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School of the Biological Sciences

 

The School of Biological Sciences is one of six Schools of the University of Cambridge, each of which has a supervisory body, The Council of the School, comprising representatives of the constituent faculties and departments in each School.

The School of Biological Sciences is headed by Professor Anna Philpott, supported by three Deputies in the key strategic areas of Research, Postgraduate education and Undergraduate teaching. The School is organised in nine Departments and four research institutes, with oversight of the Botanic Garden, the Herbarium and the Museum of Zoology.

Head of School

Professor Anna Philpott

Anna is a Professor of Cancer and Developmental Biology in the Oncology Department and the Wellcome – MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.

Anna graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Natural Sciences and proceeded to complete a PhD in the Department of Zoology. Anna then spent six years at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School before returning to Cambridge in 1998 to take a Lectureship in the Department of Oncology.

Anna’s research interests lie in developmental biology and the balance between proliferation and differentiation of normal and tumour cells. Her lab also studies how cells in the developing embryo adopt a particular fate and maintain or change that fate in the face of reprogramming challenges. Anna’s research uses a variety of model systems for these studies, including cultured human cells, organoids, mice and Xenopus (commonly known as the clawed frog).

Alongside her research and other activities in the School, Anna is keenly interested in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in the School and at the University level. Her previous roles also include lecturing on developmental biology for undergraduates, as well as setting up and co-directing the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre MRes/PhD Doctoral Training Programme.

Deputy Heads of School

 

 

Professor Matthias Landgraf

Deputy Head of School for Postgraduate Strategy

Matthias is a Professor of Developmental Neurobiology in the Department of Zoology, where he also leads the Neural Network Development Group, funded by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award.

Matthias studied Genetics at University College London and undertook his PhD at the University of Cambridge, later becoming a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology.

Matthias’ research seeks to understand how neural networks are specified and assembled, using the locomotor network of the Drosophila (fruit fly) embryo and larva as an experimental model system. Using genetics, imaging, electrophysiology and behavioural analyses, his group has addressed fundamental questions on synapse development, dendritic growth and the regulation of plasticity. Most recently, Matthias’ team has begun investigating how transient embryonic experiences specify neuronal excitable and synaptic properties important for network stability; also shaping animal behaviour and resilience to challenges in later life.

Throughout his career, Matthias has been actively involved in postgraduate education, working with and teaching on PhD and MPhil programmes, as well as being Director and, more recently, Deputy Director of Postgraduate Education in the Department of Zoology. He is passionate about working with students and feels the best part of the job is witnessing them succeed.

 
 

 

 

Professor Jon Simons

Deputy Head of School for Research Strategy

Jon is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, where he leads the Memory Laboratory.

Jon studied Psychology at the University of Aberdeen and undertook a PhD at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. Post-doctoral positions at Harvard and University College London were followed by a move back to Cambridge in 2006.

Jon’s research investigates the cognitive and brain mechanisms responsible for the subjective experience of remembering, and how we use mental experiences to make sense of the world. This work involves inter-relating cognitive hypotheses with evidence from functional neuroimaging of healthy volunteers, and examining the effects of neurological and psychiatric disorders on memory abilities, as well as the memory changes associated with normal aging.

Jon’s work for the School involves the strategic development of cross-Departmental research initiatives aimed at enhancing interdisciplinary interactions, including the School-wide Research Themes. He also has a strong interest in efforts to improve the research culture, such as in widening participation, increasing the diversity of those in leadership roles, empowering early-career researchers and professional services staff, and exploring opportunities for institutional incentivisation of open research practices.

 

 

Dr Tim Weil

Deputy Head of School for Undergraduate Strategy

 

Tim is a Senior Lecturer and Group Leader in the Department of Zoology.

Tim studied Biology at Washington University and later undertook a PhD at Princeton University studying the body axis formation in insects. After his PhD, Tim joined the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford before moving to the Department of Zoology in Cambridge in 2013.

Tim’s research group studies how localised translation and egg activation are achieved, using Drosophila (known as the fruit fly) as a model system. Drosophila research has identified thousands of genes with human homologues and has provided key insights into developmental pathways, oncology, neurobiology and immunology.

In parallel with his research, Tim contributed to various Departmental and University-wide committees and initiatives, such as Deputy Head of Department (Teaching), Athena Swan committee, University Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative (WiSETI) steering group and Fellow, Tutor and Director of Studies for Pembroke College.