Professor Rothwell was appointed President and Vice-Chancellor of the University in July 2010, the first woman to lead the University or either of its two predecessor institutions. She is also Professor of Physiology, and has previously held an MRC Research Chair, as well as holding University positions as Vice-President for Research and as Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Rothwell's research in the field of neuroscience has contributed towards major advances in the understanding and treatment of brain damage in stroke and head injury. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in June 2004 and made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in June 2005, in recognition of her services to science.
She was the founding President of the Royal Society of Biology, and has also served as Co-Chair of the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology, and as a non-executive director of AstraZeneca. She is currently Chair of the Russell Group, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester, Chair of the Oxford Road Corridor Board, a Commissioner on the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, and a member of the UK Investment Council, the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Board, the UK Biobank Board and the Times Education Commission.
Professor Rothwell takes a strong and active interest in public communication of science and regularly gives talks to schools and the public and contributes to television, radio and press, particularly on sensitive issues in science.