5 February 2013
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14-15 Belgrave Square,
Professor John A. Pickett is originally an organic chemist (BSc 1967, PhD 1971, DSc 1993) who has gained worldwide recognition, with many honours and awards to his name, for his investigations into volatile natural products that affect the behaviour and development of animals and other organisms (semiochemicals). He is a world authority on semiochemicals in insect behaviour and plays a leading role in the move away from the traditional use of wide-spectrum pesticides to more precise control through compounds targeted against specific pests at critical stages in their life cycles. Recent practical successes include a programme for controlling stem borer pests and striga weeds in Africa, where thousands of subsistence farmers have already adopted systems for exploiting the natural product chemicals of certain companion crops. In 1976, John moved to Rothamsted Research to lead a team working on new methods of pest control. He headed the Department of Biological Chemistry there from 1984-2010, and now holds the first Michael Elliott Distinguished Research Fellowship at Rothamsted. As well as fulfilling this prestigious new role, he continues to lead research into the field of chemical ecology.