UCL Division of Biosciences



Our research encompasses cell and developmental biology and ranges from molecular analyses through to in vivo studies in a variety of species.

A lateral view of a 4dpf transgenic Gal4 zebrafish larvae

Our work has been consistently rated as world-leading in many research assessment exercises, as exemplified by the 2014 Nobel Prize awarded to Professor John O'Keefe. Our interests are broadly grouped in the following 5 themes, although our Department's interdisciplinary approach breaks across many traditional boundaries.

Molecular Cell and Systems Biology

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We have significant strengths in the fundamental molecular cell biology of cell signalling, bioenergetics, transcription and cell motility underpinning health. This is supported by expertise in computational modelling, imaging, nanotechnology and engineering approaches to biology. Our work is applied to understanding neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer and viral infection.

UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research

UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research

The UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research recognises the fundamental role of mitochondria in the homeostasis of cells, tissues and organisms, and their key role in the development of major disease.

The consortium brings together a wide range of basic and clinical scientists from a spectrum of scientific disciplines across the UCL campus. Our broad goal is to generate innovative experimental approaches and applications to illuminate major questions ranging from fundamental mechanisms of mitochondrial biology and bioenergetics to the role of mitochondria in disease.



Neuroscience has been traditionally strong in CDB with a recent Nobel Prize awarded for research on the hippocampus. A large number of distinguished researchers work within different areas of neurobiology and developmental neurobiology zebrafish, worms, flies rodents and humans. We study neurodegenerative disease, cortical function, vision, pain mechanisms, circadian biology, neuronal repair and the development of neural circuits. Our teaching programmes are some of the most popular in the Division.

Comparative and Evolutionary Morphology

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The vertebrate skeleton forms the internal framework of the body and is essential for support, locomotion, mineral storage, and the protection of vital organs. Bones and teeth are also the parts of the body that remain longest after the death of the organism and, as such, have the potential to provide a wealth of information as to the evolutionary history, phylogenetic relationships, locomotion, sense organs, diet, brain size, physical appearance, health, age, and ultimate fate of that organism. The skeleton is therefore a focus of study for mineralised tissue biologists, archaeologists, palaeobiologists, and forensic scientists. In CDB, this primary grouping encompasses research groups working on the structure, function, evolution, and development of the skeleton and associated tissues, in health and disease, across a wide range of scales (from nano- to macro), groups (amphibians and reptiles to primates), ages (300 million years to present), and approaches.

The Bloomsbury Centre for Skeletal Research

The Bloomsbury Centre for Skeletal Research

The Bloomsbury Centre for Skeletal Research (BCSR) brings together basic and clinical scientists from all disciplines within the field in the London area.

The BCSR currently has more than 70 members based at these London institutions:

Functional Genetics and Model Systems

Zebrafish Eye

Genetically tractable organisms, including the roundworm (C. elegans), the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), and the freshwater zebrafish (Danio rerio), have been used worldwide to tackle some of the most complex questions of developmental biology and neuroscience. Laboratories within the Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology apply cutting edge genome editing, mapping, imaging, and other techniques in these model systems to investigate diverse phenomena, including the specification of neuronal lineages and the development of brain asymmetry, the inputs (e.g. light, temperature) and outputs (e.g. cell cycle, sleep) of the 24-hour circadian clockwork, and the behavioral genetics of decision making, social preference, and locomotion.

Stem Cells and Development

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Developmental and stem cell biology are intimately linked. The Department has a long tradition of excellence in these areas especially in vertebrate development (zebrafish, Xenopus, chick and mammals including humans), which has more recently been enriched with invertebrate systems like the nematode, C elegans and the fly, Drosophila. This group is very interdisciplinary, spanning many levels of organization from molecular control of gene expression to complex systems biology, organogenesis and "development" across a huge evolutionary time scale. We study stem cells both in vivo and in vitro and are interested both in their normal functions and in their huge potential for medical and other applications.

UCL Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

The UCL Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine brings together many different research groups from across UCL and it's partners, including the London Centre for Nanotechnology and the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), with a common interest in all aspects of stem cells, tissue engineering, repair and regeneration and the development of their therapeutic and biotechnological potential.

Young Embryologist Network

Young Embryologist Network (YEN), an academic body aimed at improving communication in the developmental biology research environment for Doctoral Students and Post-Doctoral scientists based in the UK.
The overall aims of YEN are to create a diverse research community for the young generation of developmental biologists, and to promote the importance of the field in the UK and around the world. YEN was set up in 2008 by Doctoral Students in the prestigious Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at University College London. YEN hosts an annual meeting and seminars across UK research institutions for young researchers with great success. Over 150 participants from many UK and international institutions attended the YEN:2014 annual meeting. In addition, our Network provides career information for those wishing to remain in academia and beyond.