Why Microbiologists Matter: Submit your questions to our panel of Fleming Prize Winners

29 September 2020

As part of our upcoming ‘Why Microbiologists Matter’ event, a digital celebration of the journeys of our members; we will be hosting the Fleming Showcase on 23–25 November 2020 (Days 1–3). On the afternoon of Wednesday 25 November, we will welcome a panel of Fleming Prize winners, including Professor Peter Newell, Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall, Professor Adrian Whitehouse, Professor Edze Westra and Sir John Beringer. We invite you to submit questions and find out about their research, careers and scientific lives.

The Fleming Prize is awarded annually to an early career researcher who has achieved an outstanding research record within 12 years of receiving their PhD. Named after one of the founding members and first President of the Society, Sir Alexander Fleming FRS, winners have gone on to become renowned experts in their fields.

We are delighted that Professor Peter Newell, winner in 1977; Sir John Beringer, winner in 1979; Professor Adrian Whitehouse, winner in 2005; Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall winner in 2009, and Professor Edze Westra, winner of the Prize in 2020, will take part in a panel session, answering questions from the community collected in advance of the event.

This is a great opportunity to ask Peter, John, Adrian, Nicola and Edze about their research, careers and scientific lives, and we invite the community to submit questions for our panellists.

Submitted questions will be posed to the panel by members of our Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum and we will record the event as a resource to share with the community.

Send us your questions and take part in this important event in celebration of the Society’s 75th anniversary, as we bring together and empower communities that help shape the future of microbiology.
Submit your questions

Fleming Prize Winners' Panel 

Professor Peter Newell
Professor Peter Newell
© Peter Newell

Peter Newell is Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. After gaining his bachelors and doctoral degrees in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, Professor Newell spent two years at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, USA (1967-69) where he started his research on cell development and molecular signalling systems in the amoeboid organism Dictyostelium discoideum.

His research on genetic and molecular aspects of cell interactions in Dictyostelium led to his being awarded the Fleming Prize by the Society for General Microbiology in 1977. He retired from his University appointments in September 2003 and is currently Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and an Emeritus Fellow of St Peter’s College.

Sir John Beringer
Sir John Berigner
© Sir John Berigner
Sir John Beringer CBE is Emeritus Professor and former Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol. He was awarded the Fleming Prize in 1979 following his research into the Development of Rhizobium Genetics. He has a Diploma in Agriculture (1965), BSc in Microbiology and PhD in Rhizobium genetics, which was the main focus of his research at the John Innes Centre, where I was working when I was appointed as the Fleming Lecturer in 1979.

He left the John Innes institute in 1980 and moved away from research and much more into management, grants boards and providing scientific advice; the latter involving considerable amounts of his time establishing a UK regulatory framework for the release of GMOs. He was knighted in 2000 following his services to environmental safety. Various appointments at the University of Bristol, finishing with Pro Vice-Chancellor, allowed him time for a very large range of extracurricular activities, which continued after he retired in 2005.

Professor Adrian Whitehouse
Professor Adrian Whitehouse
© Adrian Whitehouse

Adrian Whitehouse is Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Leeds. His lab aims to understand how viruses cause cancer and develop novel antiviral strategies to prevent infection and tumourigenesis – focusing on the study of the molecular biology of the two most recently discovered human tumour viruses. He was awarded the Fleming Prize following his research into understanding the latent-lytic switch in gamma-2 herpesviruses.


Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall
Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall
© Nicola Stanley-Wall

Nicola Stanley-Wall is Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Head of the Division of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Dundee. Her lab works on using molecular biology to understand the signalling processes that control multicellular behaviours exhibited by bacteria. In particular, her lab is interested in the genetic components that control biofilm formation by the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. She was awarded the Fleming Prize in recognition of her outstanding research on the molecular basis of biofilm formation.

Nicky O’Boyle is currently employed as a Postdoc at the University of Glasgow. He has a keen interest in bacterial genetics and physiology in the context of host-pathogen interactions. His current project employs global sequencing technologies to better understand the processes which underpin the occupation of distinct niches by pathogenic E. coli.

Professor Edze Westra
Professor Edze Westra
© Edze Westra

Edze Westra is a Professor and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Independent Research Fellow at the University of Exeter. He was awarded the Fleming Prize for his research on the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary ecology of CRISPR-Cas systems. Professor Westra has also recently developed a research programme focused on the evolutionary ecology of the wider range of mechanisms encoded by bacteria to resist bacteriophage infections.

ECM Forum Interviewers

Justine Rudkin
© Justine Rudkin

Justine Rudkin is a Postdoctoral researcher at The University of Oxford studying host-pathogen co-evolution. She is particularly interested in the development of antimicrobial resistance and its impact on bacterial virulence and pathogenicity. AMR makes bacterial infections harder to treat, but it also alters fundamental bacterial traits such as protein expression, cell wall structuring, and DNA replication; what impact do these changes have on how bacteria causes infections? 


Prerna Vohra
© Prerna Vohra

Prerna Vohra is a Lecturer in Microbiology at the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh. During her postdoctoral research in Edinburgh, she used synthetic biology approaches in Bacteroides fragilis to develop novel oral vaccines against diarrhoeal diseases.

She also continues to work on host-pathogen interactions and sequencing methodologies with the aim to develop and test vaccination strategies to reduce the burden of pathogens in food and improve food safety.

Find out more about other events and activities during our 75th anniversary year – dedicated to demonstrating the impact of microbiologists’ past, present and future. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates using the hashtag #MicrobioSoc75th #WhyMicrobiologistsMatter.