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March 11, 2011
Carol V. Robinson Receives 2011 FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award
Carol V. Robinson, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford (UK), is the winner of the 2011 FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award. With this prize, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) recognize both Robinson's pioneering work in the development of mass spectrometry as a tool for investigating the structure and dynamics of protein complexes as well as her support and mentoring of women pursuing careers in science.
Robinson's research has opened up a new area of mass spectrometry. Her group was one of the first to use electrospray mass spectrometry to study large protein complexes. More recently, her research has focused on combining mass spectrometry with cryoelectron microscopy.
Professor Wolfgang Baumeister of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried (Germany), who has worked closely with Robinson, explains how the British scientist succeeded in the face of strong skepticism: "She had the courage to do what other practitioners of mass spectrometry regarded as not feasible and this has opened up a new window of opportunities for the structural characterization of macromolecular complexes", he says. According to the German researcher, Robinson has used the method developed in her group to study numerous multi-sub-unit complexes. "Recently, she has demonstrated that the method can also be applied to membrane proteins after releasing them from the surrounding micelles. Remarkably, the complexes remain intact upon transfer to the gas phase of the spectrometer", he adds.
"I am truly delighted that the work of my research group has been honored in this way," said Robinson upon hearing of the award. "Women from many continents and countries are employed in my group. They have enriched my research, bringing different talents and skills."
As a group leader and a mother, Robinson understands the importance of a flexible workplace for the scientists in her lab who are parents. After obtaining her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1982, she had a career break of eight years to raise her three children. Since her return to research in 1991, she has made many important contributions to science. In 2001, she became the first female professor of chemistry at Cambridge University, and three years later she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. Baumeister believes that Robinson is an excellent choice for this year's prize: "She has become a role model for women scientists and a great encouragement for all young women who pursue a scientific career", he says.