Prof. Williams (BSc Zoology, University of Aberdeen) completed her PhD at the Royal Veterinary College, London investigating nutritional regulation of ovarian function using sheep as a model for human. This involved collaborative studies in Glasgow, Dublin and Perth, Australia.
Following her PhD, Prof. Williams was awarded a Wain Fellowship and a Lalor Fellowship to work in Perth, Australia for 2 years. Prof. Williams then moved to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York where she generated transgenic mouse models and demonstrated that oocyte glycans were not required in sperm-zona binding thus mooting hypotheses that had existed for almost 20 years. She also identified the oocyte as a key regulator of follicle selection and fertility since mice carrying oocytes lacking complex O-glycans had sustained increased fertility. She also identified the oocyte as having a key role in maintaining follicle integrity since follicles containing modified oocytes were able to join. Prof. Williams also revealed a crucial role for the oocyte in maintaining ovarian function since oocytes lacking both O- and N-glycans led to the onset of premature ovarian failure.
In 2008, Prof. Williams moved to the University of Oxford where she established her research group in the Dept of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics investigating the role of the oocyte in regulating fertility and ovarian function supported by a MRC New Investigator grant. In 2011, Prof. Williams moved to the Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health (previously Obstetrics and Gynaecology).
Prof. Williams continues to work on premature ovarian insufficiency (supported by a MRC Centenary Award), and understanding ovarian function in health and disease. Prof. Williams has also expanded her programme of research to study human ovarian function and now leads the Oxford Ovarian Fertility Preservation Research Programme to develop and improve techniques for human fertility preservation.
Prof. Williams has also established the Rhino Fertility Project with the aim of developing techniques to culture rhino ovarian tissue and generate follicles and eggs in vitro. This project will develop techniques using Southern White Rhino ovarian tissue with the goal of saving the Northern White Rhino of which there are only two females left.