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This profile was last updated on 5/30/14  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Dr. Peter A. Lawrence

Wrong Dr. Peter A. Lawrence?

Emeritus Scientist

Phone: +44 **** ******  HQ Phone
Hills Road
Cambridge , Cambridgeshire CB2 0QH
United Kingdom


Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • Ph.D.
  • PhD
    University of Cambridge
116 Total References
Web References
Contact Directory | MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, 30 May 2014 [cached]
Peter Lawrence
Cell Biology, 11 Sept 2012 [cached]
Peter Lawrence
Peter Lawrence - Pattern formation in development
Peter Lawrence: lifetime achievement award. | MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, 29 Mar 2011 [cached]
Home > News & Events > LMB News > Peter Lawrence: lifetime achievement award. News & Events
Peter Lawrence
Peter Lawrence: lifetime achievement award.
Peter Lawrence (news profile) Peter Lawrence, an Emeritus member of the LMB, has been honoured with the 2011 Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) Lifetime Achievement Award.
The SDB gives its Lifetime Achievement Award annually to a senior developmental biologist in recognition of their outstanding and lasting contributions in the field. The award is given for the individual's excellence in research and for being a superb mentor who has helped train the next generation of exceptional scientists.
Using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model organism, Peter has made many pioneering contributions to developmental biology, for example: analysing how morphogen gradients drive both pattern and polarity; joint discoverer of compartments in development; providing evidence that homeotic genes build a binary genetic address used to specify the developmental fate of precisely defined groups of embryonic cells. In the last 15 years he has been working on the mechanisms responsible for planar cell polarity and has made several discoveries.
Peter obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge (Zoology) in 1965. He did postdoctoral research at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Western Reserve University, Cleveland and the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge. Now funded by the Wellcome Trust in the Zoology Department of the University of Cambridge, Peter was a member of the Cell Biology Division at LMB from 1969 to 2006 and joint head from 1984-86. He was elected a member of EMBO in 1976 and made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983. He has also received numerous prestigious prizes and been editor or on the editorial board of several key scientific journals.
Peter has been invited to deliver a lecture at the SDB 71st Annual Meeting in Montreal in 2012 where he will receive his award.
Further references:
Society for Developmental Biology Peter Lawrence's LMB page
Peter A. Lawrence, 1 Oct 2011 [cached]
Peter A. Lawrence awarded Developmental Biology-SDB Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter A. Lawrence was awarded the 2011 Developmental Biology-SDB Lifetime Achievement Award for his sustained contributions to the field of developmental biology. Lawrence, an investigator at the University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology and emeritus scientist at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, has spent his career studying pattern formation and how cells achieve their identity during development.
Peter Lawrence
Lawrence has received numerous scientific accolades including an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization, Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Waddington Medal from the British Society for Developmental Biology. He expressed his appreciation to the SDB for this award in an interview in April. "[It] was very nice of them," he said.
Lawrence began his scientific career in 1962 as a graduate student under renowned entomologist Vincent Wigglesworth at the University of Cambridge.
For Lawrence this is a scientific question that you'd like to answer, may never answer, but that drives your research career.
Lawrence spent two years at the University of Cambridge prior to being recruited to the MRC by Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner in 1969 ( Garwood, 2011 ). In 2006, he retired from the MRC and moved his lab to the University of Cambridge where his scientific career began decades before. For nearly fifty years, Lawrence has tackled pattern formation from many directions. He was instrumental in clarifying Antonio Garcia-Bellido's compartment hypothesis determining the role of engrailed in establishing posterior compartment identity in Drosophila embryonic body segments and adult appendages. From his early days, Lawrence has studied cell polarity in various insects to learn how a cell knows to orient itself in one direction over another. Much of this work has been done examining hair and bristle growth along the Drosophila abdomen.
Over the years, Lawrence has maintained a small lab with rarely more than one graduate student at a time.
Asked about his mentoring style, Lawrence said, "I think that you should give your people as much independence as they can take. This was how he got his start as a graduate student under Wigglesworth. "I had to find my own project and work on it. I relished that independence and freedom, and the knowledge that whatever I did would be mine," he said. Like Wigglesworth, Lawrence does not put his name on his students' and postdocs' papers unless he has actually done some of the work. "...[W]hen I started out, that was a more standard practice. Based on this belief system, Lawrence has continued to work at the bench throughout his career. "...I think that's been good. I think I find that very rewarding to be able to depend on your own work."
For students and postdocs trying to make their way in science, Lawrence said it is important for them to be themselves. "... [P]eople often make a mistake. They look at somebody who's a very successful scientist and use that person as a role model and they try and do what that person is doing, but they forget the most important part of the equation is your own characteristics and what you're good at."
"...I think it's important to do what you're good at," he said. "I mainly like microscopy. I don't like anything that's too intellectually demanding, so I tend to leave the detailed model building to my colleagues..." Lawrence also doesn't do molecular biology as he finds pipetting quite boring.
Lawrence's "clarity of thinking and criticism at the second floor cell and developmental biology meetings" had an impact on his career.
In the past 10 years, Lawrence has written many commentaries on ethics, the responsibilities of scientists in society, and critiques on the current research system ( see Garwood, 2011 for overview). He began to speak out on these social aspects of scientific research in response to feedback he received following a lecture he gave honoring his mentor, Vincent Wigglesworth. In it, he not only spoke of Wigglesworth's science, but "how he used his life to advance knowledge."
The response from students was tremendous and he thought, "Perhaps there's a need for somebody to speak for the young people and the situation that they find themselves in as they start working in a career in science," he said. Lawrence continues to speak out on these social issues, but he said, "My number one interest has always been the biology."
Developmental Biology-SDB Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter A. Lawrence
Rocky Mountain News: Opinion Columnists [cached]
Peter Lawrence, a biologist at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, submitted a paper to the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on that subject.It is, on my reading, exceedingly mild-mannered, though it does take as its starting point the observation that men and women are "born different" on average, which is something you're not supposed to say in polite academic circles.
But it goes on to suggest that the way science and other social activities including business are organized continue to reflect the fact that they were organized by men at a time when women were very rare in science or business, and therefore the procedures for choosing the "best" candidates for jobs and promotions tend to favor predominantly male characteristics "such as self-confidence and aggression."
Science would be better served, Lawrence writes, "if we gave more opportunity and power to the gentle, the reflective, and the creative individuals of both sexes."
That's hardly an anti-female diatribe, and Lawrence goes out of his way to emphasize that he is writing about a difference in the statistical distribution of personality characteristics, not an unbridgeable gulf.Obviously, saying men are taller than women on average does not mean that the tallest woman is shorter than the shortest man, but what's obvious in the case of a nonpolitical and easily measurable characteristic like height becomes nearly unmentionable (or willfully misunderstood) if the trait is competitiveness or empathy.
Well, Lawrence submitted his paper to Science, and as the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reports, the editors held it for consideration for seven months and finally gave the author "a publication date, proofs and a chance to order reprints."
And then they got cold feet.In a last-minute e-mail to Lawrence, the journal's editor-in-chief, Donald Kennedy, said they wouldn't publish it after all.
Lawrence calls that "a lame excuse."
His paper was finally published online in PLoS Biology, one of the peer-reviewed journals of the Public Library of Science. (Both the Telegraph article and Lawrence's paper are linked from the Web site, which asks why the "leaky pipeline"?)
Among biomedical students, Lawrence observes, there are similar numbers of male and female students, yet at higher ranks women drop out disproportionately, so that among full professors only about 10 percent are women.
Overt discrimination accounts for very little of that, he believes, since he has seen very little of that during his career and that "has been both for and against women."(That's another thing you're not supposed to say.) But the fact that men and women on average make different choices is significant.Who bears children is not a matter of choice, but who cares for them could be, at least after the first few months."Yet partly because of the different priorities that on average men and women have," Lawrence says, "a much higher proportion of women put the needs of their children first and climbing the career ladder second."
But he believes a different sort of discrimination, in job searches for example, not deliberately directed against women, tends to reward people who are aggressive, competitive, good at self-promotion, and even ruthless.
But the same harpy who savaged Summers and Harvard into submission has gone after Lawrence too.
Maybe we'd get further trying to make them work for us, as Lawrence is doing, instead of howling that they're too evil to talk about.
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