Public Release: 

National awards for 2 University of York scientists

University of York

Two University of York academics, Professor Ottoline Leyser and Professor John Goodby, have received national awards for their contributions to science.

Professor Ottoline Leyser of the University's Department of Biology has received a Rosalind Franklin Award from the Royal Society for an outstanding contribution to natural science engineering or technology.

Professor Leyser and her team are investigating the hormonal control of shoot branching in Arabidopsis, to understand better how plant hormones integrate environmental, developmental, and genetic factors to regulate development. She has been researching the plant hormone auxin for 15 years, and has been a member of the Department of Biology at York since 1994.

Part of the £30,000 award, must be spent on promoting women in science. Professor Leyser's nomination stated that many women are deferred from pursing a career in science because they believe it is impossible to balance it with having children. To dispel this myth, she will assemble a collection of time lines, mapping the career paths and family lives of successful women scientists who have children, illustrating the possibility of combining career and family.

Professor Leyser said, "I am very excited to have received this award. Rosalind Franklin was a pioneer for women in science, and I am deeply honoured to have won this award that carries her name. Things are so much easier now for women than during the time that she was working, there is really no reason why the proportion of women pursuing research careers in science should not be 50 per cent."

Professor John Goodby

Professor John Goodby of the University's Department of Chemistry has received an Interdisciplinary Science Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) for his contribution to the understanding of the properties of liquid crystals.

Professor Goodby's award is one of only two given by the Society this year, and is the first of its kind to a University of York scientist.

The award recognises Professor Goodby's work in the understanding of ferroelectricity in liquid crystals, alignment mechanisms in devices and deducing novel structures. Ferroelectric liquid crystals are found in real time imaging devices, such as the eyepieces of digital cameras and could ultimately be used in 3D TV applications.

Professor Goodby's study indicated how alignment works and the methods to use in aligning various liquid crystal phases. His deduction of novel structures pinpointed new states of matter that are neither liquid, solid nor gas.

Professor Goodby said: "I am indebted to Members of the British Liquid Crystal Society for their nomination, to all of the staff and researchers working in the liquid crystal group at the University of York, and to my many friends and research collaborators throughout the world. Their enthusiasm and passion for science have made this award possible".

As part of the award, Professor Goodby will also give two lectures, one will be during the 2008 BA Festival of Science to be held in Liverpool and the second to be at a scientific meeting organised by the RSC.


Notes to editors:

Professor Leyser:

  • Ottoline Leyser has a BA and PhD from Cambridge University. She held Post-Doctoral positions at Bloomington, Indiana, USA from 1990 to1993 and at Cambridge between 1993 and 1994. She became a Lecturer at the University of York in 1994, a Reader in 1999 and was appointed Professor in 2002.
  • Ottoline Leyser is Co-Editor of The Plant Journal and is on the editorial board of a number of other bioscience publications, and has recently finished a three year term chairing the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Genes and Developmental Biology Committee.
  • The Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award is made to an individual for an outstanding contribution to any area of natural science, engineering or technology (SET). Nominations are welcomed from both women and men. The Award, made annually, consists of a medal and an award of £30,000, and the recipient is called upon to deliver a lecture as part of the Society's public lecture series.
  • The University of York's Department of Biology is one of the leading centres for biological teaching and research in the UK. The Department, with more than 400 scientific and support staff and 400 undergraduates, currently has one of the highest research ratings in the UK. More information at

Professor Goodby:

  • John Goodby has a BSc and a PhD from the University of Hull and has also held a Post-doctoral research position. He spent time with AT&T Bell Laboratories in the US before returned to the University of Hull in 1988 as Head of the Liquid Crystal Group and subsequently Head of the Chemistry Department. In 1988 he received his second doctorate (DSc) from Hull for research into Ordered Fluids and joined the University of York in 2005.
  • In 1994 John Goodby was the Amersham Senior Fellow of the Royal Society, in 1996 he received the GW Gray Medal of the British Liquid Crystals Society, in 2002 the Tilden Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry and an Honorary Doctorate in Science from Trinity College Dublin. He has also been President and Vice President of the International Liquid Crystal Society and Chair of the British Liquid Crystal Society and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, and a Fellow of the World Technology Network.
  • John Goodby serves on the University's Research Committee, the Business and Community Committee, and the Department of Chemistry Research Committee. Their current research interests range from liquid crystal microdisplays for use in projection television and head mounted displays, through to the development of bioresorbable liquid crystal biopolymers for the replacement of titanium in long bone fractures.
  • The Interdisciplinary Science Awards were established by the RSC in 1986, with the aim of drawing attention to the importance of interdisciplinary studies, particularly those of public interest, involving chemistry and other sciences and to enable chemists to work with scientists from different disciplines to be appropriately rewarded and publicised.
  • Previous award winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry Interdisciplinary Science Awards include: Sir Richard Friend, FRS (1991), current RSC President and Professor WJ Feast FRS (2001).
  • The Department of Chemistry at the University of York has an excellent reputation for teaching and research. In the last Research Assessment Exercise the department was awarded a 5 rating. It is led by Royal Society of Chemistry prize-winners in all three branches of physical, organic and inorganic chemistry. It has 46 members of academic staff, more than 380 undergraduate students, 150 graduates and 90 research fellows. More information at

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