Colin Murrell is a Professor in Environmental Microbiology in the School of Environmental Sciences and Director of the Earth and Life Systems Alliance (ELSA) on the Norwich Research Park.  He has wide ranging research interests centered around the microbiology of atmospheric trace gases such as methane, dimethyl sulfide, methyl halides and isoprene and the metabolism of one carbon compounds (methanol, methylamines, methanesulfonate) in the terrestrial, aquatic and marine environment.  Other areas of research include the microbiology of the rhizosphere, sea-surface microlayer, caves, alkaline soda lakes, saltmarshes, cold water corals and cultural heritage microbiology, regulation of gene expression by metals, microbial genomics, metagenomics, bioremediation, biocatalysis and industrial biotechnology.  His research over the past 35 years has resulted in around 280 publications and six edited books with funding from NERC, BBSRC, EU, Royal Society, British Council, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, SGM, SfAM.

Murrell's work is multidisciplinary and ranges from the isolation of microbes that are involved in major biogeochemical cycles (C, N, C, metals) through to their characterisation at the physiological, biochemical, molecular and ecological levels.  He has also pioneered the use of molecular ecology techniques such as functional gene probing and DNA Stable Isotope Probing to determine "which microbes are doing what in the environment", particularly in the context of global biogeochemical carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles.

Murrell interacts with soil and plant scientists, oceanographers, limnologists, speleologists, marine chemists, modellers and industry through his research and in his role as Director of ELSA, he has initiated projects with plant and climate scientists across the Norwich Research Park.  Murrell also has experience of working with industry, outreach projects and reviewing for many research councils and is currently a member of the NERC Peer Review College.  He is an editorial board member for Environmental Microbiology, The ISME Journal and FEMS Microbiology Letters and a member of the Societies for General Microbiology, The Society for Applied Microbiology and the International Society for Microbial Ecology.

Elected Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2014

Elected Vice President of the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) in 2014 (President in 2016)

Elected Chair Gordon Research Conference on Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2015

Awarded Chinese Academy of Sciences President’s International Fellowship for Distinguished Scientists for 2015


Murrell has had around 50 PhD students graduate from his laboratory and has supervised over 100 postdoctoral fellows, technicians and visiting researchers and considers postgraduate training as one of his most important roles in research.  He has also worked closely with a number of PhD CASE partners including PML, CEH, and biotechnology/oil companies, has consulted for a number of companies on the use of methanotrophs and methylotrophs in biotechnology and has been examiner for around 90 PhD students in the UK and worldwide.
Murrell welcomes applications throughout the year from potential PhD candidates for available positions or from candidates who have their own funding or wish to apply for this.  Additionally, he has hosted a number of Independent Research Fellows and welcomes enquiries from suitably qualified individuals.

For full details on Research in Colin Murrell's lab, publications etc., please visit the web site:

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  • 1975 - 1978, BSc Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Southampton
  • 1978 - 1981, PhD on "Nitrogen metabolism in ethane oxidising bacteria", University of Warwick
  • 1981 - 1983, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, "Molecular genetics of methylotrophic bacteria"
  • 1983 - 2011, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Professor in Microbiology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick
  • 2012, Professor in Environmental Microbiology, School of Environmental Sciences and Director of the Earth and Life Systems Alliance, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park


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