Winners receive complimentary registration to a relevant RMS meeting where they will be presented with their award. They may be invited to produce an article for infocus magazine.
Dr Briggs is an excellent ambassador for the power of microscopy in modern life sciences research, with his work spanning both fields of virus particle structure and vesicle trafficking. He has made significant technical developments which have facilitated techniques such as time resolved electron tomography of clathrin coated vesicle formation, this along with other work of Dr Briggs have led to significant changes in the understanding of these pathways.
Dr Briggs has capitalized on his position as a group leader at the EMBL in Heidelberg to produce work of the highest quality. His contributions have been highly significant in both virology and membrane trafficking, giving new insight through quite exceptional high resolution imaging.
Dr Briggs continues to work at the forefront of his field and is held in high regard by many of his peers and international leaders in these fields.
Cristina Lo Celso has made paradigm-shifting contributions to the understanding of the dynamic cellular processes regulating haematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow through the pioneering use of intravital microscopy. Cristina has demonstrated the rare ability to successfully tackle widely recognised technical challenges to advance the field of stem cell biology using advanced microscopy as well as novel image analysis and mathematical modelling.
Cristina is an outstanding scientist, her work is published in high-impact journals and highly cited (43 publications, h index 23, overall over 1400 citations – Scopus source), she is internationally recognized as demonstrated by the steady stream of invitations to speak at prestigious institutions (Yale, Harvard, EMBL as examples) and scientific conferences, and has been awarded the 2017 Foulkes Foundation Medal in recognition of her outstanding achievements in biomedical research.
Cristina investigates fundamental questions in stem cell biology, how a tissue regenerates over time and maintains organ functionality throughout a life-time, and has been focusing on the haematopoietic system as her experimental model. Traditional immunohistochemistry cannot reveal the dynamics of the blood stem cells and their interaction with stem cell niches, and these cells are inaccessible to direct observation because they reside in the bone marrow, deeply encased by bone. While working at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Cristina overcame this challenge using a combination of confocal and two photon intravital microscopy of living mouse skull bone marrow and could visualize for the first time highly dynamic blood stem cell behaviours (Lo Celso et al., Nature 2009).
After starting her independent research group at Imperial College London in late 2009, she continued this approach and was instrumental in setting up intravital microscopy in the FILM imaging facility. Since then she has achieved a number of ground breaking discoveries, from uncovering changes in the behaviour of blood stem cells during steady state versus in response to natural infections (Rashidi et al., Blood 2014), to achieving systematic quantification of stem cell localization relative to other bone marrow components (Khorshed et al., Stem Cell Reports 2015). Most recently she has found the unexpected migratory and environment-agnostic behaviour of leukaemia cells throughout disease development. This work shows early bone marrow infiltration of leukaemia cells in response to chemotherapy and their ability to rapidly destroy the niches that would normally support healthy blood production (Hawkins et al., Nature 2016). Cristina adapted the imaging protocol to follow the same bone marrow areas over multiple days using implanted imaging windows. This work has deep implications for future development of improved leukaemia treatments, as Cristina has also shown that her discoveries using murine models hold true for human disease.
Cristina has supervised and mentored 9 PhD students (6 ongoing) and 8 postdoctoral trainees (1 ongoing) one of whom is currently an independent group leader at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne, Australia. She is very active in scientific outreach giving media interviews, participating in science festivals and attracting women to STEM subjects. Cristina’s achievements in applying microscopy to live science as demonstrated by publications, mentorship and scientific citizenship is outstanding.
The award recognises Dr Mao’s important contribution to our understanding of how cells and tissues are shaped and organised during the developmental process.
Since establishing her research team at University College London (UCL) five years ago, Dr Mao’s work has employed the use of advanced microscopy and biophysical methods to elucidate the role of mechanical forces in controlling tissue growth and regeneration - as well as defining how these forces influence gene expression and signalling pathways.
Her pioneering use of imaging, coupled with analysis of mechanics, has provided new insight into the physical and mechanical properties of cells and tissues, and how this contributes to organ formation and shape in living organisms.
Chair of the RMS Life Sciences Section, Dr Theresa Ward said: said: “Dr Mao is an extremely worthy recipient of our Life Sciences medal and my warmest congratulations go to her. Her innovative approaches combine elegant microscopy with probing of the biophysical environment, and she has yielded new insights which have had an impact across a range of different research fields.”