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Newcastle University scientist recognised with a Royal Society Fellowship

5 August 2021

Dr Tom McAllister has been awarded a prestigious five-year Royal Society University Research Fellowship to be hosted at Newcastle University.

Dr McAllister, Senior Research Associate at the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, will develop new ways to understand how proteins and carbohydrates interact, a process fundamental across all kingdoms of life. This ubiquity is reflected in the diverse fields his research interests encompass, with the central defining theme of protein-carbohydrate interactions.

Projects include determining how human glycosylating enzymes implicated in cancer recognise their protein targets, furthering our fundamental understanding and paving the way for new diagnostics or treatments. Another is developing a novel alternative mode of treatment for the wheat pathogen, Z. tritici the causative agent of septoria leaf blotch disease. Z. tritici causes losses of ~20% crop yield and current fungicidal treatment costs €1B/year in Europe alone - this research will allow the plant to ‘fight off the invader’ naturally, allowing better yield and more sustainable wheat production.

He said: “I’m really proud to have been awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, which gives me long-term support over five years and the freedom to develop my own scientific ideas investigating the ways carbohydrates and proteins interact.”

“The Royal Society provides opportunities that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise in addition to allowing me to establish my own research group, which will benefit me throughout my whole career.”

“This wouldn’t have been possible without the personal support I’ve had from my wife Charlotte and academic support and guidance from my current group leader Akane Kawamura. I’m really excited to begin a new stage in my research career and intend to make the most of all the opportunities the Royal Society University Research Fellowship provides.”

The University Research Fellowship scheme was established to identify outstanding early career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in their fields and provide them with the opportunity to build an independent research career. 

Dame Linda Partridge, Biological Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society, added: “The University Research Fellowship scheme honours high calibre early career scientists throughout the UK and Ireland. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the research community, and so it is essential that long-term, flexible funding schemes like this are in place to continue to support the careers of researchers pursuing novel and ground-breaking research.

“The scheme is central to the Society’s commitment to fostering excellence in science by supporting early career researchers who are fundamental to the future of global science. It is gratifying to see the URF scheme expand this year to support the biomedical sciences, a discipline that was vital in the response to the pandemic. This will ensure we continue to support a wide breadth of science through the scheme.”

The newly appointed research fellows will be working on research projects spanning the physical, mathematical, chemical and biological sciences.




Dr Tom McAllister