Swansea University genetics expert wins UK young scientist award

A Swansea University lecturer, research scientist and developer of new technologies in Genetic Toxicology has fought off tough competition to win the prestigious UKEMS Young Scientist Award.

Dr George Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Genetics and member of the DNA Damage Research and the Genetics and Biochemistry teaching groups, within the Institute of Life Sciences, has won the UK Environmental Mutagen Society (UKEMS) Young Scientist Award on top of reaching the final of the Science and Technology category of the IWA Inspire Wales awards.

To be selected for these awards is a fantastic achievement as quantity and quality of entries into these awards has been unbelievably high this year. 

The UK Environmental Mutagen Society (UKEMS) Young Scientist award is presented to a UKEMS member aged 35 or below who has made an outstanding contribution to the field. It is a biennial award and it is the third time, since its inception in 1996, that a Swansea University academic has won the award. 

The IWA Inspire Awards recognise the contribution of science, technology, mathematics and engineering related activities in manufacturing and industry, academia or the public sector.

Dr Johnson said: “ I was honoured to be nominated by the University for these prestigious awards. To win one award and to reach the final of another award was an unexpected bonus. I have a lot of interest in enthusing students and researchers in to becoming the best they can be. It is important to me that students realize what a great feeling it is to enjoy your job and if you have an interest in science and technology then the World is yours”.

Swansea University is globally renowned for Genetic Toxicology and Dr Johnson, along with colleagues from the DNA damage research group, is busy investigating the mechanisms and detailed effects of carcinogens while still tackling industrial issues and addressing and advising on government safety perspectives. Dr Johnson is currently working with government agencies from the US, the Netherlands and Canada as well as consultants and leading academics from New York Medical College and St George’s University of London, keeping the University’s research known on the global platform and highlighting the scientific and technological excellence in Swansea and Wales. This work mainly focuses on determining safe levels of carcinogens, and Dr Johnson and the DNA damage group have long been a leading force in this area. 

DNA Damage Research Group

George has always been interested in cancer research and believes that reducing human exposure to carcinogens in food, pharmaceuticals, work and home environments can greatly reduce our risk of cancer. This expertise in carcinogenicity testing has lead Prof. Gareth Jenkins (PI), Dr. Shareen Doak and George to winning a grant from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). Where the group are developing a potential replacement for the 2 year rodent cancer test using cell lines and new technologies developed by GE Healthcare (Cardiff, Wales).

Along with all his other achievements George has also implemented an industrial placement degree scheme for Genetics and Medical Genetics graduates and had three successful placements at Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) with another starting next academic year. This has also lead to an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – GSK case award for one of the students, Ben Rees, who has already presented his work at two international conferences. George has also been invited to represent the University at over 20  international conferences and meetings, and often finds that he is the only person on the platform under the age of 50 ! 

Picture shows the DNA damage research group with Prof. Gareth Jenkins (PI), Dr. Shareen Doak and George Johnson highlighted in colour.