image showing Plant from the genus Myrcia, and Thais, the award winning student
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Kew PhD student wins prestigious award

Kew PhD student Thais Vasconcelos has won the Linnean Society’s John C. Marsden Medal 2018, awarded annually for the best thesis in biology.

The prize was awarded for the thesis: 'Morphological homogeneity, phylogenetic heterogeneity and systematic complexity in species-rich groups'. The subject was the Myrtaceae family which includes Eucalyptus and guava from Australasia and South America respectively. This large group of plants is made up of many, very similar looking species. The thesis concludes that the success of the group is likely a result of the species looking so similar, rather than having extremely specialised flowers.

Judges commented that the thesis is exceptional and not only for its science. It is richly illustrated with stunning scanning electron micrographs, floral portraits as well as effective and often very beautiful figures, that simply convey complex ideas and processes to the non-specialist reader.

During her PhD, Thais participated in many Kew Science activities, contributing to scientific discussion and sharing techniques and skills with fellow researchers. Parts of this thesis have been published in high impact botanical journals, highlighting Kew’s input to the understanding tropical forest dynamics, necessary for their management and conservation. 

Thais was registered at University College London under Dr Astrid Wingler and was based full-time at Kew, supervised by Dr Eve Lucas and Dr Gerhard Prenner.