Skip to main content

The Royal Society

Each year the Royal Society awards 44 Fellowships to the best scientists in recognition of their scientific achievements. It is the highest accolade a scientist can have, next to a Nobel Prize.

Individuals must have made a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science.

Fellows of the Royal Society

Professor Yves Barde

Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology, School of Biosciences

Professor Yves Barde is a world-leading neurobiologist, who joined the University’s School of Biosciences in 2013 to take up the position of Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology.

The biggest breakthrough of Professor Barde’s research career was the discovery and cloning of a protein essential for a number of processes, including memory in humans. This vital brain protein, known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is needed for the development and maintenance of a healthy nervous system. His work also led to the identification of a family of related proteins - the neurotrophins.

Professor Hywel Thomas FRS

Professor Hywel Thomas portrait
Professor Hywel Thomas

Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise

Professor Hywel Thomas’ research centres on highly complex movements of heat, liquids and gases through the soil.

The models he has built have proved of worldwide importance in understanding thermal and physical conditions underground.

During the course of his academic career, he has produced more than 400 technical papers and reports and has lectured extensively both at home and abroad.

Professor John Aggleton FRS

Professor John Aggleton
Professor John Aggleton

School of Psychology

Professor Aggleton is a neuroscientist who has made major contributions to our knowledge of the neural basis of memory.

He has developed influential theories that have led to fundamental changes in the ways other scientists think about the brain systems supporting how individuals remember the past events in their lives (the episodic and recognition memory systems).

Professor Aggleton’s research has revealed the roles of other brain structures to create a far more comprehensive picture of how different types of memory are formed and recalled.

He is currently investigating exactly how the structures he has identified, in the diencephalon and medial temporal lobe, work together to ensure memory function.

Professor Alun Davies FRSE, FLSW, FMedSci, FRS

Professor Alun Davies
Professor Alun Davies

Distinguished Research Professor, School of Biosciences

Professor Davies’ research is focused on the development of nerve cells, which are the fundamental building blocks of the nervous system.

One of the world’s foremost developmental neurobiologists, he is best known for his fundamental research on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the survival of nerve cells and the growth and elaboration of their processes. He is responsible for many important discoveries and fundamental concepts in the field.

Professor Davies’s active research lab in the Cardiff School of Biosciences involves many post-doctoral fellows and PhD students carrying out research on cellular and molecular aspects of nerve cell development, neurotrophic factor biology and cell signalling. The research team is supported by external funding in excess of £2M.

Professor Ole Holger Petersen CBE, FRS

Professor Ole Holger Petersen
Professor Ole Holger Petersen

MRC Professor, School of Biosciences

Professor Petersen was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society in 2000 for his major contributions to the understanding of the cell physiology of calcium signalling. He provided the first demonstration of hormone-elicited, messenger-mediated ion channel activation. He discovered the phenomenon whereby calcium entering the cell at one end diffuses to the other end through the endoplasmic reticulum. Finally, he showed that the nuclear envelope provides an additional store from which calcium can be released.

Professor Petersen’s career has led to many awards, including the Purkynje Medal from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2008 for his services to science. He has more than 300 academic articles to his name, including 14 published in Nature. He has been cited in the scientific literature more than 16,000 times.

He has been Vice-President of the Royal Society from 2005-6 and has been Secretary-General of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, of which he is a Foreign Member, held a symposium in his honour in 2008.

He was presented with The European Pancreatic Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to research on the pancreas at the organisation’s 42nd Annual Meeting in Stockholm in June 2010.

In August 2010, Professor Petersen was elected to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, one of the world's oldest and most important academic societies.

Professor R. John Parkes FRS, FLSW

Professor John Parkes
Professor John Parkes

Professor Emeritus, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Parkes is an international leader in Geomicrobiology studying microbial processes in sediments: their biodiversity, activity, interactions, controls and environmental impact.

He was the first scientist to comprehensively investigate the microbiology of deep marine sediments. He demonstrated, contrary to previously held views, that they contained large numbers of active microbes. He estimated that an additional 10% of the total living biomass on Earth was present in sub-seafloor sediments.

He also demonstrated that these microbes were well adapted to their deep sediment habitat and not just buried cells dying slowly. He showed that the surface microbes grew very, very, slowly, on "geological" time scales of 1,000's of years, due to limited energy supply.

One of the many profound impacts of this research has been on processes such as secondary gas formation, deep disposal (e.g. CO2, nuclear waste), souring of oil reservoirs and its significance for the origin of life and astrobiology.

Professor Dianne Edwards FRS, FRE

Professor Dianne Edwards
Professor Dianne Edwards

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Dianne Edwards is distinguished for her investigations into the nature of the earliest land plant fossils.

By skilful application of scanning electron microscopy, and the painstaking use of such techniques as the preparation of polished surfaces of pyritised plant tissue, Dianne has elucidated the anatomy and morphology of numerous late Silurian and early Devonian plants and thrown new light on the evolutionary events surrounding the first colonization of the land.

In carefully documented fieldwork in Wales, the Welsh Border, Scotland and other parts of the world she has greatly extended our knowledge of early land plant life, and added precision to the evolutionary time scale of the vascular plants which dominate the Earth's land flora today.

Together with many collaborators, she has demonstrated the earliest known occurrences of vascular tissue, stomata and miospores in situ in fossil plant organs. Above all, Dianne has demonstrated an unexpected diversity in what has previously been regarded as a limited group of structurally simple, undistinguished Palaeozoic plants.

As a former trustee of the National Botanical Gardens of Wales, she has been heavily involved in the foundation and survival of this important scientific and cultural resource.

Professor Graham Hutchings FRS

Professor Graham Hutchings
Professor Graham Hutchings

Regius Professor of Physical Chemistry and Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, School of Chemistry

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his pioneering contributions in the use of gold for catalysis – the process of making chemical reactions go faster.

He was the first to predict and subsequently demonstrate that gold would be a highly effective catalyst for ethyne hydrochlorination, thereby establishing a new field of catalysis.

He has taken a leading role in understanding the mechanisms of important C1 reactions. His early work at ICI made discoveries with oxidation catalysts that are still commercially operated.

He has led the use of in situ methods to determine catalyst structure during reactions and using Raman spectroscopy he demonstrated the key importance of amorphous vanadium phosphates in butane oxidation.

He has pioneered enantioselective heterogeneous catalysis using electrostatically immobilised complexes providing a generic approach to the design of stable selective catalysts, and extended this to demonstrate that enantioselective reactions can occur at the gas-solid interface in the absence of solvent, providing facile operability of these complex processes.

Professor John Pearce FRS

Professor John Pearce
Professor John Pearce

School of Psychology

Professor Pearce’s outstanding work has contributed to the study of the fundamental mechanisms of animal intelligence.

Distinguished for three original and fundamental contributions to the study of associative learning and conditioning in animals.

He proposed a novel theory of attention, developed a configural theory of discrimination learning; his studies of spatial learning and navigation have shown that animals rely on local rather than global information to find their way to a goal.

In 2009 Professor Pearce became a recipient of a prestigious Humboldt Research Award. The Award is granted to only 100 academics annually, and recognises a researcher’s entire achievements to date.

Sir Martin John Evans FRS

Professor Sir Martin Evans
Professor Sir Martin Evans

Professor Emeritus, School of Biosciences

Sir Martin John Evans decided on a career studying the genetic control of vertebrate development. His early PhD research led him to explore the use of cultures of mouse teratocarcinoma stem cells in tissue culture systems. He was the first to maintain these cells in tissue culture under conditions where their ability to differentiate was retained indefinitely.

His fundamental developments created new routes to experimental mammalian genetics and hence functional genomics. Sir Martin, who came to Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences in 1999, has been exploiting gene knockout and gene trap methods both for novel discovery and to create animal modes of human disease.

Sir Martin has published more than 120 scientific papers. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1993 and is a founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. In 1993 he was awarded the Walter Cottman Fellowship and the William Bate Hardy Prizes. He was awarded the prestigious Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in the US in 2001. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, regarded as one of the world's foremost centres for medical and scientific training.

He was knighted in 2004 for his services to medical science and in 2007 awards the Nobel Prize for medicine. In 2009 he was awarded the Gold Medal of The Royal Society of Medicine in recognition of his valuable contribution to medicine

Professor John Graham McWhirter FRS

Professor John Graham McWhirter
Professor John Graham McWhirter

Distinguished Research Professor, School of Engineering

Professor John Graham McWhirter has researched a broad range of topics from novel mathematical techniques to parallel computing and VLSI design. He has gained international recognition for his work on the design of systolic array processors and is particularly well known for inventing the triangular QR array for adaptive beamforming which bears his name. Other notable achievements include the QR least squares lattice algorithm for adaptive filtering and the design of a low-latency, bit-level systolic array for IIR filtering based on redundant number systems. He developed and promoted the concept of Algorithmic Engineering.

He was a founder member of the IEE professional subgroup for signal processing (E5) and was awarded the JJ Thompson Premium in 1990 for a paper on adaptive beamforming. In 1994 he received the JJ Thompson Medal from the IEE for his research on Systolic Arrays and Mathematics in Signal Processing. He was elected as a member of the IMA Council in 1995 and served as President in 2002 and 2003.

Professor John Graham McWhirter has been an Honorary Visiting Professor in Electrical Engineering at Cardiff University since 1998.

Professor Richard Catlow FRS

Richard Catlow
Professor Richard Catlow

School of Chemistry

Professor Catlow’s work uses a powerful combination of computational and experimental techniques to explore a range of challenging problems in materials chemistry.

He has been awarded a prestigious list of prizes and honours and is one of the leading scientists in his field, with an outstanding reputation for internationally pioneering world-class research.

His research places a strong focus on predicting reaction mechanisms in heterogeneous catalysis, predicting crystal and nano-particle structures, and shedding light on mechanisms of crystal growth and nucleation. It exploits the latest high performance computing technologies, combined with experimental studies using synchrotron radiation techniques, to explore structures, properties and reactivities of complex materials.

Professor John Pickett CBE, FRS

Professor John Pickett

School of Chemistry

Professor Picket’s research in the field of chemical ecology has made a substantial contribution to improving pest management and agricultural sustainability.

In a long and distinguished career, he has developed innovative instrumentation for monitoring insect (semiochemical) signalling systems as well as advanced mass spectrometric techniques for identifying and quantifying these compounds. In 2008, his work on the application of agronomic techniques for improving crop productivity in Africa was awarded the prestigious Wolfe Prize for Agriculture.

His contributions have also been recognised in a series of other honours and awards, including the 1995 Rank Prize for Nutrition and Crop Husbandry, membership of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina in 2001, and the International Society of Chemical Ecology Medal in 2002. In 2004, he was awarded a CBE for services to biological chemistry.

Dr Polina Prokopovich FRSC

Dr Polina Prokopovich
Dr Polina Prokopovich

School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr Polina Prokopovich’s research focusses on the development of new treatments for musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis and infectious diseases. Her knowledge of surface and material chemistry and nanotechnology has led to Knowledge Transfer and business growth through a series of funded projects: KESS (Eurogine), KESS (Markes International), TSB project (Airbus) and through the Advanced Sustainable Manufacturing Technologies (ASTUTE) project. Polina’s involvement and contribution to the 2016 renewal of the Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre has strengthened the international profile of orthopaedic research in Cardiff and improved public and patient understanding of this research at national and international level.

Research in her laboratory is multidisciplinary in nature ranging from polymer synthesis, nanostructure fabrication, drug formulation and delivery, applied microbiology and material science. She has pioneered the development of novel nanocomposite bone cement formulations for cemented total joint replacements, and functional coatings for uncemented devices to prevent and treat infections as well as preventing osteolysis. Recently the efficacy and safety of one these nanotechnologies has been validated in vivo in collaboration with clinical colleagues in the UK and oversees. This technology is currently moving towards through further preclinical validation as a phase 1 clinical study in collaboration with leading researchers from the University of Campinas, Brazil.

Sir John Meurig Thomas FLSW, FRS

Sir John Meurig Thomas
Sir John Meurig Thomas

Honorary Professor, School of Chemistry

Sir John Meurig Thomas sadly passed away in 2020. An obituary can be found on the university website.

Much of Sir John Meurig Thomas’ research has involved creating new solid catalysts and trying to understand the structure and activity of existing ones using techniques such as X-ray absorption, NMR spectroscopy, and high resolution transmission electron microscopy. He is one of the most cited authors in the field of heterogeneous catalysis and the mineral meurigite is named after him.

In 1991 he was knighted “for services to chemistry and the popularisation of science” In recent years, he has focused on designing “green” catalysts for clean technology and on developing ways of studying catalysts in situ. In 1999 he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering for work that “has profoundly added to the science-base of heterogeneous catalysis leading to the commercial exploitation of zeolites through engineering processes”. He holds an Honorary Distinguished Professorship of Materials Chemistry at Cardiff University.

Professor Peter Wells CBE, FRS

Professor Peter Wells
Professor Peter Wells

Distinguished Research Professor, Cardiff School of Engineering

Professor Peter Wells sadly passed away on 22 April 2017. An obituary can be found on the university website.

Professor Wells is distinguished for his contributions to the application of engineering and physics in medicine.

Specifically, he is the originator and developer of instruments for ultrasonic surgery, ultrasonic power measurement, the two-dimensional articulated-arm ultrasonic general purpose scanner and the water-immersion ultrasonic breast scanner.

He demonstrated ultrasonic pulsed-Doppler range-gating, and was the discoverer of the ultrasonic Doppler signal characteristic of malignant tumour neovascularisation. He investigated ultrasonic bioeffects and formulated ultrasonic safety guidelines and conditions for prudent use of ultrasonic diagnosis.

He has led multidisciplinary studies of ultrasonic diagnosis, as well as making major contributions to the advancement of light transmission, electrical impedance and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, and to interventional telepresence. He proposed a novel philosophy of medical imaging, and is now working on novel ultrasonic imaging techniques.

He is one of only four individuals who are Fellows of the three UK national science academies: the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Academy of Medical Sciences. He was appointed a CBE in 2009, for services to healthcare science.

Professor Jamie Rossjohn FAA FAHMS FLSW FMedSci FRS

Cardiff University scientist Professor Jamie Rossjohn FRS elected to The Royal Society

School of Medicine

Professor Jamie Rossjohn is known for his contributions to the understanding of the molecular basis underpinning immunity.

He has used structural biology to explain pre-T-cell receptor (TCR) self-association in T-cell development, and how the TCR specifically recognises polymorphic Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) molecules in the context of viral immunity and aberrant T-cell reactivity.

He has unearthed structural mechanisms of HLA polymorphism impacting drug and food hypersensitivities, as well as Natural Killer cell receptor recognition.

He has pioneered our molecular understanding of lipid-based immunity by T cells, revealing that it can differ fundamentally from peptide-mediated adaptive immunity.

Recently he has provided a structural basis of how vitamin B metabolites can be presented and recognised by the immune system, revealing a new class of antigen.

Collectively, he has published 465 papers and mentored numerous researchers towards obtaining higher degrees and nationally competitive fellowships.