Scientists win prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Awards

Two scientists from the University of Birmingham have been recognised with prestigious awards from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Professor Rachel O’Reilly , Head of the School of Chemistry , receives the Society’s Corday-Morgan Prize, while in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences , Professor Iseult Lynch receives the John Jeyes Award.

Professor O’Reilly’s award is in recognition of her work on the creative and comprehensive syntheses of functional, self-assembling polymeric materials. Her work studies the functions and processes of polymers, extended and sometimes complex chains of different molecules, with the aim of producing novel advanced materials, often trying to reproduce the form and action found in nature.

On receiving the award, Professor O’Reilly said: “Our aim is to create truly novel and useful materials that have real application and timeliness, following in the ethos of the founder of the Corday-Morgan Prize, eminent chemist Sir Gilbert Thomas Morgan. Sir Gilbert was the Mason Professor at the University of Birmingham a century ago and I am proud to follow in his footsteps here at Birmingham and very pleased that this important area of scientific research has been recognised.’

The John Jeyes Award recognised Professor Lynch’s work in promoting the understanding of the role of biomolecule-nanomaterials interactions. In particular, Professor Lynch’s team is researching what happens to nanoparticles in the environment. This information is then used to feed back into product design, resulting in safer consumer products, and to design alternative testing strategies that reduce the need for testing on animals without compromising environmental or human health and safety.

Professor Lynch said: “I am delighted to receive the John Jeyes Award for 2020, in recognition of the work that my team is conducting regarding the environmental health and safety of engineered nanomaterials and micro and nanoscale plastics waste. As a woman in science, I am especially proud to have been nominated and recognised, and I hope that this and the accompanying series of lectures will inspire other women, including those in my own team, to strive for excellence and never give up.

“My Head of School noted that former John Jeyes awardees include Nobel prize winners and Fellows of the Royal Society, so no pressure there! I remember as a PhD candidate looking at the prize winners and being so impressed at their work, so to be among their number now is thrilling.’

Dr Helen Pain, acting chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “We live in an era of tremendous global challenges, with the need for science recognised now more so than ever - so it is important to recognise those behind the scenes who are making significant contributions towards improving the world we live in. It is our honour and privilege to do that with these awards, which recognise exceptional scientific achievement.

“The global chemical sciences community is one that covers many different specialisms, from health and climate change to product development, sustainable transport, and everything in between. In recognising the work of Professor Lynch, we are also recognising the important contribution this incredible network of scientists makes to improving our lives every day.’

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Prizes and Awards are awarded in recognition of originality and impact of research, or for each winner’s contribution to the chemical sciences industry or education. They also acknowledge the importance of teamwork across the chemical sciences, as well as the abilities of individuals to develop successful collaborations.

Of those to have won a Royal Society of Chemistry Award, an illustrious list of 50 have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their pioneering work, including 2016 Nobel laureates Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Ben Feringa.

Last year, the Royal Society of Chemistry announced it is reviewing its recognition mechanisms. Details of how theawards structure will be changed - to ensure that the way excellence is recognised is fit for today’s needs - will be announced later this year.

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