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Plant biologist Caroline Dean receives the 2015 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award


Heidelberg, 14 January 2015 – EMBO and the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) announce Caroline Dean of the John Innes Centre, Norwich, United Kingdom, as the winner of the 2015 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award. 



Professor Dean receives the award for her outstanding contributions to plant biology, in particular for her work to understand how changes in temperature affect the molecular events that control the timing and duration of flowering in higher plants.


The FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award recognizes outstanding achievements of female researchers in molecular biology. Winners of the award are role models who inspire future generations of researchers. 


Caroline Dean's early research helped with the development of Arabidopsis as an experimental system in the early 1990s. She then focussed on the mechanisms controlling the timing of the switch from vegetative to reproductive development in plants. This work led her to the study of vernalization – the acceleration of flowering by prolonged cold. She investigated why certain plants have to pass through winter before they bloom and how plants remember that they have been exposed to cold temperatures. This resulted in a fundamental understanding of the epigenetic and co-transcriptional mechanisms involved in these processes. She has also shown how variation in the process of vernalization has been essential for the way plants adapt to a range of climates.


"Recognition of Caroline's contribution is timely and forward-looking because of the many challenges for agriculture in the face of climate change," stated Joanne Chory, the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology and Professor at the Salk Institute and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. "Her unique perspective has made the molecular control of flowering one of the best understood processes in plants." 


"I am absolutely delighted to have been selected for this award and would like to give credit to the fantastic PhD students and post-docs who contributed to all the projects in my lab," said the award winner upon hearing of her distinction. 


Advancing the interests of the plant biology community has been a significant part of her career. The British scientist was a founding member of the multinational Arabidopsis steering committee for the Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project, President of the International Society for Plant Molecular Biology, co-founder of the European Plant Science Organization, Fellow of The Royal Society and, since 2012, a member of EMBO Council.


She has advised politicians about the potential of plant biotechnology for many years and she regularly teaches courses, summer schools and Women in Science events. "Caroline is a shining example for all scientists," commented Detlef Weigel, Chair of EMBO Council and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen. "It is impressive how she has not only maintained a research programme at the highest level for over 20 years, but also been extremely generous with her time in raising the profile of plant science, both in the United Kingdom and Europe, and overseas."


The 2015 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award of 10,000 euros will be presented to Caroline Dean on 6 July at the FEBS Congress in Berlin, where she will give a special lecture. Nominations for the 2016 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award close on 15 October 2015. For more information please visit: http://www.embo.org/policy-and-society/women-in-science-award.html or FEBS website at http://www.febs.org/our-activities/awards/febs-embo-women-in-science-award.



Caroline Dean studied biology at the University of York where she also obtained her PhD on "Chloroplast Development in Wheat" in 1982. From 1983-1988, she worked as a research scientist for Advanced Genetic Sciences Inc. in Oakland, California, in the United States. Subsequently she became Project Leader at the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at the John Innes Centre, where she is still working. 


Her group has focused on studying the molecular basis of the timing of flowering, work that has developed into an in-depth dissection of epigenetic and transcriptional pathways that regulate the expression of the genes and proteins required for this essential part of the life cycle of higher plants. She was Associate Research Director of the John Innes Centre from 1999 to 2009. 


Her contributions have been recognised by election to EMBO, the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. She is the recipient of the Genetics Society Medal (2002), the Order of the British Empire (2004), and the BBSRC Excellence in Bioscience Award (2014). 

The award

EMBO | FEBS Women in Science Award


The FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award consists of a bursary of €10,000, and a sculpture designed by Marloes Erden. More details on the artist (pdf).


Watch a video about the sculpture designer (in Dutch with English subtitles).



How do plants remember - Caroline Dean discusses her research in a YouTube video


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Tilmann KießlingTilmann Kießling
Head, Communications
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