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Alistair Elfick

Personal Chair in Synthetic Biological Engineering, The University of Edinburgh

Alistair gained degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Durham, UK. An emergent interest in the tissue reaction to foreign particles released from joint replacements led him to conduct post-doctoral research in the School of Medicine at the University of Newcastle, UK. Alistair won both a Fulbright Commission, Distinguished Scholar’s Award and a Royal Academy of Engineering, Global Research Award which enabled him to experience biomedical engineering research at the University of California at Berkeley. Having enjoyed too much Californian sunshine Alistair returned to his hometown of Edinburgh in 2004 to take an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship at its eponymous University. The development of novel instrumentation for the measurement of biological samples is the core research undertaken in Alistair’s group, work which has served to embed him in the Synthetic Biology community. Alistair is co-supervisor of Edinburgh’s iGEM team (’06-’12) and is Director of the BBSRC Network for Standards in Synthetic Biology. Alistair co-authored the Royal Academy of Engineering’s report on Synthetic Biology ’09 and has contributed to evidence gathering to inform policy of both Scottish and UK governments, funding councils and regulatory bodies. Alistair, with colleague Dr Jane Calvert, instigated a NSF-EPSRC funded project with Dr Drew Endy at Stanford University, to bring together synthetic biologists, designers, artists and social scientists to explore collaborations between synthetic biology, art and design. Synthetic Aesthetics spawned a further project to explore the cultural dimensions of synthetic biology through a week-long interdisciplinary exchange lab and series of public events; Synthesis took place in the summer of 2012.


  • –present
    Personal Chair in Synthetic Biological Engineering, University of Edinburgh