2021 Alumni Award Recipients Announced

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Left: Ken Holmes; Right: Ilaria Piazza (image: David Ausserhofer)

Committee recognises outstanding contributions of two EMBL alumni

The 2021 EMBL Alumni Award winners have been selected by the judging committee.

Ilaria Piazza, PI at MDC-Berlin and former EMBL Heidelberg predoc in the Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit, 2009-14

Ilaria has been awarded the John Kendrew Award (JKA) in recognition of her excellent science.

She has performed groundbreaking work as a postdoc in the lab of Paola Picotti at ETH and developed the method LiP-SMap to analyse protein-metabolite interactions in their native environment at a global level, a widely enabling technology both in basic and translational research.

Ilaria is now PI at MDC-Berlin, supported by ERC and Helmholz grants, and member of the early career research committee at HUPO. She was an EMBL Heidelberg predoc in the Haering Group from 2009-2014.

Ilaria said: “I am incredibly honoured to receive the John Kendrew Award. I can convincingly say that I would not have made scientific research a profession without having been a PhD student at EMBL. I met so many people who deeply changed my perspective, thus, I am and will always be proud to be in the EMBL alumni network!”

Ken Holmes, former EMBL Hamburg Head, 1975-77

Ken is the winner of the Lennart Philipson Award (LPA) in recognition of his pioneering work in the use of synchrotron radiation for X-ray diffraction.

His early work, published in 1971, served as a starting point for the use and construction of beamlines, and entire synchrotrons dedicated for diffraction studies. It is now unthinkable to conduct structural molecular biology research without the easy access scientists have to the many synchrotrons built around the world.

Together with Sir John Kendrew, Ken laid the foundations for the first EMBL Outstation at Hamburg, of which he was Head from 1975 to 1977. Beyond his contributions to our understanding of muscle structure and function, people who worked with him have gone on to become leaders in the world in beamline design, carrying forward the transformative work that Ken started.

Ken said: "We needed a stronger x-ray source that could record a muscle contracting. I had read Julius Schwinger’s work on the theory of Synchrotron Radiation. DESY in Hamburg was setting up such an electron ring. Gerd Rosenbaum and I carried out an experiment at DESY using synchrotron radiation to get diffraction from a muscle specimen. This worked, and we were delighted when Sir John Kendrew and EMBL decided to support the project. DESY encouraged us to set up a bunker (bunker 2) for X-ray experiments on biological samples. Bunker 2 was the beginning of what would become the first EMBL Outstation. It is a great honour to have been presented with the Lennart Philipson award for the work that was carried out by Gerd Rosenbaum and myself 50 years ago in Hamburg."

About the Awards

About the ceremony

Both prizes consist of a gold-plated medal and a cash prize of €10,000; they will be presented to the recipients as part of the annual EMBL World Alumni Day celebrations, which will be live-streamed on Friday 17 July 2021.

Tom Furnival-Adams