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Our Heritage

Formed in 2007, the Biophysical Sciences Institute is a community of over 150 academics and researchers united by an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the fundamental systems of life. Our collegiate and enthusiastic interdisciplinary community is drawn from across 7 departments and multiple disciplines.

Our Research

The Origins of the Biophysical Sciences Institute

The Biophysical Sciences institute was formed by Professors Judith Howard CBE FRS (Durham University Chemistry), Martyn Chamberlain FInstP (Durham Physics) and Roy Quinlan (Durham Biosciences) with support from the Wolfson Trust. The Wolfson investment of £1.5 Million was used to establish the BSI and to convert laboratories on the top floor of the Department of Chemistry into biosciences laboratories. This location built on the enthusiastic Bioactive Chemistry research group in the Department of Chemistry and gave Durham both a physical space for interdisciplinary biosciences research and a network to connect researchers working in this area. Since they were officially opened in 2009 the Wolfson Laboratories have provided a physical focus to the wider BSI community across the University. They have become an exemplar for interdisciplinary research have stimulated further interdisciplinary biophysical research across the Faculty of Science.

  • 14 Biosciences group leaders embedded in Chemistry (total since 2008)
  • £27 M funding since 2008 for these embedded academics
  • 14 awards between Chemistry and Biosciences since 2008 
  • £30.2M Linked to the Wolfson Laboratory since 2008
  • £38.2 M in total linked to all Biosciences staff embedded in Chemistry since 2008

Wolfson Laboratories 2018

Biosciences staff embedded in Chemistry incuding researchers from the Wolfson Laboratories in 2018.
Biosciences Research Community Embedded in Chemistry 2018

Opening of the Wolfson Laboratories 2009

Professor Judith Howard CBE FRS cutting the ribbon at the official opening of the Wolfson Laboratories in 2009.
Wolfson Laboratories Opening Event 2009

Biophysical Sciences Institute Timeline


Year Key Events
2007 £1.5 million Wolfson Trust award to establish the Biophysical Sciences Institute and create the Wolfson Laboratories 
2007 Biophysical Sciences Institute officially launched
2008 Biosciences staff move into the Wolfson Laboratories
2009 Wolfson Laboratories official opening
2012 British Biophysical Society Conference hosted by the BSI in Durham
2012 Institut Curie – Durham Biophysical Sciences Institute Postgraduate Conference
2012 BSI Judith Howard Lecture Prize launched
2013 The first of the BSI 1+1 Fellows welcomed to Durham 
2013 Special Interest Group founded supported by the BSI and Wolfson Research Institute: Filling the Void  
2013 BSI host a public lecture linked to the Lumiere installation I by Gina Czarnecki in collaboration with Professor John Girkin (Department of Physics)
2014 International Study Group for Systems Biology (ISGSB) Conference hosted by the BSI in Durham
2014 British Society for Rheology Mid-Winter Meeting - Active and Complex Liquids hosted by the BSI in Durham
2014 Members of our community, led by Professor Tom McLeish FRS and later Professor Colin Bain secure funding for EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces  (SOFI CDT)
2015 RSC Soft Matter Symposium hosted by the BSI in Durham
2015 British Society for Research on Ageing annual conference hosted by the BSI in Durham
2016 BSI & IOP workshop: Nanofluidics
2016 British Society of Parasitology Conference “Bug Bitten”, held in Durham with BSI support
2016 Members of our community, led by Professor Ehmke Pohl, secure investment through the Virus X project
2017 International Workshop: Automated Analysis of Ageing in C. elegans and Beyond
2017 Members of our community, led by Professor Tom McLeish FRS secure funding for PoLNet2
2017 BSI first sponsor Pint of Science Durham
2018 Physics of Life (PolNet2) Summer School: New Approaches to Biomolecular Structure, Dynamics and Function supported and sponsored by the BSI
2018 Members of our community secure the UKRI GCRF Award: A Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (known as the NTD Network) PI Professors Graham Sandford and Paul Denny 
2018 Members of our community secure funding for the MosMed CDT led by Newcastle University.
2018 Members of our community, led by Professor Colin Bain secure additional funding for the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces (SOFI2 CDT)
2019 Virus X meeting hosted by the BSI in Durham
2019 Biomathematics and biocomputation Special Interest Group launched, supported by the BSI
2020 BSI host the Online Peptoid Symposia, which runs from 2020-2022 attracting over 600 people in the first year alone
2020 BSI Early Career Stage Researchers host the first ECR Symposium online
2021 BSI Create – our art-science collaboration programme is launched 

In-person events resume with the Judith Howard Prize Lecture by Dr Rivka Isaacson (KCl)


First visit from Central St Martins (UAL) staff and students


BSI Early Career Stage Researchers host the ECR Symposium in St Mary’s College


BSI Grant Writing and Mentorship programmes introduced


Animate Materials MSc launched