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German Academy elects Biosciences Director

17 August 2010

Professor Ole Petersen

Professor Ole Petersen, Director of the Cardiff School of Biosciences, has been elected to one of the world’s oldest and most important academic societies, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

Founded in 1652, the Leopoldina provides science-based advice to political leaders and is also home to the European Academies Science Advisory Council, making recommendations to the EU Commission and Parliament. The School of Biosciences is now in the unique position in the UK of having two Leopoldina Members: the Nobel Laureate Robert Huber, who is a Visiting Professor in the School, was elected in 1990.

The election recognises Professor Petersen’s personal standing and his many achievements in the field of physiology. He revealed the mechanisms by which secretion from exocrine glands is controlled by discovering hormone-evoked local calcium signals and proving they controlled fluid and enzyme secretion. His on-going work as a Medical Research Council Professor has led to the discovery of how excessive alcohol can trigger pancreatitis – a human disease in which the pancreas digests itself and its surroundings.

Professor Irene Schulz-Hofer, of the University of Konstanz and Chair of the Leopoldina’s Physiology Section, said: "The election of Ole Petersen to the Academy was made in recognition of his scientific achievements and personal standing. Ole Petersen is one of today’s most outstanding physiologists and cell biologists. He certainly stands as an exemplary model for young scientists." Professor Schulz-Hofer also mentioned Ole Petersen’s strong connections to both German science and German culture, saying: "He speaks fluent German and is knowledgeable in German music, arts and poetry".

Professor Petersen said: "Election to the Leopoldina is a great honour – and also a great responsibility. Members organise scientific events and serve on groups advising politicians on science issues in a country that is lucky enough to have a government that listens to its National Academy and currently increases funding for science."

Professor Petersen, who is a Fellow of The Royal Society, already had strong European credentials as a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters as well as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His election to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina will further strengthen academic links between Wales and continental Europe.