Former Dundee PI David Nicolls elected a Fellow of the Royal Society

Published on 12 June 2019

David Nicolls, a Principal Investigator at the University of Dundee from 1976 until 2000, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

On this page

David Nicolls, a Principal Investigator at the University of Dundee from 1976 until 2000, has been elected  a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) for the ground breaking research that he carried out at Dundee over this period.

David’s key findings included the identification of the ’uncoupling protein’ in brown adipose tissue, which is responsible for the heat-generating capacity of the tissue, and which explains how mammals generate the heat they need to survive hibernation at sub-zero temperatures. He also elucidated the mechanisms that regulate the transport of calcium between the mitochondrion and the cell cytosol. He later applied bioenergetic principles to the study of neurotransmitter release from the nerve terminal, the energetics of neurons and their failure in models of stroke, and the energetics controlling insulin secretion from the β-cells of the pancreas.  He became the Director of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California in 2000 and is now an emeritus member of the Institute. His explanation of Mitchell’s chemiosmotic theory in the textbook he wrote called  ’Bioenergetics’ has become the standard text in the field. In 2008 he was awarded the Mitchell Medal by the European Bioenergetics Congress.”

David was the first PhD student of Peter Garland, who became Dundee’s first professor of Biochemistry in 1970. Peter recruited David to the Department of Clinical Biochemistry at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee in 1974,  soon after Ninewells Hospital was opened. He moved to the Biochemistry Department on the main University Campus in 1986, returning to the medical School at Ninewells hospital in 1995,  where he co-founded a new Neuroscience Institute with Jeremy Lambert. In 2000, he became the Director of  the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, where he now has emeritus status. 

David trained a number of PhD students at Dundee who subsequently became famous scientists. They include Harvey McMahon, a Principal Investigator at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge who was elected FRS in 2008, Mike Cousins, Professor and Head of Preclinical Research at the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre at the University of Edinburgh and Samantha Budd, who is currently the Head of Clinical Development for Alzheimer’s Disease at Biogen, Boston, USA.

David’s wife Solvig is Swedish and they met and married when David was a postdoctoral fellow at the Wenner-Gren Centre in Stockholm. After coming to Dundee. Solvig taught chemistry at the Harris Academy High School for many years. David and Solvig now live in Sweden after David’s retirement from the Buck Institute.

Story category Awards and accolades