We wish to congratulate Dr Sarah Hill who is the recipient of the 2019 John C Marsden Medal for the best doctoral thesis in biology, awarded last Friday evening. Sarah's thesis is entitled ‘Genomic approaches to virus discovery and molecular epidemiology’.
The Linnean Society, upon presenting Sarah with her medal, had this to say in praise of her achivement:
This thesis represents an important novel approach to analyse viral diversity in wild animal populations, and provides useful new insights into the diversity and evolution of viruses in populations of wild badgers and swans.
This authoritative work includes the identification of viromes and new viral species and a detailed investigation into the effect of wild swan immunity, population densityand age profiles on the acquisition and spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
The work exclusively utilises high-throughput sequencing techniques combined with sophisticated bioinformatics applications and algorithms and data mining from available repositories on population dynamics of avian host species.
Overall, the thesis shows a clear and mature style of writing, with the information clearly and explicitly organized. The figures and tables are well designed and the prodigious data are clearly presented, with good use of colour for clarity and ease of assimilation of the key points being made.
The published outputs are exceptional, with four first author papers in high quality peer-reviewed journals and, as noted in the Head of Department’s report, the data contributed to five more papers, four in Science or Nature.
The subject matter is topical and of great importance, and the discussion is thoughtful, nuanced and detailed. Sarah Hill’s exceptional thesis thus truly merits the John C Marsden Medal 2019 for the best doctoral thesis in biology.
On being presented this medal, Sarah said: 'I am honoured and delighted to have been awarded the John C Marsden Medal. I feel very lucky to be recognised for doing research that I love, in such an exciting field. I’m deeply grateful to my DPhil supervisor, my collaborators, and to the Wellcome Trust, for the excellent support that I received during my DPhil.’