Dr Sam Giles awarded 2017 Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

Dr Sam GilesDr Sam Giles, Junior Research Fellow in Biological Sciences at Christ Church, has been awarded a prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship by the Royal Society for the period October 2017-September 2022, for her research project entitled ‘Of ears and ecology: assembling the roots of the largest living vertebrate group’. The Fellowship is worth a total of over £500,000, and is intended to help researchers who have to balance their work with other commitments.

The Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship is a scheme for ‘outstanding scientists in the UK at an early stage of their research career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances such as parenting or caring responsibilities or health issues’. The Fellowship allows researchers at the beginnings of their careers to hold part-time appointments or make use of flexible working in order to combine work with other commitments, such as parenting or caring, and also provides funds for family support such as for child care, making it easier for holders of the Fellowship to attend conferences or visits abroad. It can be awarded to anyone working in life and physical sciences, and provides five years of funding including a salary and research expenses; applicants who are successful in being made Fellows are also eligible to apply for a research grant. The scheme is designed to help successful candidates progress to permanent academic positions in the UK. 

The application process for the Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship is highly competitive (5 Fellowships were awarded in 2016, with an application success rate of just 13%). Applicants are judged on their scientific merit, including past achievements, research career to date, publication record, likely contribution to the research field and future potential, whilst their proposed research project is also judged on its quality and originality, and the likelihood of its goals being achieved. The 19 members of the selection panel include 10 Fellows of the Royal Society.

Dr Giles’s research is centred around palaeobiology and evolution, using fossil evidence combined with modern imaging techniques to understand the evolution of life on earth. Her focus is vertebrate palaeobiology, using x-ray tomography (CT scanning) to ‘virtually’ cut through fossils in order to view both their internal and external features, and in doing so to create a 3D reconstruction of their anatomy. She is particularly interested in looking at the anatomy of vertebrates’ brain and braincase (a bony structure within the head, housing the brain and sensory organs), and comparing key living and extinct animals in order to contextualise major evolutionary events and answer questions regarding evolutionary change in vertebrates.

Dr Giles has also recently had an article published in the international scientific journal Nature, as well as having been awarded a 2017 L’Oreal-UNESCO International Rising Talent Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr Giles for this outstanding achievement!