Press release

Dundee scientist elected to elite scientific association

Published on 7 July 2023

Professor Kees Weijer has been chosen to join the prestigious European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), an organisation of leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences in Europe and beyond.

On this page

Professor Weijer is an expert in Developmental and Systems Biology and has made major breakthroughs studying how cell-cell signalling controls the behaviours of hundreds of thousands of cells while forming and patterning complex tissues during their development. He joins 68 other researchers to become part of a network of over 2,000 leading life scientists in Europe and beyond.

He said, “The interdisciplinary nature of this research on the cellular basis of morphogenesis has led to extensive collaborations with biologists, mathematicians and physicists throughout the world. I feel very honoured for this work to be recognised by election as a member of EMBO.”

Professor Weijer’s team has provided new insights into how cell-cell signalling by periodic waves of a diffusible chemoattractant cAMP controls the chemotactic movement of thousands of cells during the multicellular development of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Furthermore, they have provided new insights into the mechanisms by which chemical and mechanical cell-cell signalling controls the behaviours of thousands of cells during gastrulation. Gastrulation is a critical phase in the early embryonic development of all higher organisms, including humans.

His team has developed key imaging and mathematical modelling methods to visualize and analyse how propagating spiral waves of the chemo-attractant molecule cAMP control the chemotactic cell movement behaviour of thousands of individual differentiating Dictyoselium cells to form a complex fruiting body. This has revealed how two key cellular principles, excitable cell-cell signalling and chemotactic cell movement, interact to control its morphogenesis.  

Furthermore, his team and physics collaborators in Dundee developed and constructed an innovative custom light-sheet microscope that enabled them to analyse the cell behaviours and interactions of several hundred thousand cells that shape tissues during early embryonic development. These experiments, data analysis and modelling have provided new insight into the critical role of local and long-range mechanical forces in coordinating critical cell behaviours at the scale of the embryo.  

Fiona Watt, EMBO Director said: “These remarkable scientists have unravelled molecular secrets of life, deepened our understanding of health and disease, and are paving the way for further discoveries and innovations. Their achievements reinforce the critical role that life science research plays in the lives of citizens across Europe and the world.”

The newly elected members and associate members reside in more than 20 countries. The 60 new EMBO Members are based in 17 Member States of the EMBC, the intergovernmental organization that funds the main EMBO Programmes and activities.

The new members and associate members join a community of more than 2,000 leading life science experts. They take their place alongside 91 Nobel laureates who have been elected to EMBO Membership.


Hannah Adams

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 385131