2024 RSE Medals honour exceptional achievement

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, announces eight recipients of its esteemed medals, which recognise outstanding contribution and achievement across all academic disciplines.

Nominated by RSE Fellows, the prestigious medals of the RSE recognise remarkable accomplishment. Working in diverse fields, this year’s recipients join a distinguished cohort of trailblazers whose contributions advance our knowledge and positively impact lives worldwide. Their accomplishments underscore the depth and breadth of research talent in Scotland. I extend my warmest congratulations to all of them.”

Professor Sir John Ball, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

This year’s medallists are the second cohort to have been awarded under the revised RSE Medal programme, which has seen the creation of new medals to honour eminent women and their significant input to the sciences, arts, and letters in Scotland. High attainment in earth and environmental sciences, and teamwork and collaborative endeavourpreviously unrepresented sectorsis also recognised in the newly created medals.

The 2024 RSE medallists are:

RSE June almeida Medal

Dr Hyab Yohannes YAS Member
Lecturer and Research Associate: UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integrations through Languages and Arts, University of Glasgow

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Dr Hyab Yohannes YAS Member
Lecturer and Research Associate: UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integrations through Languages and Arts, University of Glasgow

The RSE June Almeida Medal is awarded to Dr Hyab Yohannes, Lecturer and Research Associate: UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integrations through Languages and Arts, University of Glasgow, for his academic endeavour and public engagement as a survivor of torture and trafficking amid challenges to the Refugee Convention. As a legal expert, Dr Yohannes provides pro-bono multilingual assistance to refugees, particularly those from the Horn of Africa. Dr Yohannes offers critical and life-saving guidance, translation, interpretation, welcome and critical information to thousands of members of the diaspora in the UK and overseas through establishing effective public engagement.  

Dr Hyab Yohannes said, “Thirteen years ago, in March 2011, I fled Eritrea in search of a dignified life. Alongside others, we had to rely on faith in the unknown and find hope in the seemingly impossible. Our journey would not have been possible without the incredible courage, determination, vision, and hope of colleagues in the humanitarian field, scholars, and activists worldwide. Despite these collective efforts, however, the sea, desert, and underground torture camps still bear the traces of those who lost their lives – friends, relatives, and strangers.

Upon learning that I have been honoured with the RSE June Almeida Medal, I found myself shedding tears and reflecting on haunting memories. I am reminded of the untold stories, the lives that perished without a trace, and the lingering wounds that remain.

This award not only recognises the countless lives lost and the suffering endured by their bodies, but also acknowledges the unheard voices and the countless lives that I have fought for and alongside, the lives I have touched and have been touched by, and the difference we have made together. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to the nominators and the RSE for this profound recognition.”

RSE Lord Kelvin Medal

Professor E Marian Scott OBE FRSE
Professor of Environmental Statistics, University of Glasgow

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Professor E Marian Scott OBE FRSE
Professor of Environmental Statistics,
University of Glasgow

The RSE Lord Kelvin Medal is awarded to Professor E Marian Scott, Professor of Environmental Statistics, University of Glasgow, for her ground-breaking statistical research which has transformed the application of statistical methods across different disciplines, including environmental science, radiocarbon dating, veterinary science and quantitative archaeology. Her research work has made significant influence on policy and practice, as demonstrated in her public service appointments to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, EU Scientific Committee on Health, Environment and Emerging Risk, and the NERC Science Committee.  

Professor E Marian Scott said, “I am immensely proud to receive the RSE Lord Kelvin medal, his work around measurement has motivated my work on animal welfare and quality of life.  More generally, though as a statistician, measurement, resulting in data, has been my passion and allowed me to work in a truly interdisciplinary way, and with amazing people in the University of Glasgow and beyond.  All of the work I have been involved in has been collaborative and applied, starting from my PhD in Chemistry, which then led to research more generally in the environmental sciences, archaeology, animal pain, sustainability and more.  All my colleagues and collaborators have been immensely influential in shaping my research and generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise.  From them, I have gained knowledge and hopefully wisdom, and without them, there would be no medal.”

RSE Rosemary Hutton Medal

Dr Karen Lythgoe
NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

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Dr Karen Lythgoe
NERC Independent Research Fellow,
University of Edinburgh

The RSE Rosemary Hutton Medal is awarded to Dr Karen Lythgoe, NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh, for her outstanding contributions to the understanding of Earth structure and processes on multiple scales with novel, dense, high-resolution seismometer arrays and the analysis of the resulting vast datasets. Dr Lythgoe detected signals that would otherwise be missed, which include confirming the presence of a postulated fault in urban Singapore, showing that large temperature variations in the Earth’s crust can cause a fault to rupture in smaller segments with impact for seismic hazard assessment, and revealing that the Earth’s inner core has more structure than previously thought with important implications for core evolution. 

Dr Karen Lythgoe said, “It is an honour to receive this award, named after an exceptional Scottish geophysicist. Rosemary Hutton is a personal role model, because not only was she a leader in her field, but she was deeply committed to her students and to the regions in which she worked. These are both aspects that I aspire to in my own work. The award reflects not only my own contributions, but collaborations with many great colleagues and students, both at home and in SE Asia where I have been fortunate to work for several years. I hope to continue to apply my research worldwide and work with a burgeoning global network of passionate geoscientists.”

RSE Sir Walter Scott Medal

Dr Iain Gordon Brown FSA FRSE
Hon Fellow, National Library of Scotland; Consultant, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

Dr Iain Gordon Brown FSA FRSE
Hon Fellow, National Library of Scotland; Consultant, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

The RSE Sir Walter Scott Medal is awarded to Dr Iain Gordon Brown, former Principal Curator of Manuscripts, National Library of Scotland, for his contributions to a national institution that supports academic research in vital ways. Dr Brown has assisted and advised countless scholars all over the world, playing a major part in the expansion of the national collections, and much of his service was devoted to publicising and exploiting them through publications and exhibitions. Without the usual advantages of an academic career, he has established himself as a scholar of distinction.

Dr Iain Gordon Brown said, “To receive this accolade is a real honour for one who has never held an academic appointment. I am deeply grateful to the RSE for recognising the public service and private scholarship of someone such as myself. I see the medal as a sort of ‘lifetime achievement’ award: for my professional career in the National Library of Scotland, much of which was devoted to the promotion of scholarship by assisting other scholars, and by expanding and interpreting the great collections; and for my personal scholarly career pursued in tandem, with an extensive and diverse publication output in interrelated cultural fields. In my retirement I have continued to advise and inform on behalf of the National Library and other institutions, including the RSE. And I maintain my interdisciplinary work, which has resulted in recent monographs, edited volumes, chapters, articles, reviews and two books largely written during the pandemic ‘lockdown’ and its uncertain aftermath.”

RSE Sir James Black Medal

Professor Doreen Cantrell CBE FRS FRSE FMedSci 
Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, University of Dundee

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Professor Doreen Cantrell CBE FRS FRSE FMedSci 
Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, University of Dundee

The RSE Sir James Black Medal is awarded to Professor Doreen Cantrell, Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, University of Dundee, for her work on identifying multiple fundamentally important signal transduction pathways in T lymphocytes and pioneering contributions on the mechanisms controlling the function of these key immune cells. Her use of high-resolution mass spectrometry reveals dynamic proteome changes in T cells triggered by immune activation, exposure to inflammatory cytokines and different environmental stimuli. As an international leader in the field, Professor Cantrell is an inspirational role model to many others. 

Professor Doreen Cantrell said, “I am honoured to accept this award on behalf of the amazing team of people that I am privileged to work with in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee. The spirit of collaboration in Dundee and the inspirational work of my colleagues has allowed me to develop a program of work that has generated new insights about the molecular pathways that control the function of lymphocytes, key cells that control adaptive immune responses to viruses and cancer. I would also like to acknowledge the long term support I have received from the Wellcome Trust. They had the vision to support my move to Dundee more than 20 years ago and their continued support has made possible the discoveries that are being recognised by the Sir James Black Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh”

RSE Adam Smith Medal

Professor Graeme Roy FRSE
Dean of External Engagement & Deputy Head of College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow

Professor Graeme Roy FRSE
Dean of External Engagement & Deputy Head of College of Social Sciences,
University of Glasgow

The RSE Adam Smith Medal is awarded to Professor Graeme Roy, Dean of External Engagement & Deputy Head of College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow, for his substantial contribution to public policy and public life in Scotland, most recently through his appointment as Chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission. Professor Roy designed and led tercentenary local and international events to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Adam Smith’s birth in 2023. Professor Roy’s work has enabled broad reflection on Smith’s legacy and contemporary relevance, bringing renewed international prominence to one of Scotland’s leading intellectuals. 

Professor Graeme Roy said,“I’m very honoured to have received this award. It is a particular pleasure to be awarded the Adam Smith Medal given the fantastic work of the team at the University of Glasgow, and our friends around the world, to mark the legacy of Smith during his tercentenary year.”

RSE Dame Muriel Spark Medal

Dr Deval Desai YAS Member
Reader in International Economic Law, Edinburgh Law School

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Dr Deval Desai YAS Member
Reader in International Economic Law, Edinburgh Law School

The RSE Dame Muriel Spark Medal is awarded to Dr Deval Desai, Reader in International Economic Law, Edinburgh Law School, for his leadership in pushing forward the horizons of scholarship that builds on Global South experiences. In a remarkably short space of time, Dr Desai has established an international reputation for creative and rigorous scholarship, as well as developing and delivering strategic transformations in Edinburgh Law School’s educational offer. He excels in research with an interdisciplinary approach, securing research funding as well as translating his research into impactful policies. 

Dr Deval Desai said, “It is an immense honour to receive the RSE Dame Muriel Spark Medal – named after a fearless and pathbreaking writer, concerned with reflecting on and tying together the crafts of thought, imagination, and communication. This, too, has long been a hallmark of Edinburgh Law School, and the University of Edinburgh more broadly. I am grateful for the support they have given my team and our work, as we try to live up to that tradition.”

RSE MARY SOMERVILLE MEDAL

University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit

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The RSE Mary Somerville Medal is awarded to the University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit, for their research work as the largest academic drug discovery team in the World. It demonstrates that multi-disciplinary, tightly coordinated, and large-scale translational research with real-world impact is both possible and highly impactful: 6 drugs in clinical trials, 6 spin-outs enabled, 9 licences to Pharmaceutical Companies. The team works extensively in neglected infectious diseases, such as malaria, leishmaniasis, Chagas’ disease, and tuberculosis, and is a preferred partner for Wellcome and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in achieving their missions in disease elimination. This impactful work appears in journals such as Nature, Science and PNAS, bringing international reputation to Scotland. 

A representative said, “The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) is delighted to receive the Mary Somerville Medal for Teamwork and Collaborative Endeavour from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I am incredibly proud of the DDU and what we have achieved over the last 18 years. Our achievements are the result of the hard work and extraordinary team spirit of our talented and dedicated team of scientists, who work together across disciplines, in a highly integrated manner. I also would like to acknowledge a large group of collaborators from across the globe from academia, industry, product development partnerships and funding agencies. Drug discovery is an incredibly complex process, and these collaborations are vital for our work.”

Read more about RSE Medals

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