Professors Scott Waddell, Dame Sue Black and Irene Tracey have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society, the UK's distinguished body of Science. They have been honoured alongside five other Oxford academics; Professors Myles Allen FRS, Michael Dustin FRS, Sarah Gilbert DBE FMedSci FRS, Andrew Goodwin FRS and James Maynard FRS.
Professor Scott Waddell FMedSci FRS is DPAG's Professor of Neurobiology and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science at the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour. Professor Waddell discovered novel, conserved mechanisms of adaptive behaviour. His studies in Drosophila revealed an unexpected degree of specialization in the structure and function of dopaminergic circuits. Different, genetically and structurally defined, dopaminergic neurons provide valence- and even reward type-specific teaching signals. Opposing systems of positive and negative reinforcement control goal-directed memory formation and expression at discrete anatomical sites. When learned expectations are not met, the original memory remains but is updated by integration with a new memory of opposite sign at a separate location. Intelligent behaviour is therefore informed by a catalogue of parallel memories accrued over time. The most recent research from the Waddell lab published in Nature discovered a detailed neural circuit mechanism that explains how multisensory learning improves memory performance.
Professor Waddell's has been recognised with a number of prestigious awards, including the 2014 Liliane Bettencourt Prize for the Life Sciences, the 2018 Bindra Lectures, election to The Academy of Medical Sciences in 2021, and a Wellcome Discovery Award in 2022.
Dame Sue Black, Baroness Black of Strome DBE FRS is DPAG's Visiting Professor of Forensic Anatomy and President of St John's College. Professor Black is an internationally recognised anatomist and forensic anthropologist whose research on human morphology and biometrics has had global impact. Her research been used to assist with international war crime investigations and identify those involved in mass fatality events. She has developed methods for hand-based person identification which has enabled national and international police forces to prosecute perpetrators of child sexual abuse. She has been at the forefront of driving new initiatives in anatomy, raising the scientific standards of forensic anthropology, and pioneering educational primers for the judiciary. She also has an outstanding record in promoting public understanding. Professor Black most recently held the position of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement at Lancaster University. She is also the current President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Last December, Professor Black delivered the 2022 Christmas Lectures.
Professor Irene Tracey FMedSci FRS is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Nuffield Chair in Anaesthetic Science at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and Honorary Professor at DPAG. Irene Tracey and her team have made ground-breaking discoveries into how humans perceive pain. In a series of elegant experiments over twenty fiver years, her team has determined how the human brain constructs, modulates and exacerbates the experience of pain in health and disease. Pioneering the use of neuroimaging with novel paradigm designs, she has mechanistically determined how injury, cognition, context and mood alter noxious inputs to change the experience of pain. Her team has also transformed our understanding of how anaesthetics produce altered states of consciousness. Their work spans discovery through translation to industry, the clinic and society. Irene is currently President of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS).
Head of Department Professor David Paterson said: "This is a great personal achievement for Scott, Irene and Sue, and reflects years of dedication and discovery. The Department is very proud of their achievement."
Congratulations are also in order to Professor Sir Christopher Whitty KCB FMedSci FRS, Chief Medical Officer for England, former student within the department who completed his BA in Physiological Science at the then Laboratory of Physiology and delivered the Sherrington Prize Lecture: Public Understanding of Science in March 2023.
The full announcement is available to read on the Royal Society website.
Read more about Oxford's new Fellows on the University of Oxford website.