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Karen Reed

Dr Karen Reed

Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences

School of Medicine

+44 29225 14559
Cochrane Building, Room 5th Floor, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4YU
Available for postgraduate supervision


Hello there, my name is Karen Reed, and I have worked at Cardiff University since 2002. Currently I work as Lecturer teaching Biomedical Sciences in Phase I of the medical undergraduate (MBBCh) programme.

I joined the University as a Cancer Research UK funded postdoctoral research associate, contributing to teaching and research within the School of Biosciences.  I went on to be the Operations manager within Wales Gene Park, a role I undertook for 5 years.

I am an individual with a sensitive, compassionate soul, who values kindness, friendship and commitment. I aim to strive to help others and make a difference to their lives.  I have a passion for science communication and am proud to be a STEM ambassador through STEMnet.  I have developed many activities to explain cancer genetics to lay audiences, and the latest outreach talk uses music as a tool to introduce the topic of epigenetics.

I also have an ILM level 5 coaching and mentoring qualification (2022), and employ a non-judgemental, values-based, action-focused approach to my coaching practice.




















Why do we get cancer?

That is the question I was working to answer as a Cancer Reserach UK funded postdoctoral research associate.  Or more precisely, given that really is a REALLY big question, I was looking to discover what goes wrong with the regulation of our genes when normal cells aquire changes that predispose them to become cancer cells. To do this I was using pre-clinical models of human diseases to examine the mechanisms that contribute to the initiation, establishment and progression of cancer in the intestine.

The science in a little more detail...

The Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumour suppressor protein is well characterised as a key regulator of Wnt signalling. Mutations in the APC gene are associated with both familial and sporadic colon cancer pathogenesis and links with other cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma and renal cancer are reported.

But what goes wrong in a cell when it loses the normal function of APC?  To answer this, we were using a pre-clinical transgenic animal model that allowed the conditional deletion of Apc in the adult intestine or liver. Not surprisingly, loss of Apc rapidly results in neoplasia. Transcriptome analysis using Affymetrix microarrays identified a number of gene transcripts that are differentially regulated following the conditional loss of Apc.  The data generated has been used to establish some of the critical molecular events that contribute to the initiation and progression of tumourigenesis (e.g. Sansom et al 2004+2007, Reed et al 2004, 2006+2008).

Through this work I developed a particular interest in two genes that are mis-regulated following Apc loss, and are known to be important in the regulation of epigenetics, those being Cbx3 and Hmgb1.  Cbx3 encodes the protein Hp1gamma which plays a critical role in chromatin organisation and gene expression, while Hmgb1 is a multi-functional protein, but can also bind chromatin and facilitate the binding of other proteins to DNA to regulate gene expression.


  • Dr Laura Thomas, School of Medicine, Swansea University
  • Dr Hannah West, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
  • Dr Prim Singh, Charite University, Berlin
  • Dr David Tosh and Dr Zoe Burke, Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath
  • Dr Ros John, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
  • Dr Owen Sansom, Cancer Research UK Beatson Laboratories, Glasgow
  • Dr John Jenkins, Gastroenterology Research Unit, The University of Liverpool


I have achieved the status of Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) in recognition of attainment against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning support in hight education, 25/06/2019.

I currently teach in Phase one of the medical undergraduate degree (MBBCh): Case-Based Learning (CBL) Facilitator, Platform for Clinical Sciences (PCS) tutor, Student Selected Component (SSC) tutor.

Previously I have taught subjects including, Cancer Biology, Genetic modification, and genetic models of disease. This is in addition to the supervision of project students undertaking either laboratory-based cancer research projects or science communication engagement projects.


The latest chapter of my career began Jan 2023, taking up the role of Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences within Centre For Medical Education (C4ME), Cardiff University School of Medicine.  It has long been my ambition to expand my teaching role having gained FHEA accreditation in 2019, and this lecturer role is the opportunity to do this.

Previously I worked as the operations manager within Wales Gene Park, starting April 2017. Wales Gene Park is an infrastructure support group, funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales, and operates to provide collaborative access to genomic technologies for researchers and provides innovative initiatives to educate and engage health professionals and the public in Wales and beyond.

Prior to that I worked as a postdoctoral research associate within the group of Prof. Alan Clarke in Cardiff school of Biosciences since Oct 2002. My research utilised several clinically relevant, transgenic mouse models of cancer (principally intestinal and liver cancer) with the aim of clarifying or establishing some of the critical molecular events that contribute to the initiation, establishment and progression of cancer.

Pre-Cardiff, I worked within the group of Prof Wolf Reik at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge, under whose supervision I also completed a PhD (awarded in Sept 2000).  Here my research focused on understanding the epigenetic regulation of the imprinted locus on mouse distal chromosome 7 (a chromosome region involved in foetal overgrowth and cancer susceptibility) and I characterised the molecular basis of, and consequential imprinted phenotype of, the novel radiation-induced mouse mutation Minute (Mnt).

Preceding this I graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc honours degree in Applied Biology in 1996. During my degree course I completed a year's research in The Institute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff, where I characterised the inheritance of multiple genetic markers within families of Rett syndrome patients (a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder) and refined the genetic map of this disease.

Honours and awards

Recognition Awards:

2021 Cardiff University Celebrating Excellence Award “Excellence in Voluntary Contribution” - work with the menopause awareness team.

2015 Rising start in Research Engagement, Highly Commended, Cancer Research UK

2012 Cardiff University Celebrating Excellence Award “Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Engagement”

2009/10 Gold Maximising Impact Award, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University 2006 BACR Hamilton-Fairley Young Investigator Award

Funding Awards:

  • Genomics Partnership Wales award “Epigenetics analysis of polyposis syndrome patients” 2022
  • Wales Gene Park: Genomics Partnership Wales 2021-2024
  • Wellcome Trust ISSF3 award “Jam the Mess” engagement award 2021
  • Wales Gene Park Genomics Partnership Wales award 2021-2022
  • Wales Gene Park Health and Care Research Wales award (co-applicant) 2020-2025
  • KESS2 East PhD studentship (co-applicant) 2019
  • School of Medicine PhD studentship (co-applicant) 2019
  • Wales Gene Park, Welsh Assembly Government (Health and Care Research Wales) (co-applicant) 2017
  • Cancer Research UK programme grant(C1295/ A15937) renewal awarded to Prof. T Dale (Named researcher on a co-written application) 2016
  • Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund “Suppress the Mess” engagement award (co-applicant) 2016
  • Project development fund from the Cardiff CR-UK centre 2015
  • School of Biosciences seed corn funding 2015
  • Princes trust science engagement project (co-applicant) 2014
  • BACR non-student Travel Award 2014
  • Project development fund from the Cardiff CR-UK centre
  • CUROP summer studentship 2013
  • Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre Development Fund 2013
  • Cardiff University Community Engagement Small Award 2012
  • Tenovus PhD studentship (PhD2011/L30) to support Charmmy Ka Ian Lio 2011
  • The Biochemical Society Scientific Outreach Grant, 2011
  • The Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary, 2011
  • Cancer Research UK project grant (C1295/A12417) awarded to Prof. Clarke (named researcher on co-written application) 2010
  • The Royal Society Partnership grant, 2010
  • The Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary, 2010
  • Wellcome Trust VIP award “epigenetics and cancer”
  • The Nuffield Foundation Undergraduate Research Bursary, 2008
  • BACR meeting bursary, 2008
  • BACR Hamilton-Fairley Young Investigator Award, 2006


PhD and MRes Students:

  • Co-supervisor for Robert Maddison, Health and Care Reserach Wales funded PhD, Jan 2023 - present
  • Co-supervisor for Becky Truscott, SoM funded PhD, October 2019 - present
  • Co-supervisor for Angharad Walters, KESS2 East funded PhD, July 2019 - present
  • Principle Investigator for Charmmy Ka Ian Lio - PhD Tenovus Funded (graduated 2015)
  • Co-supervisor for Maddy Young PhD (graduated 2014)
  • Co-supervisor for Carl Daly PhD (graduated 2013)
  • Co-supervisor for Nurudeen Hassan MRes (graduated 2012)
  • Mentor to Dr Paul Shaw PhD (graduated 2010)

PTY / Intercalleted students:

  • Sonya Lloyd (Cardiff University) 2022
  • Zac Rossaye (Oxford Brooks University) 2015
  • Carys Johnson (Cardiff University) 2014/2015
  • Paul Williams (Cardiff University) 2013/2014

Summer placements:

  • Keziah Rose (CUROP student) 2013
  • Ben Hopkins (voluntary placement) 2012
  • Adam Lynch (voluntary placement) 2011
  • James Lamb (Nuffield Foundation Bursary A level student) 2011
  • James Moggridge (Nuffield Foundation Bursary A level student) 2011
  • Ben Hopkins (Nuffield Foundation Bursary A level student) 2010
  • James Platt (Nuffield Foundation Undergraduate Bursary student) 2008

Final year undergraduate project students:

  • Angharad Walters 2015/2016 ((Lab project)
  • Luke Barn 2014/2015 (Engagement project)
  • Sian Cleaver 2013/2014 (Engagement project)
  • Katherine Weetman 2013/2014 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke & K Lio)
  • Sarah Guildford 2013/2014 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke & M Young)
  • Rhys Donovan, 2012/2013 (Engagement project)
  • Rezwana Chowdhury, 2012/2013 (Engagement project)
  • Swawiza Gohobur, 2012/2013 (Engagement project)
  • Natalie Izod, 2012/2013 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke & M Young)
  • Scott Hart, 2011/2012 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke & P Shaw)
  • Nesibe-princess Gemici, 2010/2011 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke)
  • Adam Carrico, 2009/2010 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke)
  • Gokcen Ilktaci, 2008/2009 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke)
  • David Hunt, 2007/2008 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke)
  • Ryan Russell, 2006/2007 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke)
  • Bethan Medina, 2005/2006 (Lab project - co-supervised with AR Clarke)


Outreach activities

My first involvement in public engagement was through the Beacons for Wales Researchers in Residence scheme 2009, but I have regularly undertaken a range of activities since.

I have really enjoyed participating in events organised by others, such as the Beacons for Wales $1000 genome project in Park Prison, Bridgend, the "Learn about Life" events in Cardiff School of Bioscience, Biology Rocks at Cardiff Museum, Cancer Research UK public events and Wales Gene Park Schools Genetics Roadshows.  However, I have also secured funding for activities I have initiated and organised myself e.g. school visits to Goytre Fawr Primary school, Archdeacon John Lewis Primary school, Pencoed Comprehensive, or the "Lab in an ice-cream Van - Cell-fi" activities in collaboration with Tenovus.

Through these experiences, I developed a highly successful interactive workshop demonstrating the power of the polymerase chain reaction and its application in cancer research.  This 3-hour workshop has been frequently used, including for visiting pre-GCSE pupils who were participating in a Hands-On Science Summer Residential course, and for teacher CPD training. It has since been developed into a "loan box" for schools to undertake PCR within the classroom, which is managed by the School of Biosciences.

More recently I have worked with Dr Giusy Tornillo as the co-founder for "Suppress The Mess" (@CUSuppressTMess) which is a fun educational activity that demystifies the science of cancer. This activity arose from a Princes trust science engagement project with colleagues within the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute.  The activiy was developed further Spring 2021, during a Wellcome Trust funded project titled “Jam The Mess” (@JamTheMess) which worked to create a 'cancer-themed' educational digital game.  More infromation about this project can be found here: