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UKRI appoints Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser as new CEO

26 May 2020 

IOP’s Paul Hardaker offers warm welcome to incoming research and innovation chief.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS will join UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as its new chief executive in June. She will succeed Sir Mark Walport, who announced in September last year that he would retire in 2020.

She is professor of plant development and director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, and currently a council member for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

In a letter warmly welcoming Professor Leyser to her new role (PDF, 222KB), Institute of Physics CEO Professor Paul Hardaker offered her the support of the IOP as she takes up the position, describing how physics ‘contributes to national research and innovation priorities and underpins many other research areas in UKRI, including in the immediate challenges of COVID-19’.

Professor Leyser received her BA (1986) and PhD (1990) in genetics from the University of Cambridge. After post-doctoral research at Indiana University and Cambridge, she took up a lectureship at the University of York, where she worked from 1994-2010. 

Among her honours are the Society for Experimental Biology’s President’s Medal (2000), the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award (2007), the International Plant Growth Substances Association’s Silver Medal (2010), the UK Genetics Society Medal (2016), the EMBO Women in Science Award (2017) and the British Society for Developmental Biology’s Waddington Medal (2020).

She is a fellow of the Royal Society and currently chairs its Science Policy Expert Advisory Committee, a fellow of Clare College (Cambridge), an international member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and the German National Academy of Natural Sciences Leopoldina.

Dame Ottoline also serves on government advisory body, the Council for Science and Technology.

She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours list for ‘services to plant science, science in society and equality and diversity in science’.

Image: Courtesy of Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge