Professor David Coates



DArcy Thompson Unit, School of Life Sciences

Protrait photo of David Coates
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My first degree is in genetics (Leeds, 1978), followed by a doctorate in plant molecular biology (East Anglia, 1983), where I developed further my interest in evolution, specifically of plastids (look it up!). After a stint in the US, I came back to the UK as a Demonstrator at Oxford, where I started developing my interest in learning and teaching on University programmes.

Most of my academic career so far has been at the University of Leeds, where I had a very traditional teaching/research role, doing work and teaching in the area of plant virology and diagnostics, and genome analysis of zinc-metalloproteases in the model organisms.

After a managerial stint as Dean of Life Sciences in Bradford, I moved to Dundee to work with the School of Life Sciences to redevelop the degrees in Life Sciences – making them more relevant to the strengths of the School, and more focussed on making sure that what we teach translates into influential roles after your graduation.


To my mind, the ‘student voice’ is a critical part of building and maintaining the curriculum – after all, you learn because its useful and you want to know something, and we help you get the right courses and experiences: those conversations between students and staff are really important for making sure that the curriculum we deliver is current, is exciting and challenging, and gets you to appreciate your favourite subject even more. I have a particular interest in quality assurance and accreditation, and work in the Royal Society of Biology’s Degree Accreditation Committee to develop life science curricula nationally, focussed on giving employers the graduates they want, and graduates the skills they need.

For most of my time in University, I have taught laboratory classes, largely in genetics and molecular approaches to research; and creative thinking: Biology is a practical science that needs research, field and laboratory skills to really appreciate how amazing life is; so I continue to do that at level 3 – practicals shouldn’t just be about following a recipe, but about finding things out – that sometimes means things go horribly wrong, but hey! Then you learn new stuff! Key to success is creative ways of solving problems.

  • BS32011         Practical Project A
  • BS32012         Practical Project B
  • Creativity Levels 1 and 4


Award Year
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) 2017
Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology 2002



Professor David Coates, of the D'Arcy Thompson Unit, Biological and Biomedical Sciences Education in the School, has been presented with his MBE that he was awarded in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours List this year.

Published on 11 December 2017