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Dr Nigel Francis

Dr Nigel Francis

Senior Lecturer

School of Biosciences

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


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 and the Royal Society of Biology’s Higher Education Teacher of the Year Award in 2021 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 am the founder of 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 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 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 Teacher of the Year Award.











Pedagogical Publications

  1. McClure L., Wilmott C.J. & Francis N.J. (2021). Supporting the Transition. What challenges will students entering Higher Education face? The Biologist. Available ahead of print at:
  2. Stafford P., Herni D., Turner I., Smith D.P. and Francis N.J. (2020) Practical thinking in a pandemic. The Biologist. 65(5):24-27.
  3. Francis N.J., Smith D.P. and Turner I. (2020) It’s a brave new (educational) world. Advance HE. – published 8th September 2020
  4. Francis N.J., Smith D.P. and Turner I. (2020) #DryLabsRealScience – together stronger. Advance HE. - published 18th May 2020
  5. Francis N.J. (2019) The Flipped Classroom – Becoming a Better Teacher. Advance HE. - published 20th March 2019

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.