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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Professor Phil Williamson appointed new Head of School of Biological Sciences

Published: 2 August 2023
Professor Phil Williamson
Professor Phil Williamson

Professor Williamson has been appointed as the new Head of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton following a rigorous selection process. Professor Williamson succeeds Professor Lindy Holden-Dye after five years as Head of School. As Head of the School, Professor Williamson will oversee strategy, education, research and enterprise activities within the School.

Professor Williamson joined Southampton in 2007 as a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow, investigating structure and function of cell membranes. He was appointed Lecturer in 2011, Associate Professor in 2019 and Professor in 2023.

His current research focusses on the development and application of solid-state NMR to investigate the molecular processes that underpin health and disease. Currently the group’s research is focussed on two key areas: determining how the cellular environment influences the formation of the protein fibrils associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease and investigating the structure and function of the cell membranes, to understand how the complex interactions between the lipid bilayer and integral membrane proteins can influence the transport of information and materials into the cell.

These studies have driven the development and application of novel solid-state NMR methodologies. Employing a combination of ultra-high fields, hyperpolarization techniques and fast magic angle spinning we have developed techniques that permit the detection of naturally occurring NMR sensitive isotopes in biological materials and the in-vivo analysis of protein conformation.

Professor Phil Williamson commented, “I am delighted to be appointed the new Head at this exciting time for the School of Biological Sciences. With the continued growth in the School of Biological Sciences, I believe that my experience over the last 16 years in Southampton will provide the continuity and stability necessary to further enhance our reputation for education, research and enterprise. I would like to thank my predecessor, Professor Lindy Holden-Dye, for her five years of inspirational leadership and I am really looking forward to working with the senior leadership team to support the ambitions of staff and students in the School.”

Professor Tamar Pincus, Dean of Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences added: “We look forward to welcoming Professor Williamson to the Faculty leadership team and working with him on his ambitious plans for the School.  We would also like to thank Professor Lindy Holden-Dye for her collegiality and strong leadership of the School of Biological Sciences over the last few years.”

Phil obtained his BSc in Biochemistry from the St Hugh’s College at the University of Oxford in 1995. He then undertook his D.Phil in the laboratory of Prof. Anthony Watts developing solid-state NMR methods to investigate receptor/ligand interactions, a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline. In 2000 he moved to the lab of Prof. Beat Meier in Department at Physical Chemistry at the ETH Zürich as a Postdoctoral Fellow, developing new solid-state NMR methods for the structural and dynamic analysis of biomolecules. Following a brief spell with the CNRS, in 2007 he moved to the University of Southampton.

Phil is a member of Facility Executive for the UK’s National Highfield Solid-State NMR Facility, and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Medical Research Council's Biomedical NMR Centre at the Crick Institute. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Frontier in Structural Biology and Nature Scientific Reports.

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