Professor Iain Mattaj was born in St Andrews, Scotland. He attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and after completing his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (honours), he obtained his PhD from the University of Leeds, England. Following his PhD, Iain carried out postdoctoral research at the Friedrich Miescher Institute, Switzerland, then at the Biocentre, University of Basel, Switzerland.
He is a member of many national and international scientific advisory boards and panels, including periods as chair of EIROforum, the Scientific Advisory Board of the DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, and the Senior Awards Advisory Board of the Wellcome Trust. He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and helped make The EMBO Journal a highly successful international scientific journal, acting as Executive Editor from 1990 to 2004. In 1985, he joined EMBL as a Group Leader at the Heidelberg laboratory. He became Coordinator of the Gene Expression Unit at EMBL in 1990 before being promoted to the position of Scientific Director in 1999. Iain was appointed Director General of EMBL in May 2005.