Biological Sciences

School researchers receive Genetics Society awards

Professors William Hill, Deborah Charlesworth and Dr Susan Johnston have been awarded three of the five Genetics Society 2019 Prizes and Medals.

The awards were presented during the UK Genetics Society conference in Edinburgh - celebrating a century of the Genetics Society, and a century of genetics in Edinburgh.

Every year the Genetics Society awards various named medals and lectures. Prize and medal winners are invited to present a lecture at a Genetics Society event.

Genetics Society Medals 2019
Deborah, Susan and Bill receive their Genetics Society awards - Image Credit: The Genetics Society

Professor William Hill

Professor William (Bill) Hill OBE receives the 2019 Mendel Medal, for his contribution to the understanding of the genetics of quantitative traits and response to selection.

Bill is one of the world’s leading quantitative geneticists, with a distinguished research career spanning 40 years and important contributions to farm animal improvement programmes.

Quantitative genetics is the study of the genetic mechanisms that control complex characteristics that show a wide spectrum of variation - such as growth rate and feed conversion efficiency.

These characteristics are determined by the combined action of many genes and the environment and are characterised using statistical methods.

Bill’s research is primarily theoretical, using mathematical and computer models of the behaviour of genes in populations to understand the genetic basis of quantitatively varying traits.

His contributions to the application of genetics to animal improvement, have had a major impact on the livestock breeding industry.  He is a sought-after consultant by both public agencies and private businesses in this area. 

Professor Deborah Charlesworth

Professor Deborah Charlesworth receives The Genetics Society Medal, for her contribution to evolutionary and population genetics.

Deborah is Senior Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology whose work focuses on the evolution of breeding systems and sex chromosomes.

She currently works on the evolution of sex chromosomes in guppy fish. Previously she studied the evolution of plant mating systems and plant sex chromosomes.

She particularly focused on selection acting on traits that help plants to avoid inbreeding, and on the comparatively recent evolution of separate males and females — dioecy — in the plant kingdom.

She has also explored how many hermaphrodite species reject their own pollen in order to avoid the danger of inbreeding.

Although well into retirement, Deborah continues her research, applying next-generation sequencing to search for evidence of genetic recombination and the accumulation of harmful mutations.

Dr Susan Johnston

Dr Susan Johnston receives The Balfour Lecture, for her contribution to using genomic information to understand selection and evolution in wild and domesticated populations.

Susan is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology whose work answers questions on sexual selection, immunity and recombination.

She uses genomic data collected from various vertebrate species, including sheep, red deer, Atlantic salmon and house sparrows.

Her current work investigates why genetic recombination is so pervasive yet variable and how it is evolving across a wide range of taxa.

Recombination is an essential process that generates genetic diversity - during reproduction genes from both the mother and the father reshuffle to produce unique genetic combinations in their offspring.

Her group studies the causes and consequences of recombination rate variation within and between chromosomes, individuals, sexes, populations and species.

Related Links

Professor William Hill Profile

Professor Deborah Charlesworth’s Profile

Dr Susan Johnston’s Research Group

Genetics Society Prize and Medal Winners 2019