Professor Paul Fowler

Professor Paul Fowler
Professor Paul Fowler
Professor Paul Fowler

BSc Hons, PhD, FRSB

Chair in Translational Medical Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 437528
Office Address
Room 3.26 Institute of Medical Sciences
Foresterhill Campus
Ashgrove Road West
AB25 2ZD

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School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


I received my BSc Hons and PhD in Zoology at the University of Aberdeen. I later moved to Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University of Aberdeen, to work on ovarian hormones and antiprogesterones.  In 2000 I moved to the Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen as a Professor of Translational Medical Sciences. I was  the Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition at Aberdeen from 2015 to 2021.

I have spent much of my career working on elucidating mechanisms in the regulation of reproduction and have over 140 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and editorials. At each stage I made contributions in the use of technologies to answer reproductive questions, including: remote telemetry of body-testis temperature differentials, MRI analysis of body composition and mammary gland, phage library and protein purification techniques to investigate reproductive proteins and proteomic and microarray techniques to study fetal development and endometriosis. Since the turn of the century, my research has focused on the effects of maternal factors, environmental exposures and endocrine disruption on fetal development and subsequent health in both human and animal models. My group is one of the few to work on the normal first and second trimester human fetus and uses maternal smoking, obesity and deprivation as a model to understand how adverse in-utero environment disturbs fetal development in our own species.


  • BSc Hons Zoology 
    1982 - University of Aberdeen 
  • PhD Reproductive Biology 
    1986 - University of Aberdeen 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships
  • Chair SMMSN Back-To-Work Group
  • Co-Chair University/NHS Grampian COVID-19 group
  • Chair SMSN Core Facilities Committee
  • Deputy Chair, University Research Facilities Working Group
  • regular Depute for Head of School meetings
  • IMS Equality & Diversity Group (Athena Swan)
  • REF2021 UoA1 Committee
  • University Health & Safety Committee
  • Division of Applied Medicine REF committee, 2012-2014
  • Joint Research Committee,  2011-2015
  • Division of Applied Medicine Executive Board,  2011-2015
  • Programme lead for the Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology research programme, 2011-2015
  • European Advisory Committee, 2011-2014
  • College of Life Sciences & Medicine Graduate School Management Team, 2005-2009
  • IMS Safety Committee, 2004-2009
  • Medical Faculty Postgraduate Teaching Group, 1998-2005
  • Medical Faculty IT Group, 1996-2003
  • Medical Faculty Research Profile Editorial Board, 1994-1995
  • Medical Faculty Research Advisory Committee, 1992
External Memberships
  • Member, Breast Cancer UK Independent Scientific Review Panel, 2022-
  • Member, UKRI Future Leaders Interview Panel 16, 2022
  • Named, invited, signatory of the Consensus Statement on paracetamol use during pregnancy – a call for precautionary action 2021
  • Review Editor, Frontiers in Toxicology - Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology, 2020-
  • Member, Editorial Board, Molecular Human Reproduction, 2019-
  • Member, EFSA FAF (Food Additives and Flavourings) Panel, 2018-2024
  • Member, EFSA Flavourings Working Group, 2018-2024
  • Chair, EFSA Special Working Group on the evaluation of substances used to reduce microbial contamination from products of animal origin, 2018
  • Member Editorial Board, Scientific Reports, 2017-18
  • Member, Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity Research Fund Steering Committee, 2017-20
  • Member, Panel 14 (Pathophysiology) of the French National Research Agency, 2017-2019
  • Member, Grampian Biorepository Steering Group, 2016-
  • Member, promotions committee, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, 2015-2016
  • Member Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (HDR) Jury, University of Rennes, France, 2015
  • Member Editorial Board, Molecular & Cellular Endocrinology, 2014-
  • Member, EFSA CEF (Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids) Panel, 2014-2018
  • Member, EFSA Flavourings Working Group, 2014-2018
  • Expert Evaluator, European Commission, 2014-
  • Vice-chair, HCERES (was AERES) research & tertiary education evaluation committee, France, 2014
  • Expert panel member, Endocrine Society & EU sponsored report & publications “Economic costs of endocrine disrupting compounds”. 2014-2016
  • Rapporteur for COST action TN1201 “genderSTE”, 2014
  • Member Editorial Board, Endocrinology, 2014-2017
  • External Examiner, taught Masters in Medical Science: Assisted Reproduction Technology, University of Nottingham, 2013-2016
  • Member, Society for Reproduction & Fertility Programme committee, 2013-2017
  • Member, AERES (now HCERES) research & tertiary education evaluation committee, France, 2013
  • Member, Promotions Panel, Technical University of Denmark, 2013
  • Named, invited, signatory of the Berlaymont Declaration on Endocrine Disruptors,
  • Member, Expert Review Panel to assess applications submitted to 2012 CRACK IT Challenges
  • Member, Expert Working Group on Bisphenol A (BPA) toxicology of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 2012-14
  • Member, Gendered Innovations, FP7 case study panel, 2012
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, UK (FRSB), 2010
  • Member, Standing Evaluation Panel, Environmental Pollution at the Swedish Research Council Formas, 2010
  • Member, Scientific Committee, 5th Copenhagen Workshop on Endocrine Disrupters, 2009
  • Chair, Society for Reproduction & Fertility, 2009-2013
  • External Examiner, year 3 Reproductive Biology, University of Edinburgh, 2008-2013
  • External Examiner, Masters by Research (MRes), St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, 2008-2012
  • Editorial Advisory Board for Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2005-2009
  • Society for Reproduction and Fertility, Council Member, 2005-2013
  • Editorial Board of the journal Reproductive Biology & Endocrinology, 2002-2008
  • Chair, Local Organising Committee for Fertility 2003, joint meeting of BAS, BFS, SRF, 2000-2003. This conference was held in Aberdeen July 13-17 2003 and is considered to be one of the most successful Fertility conferences, with 685 delegates and £45,000 surplus
  • Society for Reproduction & Fertility, Meetings Committee, 2000-2004
  • Acted on various BFS/SRF sub-committees, including scientific referee for abstracts, poster/presentation judge and assessment of applications for the Serono/BFS Studentships etc
  • British Fertility Society Committee, 1993-1996

Latest Publications

View My Publications

Prizes and Awards

Dist Sci award twitter.jpg


FRSB, 2010


Research Overview

Since the breakthrough epidemiological studies of the 1980s it has been clear that adult human health is dependent upon fetal development and fetal programming (‘early life programming’). Fetal growth restriction, for example, can lead to hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in the adult. This fetal programming is also termed "Developmental Origins of Health and Disease" (DOHaD) or "Fetal Origins of Adult Disease. Dysfunctional changes in the fetus can arise through a range of mechanisms, such as:

  • maternal cigarette smoking
  • maternal obesity
  • maternal deprivation
  • maternal nutrition
  • maternal environmental pollutant exposure (such as air pollution)
  • maternal medication use

We are studying these factors primarily in the human itself, by studying fetuses aborted for non-medical reasons. This is supported by the SAFeR Study (Scottish Advanced Fetal Research study). The health trajectory of an individual offspring is likely to depend upon a range of maternal and lifestyle factors, including the chemical burden carried at birth. Fetal pollutant exposure has clear adverse effects on development but we have very little knowledge about levels of fetal exposure to “real-life” complex pollutant cocktails and developmental consequences. This fundamental lack of knowledge is a major impasse to developing strategies for reducing fetal pollutant burdens and predicting likely health outcomes. Available data is limited, and often indirect (i.e. animal models or surrogates of exposure), but all studies suggest that fetal pollutant exposure affects lifelong health outcomes and, thereby, impacts on the general economy.

As well as laboratory-based studies of the human fetus my group has also become involved in epidemiological studies in the same field. Our intention with this move is to improve linkage between the individual fetus/mother (laboratory) and population-wide (epidemiology) analyses of maternal environment/lifestyle effects on the fetus and its future health.

Our aim is to understand how maternal factors disturb human fetal development, leading to offspring with greater risk of adverse health outcomes.

Our objective is to identify mechanisms linking these maternal factors with sub-optimal fetal development and lifelong health burdens.


Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Biological and Environmental Sciences, Biomedical Sciences.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Biomedical Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Reproductive Biology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Endocrinology

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

Current Team

  • Dr Laetitia Lecants (post-doc)
  • Dr Peng Liu (post-doc)
  • Ms Ausra Lionikiene(Research technician)
  • Mr Jimmy Marsden (PhD student)
  • Cosupervised PhD students: Katharina Kusse (Prof Val Speirs 1°) & Francesca Moramarco (Prof Peter McCaffery 1°)


  • Dr Pan Filis (post-doc)
  • Dr Natasha Walker (PhD in my lab funded Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity)
  • Dr Chiara Talia (PhD in my lab funded by EU MSCA-ITN PROTECTED)
  • Dr Aikaterini Zafeiri (EASTBIO PhD student)
  • Dr Claire Walker (Research technician)

Recent Visiting Scientists

  • Mr Ajay Yadav, 3 months secondment as part of PROTECTED MSCA-ITN, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  • Ms Laetitia Lecante (3 months visit, Universite de Rennes 1, Rennes, France, PhD student)
  • Mr Glen Gauderat (3 months on Royal Society grant: Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France, PhD student)
  • Ms Hanna Johansson (Technical University of Denmark, PhD student)

Current Project Highlight

FREIA is an EU-funded project that aims to improve identification of chemicals that affect women’s health via disruption of the hormone system. Our project is called FREIA – Female Reproductive toxicity of EDCs: a human evidence-based screening and Identification Approach, after the Nordic Goddess of fertility.The FREIA project has received €6.1 million funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 825100 (FREIA). FREIA focused on chemicals that can disturb the endocrine sysatem, these chemicals are called "Endocrine Disrupting Compounds" (EDCs).Hormones and the endocrine system are vital for pregnancy and fetal development, making this an especially vulnerable time.

Recent plenary and invited presentations

  • Maternal exposure to air pollution nanoparticles and adverse birth outcomes. CHE (Collaborative on Health and the Environment) Webinar 19 January 2023.
  • Laying the foundations for future life and reproduction. Distinguished Scientist (Anne McLaren) Award Lecture. Fertility 2023, Belfast, 10-13 January 2023.
  • Toxicants and maternal lifestyle disturb human fetal developmental programming. Society for Reproductive Investigation Annual Conference, Fetal Physiology Satellite meeting, Boston, July 2021.
  • Exposure to the complex mixture of environmental chemicals found in human biosolids. Virtual University of Michigan Symposium on Chemical Mixtures, 12 February 2021.
  • Maternal lifestyle, endocrine disruption and the developing fetus. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 19 February 2020, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Preparing for a healthy life – maternal lifestyle and fetal programming. Toxalim, 12 October 2018, Toulouse, France.
  • Effect of prenatal exposure to environmental toxins on female reproduction. Fertility 2018, 4-6 January 2018, Liverpool, UK.
  • Evidence for EDC involvement in reproductive dysfunction in women. Invited seminar at PhD Course in Reproductive Toxicology, Centre for Reproductive Biology in Uppsala (CRU) and Swedish Toxicological Sciences Research Centre (SWETOX), 12-16 June 2016, Uppsala, Sweden.
  • Real-world chemical mixtures disturb fetal endocrine systems and gonad development humans and animal models. Symposium: “Mixtures, medicines and diet, where now for endocrine disrupting compounds?” ECE2016: European Congress of Endocrinology, 28-31 May 2016, Munich, Germany.
  • Effects of in-utero exposure to toxicants on the fetal gonad and liver. Invited seminar, BIOSIT, combined University of Rennes, CNRS & INSERM unit, 9 November 2015, Rennes, France.
  • Sex, drugs, oestrogens and the human fetus. Invited public talk, Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society, 1 October 2015, Aberdeen, UK.
  • New insights into human fetal development: endogenous oestrogens, maternal smoking and gene methylation. 8th Copenhagen Workshop of Endocrine Disrupters, 27-30 April 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Environmental factors in sex differences and metabolism. ESE basic Endocrinology Course in reproductive Endocrinology, 18-20 February 2015, Edinburgh, UK.
  • The exposed proteome. Understanding biology and disease: the application of proteomics. University of Aberdeen Symposium, 9 December 2014, Aberdeen, UK. Regulation and dysregulation of primordial follicle formation and activation. 3rd World Congress of Reproductive Biology, 2-4 September 2014, Edinburgh, UK.
  • Environmental chemicals and fetal development. 2ieme Journee des Jeunes Chercheurs de L’IRSET, February 4th 2014, University of Rennes, France.
  • On women and sheep: making and breaking the fetal ovary. INRA, 13 December 2013, Jouy-en-Josas, France.
  • The evidence for EDC involvement in reproductive dysfunction in women. International Workshop: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Female Reproduction. 5-6 November 2013, Uppsala, Sweden.
  • Environment and endocrine disruptors in fetal reproductive development.  IfLS Conference: Reproductive Biology – from gametes to systems, and between generations. 17 September 2013, Southampton, UK.
  • Human fetal reproductive development and endocrinology: effects of maternal smoking. 7th Copenhagen Workshop of Endocrine Disrupters, 28-31 May 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Impact of endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) on female reproductive health. Fertility 2013, Liverpool, January 3-5 2013.
  • Effects of exposure to environmental chemicals during pregnancy on the development of the male and female reproductive access“. 17th International Congress on Animal Reproduction (ICAR 29012) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, July 29 – August 2, 2012.

Knowledge Exchange

Public Engagement

  1. Maternal exposure to air pollution nanoparticles and adverse birth outcomes. CHE (Collaborative on Health and the Environment) Webinar 19 January 2023.
  2. The Truth About Fetal Tissue Research”, Nature 528, 2015.
  3. Mother’s Smoking During Pregnancy Affects Baby’s DNA”, Scientific American, April 2016.
  4. “Science Unwrapped: Fertility”, /BBC Radio programme and Naked Scientists podcast “Is modern life affecting fertility?”  21st March 2017.
  5. Move over testosterone, another hormone is also vital for making boys – and it doesn’t come from the testes” The Conversation 14/02/2019
  6. PODCAST: Hormones: The Inside Story. Series 1: Episode 6 . Also see, Society for Endocrinology.
  7. Naked Scientists “Endocrine disruptors and fertility” BBC Radio interview & podcast, 26/02/2021

Press Releases


  • Grateful thanks to Dr Stewart Rhind (James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland) for the years of friendship and collaboration before his untimely death.

Funding and Grants

Career total = £24 million

major grants:

2007-10      Wellcome Trust (080388) Effect of in-utero exposure to environmental chemicals via maternal pasture ingestion on fetal development. £426k [PI: collaboration with Macaulay, Edinburgh, Glasgow & INRA]

2008-12      European Commission FP7 (212855) Reproductive effects of environmental chemicals in females (REEF). £2,646k. (PI: collaboration with Macaulay, Edinburgh, INRA, Nottingham, Martin-Luther, Milan]

2009-11      Chief Scientist Office (CZB/4/742) Bioincubator system to model toxic effects on the human fetal testis. £62k [PI]

2014-17      MRC (L010011/1) The human fetal liver: development and response to maternal drug use. £589k [PI: collaboration with Glasgow, Edinburgh]

2014-18      MRC DTP (K501335/1) Development of the human fetal adrenal gland and effects of maternal smoking. £63k [CoI: Bellingham, Glasgow is PI]

2016-19      Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity (YRSS/PHD/2016/05) Maternal smoking, drinking and deprivation: when and how of placental damage. £60k [PI: collaboration with Glasgow]

2017-21      European Commission H2020 MSCA-ITN (722634) PROTECTion against Endocrine Disruptors; detection, mixtures, health effects, risk assessment and communication (PROTECTED). £3,152k [CoI: Connolly Queen’s Belfast is PI]

2017-20      MRC (L011535/1) Sex-specific disease aetiology from developmental steroid insults: mechanistic understanding and biomarker development towards disease prevention. £637k [CoI: Rae, Edinburgh is PI]

2017-21      BBSRC EASTBIO DTP Mechanisms via which the human fetus is at risk from over-the-counter analgesics. £97k [PI: collaboration with Edinburgh]

2018-21      Arthritis Research UK (21800) Unlocking the joint morphogenetic code in mesenchymal stem cells from human synovium. £328k [CoI: De Bari is PI]

2019-24      European Commission H2020 (825100) Female Reproductive toxicity of Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs): a human evidence-based screening and Identification Approach (FREIA). £5,217k [CoI: van Duursen, VU Amsterdam, is PI]

2022-25     Cunningham Trust (PhD-CT-21-18) Discovery of retinoic acid receptor control of stress granules as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. £97k [CoI: Mccaffery, Aberdeen, is PI]

2022-25     BCUK  (2122029) Evaluating the effects of BPA on breast cancer development. £99k [CoI: Speirs, Aberdeen, is PI]

2022-25     MRC (MR/W015439/1) Towards a novel treatment targeting obesity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. £380k [CoI: Duncan, Edinburgh, is PI]

2022-29     European Commission, Horizon Europe (10045444) Partnership for the assessment of risks from chemicals (PARC). €400 million cofund [CoI: ANSES+199 other institutions/agencies]

2023-27    European Commission, Horizon Europe (101094099Inflammation in human early life: targeting impacts on life-course health (INITIALISE). £6,209k [CoI: Oresic, University of Turku is PI]



Teaching Responsibilities

Honours and MSc students undertake research projects in my lab.

Non-course Teaching Responsibilities

I usually have 9 tutees at any one time.


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Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Conferences

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