The John C. Marsden Medal

£1,000 and a medal awarded for the best doctoral thesis in biology.

Dr John C. Marsden was the Executive Secretary of the Society from 1989 to 2004 and was elected as a Fellow honoris causa in 2005 in recognition of his services to the Society. The medal is awarded annually in Dr John C. Marsden's memory for the best doctoral thesis in biology. It is open to any candidate whose research has been carried out whilst registered at any UK institution. Theses on the full range of biology are eligible. Nominations are received from the Head of Department or the supervisor of the candidate.

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Eligibility Criteria

  • Open to PhD candidates whose doctorate has been awarded during the previous 18 months (from closing date of nomination).
  • PhD candidate can be any nationality, but research to have been carried out whilst registered at a UK institution
  • The thesis must be of outstanding quality and be on any aspect of biology
  • Nominations to be made by the Head of Department or supervisor of the candidate
  • Up to two candidates may be nominated per department
  • Nominee cannot, at the time of nomination, be a member of Council
  • Nominee does not need to be a Fellow of the Society
  • We do not accept self-nominations

Evaluation criteria will include (scores in parentheses):

  1. Writing and organisation (0-10)
  2. Presentation (format, illustrations) (0-10)
  3. Intrinsic interest of question (0-20)
  4. Contextualization of problem (0-10)
  5. Quantity of data collected (0-10)
  6. Quality of data collected (0-10)
  7. Data analysis (0-20)
  8. Discussion depth and breadth (0-10)
  9. Published papers (0-10)

John C. Marsden Medal Recipient 2024

Dr Heather E. White stands in front of museum specimens of giraffes
Credit: Heather White

Dr Heather E. White

Dr Heather E. White has been awarded this year’s John C. Marsden Medal for her thesis ‘Shaping the mammalian skull: Modelling how suture morphology, complexity, and development drive cranial evolution’.

Cranial morphology in mammals can provide us with an understanding of a species’ ecology, locomotion, and development, yet little attention has been dedicated to the morphology of the sutural joints, between cranial bones. Heather’s research compiled the largest mammalian ontogenetic comparative dataset to date, providing much-needed quantification of the interaction between suture and skull development. The thesis proposes that developmental mechanisms shaping suture morphology are central to the evolution of mammalian cranial phenotypic diversity.

Previous Recipients of the John C. Marsden Medal

  • Dr Tomos Potter (2023)
  • Dr Timothy A. C. Lamont (2022)
  • Dr Benjamin Van Doren (2021)
  • Dr Patrick Kennedy (2020)
  • Dr Sarah Hill (2019)