Leader, Mentor and Master

In tandem with his work as a ground-breaking scientist, Chris was also a uniquely inspiring and dedicated mentor.  He channelled much energy into the support and promotion of other researchers, and people often describe their encounters with him as 'transformational'.

He had a knack for helping others understand their own talents, as well as the route to fulfilling them, and was immensely proud that over 100 of his former students and postdocs had taken up academic positions all over the world.

Chris arrived at Cambridge and St John’s College in 2001 by way of Oxford and Harvard and took up the position of John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology. In 2007 he became the 44th Master of St John’s, a role in which his passion for fairness came to the fore. As the son of parents who left school at 14 without qualifications, Chris felt strongly that the duty of Higher Education institutions was to ‘optimise talent’ wherever it may originate, and under his leadership St John’s launched a means-tested financial support scheme for undergraduates that was more generous than that of any Higher Education institution in the UK.

Taking on the Mastership of St John’s did not inhibit Chris’s scientific endeavours. He founded the Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases in 2012; set up Wren Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, in 2016; and was instrumental in fundraising for the Chemistry of Health Building, which opened in 2018. Chris also received some of the highest honours for science. He was awarded the Royal Medal; a Knighthood for services to Science and Education; and the Heineken Prize from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the major international prize for biochemistry and biophysics and, according to statistics, an excellent predictor for the subsequent award of the Nobel Prize.  

Professor Sir Christopher Dobson at a College Garden Party

“Fairness is something I feel very strongly about: being fair and inclusive seems to me to be so obviously the right thing to do.”
Professor Sir Christopher Dobson

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