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Professor John Pickett FRS

Professor John Pickett

FRS

Professor of Biological Chemistry

School of Chemistry

Overview

John is Professor of Biological Chemistry with particular interests in chemical ecology involving chemically mediated interactions between various organisms including pests attacking plants and animals.

  • Chemical characterisation of pheromones and other semiochemicals of plants, and animals including insect pests, extending to beneficial organisms antagonistic to pests
  • Stress related chemical signalling by plants and vertebrates including human and farm animals
  • Elucidating biosynthetic pathways to pheromones and other semiochemicals together with associated molecular genetics
  • Exploiting pheromones and other semiochemicals in management of pests and beneficial organisms by ecology management and genetic modification (GM)

Biography

John’s contributions to the field of chemical ecology have been acknowledged with the 1995 Rank Prize for Nutrition and Crop Husbandry, election to Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1996, election to Membership of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina in 2001 and received the International Society of Chemical Ecology Medal in 2002. John was appointed to CBE for Services to Biological Chemistry in 2004.

In 2008 he was jointly awarded the Wolf Foundation Prize in Agriculture. He presented the Royal Society’s premier lecture in the biological sciences, the Croonian Prize Lecture in 2008, and the Cornell University Lecture in 2009. He was awarded the International Congress of Entomology Certificate of Distinction at the XXIV International Congress of Entomology held in Korea, August 2012. He was elected International Member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014. He became President of the Royal Entomological Society in 2014 and in August 2017 gave the Sterling B Hendricks Memorial Prize Lecture at the 254th Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Washington DC. In 2020, John was elected Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

Publications

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

1981

1980

1973

The research programme, based in the Biological Chemistry section, is in chemical ecology involving chemically mediated interactions between various organisms including pests attacking plants and animals. Having been the first to characterise, as novel molecular structures including isoprenoids, the sex related pheromones of insect vectors, e.g. aphids, mosquitoes and sand flies, of plant and human pathogens, chemical characterization of pheromones and other semiochemicals continues to underpin much of the research. This involves sophisticated technologies for capturing and handling the minute quantities of the chemicals involved and use of coupled high resolution chromatography to extremely sensitive mass spectrometry including the ThermoFisher Exactive Orbitrap system for tentative identification. Currently this approach is being directed at the identification of long range attractants of mosquitoes during daytime flight using also GC coupled antennal electrophysiological studies at the single olfactory sensillum level with collaborators in the School of Biosciences. There are other related areas of research:

  • To identify, and exploit in pest management, we study stress related chemical signaling from plants, and vertebrates including human and farm animals, for example on: (i) the natural defense response of maize to pests that leads to increased attack on the pests by parasitic wasps, with collaborators in sub-Saharan Africa; (ii) non-host related signaling against arthropods attacking camels in traditional animal husbandry in Somaliland; (iii) chemical signals for the early diagnosis of the development of fungal and viral pathogens of plant and human health with various collaborators in the UK.
  • Elucidating biosynthetic pathways to pheromones and other semiochemicals, together with associated molecular genetics, involves new studies on the biosynthesis of compounds attracting pests of commercial banana plants, and of irregular homosesquiterpenoids of sand fly sex pheromones in collaboration with Nottingham University.
  • Exploiting pheromones and other semiochemicals in management of pests and beneficial organisms by ecology management and genetic modification (GM) involves chemical studies underpinning development of push-pull systems delivering defense against pests (re homoterpenes) and weeds (re di-C-glycosylatedflavonoids) with various collaborators including in sub-Saharan Africa and involving commercial agencies based in South Wales.