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Alumnus honoured at major US science awards

Dr Alan Healy (Biomedical Science 2011) has been named as an honouree at the 2017 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists, held by the prestigious New York Academy of Sciences.

Dr Alan Healy
Dr Alan Healy

Alan was recognised for developing the first synthetic route to producing colibactins - bacterial compounds linked to colorectal cancers - previously only available in unstable quantities too small to study.

He is one of nine 2017 honourees of the Blavatnik Regional Award - established in 2007 by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and New York Academy of Sciences - chosen from a field of 161 outstanding young researchers nominated this year for the award.

We are delighted to honour and support this year’s outstanding winners and finalists as they pursue their remarkable scientific careers. Their ongoing discoveries will have an enormous positive impact on the global scientific community for years to come.

Len BlavatnikHead of the Blavatnik Family Foundation

Collaboration

Alan's MSc in Biomedical Science was part of a joint MSc/PhD fellowship from Cancer Research UK. He completed hs research at the University of St Andrews, during which time he kept an active collaboration with the cancer biology group at Edinburgh. He then undertook postdoctoral research in the USA, becoming a Charles H. Revson Senior Fellow in Biomedical Science at Yale University.

He says: "I have a joint position in the department of Chemistry and  the Chemical Biology Institute, continuing the multi-disciplinary nature of my research, which first began at Edinburgh."

Better scientists

Alan has fond memories of his time as a student at the University.

"In the area of biomedical science, the University has excelled at developing a truly open, multi-disciplinary experience," he says. "It's a concept that is often promoted by academic institutions but rarely achieved to the same level as at Edinburgh.

"The MSc brought together an amazing group of people from diverse courses and backgrounds who quickly became lifelong friends, including one who was one of my groomsmen when I returned to Scotland to get married last summer. The exposure to different scientific research areas is essential for young scientists, and I saw many people - myself included - become better scientists as a result."

Make memories

Alan took advantage of the more social aspects of university life, too.

"One of the wonderful aspects of Edinburgh is that the university is embedded into the fabric of the beautiful city," he says. "This provides a vibrant and exciting academic environment whilst not being excluded or separate from the life of the city.

"Some favourite memories include getting deep-fried haggis in the Grassmarket, drinking hot toddies on the Royal Mile as it snowed outside, playing frisbee on the meadows, and having drinks in the Brass Monkey after a particularly bruising Jiu-Jitsu session."

He has some sound advice for current students, too:

"Embrace all the University and city have to offer. It is a multicultural university with a huge range of societies and state-of-the-art sports facilities, all set against the backdrop of a beautiful city with a rich history. Make memories and friends to reminisce with - time is the only truly priceless commodity so don’t waste a second of it."

Your alumni impact

Have you or someone you know made an impact? Let us know by emailing the editor, Brian Campbell:

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Related links

Edinburgh Medical School: Biomedical Sciences