The Physics of Life UK Network (PoLNET) steering group has been awarded the 2020 Rosalind Franklin Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics.
The PoLNET steering group, which includes Southampton Professor Rebecca Hoyle, has been honoured for the contributions it has made to catalysing the substantive growth of the Physics of Life community in the UK by stimulating new, adventurous partnerships between multiple researchers in UK biological physics.
The ambitious goal of PoLNET has been to bring physicists and biologists together to develop a unified framework for understanding biology that integrates molecular and system levels of thinking into a unified whole. The members of the PoLNET steering group recognised by the IOP have devised, organised and realised a number of events whilst fuelling new collaborations and grants.
An important part of the team’s work has been the development of younger researchers with both physical science and life science backgrounds. A further testament to the team’s success has been the establishment of a £30M UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund for Building Collaborations at the Physics of Life Interface to support internationally leading research that requires collaborative, interdisciplinary working to address key challenges at the interface of physics and the life sciences.
Professor Hoyle, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Associate Dean (Research & Enterprise) in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Southampton, first became involved in PoLNET through attending events during its first phase and enjoying them so much that she joined the steering committee in 2016. She describes the organisation as “a community-driven network of scientists from across the physical and biological sciences who aim to bring people together from a broad range of disciplines to think about the physics of life in an integrated way.
“It is a great honour to have the IOP recognise our work with this award, and it’s really wonderful that it is being given as a team prize, celebrating the collective spirit of PoLNET,” Professor Hoyle continued. “It has been a privilege to be able to play a part in supporting the physics of life community through PoLNET, and above all tremendous fun working with Professor Tom McLeish from the University of York and Network Chair, Professor Martin Cann from Durham University and Network Co-Chair, Dr Karis Baker also from Durham who is Network Co-ordinator, and the whole team, who are all so enthusiastic and dedicated.”
The prize is named for Rosalind Franklin, an English X-ray crystallographer whose work was critical to the understanding of the molecular structure of graphite, coal, viruses and DNA – the latter receiving the Nobel Prize in 1962 four years after Franklin’s death.
Jonathan Flint, IoP President said: “Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s IOP Awards, which recognise and reward excellence in individuals and teams and their contribution to physics. We’re delighted to celebrate the winners’ extraordinary achievements.”