UCL Division of Biosciences

Prof Andrea Townsend-Nicholson

Prof Andrea Townsend-Nicholson

Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Structural & Molecular Biology

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Mar 2001

Research summary

I am interested in understanding how cells interpret extracellular signals and turn this information into intracellular responses. My focus is on understanding the molecular basis of health and disease and the role of cell surface receptors, particularly G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), in this, using a combination of experimental and computational methodologies.  I am particularly interested in facilitating the introduction of personalised medicine into clinical practice and in the development of computational methodologies for the prediction of receptor-ligand and receptor-receptor interactions that converge with experimental findings.  I am part of a UCL-led research effort (compbiomed.eu) to build a Virtual Human - a digital twin that will enable clinicians to deliver the most effective treatment for an individual and will enable us to actively manage our health and  wellbeing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZrAaDsfBYY). 

Teaching summary

My teaching interests range from delivering lectures, tutorials and practicals to the development and use of state of the art research technology to enhance student learning.  I teach on several BIOC modules and supervise final year undergraduate literature and laboratory-based research projects and MSci, MRes and MSc postgraduate research projects.  

From 2010-2019, I was the Head of Teaching for Molecular Biosciences, which is responsible for delivering UCL's undergraduate degree programmes in Biochemistry, Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. During this time, I introduced the MSci Biochemistry degree, with a research-only 4th year ,and the Specialist Research Projects (BIOC0023 and BIOC0029), which provide an opportunity for Year 3 Molecular Biosciences students to work in a research team to design a research project, establish the experimental protocols, collect and analyse data and present their results in the form of a research paper. I am committed to improving the digital skills of students in the life and medical sciences, an under-represented demographic in high performance computing (HPC). In 2017, I introduced high performance computing (HPC)-based education into the taught curriculum for medical students (SSC334) and Molecular Biosciences undergraduates (BIOC0023). 


Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), ATQ03 - Recognised by the HEA as a Fellow |
Higher Education Academy
Doctorate, Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy | 2009
Universite Louis Pasteur (Strasbourg I)
Doctorate, Doctor of Science | 1990
University of Toronto
First Degree, Bachelor of Science | 1986


I obtained my Bachelor of Science Specialist degree in Molecular Genetics and Molecular Biology, with a Major in Zoology and (somehow) a Minor in Religion, from the University of Toronto in 1986. I moved to the Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire des Eucaryotes (LGME) in Strasbourg France, investigating the establishment of the dorsoventral polarity axis in Drosophila melanogaster and obtained my doctorate in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the Université Louis Pasteur in 1990. From 1991 to 1996, I switched from transcriptional studies to cell signalling, studying mammalian G protein-coupled receptors as a postdoctoral fellow in the Neurobiology Division of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (Sydney, Australia). During this time, I cloned and characterised several adenosine receptor subtypes and learned about the benefits of wide-brimmed hats and factor 50 sunscreen. Having started my research career at University College (University of Toronto) in Canada, I am now at University College London, where I was appointed as a member of academic staff in 2001, following three and a half years of postdoctoral study and eighteen months as a British Heart Foundation Intermediate Research Fellow.