Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Dr Thomas Howard

Reader in Synthetic & Molecular Biology



Dr Howard's research group are interested in engineering biology and biology-inspired systems. His group predominantly use cell-free and microbial systems in the laboratory. In addition to core competencies in molecular biology and biochemisty his group employ small-scale laboratory automation (robots), statistical Design of Experiments and mathematical modelling to facilitate their work.

Dr Howard is a keen advocate of research-led teaching, implementing these approaches for both undergraduates and pre-University students. He has successfully supervised Nuffield student scholars and in 2012 Dr Howard led the inaugural University of Exeter entry into the iGEM competition. He has been involved with iGEM at Exeter and Newcastle.


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • PhD: Plant Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (University of Sheffield)
  • BSc (Hons) in Botany and Zoology (University of Reading)

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • BBSRC Pool of Experts (2023 - present)
  • External Examiner for University of Nottingham BSc and MSc degrees in Biotechnology and Plant Sciences (2023 - present)
  • Group Lead (2019 - 2023) and Director of Expertise (2022 - 2023) for the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Research Group
  • Deputy Degree Programme Director (2020 - present): MRes in Biotechnology and Biodesign
  • BBSRC STARS Programme: Using virtual experimentation for better experimental design in biological and biotechnological research, Lead-Organiser (2016 - 2019)
  • Learning and Teaching Working Group: Links with Industry, 2017
  • UK Plant Sciences Federation Translation Working Group Implementation Plan, 2014 
  • Society for Experimental Biology AGM, ‘Synthetic Biology’ Session Co-Organiser, 30 June - 3 July 2015, Clarion Congress Hotel, Prague.
  • Society for Experimental Biology, ‘Synthetic Biology’ Co-Organiser, 8 - 10 January 2014, Charles Darwin House, London.


Dr Howard was part of the team that was awarded a University of Exeter Impact Award for Outstanding Impact in Technology, and was shortlisted for the BBSRC Innovator of the Year: Most Promising Innovation award in 2014 for work developing petroleum-replica hydrocarbons.


Current PhD students

  • Katherine Convey (BBSRC DTP, 2023 - 2027)
  • Catherine Harrison (IAFRI, 2019 - 2023)
  • Ariadna Vidal I Herrera (EPSRC RENU CDT, 2023 - 2027)
  • Alisa Prusokiene (BBSRC DTP, 2018 - 2022)
  • Eva Cea Torrescassana (BBSRC DTP, 2020 - 2024)

Former Research Staff

  • Dr Christopher Azubuike (BBSRC)
  • Dr Alice Banks (EPSRC-dstl)
  • Dr Adokiye Berepiki (BBSRC)
  • Dr Charlotte Cook (dstl, University of Exeter)
  • Dr Siji Kavil (BBSRC)
  • Dr Alex Laverick (BBSRC)
  • Dr Colette Whitfield (EPSRC-dstl)

Former PhD Students

  • Dr Christopher Azubuike (Commonwealth Scholarship Commission)
  • Dr Steve Brown (Shell, University of Exeter, with Steve Aves)
  • Dr Alex Laverick (IAFRI)
  • Dr Josh Loh (BBSRC)
  • Dr Jamie Gilman (Shell, University of Exeter, with John Love)

Academic Collaborations (External Only)

  • Dr Rajesh Bommareddy (Northumbria University, Applied Sciences)
  • Professor Anastasia Callaghan (University of Portsmouth, Biological Sciences)
  • Dr Ángel Goñi Moreno (Centro de Biotecnología y Genómica de Plantas, Madrid)
  • Professor Jonathan Fieldsend (University of Exeter, Computer Sciences)
  • Professor Marc Knight (University of Durham, Biosciences)
  • Professor Luning Liu (University of Liverpool, Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology)
  • Professor John Love (University of Exeter, Biosciences)
  • Maria del Carmen Montero-Calasanz (IFAPA Las Torres, Junta de Andalucía)
  • Dr Jose Munoz (Northumbria University, Applied Sciences)
  • Professor Susan Seal (University of Greenwich, Natural Resources Institute)
  • Dr Gonçalo Silva (University of Greenwich, Natural Resources Institute)

Further information:

Google Scholar Profile

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5546-4043

Gateway to Research (UKRI funded projects only).


Modules (2023/2024)

  • Biotechnology: Advanced Topics (NES8305): Module Lead
  • Biotechnology: Principles and Practice (NES2306)
  • Biological Sciences Research Dissertation Projects (NES3505)
  • MSc in Industrial and Commercial Biotechnology, Research Dissertation Projects (NES8002)
  • MRes in Biotechnology and Biodesign, Research Dissertation Projects (NES8398)