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Department of Plant Sciences


Research group


Research overview

My research focuses on gene regulation during development and in response to the environment. We use advanced technology and computing to analyse complex gene networks. My current focus is epigenetics, the science of how nurture influences nature and how environmental effects can be transmitted from one generation to the next.

School of Biological Sciences theme affiliations


Previous positions

2007-present Regius Professor of Botany (Emeritus post 2019), University of Cambridge
2007-present Royal Society Edward Penley Abraham Research Professor, University of Cambridge
2009-2017 Head of the Department, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
2002-2007 Professor, University of East Anglia
1999-2003 Head of Laboratory, Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK
1990-1993 Head of Laboratory, Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK
1988-2007 Senior Research Scientist, Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK
1980-1988 Higher and Principal Scientific Officer, Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge, UK
1978-1980 Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Georgia, Athens, Greece
1977-1978 Post-doctoral Fellow, McGill University, Montreal, Canada


1973-1977 PhD in Botany, University of Edinburgh
1970-1973 BSc Botany, University of Leeds

Key publications


All publications


Major awards and honours

  • Gruber Genetics Prize, Gruber Foundation USA, 2014
  • Balzan Prize for Epigenetics, Balzan Foundation, Rome, 2012
  • Wolf Prize for Agriculture, Wolf Foundation Israel, 2010
  • Knight Bachelor, Queens Birthday Honours List, 2009
  • Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, Lasker Foundation, 2008
  • Royal Medal, The Royal Society, 2006
  • Foreign Associate Member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, elected 2005
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, elected 2001


  • Sir Hans Krebs Medal and Lecture, Federation of European Biochemical Societies, 2021
  • Mendel Medal, Genetics Society, 2017
  • Prize Medal Lecture, Society for General Microbiology, 2015
  • The McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies, Maize Genetics Executive Committee, 2014
  • Harvey Prize in Science and Technology, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, 2009
  • Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, 2008
  • Special Achievement Award, Miami Winter Symposium, 2008
  • Massry Prize, Massry Foundation, University of Southern California, 2005
  • M.W. Beijerinck Virology Prize, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2004
  • Wiley Prize in Biomedical Science, Wiley Foundation, Rockefeller University, 2003
  • Ruth Allen Award, American Phytopathology Society, 2002
  • Kumho Science International Award in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Kumho Cultural Foundation, Korea, 2002
  • Prix des Cerealiers de France for work on hormonally regulated genes of cereals, 1990

Elected Fellowships

  • Lifetime Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 2020
  • Honorary Fellow, Cambridge Philosophical Society, 2020
  • Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, elected 2015
  • Corresponding Member, Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences Barcelona, 2013
  • Foreign Fellow, National Academy of Science, India, elected 2011
  • Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, elected 2010
  • Fellow, Trinity College Cambridge, elected 2009-2019 then Emeritus
  • International Member, National Academy of Sciences (USA) elected 2005
  • Academia Europaea, Member, elected 2002
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, elected 2001
  • Honorary Professor, University of East Anglia, 1998-2002
  • European Molecular Biology Organisation, Member, elected 1997

Professional Memberships

Society for Experimental Biology
Society for General Microbiology
Biochemical Society
Genetics Society

Academic Societies

President Biochemical Society, 2015-2017
President International Society for Plant Molecular Biology, 2003-2006

Honorary Degrees

DSc (Hon) University of Leeds, 2015
Honorary Doctorate University of Helsinki, 2014
DSc (Hon) Edinburgh, 2014
DL (Hon) Dundee, 2014
DSc (Hon) University of East Anglia, 2011
DSc (Hon) University of Birmingham, 2011
Honorary Doctorate Wageningen Agricultural University, 2008

Committees and Boards

Royal Society Council, 2021-2024
EMBO Council Member, 2021-present
Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, 2018-present
Trustee, Isaac Newton Trust, 2016-present
Trustee Board Member, Rothamsted Research, 2012-2021
Trustee, Lawes Agricultural, 2009-present
Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell, Science Advisory Board, 2015-2018
Chair, Management Board, Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge, 2010-2016
Member, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, 2009-2016

Press and interviews


Public engagement

Outside the laboratory I promote the use of plant biotechnology for crop improvement. I raised funds to endow a Professor of Crop Science and to support the creation of the Crop Science Centre. I’m particularly interested in addressing problems in developing countries and in reducing the environmental impact of crops everywhere. A particular challenge is to ensure equitable use of new technology as part of a holistic assessment of agriculture and food production systems.

Download CV

Head of Gene Expression Group
Royal Society Research Professor
Professsor Sir David Baulcombe

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
01223 339386