Research Fellow Dr Sam Giles has been awarded a prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship by the Royal Society for her research project entitled ‘Of ears and ecology: assembling the roots of the largest living vertebrate group’. The Fellowship is worth a total of over £500,000, and is intended to help researchers who have to balance their work with other commitments.
The Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship is a scheme for ‘outstanding scientists in the UK at an early stage of their research career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances such as parenting or caring responsibilities or health issues’. The Fellowship allows researchers at the beginnings of their careers to hold part-time appointments or make use of flexible working in order to combine work with other commitments, such as parenting or caring, and also provides funds for family support such as for child care, making it easier for holders of the Fellowship to attend conferences or visits abroad. It can be awarded to anyone working in life and physical sciences, and provides five years of funding including a salary and research expenses; applicants who are successful in being made Fellows are also eligible to apply for a research grant. The scheme is designed to help successful candidates progress to permanent academic positions in the UK.
Sam is a paleobiologist who uses x-ray tomography to study the evolution of the brain and its surrounding bone structure. Sam focuses on ray-finned fishes, the largest living group of vertebrates which contains over 30,000 species. By comparing the brains of modern fish with 3D reconstructions of their ancestors, her research will help understand how the evolution of the brain contributed to the success of this group, with significant ramifications for understanding rates of gene mutation and evolutionary change. Sam completed her DPhil at St Hugh’s College, Oxford in 2015, before taking on a Junior Research Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford. She was awarded a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship in 2016.