News Release

Ottoline Leyser honored with the 2017 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award

Meeting Announcement


The award recognizes outstanding achievements of female researchers in the life sciences in the past five years. Ottoline Leyser, who is Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University, UK, receives the honour for her work on the evolutionary, developmental and biochemical mechanisms that enable plants to respond and adapt to environmental changes.

"It's a great honour to receive this award," says Ottoline Leyser. "It's both a joy and a privilege to work in research science, especially in molecular biology, where technological advances are currently opening up so many opportunities for discovery. To make the most of these opportunities science needs diversity, and initiatives like this award have an important part to play in opening the doors of the laboratory to everyone."

Professor Leyser's focus on understanding how plants respond to their environment led to her discovery of the mechanism of action of the plant hormone auxin and the identification of a second group of plant hormones known as strigolactones. She has formulated a model of how the two hormone systems interact to regulate plant development. Her current work aims to elucidate the mechanisms underlying this model. In order to tackle this question, she has added computational modelling to the more traditional array of techniques used to study this complex system.

Ottoline Leyser is also an outstanding role model for future generations of researchers, having successfully combined academic research, parenthood and other activities. In addition to acting on various boards and committees, dedicating time to mentoring and public outreach, and providing evidence to the UK Parliament, she is a strong advocate for women in science. For her book 'Mothers in Science - 64 ways to have it all' she collected stories of women who combined a successful scientific career with motherhood.

"Ottoline has shown us how to be a first-rate scientist and a first-rate parent at the same time: manage your time well to accomplish both," comments former EMBO Council Chair Detlef Weigel from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany. "Many of the real challenges - as Ottoline doesn't tire to remind us - are not gender, but parent issues."

The 2017 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award of 10,000 euros will be presented to Ottoline Leyser at the FEBS Congress in 2017 in Jerusalem where she will present a plenary lecture.


Ottoline Leyser received her BA and PhD in Genetics from the University of Cambridge. Following postdoctoral research at Indiana University and the University of Cambridge, she became a lecturer at the University of York in 1994. Eight years later, she was appointed as Professor. In 2011, she moved to the newly opened Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge, taking up the role of Associate Director, then Director. She is also the Chair of the British Society for Developmental Biology and of the Royal Society's Science Policy Advisory Group.

Ottoline Leyser's achievements have been recognized by election to EMBO, the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. She received a damehood in the UK's New Year's Honours 2017, and has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Society of Experimental Biology's President's Medal, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award, the International Plant Growth Substance Association's Silver Medal, and the UK Genetics Society Medal.


About the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award

The Women in Science Award is a joint initiative of FEBS and EMBO. It recognizes and highlights major contributions by female scientists working in Europe to life sciences research. The award includes a prize of 10,000 euros, a bronze statuette and the opportunity to give a plenary lecture at the FEBS Congress. Nominations for the 2018 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award close on 1 October 2017.

More information:

About FEBS

The Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) is one of Europe's largest organizations in the molecular life sciences, with over 36,000 members across more than 35 biochemistry and molecular biology societies (its 'Constituent Societies') in different countries of Europe and neighbouring regions. As a grass-roots organization FEBS thereby provides a voice to a large part of the academic research and teaching community in Europe and beyond.

As a charity, FEBS promotes and supports biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, molecular biophysics and related research areas through its journals, Congress, Advanced Courses, Fellowships and other initiatives. There is an emphasis in many programmes on scientific exchange and cooperation between scientists working in different countries, and on promotion of the training of early-career scientists. For more information:

About EMBO

EMBO is an organization of more than 1700 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences. The major goals of the organization are to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information, and help build a European research environment where scientists can achieve their best work.

EMBO helps young scientists to advance their research, promote their international reputations and ensure their mobility. Courses, workshops, conferences and scientific journals disseminate the latest research and offer training in techniques to maintain high standards of excellence in research practice. EMBO helps to shape science and research policy by seeking input and feedback from our community and by following closely the trends in science in Europe. For more information:

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