Public Release: 

Leading animal scientist wins prestigious Marshall medal

University of Nottingham

A leading University of Nottingham animal scientist has been awarded one of the most prestigious medals in the field of animal reproductive biology.

Professor Bob Webb has been chosen to receive the 'Marshall Medal' which is the premier award made by the Council of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility (SRF http://www.srf-reproduction.org/honours/marshall.htm). The Society aims to enhance the knowledge of reproductive processes and fertility in man and animals on an international scale and publishes the world-renowned journal, Reproduction.

Professor Webb was awarded the Medal at the Society's recent annual conference in recognition of his long and distinguished contributions to the field of reproductive biology. He is The University of Nottingham's Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Animal Science in the School of Biosciences.

The Marshall was established in 1963 to commemorate the life and work of distinguished animal biologist, F.H.A Marshall. It is awarded 'from time to time' by the Society to 'outstanding contributors to the study of fertility and reproduction'.

Reacting to his Marshall Medal, Professor Webb said:" To be honoured by one's peers is one of the greatest accolades that one can receive. Furthermore, when one looks at the names of previous recipients of the Marshall Medal, who are scientists who have had a major impact on our understanding of the control of reproductive function, then I feel doubly proud. Moreover in receiving this honour I fully acknowledge the significant contribution made to my research by the many research students, support staff and collaborators. I have been fortunate to have worked with so many dedicated and intellectually stimulating scientists from around the world. "

Professor Webb started his career by working on dairy, arable and pig farms. He graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BSc in Animal Physiology (1973) followed by a PhD in 1977. He was a Ford Foundation Fellow at the Reproductive Endocrinology Program, University of Michigan, followed by a MRC senior scientist position at the John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford. In 1981 he was recruited to the ARC Animal Breeding Research Organisation in Edinburgh, which subsequently became the BBSRC Roslin Institute.

In 1997 he returned to The University of Nottingham to a Chair in Animal Science. He subsequently became Head of the School of Biosciences, then Dean of the Faculty of Science, before becoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research.

Professor Webb's research has involved collaborations in Australia, France, Mexico, Brazil and North America. The main aim of his work is to understand the key processes controlling domestic animal performance, particularly reproduction because this is one of the key factors in the efficient production of both milk and meat. The work has also included development of a novel ovarian transplantation approach for maintaining fertility after low temperature freezing, which has been extended into whole ovary cryopreservation and transplantation, including tissue banking in humans.

Importantly, the research has shown that diet can influence the pattern of gene expression within the ovarian follicle to influence oocyte quality and embryo survival leading to improved pregnancy rates. This has resulted in the formulation of diets that have improved pregnancy rates in cattle, as well as maintaining milk production in dairy herds. Evidence from this research is being used to improve the efficiency of production systems and reduce environmental impact while paying due regard to animal welfare, consumer safety and product quality.

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