Honours and heirloom for Dame Louise Johnson
Professor Dame Louise Johnson's contribution to science has been honoured by two recent awards.
Suffrage Science Heirloom Brooch (designed by Anya Malhotra, Central Saint Martins) to commemorate women in life science © MRC Clinical Sciences Centre
The first is an award of a science heirloom – a hand-crafted brooch designed by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design – to mark her contribution to the field of structural biology. She is one of a number of leading women life scientists and communicators recognised in this way through an initiative pioneered by the MRC.
The brooch is part of a bespoke jewellery and textiles collection designed and created to commemorate a century of women in life science and to mark the centenary of International Women's Day on 8 March 2011. The designs reference the suffrage movement that fought for equal voting rights at the start of the last century.
Professor Amanda Fisher, Director of the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, travelled to the department to present science heirlooms to Professor Johnson and also Professor Liz Robertson (Dunn School of Pathology) and Dr Sohaila Rastan.
As Professor Fisher explains, each piece of jewellery will be passed on from its current owner to another woman scientist next year: 'Hopefully these heirlooms will encourage women to pursue leadership roles in life sciences. It will be interesting to see where they end up in five years time.'
Dame Professor Louise Johnson receives a science heirloom from Professor Amanda Fisher © MRC Clinical Sciences Centre (courtesy of Kiki von Glasow)
On receiving the award, Professor Johnson said: 'I shall wear it with pride and great enjoyment. It is a wonderful and fitting heirloom and a great invention from all who helped design this project.'
The centenary of International Women's Day in March also saw the launch of a book entitled Suffrage Science which tells the story of Professor Johnson and other distinguished women in the life sciences and of the female role models who inspired them.
Women scientists within Professor Johnson's own field of structural biology are particularly notable. Leading women such as Professor Johnson working in the field today join a prestigious list of contributors including Kathleen Lonsdale, Rosalind Franklin and Dorothy Hodgkin researching from the earliest days of crystallography.
The second honour for Professor Johnson is her election as Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.
This year, the National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 15 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
Professor Johnson was one of only two UK scientists to be named in the awards. 'It is a great honour and gives me much pleasure,' she said.
With a lifetime's experience in macromolecular crystallography, Professor Johnson has helped to elucidate the way lysozyme – a protein present in tears – functions, and has developed an anti-cancer drug-design programme. More recently, her focus has been on the protein kinases involved in the regulation of the cell cycle.
Although she retired as the David Phillips Professor of Molecular Biophysics at Oxford in 2007, she still remains active in science.