Beijing -- 4 November 2019. Tom Baden, a professor of neuroscience at University of Sussex, UK, and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, UK has become the first winner of the Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact, as announced today at a ceremony in Beijing.
Established in partnership with Tencent, the Awards for Driving Global Impact aim to recognise early career researchers whose work has made, or has the potential to make, a positive impact on society. The 2019 awards focus on brain science.
Baden's research on zebrafish and mice showed that eyes have vastly greater computational powers than people previously thought, rather than being faithful recorders of the real world. His research demonstrates that the retina is not a passive recording device: the signals it sends to the brain are in fact highly processed with the 'ganglion cells', found in the retina, transmitting the image presented to it in a highly interpreted form. With information packaged into simpler representations before being sent to the brain, the transmission of information is highly efficient.
Baden developed new fluorescence-based imaging techniques, thereby showing for the first time there were twice as many different ganglion cell types as previously thought. His team also went further to describe the enormous diversity in so-called 'bipolar cells' within the retina itself. These findings were published in Nature and are likely to have a significant influence on ophthalmological research, on both the diagnostic and therapeutic fronts, and make a decisive impact on development of retinal prosthetics and even models of artificial vision.
Commenting, Magdalena Skipper, Editor-in-Chief of Nature, said: "Professor Baden is a paragon for early career scientists, with a strong dedication to science and a broad vision and courage to drive science forward by addressing challenges facing the science community. His research has already changed the state of human knowledge enough to require a fundamental rewrite of neuroscience and medical physiology textbooks. What's equally impressive is his open-source approach that could transform the access to lab instruments and has gone beyond his own field of neuroscience."
Professor Baden designed and manufactured his own lab equipment using techniques such as 3D printing. He also published his designs — for microscopes, pipettes, micromanipulators and other instruments used widely throughout the life sciences — under open source licenses so that they are available for anyone to use. This equipment costs a fraction of that which is available commercially, making it possible for researchers to access tools they otherwise could not afford — a particularly valuable service for scientists in emerging regions.
"To drive cutting-edge technological and scientific development, input from universities and corporates, as well as collaboration from other countries, is essential." said Edward Cheng, Vice President of Tencent. "We believe that when the spirit of science is nurtured, it allows us to connect the power of science – when generations come together, we can create a steady momentum for scientific development. We hope to work with Nature Research and our partners to inspire more people to care about science, be passionate about science, and join science."
Winner of the Nature Research Award for Driving Global Impact, Tom Baden said: "I am humbled by this award, which recognizes the long standing dedication and commitment of a large number of people, including my many neuroscientist colleagues, the TReND in Africa team as well as countless members of the global open hardware community."
The Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact encourage early career researchers to think critically about, and to plan for, the potential impacts of their work. Nature Research will continue to work together with Tencent to make them the premier awards for early career scientists globally.
About the winner
Tom Baden is a professor of neuroscience at University of Sussex, UK, and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, UK. Tom obtained his PhD in lab of Berthold Hedwig, University of Cambridge, UK. He has progressed from completion of his PhD to a full Professorship in 10 years, which is unusual in the UK. Tom has received several other awards for his research excellence including the Lister Prize, one of the world's most prestigious research funding prizes for outstanding early career scientists.
About the awards
The Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact invites applications from researchers who have established an independent research group within the past five years. Those encouraged to apply will have made an exceptional contribution to scientific discovery in the field of brain sciences. Researchers should be able to demonstrate the application, or potential application, of their research to make a positive impact on society, defined as an effect on, the economy, society, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life.
The judging panel, chaired by Nature Editor-in-Chief Magdalena Skipper, includes relevant Nature Research editors, and independent experts. The judging process consists of three main phases, with scoring criteria covering scientific achievements, the potential scientific and societal impact of research, etc. The awards will offer a prize of USD30,000 to one winner.
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