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Six Oxford University academics have been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal Society.

he Royal Society, the UK’s distinguished academy of science, has announced the election of 62 new Fellows and Foreign Members, which include six academics from the University of Oxford. The newly elected Oxford Fellows are:

Timothy Behrens’ work has uncovered the mechanisms used by the human brain to represent our world, make decisions, and control our behaviour. An understanding of how our neurons function in networks to control behaviour is fundamental to our understanding of the brain, and has implications for neural network computing, artificial intelligence, and the treatment of mental and cognitive disorders.

Ben Berks studies how bacteria secrete proteins across their cell membrane. Ben is a co-discoverer of the bacterial Tat (twin-arginine translocation) system which is now known to be the second most widely distributed protein transport system in biology. More recently he has identified and characterised the protein transporter of the Type IX secretion system which is required for protein secretion by dental pathogens. 

Ehud Hrushovski's work is concerned with mapping the interactions and interpretations among different mathematical worlds. Guided by the model theory of Robinson, Shelah and Zilber, Hrushovski investigated mathematical areas including highly symmetric finite structures, differential equations, difference equations and their relations to arithmetic geometry and the Frobenius maps, aspects of additive combinatorics, motivic integration, valued fields and non-archimedean geometry. He also took part in the creation of geometric stability and simplicity theory in finite dimensions, and in establishing the role of definable groups within first order model theory.

  • Professor Xin Lu FMedSci FRS, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Nuffield Department of Medicine

Xin Lu is a cancer biologist distinguished by her contributions to understanding cellular pathways that control cell fate in development and disease, particularly cancer. She has a long-standing interest in how to selectively kill cancer cells, and her major research advances have provided insights into how p53, the most mutated or inactivated tumour suppressor in human cancers, can make life or death decisions for a cell. Read more about Xin’s Royal Society election here.

Peter Nellist is a materials scientist who has pioneered new techniques for atomic-resolution microscopy. Nellist’s work has focused on scanning transmission electron microscopy and its application across a range of functional and structural materials. He is known for the practical implementation of electron ptychography which allows light elements to be detected while reducing beam-induced damage, and to the theory underlying quantitative image interpretation. He has made fundamental contributions to the development of correctors for the inherent aberrations of electron lenses and their use for the three-dimensional imaging of materials.

Raymond Pierrehumbert works on the physics of planetary climates - including Earth - and his research explores the past four billion years of the Universe and the next several billion years, extending from the Solar System out to the newly discovered exoplanets. His early work focused on fundamental processes such as water vapour and cloud effects both in the present climate and under the effects of human-influenced global warming, as well as climates of the Earth’s distant past. He has also worked on the climates of Titan and of ancient Mars. His current research is primarily focused on the climates of newly discovered exoplanets.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship dating back to the 1660s that is dedicated to promoting excellence in science for the benefit of humanity. The Fellowship comprises the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Former members include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking. This year, 51 Fellows, 10 Foreign Members and one Honorary Fellow have been elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of scientific excellence. There are approximately 1,700 Fellows and Foreign Members in total, including around 70 Nobel Laureates.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said, 'At this time of global crisis, the importance of scientific thinking, and the medicines, technologies and insights it delivers, has never been clearer. Our Fellows and Foreign Members are central to the mission of the Royal Society, to use science for the benefit of humanity.

'While election to the Fellowship is a recognition of exceptional individual contributions to the sciences, it is also a network of expertise that can be drawn on to address issues of societal, and global significance. This year’s Fellows and Foreign Members have helped shape the 21st century through their work at the cutting-edge of fields from human genomics, to climate science and machine learning.

'It gives me great pleasure to celebrate these achievements, and those yet to come, and welcome them into the ranks of the Royal Society.'

For more information about the Royal Society and this year’s elected Fellows and Foreign Members, please see the Royal Society website.