2010 Alumni Science Evening
The address was given by Professor Lorna Casselton FRS, who was not only a Commission Research Scholar from 1963 - 65, has been a stalwart and valuable member of the Commission's Science and Engineering Fellowships Committee since 2000. Currently Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, Professor Casselton is also Emeritus Professor of Fungal Genetics in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford. Here her research concentrates on the sexual development in fungi, emphasising the major role that fungal genetics has played in elucidating the function of our own genes, their role in cell growth, division, development, cell communication and even circadian rhythm.
From Fungal Genetics to Science Diplomacy
"I started my scientific career at University College London and following my PhD in fungal genetics, I became what was then called an 1851 Senior Student for two years. This was seen as a great honour and I know that it helped me enormously in being appointed to an academic post. In this genomic age it is all too easy to forget the major role that fungal genetics has played in elucidating the function of our genes, their role in cell growth, division, development, cell communication and even circadian rhythm. By their very nature they lend themselves to special selective techniques that enable us to isolate mutants defective in any pathway that we are interested in. My special interest has been in the sex genes. I started my teaching career at another London College, what was then called Royal Holloway College, and after just a year, moved to Queen May College where I taught the whole field of genetics for 24 years. In 1991 I resigned my personal chair and took my research group to Oxford where I was funded as an independent post-doctoral, and later senior research fellow for 10 years by one of the Research Councils. Being a hands-on molecular biologist still pleases me when I have the time. In 2006, I was elected Foreign Secretary and one of the Vice Presidents of the Royal Society. For the past three years I have been the Society's ambassador in all our international work, which is very varied and demands a lot of travel. I will pick some highlights to illustrate to you what a wonderfully exciting life I lead."
Prior to the keynote address, four Royal Commission final year fellows presented their research projects:
Dr Philip Watts - Science and Engineering Research Fellow - Optical communications for data centres and high performance. Philip Watts won his Research Fellowship in 2008 and became only the second recipient of the Commission's Brunel Fellowship, awarded annually specifically for an engineering project. Philip himself has had an impressive academic and industrial career, having gained a 1st Class physics degree from the University of Nottingham and then spent 11 years in industry, firstly with BAE Systems Research and then Nortel. Returning to academia at UCL Philip gained an MSc with distinction in Broadband Communications followed by his PhD on the limits of chromatic dispersion compensation for long distance optical communications.
Dr Rhodri Davies - Science and Engineering Research Fellow - Modelling earth's engine: Innovative techniques for simulating thermo-chemical mantle convection. Rhodri is an earth scientist who having graduated from Cardiff University with a Masters degree, stayed on for a doctorate (jointly at Cardiff and Swansea) to study the application of multi-resolution numerical methods to geodynamics. The earth's crust is both complex and sadly occasionally unstable, so there is great relevance to Dr Davies' Fellowship research, which is entitled Modelling the Earth's Engine - Innovative Techniques for Simulating Thermo-Chemical Mantle Convection.
Mr Gareth Moore - Industrial Fellow - Investigation of electro-mechanical interactions in aerospace gas turbines. Having had a year in industry with Rolls-Royce before university, Gareth is a First Class Honours graduate in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Nottingham University, who was then snapped up by Rolls-Royce as a Graduate Trainee. He moved swiftly through research projects and Trent engine systems design before being supported by the company for his Industrial Fellowship application, to research a key area of electro-mechanical interactions in aerospace gas turbines. On the strength of this project Gareth was also selected as the Commission's 2007 ERA Foundation Industrial Fellow. His work is crucial as the power demands in airliners continue to rise and increasing power generation capacity is required from the engines which propel them. At the same time propulsive power demands go up, demands for efficiency continue and weight needs to be kept to a minimum. Gareth's work contributes towards resolving this complex challenge.
Mr Paul Bassarab - Industrial Fellowship - Novel synthetic approach to controlled release of organic salt-based biocides. Paul is a Cambridge MSc Graduate in Natural Sciences (chemistry) who works for International Paints, part of the multi-national Akzo Nobel Group. Based in Gateshead, International Paints has long specialised in marine coatings. The sea is the most hostile of environments and protection of surfaces from corrosion, damage and marine growth is a major challenge in which International is a world leader. Biggest of all these challenges is protecting the underwater surfaces of vessels and preventing growth which reduces propulsion efficiency and this is the subject of Paul's research.