Clockwise from top left: Professors Ottoline Leyser, John Pyle, Shankar Balasubramanian, and John SpencerComposite: Sam Harrison

Four academics at the University of Cambridge have been named in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list.

Professor Shankar Balasubramanian, Professor Ottoline Leyser, Professor John Pyle and Professor John Spencer have been awarded a knighthood, a damehood and CBEs respectively.

Professor Balasubramanian, Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Senior Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, received a knighthood for services to Science and Medicine. He co-invented ‘next generation sequencing’ (determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule) and has also made important contributions to the study of four-stranded DNA and its role in cancer. Professor Balasubramanian was an undergraduate at Fitzwilliam College and is now a fellow of Trinity College and the Royal Society.

Speaking about the award, Professor Balasubramanian said, “It is a great honour for me and a wonderful acknowledgement of the research that I have carried out in Cambridge with my co-workers and collaborators over the past two decades. I was particularly pleased to see recognition of our basic science and its impact on medicine, as I am jointly appointed between the Departments of Chemistry and Medicine.”

Professor Leyser, Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University, has been made a Dame for her services to Plant Science, Science in Society, and Equality and Diversity in Science. An alumna of Newnham College and current Fellow of Clare College, she was also made a CBE in 2009 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. Remarkably, this is her second honour of the year, following her receipt of the UK Genetics Society medal earlier in 2016. Her Leyser Group of researchers work on understanding the role of plant hormones in plant developmental plasticity.

Professor Leyser said: “This is a huge honour. It’s so uplifting that things I really care about can be celebrated in this extraordinary way. Science has such a lot to offer the world, which makes it really important that science is open to all, so that everyone can contribute to the process and benefit from the results.”

Professor Pyle, Head of the Department of Chemistry and fellow of St Catherine’s College, has received a CBE for services to Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science. His research uses state-of-the-art numerical models to study the processes controlling the atmosphere and its evolution.

Professor Spencer is the Professor Emeritus of Law at the University, a Fellow of Selwyn College and a Bye-Fellow of Murray Edwards College, and has been awarded a CBE for services to the reform of law concerning child witnesses. In the sphere of law reform, he has previously acted as a Consultant to the Law Commission on a project to reform the hearsay rule in 1995; as a member of a committee of experts set up by the European Commission to study fraud on the Community finances; and as a member of a Home Office group. He is also the Honorary President of the European Criminal Law Association (UK), and a Doctor of Law at the University.

Professor Spencer told Varsity: "I am delighted to receive this honour. My work on children’s evidence began 30 years ago when, with young children our own, my wife and I could see how ill-adapted the traditional rules of criminal procedure were to the evidence of children. That the rules were eventually changed is due not only to my efforts, but also to those of a long list of other people - in Cambridge and elsewhere. I would like to think this honour is a reflection of everything they did as well, and I would like to thank them very warmly for their help and support."

The Queen’s list also honours a number of Honorary Fellows, notably Jeffrey Tate, an Honorary Fellow at Christ’s College who has been given a knighthood for services to British music overseas, and James Cubbert Smith, also at Christ’s, who has been given a knighthood for services to medical research and science education.

This showing continues a tradition of strong Cambridge representation in Honours Lists. In 2016 the Queen honoured six other Cambridge academics, two in her New Year’s Honours and four in her Birthday Honours. Professors David MacKay and Alastair Compston received a knighthood and a CBE respectively in the New Year’s honours and on the Queen’s birthday Polly Courtice, Fiona Duncan, Susan Gathercole and Allen Packwood were honoured with a damehood, a British Empire Medal and OBE’s, respectively.

This article has been updated to include comment from Professor John Spencer.

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