Professor Peter Holland, FRS, awarded the Royal Society’s Darwin Medal

We are delighted to congratulate our very own Professor Peter Holland, FRS, who has just been awarded the Royal Society’s prestigious Darwin Medal. 

Professor Holland has been awarded this Medal in light of his significant work towards elucidating key aspects of how changes in the genome have influenced the evolution of animal development. 

Our first departmental recipient of the medal since Bill Hamilton in 1988, Professor Holland says: “I am astonished and delighted in equal measure. Many of the influential names in evolutionary biology have been awarded this medal, and I can’t quite believe that my name will be added to them.”

Having completed his undergraduate Zoology degree in the department, Professor Holland returned to compare genes and embryos between species, focusing particularly on a small marine animal, amphioxus: a distant relative of backboned animals. In 2002, he took up the Linacre Chair of Zoology, and was elected FRS in 2003. 

The Holland lab group continues to explore the relationship between evolution of the genome and the evolution of animal diversity. This work to compare genomes between species can help us to discover new genes relevant to human biology and medicine, that could aid future strategies for pest or disease control.  In addition, the comparison between genomes provides insight into what makes each species different, and how the astonishing diversity of life on earth came about. 

“These, surely, are questions that should captivate us all,” said Professor Holland.

When asked about his plans to celebrate the award, Professor Holland talk about his intention to host a symposium: “I’m going to hold a party! Specifically, I will put the prize money towards a scientific symposium at which I hope my current and former colleagues and students will enthuse about their research, and share ideas over drinks and dinner.”

To read the full press release and to hear from all winners from this year’s Royal Society’s Awards, visit their webiste here.