Liz Robertson is a mammalian developmental biologist who studies the signaling pathways and tissue interactions that guide formation of the early mouse embryo. She is well known for her early work using gene targeting approaches to understand gene function in vivo, and in particular her discovery of Nodal, a conserved signaling molecule that orchestrates formation of the primary embryonic axes. Liz was born in Ibadan, Nigeria before moving to the UK at the age of eight. She received her BA in Zoology at Oxford, then pursued a PhD, followed by post-doctoral training in the Department of Genetics at Cambridge. She joined the faculty of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical School, New York in 1988 before moving to Harvard University in1992. Liz returned to the UK in 2004 where she is currently a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Developmental Biology in the Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford. Liz is a Fellow of the Royal Society and an International Member of the National Academy of Science. She is a former Chair of the British Society for Developmental Biology, and is the current President of the Society for Differentiation.

Research Interests

Liz's primary research interests focus on the TGFb -signaling pathways that play pre-eminent roles in the early post-implantation stage mouse embryo. Her lab established that reciprocal inductive interactions between the epiblast and extra-embryonic lineages of the extra-embryonic ectoderm and visceral endoderm are required to pattern the pluripotent epiblast, maintain cell identity and establish initial embryonic polarity. Using a combination of genetics, molecular biology and imaging approaches they have established that the precise balance of Nodal and BMP signaling orchestrates the proper establishment of the early axis, and cell type specification during the process of gastrulation. In the very earliest stages of post-implantation development Nodal activity is required to maintain embryonic and extra-embryonic cell identity during lineage priming prior to cell fate specification into mesoderm, endoderm and ectoderm. Importantly they have identified key transcription factors acting downstream of Nodal during gastrulation, including the T-box protein Eomes, that control specification of the first highly specialized cell types that emerge during early embryogenesis namely the nascent gut, cardiac and early blood progenitor cell populations.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology