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Dr Nigel Francis

Dr Nigel Francis

Senior Lecturer

+44 (0)29 2251 2321
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


Understanding how our body defends against disease has been a passion ever since I spent a year working in the Nephrology Department at Heath Hospital during my undergraduate degree. This inspired me to undertake a PhD in immunology at the University of Birmingham looking at rheumatoid arthritis, before returning to Cardiff University as a postdoctoral researcher in complement biology.

More recently my focus has shifted to enhancing immunology education and I was awarded the British Society for Immunology’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2020, the Royal Society of Biology’s Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award in 2021 and a National Teaching Fellowship from Advance HE in 2022 for my work in this area. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB) and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

I founded the #DryLabsRealScience network, which provides guidance and resources for bioscience academics looking to enhance laboratory-based teaching. Although established in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the innovative ideas shared will have a long-lasting impact on laboratory education.

To facilitate the teaching of immunology and make it more accessible to a wider audience I created Immunology Wars in collaboration with student partners, which explains immunology by aligning the components of the immune system to the characters of Star Wars.

I am currently guest-editing a special issue of Education Science around hybrid practical teaching: for more details.

National Teaching Fellowship Badge


I graduated from the University of Bath in 2004 with a MPharmacol (Masters in Pharmacology) having spent an intercalated research year in the Nephrology Department at Heath Hospital under the supervision of Professor Nick Topley. In 2008 I completed a PhD in immunology from the University of Birmingham in the lab of Professor Janet Lord, investigating the role of the iron binding protein, lactoferrin, in neutrophil survival in rheumatic joints. I then returned to Heath Hospital working for Professor Claire Harris in the Complement Biology Group looking at the structure-function relationship of polymorphic variants of factor H.

In 2011 I moved to Swansea University Medical School where I helped establish immunology teaching across all years of their undergraduate programmes. During my time at Swansea I completed a PGCert in Teaching in Higher Education and acted in a wide range of administrative roles including Deputy Programme Director for Biochemistry.

I re-joined Cardiff University in August 2021, where my teaching focuses on immunology and supporting the provision of physiology.

I am an award-winning lecturer having received Swansea University’s Excellence in Learning and Teaching Award and the British Society for Immunology’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2020. In 2021 I was honoured by the Royal Society of Biology for my work creating the #DryLabsRealScience network winning their Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award. In 2022 I was awarded my National Teaching Fellowship by Advance HE.

Honours and awards

  • 2022 - National Teaching Fellowship
  • 2022 - Nominated for Biochemical Society Teaching Excellence Award
  • 2021 - Royal Society of Biology Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year
  • 2020 - British Society for Immunology Teaching Excellence Award
  • 2020 - Swansea University Excellence in Learning and Teaching Award

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB)
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
  • Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach)
  • Member of the British Educational Research Association (BERA)
  • Member of the British Society for Immunology (BSI)
  • Member of the Biochemical Society
  • Member of the RSB Biology Education Research Group (BERG)

Academic positions

  • 2021 - present: Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University
  • 2011-2021: Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor, Swansea University
  • 2008-2011: Research Associate, Cardiff University

Committees and reviewing

  • 2021 - present: British Society for Immunology Teaching Affinity Group - Co-Chair












Primary teaching focus

  • Immunology

Administrative Roles

  • Degree scheme lead for Biomedical Sciences
  • Deputy Lead for Assessment and Feedback
  • Lead for Digital Education
  • Week-long research experience coordinator

Pedagogical Publications

My main research is focused on enhancing immunology education through digital co-creation of learning and teaching resources. I firmly believe that students should be involved in the creation of resources to enhance their learning experience. I am particularly interested in the use of digital eLearning tools, including videos and simulations.

These resources can be used for active learning in a flipped classroom, where content is provided before face-to-face teaching occurs. My research in this area looks at how students engage with the flipped learning approach and how to enhance the use of digital material.

I maintain an interest in immunology research, focusing on the areas of rheumatology and immunometabolism, which looks at the role that different fuel sources play on immune cell function.


I am available for supervision of self-funded students postgraduate interested in exploring:

  • Digital resources in Immunology/Biosciences
  • Use of videos and/or simulations in teaching

Past projects


British Society for Immunology Vaccine Ambassador