Portuguese Society of Microbiology
(Apresentação da conferencista da van Uden´s conference e prémio da SPM 2011 , durante o Microbiotec11, na universidade do Minho, Braga, em 3 de Dezembro de 2011, pela presidente da SPM, Professora Isabel Sá Correia)
The Portuguese Society of Microbiology has instituted a new scientific prize, the Professor Nicolau van Uden Prize, to be awarded every two years during the Society’s National Congress to a microbiologist of international and national reputation who has a stellar record of research accomplishments, is known for the mentorship of other researchers in science and whose work has had far-reaching impact in the development of the field of microbiology in Portugal.
The awarded researcher is nominated by the Governing Board of SPM and the prize consists of a personal diploma and the title of SPM Honorary Member. The laureate will be awarded life-long membership of the SPM and will be exempt from membership fees, and registration fees at meetings organized by SPM.
This Microbiology career Prize is also a tribute of SPM to Professor Nicolau van Uden. van Uden was the 1st Professor of Microbiology of the New University of Lisbon and directed the Department of Microbiology at the IGC in Oeiras. For two decades, he was the director of Estudos Avançados de Oeiras, a programme of intensive international courses and workshops in biology that was a pioneer informal advanced doctoral programme in life sciences that provided advanced training to several generations of life science scientists worldwide, in particular to those from Portugal and Spain. He was honorary member of the Spanish Societies of Microbiology and Biochemistry. van Uden profoundly influenced the Portuguese academic and scientific community in the fields of Life Sciences and Biotechnology. He is directly or indirectly the scientific inspiring mentor of several generations of yeast biologists in an ever-increasing number of Portuguese universities and research Institutes.
The first Professor Nicolau van Uden Prize is awarded this year to Professor Hermínia de Lencastre, Full Professor of the Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica (ITQB), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, ITQB/UNL since 1990 and Senior Research Associate of The Rockefeller University, NY, USA.
Hermínia Lencastre received the PhD degree in Biology/Molecular Genetics from FCT/UNL in 1981. Her supervisor was Prof. Luís Archer who recently passed away. This award is also a tribute to this Honorary Member of SPM and his scientific descendency. Trained in the USA, Prof. Archer launched the new field of molecular genetics, specifically bacterial molecular genetics, in Portugal. Prof. Archer was also one of the pioneers of higher education and research in bioethics, the first President of the National Council on ethics for the life sciences, having represented Portugal in numerous international committees on biosecurity and bioethics. In 1991 he was awarded with the Grã-Cruz da Ordem de Santiago da Espada.
With other colleagues, Hermínia belonged to Prof. Archer’s team during his pioneer work, both at IGC, where they were also involved in teaching activities in the framework of Estudos avançados de Oeiras and as Assistant Professor at FCT/UNL.
During her research activities, first in the Labs of IGC as a PhD student, later at ITQB as Lab. Director, pursued her scientific work on the molecular genetics of gram positive bacteria focusing with total dedication on the mechanisms and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
In 1987, there was an about turn in Herminia’s scientific career and personal life as the result of a sabbatical leave at the Laboratory of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Rockefeller University, headed by Alexander Tomasz who became her husband in 1990. A new affiliation with the Rockefeller University and a new family life in the USA did not prevent Herminia from maintaining the management of the Molecular Genetics lab at ITQB, associating this Institution and Portugal to her scientific achievements, and to keep strong links and even a higher influence in the Microbiology national scenario. She is probably the individual who has crossed more times the North Atlantic Ocean.
Herminia Supervised or Co-Supervised 20 Postdoctoral fellows, 30 PhD students and more than one hundred undergraduate and master students, in Portugal, in the USA or in both countries.
She has created the best international opportunities for her Portuguese students and collaborators and positively influenced the research focus of her collaborators. She has formed in this country a real school of molecular biologists of gram positive bacteria and successfully trained a great number of individuals who currently hold professorships or tenure-track positions at several Portuguese Universities and Research Institutions
With an outstanding research track record, Hermínia is author or co-author of more than two hundred original scientific articles of high impact in her research field.
These publications have generated a significant number of citations and she has been the invited speaker in a large number of international scientific meetings. But today as in her youth, and as she likes to define her long-term attitude towards Science, “I am in my first post–doc”. More recently, she has successfully explored the enormous opportunities opened by Comparative Genomics in her research field, initiating strategic collaborations to expand the experimental and computational possibilities in these interdisciplinary areas. Based on Multi resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolates collected over more than 20 years by the teams of Alexander Tomasz and Hermínia de Lencastre from all over the world as part of an international project in molecular epidemiology, an international team of researchers (including their collaborators at Rockfeller and ITQB, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Bath and a hospital in Thailand) has used high resolution genome sequencing to track a particularly virulent strain of MRSA as it traveled between South America, Europe and Southeast Asia. The findings published last year in Science shed light on how these deadly bacteria are able to spread from patient to patient in a single hospital and, on a larger scale of geography and time, between countries, illustrating the power of collaboration between evolutionary biologists, experts in DNA sequencing and bioinformatics and epidemiologists.
This outstanding research track record, was kept up with fashion and holidays.
As President of SPM, and as a woman, I am exceptionally pleased and honored to introduce the first Prof van Uden prize 2011, also because this award raises awareness of the contribution of women to science and of those who serve as role models for younger generations.
AGRADECIMENTOS- Isabel Sá Correia agradece aos colegas, alunos, ex-colegas, ex-alunos e amigos de Hermínia de Lencastre que forneceram as muitas dezenas de fotografias que permitiram a seleção que consta nos slides que ilustraram a apresentação da conferencista do prémio SPM, durante o Congresso Nacional. Ao Rogério Tenreiro, Secretário-Geral da SPM, agradece a inesquecível viagem de comboio Lisboa-Braga, a caminho do MicroBiotec 2011, durante a qual foram preparados os slides, fruto da sua imaginação e pendor artístico que eu acompanhei e estimulei, embora exercendo a necessária censura. Hermínia, bem haja pelo seu sentido de humor que nos permitiu publicar, sem qualquer censura adicional, estes diapositivos brincalhões, um tributo bem humorado destes seus 2 amigos.