University of Dundee

Prestigious Wolfson Research Merit Award for Professor Claire Halpin

31 Jan 2014

University of Dundee scientist Professor Claire Halpin has been appointed one of 21 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders.

The prestigious award provides five-year’s support for outstanding scientists to help them continue their ground-breaking work. Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the scheme helps universities to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

The newly appointed award holders are working on a wide range of projects including looking at the way users interact with mobile technology in developing regions, and using a pre-clinical model to help advance neuroprotective therapies for infants that experience perinatal asphyxia.

Claire Halpin is Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology and Deputy Head of the Division of Plant Sciences at the University. Her research focuses on the biosynthesis of lignin, an essential component of many plant cell walls where it waterproofs and rigidifies the structure. The research may also suggest ways of allowing wood, straw and other non-food plant materials to be used to make biofuels and other industrial products.

“I am delighted to have received this prestigious award, which recognises the work that all recipients are doing across the UK,” said Professor Halpin. “What is especially pleasing is that senior colleagues at the College of Life Sciences nominated me for this award as they felt the research I am doing is valuable and deserving of support.

“I am trying to understand more about the genetics and genes involved in making lignin in plants. I am interested in this process because it is fascinating, but it also suggests ways of improving crop waste materials for industrial processes to make fuels and other useful chemicals.”

The Wolfson Foundation is a grant-making charity established in 1955 by Sir Isaac Wolfson FRS (1897-1991), a businessman who distributed most of his fortune to good causes. Funding is given to support excellence through partnerships with organisations such as The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science.

The Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award covers all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering, but excluding clinical medicine.