Distinguished members of the University of Cambridge have been named in the 2017 New Year Honours list, announced today. Professor Ottoline Leyser, Professor Shankar Balasubramanian and Professor John Pyle are among those who have been recognised for their contributions to society.

Ottoline Leyser (above left) is Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory. She becomes a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to Plant Science, Science in Society and Equality and Diversity in Science.

Dame Ottoline’s research aims to understand how plants adjust their growth and development to suit the environmental conditions in which they are growing. In particular, she is studying how plants change the number of shoot branches they produce depending on factors such as nutrient supply and damage to the main shoot. She is particularly interested in the roles and mechanisms of action of plant hormones such as auxin. She is a Fellow of Clare College.

“This is a huge honour,” said Dame Ottoline. “It’s so uplifting that things I really care about can be celebrated in this extraordinary way. Science has such a lot to offer the world, which makes it really important that science is open to all, so that everyone can contribute to the process and benefit from the results.”

Shankar Balasubramanian (above right) is Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry the University of Cambridge, Senior Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and Fellow of Trinity College. He has been named a Knight Bachelor for services to science and medicine. He co-invented next generation sequencing which has provided the most transformative change in biology and medicine for several decades, and has led to the $1000 dollar human genome. He has also made important contributions to four-stranded DNA, known as G-quadruplexes, and their role in cancer.

“It is a great honour for me and a wonderful acknowledgement of the research and I have carried out in Cambridge with my co-workers and collaborators over the past two decades,” said Sir Shankar. “I was particularly pleased to see recognition of our basic science and its impact on medicine, as I am jointly appointed between the Departments of Chemistry and Medicine.”

Professor John Pyle, Head of the Department of Chemistry, is appointed CBE for services to Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science. Professor Pyle’s research uses of state-of-the-art numerical models, run on supercomputers, to study the processes controlling the present state of the atmosphere and its evolution. He is a Fellow of St Catharine’s College.

"I'm delighted, of course," said Pyle. "We are the best chemistry department in the country and one of the very best in the world. It's fantastic for the department to get recognition for that work."

Professor John Spencer, Bye Fellow in Law at Murray Edwards College, Life Fellow of Selwyn College and Professor Emeritus of Law, is also appointed CBE for services to the Reform of Law Concerning Child Witnesses. His interests include criminal law, criminal evidence, comparative criminal law, and the law of tort. He has been involved in a great many of projects for law reform, including as a Consultant to the Law Commission on a project to reform the hearsay rule in 1995; as a member of a committee of experts set up by the European Commission to study fraud on the Community finances, and as a member of the Home Office group that drafted “Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings” (1999-2001). He was also a consultant to the Auld Review of Criminal Courts in 2001.

Professor Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey and Fellow of Darwin College, is appointed Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for services UK Polar Science and Diplomacy. She was only the fourth woman in history to receive the Polar Medal in 2002. Since being appointed Director of BAS in 2013, she has had a dual role of ensuring UK scientific polar excellence and promoting British sovereign interests in Antarctica. As the first female Director, she has embraced gender diversity and has been an inspiration and influential figure in the British scientific establishment. She is globally recognised as a leader in Polar Science and has made a significant contribution to our understanding of palaeo-climates. She has also undertaken a wide range of international roles which further promote the UK’s polar interests and sits on polar science advisory boards for other countries.

Professor Peter Weissberg, former Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation and Fellow of Wolfson College, has been awarded a CBE for services to medical research and cardiovascular health. Prior to his tenure at the BHF, Professor Weissberg established the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cambridge and spent ten years as the University’s first BHF Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. 

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