Awards and Prizes

T. K. Sidey Medal: Getting a clearer image of biomolecules and tissue

[Rick Millane] Rick Millane receives the T. K. Sidey medal from Barry Scott. Photo credit: Royal Society of New Zealand.

Rick Millane from the U. of Canterbury has been awarded the T. K. Sidey Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand for his contributions to methods for imaging biological molecules. His theoretical and computational methods for imaging biological molecules and tissue using X-rays and optical radiation allow their structures to be determined.

Millane was 'delighted and honored' to receive the award, particularly since the first Sidey Medal was awarded to Ernest Rutherford in 1933. 'I am grateful to the many students and colleagues around the world who have supported and contributed to my research.'

Millane is well known internationally for his work on 'phase retrieval' methods, an important component of X-ray diffraction imaging. His phase retrieval algorithms have been applied to the latest imaging technology: X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs), which use X-ray pulses short enough and intense enough to image biomolecules that have defied conventional imaging methods, and use nano-scale crystals with just a few unit cells in each direction. This technology has the potential to greatly advance understanding of disease processes and drug design.

The selection committee acknowledged him as a leader in advancing algorithms that are suitable for this new technology. Millane has also worked on fiber diffraction analysis for imaging and determining the structures of disordered or non-crystalline substances, including biopolymers such as DNA and sugars in connective tissue.