuelled development of understanding of such “exceptions”.

The Genetics Society is sponsoring the special issue and would welcome representation across their membership.

Please send expressions of interest (by 20 September, 2021) to heredity-journal@ glasgow.ac.uk with “Mendel” in the subject line.  Full papers will be due by 20 December, 2021.


Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith is awarded the Buchanan Medal

The Genetics Society is thrilled to congratulate our new President, Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith FMedSci FRS, on being awarded the prestigious Buchanan Medal 2021 by the Royal Society for “her pioneering work in epigenetics, her interdisciplinary work on genomic imprinting, the interplay between the genome and epigenome, and how genetic and environmental influences affect development and human diseases“.

Professor Ferguson-Smith’s achievement will be celebrated at the Royal Society’s Anniversary Day on 30 November 2021.


Welcome to New Committee Members

The Genetics society welcomes two new committee members: Anita Hashmi (Shadow Postgraduate Representative) and Dr Natalia Bulgakova (Website Editor).

Anita is a second-year postgraduate researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University studying the genetics of African herbivores and the impact of conservation action on communities in Kenya.  Her research focuses on the practical application of genetics to resolve conservation issues alongside the influence of conservation strategies, such as the designation of national parks, on the lives of local communities.   Anita’s reasons for wanting to join the Genetics Society Committee were twofold: to continue the excellent work of the Society in public engagement and highlight diversity in our community of geneticists.  Through this position, she hopes to highlight and celebrate our differences as people and as researchers, especially within the postgraduate research community.

Natalia is a lecturer at the School of Biologies, University of Sheffield.  Natalia’s research focuses on cell-cell adhesion, which is the mechanism that connects individual cells in our body together.  She studies the regulation and roles of cell-cell adhesion during development and tissue homeostasis using Drosophila as a model. Natalia’s research greatly benefits from her passion for developing and applying computational approaches for analyses of data from microscopy and next-generation sequencing.  These approaches allow the extraction of quantitative, high-quality information to better understand the cellular and genetic mechanisms of animal development.  During her postdoc at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, UK, Natalia gained experience as a website editor, which she currently applies to her lab’s website.  She hopes to bring this expertise to help the Genetics Society to maintain an up-to-date inclusive world-wide-web presence.

Anita and Natalia are looking forward to being a part of the Genetics Society Committee.


2021 Postdoc Appreciation Week

Postdoc Appreciation Week (PAW) is a celebration of the fantastic contribution postdocs and researchers make towards research and academic life in general.  It’s a special time to showcase, recognise, and celebrate their efforts, and thank them for all they do!

Originally an initiative from the National Postdoc Association in the USA (National Postdoc Appreciation Week), it is now also celebrated in the UK, with the first-ever UK/ROI-wide events organised in 2020 by a consortium of UK and Irish Universities.

In 2021, PAW is taking place from Monday 20 September to Friday 24 September 2021.  It will culminate in the day-long National Postdoc Conference 2021 (#NPDC21) on Friday 24 September.

During PAW, please use #LovePostdocs and #NPAW2021 in your Tweets!


2021 July Newsletter

The July 2021 issue of the Genetics Society Newsletter is now available for download.

In this issue, “change” is the keyword. 

Through a series of interviews, we explored the changes from their undergraduate role and the career evolution of the past years Summer Studentship grant winners. Where are they now? What impact that research experience had on them? Find out more in “Genetics Society Summer Studentship – Share your story, Part 1”, page 23. 

Big changes happened in the Society too. While we say goodbye to our previous president, Laurence Hurst, and thank him for all his great work and dedication to the society, we have welcomed our new President, Anne Ferguson-Smith. Anne is the Pro- Vice-Chancellor for Research and the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. She is an expert on genomic imprinting and focuses on mammalian developmental geneticist and epigeneticist. Please, go to page 22 to know more about her and what she hopes to achieve over the next 3 years. 

Finally, there are aspects in research and, more generally, in the scientific world that cry for change: with Dr Stuart Ritchie, we explore misconduct and fraud in science and the solutions that “open science” proposes, talking about his latest book “Science fictions: how fraud, bias, negligence and hype undermine the search for truth”. 

I would like to draw your attention to the opportunity of contributing to the special issue of Heredity. In July 2022, this special issue will be celebrating Mendel’s 200th birthday with short essays, reviews and research articles on “exceptions” to Mendel’s laws. We would like to invite you to submit your piece (more information on page 20). 

Looking forward to this special issue, we propose “How genetic linkage was discovered” by Antonio Marco (page 39): focusing on Mendel’s laws of heredity, this is an overview of the discovery of genetic linkage in which William Bateson, the founder of The Genetics Society, was also involved. 

Enjoy! 

Best wishes,

Margherita Colucci


2020 Award Lectures -Friday

Join us online on Friday 25th of June  for the 2020 Genetics Society Award Lectures.

Attendance is free, if you haven’t registered already, please do so at the event webpage.

To mark the 102nd anniversary of The Genetics Society we are holding an online afternoon of talks by our 2020 medal winners.  There is an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, followed by a panel discussion on different paths within academic careers, including the ups and downs of such a journey.  This is  the first formal event presided by our new President: Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith.

The panel discussion will focus on ‘Careers in Academia’ and feature our medal winners along with Alexander Lorenz, Ros John, Gautam Dey, Serena Ding, and will be chaired by our Postgraduate Representative Emily Baker.

Programme
13.00 – Start of event (5 min intro by Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith)
13.05 – Dr Sarah Flanagan, University of Exeter, Neonatal Diabetes: 100 years since the discovery of Insulin
13.45 – Professor Alastair Wilson, University of Exeter, Competition, constraint and the evolutionary genetics of animal contests
14.25 – Professor Sir Peter Donnelly, University of Oxford, Unlocking the power of genomics to improve healthcare
15.05 – Panel discussion ‘Careers in Academia: Becoming a group leader in academia today’ A discussion chaired by Genetics Society Postgraduate Representative Emily Baker, who will be joined by the award winners as well as Dr Alexander Lorenz, Professor Ros John, Dr Serena Ding, and Dr Gautam Dey
16.00 – End of event


Registration

This event is free to attend, please visit the event webpage to register.

 


2021 Awards

The Genetics Society 2021 awards are as follows:

Mendel Medal 2021 – Professor Dame Linda Partridge

JBS Haldane Lecture 2021 – Professor Matthew Cobb, University of Manchester

Genetics Society Medal 2021 – Professor David Sherratt, University of Oxford

Mary Lyon Medal 2021 – Professor Julian Knight, University of Oxford

Balfour Lecture 2021 – Dr Alison Wright, University of Sheffield

Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2019/20 – Dr Rosa Cheesman, Kings College London.


Wendy Bickmore is awarded CBE in 2021 NY honours list

Our huge congratulations to recent president of The Genetics Society, Wendy Bickmore, who was awarded a CBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours list, for her services to biomedical science and women in science.

Professor Bickmore is Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh.

 

 


Genetics Shambles

The Genetics Society is delighted to be involved with Cosmic Shambles, a series of live discussions, interviews and  podcasts presented by Robin Ince, in association with The Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath

Genetics Shambles will focus on the work of some of the leading lights from the worlds of science and  genetics and feature in depth access rarely found in broadcast science series of today.

The series will use research surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic as a starting point before focusing on the wider wonders of the study of genetics.

The pilot episode of this series with Robin Ince chatting to immunologist Prof Sheena Cruickshank, microbiologist Prof Edward Feil and mathematical modeller of disease Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock about the state of COVID-19 investigation was broadcast on 11th June 2020.

The rest of the series will tackle such grand questions as:

  • Why do viruses affect some people more than others?
  • Where are we on the development of drugs and vaccines that will help to fight this pandemic and other viruses?
  • What have we learnt from the human genome and how has it helped us to understand inherited traits and improve our medicines?
  • And what does the future hold for genetic research in both a scientific, and ethical, sense?

Available fortnightly from Wednesday, 1st July, there will be 12 episodes in total.

This brand new and exclusive series will help us all to better understand the basic building blocks of the natural world.

Episode 12

Episode 11

 

Episode 10

 

Episode 9

 

Episode 8

 

Episode 7

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Episode 6

 

Episode 5

 

Episode 4:

 

Episode 3:

 

Episode 2:

 

Episode 1:

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