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Young scientist wins prestigious research accolade

Dr Fiona Brennan (c) James Hutton Institute
"Fiona’s research in soil and environmental microbiology, especially E. of enormous interest and relevance to our grower, processor and end-user members.

A young scientist whose research focusses on pathogens in the environment has been awarded the prestigious Peter Massalski Prize for meritorious research. Dr Fiona Brennan, research scientist with the Ecological Sciences group at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, was presented with the prize at the annual general meeting of the Scottish Society for Crop Research (SSCR) in Dundee.

The Prize Awarding Committee, consisting of Professors Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, John Hillman, a past Director of the former Scottish Crop Research Institute and Dr Bill Macfarlane Smith, Honorary Secretary of SSCR, was impressed by the number of excellent applications from different areas of research within the Institute.

Dr Brennan’s main research interests include fate and transport of microbial enteropathogens in the environment, microbial quality of water, virulence and cold-temperature adaptation of environmentally persistent E. coli, ecophysiology of enteropathogens in soil, ecology of functional microbial communities in soil and engineered systems, microbial biochemical processes and community dynamics in soils and animal slurries, and nutrient cycling in agricultural systems.

On winning the Prize, 31-year-old Dr Brennan said: “I'm extremely honoured to have been awarded the Peter Massalski Prize. I'd like to thank the great group of scientists I have the pleasure to work with, and the Institute for its continued support and encouragement in advancing my research programme.

“I've been very fortunate to have had the benefit of a number of excellent mentors in my career to date and I'd like to thank them for their efforts.”

Professor Iain Gordon commented: “The Institute was extremely fortunate in having someone as bright and talented as Peter Massalski undertaking research. This attribute is no less present in today’s young scientists who work at the Institute. This was reflected in the very high calibre of applications for this Prize. Fiona Brennan is one of our rising stars and we look forward to her further achievements in the future.”

Dr Bill Macfarlane Smith said: “The Society lists amongst its aims and objectives, the encouragement of research not likely to be funded by other organisations, and the ‘pump-priming’ of research which will generate much greater funding in the future. Fiona Brennan’s research in soil and environmental microbiology, especially E. coli, fits well into both categories. Her work is of enormous interest and relevance to our grower, processor and end-user members. The Society wishes her every future success.”

The Peter Massalski Prize is awarded through the generosity of Professor and the late Mrs T B Massalski, in memory of their son, Dr Peter R Massalski, who was a member of staff at the former Scottish Crop Research Institute at the time of his death. The prize is awarded biennially to the person under 36 years old, who is considered to have done the most meritorious research whilst working at the James Hutton Institute, and takes the form of a special certificate accompanied by a monetary award.

Notes to editors

The Scottish Society for Crop Research supports knowledge exchange between science and industry through field events and meetings, science-based publications and research on topics of particular relevance to industry. It is run by a Committee of Management and its activities delivered through sub-committees on soft fruit, potato and combinable crops. See for more information.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.