Britain’s honours system seems to be making a special effort to recognize scientists this year. The three most recent Nobel prize winners to work in the UK – Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at Manchester University, and Venki Ramakrishnan at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge – have all been granted knighthoods in the 2012 New Year’s honours list, announced on 31 December.
Sir Andre and Sir Kostya, as they may now be addressed, won the 2010 Nobel prize in Physics for their experiments on the remarkable properties of graphene, the single-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms. (In October 2011, British chancellor George Osborne announced £50 million for a research and technology hub focusing on graphene). Sir Venki shared the 2009 Nobel prize in chemistry for his work mapping the structure of the ribosome, the cell’s machinery for churning out proteins from the genetic code. None of the researchers were originally born in Britain.
But they aren’t the only scientists knighted. The others include Stephen Bloom, an endocrinologist and obesity expert at Imperial College London; mathematician Simon Donaldson (also at Imperial); Bob Watson, chief scientific adviser to the government’s department of environment, food and rural affairs, and a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Andrew Witty, CEO of pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK); Mark Pepys, a professor of medicine at University College London who has recently teamed up with GSK to work on a drug for the protein disorder amyloidosis; and (John) Patrick Sissons, head of the University of Cambridge’s school of clinical medicine.
Further down the honours hierarchy, neuroscientist Trevor Robbins at the University of Cambridge, chemist David Phillips (who is president of the Royal Society of Chemistry), and computer scientist Ursula Martin are given CBEs. The full list is here.