Ragnhildur Káradóttir a 29 year old Icelandic PhD student at the University College London was shortlisted for the L’Oréal-Royal Institution Science Graduate of the Year Award reported Vivienne Parry of the British daily The Times last month.
According to the article Ragnhildur excels in ‘brain science’.
Parry starts her article, The next generation, subtitled The young guns: the next crop of scientific star, by saying, “If you can spot ground-breaking, original work undertaken by young scientists today, there’s a good chance that you will identify, encourage and inspire the science leaders of the future.”
She calls the six scientists shortlisted for the award this year “outstanding rising star[s] in his or her field”.
In the field of medicine she points to two that have “already made remarkable progress on work which could help millions of people with neurological diseases and disabilities”.
One of those two is Icelander Ragnhildur Káradóttir.
Parry explains that growing up in Iceland, Ragnhildur “wanted either to be a brain surgeon or a scientist”. At the University of Iceland she was introduced to the brain while
reading biochemistry. She studied the how levels of melatonin fluctuate depending on light. According to the article, “High levels of melatonin have been linked with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated with lower light conditions in winter.”
But according to the article Ragnhildur discovered that incidence of SAD was “just as common in sunny Florida as in light-deprived Iceland”.
Ragnhildur’s conclusion was that “it was all on account of evolution; natural selection had favored those Icelanders best able to cope with its short winter days”.
Alex Weir, from the department of zoology at Oxford University, won the of Science Graduate of the Year, taking home £6,000, and a life membership of the British Royal Institution, the oldest independent research body in the world, and the chance to give a public lecture at the institution. According to the article, Alex is working on a PhD in behavioral ecology.