AFBI appoints new chief executive

Professor Elaine Watson, who has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI)
Professor Elaine Watson, who has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI)

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) announces the appointment of Professor Elaine Watson as Chief Executive. Professor Watson will take up post on 1 June 2016 following the retirement of Professor Seamus Kennedy.

In welcoming Professor Watson to AFBI, Mr Colm McKenna, Chair of the AFBI Board said: “Professor Watson brings a wealth of scientific and management experience to the role.

“My Board colleagues and I look forward to working with Elaine as we seek to build further on AFBI’s international reputation for excellence in science in support of the local agri-food industry.”

Professor Watson said: “I am delighted to be joining the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and working with staff and stakeholders to help address the significant challenges and opportunities for the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.”

Professor Watson graduated in veterinary medicine from the University of Glasgow where she also completed a Master of Veterinary Medicine degree in dairy cow fertility. After carrying out research on fertility and metabolic disease in cattle at the Cattle Breeding Centre in Shinfield and the Institute for Animal Health at Compton, she completed a PhD at Bristol University on reproductive disease in horses.

Professor Watson subsequently took up a post at the University of Pennsylvania as Assistant Professor of Equine Reproduction. In 1991, she returned to Scotland as Head of Reproduction at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, where she was appointed to a Personal Chair in Veterinary Reproduction in 1999. She was awarded a DSc degree from the University of Edinburgh in 2002 for her studies on reproductive function in animals.

Professor Watson was Dean of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies from 2003-2011, where she led a major capital investment programme to create the Easter Bush Campus, which is one of the largest concentrations of animal scientists, vets and students in Europe. She was also a member of the Council and Scientific Advisory Committee of the Scottish Agricultural Colleges.

Most recently, Elaine was Vice President of DeVry Medical International and Dean of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) in St. Kitts in the Caribbean, where she oversaw a substantial strengthening of the research profile resulting in full accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

A European Specialist in Animal Reproduction, Professor Watson was President of the European College of Animal Reproduction from 2005-08. She has also been a member of the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), Chief Examiner for the RCVS Diploma in Veterinary Reproduction, Chair of the RCVS Equine Medicine and Surgery Specialty Board, Chair of the RCVS Fellowship Sub-Committee, Trustee of the British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation, Trustee for the International Board on Equine Reproduction, and a member of the Board of the Society for Fertility. Professor Watson has served as a member of the editorial boards of several scientific journals and has published over 300 scientific papers, contributed book chapters and abstracts on veterinary reproduction. She has also delivered invited presentations at numerous international conferences.

In 2010, Professor Watson gained funding to establish the world’s first International (Jeanne Marchig) Centre in Animal Welfare Education at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. In 2012, she was made an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Watson will be available to meet stakeholders at AFBI’s Open Day to be held on Thursday 2 June 2016 at AFBI’s research farm at Hillsborough, Co. Down.