The Royal Society is a Fellowship of the world’s most distinguished scientists, and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. Each year the Fellows of the Royal Society elect up to 52 new Fellows, and up to 10 new Foreign Members. Candidates must be nominated by two existing Fellows and have made ‘a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science.’
Chris joined the LMB in September 1992, initially as a researcher in Richard Henderson’s group where he used electron crystallography to determine the structure of the multidrug transporter EmrE, before starting his own group in 2010. Chris’ group focuses on understanding the structure and function of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). There are over 800 of these membrane proteins encoded by the human genome, and they are vital to a variety of processes, such as taste, smell, and receiving neurotransmitter and hormonal signals. By influencing such a wide range of functions in our cells, GPCRs are targeted by a vast number of drugs – the development of which is facilitated by knowing the structure of these proteins. Recently, Chris’ group published the first ever structure of a fungal GPCR, a class of GPCRs which has, prior to this, received less scrutiny.
Chris obtained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Bristol, on the cDNA cloning of erythrocyte membrane proteins and study of abnormal blood group phenotypes. In 1989 he joined the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry to investigate the molecular structure of a novel membrane transport protein for L-rhamnose-H+ symport, before moving to the LMB to study the serotonin transporter. Chris was elected to EMBO membership in 2020.
Chris commented: “It is of course an honour to be elected as an FRS, but this was only possible due to the skill and expertise of the many excellent researchers who have worked over many years in my lab, alongside the extraordinary support offered by the LMB for challenging research.”
Sjors has been a Group Leader in the LMB’s Structural Studies Division since 2010, and also serves as joint Head of Division. His research has focused on the development of novel methods for cryo-EM structure determination, which has been applied to a variety of specimens. Notably, Sjors developed algorithms for cryo-EM image processing in the computer programme RELION, which is used across the world and was recently utilised to determine protein structures to an atomic level – a record breaking resolution. Alongside these methodological developments, Sjors’ group also works in close collaboration with Michel Goedert’s group, studying the structure of tau proteins, which are an integral component of the neurofibrillary lesions intrinsic to Alzheimer’s disease.
He received his PhD in Chemistry from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and, prior to joining the LMB, worked as a post-doctoral fellow at CNB-CSIC in Madrid. Here Sjors began his focus on developing new image processing tools for cryo-EM, and was instrumental in the pioneering of 3D classification in the field through the introduction of maximum-likelihood algorithms. He was elected to EMBO membership in 2017, and recently won the AstraZeneca Award from the Biochemical Society.
“I’m thrilled and honoured with this recognition of our work. The LMB is a wonderful place to do exciting science, and I’m grateful for the many contributions of my incredibly talented colleagues who made it all happen,” said Sjors about his election.
More than 60 exemplary scientists from around the world have been elected into the Society; they are comprised of 52 Fellows, 10 Foreign Members, and 1 Honorary Fellow chosen for their outstanding contributions to science.
Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said about this year’s elections: “This is the first year of my presidency at the Royal Society and I’ve been very much looking forward to welcoming the newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members. The global pandemic has demonstrated the continuing importance of scientific thinking and collaboration across borders. Each Fellow and Foreign Member bring their area of scientific expertise to the Royal Society and when combined, this expertise supports the use of science for the benefit of humanity. Our new Fellows and Foreign Members are all at the forefronts of their fields from molecular genetics and cancer research to tropical open ecosystems and radar technology. It is an absolute pleasure and honour to have them join us.”