Kirsten McEwen

I hold an Imperial Junior Research Fellowship in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London. My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of disease and combines experimental and theoretical biology. This encompasses large scale data analysis, modelling approaches and experimental cell systems.

Despite the surge in genomics research over the past few decades, we are still often unable to define the molecular mechanisms linking genotype to phenotype. By starting with simple ex vivo systems, we can address this challenge and subsequently apply the knowledge gained to understand more complex disease such as cancer. Combining theoretical modelling with wet-lab experimental techniques offers new approaches to understand disease mechanisms and to identify how we can manipulate these for therapy.

I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge with Anne Ferguson-Smith on stem cell epigenetics, focused on genomic imprinting. Here I analysed the first genome-wide epigenetic maps and identified a novel epigenetic signature of imprinting (E&C 2010 publication). Recognising the value of incorporating computational and experimental biology to reach novel insights, I continued this integrative mechanistic approach throughout my career. During my post-doctoral work with Petra Hajkova I used this approach to uncover molecular mechanisms controlling DNA methylation in pluripotent stem cells (see NSMB 2013 publication). This work also showed that DNA methylation is much more dynamic in pluripotent stem cells than previously thought, and identified a globally hypomethylated state now widely used as a hallmark of naïve pluripotency. My current research at Imperial College investigates mechanisms of transcription heterogeneity, combining modelling techniques to address emerging questions in the new field of single-cell biology. Our research aims to identify the mechanisms and consequences of transcriptional heterogeneity to learn how to improve disease outcomes.


Collaborations – if you are interested in collaborating on related research, contact me here.

For PhD or  post-doctoral opportunities please email.


  • Imperial College Research Fellowship
  • AcademiaNet Outstanding Female Academic
  • MRC Single-cell Equipment Award
  • University of Cambridge Lundgren Award
  • Cambridge Philosophical Society Research Award
  • AAAS/Science Program for Excellence in Science
  • New Zealand Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship


McEwen KR*, Leitch HG*, Turp A, Encheva V, Carroll T, Grabole N, Mansfield W, Nashun B, Knezovich JG, Smith A, Surani MA, Hajkova P, 2013, Naive pluripotency is associated with global DNA hypomethylation,Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Vol: 20, Pages: 311-316, ISSN: 1545-9993 *Joint first authorship

McEwen KR, Leitch HG, Amouroux R, Hajkova P, 2013, The impact of culture on epigenetic properties of pluripotent stem cells and pre-implantation embryosBiochemical Society Transactions, Vol: 41, Pages: 711-719, ISSN: 0300-5127

Amouroux R, McEwen KR, Hajkova P, Current technological advances in mapping new DNA modificationsDrug Discovery Today: Disease Models, Vol: 12, Pages: 15-26, ISSN: 1740-6757

Ferron SR, Charalambous M, Radford E, McEwen K, Wildner H, Hind E, Manuel Morante-Redolat J, Laborda J, Guillemot F, Bauer SR, Farinas I, Ferguson-Smith AC, 2011, Postnatal loss of Dlk1 imprinting in stem cells and niche astrocytes regulates neurogenesisNature, Vol: 475, Pages: 381-U136

McEwen KR, Ferguson-Smith AC, 2010, Distinguishing epigenetic marks of developmental and imprinting regulation.Epigenetics & Chromatin, Vol: 3, ISSN: 1756-8935

Strogantsev R, Krueger F, Yamazawa K, Shi H, Gould P, Goldman-Roberts M, McEwen K, Sun B, Pedersen R, Ferguson-Smith AC, 2015, Allele-specific binding of ZFP57 in the epigenetic regulation of imprinted and non-imprinted monoallelic expression.Genome Biology, Vol: 16

Aziz A, Baxter EJ, Edwards C, Cheong CY, Ito M, Bench A, Kelley R, Silber Y, Beer PA, Chng K, Renfree MB, McEwen K, Gray D, Nangalia J, Mufti GJ, Hellstrom-Lindberg E, Kiladjian JJ, McMullin MF, Campbell PJ, Ferguson-Smith AC, Green AR, 2013, Cooperativity of imprinted genes inactivated by acquired chromosome 20q deletions.Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol: 123, Pages: 2169-2182

Radford EJ, Isganaitis E, Jimenez-Chillaron J, Schroeder J, Molla M, Andrews S, Didier N, Charalambous M, McEwen K, Marazzi G, Sassoon D, Patti ME, Ferguson-Smith AC, 2012, An unbiased assessment of the role of imprinted genes in an intergenerational model of developmental programming.PLoS Genetics, Vol: 8

McEwen KR, Ferguson-Smith AC, 2009, Genomic Imprinting – A Model for Roles of Histone Modifications in Epigenetic Control, Epigenomics, Editors: Ferguson-Smith, Greally, Martienssen, Netherlands, Publisher: Springer Publishing Company, Pages: 235-258