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Award winner 2017

Award Winner 2017

Picture: 2017 award winner Tom Blacker (centre) with CNT Chair Prof Louis Lemieux (left) and guest seminar speaker Dr Jeff Duyn (NINDS/NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA). Tom is holding the trophy and award certificate.

The UCL Centre for Neuroimaging Techniques is very proud to award its Annual Early Career Prize (2017) to Dr Thomas Blacker who is Research Associate at UCL's Department of Physics & Astronomy and the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Congratulations to Tom for his achievements!

The award aims to reward an exceptional contribution by a UCL student or staff member in the early stages of their career in the field of Neuroimaging. Tom is the annual award's 10th winner; the award is sponsored by Brain Products GmbH and Brain Products UK and consists of a cheque for £1000, trophy and certificate. We plan to present the award to Tom at the CNT seminar to be given by Dr Jeff Duyn of the NIH/NINDS on 3rd May 2018.

"Tom has been a most exceptional student and colleague, and his work has had a major impact in his field. As a Physicist who came to our labs through the CoMPLEX PhD programme and then stayed as a post doc with BBSRC funding, he has worked at the interface between fundamental cell biology and biophysics, developing a remarkable understanding of cell metabolism. His major breakthrough has been to identify the underlying biochemical mechanisms that define changes in the fluorescence lifetime signal generated by NADH and NADPH in response to pulsatile excitation -  as opposed to more familiar, classical intensity measurements. Many groups have previously measured fluorescence lifetimes of the combined NADH/NADPH signals (I'll refer to as NAD(P)H), but the data have been descriptive rather than analytical. Tom carried out a series of highly systematic experiments using multiphoton confocal microscopy and fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) that revealed that lifetime measurements enable us to differentiate between changes in NADPH and NADH, important metabolic intermediates that play very different roles in cell biology. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy achieved a high spatial resolution of the lifetime signal that revealed hitherto unknown differences in metabolic state between different cell types in complex multicellular preparations and between intracellular compartments at the level of the single cell. Tom has applied this approach to a number of important biological questions, developing a mathematical model to maximise the information content of these measurements. His contributions have been crucial in clarifying the roles of distinct metabolic pathways in several major biological systems, in early development, in cardiac reperfusion injury, in stem cell biology and in cancer. In a short time, he has positioned himself at the forefront of this field, attested by invitations to speak at the premier meetings dealing with these approaches. Tom in a highly original, creative and productive scientist making major contributions at this interface between biology and physics, and this award is a very well deserved and timely recognition of his excellence." - Prof Michael Duchen