The Pearse Prize

The Pearse Prize is a presitigious award from the RMS dedicated to histochemistry, established to honour the late Professor AGE Pearse. 

The Pearse Prize was established by the RMS Histochemistry and Cytochemistry Section (now Life Sciences) in 1982 to honour the contribution made to histochemistry by Professor AGE Pearse. The prize is awarded to a scientist who has made a significant contribution to histochemistry and life sciences and is still active in their field. It will not be restricted to any particular age group.

It is typically awarded every 4 or 5 years (and not more frequently than every 2 years) and only then when it is felt there is a suitable candidate. It is generally regarded as one of the international honours in histochemistry and the life sciences, with an emphasis on microscopy.

Nomination process:

A request for nominations will be made for a year as agreed by the Life Sciences Committee. The Pearse Prize will be awarded to a scientist who has made a valuable contribution to the development of new techniques or through the application of existing methods.

The name of each candidate must be accompanied by:

  • a letter of recommendation containing a statement of reasons for the nomination, supported by two persons familiar with the work of the candidate
  • a Curriculum Vitae, which must include a list of his/her publications
  • the written consent of the candidate

The Pearse Prize is awarded as a Medal, and the recipient is required to deliver a lecture to the Royal Microscopical Society.

The selection of the prize winner will be made by a committee of trustees consisting of the Chair of the RMS Life Sciences Section, and past Chairs of that Section.

2022 Winner

Michael Sheetz.jpg

Professor Michael P Sheetz

Robert A Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, USA

Michael has had a long and illustrious career in mechanobiological research.
He obtained his PhD while working in the laboratory of Sunney Chan at Caltech using NMR to probe membrane composition. He then joined the laboratory of Jonathan Singer where he made important discoveries on the bilayer couple’s role in shaping cells and interactions between the cytoskeleton and the cell membrane, particularly linking actomyosins to spectrin.
Michael started his research group at University of Connecticut in Farmington before moving to Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. From 1990 to 2000 he was Chair of Cell Biology at Duke University Medical School, and then became William Keenan Professor of Cell Biology at Columbia University, where he headed a program in nanomedicine.
While working in this role, Michael founded the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore where he was director for 10 years until 2019. He is currently Robert A Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. 
Michael is particularly renowned for pioneering in vitro motility assays for myosin which led to the discovery of kinesin, for which he, together with James Spudich and Ronald Vale, were awarded the Lasker Prize in 2012. The movies of microtubule movement driven by the motor proteins dynein and kinesin are a fundamental part of any cell biology course.
These landmark achievements led to understanding of the mechanisms by which cells move their subcellular components and generate force to facilitate biological processes including muscle contraction, heartbeat, cell migration in development, cell division, and orderly delivery of molecular components to the necessary parts of each cell.

Latterly his research has demonstrated that the rigidity of the cell matrix dramatically affects matrix cytoskeleton linkages. He has also identified a rigidity sensor found to act as a tumour suppressor in cancer cells. It is his interest in the mechanical forces generated by the motors that has highlighted the importance of mechanical parameters in biology, i.e. Mechanobiology, a field in which he has been a seminal leader.
Michael has received multiple awards and, since 2013, has appeared in the list of 20 most influential medical researchers alive today. He has 357 publications, has been cited more than 66,000 times, and is senior author on 11 Cell Papers, 10 Nature Papers and six Science Papers. With his most recent paper in Science Advances 2022, Michael’s work continues to lead fundamental understanding of motor functions at the nanometer level to the benefit of human health.

Previous Winners

2018 - Professor Klaus Hahn
2015 - Professor Xiaowei Zhuang
2010 - Dr Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz
2004 - Professor Osamu Shimomura
2000 - Professor Roger Tsien
1996 - Professor Igor Kvetnoy
1994 - Professor Stanley J Holt
1991 - Dr Robert E Smith
1989 - Professor Moshe Wolman

History of the Pearse Prize Fund

The Pearse Prize and Lectureship Fund was launched in 1982 in honour of the considerable contribution made by Tony Pearse to histochemistry throughout the world. The idea was developed by Drs PJ Stoward and JM Polak who organised and edited a Festschrift to Professor Pearse on his retirement. The resulting book, Histochemistry: The Widening Horizons of its Application in the Biomedical Sciences was published by John Wiley. All the contributors, distinguished friends of Tony Pearse, generously agreed that the royalties be paid into a special trust fund to be administered separately by the RMS. 

Professor Tony Pearse was the first Chair of the Histochemistry and Cytochemistry Section when it was formed in 1965. He was elected as President of the RMS in 1972 and served until 1973.