Waddington Medal awarded to Val Wilson
05 Apr 2022
Group Leader and Chair of Early Embryo Development Professor Val Wilson has been awarded the Waddington Medal for outstanding research performance as well as services to the developmental biology community.
The Waddington Medal is awarded every year by the British Society for Developmental Biology (BSDB) and recognises outstanding developmental biologists who have made a significant contribution to UK developmental biology and are currently active in the field.
Professor Wilson was presented with this prestigious award on the 4th April at an award ceremony at the Annual Meeting for Developmental Biologists held at Warwick University, where she also gave an award lecture.
This medal is named after Conrad Waddington, who was a Professor of Genetics at The University of Edinburgh, and a leading British embryologist and geneticist highly influential in the development of both subjects during the 1930s through to the 1960s. The award was first presented in 1998 and is the only national award in developmental biology.
Professor Wilson’s research focuses on the embryonic progenitors for the central nervous system, skeleton and muscles. This involves studying how and when they become a separate population of cells as well as how they are maintained and eventually eliminated.
Pioneering development research
Professor Wilson and members of her lab identified a mammalian cell lineage that violates a strict assumption of germ-layer segregation, which led to the creation of a significant Development Cell paper (2009) ‘Redefining the progression of lineage segregations during mammalian embryogenesis by clonal analysis'. This work found important implications for the interpretation of the phenotypic defects of several mouse mutants and the directed differentiation of embryonic stem (ES) cells in vitro.
The Wilson Lab is now investigating what signals cause neural mesodermal progenitors (NMPs) to choose between making more NMPs, or making muscle and spinal cord precursors. They are interested in how they regulate how long the head-to-tail axis grows, something that varies hugely between animals that have backbones; and more broadly, how different axis progenitor types work together to create a perfectly-proportioned body axis.
It is a huge honour to receive this Medal; it reflects all the hard work and great ideas of many of my friends and colleagues over the years. It couldn't have been done without the support of my mentors (including the late Dr Rosa Beddington, and Professor Austin Smith), a wonderful place to work at The University of Edinburgh, and funding principally from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Val is a truly imaginative thinker and a rigorous experimentalist. I am absolutely delighted that she has been honoured in a way that links her work to that of another of Edinburgh’s famous developmental biologists.
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