Portrait of Janet Thornton – University of Copenhagen

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17 November 2016

Portrait of Janet Thornton

Honorary Doctors

For many years, Professor Dame Janet Maureen Thornton has played an important role at both the Center for Protein Research and for the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences as a whole. She has been a key player in the development of bioinformatics as a field of research, and has helped to reinforce collaboration and knowledge-sharing in Europe within the field. She is now being made an honorary doctor at the University of Copenhagen.

Janet Thornton, newly appointed honorary doctor at the University of Copenhagen, was born in 1949 and is a senior researcher and former director of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). During her time as director of the EBI, she helped to grow the institute to more than 500 employees and played an important role in the establishment of the ELIXIR initiative. ELIXIR has made it possible to store and share biological data across Europe’s borders, and here Denmark has played a prominent role, for which we can thank Janet Thornton. Similarly, the cooperation between the Danish research community and researchers from bioinformatics at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research (CPR) has been strongest during Janet Thornton’s leadership of the EBI.

Janet Thornton has had a major influence on the development of bioinformatics as a field of research – both generally, but also in Denmark. Janet Thornton primarily works with basic research within the protein area, and has specialised in ageing, which is also an important area for the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (SUND). She has also served as scientific advisor for the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research (CPR), and in so doing has had a major impact on the work being carried out at SUND, says Professor Søren Brunak, who has nominated Janet Thornton for the title:

“Janet Thornton has followed the Center for Protein Research since it came into being in 2007, and has played a significant role in its development. Janet Thornton is in many ways an indispensable resource for CPR, because she is extremely knowledgeable both strategically and politically, she has an extensive network, and she has specialised in the same research area as the CPR. Janet Thornton has been extremely valuable for the centre, but also for the faculty as a whole. We look forward to working even more closely with her in the future, and hopefully can create an even stronger research collaboration with the UK research community,” says Søren Brunak.

Janet Thornton holds a degree in physics from the University of Nottingham, and completed a Master’s degree in biophysics at King’s College in London and a PhD in biophysics from the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London. She has been employed at the University of Oxford and at the National Institute of Medical Research, she has been a professor at University College London, and she was later appointed to the Bernal Chair at the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck College. In 1999 she became a member of the Royal Society.

Janet Thornton has published almost 600 scientific books and articles. Her articles have been cited more than 90,000 times, with her article about the PROCHECK method (published in Nature in 2014) ranking number 26 on the list of the 100 most-cited articles ever.