Durham University scientist appointed Royal Society University Research Fellow

Dr Robert Pal worked on technology that could improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer and ultimately wants to develop a male contraceptive pill

Dr Robert Pal of Durham University’s Department of Chemistry
Dr Robert Pal of Durham University’s Department of Chemistry

A Durham University scientist whose ultimate ambition is to create a contraceptive pill for men has been appointed a Royal Society University Research Fellow.

Dr Robert Pal is one of 43 new University Research Fellows (URFs) announced by the organisation for 2014, with the scheme aimed at providing outstanding individuals the chance to build their own research career.

The 34-year-old, who moved to Durham from his native Hungary in 2004, will start studying the development and chemical application of phase modulation nanoscopy - an advanced form of microscopic imaging using extremely high-resolution technology to examine cells - on October 1.

He will be given a budget to hire a team of PHD students and set up office space in Durham.

He has previously worked with Prof David Parker - both of the university’s chemistry department - on lanthanide technology, which uses light energy to measure the level of citrate in seminal fluid samples of patients.

This test can be used to signal the onset and progression of prostate cancer.

Earlier this month, Durham University spin-out company FScan Ltd, which Dr Pal is technical director for, signed a commercial deal with Oxfordshire-based Glide Pharma to further develop this technology.

Reacting to today’s announcement by the Royal Society, Dr Pal said: “It is a great honour to be awarded this prestigious fellowship and is a fantastic stepping stone on my individual career as a scientist.

“I must thank all my colleagues at Durham University for their support and particularly David Parker - without him I would not be where I am now.

“The facilities here are fantastic and the help I have received from the electrical and technical teams when it comes to my custom built microscopes has been fantastic.”

He added: “Now the focus is on further development of microscopy to examine the human body and staying in Durham is the best place for it. I look forward to assembling my team.

“My ultimate ambition - my dream - is to develop a reversable male contraception pill and now I have taken another step toward that goal.”

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