Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences

Staff Profile

Professor T. Martin Embley

Professor of Evolutionary Molecular Biology


Martin Embley is Professor of Evolutionary Molecular Biology in the Institute for Cell & Molecular Biosciences at the Medical School, Newcastle University

Areas of expertise

  • The investigation of early eukaryotic evolution using genomics, cell and molecular biology
  • Computational evolution, particularly the use of phylogenetics to explore gene and genomic origins
  • Parasites and their minimal mitochondria (mitosomes and hydrogenosomes) as models for understanding the essential functions of mitochondria for all eukaryotes

Awards and roles

  • Elected to the European Academy for Microbiology (2016)
  • Vice Chancellor’s Award for Academic Distinction (2016)
  • Member of Editorial Board, Genome Biology and Evolution (2011 - to date)
  • Vice Chair, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships, Environment Panel (2011 - to date)
  • Elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2011)
  • ERC Advanced Investigator Award (2011-2017)
  • Elected Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (2010)
  • Elected Fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology (2008)
  • Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2006-2011)
  • Scientific Associate, Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum (2004 to date)
  • Associate Editor, Molecular Biology and Evolution (2002-2011)
  • Member of Editorial Board, Environmental Microbiology (2000-2006)
  • Member of the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research, Evolutionary Biology (1996-2007)
  • Visiting Professor to the Universities of Aberdeen, Essex, Kings College, Liverpool and Newcastle (1996-2004)
  • Senior Principal Scientific Officer IMP (Individual Merit Promotion), the Natural History Museum (2001-2004)
  • Principal Scientific Officer, Dept. Zoology, the Natural History Museum (1992-2001)
  • Senior Scientific Officer, Dept. Zoology, the Natural History Museum, London (1991-1992)
  • Principal Lecturer in Microbiology, University of East London (1988-1991)
  • Lecturer in Microbiology, University of East London (1983-1988)
  • PhD in Microbiology, Newcastle University (1979-1983)

Google scholar: Click here.


Research Interests

Our group is interested in the early evolution of eukaryotic cells, their genomes and their organelles related to mitochondria (hydrogenosomes and mitosomes).  We have focused on anaerobic and parasitic eukaryotes including Giardia, Trichomonas, Entamoeba and Microsporidia.  Our work has the following broad themes:


We are using whole genome data to investigate the contrasting roles of vertical and horizontal inheritance, including genes of endosymbiotic origins, in shaping eukaryotic genomes.


We are developing better methods, based upon likelihood and Bayesian approaches, for phylogenetic analysis of molecular data.  Our aim is to improve the reconstruction of phylogenetic trees relevant to understanding the early evolution of eukaryotes.

Cell Biology

We are investigating the functions of organelles (hydrogenosomes, mitosomes) related to mitochondria.  Our investigations are aimed at identifying the core essential functions for eukaryotes of these organelles. 

Two reviews that give an overview of our interests (see publications for a more comprehensive list of our work)

Williams, TA, Foster, PG, Cox, CJ and Embley, TM. (2013).  An archaeal origin of eukaryotes supports only two primary domains of life.  Nature 504: 231-236.

Embley, TM and Martin W. (2006). Eukaryotic evolution, changes and challenges.  Nature 440: 623-630.


Undergraduate Teaching

I teach undergraduate modules on genomics and evolution.  I also lecture on DNA methods to archaeologists and on evolution and phylogenetics to computer scientists.

International workshops

We have run an EMBO-funded workshop on Computational Molecular Evolution since 1998. The teaching material including all of the slides and practicals for the 2017 EMBO course can be downloaded without restrictions using the link below (copy it into your browser it will not work from here).  Our next EMBO course is scheduled for September 2018 at the Univerisity of the Algarve, Faro, Portugal.

EMBO 2017 Workshop on Computational Molecular Evolution, Teaching Materials: