Oxford launches new department to further bioscience teaching and research

On 1 August 2022 – The University of Oxford has today launched the Department of Biology which brings together the existing Departments of Zoology and Plant Sciences.

This merger presents new opportunities which will further enhance Oxford’s educational and research strengths in bioscience, bringing together world-leading scientists who are tackling major global challenges, from pandemics to the impacts of climate change, threats to biodiversity, and the securing of our food and natural resources.

Professor E.J Milner-Gulland and Mark Fricker joint Heads of the Department of Biology at the University of Oxford said:

‘The collaborative science undertaken by the Department of Biology will further our understanding of the complexities, interactions, and evolution of life on our planet, by answering fundamental scientific questions and tackling global challenges in biology.’

The new Department of Biology’s research is concentrated in five key sections:

Oxford’s new Department of Biology benefits from a wealth of local, national, and international partnerships, as well as world-leading facilities and resources. This includes access to the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, the university’s ‘living laboratory’ at nearby Wytham Woods, the Oxford Herbarium, the Oxford Museum of Natural History, and a dedicated research field station at Wytham.

The Department runs Oxford’s new MBiol in Biology course for undergraduates. This immerses students in studying the breadth and diversity of life on Earth, at multiple scales. It also undertakes graduate teaching and research through its DPhil in Biology and its involvement in cross-Departmental Centres for Doctoral Training.

Professor Sam Howison, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division at the University of Oxford, said: ‘I am delighted and excited to welcome this new department, marking an historic moment for science at Oxford. Our new department will offer holistic training to produce the biologists of the future and will nurture bioscience researchers and innovators. It will also reinforce Oxford’s leading role in informing and shaping the direction of international bioscience research and policy.’

The new department builds on Oxford’s history of landmark academic breakthroughs, policy influence and forward-thinking teaching across the biological sciences.

Oxford’s notable contributors to advances in biological sciences include:

  • Lionel Clowes, discovered the quiescent centre of plant roots, and some of the earliest research which led to the concept of stem cells
  • Richard Dawkins, best known for his popularisation of the gene as the principal unit of selection in evolution
  • John Gurdon, Nobel Prize winner known for successfully cloning a frog through nuclear transfer
  • Dame Angela McLean, Professor of Mathematical Biology and current Chief Scientific Advisor for the Ministry of Defence
  • Mary Snow, known for her fundamental contributions to the fields of study of geotropism and phyllotaxis in plant development
  • Niko Tinbergen, one of the modern founders of ethology, the study of animal behaviour

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