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Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Head of the Department of Genetics, takes over role.

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, a Fellow of Darwin College and Head of the Department of Genetics at the University, has been appointed as Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research for one year from 1 January 2021. She takes over the role from Professor Chris Abell, who died suddenly in October. 

Professor Ferguson-Smith is the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics, and a molecular and developmental geneticist with a research focus on epigenetic inheritance. She and her team are internationally renowned for their contributions to understanding how chemical modifications to DNA and to chromosomes influence the regulation of developmental and physiological pathways within and across generations, with implications for health and disease. She was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2006, made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2012 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2017. 

Born in the USA and raised in Glasgow, Professor Ferguson-Smith gained her first degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow. She obtained her PhD in Biology from Yale University and was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Cambridge in 1994. From 2008 to 2011, she also held an A*STAR Adjunct Research Directorship, leading a research group at the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences.  

Professor Ferguson-Smith has held advisory and consultancy positions for several national and international research organisations. She currently sits on the MRC Strategy Board and chairs the MRC Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board. She was recently appointed to the BBSRC Council and is President-elect of the Genetics Society. 

Professor Ferguson-Smith said: “Chris Abell’s wisdom, deep understanding of research and appreciation of the people that do it, enabled him to make substantial improvements to the University’s research environment and our research culture. I feel very honoured to take on this interim position, and to have the opportunity to build on the remarkable legacy left by Chris.  Now more than ever, we must keep cultivating new talent, improving our research culture, and fostering research excellence and its application in new and creative ways. I look forward to contributing to these goals.”

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “I am delighted that Professor Ferguson-Smith has agreed to step into the role of Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research. She has the skills and the experience that such a wide-ranging portfolio call for. The next few months will be crucial as the University prepares its REF submission, and I am grateful to her for taking the helm of our research operations at this critical time. Professor Ferguson-Smith’s commitment to improving research culture, in collaboration with research funding organisations, will be hugely important over the next few months. I look forward to working closely with her on these and on many other issues.”