Professor Simon Whawell
Professor of Integrated Oral Sciences
Peninsula Dental School (Faculty of Health)
I am a biochemist and cell biologist with an interest in the molecular mechanisms of disease. I have collaborated closely with fellow scientists, surgeons, pathologists and, for the last 25 years, dental colleagues. Following undergraduate studies in Life Sciences, I carried out a PhD and postdoctoral work at St Mary’s & the Hammersmith Hospitals in London investigating the mechanism of peritoneal adhesion formation. I then worked in the field of vascular biology at the Thrombosis Research Institute, London before I joined the Oral Pathologist Professor Paul Speight at the Eastman Dental Institute, University College London where I was made Lecturer. In 2003 I moved to the School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield where I had School & Faculty responsibilities for Undergraduate and Masters programmes. In January 2022, I was appointed to a Chair of Integrated Oral Sciences at Peninsula Dental School University of Plymouth.
BSc (Hons), Polytechnic of Central London (1986).
PhD, St Mary's Hospital, Imperial College London (1990).
DipEd, University of Sheffield (2007).
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2007).
Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists by published works (2017).
Member of the International Association for Dental Research & British Society for Oral & Dental Research (Chair of the Awards Committee 2011-15)
Member of the Association for Science Educators in Dentistry
I am an experienced teacher of fundamental science subjects to both clinical and non-clinical undergraduates and postgraduates including biochemistry, histology, physiology and pathology in laboratory, classroom and online settings. I led the first BDS Human Body module at the University of Sheffield, introduced virtual microscopy, biochemistry and physiology practical classes and was 1st year lead for the BSc in Bio-dental Science & technology. I was programme director for the MMedSci in Diagnostic Oral Pathology (2005-2012), School Director of PGT programmes (2012-2016), Faculty Lead for PGT (2017-2020) & Head of the Graduate School (2018-2020). I have co-written and edited a text book to support basic science teaching for dental students.
I currently teach years 1 &2 Dental Surgery and Dental Therapy & Hygiene students at Plymouth.
Staff serving as external examiners
External Examiner Queen's University Belfast, BDS 1 Biomedical Sciences & BDS 2 Disease Mechanisms
Cardiff University, BDS 2 Oral Biology
King's College, University of London, BDS 2 Oral Biology
Queen Mary University of London, BDS part 1
University of the West Indies, Trinidad, BDS 1 Oral Biology
My current research interests lie in two main areas:
1. Molecular mechanisms of oral cancer invasion. Previous work has included studies of the roles of the extracellular matrix, proteases and integrin receptors in oral cancer cell motility. More recently I have worked with Professor Dan Lambert (University of Sheffield) on the role of fibroblasts, adipocytes and stem cells in the tumour microenvironment.
2. Cellular Microbiology. For a number of years I have investigated the molecular mechanism of bacterial invasion into host cells. This has included work with Staphylococcus aureus and latterly with the periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. Current work with Professor Julia Weinstein (University of Sheffield) has developed photodynamic therapy approaches to targeting these intracellular pathogens.
Knowledge exchange & Industrial collaborations
I developed and led fruitful collaborations with academic colleagues (Dr Helen Colley & Professor Craig Murdoch, University of Sheffield) & Industrial partners including significant funding from Colgate-Palmolive Inc. to develop in vitro models of oral mucosa for testing of oral healthcare products.
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Research projects supervised for 3 Intercalated BSc & 15 MMedSci students
8 PhD awarded to students for which I was primary supervisor, 6 as co-supervisor
Current PhD students:
Basma Ali (primary supervisor) The role of adipocytes in oral cancer invasion.
Maria Perciato (secondary supervisor) Characterization of novel roles of ADAMs family in cancer associated fibroblasts: shaping the tumour-promoting microenvironment.
Isuru Muthukuda (Joint primary) Novel Iridium complex as a new antimicrobial photodynamic therapy agent.
Grants & contracts
Selected recent funding:
Oral & Dental Research Trust £4.4k (2018)
Colgate-Palmolive Inc. £232k (2013)
University of Sheffield, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health innovation Fund £8.8k (2013)
Yorkshire Cancer Research £81k (2007) & £30k (2009)
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Reports & invited lectures
Winter School Seminar, Tehran University School of Dentistry, Online (2021)
British Society for Dental Hygiene & Therapy, Leeds (2019)
Research seminar, University of the West Indies, School of Dentistry, Trinidad (2017)
Research seminar, School of Dental Sciences, Newcastle University (2017)
Advances in Cell & Tissue Culture meeting, Manchester (2017)
Association of Basic Science teachers in Dentistry, Plymouth (2011)
Research seminar, Eastman Dental Institute London, (2008)
Organising Committee, British Society for Oral & Dental Research Meeting, Sheffield (2011)
Symposium Organiser & Chair Pan European Federation, International Association for Dental Research, Barcelona (2010)
Symposium Organiser & Chair Pan European Federation, International Association for Dental Research, Dublin (2006)
Other academic activities
External reviewer, Higher Council for the Evaluation of Research & Higher Education, Nice University, France (2016)
Young Investigator Award Committee ( 2010-2013) & Oral Pathology & Medicine Group Member at Large (2014), International Association for Dental Research
Scientific advisor to the £2.9M Wellcome Trust sponsored 'All about me' Exhibition Development Committee, Eureka Children's Museum, Halifax (2012-2014)
Supervised student prizes:
Junior Colgate Prize, British Society for Oral & Dental Research (2018)
British Society of Periodontology Basic Science Poster Prize (2016)
Unilever Poster Prize, British Society for Oral & Dental Research (2008 & 2010)
Hatton Awards Runner up, International Association for Dental Research (2009)
Senior Colgate Prize, British Society for Oral & Dental Research (2008)