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Professor Ewan St. John Smith

MPharmacol (Bath) PhD

I completed my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology at the University of Bath, which included a year in industry working for Novartis in Switzerland. I subsequently completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge, which focused on neuronal mechanisms of acid sensing, before moving on to the Max-Delbrueck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. During my 6 years in Berlin I researched the nervous system of the naked mole-rat, a truly bizarre animal: cold-blooded, eusocial and long lived, yet still a mammal! Part of my time was funded by an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship. My next postdoctoral work took me to the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA, on a Max Kade Foundation Fellowship and my research centred on understanding how the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans senses carbon dioxide. 

My research group in the Department of Pharmacology is largely focused on furthering our understanding of the molecular basis of pain, especially pain associated with arthritis and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, in an effort to try and identify new targets for pain killers. You can use the following hyperlinks to read lay articles about some of our recent work on osteoarthritis synovial fluid and labour pain. If you wish to watch something more technical, here is a Zoom seminar that I gave when Covid-19 prevented a trip to Dundee.

We have also made 2 films about difference aspects of pain:

Pain In The Machine – this film examines the role of pain as a system in robot development, could and should robots experience pain?

Gut Reaction – this film explores how gut function can go wrong, the impact it has on peoples’ lives and how scientists and clinicians are working to better treat those affected.

A second strand of research in the lab is centred on understanding the weird biology of the naked mole-rat, which we hope may provide insight into treating/preventing cancer and brain damage in humans; click on the links to see and read more, including a piece on our recent research on naked mole-rat cancer resistance covered in the Guardian.

Within College I supervise 2nd year Medicine students taking the compulsory Mechanisms of Drug Action course and any 2nd year Natural Scientists who choose the Pharmacology option. I am also a Director of Studies in Biology, Tutor (Undergraduate and Graduate) and Custodian of the Corpus Chronophage Clock (which you can see me talking about here).

When not teaching/researching, I especially enjoy reading and running.

College Position

Professorial Fellow

University Position

Professor of Nociception and Deputy Head of the Department of Pharmacology

College Offices/Posts

Director of Studies in Natural Sciences Biological, Welfare Tutor, Tutor, Custodian of the Corpus Chronophage Clock, LGBTQ+ Champion