Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Professor Ian Head

Dean of Research & Innovation



Microorganisms play a central role in driving the biogeochemical processes that sustain the planet. My research seeks to unravel the microbial controls on biogeochemical process in natural and engineered environments.

Our research has been central in revealing the mechanisms responsible for the development of the world's immense heavy oil deposits - dramatic evidence of the power of the very small to influence globally significant Earth processes. We have also made important contributions to understanding key elements in the microbial ecology of the carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles in natural and engineered environments.

Roles and Responsibilities

Member of Faculty Research Committee
Member of Faculty Ethics Committee


1982-1986       University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

B.Sc. Honours degree in Applied Microbiology.

First Class Honours.

1986-1989       University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Ph.D. Plasmid-encoded catabolism of the insecticide carbofuran




Elected Member of the European Academy of  Microbiology

American Society for Microbiology

Society for Applied Microbiology

Society for General Microbiology

The Genetical Society

European Association of Geochemistry

 Member of the Deep Carbon Observatory Scientific Steering Committee (Deep Life)

International Society for Microbial Ecology, Young Investigator Award, 2004

Member of the KNAW Ecogenomics Scientific Advisory Board

Mermber of the KNAW BE-BASIC Scientific Advisory Board

Member of the Natural Environment Research Council, Peer Review College 2004-2008

Member of the Steering Committee, Natural Environment Research Council, Marine and Freshwater Microbial Biodiversity thematic programme 2001-2004

Member of the Society for General Microbiology, Prokaryote Division Committee 

Honours and Awards

International Society for Microbial Ecology, Young Investigator Award, 2004.


Research Interests

Research Interests:
Microbial ecology and environmental microbiology.
Molecular Microbial Ecology
Microbial ecology of engineered biological systems
Biodegradation of hydrocarbons.
Microbiology of biogeochemical cycles.

Esteem Indicators

Elected Member of the European Academy of  Microbiology
UK ISME Ambassador
Senior Editor The ISME Journal  January 2010 -
Member of Editorial Board The ISME Journal  September 2006 – December 2010
Member of Editorial Board Environmental Microbiology  June 2006 -
Member of Editorial Board Applied and Environmental Microbiology January 2000-2006
Member of Editorial Board Biodegradation June 2003 –
Member of Editorial Board Microbial Ecology June 2003 –
Associate Editor Microbiology  January 1998 - December 2002.
Invited contributing member of  Faculty of 1000 (http://www.facultyof1000.com/) to March 2011. 



UK Research Councils
£ 2.5 M grant income since 1993 from NERC, BBSRC & EPSRC


£ 1.5 M in grants from industrial collaboration including contributions to CASE studentships


Postgraduate Teaching

CEG8604; Introduction to Microbiology, Microbial Physiology and Biogeochemistry
CEG8609; Microbial Transformations of Organic Pollutants