Cambridge experts elected fellows of Royal Society

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on May 7, 2021

Usha Goswami

Vishva M. Dixit

Sadaf Farooqi

Sadaf Farooqi, Usha Goswami among 60 outstanding scientists chosen for honour.

Two experts based at the University of Cambridge – Sadaf Farooqi and Usha Goswami – are among 60 outstanding scientists elected Fellows of the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence with origins in the 17th century.

Sadaf Farooqi, professor of metabolism and medicine, and Usha Goswami, professor of cognitive developmental neuroscience, join the ranks of Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Lise Meitner, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Dorothy Hodgkin who enriched the society with their expertise.

Farooqi is known for her discoveries of fundamental mechanisms that control human energy homeostasis and their disruption in obesity. She discovered that the leptin-melanocortin system regulates appetite and weight in people and that genetic mutations affecting this pathway cause severe obesity.

Findings by her team have directly led to diagnostic testing for genetic obesity syndromes worldwide and enabled life-saving treatment for some people with severe obesity.

Farooqi said: “As a clinician scientist, I am absolutely delighted to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. This prestigious honour recognises the work of many team members past and present, our network of collaborators across the world and the patients and their families who have contributed to our research.”

Goswami has pioneered the application of neuroscience to education. Her research investigates the sensory and neural basis of childhood disorders of language and literacy, which are heritable and found across languages. Her research shows a shared sensory and neural basis in auditory rhythmic processing.

The acoustic ‘landmarks’ for speech rhythm provide automatic triggers for aligning speech rhythms and brain rhythms, and Goswami has shown that this automatic process can be disrupted, thereby disrupting speech encoding for these children.

She said: “It is a huge honour to be elected to the Royal Society and a wonderful acknowledgement of our research in the Centre for Neuroscience in Education. I have been interested in children's reading and language development since training as a primary school teacher, and we have used neuroscientific insights to understand the mechanisms underpinning developmental language disorders. It is fantastically rewarding for our work to be recognised in this way.”

The new intake includes US-based Vishva M. Dixit as a Foreign Member, who the Royal Society said has made many contributions to the field of biomedicine. His early work on cell death and inflammation are prominent in introductory textbooks of biology and medicine.

Dixit's pioneering studies defined the biochemical framework illuminating many of the key components of the cell death pathway and identified numerous proteins in the cell death cascade and determined how they functioned at a molecular level, it added.

Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said: “The global pandemic has demonstrated the continuing importance of scientific thinking and collaboration across borders. Each Fellow and Foreign Member bring their area of scientific expertise to the Royal Society and when combined, this expertise supports the use of science for the benefit of humanity”.

“Our new Fellows and Foreign Members are all at the forefront of their fields from molecular genetics and cancer research to tropical open ecosystems and radar technology. It is an absolute pleasure and honour to have them join us.”

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