Scientific leadership and creative thinking – wheat researcher award

Dr Philippa Borrill has received a prestigious award from The Society of Experimental Biology (SEB).  

The President’s Medal awards honour outstanding early-career scientists and are presented at the SEB annual conference each year. 

Dr Borrill, a wheat genetics researcher and group leader at the John Innes Centre said: “I am delighted to be recognised with this award – it’s a great opportunity to share my research with the broad range of biologists within the SEB. I feel privileged to be working on wheat at such an exciting time.” 

As recipient of the 2022 President’s Medal Award in the plant biology section, Dr Borrill will give a presentation on her research at the SEB conference held between July 5 and 8 at Montpelier, France. 

On hearing the news of the award Professor Dale Sanders, Director of the John Innes Centre said: “This award is so well deserved. Philippa is an outstanding scientist, a wonderful role model and mentor, and I am delighted that she has been recognised with a President’s Medal.”  

The awards are divided into categories of animal, cell, and plant biology. To be nominated, researchers must demonstrate: “scientific leadership and have qualities which make them respected by their peers and regarded as a creative and novel thinker.” 

Dr Borrill was a PhD student and research fellow at the John Innes Centre, leaving in 2018 to take up a lectureship in plant biology at the University of Birmingham. She returned to the John Innes Centre as a group leader in September 2021. 

Her research focuses on two key areas: firstly, how genes are switched on and off in wheat’s complex genome which has multiple copies of most genes; secondly, how can we improve the nutritional content of wheat especially iron and zinc.  

Dr Borrill has contributed to major wheat research publications – notably on the 2018 international collaboration which assembled the most comprehensive genetic map of wheat to date. 

Her group has also been instrumental in making wheat genomic tools, web resources and information freely accessible to other researchers. One of these resources, a gene expression atlas, has been used by more than 28,000 people globally. 

Dr Borrill’s work on wheat genomics and transcriptomics has been recognised by awards such as the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Leadership Award in 2017, and the New Phytologist 2019 Tansley Medal for Excellence in Plant Science. 

She was elected in 2021 as chair of the steering committee for the Monogram (UK small grain cereals) network, and as an Early Career Scientist representative on the Association of Applied Biologists Council. 

As a STEM ambassador since 2011 Dr Borrill has contributed to events encouraging female school children to work in science and has provided support and mentoring to PhD students, Postdoctoral Researchers, and BBSRC Discovery fellows. 


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