Two members of the LMB are celebrating after winning MRC CEO awards. Richard Pannell from the PNAC Division won the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award, while Nicola Smyllie from the Neurobiology Division collected the 2016 Public Engagement Award.
The MRC CEO Award Scheme recognises contributions from employees for outstanding effort and commitment to both their work and the MRC. For the fifth year running, a fantastic number of nominations were received from across the organisation, with staff being nominated by their colleagues. These awards celebrate the contribution made by staff to the success of the MRC.
Richard has worked as a research assistant for the MRC for 36 years. Now a Research Officer, he is due to retire in August 2017. Richard has made major contributions to the development of tissue culture, monoclonal antibody production methods and gene targeting in the LMB. Richard arrived at the LMB in November 1980 as a lab technician in the media kitchen. He then moved to assist César Milstein to support development of antibody hybridoma technology. It was here that Richard honed his tissue culture expertise. He helped develop large-scale culture systems that minimised culture volumes for monoclonal antibody production and was part of César’s group working on new tissue culture methods. He supervised the tissue culture/media kitchen as well as running the Tissue Culture lab. When Cesar retired, Richard took up the task of developing gene targeting in embryonic stem cells in Terry Rabbitts’ group and soon had this tricky technique mastered, developing many gene knock-outs and helped develop the procedure that is now known as gene knock-in. In 2007 Richard moved to the Transgenic Facility under Andrew McKenzie and has continued to contribute widely to gene targeting at the LMB.
Throughout his career, Richard has been diligent and loyal to the Lab and to the MRC. An important contributor to LMB science, he has shown incredible commitment and devotion to his work and has come in to the LMB on almost every weekend (holidays excluded) over a 15-year period to tend the cells required for the gene targeting facility. This dedication arose from his wish to help all those he worked with and to ensure that their projects succeeded. His excellent work ethic also means that he has hardly ever been absent due to illness through his career. Richard is very kind, generous, friendly and helpful and his positive attitude and good humour creates an enjoyable environment around him.
Nicola has made exceptional efforts to help members of the general public appreciate and understand the work of the MRC. As part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research she arranged and conducted tours around LMB and gave a talk about her work on “Body Clocks”. She was then selected as one of twelve female scientists to participate in the first Cambridge Soapbox Science event. The event aimed to “bring science to the streets” as well as promoting women in science and involved standing on a soapbox for one hour, on a Saturday in the Market Square in front of an uninvited general public crowd. Despite a downpour as she started, Nicola entertained the audience with her talk on “Body clocks: rhythm of life” and got them involved in a fun and interactive demonstration. Prior to the event, Nicola wrote a Q&A blog post, started a Twitter account and spoke on Radio Cambridgeshire to promote the event.
Nicola was also instrumental in forming a band made up of LMB scientists for the launch of “Home in the Service of Science” project by our Artists in Residence. With only two weeks to prepare the band from scratch she worked tirelessly with colleagues to produce a 30-minute programme of music to fit the event. She also participated in a STEM careers event organised for Cambridge, in which she did the “speed date” event – chatting to year 9 pupils one-to-one about being a scientist. The event was aimed at pupils considering a future career in science, so Nicola explained to them how she became a scientist as well as providing honest and helpful advice about how to go about pursuing a career in science. Nicola has done all these events entirely at her own initiative, whilst continuing a very active research programme, including producing two first-author papers in 2016.
The Award ceremony took place on 17th November at MRC Head Office in London with all shortlisted candidates meeting MRC Chief Executive, Sir John Savill. Richard and Nicola both received an iPad for winning their categories.