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Professor Janet Thornton

(Elected 2006)

Structural biologist Professor Janet Thornton has had a distinguished career in academia and, since 2001, she has been the Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge. Throughout her professional life Professor Thornton has used computers to study protein sequences and structures; she was one of the first people to classify these structures and describe them in terms of their component parts. She was admitted to the Royal Society in 1999 and holds professorial appointments both at Birkbeck and University College London.

Professor Thornton joined Birkbeck in 1980. ‘I was part-time initially: a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my two children while continuing with my research. Later I understood how lucky I had been and appreciated how much support I’d received at Birkbeck.’

It is not just her immediate family to whom Professor Thornton is committed; she has also become part of a large scientific family. ‘The people I have met through my work have been one of the great delights of my career. I have always worked with PhD students and it is wonderful to watch them participating in this research field.’

On being made a Fellow, Professor Thorton said: ‘I admire Birkbeck immensely, both for its work in giving people the opportunity to study, but also for its world-class research; the words Birkbeck and crystallography are synonymous.’