Prof Martin Howard

Project Leader
Computational and Systems Biology

Martin applies mathematical modelling and theory to understand complex mechanistic cell biological problems.

Martin works with experimental scientists who provide data for modelling in, for example, the epigenetic regulation of the gene, Flowering Locus C, and the control of cell size in fission yeast. 

Mathematical modelling of these problems provides clues as to what is possible biologically, directing experimental work and helping to solve complex biological problems.

  • Mathematical modelling of biological problems
  • Epigenetic memory during cold-induced flowering
  • Control of cell size in fission yeast


The Howard group mathematically models biological systems at the cellular level, with a focus on understanding fundamental biological mechanisms.

Their approach is to construct simple models that can nevertheless make surprising and counter-intuitive predictions to be tested experimentally.

The group's approach is highly interdisciplinary, and relies heavily on techniques from statistical physics as well as on close collaboration with experimental groups both at the John Innes Centre and elsewhere.

A particular focus of the group is on mechanistic understanding of epigenetic processes, particularly during vernalization, the acceleration of flowering induced by winter cold. This work is in collaboration with the Caroline Dean group at the John Innes Centre.

A second focus of the group is on the mechanistic basis of cell size control in fission yeast, in collaboration with the Fred Chang group at UCSF.


Tel: 01603 450892

Cause or Consequence? Scientists help to settle an epigenetic debate

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How Plants Remember Winter, and Other Stories

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How size splits cells

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Mathematical modelling disproves long-held view of bacterial cell cycle

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Selected Publications

Ietswaart R., Szardenings F., Gerdes K., Howard M. (2014)

Competing ParA structures space bacterial plasmids equally over the nucleoid

PLoS Computational Biology 10 p e1004009

Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004009

Recent Publications

Facchetti G., Chang F., Howard M. (2017)

Controlling cell size through sizer mechanisms

Current Opinion in Systems Biology 5 p86-92

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.coisb.2017.08.010

Ietswaart R., Rosa S., Wu Z., Dean C., Howard M. (2017)

Cell-Size-Dependent Transcription of FLC and Its Antisense Long Non-coding RNA COOLAIR Explain Cell-to-Cell Expression Variation.

Cell Systems 4 p622-635

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.cels.2017.05.010

View All

Martin Howard


Institute of Physics Tom Duke Lecture Prize, 2014


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