2017 UK and Ireland Fellows

The winners of the five 2017 L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science were announced on 5 May 2017 at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Society in London.

The 2017 winners are:

Dr Radha Boya, University of Manchester

Dr Boya is a nanoscientist aiming to produce atomically thin channels through layers of two-dimensional materials such as graphene. Such “sieves” which are ultimately narrow and smooth capillaries (i.e., tiny pipes which are 0.7 nanometre thin), have already been created and show that water molecules can go through them at an incredibly fast rate of one metre per second. Exploring these channels for desalination by sieving or filtering ions from the salt water is the way forward. Furthermore, study and utilization of exotic phenomena such as non-conventional transport of liquids now seems to be closer than ever.

Dr Annie Curtis, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Dr Curtis is an immunologist researching how the power of our internal body clock could be harnessed to control inflammation – a key target in a wide range of diseases. Our molecular clock or “body clock” regulates our sleep/wake patterns and our energy throughout the day, but new research suggests that the molecular clock in immune cells may also be able to control inflammation. A further study of 500,000 patients could help explain why we are more prone to inflammation at certain times of the day, and why disruptions to our body clock such as shift work, chronic jet lag and exposure to light at night could cause increased risk of inflammatory disease.

Dr Manju Kurian, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Dr Kurian is a geneticist researching the genetic causes of cerebral palsy, a common childhood condition associated with significant disability. Although traditionally associated with birth injury, many children with cerebral palsy actually have a faulty gene causing their problems. In a preliminary study of 95 patients, Dr Kurian found a genetic cause in half of the children, and in some cases was able to identify more targeted treatments leading to striking improvements. Some disabled children have even regained the ability to walk independently.

Dr Bethan Psaila, University of Oxford

Dr Psaila is a haematologist examining the role of blood cells in the bone marrow, known as megakaryocytes, in a rare but fatal disease called Myelofibrosis which destroys the bone marrow. Most patients live for fewer than five years after diagnosis, and 20% develop blood cancer. Current treatments help symptoms but do not cure the condition or improve survival. The condition is triggered by a mutation in a key gene called JAK2, and better understanding how the disease develops at a genetic level could help in the design of new treatments.

Dr Priya Subramanian, University of Leeds

Dr Subramanian is a mathematician researching mathematical recipes for never-repeating quasicrystals. Repeating patterns of tiles and crystals occur throughout the natural world, but never-repeating patterns are special because they possess order without repeatability. So-called quasicrystals containing such arrangements of atoms and molecules are thought to require less energy to assemble, and could offer advantages in manufacturing, insulation and photonic devices.

Five runners up were awarded £1,000 prize money. They are:

Dr Eleanor Raffan, University of Cambridge, Genetics

Obesity: Exploiting the Genomes of Domestic Dogs for Novel Insights

Dr Sarah Fiddyment, University of York, Biochemistry

Molecules, Microbes and Manuscripts: the unwritten biology of books

Dr Emma Chapman, Imperial College London, Astrophysics

Preparing for the SKA: The Epoch of Reionization Pipeline

Dr Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro, Durham University, Organic Chemistry

Three-Dimensionally Conjugated Nanoprisms as Organic Optoelectronic and Energy Storage Materials

Dr Sarah Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, Mathematics

Toward an enumerative interpretation of Heegaard Floer homology