Professor Ian Stansfield

Professor Ian Stansfield
Professor Ian Stansfield
Professor Ian Stansfield

BSc (Hons), PhD

Personal Chair, School Director of Research

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 437318
Office Address

Office 4:23, IMS building

Lab. 4:59, IMS

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


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 Director of Research in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, a role in which he has responsibility for research strategy, developing the School's research profile, its translational medicine interactions with the NHS, and its knowledge exchange activities.


  • BSc (Hons) Microbiology 
    1986 - University of Sheffield 
  • PhD Biochemistry 
    1990 - University of Sheffield 

External Memberships

Ian Stansfield represented 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  Director of Research in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen.


Research Overview

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 Prof 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.


Research Areas

Biomedical Sciences

Research Specialisms

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Mathematical Modelling
  • Bioinformatics

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.


Prof M.Carmen Romano, School of Natural and Computing Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Prof Cathy Abott, University of Edinburgh

Funding and Grants

Wellcome Trust ISSF: Aug 2017-Feb 2018) Controlling cellular energy flux; tRNA biosynthesis as a key determinant of lipogenesis

BBSRC (£681k) Aug 2016-Jul 2019.   Bilateral BBSRC NSF/BIO - Synthetic gene circuits to measure and mitigate translational stress during heterologous protein expression (joint award with Dr M. Romano [UoA], Prof Phil Farabaugh (U. of Maryland, US) and Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Ltd) (BB/N017161/1)

Industrial Biotechnology Integrative Centre (IBioIC; £112 k) Feb 2015-Nov 2015. Optimising biotechnological protein expression through predictive management of the translation system. (joint award with Dr M. Romano [UoA] and Ingenza Ltd, Edinburgh)( IBioIC Exemplar 2014-2-3).

Technology Strategy Board (£170 k)  Apr 2013-Sep 2014.  Predictive optimisation of biocatalyst production for high-value chemical manufacturing (joint award with Dr M. Romano [UoA] and Ingenza Ltd, Edinburgh)( TSB: 101439).

Wellcome Trust-BBSRC iGEM team funding (£6k). Jul 2014-Nov 2014. An E. coli system for the diagnosis of Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT)

BBSRC (£300 k) Mar 2012-Feb 2015 A systems analysis of the translational release factor as a coordinator of termination, mRNA stability and ribosome recycling. (joint award with Dr J. Krishnan, Imperial College London) (BB/I020926/1).

BBSRC (£223 k) Oct 2010- Sep 2013. Masters Training Grant for an MSc in Cell and Molecular Systems Biology

Wellcome Trust (£10 k) Jan 2010-Sep 2010 Funding for University of Aberdeen iGEM project 2010. (joint with Prof AJP Brown, Dr M. Romano)

SULSA (£7,000) Jan 2010-Sep 2010  Funding for University of Aberdeen iGEM project 2010. (joint with Dr M. Romano)

BBSRC (£679 k) Apr 2009 – Mar 2012 Ribosome traffic flow on the mRNA as a regulator of cellular protein production: an integrated modelling and experimental analysis  (joint award with Dr M. Romano, Dr M. Thiel, and Prof C. Grebogi, all UoA) (BB/G010722/1). 

BBSRC (£285 k) Oct 2008 – Jun 2011 Post-transcriptional feedback control of polyamine metabolism in yeast: an integrated modelling and experimental investigation  (joint award with Dr D. Bates [U. of Exeter] and Dr Heather Wallace [UoA])


Teaching Responsibilities

Postgraduate teaching

BT5014 Biotechnology (5 lectures, 1 practical, 1 workshop):  Course coordinator

BT5510 Advanced Biotechnology (10 lectures, 1 practical, 1 workshop): Course coordinator

MB5517 Genome Enabled Medicine (3 lectures, 1 workshop)

Undergraduate teaching

BI25M5 Microbes, Infection and Immunity (3 lectures)

MB3006 Molecular Biology of the Cell (5 lectures, 1 practical and 3 workshops)

MB4050 Advanced Molecular Biology (1 workshop)


Non-course Teaching Responsibilities

Programme coordinator for MSc in Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Biobusiness

Programme coordinator of undergraduate MSci and BSc Honours degrees in Microbiology and Biotechnology

Former leadership of the University's International Genetically Engineered Machines competition teams

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.


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