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Professor Doreen Cantrell: oration

Read Dr Amanda McKenzie's oration on Professor Doreen Cantrell for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in July 2017.


Professor Doreen Cantrell smiling
Professor Doreen Cantrell

Vice-Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Professor Doreen Cantrell, who serves as a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, as Head of the College of Life Sciences and Vice-Principal of the University of Dundee. Doreen is a world expert on the development, activation and function of white blood cells called T lymphocytes that control the immune system and which are consequently very important in understanding the progress of diseases.

Born in Kent, Doreen Cantrell was awarded a First Class Honours BSc degree in Zoology in 1979 from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and followed this with a PhD in Immunology in the Cancer Research Campaign Laboratory at the University of Nottingham. She then carried out post-doctoral work in two world-class immunology laboratories. Firstly, she worked in the USA at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in Professor Kendall Smith’s team. She returned to the UK in 1984 to Professor Mike Crumpton’s laboratory at the London Research Institute of Cancer Research UK where she later established her own research group. From 1987 to 2002, she was the Head of the Lymphocyte Activation Laboratory at Cancer Research UK. In 2002 she became the Head of the Division of Cell Biology and Immunology at the University of Dundee.

Doreen has established an international reputation for her multidisciplinary approaches and the enlightened combination of biochemical, cell biological, transgenic and gene knock-out technologies. These strategies have facilitated her insightful delineation of the complex pathways controlling lymphocyte development and activation, which are key to the comprehension and manipulation of immune responses. Her seminal contributions include the discovery of a new factor important for the growth of lymphocytes and understanding the key steps that control the activation of these cells.

Doreen has published over 150 research papers with the majority in top-tier, high-impact journals, including Nature and Science. She has supervised nearly 100 PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, many of whom now run their own independent laboratories in the UK, Europe and the USA. Notable awards to date include being elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of EMBO in 2000, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2005 and as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011. She has sat on numerous scientific committees and editorial boards; she is currently a council member of the Medical Research Council and sits on the Sir Henry Dale Early Career Fellowships panel.

Doreen Cantrell was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to life sciences.

Her research interests in understanding the immune system are shared by many academics here at Bath and she has collaborated with Professor Stephen Ward over a number of years. She has also examined several PhD theses in our Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Doreen is an excellent role model for aspiring young scientists. In particular, as a mother to three daughters and now a grandmother, Doreen is an inspirational figure for women in science subjects. She has excellent communication skills and can engage equally as well with general audiences as she does with scientists. She uses these communication skills with great effect to champion the role of women in science effectively and is a highly sought-after Athena SWAN speaker, in which role she regularly speaks about her life and career in science.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Professor Doreen Cantrell, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

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