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Chief Scientist for Wales

2 August 2013

Prof Julie Williams

The First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones has appointed Professor Julie Williams CBE as Chief Scientific Adviser.

The Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales (CSAW) is responsible for providing independent and top quality scientific advice to the First Minister and his administration across a broad spectrum of topics to support decision and policy making.

Professor of Neuropsychological Genetics and Dean of Research at the University's School of Medicine, Julie Williams said: "I am honoured and delighted to have been offered this great opportunity to help shape, develop and champion the role that science plays in our society here in Wales and especially to follow in the footsteps of Professor John Harries who did so much work to support science and scientific research in Wales.

"The Welsh Government has already proved it takes science seriously and is prepared to construct strategies which take us in new directions and I want to play my part in helping that continue.

"Wales has some outstanding scientists working at the cutting-edge of research. Part of my role as Chief Scientific Adviser, will be to build on this strength and expand scientific excellence in Wales. The Sêr Cymru initiative provides a real opportunity to achieve this by supporting and attracting world-class scientists and by establishing new National Research Networks, in priority areas of science and engineering.

"One aspect of my new role which is particularly close to my heart is the need to ensure every child in Wales knows the great opportunities which exist for them within the field of science and that science can be great fun.

"I am also very grateful to Cardiff University for allowing me to continue the research into the genetic causes of Alzheimer's Disease with the excellent team we have in place.

"I know a lot of hard work lies ahead but Wales and the Welsh Government have already proved we are prepared to lead the way."

Professor Williams takes over from Professor John Harries who retired earlier this year and was responsible for developing the Science for Wales strategy and introducing a number of initiatives to increase Wales' science capabilities. 

Professor Williams will build on this, placing a particular emphasis on enhancing the provision of scientific advice in Welsh Government decision making across all its business areas.

Announcing her appointment, First Minister, Carwyn Jones said: "Professor Julie Williams is an outstanding research scientist and her contribution to Alzheimer's research is recognised worldwide. She is also an able communicator and is an excellent choice as Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales.

"I am delighted that one of our leading Professors from a Welsh University will hold this position at a time when the role of science in society and the economy is growing in importance. I am confident that she will take us to the next level in terms of our ambition to create a strong and vibrant science base in Wales."

Professor Williams is one of the UK's leading figures in Alzheimer's research and plays a key role in the University's Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics as Head of the Neurodegeneration section.

Her research focuses on identifying and understanding genes which increase the risk of developing complex psychological and neurodegenerative disorders.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan said: "Professor Julie Williams's career as a scientist at Cardiff University has been remarkable, progressing as she has from Research Fellow to leading Professor in barely more than 15 years.

"Her discovery of genes that predispose people to contracting Alzheimer's disease was an internationally significant step forward in our understanding of this devastating disease, and I am sure her appointment as Chief Scientific Adviser will be an inspiration to many.

"The Welsh Government can be sure that it will be receiving the highest quality advice from a world-leading scientist who not only comes from Wales, but has made her career here. I am delighted for Julie, and on behalf of everyone at Cardiff University, I wish her every success in this new role."

Professor Williams takes up her post in September, on a three year secondment, working for three and a half days a week.

Professor Dylan Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, said: "Julie will bring to the role of Chief Scientific Advisor a sense of strategic vision across a very wide range of disciplines and an awareness of the possibilities for collaboration between disciplines.

"As an active and influential researcher she will also bring an understanding of the issues that are encountered day-to-day by researchers trying to develop and sustain their research. Her appointment is excellent for science in Wales and for its standing on the international stage."

Professor Paul Morgan, Dean of the School of Medicine, added: "I am delighted to hear that Julie Williams is to be the Chief Scientific Adviser to Welsh Government, it is excellent news for Wales. 

"Julie is a superb scientist who has made major contributions to the understanding of dementia. I am certain that her keen mind, insight and understanding will be a hugely positive influence in guiding government policy, not just in health but in all aspects of scientific endeavour."