Prof Cait MacPhee is Royal Society’s Gabor Medal winner 2018

The Gabor Medal is awarded annually for acknowledged distinction of interdisciplinary work between the life sciences with other disciplines.

The Royal Society announced that this year the medal is awarded to Professor Cait MacPhee CBE in recognition for her seminal contributions to understanding protein aggregation that inform our approach to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and for opening up new opportunities for creating self-assembled functional biopolymers. 

Research on protein behaviour

Cait’s research concerns the behaviour of proteins: the molecules that are responsible for the vast majority of functions in living organisms. The controlled self-assembly of proteins into well-defined structures and functional assemblies is essential to our well-being, however occasionally protein self-assembly takes place inappropriately. When this happens in the body it typically causes disease, and familial diseases as well as diseases of ageing (such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, cataract and type II diabetes) are all recognised to be the result of improper protein self-assembly. Protein self-assembly can also cause havoc in industrial processes including the production of biopharmaceuticals (e.g. insulin). When this occurs, the pharmaceutical is often lost as an irretrievably tangled mass of gelled protein. All is not lost, however: the self-assembly of proteins also underpins the texture of foodstuffs including egg, meat and milk products. It is understanding this process of self-assembly - to prevent or reverse disease, or to drive the development of new materials and foodstuffs - that forms the focus of Cait’s research efforts.

Honours and Fellowships

In 2016 Cait was recognised in the Queen’s New Year's Honours list for her services to women in physics, and was elected to become Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

The Gabor award was created in memory of the engineer Dennis Gabor, Nobel Prize winner and inventor of holography.

Prof Cait MacPhee commented:

I am delighted to receive this award from the Royal Society in recognition of this interdisciplinary work.

Prof Arthur Trew, School of Physics and Astronomy’s Head of School reported:

We are incredibly pleased by this recognition of Cait’s research contributions and collaborations.   My congratulations to Prof MacPhee for this award.