Tim Millar

Oh well, good luck Tom and Sarah

Favourite Thing: Collaborating with other scientists from around the world (and visiting them too!)



The Boteler School ’82 – ’87, Warrington, Cheshire, North Cheshire College ’87 – ’89


University of Birmingham, Biological Sciences ’89 – ’92, University of Bath PhD 2000 in Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Work History:

Glaxo SmithKline, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, Royal London Hospital, London, University of Bath, University of Calgary, Canada


Division of Infection, Inflammation and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

Current Job:

Lecturer in Pharmacology

Me and my work

I am a research scientist and lecturer trying to discover what happens when cancer cells spread around the body through the blood vessels and how we can try and stop it happening.

When cancer spreads, it can move to new sites in the body using the blood vessels.  To set up a new tumour it must first be captured on the blood vessel wall using a technique a bit like Velcro.  The ancer then crawls along until it finds a gap in the wall (or makes one itself) then move out into the tissue.  This process of cancer spread is called metastasis and is very difficult to treat.  My research looks to stop the blood vessel being sticky to cancer cells so that they can’t attach and form secondary tumours.  I use new chemicals as drugs which may lead to new treatments for cancer.

I also try and make the bodies own defensive cells see the cancer cells and remove them from the body.  This also includes controlling new blood vessel growth which can lead to more cancer spread.  The problem comes though because we need new blood vessels all the time, so any drugs we use need to be designed to only control blood vessels in tumours, this is proving to be really quite hard, but we have some ideas which we will be trying over the next few years. 


My Typical Day

Up to my elbows in blood cells from umbilical cords, reading and writing about science for research papers and grants, teaching medical students about the drugs they will prescribe when they finally qualify

I use models of human blood vessels and to do that I need to collect umbilical cords and placentas from women who have just given birth.  We grow cells from the cords into blood vessels and then use them to see how cancer cells interact with the blood vessel wall and how we can stop it from happening.

To do my research I need to write grant applications to governments or charities who will fund my research.  To do that I have to show them that I have a good idea and that I’m the best person (sometimes in the world) to  do this.  Science is also quite expensive so a research idea may cost over £500,000 for three years work, so the funders need lots of information which takes a long time to get together.  There is also no guarantee that  I will be funded which isn’t a nice feeling when it happens, so I just have to work extra hard on te next grant.

I also teach Medical students about the drugs they will prescribe once they hit the wards.  Its a fun part of my job where I get to speak to young people about one of the most important parts of their future careers.  

What I'd do with the money

Add to my props box – the equipment I will take on school visits and to fix some of the kit I have scrounged which is in need of some TLC

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Short frustrated singer

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Quite like Adele at the moment but there are many and from a big mix of styles, from Harry Connick Jr. to Bjork and Alison Krauss to Radiohead, and lots in between

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Playing rugby in the park by the beach with my two young sons

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1). That my science has benefit to society and advances what we know about the world, 2). to get scientists to work more collaboratively rather than in competition (because it would be so much more fun) and 3). that my singing voice was good enough to make a living out of it so I could buy a whisky distillery, travel the world and do all the things you ever wanted to (I may be stretching the three wishes a bit there)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist – no, really, I did. I thought I would look good in a lab coat, it would be interesting and fun and that it would take me places (except for looking good in a labcoat – all of the above)

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Some times in Physics, but I was in a group who decided to make up their own experiments (sorry Mr Searle), but bit of a goody two shoes normally

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Lived in Canada for three years to do science and travelled to far flung places to talk about it

Tell us a joke.

Two cannibals are eating a clown, cannibal one turns to his friend and says “does this taste funny to you?” or one from my three year old “Why did the banana cross the road? Because its split!” (I’m not sure I get that one either but he finds it hilarious)