our team

Professor Mary Morrell

Head of School
A woman in glasses is speaking at a meeting.


Mary Morrell is Professor of Sleep and Respiratory Physiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London. She received her PhD in Physiology from the University of London, having previously trained and practised as a Nurse at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. As a PhD student in the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, she developed an interest in sleep and the control of breathing, which has shaped her research career.

Mary is the Director of Phase One (Years 1-3) of Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) MBBS programme and the Interim Head of the newly formed Cumbria School of Medicine.

Research: Mary completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, funded by a Wellcome Trust Prize International Travelling Research Fellowship. Upon her return to the UK, she set-up the Academic Unit of Sleep and Breathing with clinical colleagues at the Royal Brompton Hospital. The group aimed to investigate the causes and consequences of sleep disordered breathing and, specifically, to translate research findings into improvements in patient care. This led her to establish a UK respiratory sleep research network. The trials carried out by this team have been incorporated into healthcare guidelines (NICE: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, UK) increasing treatment options for patients with sleep apnoea.

Leadership: Mary has served on the Board of Directors of the American Thoracic Society as Chair of the Respiratory Neurobiology and Sleep Assembly, and on the Executive Committee of the Physiological Society as a Trustee and Chair of Policy Committee. She is a former President of the British Sleep Society.

Education: ‘Education is freedom’ and Mary is an enthusiastic lifelong learner. As Director of Phase One, she is responsible for the first three years of the ICSM MBBS programme, managing a team of educators and over 1,000 students.

Imperial College School of Medicine has recently completed a major curriculum review, rolling out a new MBBS programme in 2019-20. Mary led a team of over 60 people to develop the new Phase One curriculum. The new curriculum focuses on clinical skills, underpinned by the scientific understanding of medicine, incorporating the use of technology. The programme has been designed to prepare students for the introduction of the new Medical Licensing Assessment and the challenges of working in the NHS.

Mary has also developed other educational programmes including an MSc Cardiovascular and Respiratory Healthcare, an intercalated BSc in Remote Medicine, and a Research Development Course, which is now managed by the Clinical Academic Training Office. She has also supervised 25 PhD/MD research fellows from a range of clinical and scientific backgrounds (two students currently registered).

In 2014, Mary was awarded the President’s Medal for Excellence in Teaching in recognition for her leadership in the development of the Imperial College Success Guide for Undergraduate students. In 2023, she was also the recipient of a Faculty of Medicine 25th Anniversary Staff Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education, based on nominations from the Faculty community.

In April 2022, University of Cumbria and Imperial College London announced plans for new medical school in Carlisle and in August 2023, Mary was appointed the Interim Head of the newly formed Cumbria School of Medicine.

When not in the lab or teaching, Mary has also carried out Sleep Research Projects at high altitude and has held a Wellcome Trust Science Arts Grant.