RMS Scientific Achievement Award

The RMS Scientific Achievement Award celebrates and marks outstanding scientific achievements in any area of microscopy or flow cytometry for established mid-career researchers. We expect to award up to five per year. Nominations for this award are not currently open. 


  • Nominees would normally be expected to have run their own research lab for more than 10 years.
  • The award is open to applicants worldwide and will take the form of a certificate.
  • This award is not open to Honorary Fellows.

How to submit a nomination:

  • Applicants should be nominated by a colleague. 
  • Nominations should be submitted to Debbie Hunt
  • Nominations should include:
    • the nominee's curriculum vitae (CV),
    • a list of the nominee's publications,
    • a short resumé (300 words) of the nominee's contributions together, with a list of their top five publications,
    • a covering letter stating why the nominee should be considered for the award,
    • 1-2 additional letters of support from colleagues.

2021 Award Winners

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Professor Marisa Martin-Fernandez, Central Laser Facility, Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH). Group leader, Octopus Imaging facility

Marisa is an exceptional interdisciplinary scientist who has taken advantage of her physics background to deliver ground-breaking research in the life sciences.

Her innovative technique developments, together with her enthusiasm for sharing these with the research community, has ensured that her work has had an impact far beyond her own research area. Over the last 20 years Marisa has developed pioneering single molecule fluorescence microscopy methods for the characterisation of molecular structure of membrane receptor complexes in mammalian cells.

Her efforts to understand the structure and function of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor in cells have resulted in a number of important discoveries, solving decades-old puzzles in the EGFR signalling field and transforming our understanding of the onset of EGFR signalling and its role in cancer.

In addition, she has developed a series of microscopy methods aimed at better understanding the structure-function relationship in the cellular context. These include time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) and polarisation methods, multidimensional single molecule imaging and tracking methods, fluorescence localisation imaging with photobleaching (FLImP) with <5 nm resolution, and cryogenic super-resolution fluorescence microscopy using solid immersion lenses, which achieved ~12 nm resolution.

Marisa has delivered these and other methods to the user community by establishing the Central Laser Facility’s Octopus imaging cluster, at the Research Complex at Harwell. This has delivered access to a multitude of user groups and produced a multitude of high-profile publications.

It also provides both the instrumentation and deep expertise that enable both experienced and novice users to benefit.

RMS President Professor Grace Burke said: “It is a privilege to recognise Marisa’s achievements with this award. Her impact on bio-imaging and her multi-disciplinary approach have delivered new capabilities to the UK-wide community – not least through the exceptional facility she has developed at RCaH. The infectious enthusiasm and energy with which she goes about her work will no doubt continue to serve both her, and the wider microscopy community well for years to come.”

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Professor Emma Lundberg, Science for Life Laboratory, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

Emma is an extraordinary investigator who elegantly combines different fields ranging from proteomics to image analysis, computer science and microscopy. Her work has gathered international attention.

She has been the driving force behind the creation of the Cell Atlas - an open-access project sharing microscopic images of protein patterns, making proteomics a microscopy discipline. It is part of the Swedish Human Protein Atlas (HPA) programme. Recent work includes a single cell proteogenomic map of the cell cycle, where they discovered over 300 novel cell cycle proteins.

Emma is not only an excellent scientist but also an exceptional communicator, both with scientific audiences and the general public. Alongside an Icelandic gaming company and a Swiss start-up company, Emma launched a project to perform citizen science with a new twist. Making use of the massive amount of time spent on computer games, ‘Project Discovery’ is a scientific mini-game in which online players can aid the Human Protein Atlas by recognising protein expression patterns in the massive number of microscopic images integrated into the game visuals, mechanics, and narrative.

Launched in 2015, it was the first time a scientific project had ever been integrated into an existing computer game. To date, more than 300,000 people have played it, clocking up over 70 working years classifying images. Game website: http://www.eveonline.com/discovery.

RMS President Professor Grace Burke noted: “Emma is clearly an inspiration to others, and represents a new type of scientist and role model. In both her research activities and her outreach work, she has demonstrated the sort of pioneering qualities and innovative thinking that have always driven the best scientific advances. She is a truly worthy recipient of this award.”

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Professor Wei Min, Department of Chemistry, Columbia University, USA

Professor Wei Min is an outstanding scientist and spectroscopist now focused primarily on novel approaches to microscopy and imaging. He has pioneered a series of revolutionary advances both in the development and applications of molecular vibrational imaging.

Having graduated from Peking University in 2003, Wei received his PhD from Harvard University in 2008 with Professor Sunney Xie. After continuing a postdoctoral in the Xie group, he joined the Faculty of Chemistry Department at Columbia University in 2010, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2017. He is also affiliated with Department of Biomedical Engineering, Kavli Institute for Brain Science, and NeuroTechnology Center at Columbia.

Optical microscopy has revolutionised modern science and technology, with two landmark innovations (green fluorescent proteins and super-resolution microscopy) being recognised with recent Nobel Prizes. However, the prevalent optical imaging modalities, such as fluorescence, infrared absorption and spontaneous Raman scattering, all have inherent limitations.

Going beyond these established methods, Wei has made pioneering contributions to the invention and development of stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy, and employed it to open up a broad range of biomedical applications.

In terms of instrumentation, he has devised advanced SRS microscopy and pushed its sensitivity down to single molecule level. SRS microscope was commercialised by Leica. In addition, Wei has designed and synthesised novel Raman-active probes exhibiting rainbow-like spectral ‘colours’.

With these technical developments, he has opened up a wide range of novel applications including bio-orthogonal chemical imaging of small biomolecules (such as lipids, amino acids, glucose and drugs), metabolic activity imaging in animals, and super-multiplexed vibrational imaging. The technique is being adopted by mainstream life scientists, as summarised in his comprehensive review “Biological imaging of chemical bonds by SRS microscopy” [Nature Methods 2019].

Wei is currently co-editing a 40-chapter book entitled “Stimulated Raman Scattering Microscopy: Techniques and Applications” with ELSEVIER. His work has been described as ‘launching a revolution towards next-generation optical imaging’.

RMS President Professor Grace Burke remarked: “For many years now, Wei has demonstrated his enormous skill as an experimentalist and microscopist. His vision to develop new imaging approaches that can impact our understanding of complex biological systems has opened up tremendous possibilities in the Life Sciences field, and he is both an obvious and fully deserving candidate for this award.”

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Dr George Patterson  (1970 – 2021), National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH, USA

Early in 2021 our first recipient of the RMS Mid-Career Scientific Achievement Award was announced as Dr George Patterson, of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH. Very sadly, George passed away shortly after learning about the award, at just 50 years of age.

RMS President Grace Burke spoke on behalf of the Society: “We were so sad to hear the news about George, who was taken away far too soon. George was a brilliant scientist and we are very proud to have included him amongst our award-winners this year. His passing has left a huge void in the scientific community, and our thoughts remain with his young family, friends and colleagues.”

George’s ground-breaking research focused on developing tools for applications to cell biology, including the development of probes, technical applications and software. Among his most notable achievements was his development of photoactivatable green fluorescent protein, while working at Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz’s lab. He made essential contributions to the super-resolution technique, photoactivated localisation microscopy (PALM, Betzig et. al., Science, 2006), which later won a share of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

After taking up an independent position at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the NIH in 2009, George continued to develop new and improved genetically encoded fluorescent proteins for use as markers and sensors such as photoswitchable PSmOrange and photoactivatable red fluorescent protein.

He also contributed significantly to expanding the use of techniques for single molecule tracking with live PALM microscopy, and to improving both resolution and deep tissue imaging in multi-focal structured illumination microscopy, such as through incorporating two-photon imaging.

George’s publications have been cited more than 13,000 times, with an h-index of 31, demonstrating the significant contribution he made to many aspects of both technical advance and application to cell biology.

2020 Award Winners 

Professor Elizabeth Hillman, Colombia University Professor Elizabeth Hillman, Colombia University

Professor Hillman has pioneered a number of in-vivo imaging techniques including, notably, her ground-breaking work in high-speed, single objective light-sheet imaging through her invention of swept, confocally aligned planar excitation (SCAPE) microscopy. SCAPE permits ultra-fast, volumetric microscopy of behaving organisms and was originally published in Nature Photonics in 2015. She has since collaborated with groups worldwide to share and optimize SCAPE for myriad novel application areas, bringing fundamentally new imaging capabilities to previously intractable dynamic specimens.

In addition to this work Elizabeth’s lab group works in all manner of directions developing biomedical engineering solutions using optical and biophotonic approaches. She has also leveraged these imaging tools to make important scientific contributions to our understanding of brain physiology and blood flow regulation. Her long and varied list of publications is evidence of a gifted research engineer and interdisciplinary scientist.

She contributes deeply to the international community of optical imaging engineers and is stalwart in her presence in conference organising committees, and review committees that promote the use of microscopy and the ‘light sciences’ in biomedical and clinical research. Full testimony to Elizabeth’s emerging position as one of the premier PI’s in her field are her list of publications in the last few years including recently published work applying SCAPE microscopy to decode how individual neurons shape our sense of smell.

 Professor Beverley Inkson, University of Sheffield Professor Beverley Inkson, University of Sheffield

Professor Beverley Inkson is currently Professor of Nanostructured Materials and Director of NanoLAB Centre at the University of Sheffield, and Chair of the RMS Engineering and Physical Sciences Committee 2015-2019.

Over a distinguished career to date, Beverley has established a world-renowned reputation for applying Advanced Microscopy to engineering problems, in particular leading innovations in the areas of in-situ microscopy, tomography and mechanics of nanomaterials.

Beverley did a Natural Sciences (Physics) Degree and PhD (Materials Science) at Cambridge, followed by Research Fellowships at Jesus College Cambridge and Max Planck Institute für Metallforschung Germany, where she applied advanced electron microscopy and novel in-situ TEM methodologies to the development of aircraft alloys. She returned to the UK with a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship (URF) which enabled her to expand her research into Microscopy of nanomaterials, and set up her own Research Group in Oxford University and then Sheffield University.

Beverley has a lifelong interest in the mechanical properties of materials, and how the 3D structure of engineering materials affects their behaviour. Amongst her many achievements is the first development of FIB tomography, to image the microstructure of advanced engineering alloys and composites in 3D, including the 3D morphology of individual grains and cracks. FIB tomography has been a ground-breaking development, and is now widely used in academia and industry across many fields of materials science.

A career-long Interest in the behaviour of nanomaterials in different environments has led Beverley to carry out innovative work developing novel technologies to deform materials in-situ in the electron microscope including the first TEM tribo-probe. This has led to seminal work on the real-time mechanical and tribological behaviour of nanomaterials including tribological transformations of carbon, and 3-body wear mechanisms.

Beverley’s work on tomography continues with the recent award of a UK-leading X-ray microscope for in-situ environmental and mechanical testing, as part of a new Tomography Centre soon to be opened at Sheffield University.

Beverley blends development of both world-class electron microscopy/spectroscopy techniques, with a focus on real-world applications in materials science and tribology. Beverley has independently developed a highly respected group in Sheffield, working on advanced microscopy of engineering materials, including structural alloys/ceramics, nanotribology, and 3D tomography. In addition to her research work, she puts considerable effort into the development of her group’s younger members, early career staff in the Department, and has set up and led a range of activities to develop Equality and Diversity (including directing two successful Athena Swan Awards).

Within the wider community Beverley has led the development of Ion Microscopy in the UK, setting up the first FIB network (EPSRC NanoFIB network) to bring together researchers in the field. NanoFIB, and its successor network PicoFIB, have provided support for numerous scientific workshops and student training opportunities supported by the EPSRC, Leverhulme trust and the RMS.

Professor Serge Mostowy, LSHTM Professor Serge Mostowy, LSHTM

Professor Mostowy’s research focuses on the cell biology of host-pathogen interactions and in particular, how the cytoskeleton might be deployed to defend the cell against bacterial infections. He has applied cutting-edge microscopy techniques to illuminate new roles for autophagy and a lesser known component of the cytoskeleton, septins, in host defence and cell homoeostasis. He has also developed the zebrafish model to investigate cell biology of infection in vivo, using bacterial, fungal and parasitic infection agents. 

Serge started his independent research group at Imperial College in 2012, before moving to London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 2018. He has amassed a tremendous body of work in this relatively short space of time, with over 40 corresponding author publications, many of which have been highlighted with journal covers and scientific press highlights as well as reaching mainstream media outlets. He has organised several scientific meetings including Cellular Microbiology UK, Zebrafish Infection UK and an EMBO Workshop on septin biology (to be repeated next year - coronavirus-permitting). 

He sits on several editorial and grant evaluation boards, and has been invited to present many seminars at major conferences as well as university seminar series. As an independent PI, four PhD students have so far completed their theses and gained prestigious postdoctoral positions, four post-docs have earned independent fellowships, and one post-doc is about to move to an independent group leader position. 

Serge has applied and advocated microscopy applications, such as super-resolution microscopy and automated image analysis, and the genetic tractability of zebrafish larvae to enable infection biology discovery and human health impact. He is driven to understand the role of septins in innate immunity at the molecular, cellular, and whole organism level, which will have important consequences for enhancing host defence.

Professor Quentin Ramasse, SuperSTEM Laboratory Professor Quentin Ramasse, SuperSTEM Laboratory


Professor Ramasse is the Director of the SuperSTEM User Facility at the SciTech Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus - an internationally renowned centre of excellence for aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy. He is a world-class expert in aberration correction and aberration-corrected STEM, single atom spectroscopy, and EELS (including ultrahigh resolution EELS and vibrational spectroscopy).

Quentin is a prolific, world-class and world-recognised researcher who has pioneered the development of advanced STEM techniques, and has successfully applied these techniques to address challenging materials science questions in nanomaterials as well as energy-related and electronic materials.

As the Director of the SuperSTEM Facility for the past 10 years, he has expanded the capabilities and research activities, with the first UK NION UltraSTEM 100 and the new state-of-the-art NION UltraSTEM 100MC “Hermes”, and has been exceptionally successful in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of resolution and spectroscopy.

Quentin is still ‘hands on’ as a consummate electron microscopist and researcher with the highest standards of excellence. In addition to his expert knowledge and skills, he is also an inspiration to young and not-quite-so-young researchers.

Quentin is also the Professor of Advanced Electron Microscopy at the University of Leeds, organising and teaching at the SuperSTEM Summer School for Advanced Aberration-Corrected STEM and Spectroscopy, thereby helping to educate the next generation of advanced microscopists.

Dr Yannick Schwab, EMBL Heidelberg Dr Yannick Schwab, EMBL Heidelberg

Dr Schwab has led his own laboratory and EM facility at EMBL for the last eight years, having led the EM facility at IGBMC for seven years before that.

The key advances he has made include:

  • Automation of transmission electron microscopy of cells and tissues to increase throughput and improve significance of findings
  • Improvements to sample preparation to enable targeted and high throughput Focused Ion Beam Scanning EM of cells and model organisms
  • Development of microCT as a key tool for targeting regions of interest within large soft tissue samples for 3D CLEM
  • Correlation of intravital light microscopy with electron microscopy for the study of disease processes
  • Integration of whole-body gene expression and single-cell morphology

Dr Schwab’s technique and technology development work has been applied to a broad range of bioscience research, including cell biology, neuroscience, cancer biology, developmental biology, virology and microbiology. He is a key member of the international microscopy community and leads a number of international courses, workshops and symposia. It is a timely moment to pause and recognise his contributions to date, with the knowledge that he is poised to revolutionise the application of electron microscopy in the life sciences in the near future.

Dr Neil Wilson, University of Warwick Dr Neil Wilson, University of Warwick

Dr Wilson’s research combines areas “traditional” to microscopy such as advanced scanning probe microscopy and electron microscopy, with synchrotron-based ARPES. His work on the two-dimensional materials such as graphene and boron nitride resulted in the understanding of the intrinsic charging phenomena in these novel two-dimensional materials.

Neil is well known to multiple groups in UK and abroad, as an inquisitive and enthusiastic scientist. He has merged the knowledge of a true microscopist with material science, organic chemistry and engineering to result in publications in the top journals of Nature publishing group and American Chemical Society.

Neil’s activity in the RMS, as part of the Society’s AFM and Scanning Probe Microscopies Section, has been equally enthusiastic. He has helped to establish this field in the UK on an equal footing with countries such as Switzerland and USA, where scanning probe and atomic force microscopy was pioneered.