Professor Ian Stansfield

Professor Ian Stansfield
BSc (Hons), PhD

Deputy Director
Personal Chair

Professor Ian Stansfield
Professor Ian Stansfield

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 437318
work +44 (0)1224 437312
The University of Aberdeen Office 4:23, IMS building
Lab. 4:59, IMS


Ian Stansfield graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BSc (Hons) Microbiology. Post-graduate studies, on the subject of cytochrome P450 enzymes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, were carried out under the supervision of Prof. Steve Kelly at the University of Sheffield. This work led to the award of a PhD. His post-doctoral research was carried out with Professor Mick Tuite at the University of Kent from 1990 to 1996. This work focused on studies of protein synthesis in yeast, investigating how the accuracy of protein synthesis is maintained, and the mechanism of translation termination. In 1996, he was appointed a Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, was promoted via Senior Lecturer and Reader (2003, 2009) to Personal Chair in 2011. He is currently Deputy Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences.


Research Interests

Ian Stansfield has research interests in the mechanism of protein synthesis in eukaryote cells, and in the control of gene expression at the level of mRNA translation. His lab uses baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system.

His lab is researching the mechanisms of translation elongation and termination events in yeast using systems biology approaches; in collaboration with Dr M.Carmen Romano (Institute of Complex Systems and Mathematical Biology, University of Aberdeen) mathematical modelling is being applied to develop models of translation. Using thse models, a quantitative understanding of these complex cellular events is being developed, including their regulation. Recent research is focusing on the role of transfer RNA and ribosome abundance in the regulation of gene expression. This has particular relevance for the high-level expression of foreign protein in organisms such as baker's yeast and E .coli, central to pharmaceutical processes such as the production of recombinant insulin.

The models of translation that have been developed are being used as the basis for predictive development of synthetic biology gene circuits. These synthetic biology circuits employ translational control of gene expression to achieve precise and rapid control of protein production in baker's yeast. Using this approach, the research seeks to optimise yeast's utility as a eukaryote protein expression system for heterologous proteins in biotechnology.

Current work is also focusing on a bioinformatic analysis of mRNA sequences to define the way in which both transfer RNAs and release factors interact with mRNAs to permit rapid and accurate decoding of the mRNA sequence.

Potential PhD projects in the Stansfield lab

Synthetic biology to engineer translation during heterologous protein expression.

Efficient translation is centrally important to the expresison of foreign proteins during biotechnological produciton of biologics, such as therapeutic proteins. During heterologous gene expression, the translation system can frequntly become stressed through depletion of key intermediates such as tRNAs and translation factors. To better understand translation systrem 'health', and the maintenance of a balanced gene expression system, mathematical models of translation are being used to understand the supply and demand of key intermediates such as charged tRNAs. This project will study how foreign gene sequences impose stress on the host gene expression system, how that stress can be predicted using mathematical modelling,  and managed using synthetic biology engineering of the host cell.


Further Info

External Responsibilities

Ian Stansfield currently represents the University of Aberdeen on the Systems Biology Directorate of the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA), a research pooling organisation.  He was until recently External Examiner at the Universities of Surrey and Exeter for  Masters degrees in Systems Biology. He is a former member of the management board of BioProNet, a BBSRC Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB). He was a member of the BBSRC Pool of Experts panel membership college 2012-2016. He is currently Deputy Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen.

Book publications

Romano M and Stansfield I (2011) Stochastic models of translation elongation and termination. Section chapter in the Encyclopedia of Systems Biology, (Springer, Eds W. Dubitzky and O. Wolkenhauer) – in press.

Stansfield I., Stark, M.J.R. (2007) Volume editors, Yeast Gene Analysis, Methods in Microbiology Volume 36, second edition, Elsevier (London).

Stansfield, I. and Stark, M. J. R. (2007) Yeast genetics and strain construction.  In Methods in Microbiology vol. 36 - Yeast Gene Analysis pp. 23-43. (Stansfield, I. and Stark, M. J. R., eds, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, London).

Stansfield, I. and Stark, M. J. R. (2007) Yeast Gene Analysis: The Remaining Challenges. In Methods in Microbiology vol. 36 - Yeast Gene Analysis pp. 667-683 (Stansfield, I. and Stark, M. J. R., eds, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, London).

S.L. Kelly, S. Kenna, H.F.J. Bligh, P.F. Watson, I. Stansfield, S.W. Ellis, and D.E. Kelly (1988). Lanosterol to ergosterol- enzymology, inhibition and genetics. In "The Biochemistry of Cell Walls in Fungi", pp219-239. Ed. P.Kuhn, Springer-Verlag.

Stansfield, I. (1994), contributor to "Encyclopaedia of Molecular Biology". Ed. Sir John Kendrew, Blackwell Science,.

Stansfield, I. and S.L. Kelly (1996).. Purification and quantification of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cytochrome P450. In "Methods in Molecular Biology, Volume 55: Yeast Protocols". Ed. I.H. Evans, Humana Press,

Tuite, M.F., Stansfield, I., Planta, R.J. (1998) Identifying genes encoding components of the protein synthesis machinery of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In Methods in Microbiology: Yeast Gene Analysis Vol. 26 (Tuite, M.F. and Brown A.J.P. Eds.) p 351-374 Academic Press

iGEM International Genetically Engineered Machines competition

The International Genetically Engineered Machines competition, run by MIT, Boston MA, is the world's foremeost synthetic biology competition. Teams of undergraduate and post-graduate teams from around the world work for up to a year to design and build novel gene circuitry, to endow cells with new innovative properties. Teams are judged on the excellence of their synthetic biology project at the annual competition in Boston. The University of Aberdeen has had an extended involvement with iGEM, with considerable success.

Ian Stansfield has been lead Instructor for the University of Aberdeen's iGEM team in 2009 [Gold Medal], 2010 [Silver medal] and 2014 [Gold Medal, Best Health and Medicine project (Overgraduate track), Best Measurement Device (Overgraduate track)].

The 2014 iGEM entry from Aberdeen designed and constructed novel gene circuits in E.coli to generate an innovative new system for diagnosing neglected tropical diseases, including Human African Trypanosamiasis (HAT), the causitive agent of African Sleeping Sickness. The project integrated biological gene circuit construction with novel detectors for biological readout that made use of integrated microprocessor and Raspberry Pi computers.