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Double boost for research achievements

Two University of St Andrews academics have been awarded £50,000 prizes for outstanding research achievements.

The 2002 Philip Leverhulme Trust awards, given to “outstanding young research scholars”, have been presented to Professor James Naismith, a chemical biologist at the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences (CBMS) and Dr Tim Minchin, a modern historian within the School of History.

The duo are two of only three academics to be awarded the prizes in Scotland. Furthermore, only the Universities of St Andrews, Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge were awarded more than one prize.

The Trust announced, “Professor Naismith is recognised for his major contribution to structural chemistry that have lead to a better understanding of the role of carbohydrate chemistry in biological systems. In particular, Professor Naismith was the first to determine the structure of all enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of one carbohydrate, an achievement that is generating challenging new insights into enzyme mechanisms that are likely to influence future developments in carbohydrate chemistry.”

Professor Naismith (34) said, “I am honoured to receive this award on behalf of all my co-workers. The prize will help my lab in continuing our work which is aimed at developing new drugs for hospital acquired infection.”

Meanwhile, Dr Minchin (33), who spent years unravelling previously untapped information on the rights of black workers in the American South, has been awarded the prize which will support his research in American history, much of which concentrates on a neglected area. Most writing on the civil rights movement has overlooked the impact of civil rights legislation on the workplace, concentrating on other struggles, particularly the fight to integrate schools or to obtain black voting rights.

The award follows the recent release of Dr Minchin’s book Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry 1960-1980 which shows that, despite the introduction of the civil rights movement, blacks had to fight to get decent jobs long after Martin Luther King’s death in 1968.

The grant will allow him to visit the United States to carry out research for a new book about the economic development of the American South in the 20th century and labour relations in southern industry. He will shortly be visiting archives at the University of North Carolina, Duke University and Georgia State University.

Referring to his “drive and energy”, the Trust stated, “Historians in both the UK and USA pay tribute to Dr Minchin’s reputation. His written work has addressed a number of major issues.” Dr Minchin said, “Overall, I think one of my main achievements has been to explore the struggle for civil rights in the workplace, switching attention away from the battle to integrate schools and public facilities. My research has shown that integrating the workplace took a long time and continued well past the death of Martin Luther King in 1968, which is often considered the end of the civil rights movement. My research has also highlighted the important role played by local activists across the American South in integrating southern industry.”

The awards, commemorating the late Third Viscount Leverhulme who died in 2000, honour research achievements in the following fields: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences; Economics; Information and Communications Technology; and Modern History since 1800. The Leverhulme Trust provides around £25 million each year to promote research of originality and significance principally in the university sector and across a full span of disciplines. Full details of the 2002 Philip Leverhulme prize winners are available at http://www.leverhulme.org.uk/prizew inners2002.shtml.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS

Professor Naismith is available for interview on telephone 01334 463792. Dr Tim Minchin is available on telephone 01334 463027.

ENDS

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact: Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st- andrews.ac.uk View University press releases on- line at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: leverhulme2002/standrews/chg/28nov2 002

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