Mike Tyers is a world-renowned expert in cell division and a true believer in the notion that science can change the world. Both perspectives will inform his new duties as director of an alliance of Scotland's six major research universities. See CV

The Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance is the latest of the pooling initiatives funded by the Scottish government. (Six other initiatives exist in areas ranging from engineering to geosciences.) The universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde will share resources for life-sciences research. The Scottish Funding Council has put up £27 million (US$53 million) and the six universities another £50.6 million to create new research posts and to invest in core technology platforms. By pooling resources in strategic areas such as cell, systems and translational biology, Scotland can encourage collaboration across institutions and maximize productivity, says Tyers. “A relatively modest investment can go a long way.”

The opportunity to direct a countrywide strategy for research is the main attraction for Tyers. One big priority will be promoting synthetic biology, which he sees as a logical evolution of systems-level approaches such as functional genomics and chemical biology.

After earning his doctorate in biochemistry from McMaster University in Canada, Tyers did postdoctoral work at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. He took a faculty position at the University of Toronto in the Department of Medical Research and then settled in at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, also in Toronto.

Tyers developed his early fascination with the cell into a career-long research focus. He calls it his “cell-cycle-centric view of the world”. Cell division affects “virtually every process you can think of”, he says.

“He has a really clear vision of what ought to be done,” says Bruce Futcher, who was Tyers' postdoctoral adviser and is now at Stony Brook University, New York. Tyers sets a high standard and leads by example, adds former student Paul Jorgensen, now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.

Tyers likes to cite Shakespeare's King Henry V as a model for leadership. “It's imperative to get in the trenches, and let everyone know you're going to work as hard as anyone in the group,” he says. “You can do an awful lot with a relatively small team of committed people.”