Dr Alex Conner PhD FRSB SFHEA

Dr Alex Conner

Institute of Clinical Sciences
College Academic Lead for Post-Graduate Taught Education
Senior Lecturer in Medical Sciences

Contact details

Institute of Clinical Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Alex Conner has a degree and PhD in Molecular and Biological Sciences. He is the Director of Post-Graduate Taught Education for the College and has more than 18 years’ experience in research-intensive higher education. Alex is an educational leader and teacher for medicine and medical-related biosciences.

Alex is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and was a Media Fellow for the British Science Association. Alex sits on a number of strategic committees in Higher Education including the National Biochemical Society’s committee for Education, Training and Public Engagement as well as the University of Birmingham HEFi Advisory Board and the public engagement committee.

Alex is experienced in teaching of science, training of non-academic skills and professional coaching and uses all of these methods to help students and staff develop and achieve their goals.

Alex’s research interests lie in the structure and function of large membrane proteins. This involves using cell and molecular biology techniques with an emphasis on understanding the regulation of aquaporin (AQP) water channels. See Membrane Protein Structure and Function Research Group webpage.

Alex has more than 50 publications in scientific journals, reviews and book chapters. He has received grants from the British Heart Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.


  • Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy
  • Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice – University of Warwick
  • Post-Graduate Certificate in Professional Coaching and Mentoring – University of Warwick
  • PhD Molecular Biology – University of Birmingham
  • BSc (hons) First Class in Biological Sciences (Genetics) – University of Birmingham 


Alex Conner graduated from the School of Bioscience at the University of Birmingham with a Degree in Biological Sciences (Genetics) and a PhD in Molecular Biology in 2000. He worked as a post-doctoral fellow on grants funded by the Wellcome trust from 2000-2006, splitting his time between Aston University, the University of Birmingham and a short stint as a Wellcome VIP fellow at the University of Rochester Medical School, New York. His research involved the molecular structure and function analysis of large membrane proteins (specifically G protein-coupled receptors or GPCRs) and resulted in a number of key publications describing similarities and differences between the two major families (A and B). Alex joined the Medical School of the University of Swansea as a Junior Lecturer in 2006, which started a continuing interest in psychiatric biology. After less than a year, he was appointed as Assistant Professor at Warwick Medical School where he spent the next six years researching GPCRs (with an emphasis on the CGRP receptor), psychiatric biology and more recently, the role of aquaporins (AQPs) as regulated water pores in health and disease. He has published more than 40 times, has a University teaching qualification and recently obtained a certificate in professional coaching from the University of Warwick. He is an external consultant facilitator and trainer, which involves writing, delivering and ‘training the trainers’ for a number of non-academic skills including efficiency as a researcher, delivering impact, group-work behaviour and presentation skills.

Alex Conner joined the University of Birmingham, College of Medical and Dental Sciences as a Senior Lecturer in Medical Sciences in August 2013.


Alex teaches and leads at undergraduate and postgraduate level in physiology, molecular biology, pharmacology and communication skills. Alex also facilitates continuing professional development. He was the School Lead for taught post-graduate courses and deputy lead for the College. Alex is the deputy lead for admissions on our Biomedical Sciences programme and medical school liaison for the dental school Biomaterials Science programme. Additionally, he consults, designs new courses and presents seminars in transferrable skills including the demonstration of impact, communication skills, effectiveness and pedagogy. Alex is involved in a number of science communication projects for public engagement, University promotion, widening participation and just for fun.

Postgraduate supervision

Currently supervising 3 PhD students


Research includes:

Molecular structure and function analysis of large membrane proteins. 

This includes:

  • Understanding the role of the CGRP receptor. CGRP is a potent vasodilator found throughout the vasculature, known to be involved in migraine and pain and linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
  • Discovering novel regulatory mechanisms for the trafficking of the aquaporin (AQP) family of water pores. More recently, this includes the hypotonicity-induced movement of AQP4, a protein known to be involved in the formation of brain oedema following stroke, blunt-force trauma and some cancers.

Other activities

Coaching: Alex Conner is a professional coach, using a non-directive approach to identify issues arising from career-related processes.

Alex Conner is a consultant trainer/facilitator writing, delivering and ‘training the trainers’ for a number of courses. These include:

  • Effective Team-working
  • Networking skills
  • Delivering Impact
  • Working Effectively with a Supervisor
  • Poster design


Woolley MJ and Conner AC.  Understanding the common themes and diverse roles of the second extracellular loop (ECL2) of the GPCR super-family.  Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2016 Nov 27 in press.

Kitchen P, Conner MT, Bill RM and Conner AC.  Structural Determinants of Oligomerization of the Aquaporin-4 ChannelJ Biol Chem. 2016 Mar 25;291(13):6858-71. The most-cited biomedical research journal in the world.

Watkins HA, Chakravarthy M, Abhayawardana RS, Gingell JJ, Garelja M, Pardamwar M, McElhinney JM, Lathbridge A, Constantine A, Harris PW, Yuen TY, Brimble MA, Barwell J, Poyner DR, Woolley MJ, Conner AC, Pioszak AA, Reynolds CA and Hay DL.  Receptor Activity-modifying Proteins 2 and 3 Generate Adrenomedullin Receptor Subtypes with Distinct Molecular Properties.  J Biol Chem. 2016 May 27;291(22):11657-75

Kitchen P, Öberg F, Sjöhamn J, Hedfalk K, Bill RM, Conner AC*, Conner MT* and Törnroth-Horsefield S*. *Joint corresponding author.  Plasma Membrane Abundance of Human Aquaporin 5 Is Dynamically Regulated by Multiple PathwaysPLoS One. 2015 Nov 16;10(11):e0143027. 

Kitchen P and Conner AC.  Control of the Aquaporin-4 Channel Water Permeability by Structural Dynamics of Aromatic/Arginine Selectivity Filter ResiduesBiochemistry. 2015 Nov 17;54(45):6753-5. 

Kitchen P, Day RE, Salman MM, Conner MT, Bill RM and Conner AC. Beyond water homeostasis: Diverse functional roles of mammalian aquaporins.  Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015 Sep 10. 

Kitchen P, Day RE, Taylor LH, Salman MM, Bill RM, Conner MT and Conner AC.  Identification and Molecular Mechanisms of the Rapid Tonicity-induced Relocalization of the Aquaporin 4 Channel.  J Biol Chem. 2015 Jul 3;290(27):16873-81. 

Hay DL, Harris PW, Kowalczyk R, Brimble MA, Rathbone DL, Barwell J, Conner AC and Poyner DR.  Structure-activity relationships of the N-terminus of calcitonin gene-related peptide: key roles of alanine-5 and threonine-6 in receptor activation.  Br J Pharmacol. 2014 Jan;171(2):415-26. 

Woolley MJ and Conner AC (2013) Comparing the molecular pharmacology of CGRP and adrenomedullin. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 14(5):358-74

Conner AC, Bill RM and Conner MT (2013) An emerging consensus on aquaporin translocation as a regulatory mechanism. Mol Membr Biol. 30(1):1-12

View all publications in research portal