Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2008 – Mark Adams

Before studying quantitative genetics, my experience with biology was a mishmash of neuroscience, theoretical modeling, and evolutionary robotics.  The research I was doing when I was put forward for the Memorial Prize was on heritability in a wild population, my first experience doing my own research on an organism.  There was nothing particularly novel about the method I used, but I wonder if the reason it stood out was because I was working with a behavioral phenotype in a system that was mostly studied for morphological and life-history traits.  So the lesson is: choose an interesting phenotype to study!  Receiving the award did crystalize for me that I was on the right path for the kinds of questions I wanted to ask and how I most enjoyed going about answering them.  After my MSc I went on to apply quantitative genetics to personality and happiness and this introduced me to the world of behaviour genetics.  Paradoxically it was through the community of human geneticists particularly Lindon Eaves, who studied at Birmingham that I learned more about Mather the Birmingham school of quantitative genetics in the 1960s.  I am still using biometrical genetics every day, now as a research associate at Sheffield working on the social genetics of birds.  Thinking back to being selected for the Prize reminds me of the equal parts of excitement and confusion that go into studying quantitative genetics, which is now the common language of all my research.