An expert on the evolution of genes and genomes, he is Director of the newly established Milner Centre for Evolution, based in the University’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry.
Professor Hurst has made great leaps in research on how genetic changes that were originally thought to be innocuous are in fact highly damaging. This knowledge has applications in the treatment and diagnosis of genetic diseases such as Crohn’s, cystic fibrosis and cancer.
In 2014, Professor Hurst made the first discovery of “naïve-like” stem cells, the so-called “Holy Grail” of stem cell science, which can be turned into any other type of cell.
The ground-breaking nature of his contributions is exemplified by a long list of highly-cited publications in the world’s top scientific journals. He has published over 230 research papers, including eleven in Nature, and was recently identified as one of the most highly cited evolutionary biologists in Europe.
Professor Hurst joined the University in 1997, having worked previously at Collegium Budapest, the University of Cambridge, Harvard University and the University of Oxford.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and became an elected EMBO member the year after. He was awarded the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2003 and the Genetics Society Medal, by the Genetics Society of the UK in 2010.
This year, Professor Hurst was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, won the Publication of the Year Prize from the German Stem Cell Society and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the highest scientific honour in the UK. He is currently the holder of a prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council to work on how silent mutations could be used to improve medical diagnosis.
Professor Hurst is committed to science education and is a regular presenter on the Speakers for Schools Programme. He is also Director of the GEVOteach programme which is a research programme to determine the best way to teach genetics and evolution to school children.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell commented: “Laurence is not only a world leader in his field of research, but also admired by his students for his excellence in teaching and supervision.
“This Medal is one of a string of accolades that Laurence has received in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research. As Director of our new Milner Centre for Evolution, I look forward to watching him further strengthen and promote our international profile in the field of evolutionary research."
Professor Hurst said: “Naturally I am delighted to accept this award, which also reflects on the stimulating research environment in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry which has enabled me to collaborate with top researchers in this field.
“This is a wonderful honour and caps the most amazing 2015 for me in particular, but also for my colleagues in the new Milner Centre for Evolution.”