International honour for scientist who studies the ‘memories’ of plants

Professor Dame Caroline Dean of the John Innes Centre in Norwich has won the prestigious 2020 Wolf P

Professor Dame Caroline Dean of the John Innes Centre in Norwich has won the prestigious 2020 Wolf Prize in Agriculture. Picture: John Innes Centre. - Credit: John Innes Centre

A Norwich plant scientist has won an international honour for her ground-breaking contributions to world agriculture.

Professor Dame Caroline Dean has been awarded the 2020 Wolf Prize in Agriculture in recognition of her pioneering discoveries during a distinguished 32-year career at the John Innes Centre, on the Norwich Research Park.

Her research has focused on two central questions in plant biology: Why do certain plants have to pass through winter before they flower, and how do they remember that they have been exposed to cold temperatures?

These fundamental questions are seen as a cornerstone for increasing the yield of agricultural crops in temperate climates.

Prof Dean is one of nine Wolf Prize laureates to receive awards in the fields of agriculture, arts, mathematics, medicine and physics.

"It is truly an honour and privilege to receive this award alongside such distinguished figures from the world of science and the arts," she said. "I'm grateful to collaborators, notably Prof Martin Howard at the John Innes Centre, and the many other colleagues who have contributed to my scientific journey."

Prof Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre, added: "Caroline's work has provided many significant breakthroughs of profound importance in the field of biology. She is an outstanding scientist and a fantastic role model and I take great pleasure in congratulating her on receiving this prestigious award.

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"The Wolf prize recognises Caroline's contribution to our understanding of how plants sense and remember winter, and how this is critically important to agriculture in the face of a changing climate."

The Israeli-based Wolf Foundation, founded by the late inventor, diplomat and philanthropist Dr Ricardo Wolf, celebrates and promotes exceptional achievements in the arts and sciences worldwide.

Previous Wolf Prize laureates include astrophysicist Steven Hawking, artist Marc Chagall and conductor and opera singer Jessye Norman.

The 2020 awards ceremony will take place on June 11 in Jerusalem.