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School of the Biological Sciences

Professor Heike Laman and Professor Julian Hibberd have been appointed Heads of the Departments of Pathology and Plant Sciences respectively, starting from October 2022. Earlier in the year, Professor Eric Miska was also appointed Head of the Department of Biochemistry.

Additionally, in the Department of Psychology, Professor Jeff Dalley and Professor Jason Rentfrow will be joint Acting Heads for the Department of Psychology for one year, while Professor Mark Johnson is on sabbatical leave.


Heike Laman joined the Department of Pathology on a Departmental Early Career Fellowship in 2005.  While working on cellular proteins that contributed to the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus ability to cause cancer, she discovered that ubiquitin ligases were critical factors.  For almost two decades, she has studied their biology in a wide variety of cells and has made fundamental discoveries around their normal functions and their dysregulation in diseases, like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and anaemia. Heike has taken a lead on improving Research Culture across the School of Biological Sciences, and she aims to develop a positive, professional ethos and culture while she is Head of Pathology.

“It is a privilege to be elected to lead Pathology, and I am thrilled to step forward to serve as Head of the Department.  It is an especially exciting time as we work towards conducting research and teaching in a more integrated way across research themes and at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the School of Biological Sciences. I am convinced that our Department’s efforts to understand, diagnose, and treat infectious and genetic diseases and to train and inspire the next generation of medical, veterinary and natural scientists will make vital contributions to safeguarding and improving society.”




Julian Hibberd is Professor of Photosynthesis in the Department of Plant Sciences. A world expert on photosynthesis, his lab has made numerous contributions to our understanding of this unique process. His research programme combines discovery science with work that aims to translate findings into crops. This includes investigations into the development of C4-enabled rice, but also the recent discovery of grafting in monocots.

‘I am delighted to take over at this exciting time. I am confident that our future discoveries will contribute solutions to the linked challenges of climate change, population growth and biodiversity loss. A key part of this is training and inspiring the next generation of plant scientists – undergraduates, postgraduates and postdocs. It is therefore particularly exciting that we will be running a new MPhil course in Crop Sciences from 2023.

I would like to thank my predecessor, Professor Alison Smith for her leadership over the past five years, not only for the vision she brought to the role, but also for her energy, persistence, patience and generosity.’

Read more on the Department of Plant Sciences.



Eric Miska is the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics and was previously based in the Department of Genetics. Eric’s lab works on various aspects of RNA biology, epigenetics, inheritance mechanisms, and genome stability. The group recently developed a technology to assess RNA structure and RNA–RNA interactions in living systems, which was used to uncover unexpected biology for the Zika virus, and key regulatory mechanisms for SARS- CoV-2.


“The 21st century will be shaped by biology in a major way. A better understanding of molecular mechanisms of biological systems is key to improving our health and the environment. The Department of Biochemistry as part of the School of Biological Sciences has important contributions to make.”




The role of Head of Department is to provide leadership for the Department, setting the strategic direction in research and teaching and fostering a collegiate, supportive and inclusive culture for staff and students. Appointments to the role are made by recommendation of the respective Faculty Board normally for a period of up to 5 years. Heads of Department also provide valuable input to the academic vision for the School, and we look forward to working closely with the new appointees in the coming months and years.

Find out more about the Departments and Institutes in the School of Biological Sciences.