UCL Division of Biosciences

Prof Max Telford

Prof Max Telford

Professor of Zoology

Genetics, Evolution & Environment

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Apr 2004

Research summary

Understanding the evolution of the great diversity of animals is a major goal of biology. Research in my lab concentrates on developing an accurate tree of evolutionary relationships of the animal kingdom and on experiments to determine the genotypic changes involved in specific, well characterised morphological changes within the animals.

Biologists would like to understand how evolution has happened in an historical sense - which characteristics arose in which lineages, when they arose and hopefully even an adaptive explanation of why they arose. All of these questions depend absolutely on mapping the characters of interest onto an accurate phylogenetic tree of the animal kingdom and we are using a variety of molecular approaches to refine the animal tree.

We would also like to know how evolution works in a more general sense; we would like to go beyond the neo-Darwinian explanation of adaptation through selection on random mutations to discover exactly what kind of changes at the level of the genotype have given rise to the changes we see in phenotype. These effects of genotype on adult phenotype are mediated through the organisms program of development from egg to adult and these latter questions constitute the program of research now called evolutionary developmental biology. The second aim of the group is to undertake a programme of comparative developmental work in different animal groups using modern molecular genetic methods.

Teaching summary

Course organiser for BIOL0004 "Life on Earth"

Contribute to BIOLC 3010 "Molecular Evolution"

Contribute to BIOL2004 "Fundamentals of Molecular Biology"

Contribute to BIOL0012 "Animal Biodiversity"  


University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1993
University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1989


I did my undergraduate (BA/MA) (1986) and DPhil (1993) degrees in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. I then spent a postdoctoral year in Paris (Université de Paris Sud, Orsay) in the laboratory of Prof André Adoutte.  This was followed by 6 years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Natural History Museum in London.

In 2000 I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development fellowship which I began in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.

I moved to UCL in 2003 as Lecturer in Zoology. I was promoted to Reader in 2006, Professor in 2009 and I was made the Jodrell Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in 2019.

I am the director of the Centre for Life's Origins and Evolution (CLOE) established in 2017.