Professor Andrew J. Millar

Chair of Systems Biology; Business Owner of University Research Data Service

  • SynthSys
  • Insitute for Quantiative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology (IQB3)
  • Scottish Government

Contact details

Address

Street

Room 2.07
C. H. Waddington Building
Kings Buildings
Max Born Crescent

City
Edinburgh
Post code
EH9 3BF

Availability

  • For 2019: University business most Thursdays, and either Monday or Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday and either Friday or Monday seconded to Scottish Government.

Background

1985-1988 University of Cambridge, BA Hons (I) in Genetics
1988-1994 The Rockefeller University, New York, Ph.D.
1994-1995 University of Virginia, NSF Centre for Biological Timing, LSRF post-doc Fellowship.
1996-2004 University of Warwick, Dept. of Biological Sciences, lecturer, reader, professor.
2002-2007 BBSRC Research Development Fellow
2003-2004 Programme Manager of the Interdisciplinary Programme for Cellular Regulation, with Dr. Nigel Burroughs (Maths).
2004-present University of Edinburgh, School of Biological Sciences - Professor of Systems Biology.
2007-2011 Director, Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh (CSBE)
2012-present Associate Director, SynthSys
2011-2013 Elected to EMBO Membership, Fellowship of the Royal Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh.
2016-2018 Non-Executive Director, James Hutton Institute.

 

Responsibilities & affiliations

2016 - Vice-Chair of FAIRDOM e.V.

2017-2020 Member of BBSRC Exploiting New Ways of Working Strategy Advisory Panel

2018-2021 Member of BBSRC Council

2018-2021 Chief Scientific Advisor on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, for Scottish Government

Undergraduate teaching

  • Quantitative Skills for Biologists in the first year
  • Plant Physiology and on Time, Light and Stress in final year Bachelor's course

Postgraduate teaching

  • Systems and Synthetic Biology Masters course
  • (some years) Ecological Economics M.Sc. guest lecture

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?

Yes

Areas of interest for supervision

I am very happy to hear from students interested in Open Research or research data management, particularly in biological clocks, plant science or systems biology. I am no longer offering to supervise experimental or modelling projects.

Research summary

Please see below for a summary of my first 30 years of research using experiments and mathematical modelling in systems biology.

We now work in three areas.

We advocate and support Open Research methods, especially in biology: see our Research Data Management wiki. This work builds on our decades of linking specialised data analysis software for circadian biology with data management, and with mathematical modelling in systems biology and plant science, linking up to crop science and ecology. The BioDare2 (and older BioDare) integrate rhythmic timeseries analysis with a data-sharing repository, the PlaSMo model repository disseminates curated crop science, ecology and systems biology models. In this area, we work with EPCC, Edinburgh's advanced computing centre, the University's Information Services group, and several external groups: the FAIRDOM e.V. association and FAIRDOMHub repository, ETHZ IT, and OMERO.

Our experience in managing interdisciplinary research led us to two, related areas, science policy and research community organisation. The first area overlaps with Research on Research and the Science of Network Science. Here, we work with colleagues in the University's Business School and in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, including the Innogen Institute. The interest in community organisation arose from Andrew's involvement in the UK organisation for Arabidopsis researchers, GARNet, from about 2000. The challenge of providing global Food Security in the coming decades sparked Andrew's interest in economics and monetary reform, particularly how the macroeconomic environment affects research systems.

Current research interests

Science policy, in a Scottish, UK and international context; related to my work as Chief Scientific Adviser. Research community organisation and the social infrastructure of science. My group seeks to understand and implement the practical aspects of mission-oriented research management. Open Research, particularly research data management and e-infrastructure (data storage, computing power) that increases research productivity and also promotes FAIR and Open practices. My group creates, integrates and manages online systems for this area. We often collaborate.

Past research interests

The first half of my career linked plant science, systems biology and chronobiology. We aimed to understand how the 24-hour biological clock in plants is constructed and adjusted, why it (and other clocks) evolved in the way that we now find it, and how it affects plant life from the cell to the ecosystem. Most of our research focused on /Arabidopsis thaliana/, which is a small plant with a big following. For an even simpler version of the plant clock mechanism, we studied the smallest free-living eukaryote of all, the tiny alga /Ostreococcus tauri/ (summarised in Noordally & Millar, Biochemistry, 2015). Molecular genetics and transgenic plants revealed rhythms that are usually invisible: for example, my Ph.D. work starting in 1988 applied a reporter gene called luciferase send us "video footage", showing when clock genes were active. This work required new methods in timeseries data analysis; we provided the BRASS interface and then the online BioDare/BioDare2 resources to make these user-friendly. From about 2000, mathematical modelling helped us to understand dynamic, quantitative regulation, to abstract the principles behind the molecular detail, and to cross length and time scales from the cell to the whole organism. The modelling led to new mathematical theory and resources such as the Systems Biology Software Infrastructure (SBSI), which made high-performance computers easily accessible for SBML model optimisation. The modelling was particularly important in the BBSRC Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh, and in the BBSRC ROBuST and EU FP7 TiMet projects. TiMet aimed to understand the links from the clock to plant metabolism. As a result, we developed the first models that linked the clock genotype of a plant, quantitatively, to all the canonical, whole-plant phenotypes of clock mutants. We then connected the clock model down to genome sequence (unpublished as of 2018), and up to the whole plant life-cycle in a particular environment. This past work is summarised in Millar, Annual Review Plant Biology 2016 and Millar et al., J. Exp. Bot, 2019. In parallel, we re-discovered a completely different clock mechanism that operates without rhythmic gene activity, and might be shared among all organisms (outlined in the 'nutshell' video and in Van Ooijen et al., Trends Biochem. Sci. 2012). Measuring dynamic biochemistry was also a key challenge for our gene circuit models. In both areas, we applied biophysical methods extensively with our colleagues in SynthSys, including label-free (phospho)proteomics. For more research details, please see the lab web page http://www.amillar.org, which includes older material on our past work.

Knowledge exchange

We research university attitudes to and understanding of knowledge exchange, and practical indicators that reflect interdisciplinarity and cross-sectoral reserach activity.

Affiliated research centres

Research activities

Project activity

My projects and funding are listed in the Elsevier PURE system contracted by the University of Edinburgh, which is public on the Edinburgh Research Explorer website, www.research.ed.ac.uk. You can see my current list of funding awards (what PURE / University of Edinburgh calls "projects") on this link:

https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/andrew-millar(86879389-dd37-4d9d-886e-f549ed23f6ba)/projects.html

For a different view of research projects, please see Freeman and Millar (2017) "Valuing the Project" in Public Money & Management.

Current project grants

Please use the link above

Past project grants

Please use the link above

Conference details

Recent conferences are listed in the Activities feed at the end of the Projects section above: please open that section.

This is the most up to date list, drawn automatically from the Elsevier PURE system contracted by the University of Edinburgh.

This is a placeholder to be updated

Major resources:

https://www.biodare2.ed.ac.uk for analysis and visualisation of circadian rhythm data

This is a placeholder to be updated

Major resources are included in the automated data feed from PURE under the Publications section, please click on 'All Publications' at the foot of that page.