Press Release

New Keeper of Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Professor Mark Chase FRS, currently Head of the Molecular Systematics Section of the Jodrell Laboratory, and widely recognised as a distinguished scientist in his field, has been appointed the new Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Professor Chase will take over from Professor Mike Bennett in August this year. Professor Bennett, the current Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory, is retiring from Kew after 18 years.

Professor Chase has extensive experience in plant science. He has contributed to over 340 publications including as first author of the landmark 1993 paper on seed plant phylogenetics that began the molecular revolution leading to the reclassification of the flowering plants and many individual plant groups. Professor Chase co-edits Genera Orchidacearum, the definite account of the most diverse of all families of flowering plants. He held academic positions at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina and was Director of the University Herbarium at the University of North Carolina before joining Kew in 1992. Since 1988, he has supervised 28 PhD students and 11 post-doctoral fellows.

Professor Sir Peter Crane, Director of RBG Kew, said 'We are delighted that Mark Chase will become Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory this summer. He brings to the role a wealth of knowledge and experience and is well-placed to take forward the further development of top quality plant science at Kew.'

Professor Chase's special general areas of interest are plant classification and evolution and, in particular, he has worked extensively with orchids. A key area of current focus is the evolution of allopolyploids, ie plants with twice the number of chromosomes that have been derived through hybridisation. This condition is thought to provide plants with extra evolutionary potential because of gene duplication, which permits evolution of new traits. This work on allopolyploids is focused on Dactylorhiza (marsh and spotted orchids, many of which are native to the UK ) and Nicotiana (wild tobacco, native to North and South America ).

He said 'I am both delighted and daunted at the prospects of becoming Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory because it has such a long tradition of excellence and has been such a leader in the field of experimental approaches to plant science - I look forward to this new set of challenges and to working with my colleagues in the Jodrell to maintain this tradition.'

Scientists in the Jodrell Laboratory work closely with colleagues in the Herbarium, the Millennium Seed Bank and the gardens at Kew and Wakehurst Place as well as external partners both nationally and internationally. The overall goal is to better understand the variety of plant life so that it can be conserved and used in sustainable ways for human benefit.


Notes to Editors:

Wolfson Wing, Jodrell Laboratory
Enabling Research into the Sustainable Use of Plant and Fungal Resources

The aim of the Wolfson Wing is to provide improved and extended laboratory and research facilities at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for the integrated study of plant and fungal diversity, using the most advanced molecular, anatomical and chemical techniques.

Within Kew's Jodrell Laboratory, scientists carry out a wide range of plant-based research, the benefits and applications of which are extremely broad. Key areas of work include the identification of substances for use in the fight against illnesses such as cancer, malaria and diabetes, the study of plant-animal interactions, and the investigation of plant characteristics and relationships at the molecular level for the purposes of plant conservation. Underpinning all Kew's scientific research is a drive to understand the interconnectivity of plant species and that between plants and other organisms. Increasingly, research focuses on the value of plants to humans and the sustainable use of this essential resource.

The Jodrell Laboratory is a department of Kew with a staff of 116, plus long-term overseas visitors and visiting fellows, PhD, MSc, sandwich course students and volunteers. Housing all individuals under one roof brings together various research groups that were previously scattered across the Kew site and therefore isolated from one another. This improved situation will increase the efficiency of research programmes and the opportunity to foster important working synergies between sections, thereby helping Kew to maintain its position as the world leader in plant diversity science.

The new extension increases the size of the building from its current 3,000m2 to 5,200m2 over three floors. In short, this will enable 1) an expansion and modernisation of research laboratories; 2) the physical integration of Kew's Mycology, Palynology and Economic Botany Sections with other Jodrell Department sections providing more efficient working practices; 3) additional space and improved facilities to attract and accommodate new staff with new expertise; 4) the opportunity to develop an internationally pre-eminent mycology programme, with appropriate staff and resources to capitalise on Kew's unparalleled fungi collection; 5) the consolidation of several research libraries into one and the opportunity for sharing specialist equipment, and 6) the expansion of Kew's science training programme by providing extra room for visiting scientists and students. Kew is a recognised world leader in this area and its programme spreads science and conservation expertise around the globe.

Finally, as part of Kew's ongoing commitment to make science more accessible to the general public, the extension has been designed with viewing-access in mind and will feature interpretative signage. In addition, the lecture theatre, housed in the existing laboratory complex is already used for a variety of public purposes and the proposed design will allow more direct access from the gardens.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the RBG Kew Press Office. E-mail or telephone 020 8332 5607.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction and its 132 hectares of landscaped gardens attract over one million visitors per year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and represents over 250 years of historical landscape. For further information please visit

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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
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Wakehurst Place:

Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Wakehurst Place
West Sussex RH17 6TN

Tel: +44 (0)1444 894018