Professor Alison Smith elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society


John Innes Centre Programme Leader, Professor Alison Smith, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from or living and working in the UK and the Commonwealth. Past Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

She becomes the 7th current JIC researcher and the 28th JIC researcher overall to be recognised in this way.

Professor Smith's career has provided important new insights into the way in which plants make starch — the main component of many crops, the major source of calories in our diet, and an important raw material for industry.

Professor Smith said, "This Fellowship is a great honour, and one I never expected to be awarded. I am very grateful to the many colleagues who have supported and encouraged me throughout my career."

JIC Director Professor Dale Sanders FRS said: "Alison has spent almost the whole of her professional career at JIC. During that time she has shown brilliantly how fundamental investigations into biochemistry can be expanded with broad thinking into understanding the biology of plants, and beyond that, the pressing issues of global food security that include quality as well as yield."

Professor Smith's current research focusses on how plants use starch stores for their growth at night, when they are not able to photosynthesise. She and colleagues have shown that plants have sophisticated mechanisms that adjust the rate of consumption of starch to prevent starvation during the night, making use of an internal "clock" that anticipates the time of dawn. She also leads the MET Institute Strategic Programme at the John Innes Centre, which investigates how plants and microbes generate a wide diversity of natural products that we depend on for nutrition, medicines, flavours, fragrances, pesticides and industrial raw materials.


Notes to editors

1. Professor Smith was named as one of 50 new Fellows announced today by the Royal Society.

2. For further information please contact:

Geraldine Platten
Communications Manager
The John Innes Centre
T: 01603-450-238
E: [email protected]

3. An image of Professor Smith can be found at:

4. About the John Innes Centre

Our mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, to apply our knowledge of nature's diversity to benefit agriculture, the environment, human health and wellbeing, and engage with policy makers and the public.

To achieve these goals we establish pioneering long-term research objectives in plant and microbial science, with a focus on genetics. These objectives include promoting the translation of research through partnerships to develop improved crops and to make new products from microbes and plants for human health and other applications. We also create new approaches, technologies and resources that enable research advances and help industry to make new products. The knowledge, resources and trained researchers we generate help global societies address important challenges including providing sufficient and affordable food, making new products for human health and industrial applications, and developing sustainable bio-based manufacturing.

This provides a fertile environment for training the next generation of plant and microbial scientists, many of whom go on to careers in industry and academia, around the world.

The John Innes Centre is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2014-2015 the John

Innes Centre received a total of £36.9 million from the BBSRC.

Media Contact

Geraldine Platten
[email protected]


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