Our new Blizard Institute director
Professor Mary Collins is an immunologist, virologist and a self-confessed ‘lab rat’ with a history of leading pioneering multidisciplinary research and a passion for scientific outreach. In her new role as the Blizard Institute Director, she hopes to build on our success by utilising our unique links with the East end community, expanding our outreach activities, and developing new national and international partnerships.
Professor Collins is joining us from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), a graduate university located in Onna-son, Okinawa, Japan. She joined the organisation in 2016 as the Dean of Research, then assumed responsibilities of Provost two years later in 2018. During her tenure she oversaw an expansion of a broad research portfolio with numerous multidisciplinary themes including fields such as marine and environment science, quantum computing and cyber security. She participated in the local outreach programme to Okinawans to help them understand the role of the newly established university in improving their health and economic outcomes. In 2020 she led university’s Covid-19 response after the start of the pandemic setting up a clinically-accredited PCR test for Okinawa.
Before her move to Japan, Professor Collins worked at University College London (UCL) as the Head of Division for Infection and Immunity between 2003-09 and Dean for the Faculty of Life Sciences between 2009-14. In this capacity she was successful in establishing a number of prominent research groups, attracting and mentoring a cadre of notable young researchers, and led on UCL’s School of Life and Medical Sciences REF2013 submission. She also directed the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Molecular Virology at UCL, a national hub for research and training in viral epidemiology, genetics and engineering.
She is a passionate advocate for developing young researchers and throughout her professional career she set up and championed numerous training and mentoring schemes for PhD students and young Principal Investigators. She has also supervised 27 PhD candidates many of whom went on to run clinical and research programmes.
In line with Queen Mary values, Professor Collins strives to address gender inequality in academia and played a key role in setting up the Rita R Colwell Fund for the Advancement of Women in Science at OIST.
Ambitious plans for the Blizard Institute
My aim will be to contribute to the virtuous circle of local outreach, local student recruitment, and world leading research, culminating in improved health for the local population.— Professor Mary Collins, Director of Blizard Institute
Our new Director has ambitious goals for the Blizard Institute to further its reputation as a leading research institution by utilising its unique connection to the East end community. When asked about her plans Professor Collins said:
“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the Blizard Institute at Queen Mary, I know that the Blizard Institute can go from strength to further strength in the coming years. The iconic building, the very well organised lab space and core facilities, and the outreach projects Centre of the Cell and Neuron Pod make it a beacon of science in Whitechapel. My aim will be to contribute to the virtuous circle of local outreach, local student recruitment, and world leading research, culminating in improved health for the local population. On a personal note, I live on the Elizabeth Line, so expect to see me bright and early every day”
She believes that Whitechapel offers several unique opportunities for clinical research in areas such as diabetes, metabolism, paediatrics and rare diseases many of which can take form of truly collaborative and multidisciplinary work. Professor Collins sees raising the national and international profile of Blizard as a key element of her new role and plans to dedicate much of her efforts to developing new national and international partnerships.
Professor Jo Martin, Deputy Vice-Principal (Health) said about the appointment: “We are delighted to have Mary join us. She brings an unparalleled wealth of experience and expertise heading world-leading research institutions, multidisciplinary research and outreach activities.”
Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London, said: “We are delighted that Mary will be joining us a Director of the Blizard Institute. She is an accomplished researcher and academic leader, and I look forward to seeing how she will build on our research impact and help us to deliver Strategy 2030.”