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Dr Sylvia Nagl
Darwin Building
  • Senior Lecturer
  • Structural & Molecular Biology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

Dr Nagl holds a BSc. Hons (First Class) and a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology, and has been an member of UCL since 1999, and a senior research leader since 2002. 

Prior to taking up her appointment at UCL, she was a Research Fellow at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (USA) and an International Post-Doctoral Fellow holding an independent fellowship in computational biology at the BioMolecular Engineering Research Center (BMERC) in Boston (USA), an interdisciplinary centre jointly founded by Harvard Medical School, Dana Faber Cancer Center and Boston University. 

Her computational research at BMERC investigated the molecular evolution of nuclear receptor regulators of gene expression. In particular, her pioneering work addressed structural characteristics of the ligand-binding domains of nuclear receptors which enabled the evolution of binding pockets which can bind to a highly diverse group of ligands. The findings of her research have significant implications for the action of endocrine disruptors.

While at Boston University, she was invited to teach on 'The Evolution of the Brain and Consciousness' at the Core Curriculum, College of Arts and Sciences, Boston University.

Research Summary

Dr Sylvia Nagl is an interdisciplinary complexity scientist who has contributed pioneering research to key questions in biomedicine, notably cancer research, modelling of biological systems and large-scale complex systems simulation. Sylvia has been a Principal Investigator on large eHealth projects such as Cancergrid (2005-2008, Medical Research Council) and Virtual Physiological Human (2008-2011, European Union).

Sylvia edited and published the first full-length text on ‘Cancer Bioinformatics’ (Wiley) in 2006, bringing together contributions from leaders in the field in one book for the first time. “Overall an excellent and well-edited book that could be read from cover to cover or used as a reference." (British Journal of Healthcare Computing and Information Management, July 2006)

This was followed in 2010 by the publication of a ground-breaking book of original research on The Role of Model Integration in Complex Systems Modelling (Springer). This book presents a solution to one of the grand challenges of systems biology, i.e., the integration of independently created mathematical models across spatio-temporal scales. “First book on complex systems science and systems biology of cancer with outstanding importance for systems biology and tumour modeling” (Springer)

Her current work is situated within the emerging discipline of Planetary Health and focuses on the interdependence of humans with urban and natural systems. 'Health' depends on these relationships acting together in a life-enhancing way. Interconnectedness is central to the health of individuals and communities, and the well-being of the living planet Earth. Within the framework of Planetary Health, Sylvia has been working with communities facing severe water and air pollution. These collaborative projects use digital media for the documentation of complex health challenges in a rapidly changing world by those most affected. Sylvia has advised the United Nations (UNITAR-UNOSAT) on community-based disaster reporting using digital media to map environmental destruction and support relief efforts in an acute crisis.

Sylvia has initiated a collaborative project on 'Water Pollution and Cognitive Disability in Children' with Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. Her project has received funding support by the UCL Global Engagement Initiative 2016-17.

Related recent talks

Keynote Speaker on ‘The impacts of Yamuna Water Pollution on the Cognitive Development of Children’ at the International Workshop on Yamuna Water Quality and Its Impact on Human Health & Settlements at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi

Invited International Speaker on 'Urban Water and Planetary Health' at the International Workshop on Inclusive Cities convened by Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi - http://www.inclusive-cities.com

Invited speaker on 'Planetary Health' at the Assembly of Useful Art, Science and Technology as part of Arts Catalyst's multi-faceted project Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science.

Teaching Summary

Dr Nagl lectures on complexity in biomedicine and environmental health, and contributes to courses in bioinformatics, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Sylvia: "In my lectures I am addressing how computational systems biology and a complex systems methodology can be applied to enhance understanding of major diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Here I am emphasising the interconnectedness between environmental conditions, such as urban air and water pollution, the body as a whole, and specific physiological biomolecular systems. I am seeking to impart awareness and knowledge of these causative connections that will become increasingly important for the health challenges of the 21st century."

01-OCT-2008 Senior Lecturer Department of Structural and Molecular Biology UCL, United Kingdom
15-DEC-2002 Senior Lecturer Department of Oncology UCL, United Kingdom
15-FEB-1999 Senior Research Fellow Department of Structural and Molecular Biology UCL, United Kingdom
01-DEC-1996 Post-Doctoral Fellow BioMolecular Engineering Research Center Boston University, United States
Academic Background
1996 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Molecular and Cellular Biology University of Canterbury
1990 BSc Hons Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Molecular Biology University of Canterbury
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