Professor Julie Williams CBE receives Honorary Doctorate


A senior figure in the field of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research, Professor Julie Williams CBE, has today been awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Science) from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen.

Julie Williams

Professor Julie Williams graduated from the University of Wales Institute of Science & Technology (BSc, 1978), later completing her PhD before taking up a Research Assistant post in the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine.  Quickly progressing to Professorial level, by virtue of authoring a number of key publications, and successfully winning highly contested research funding, she remains a Professor and Head of Neurodegeneration at the MRC CNGG, School of Medicine, at Cardiff University.

Professor Williams became Chief Scientific Advisor to Alzheimer’s Research UK in 2008 and has advised UK and Welsh Governments on dementia policy, was Dean of Research at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, and a member of the Senior Faculty of NISCHR.  Honoured as a commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honour list, Professor Williams was subsequently appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the Welsh Government and developed the important science package ‘Ser Cymru 2’, later adopted as policy.

On presenting Professor Julie Williams to the congregation Pro Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement and Sustainability at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Dr Jane Davidson said:

I am honoured to introduce Professor Julie Williams, Associate Director of The UK Dementia Research Institute and Professor of Neuropsychological Genetics at Cardiff University to this congregation to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate, for her work on Alzheimer’s Disease.

Professor Julie Williams is an exceptional Welsh woman, and an exceptional scientist, determined to make a real difference to the lives of others, whose achievements may yet change the course of dementia outcomes for us all – but she is also a proud grandmother and tells me delightedly that her grandchildren of 10 and 8 love experiments and tell everyone that ‘Granny is a scientist!’

Julie we are deeply honoured that you are with us today.”

Professor Williams’ research focuses upon identifying and understanding genes which alter the risk of complex psychological and neurodegenerative disorders, with a particular interest in deciphering the genetics of AD. A pioneer of working collaboratively, having recognised early the complexity of AD genetics, and having participated in many world-wide, powerful consortia, the consortium she leads, GERAD (Genetic and Environmental Risk in Alzheimer’s Disease), plays a dominant role in the field, focusing on developing larger, more powerful studies.

She has become a leader within the IGAP genetics consortium, which incorporates over 150 scientists world-wide, with access to a 90,000 strong cohort, mega-meta analyses of which have identified at least 13 new susceptibility genes for AD. Her research has encompassed GWAS, sequencing, large exome chip association studies, and cross disease complex phenotypic and statistical analyses.

On receiving the award at the ceremony, Professor Julie Williams CBE, said: 

“This is a great honour for myself and my family.  We have a great connection with west Wales so to have this award from this institution really is a great honour.

As chief scientific adviser visiting all the Universities in Wales I was impressed by the standard of science I saw and when I visited the University of Wales Trinity Saint David I was privileged to see some of the science going on at the University.  What you do extremely well is identify the problems, think about the solutions, produce those solutions and take those solutions out to the community.” 

TIME magazine rated two of Professor Williams’ research papers from 2005 and 2009 as within the top 10 ‘breakthroughs’ of those years.  She currently has a leading role in, and receives research funding from an MRC programme grant, the Dementia’s Platform UK, Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Joint Programme for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, Centre for Aging and Dementia Research (Welsh Government), European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium (Innovative Medicines Initiative), Brains for Dementia Research, and the Moondance Charitable Foundation among others.

Addressing today’s graduates, Professor Williams CBE added:

“There’s a great world out there and great opportunities.  As students, you’ve had an excellent platform and the strong message here today is that this University is about contributing to, and making a difference to the community and the society you live in.”

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