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Nobel Prize-winning biologist and Somerville’s Honorary Fellow, Professor Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, begins his post as President of the Royal Society.

His presidency was announced on the 18th of March as a result of a ballot by the Society’s council. Since the Royal Society was founded in 1660, there have been 60 presidents including Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton, Joseph Banks and Ernest Rutherford. Becoming the 61st to hold the Fellowship, Professor Ramakrishnan begins in one of the most prestigious jobs in British science.

Alongside the role, Professor Ramakrishnan is Deputy Director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge since 1999 and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2008. In 2009, together with Toma Steitz and Ada Yonath, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for his work on the structure of ribosomes.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he outlined four areas he will focus on as President, including trying to make sure science occupies a more central place in society; increasing communication and exchanges with other scientists around the world; influencing science education, particularly at secondary school level; and finally, encouraging the Royal Societies 15000 Fellows to take a greater role in the organisation’s activities.

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Alice Prochaska, Principal; Professor Venki Ramakrishnan; Lady Margaret Heath, daughter of Sir Lawrence Bragg


 

Additionally in the programme Professor Ramakrishnan, who was born in India and worked in the United States before coming to the UK, spoke on how allowing international students to remain in the UK after they graduated would help science in the UK.

“We should be able to retain some of the best brains who come here to study. I have been here only 17 years – it says something about the openness of British science and the society that the Royal Society elected me as President.”

Professor Ramakrishnan spoke at Somerville’s annual Dorothy Hodgkin Memorial Lecture in March 2012, which is still available to watch on YouTube. He also spoke at Somerville’s Dorothy Hodgkin Symposium on the 29th of October 2014 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of her Nobel Prize.

Professor Ramakrishnan’s interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme is available to listen to on the iPlayer. The interview is at 2.47.

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