The Thomas Henry Huxley Award and Marsh Prize

This Award is run in partnership with the Zoological Society of London and recognises a postgraduate research student whose thesis has made a significant contribution to a particular scientific field. Nominees are considered from a University of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on the basis of original work, which has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the academic year in which the Award is presented.

The projects are judged by a panel of experts from the ZSL, who then select the winning study.

The Zoological Society of London is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.

(2013 Awards were presented in 2014)

The 2013 winner is Dr Helen Leggett


Helen, pictured right, has won this Award for her thesis entitled: ‘Developments in social evolution and virulence in parasites.’ This is an exceptional thesis, which has generated some high-profile papers tackling major concepts in a novel and exciting way.

The thesis examines several different aspects of host-parasite interactions. It’s five main chapters include a published review article on the importance of generalism versus specialism, amongst other factors, on virulence evolution (published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution), a published comparative study on the relationship between infective dose and virulence (published in PLoS Pathogens), and a published experimental study on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in parasites (published in Current Biology).

The other two main chapters include a comparative study of the relationship between immune system subversion and pathogen virulence, and an experimental study looking at the evolution of virulence in a spatially distributed population. Helen demonstrated that, contrary to standard theory on virulence evolution, pathogens with higher virulence do not tend to have higher within-host growth rates. Given the importance of this assumption in standard theory on virulence evolution, this finding is likely to be of great significant to researchers in this area, and it has the potential to change the way people think about the subject.



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