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Bristol chemists win Royal Society of Chemistry awards

6 May 2015

Dr John Bower and Professor Anthony Davis in the School of Chemistry have won prestigious awards from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Dr Bower is the Hickinbottom Award winner for 2015. The award is granted annually to a researcher under the age of 35 for their contribution to organic chemistry, and comprises a monetary prize, a medal, an organised lecture tour and research support.

A key goal of the area in which Dr Bower works – organic synthesis – is the ability to selectively form one of the two possible mirror images of a chiral compound. Human hands are an example of chirality: the left hand is a non-superimposable mirror image of the right hand; that means that no matter how the two hands are turned, it is impossible for all the major features of both hands to match up perfectly. This is of huge importance in forming molecules because the different mirror images have very different effects in biological systems.

Dr Bower said: ‘I am delighted to receive this prestigious award and I do so on behalf of my group, whose talent and dedication have got our research projects off the ground. This recognition will definitely encourage us to keep trying hard to discover new and useful chemistry.’

Professor Davis is the Physical Organic Chemistry Award winner for 2015. The award covers the relationship between structure and molecular behaviours in chemistry, and comprises a monetary prize, a medal and an organised lecture tour. 

Professor Davis works to design specific molecules for specific uses: ‘Molecules are the smallest objects that can be designed because they are the smallest objects that can possess complex shapes,’ he said. ‘We have made molecules which bind sugars in water, with potential for use in glucose monitors, which can help in the management of diabetes.’ 

‘We have also made molecules which can bind chloride anions and carry them across cell membranes. We believe these agents could counteract the genetic defect which causes cystic fibrosis, and could potentially be used as treatments for this condition.’

He added: ‘It’s very nice to be appreciated and I thank all of my co-workers, whose contributions have been critical.’

Dr Robert Parker, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: ‘It is always a pleasure to recognise excellence in the chemical sciences and I am pleased to acknowledge the illustrious achievements of our prize and award winners this year.’

‘Whether they work in research, industry or academia, our winners are the very best in their fields, and they can be very proud to follow in the footsteps of some of the most influential and important scientists around the world.’  

‘In a complex and changing world, chemistry and the chemical sciences are vital in responding to some of humanity’s biggest challenges and our prize and award winners are at the forefront of meeting that challenge.’

Award/prize winners are evaluated for the originality and impact of their research, as well as the quality of the results which can be shown in publications, patents, or even software. The awards also recognise the importance of teamwork across the chemical sciences, and the abilities of individuals to develop successful collaborations.

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