Professor Gordon Dougan: Winner of the Marjory Stephenson Prize 2019

Posted on May 13, 2020   by Microbiology Society

Each year, the Microbiology Society awards five Prize Lectures in recognition of significant contributions to microbiology. The awards celebrate the outstanding applications of microbiology to research, education and translation and all members are invited to nominate an outstanding microbiologist for the Microbiology Society Prize. We got in touch with former Marjory Stephenson Prize winner Professor Gordon Dougan, University of Cambridge, to find out about his work and what winning the prize meant to him. 

We study how microbes cause disease and evade therapy. We are now based in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge, and also have field sites abroad where we study disease burden and vaccines centred around Salmonella.

We are developing close-to-human models based on stem cells, where we generate macrophages or intestinal organoids to explore how Salmonella interacts with these systems. We match this by working with Andy Pollard at the University of Oxford who is performing human typhoid challenge studies. Behind all of this is the fact that many bacteria, including Salmonella, are antibiotic resistant, so we also build that component into our work in the hospital that involves using our genomic skills to improve diagnosis in patients in, for example, the intensive care unit using rapid multiplex PCR approaches.

How has your work developed since winning your Prize?

My work is still in line with the work presented in the Prize Lecture, which I gave recently. Our studies in the hospital applying genomics directly to clinical sample will likely expand in the future.

What was the highlight of delivering your lecture?

I think it was seeing so many people in the audience I had either trained or worked with directly or indirectly. It was also a chance to consider the different stages of my career and piece together how it had all worked out.

Why do you believe it is important to nominate colleagues for the Society’s Prize Lectures?

When you start off in science you never expect to get nominated for prizes and awards. Also, as your reputation and impact gradually improve, it is difficult to recognise it in yourself. It is thus an enormous reward to get any due recognition and I urge people to consider nominating people for prizes or awards. Often people will not push themselves forward, particularly the more modest.

How did you find your overall experience from being nominated for the award to giving your talk?

I had an email from people asking if I would be willing to be nominated. I said yes and more or less forgot about it. Then suddenly an email appears in my in box inviting me to give the prize lecture. A lovely surprise. I remember getting a similar email from The Royal Society and I have to say it was quite an emotional moment.

Nominations for the 2021 Prize Lectures and the 2022 Prize Medal lecture are now welcomed

To nominate someone for a Prize Lecture, please visit the relevant Prize Lecture page to find out more about its remit, judging criteria and past winners of the Prize. You will also be able to download the nomination form on this page.

After you’ve read the form to determine what to include, you and your fellow nominator should contact the person you’d like to nominate so that you can work with them to complete the nomination form. Nominators should be members of the Society, but the candidate does not have to be one. We have provided example nomination forms to demonstrate the level of detail required for nominations.

To submit your nomination, please email the completed form along with any supporting documentation to [email protected].

If you have any queries, would like to be put in touch with a second nominator or would like to talk through your ideas for a nomination, you can contact the Microbiology Society Prizes team for support via email at [email protected].