Professor Karen Scott

Professor Karen Scott
Professor Karen Scott
Professor Karen Scott

Personal Chair

Email Address
Office Address

Microbial Ecology Group
Rowett Institute
University of Aberdeen
Foresterhill Campus
Scotland, UK

AB25 2ZD


School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


I gained my BSc (Hons 2:i) in Biochemistry from the University of Aberdeen before continuing to my PhD (Molecular Biology of plant viruses) at what was then the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Invergowrie, Dundee. After my PhD I returned to Aberdeen to the Rowett Institute and have been been an active researcher here ever since.

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

I am Rowett Institute Theme lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity, and co-lead of the Rowett Athena Swan, Equality and Diversity Team.

I am co-director of the University of Aberdeen Centre for Bacteria in Health and Disease.

I am the Institute Biological Safety Advisor.

I am the primary supervisor for 3 PhD students and the co-supervisor for a further  2 PhD students.

External Memberships
  • I am one of the Board of Directors of ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics), the foremost organisation in the world promoting the science behind probiotics and prebiotics ( Served as President from 2016-2019.
  • Chair of organising committee for the biennial International Gut Microbiology symposium [Rowett/INRAE conference] 2016- present

  • Current Chair of Global Grants for Gut Health Award Panel; committee member since 2018
  • Previously Member of the organising committee for the Wellcome Trust Gut Microbiome annual conference (2014-2018); International Human Microbiome Conference (2020-2022)
  • Member of ILSI Prebiotic Expert Groups on "short chain fatty acids" and "gut microbiota and nutrients" 2016-2019
  • Editor of Microbiology journal (2016 - 2018)
  • External PhD student examiner (1 - 2 students per year) for various universities within UK or Europe.
  • Regularly invited to review grant proposals submitted to International award bodies, and scientific manuscripts

Prizes and Awards

Clarivate Highly cited researcher 2022, 2022, 2023.

Member of the world-renowned Rowett Gut Microbiology Group who were runners up in the International Global Grants for Gut Health Nature Awards Research Group Prize 2023 - read more HERE,


Research Overview

Investigations into the development and evolution of the gut microbiota

The human large intestine is home to the largest and most diverse group of bacteria in the human body. These bacteria play an important role in maintaining human health, fermenting plant fibres and other non-digestible carbohydrates, and releasing compounds that have direct or indirect benefits to human health. Understanding the impact of specific dietary components on gut bacteria will help us to formulate health advice for the general population.

Key Research Interests are:

  • the molecular mechanisms by which specific bacteria utilise different dietary components including prebiotics and fibre
  • the importance of diet in modulating both the composition and activity of the microbiota
  • understanding the sequential colonisation and longitudinal development of the microbiota through life
  • investigating the health benefits that can be derived from increased consumption of oats and barley. The impact of these dietary components are assessed in vitro using bacterial mono- and co-culture, aswell as using mixed batch culture and fermentor systems.  Human studies have also been done to ascertain the effects in vivo.
  • the role of the gut microbiota in the carriage, evolution and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance genes

  • co-localisation of antimicrobial and other resistance genes on transmissible conjugative transposons. These resistance genes are also useful genetic markers to investigate gene function in key gut anaerobes, and to perfrom genetic manipulation experiments.
  • identifying new commensal bacteria suitable for development as next generation probiotics

Research Areas

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Biomedical Sciences

Nutrition and Health

Research Specialisms

  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Microbiology
  • 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.

Current Research

1. Assessing the prevalence and evolution of antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria resident in the gut, and entering from the food chain

2. Effect of different cereals as dietary components on the gut microbiota.

3. Manipulation of anaerobic gut bacteria

4. investigating possible members of the gut microbiota as potential probiotics



Through the RESAS work I collaborate with scientists at JHI (Kelly Houston, Nicola Holden), the Moredun (Eleanor Watson), SRUC (Nicola Holden, Judith Evans) and UHI (Peter Martin).

I also collaborate on various projects with other scientists from different Universities (UK and EU) who have mutual interests in the activity of the gut microbiota, or in the prevalence and spread of antibiotic resistance genes.


PhD student supervision:

2010 – 2014 Joint studentship with University College Cork, Genetic Manipulation of anaerobic gut bacteria

2011-2015 RESAS cereal SP, Realizing the potential of cereal products to benefit human health

2011 – 2015 GTbiologics/Sulsa, The role of the gut microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease

2017 – 2020 Elphinstone award, Spread of antibiotic resistance through the food chain

2017 – 2021 A Vogel, Prebiotic treatment to alleviate IBS

2017 – 2021 Jordanian govt, Impact of antibiotic treatment on the evolution of mosaic genes

2018 – 2021 Kuwait govt, Health impacts of B-glucan

2020 – 2023 EastBio PhD student, Impact of bile salt hydrolase activities of specific gut bacteria on energy balance

2021-2025 Eastbio PhD student, Carriage of antimicrobial resistance genes by Campylobacter isolates from wildlife

Funding and Grants

  • Scottish Government funded HEI Partnership grant - A systems wide approach to the control of Campyobacter in the food chain (focussing on the presence of antibiotic resistance genes)
  • Scottish Government theme funding for RI
  • Commercial funding from Vogel to investigate the effect of a specific prebiotic on gut health
  • Commercial funding to perform anaerobic bacterial isolations
  • Several foreign government funded PhD studentships
  • Tenovus and NHS Endowment trust funding for various collaborative projects

Teaching Responsibilities

I am responsible for teaching various units on the composition and function of the gut microbiota to MSc students and undergraduate 2nd year Medical students. I am also involved in supporting the general science and microbiology undergraduate teaching in the University, contributing to both lecturing and practical course teaching. I also contribute a section on Gut Microbiology to the successful Nutrition and Wellbeing MOOC, accessible learning for anyone interested.


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Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals

Working Papers