Students and Projects

Find out about our students and their research interests.

Meet our 2020, 2021 and 2022 cohorts

Group photo of the 2020 cohort at University of Sussex for their first Summer School group photo of 2021 cohort standing together outside in wooded area 2022 cohort group photo

Pictures of SoCoBio students at DTP cohort training and events: Business and Entrepreneurships Summer School at the University of Sussex, Industrial Biotechnology Summer School at the University of Kent, Science Communication Summer School at the University of Portsmouth, the SoCoBio Annual Research Conference, and induction event held at Marwell Hotel in Southampton.

  students tasting strawberries at the industrial biotechnology summer school

  Induction event session on data management group picture of students at Industrial Biotechnology summer school

SoCoBio Students are listed by their host DTP partner

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University of Kent

Lydia BennettHead and shoulder profile photo of Lydia

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD: How does the brain stop us overeating?Neuro-genetic control of eating, and how it changes with age, supervised by Dr Jenny Tullet (University of Kent) and Dr Tim Fenton (University of Southampton)

Lydia studied her BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Kent and graduated with First Class Honours. She really enjoyed her module on the “Biology of Ageing” and decided to study her MSc in a biogerontology laboratory supervised by Dr Jenny Tullet. During this time she wrote her thesis on “how neuronal SKN-1B influences appetite regulation and metabolism in C. elegans” and enjoyed presenting a poster of her work at the BSRA and Biochemical Society: Nutrition and the Biology of Ageing Conference. Now she is really keen to advance her skills as a research scientist during her time as a PhD student in the SoCoBio 2023 cohort.

During Lydia’s free time she is passionate about mountain walking and in her second year of her undergraduate she raised over £3500 for the Meningitis Research Foundation by climbing mount Kilimanjaro. She enjoys spending her time teaching her little boy new milestones and taking him outside. If her son permits her some spare time she enjoys swimming, baking, and watching movies.

 

Charlotte BilsbyCharlotte Bilsby

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project-  Plastic-eating yeast: towards plastics as feedstocks for synthetic biology, supervised by Dr Tobias von der Haar (University of Kent) and Dr Andy Pickford (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project – Sustainable food security through aquaculture: Establishment of algal technology for optimal aquaculture growth and health, supervised by Prof Chris Hauton (Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton), Prof Colin Robinson (School of Biosciences, University of Kent) and Prof Tom Bibby (Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton)

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC)

Charlotte completed her BSc in Marine Biology and Zoology with International Experience at Bangor University, North Wales. During her undergraduate degree she was fortunate enough to spend time at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Here she was able to broaden her scientific understanding and skillset with working in a community science laboratory, BioQuisitive. She led a project researching the identification of microbial species in plastic contaminated freshwater systems around Melbourne and the ability of such microbes to co-exist in highly contaminated waters.

Since then, she has undergone and completed a Masters of Research in Microbiology in the von der Haar lab, where she researched the development of novel bioremediation systems for microplastic contaminated soils using Dictyostelium discoideum as a model organism. The project focused largely on the application potential of the PETase enzyme to help reduce environmental plastic pollution. This project gave Charlotte the opportunity to develop her skills in Synthetic biology, Microbiology whilst being able to apply her knowledge of Ecology from her BSc.

In her spare time Charlotte enjoys swimming in the sea (all year round), taking her paddleboard out, and doing litter picks with the charity ‘Plastic patrol’. She is a keen novice sourdough maker, unstable long-boarder and avid blogger, and will happily give everything a go at least once.

Her current project with the SoCoBio DTP links back to her interests in reducing plastic pollution, where once more she is working with the PETase enzyme and the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae to develop ways to biologically degrade PET plastic materials. The project aims to create an efficient fungal expression system for the PETase enzyme, that is capable of decomposing plastic materials to their original building blocks creating a circular recycling loop with minimal environmental impact. From here ways in which this organism can applied to industry will be explored.

She spent her second rotation developing algal vaccination candidates that can be utilised in low-income countries to increase sustainability in aquaculture practices. The vaccines are targeting the GapA protein that can be used as a surface antigen in gram-positive bacterium such as Streptococcus algalactiae. She has gained experience in protein expression, cloning and algal transformations and hopes to be able to utilise these skills throughout her PhD and future career.

Ryan BoughtonPicture of Ryan standing next to a full height window

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project : Drug discovery and repurposing to target key bacterial respiratory complexes, supervised by Dr Mark Shepherd (University of Kent), Prof Mark Wass (University of Kent) and Dr Simon Waddell (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Next generation mitochondrial inhibitors – a new approach to prevent fungal biofilm formation on medical implants (CASE project), supervised by Dr Campbell Gourlay (University of Kent), Prof Anthony Moore (University of Sussex), and Eric Pagan (Smiths Medical Inc)

Ryan graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2020 with a BSc degree in Biological Sciences and a specialism in genetics. Pursuing his passion for disease research, Ryan undertook an MSc in infectious diseases at the University of Kent, where he obtained a distinction and was awarded the prize for the best performing student in the school of Biosciences. His thesis focused on using Mycobacterium smegmatis as a surrogate organism for Mycobacterium tuberculosis drug repurposing. Following this success, Ryan aspired to achieve a PhD to facilitate his future careers goals of working in drug development to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Currently, Ryan is researching the respiratory protein complex cytochrome bd in Mycobacterium smegmatis, with the aim of understanding this complex in order to identify new drugs to treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis and ESKAPE pathogens.

Oya CanikPhoto of Oya standing by river

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Modulating expression of candidate genes to improve lentiviral vector production in stable cell lines, supervised by Prof Mark Smales (University of Kent)

2nd Rotation Project: Unveiling the role of ApoE in microglial development and function, supervised by Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola (University of Southampton) and Dr Sarah King (University of Sussex).

Oya obtained her Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Bilkent University. She studied a circadian rhythm project, characterisation of sleep phenotype and molecular changes in AP-2α and AP-2β mutant mouse models, at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in one of her summer internships via an Erasmus fellowship. She was awarded her Master of Science (M.Sc.) Molecular Biology, Genetics & Bioengineering from Sabanci University. During her M.Sc. research, she investigated the risk factors and biomarkers for food allergy from ingested microRNAs. She then decided to do a PhD level of research to follow her passion for science and to support her future career in biotechnology. Her PhD aim is to shift her vision and research skills to a higher level and to combine all the skills she will develop with her background.

She is working on the development of AAV gene therapy in her first rotation period at the University of Kent. The available AAV helper plasmids are usually low-copy plasmids which means obtaining large amounts of DNA for screening experiments to evaluate changes that might impact packaging requires large volumes of E. coli culture. Therefore, she is subcloning the low-copy AAV helper plasmid genes into a high-copy plasmid to remove this limitation. She will then use this to produce AAV with a GFP reporter genome packaged and evaluate culture conditions and different host expression cell lines to determine if these impact AAV yield and packaging efficiency.

During her second rotation, she will work on the analysis of brain sections from ApoE3 and ApoE4 mice to understand if there are any changes in microglial development and function at the University of Southampton. This will involve Immunohistochemistry, imaging and analysis techniques.

In her free time, she practices mindfulness to keep her mind focused and calm. She likes physical activities such as Pilates and pole fitness. She enjoys travelling, social Latin dances and painting.

Victoria CheungPortrait image of Victoria

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Live long and prosper: probing the mechanism of a transporter family linked to lifespan extension, protection from diabetes and obesity, and cancer, supervised by Dr Christopher Mulligan (University of Kent) and Professor Syma Khalid (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Development of selective CLIC1 inhibitors for the treatment of glioblastoma, supervised by Dr Jose Ortega-Roldan (UKent), Dr Mariana Oana Popa (USussx) and Prof Jeffrey Hill (USussx)

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University

Vicky is a second year PhD student fascinated by the structural and mechanistic complexity of proteins and its diverse roles. After obtaining her BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Kent with First Class Honours, she is excited to go further and explore the structural and functional properties of membrane proteins linked to diabetes, lifespan extension and cancer.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive and prevalent form of primary brain cancer and it’s poor prognosis makes GBM a public health concern. Even with current therapeutic strategies in place, GBM patients have a median survival rate of 12-15 months. Increasingly, evidence points towards chloride channels promoting oncogenic development with its high level of activity during tumorigenesis. Intriguingly, the metamorphic nature of the human chloride intracellular channel 1 (CLIC1) serves as a biological switch for malignant transformation in which only the channel form is carcinogenic. This distinct feature could pave way for novel, selective cancer therapy which would potentially spare normal cells making CLIC1 a highly promising pharmacological target. Therefore, our aim is to develop selective inhibitors to CLIC1 with antiproliferative activity in glioblastoma using cutting-edge biophysical characterisation tools, nanodisc technology, in vitro/in vivo drug screens using anion-sensitive yellow fluorescent proteins to determine functional activity in recombinant CLIC1 expressed in CHO cells and cell-based screening in glioblastoma cell lines where CLIC1 is overactivated for the treatment of GBM.

In her free time, Vicky likes to keep busy with boxing and kickboxing having captained both societies during her undergraduate studies at Kent. Vicky is also passionate about food, travelling and art.

Claudia Chitty

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project : Capture and degradation of micro-plastics by a synthetic biology approach to engineer novel PET-degrading enzyme linked amyloid nano-material supervised by Dr Wei-Feng (University of Kent),  Prof Louise Serpell (University of Sussex) and Dr Tobias von Der Haar (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project :

Joseph Davies

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Live long and prosper: probing the mechanism of a transporter family linked to lifespan extension, protection from diabetes and obesity, and cancer, supervised by Dr Christopher Mulligan (University of Kent) and Prof Jonathan Essex (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Development of a method for the inference of protein function and application to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, supervised by Prof Mark Wass (University of Kent), Prof Martin Michaelis (University of Kent) and Dr Simon Waddell (University of Southampton).

Emmanuel Denu

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project : A novel splicing program that controls cancer cell metastasis, supervised by Dr Ben Goult (University of Kent) and Dr Tim Fenton (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Avoiding the immune system: Using Candida albicans as a tool to understand microbial innate immune evasion strategies, supervised by Rebecca Hall (University of Kent), Alessia Buscaino (University of Kent), Xiangming Xu (NIAB), and Andrew Armitage (University of Greenwich).

Fiona Dresel

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and final PhD Project: Investigating metabolic dysfunction as a driver of Motor Neuron Disease, supervised by Dr Campbell Gourlay (University of Kent) and Prof. Majid Hafezparast (University of Sussex)

2nd Rotation Project: Host-microbe interactions – an innovative approach to health of the nervous system, supervised by Dr Mariana Ezcurra (University of Kent) and Dr David Weinkove (CEO at Magnitude Biosciences).

Fiona obtained a First class (hons) during her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Whilst studying for her undergraduate degree she had the chance to complete a final year research project where she investigated nutritional immunity as a method to regulate biofilm growth on voice protheses, and its effect on antifungal drug resistance. The results from this project contributed to a larger scale study and have been used to provide insights into the fungal colonisation of medical devices.

She then decided to continue to a Masters level of research and undertake an MSc-R to further improve and increase her cell biology skillset and understanding of yeast. This Masters project investigated the roles of RAS in controlling cell fate using yeast to further elucidate its oncogenic potential. This project gave Fiona the opportunity to develop her skills in cell culturing and genetic manipulation of various microorganisms.

Coming from a biomedical science background, Fiona is particularly interested in the bioscience for an integrated understanding of health. This is why she chose her PhD project on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as an incurable and devastating motor neurone disease. The aims of this project is to increase our understanding of the metabolic dysfunction that underpins ALS pathology.

In her free time, Fiona enjoys playing the violin, and exploring new countries and cities while eating all the food. She is also always on the hunt for new books especially on art history and tries to convince the world that Bavaria is actually near Germany.

William Edwards

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Elucidating the role of pH and ion sensing in the pathogenicity of Candida albicans, supervised by Dr Rebecca Hall (University of Kent) and Dr Anthony Lewis (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project: A dual approach to the Biofortification of Lettuce/Tomato with Vitamin B12, supervised by Dr Andrew Simkin (University of Kent), Dr Eleftheria Stavridou (NIAB), and Dr Andrew Lawrence (University of Southampton).

Final PhD project: Investigating the role and effect of microbiome in regenerative farming practices supervised by Anastasios Tsaousis (University of Kent), Mark Dumont (University of Southampton), Gary Robinson (University of Kent) and Rob Barker (University of Kent)

Laura May Freeman BSc AMRSB

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Microbes and the ageing brain: do host-microbe interactions accelerate age-related cognitive decline? Supervised by Professor Jessica Teeling and Dr Marina Ezcurra

2nd Rotation Project: Bioactive natural products from the microbiome – an innovative approach to healthy ageing (CASE project), supervised by Dr Marina Ezcurra (University of Kent), and Industry partner Dr Kieron Edwards, Chief Scientific Officer at Sibelius Natural Products.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): BioProduction by Sekisui

In July 2020, Laura graduated from the University of Kent with a first-class degree in Biomedical Science with a Sandwich Year with honours. She was awarded the University of Kent Faculty of Sciences Rotary Prize for her academic achievement during her degree. In the final year of her degree, she carried out an eight-week laboratory research project that aimed to understand the effect of alternative splicing on the structure and function of the transcription factor ZFY during spermatogenesis. To achieve this, she expressed and purified the spliced isoform and compared the purification products to the full-length isoform, and performed bioinformatic analysis to identify specific motifs that are absent in the spliced isoform and may be responsible for its loss of function in yeast reporter systems(Decarpentrie et al., 2012). To understand whether the highly conserved motif identified in full length but absent from the spliced isoform was responsible for transcriptional activation, she designed primers and carried out site directed mutagenesis to change the primary sequence of the motif. Laura undertook a sandwich year placement at the flavours and fragrance company Givaudan UK Ltd where she undertook an independent microbiology research project, during which she carried out and optimized a new biochemical assay. Laura has recently been awarded the Royal Society of Biology Advanced Accreditation Top Student Project Award for this project.

During her undergraduate degree, she developed a strong interest in the immune system including its regulation, pathogen detection and the consequences of immune cell deficiencies or overactivity. Her passion to learn more about microbe and immune cell interactions and the consequences of chronic immune activation lead her to her PhD project. During her PhD she will be investigating whether amyloid-β fibrillization is increased by systemic infection throughout ageing as part of the innate immune response leading to amyloid plaque deposition and neurodegeneration, and the mechanism that activates this response. To study the immune response that stimulates amyloid-β fibrillization, she will investigate neuronal function, immune cell infiltration, amyloid deposition, gut permeability and microbiome composition in response to infection in in vivo model systems (Caenorhabditis elegans and mouse). Using the immune mechanisms identified to activate amyloid-β fibrillization and subsequent plaque formation in response to systemic infection, she will use pharmacological and/or dietary approaches to disrupt the initial host-microbe interactions and therefore delay neurodegeneration.

Dementia has a huge effect on many people in the UK, whether they are suffering from the disease or care for someone that is. It is her aspiration that the findings of her PhD will have a beneficial impact on those effected by being used to develop therapeutics to disrupt the mechanism of amyloid plaque deposition in response to infection during ageing. Throughout her PhD, she would like to develop as a researcher by being able to solve problems more efficiently and sharing her findings comprehensively through oral and written communication.

Laura is keen to help others and loves volunteering, for example during her undergraduate degree she was the president of the fundraising society UKC Girl UP. In her free time you will usually find her on the water doing stand-up paddle boarding. Laura has been playing the flute and saxophone for over 10 years and enjoys playing in both concert and jazz bands.

Decarpentrie, F. et al. (2012) ‘Human and mouse ZFY genes produce a conserved testis-specific transcript encoding a zinc finger protein with a short acidic domain and modified transactivation potential’, Human Molecular Genetics, 21(12), pp. 2631–2645. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds088.

Isabella Garcia (CASE Studentship)Photo of Izzy standing outside a building

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation project: Friendly fire: understanding regulation of the genome editing enzyme APOBEC3A in cell growth and anti-viral responses (CASE Project), supervised by Dr Tim Fenton (University of Kent), Professor Michelle West (University of Sussex) and Maria Emanuela Cuomo ( AstraZeneca, CASE Partner).

2nd Rotation project & Final PhD Project: How does mis-activation of testis-specific genes disrupt mitotic cell division? (CASE project), supervised by Dr Peter Ellis (University of Kent), Dr Tim Fenton (University of Kent) and Industry CASE partner Lee Larcombe (Applied Exomics, CASE Partner).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS & PIPS): King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) National Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) &  CASE Partner, Apexomic

Isabella graduated from the University of Kent after completing her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science. Following this she had a passion and drive for research and specifically focused her project selection on cancer research. Isabella is now coming towards the end of her 3rd year and will continue on into her 4th and final year focusing on the possible relationship between the mis-activation of a testis-specific gene and the prevalence of certain cancers in men specifically looking at head and neck cancer. The PhD aims to understand the biological function of this gene and how this might be causing disruption.

Isabella’s project is a CASE partnership which means she works with Apexomic a discovery CRO. This allows Isabella to really engage with science outside of the academic setting.

Isabella also enjoyed travelling to Thailand to undertake a month long iPIPS split between King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) and the
National Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) where she got to experience biotechnology and enhance the UK-Thai collaborations. Following this month-long trip, 9 months later Isabella got to return to Thailand to attend the international conference “Thai-UK Research Collaboration on Development of Biotechnological Products for Animal Health: From
Research to Application” which was organised and hosted by the iPIPS host organisations.

Miya Giragosian

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Understanding adult stem cell-niche interactions using the Drosophila intestine, supervised by Dr Jerome Korzelius (University of Kent) and  Nahuel Villegas (Vivan Therapeutics, CASE partner).

2nd Rotation Project: Manipulation and engineering of lipid metabolic pathways in CHO cells to enhance processability of cell culture supernantants, supervised by Prof Mark Smales (University of Kent), and Dr Mark Ellis (UCB, CASE partner)

Christian Hollingbery

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Using a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to investigate the effects of regenerative agriculture on the soil microbiome, animal health and CO2 emissions, supervised by Dr Anastasios Tsaousis (University of Kent) and  Dr Mark Dumont (University of Southampton) and Dr Robert Baker (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation project: Boosting plant disease resistance RNAi hairpin introduction, supervised by Dr Helen Cockerton (Univeristy of Kent), Prof Alessia Buscaino (Univeristy of Kent), Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB), and Dr Andrew Armitage (University of Greenwich).

Christian has an academic background in biological sciences. He holds a BSc in biotechnology from the University of Edinburugh, which included courses in synthetic, molecular, microbial and plant biology. His interest in sustainable farming led him to work for the next two years with a company producing sustainable protein from insects grown using organic waste products. During this time he improved the production process for the company, carried out research and applied for grant funding.

He applied to the SoCoBio program in order to gain experience and expertise in new solutions for sustainable and future farming. Christian has just begun his second rotation project but his first rotation project on understanding how sustainable, regenerative farming practices, such as biochar and mob grazing, can affect the soil microbiome had a major focus on protists, as they are major ecosystem engineers in the soil environment.

Jacob HudsonJacob standing in front of blue background

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project: How to build a super phage: Understanding and improving bacteriophage biocontrol of Pseudomonas syringae pathovars, supervised by Dr Matevz Papp-Rupar (NIAB) and Dr Franklin L. Nobrega (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Gut bacteria and the brain: the surprising impact of bacteriophages, supervised by Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton) and Dr Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton).

Final PhD Project: Identification of novel antifungals to prevent food spoilage, supervised by Dr Rebecca Hall (University of Kent)

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Edventure Frome

Jake Hudson was awarded his BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Surrey in, before joining the SoCoBio DTP.

As part of his undergraduate degree he undertook a placement year at Public Health England Porton, analysing of the antibody isotypes generated against ebolavirus within an ebolavirus disease survivor cohort using flow cytometry and ELISA. For his undergraduate dissertation, he studied the role of dengue viral protein NS1 in vascular haemorrhage by examining the impact of dengue NS1 on the endothelial glycocalyx in endothelial cell and pericyte co-cultures.

Jake loves caring for his houseplants and growing vegetables in his spare time, which encouraged him to change direction to study plant based disease instead of human. His current project aims to use bacteriophages to cure and prevent bacterial canker on Prunus spp., specifically cherry.

Outside of plants he loves climbing, hiking, and playing board games. He hopes a PhD will lead him into a career in academia, or failing that help him to develop his skills in education, teaching, and science communication.

Thomas Jamieson

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Manipulation and engineering of lipid metabolic pathways in CHO cells to enhance processability of cell culture supernantants, supervised by Prof Mark Smales (University of Kent), and Dr Mark Ellis (UCB, CASE partner)

2nd Rotation Project: Murein succuli as ocular drug delivery systems, Stefano Biagini (University of Kent), Darren Pitt (VisuNano), Christopher Serpell (University of Kent), and Gary Robinson (University of Kent).

Sam JonesPhoto of Sam Jones

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project: Next generation mitochondrial inhibitors – a new approach to prevent fungal biofilm formation on medical implants (CASE Project), supervised by Dr Campbell Gourlay (University of Kent), Tony Moore (University of Sussex) and Eric Pagan (Smiths Medical Inc).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Enzymology of the B12-dependent rSAM protein superfamily, supervised by Dr Andrew Lawrence (University of Southampton) and Prof Martin Warren (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): National Science and Technology Development, Agency (NSTDA) acting through National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC)

Sam completed his BSc (Hons) degree in Biology at the University of Kent and subsequently obtained his master’s by research in Biochemistry studying cell-free protein synthesis and natural product biosynthesis with Dr Simon Moore. This sparked a keen interest in natural products and enzymology, which has led him to carry out his PhD studying the enzymes involved in the anaerobic biosynthesis of the lower ligand of vitamin B12 and B12-dependent radical SAM enzymes. The project aims to further characterise a newly discovered biosynthetic pathway and a newly emerging, understudied class of enzymes. This has given him the opportunity to learn a variety of techniques and assays including LC-MS/MS, X-ray crystallography, molecular docking, and enzyme kinetics / binding assays to investigate enzyme structure and function.

In his spare time, he enjoys playing computer games and going for walks at the beach or in the countryside.

Olivia Keers

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Designing the next generation of small molecule cell surface targeting agents, supervised by Dr Jennifer Hiscock (University of Kent), Prof Michelle Garrett (University of Kent), Prof Jonathan Essex (University of Southampton), and Dr Hamish Ryder (CRUK Therapeutic Discovery Laboratories).

2nd Rotation Project: Design of SSAs for novel small molecule human therapeutics, supervised by Prof Michelle Garrett (University of Kent), Dr Jennifer Hiscock (University of Kent), Dr Tim Fenton (University of Southampton), and Mr Sashi Kommuclinician – (Clinician and surgeon), Department of Urology, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

Olivia graduated from the University of Kent with a First Class (Hons) Integrated Masters in Chemistry. Her Masters’s project was entitled ‘Using Solution-State NMR To Elucidate Structure Interactionns Between Bacterial Phospholipid Nanodiscs And SSAs’, supervised by Prof Jennifer Hiscock. Olivia became very interested in the anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties of SSAs and has chosen to continue in this area for her 1st and 2nd rotation projects.

Noviann Antonique McLeanhead and shoulders photo of Noviann

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project: Deciphering the role of the proteasome in healthy ageing, supervised by Dr Jerome Korzelius (University of Kent), Dr Paul Skipp (University of Southampton) and Dr Alessandro Ori (LI/Leibniz Institute on Ageing, Jena, Germany).

2nd Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Eating and Sleeping: How neuronal SKN-1/Nrf regulates satiety using the worm C. elegans, supervised by Dr Jenny Tullet (University of Kent) and Dr Kieran Edwards (Sibelius Natural Products).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): CASE Partner Sibelius Natural Products

Noviann obtained her Associates of Science in Sciences (AS) degree at the University College of the Cayman Islands graduating with the highest GPA for her cohort. She later pursued her Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Southampton and remained there to complete her Masters of Neuroscience degree graduating with a distinction. She had the opportunity to work closely with expert researchers and PhD students conducting ongoing Alzheimer’s disease research. She also completed an independent research project focusing on the initial biochemical changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease; specifically the effects of hyperphosphorylation of the GluN2B NMDA receptor subunit on synaptic plasticity in Alzheimer’s disease. The general consensus was that understanding the initiation of the pathology can give insight to future and effective therapeutics.

After completing her masters Noviann was afforded the opportunity to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association of the Cayman Islands where she was a director and dementia educator for 3 years (2020 – 2023). She helped to organise community events and presented at these events. Her main focus was delivering presentations on health, how to age well and ways to reduce the various risk factors of developing Alzheimer’s disease in later life. This work nicely complements her PhD project which focuses on how the SKN-1B gene influences appetite regulation and various aspects of metabolism. When this process is dysregulated it can lead to various metabolic disorders such as obesity which has severe consequences and can also increase the risk of developing diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Further understanding of appetite regulation can lead to the development of therapeutics that can help to not only increase our lifespan but also our healthspan as well.

In her free time, Noviann enjoys staying active and playing sports. Her favourite sport is netball. She represented the Cayman Islands in two national leagues, the Under 16 Cayman Islands National team, the Under 21 Cayman Islands National team and was a member of the Senior Cayman Islands National team from 2020 to 2021. She also loves listening to music, reading, writing scientific blogs, trying new recipes, observing nature and sitting by the beach when she visits home.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS):CASE Partner Sibelius Natual Products

Ateeqa Naim

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: An industrial collaboration to develop new microscopy tools to image ATP usage in muscle, supervised by Dr Neil Kad (University of Kent) and Jeremy Graham (Cairn Research, CASE partner).

2nd Rotation Project:Elucidating the mechanisms of mechanochemical crosstalk between ion transport, mitotic spindle and chromosome dynamics during breast epithelial morphogenesis, supervised by Salah Elias (University of Southampton) and  Ruth Murrell-Lagnado (University of Sussex).

 

 

Thomas Paigephoto of Tom Paige

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: The path to least resistance: investigating the role of an integral membrane protein family that is essential for bacterial antimicrobial resistance, supervised by Dr Christopher Mulligan (University of Kent) and Prof Syma Khalid (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: The mechanical basis of memory – do memories reside in the synaptic scaffolds? supervised by Dr Ben Goult (University of Kent)  and Prof Kevin Staras (University of Sussex).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): APTO-GEN

Tom obtained a first class honours degree in Biochemistry from the university of Kent, subsequently undertaking a summer internship at Kent in Dr Benjamin Goult’s lab studying Adhesion proteins, most notably Vinculin and Talin. Tom continued his research in Dr Goult’s lab with a research masters (Mres), studying interactions between the the adhesion protein vinculin and vinculin binding site containing proteins such as talin and bacterial virulence factors. Throughout his time in the lab he learnt several key techniques for studying protein interactions such as fluorescence polarisation assays, X-ray crystallography, NMR and SEC-MALS.

Tom’s project in the SoCoBio programme is with Dr Christopher Mulligan, studying the elusive DedA family of membrane proteins. Microbiological/cell biology work has linked the DedA family of proteins to phenotypes including antimicrobial resistance, temperature/pH sensitivity, cell division defects as well as changes in lipid composition present in membranes. Structural work on the DedA family is lacking and how exactly DedA proteins cause these phenotypes is still unclear. Tom hopes to bring his knowledge in biochemical/biophysical techniques to link DedA’s structure to function, then finally function to phenotype.

In his spare time Tom enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy novels, gaming, fishkeeping, watching films and grabbing a pint whenever possible.

Kseniia Pidlisna (Industry co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Project Title and supervisors: Unravelling Genome Packaging during Recombinant AAV (rAAV) Gene Therapy Viral Vector Production, supervised by Professor Mark Smales (University of Kent), Dr Emma Hargreaves (University of Kent) and Daniel Smith (Cobra Biologics).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Cobra Biologics (industry partner)

Dmytro Prasolov (CASE Studentship)

Management Board Student Representative

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Next generation mitochondrial inhibitors – a new approach to prevent fungal biofilm formation on medical implants (CASE Project), supervised by Dr Campbell Gourlay (University of Kent), Prof Anthony Moore (University of Sussex), and Eric Pagan (Smiths Medical Inc).

2nd Rotation Project: Elucidating the role of pH and ion sensing in the pathogenicity of Candida albicans, supervised by Dr Rebecca Hall (University of Kent) and Dr Anthony Lewis (University of Portsmouth).

Matthew RiceMatthew standing in his lab smiling at the camera

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: The gut microbiome-brain axis: An important player in behaviour and brain function, supervised by Dr Marina Ezcurra (University of Kent), Prof Amritpal Mudher (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Using NMR to enable the development and derive the mode of action of novel antimicrobial technologies, supervised by Dr Jose Ortega-Roldan (University of Kent), Dr Jennifer Hiscock (University of Kent), Dr Neil Wells(University of Southampton), and Dr Charlotte Hind (Public Health England (PHE)).

Matthew completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Kent and graduated with a First Class (with Honours) in Biochemistry. For his final year project he carried out a bioinformatics project investigating novel protein:protein interactions and developed a keen interest in the effects these may have. As a result, he then completed a Masters by research and wrote a thesis entitled: “Amyloid Precursor Protein: An adhesion protein and a novel talin binder”.

Matthew completed his first rotation in his PhD investigating the aggregation of amyloid peptides using the C. elegan model organism. He then moved to his second rotation investigating the permeability of small molecules across biological membranes. Here he discovered another interest in the mode of action of novel antimicrobials being developed to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Matthew is now investigating the passive permeability of a number of different compounds across several membrane types to generate a set of parameters to better inform drug development and improve the uptake of antimicrobial compounds. He is also working to develop new techniques to help contribute to a multi-disciplinary research consortia also aiming to develop novel antimicrobial compounds.

Outside of his PhD Matthew enjoys watching football, reading and travelling. He also enjoys teaching and outreach and regularly takes part in events to help promote careers in science particularly for individuals who are not sure how to access science.

Matt Shaw

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Understanding Drug Resistance in Human Fungal Pathogens, supervised by Prof Alessia Buscaino (University of Kent) and Prof Georgios Giamas (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Understanding the effects of regenerative agriculture on the soil microbiome, animal health and CO2 emissions, supervised by Dr Anastasios Tsaousis (University of Kent), Dr Marc Dumont (University of Southampton), and Dr Robert Barker (University of Kent).

Matt graduated from the University of Leicester in 2021 with a first-class degree in Biological Sciences (Genetics), having done an analytical project based on amphibian fungal pathogens. Matt then joined the Buscaino lab at the University of Kent where he studied a research Masters in which he used CRISPR to study the evolutionary role of genome instability in human fungal pathogens. He presented this research during the 2022 British Yeast Group conference.

Matt’s first rotation and main project with the SoCoBio DTP looks at the role of genomic instability in fungal evolution. Specifically, he uses a CRISPR system developed during his Masters to study the evolution of Candida albicans, focussing on the acquisition of drug resistance as well as looking at the role of chromosomal rearrangements in fungal speciation.

His second rotation used metagenomic techniques to study the fungal composition of the soil and rumen microbiomes. The aim of this project was to identify agricultural practices which are more conducive to healthy microbiomes and generate fewer greenhouse gasses.

Following his PhD, Matt aspires to remain in research, utilising the experience he has gained to study animal and plant fungal pathogens with the aim of safeguarding biodiversity.

In his spare time Matt enjoys climbing, surfing, salsa, badminton, running and playing the guitar.

Richard Stack (CASE studentship)

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Propect: The effect of the microbiome and microbial bioactives on semen quality and reproductive health supervised by Dr Gary Robinson( University of Kent), Peter Ellis (University of Kent) and Professor Sheryl Homa (Andrology Solutions ).

2nd Rotation Project: Identification of determinants of virus phenotypes, including SARS Coronavirus-2/COVID-19, supervised by Dr Mark Wass (University of Kent), Professor Martin Michaelis (University of Kent), and Dr Christopher McCormick (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): CASE partner Andrology Solutions

Richard was previously a Senior Sexual Health Adviser at 56 Dean Street, Europe’s busiest sexual health service. He was local lead for the Gonococcal resistance to antimicrobials surveillance programme (GRASP), Lymphogranuloma venereum surveillance (an emerging biovar of Chlamydia), and offered risk reduction counselling as part of the MRC PROUD HIV PrEP study.

After moving to work in the mental health field he undertook an MSc in Infectious Disease at The University of Kent to satisfy his passion for science, where he obtained a Distinction along with a prize for the best performing student. His research thesis focused on the induction of APOBEC3A by Influenza A, and sought to elucidate a link between this innate immune response and the APOBEC signature mutation seen in some lung cancers.

His current work on the male reproductive microbiome has offered him an opportunity to bring his experience in sexual health into the laboratory, and he hopes to discover more about the potential role of the microbiota in fertility. To begin with he is learning how to assess sperm parameters (DNA fragmentation, morphology and motility), using techniques such as flow cytometry, and will explore how these parameters are impacted in the presence of bacteria characteristic of the emerging reproductive microbiome.

Bree StreatherBree at her Graduation

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: The development and commercialisation of Supramolecular Self-associating Antimicrobials (SSAs),  supervised by Prof Dan Mulvihill (University of Kent), Dr Jennifer Hiscock (University of Kent) and Jonathan Essex (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Deciphering the role of the proteasome in healthy ageing, supervised by Dr Jerome Korzelius (University of Kent), Dr Paul Skipp (University of Southampton) and Dr Alessandro Ori (Research group leader, FLI/Leibniz Institute on Ageing).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Cairn Research Ltd

Bree obtained a First Class (Hons) Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry before undertaking a Research Master’s, both at the University of Kent. Her Master’s project focussed on structural analysis of a DedA protein found in E. coli that is thought to confer antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Finding solutions to the AMR problem is something that she is very interested in and this is why she chose the SSA project for her final PhD project.

Alongside her studies, Bree enjoys reading, listening to music and going to the cinema. She is also very passionate about environmental issues including climate change.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Cairn Research Ltd

Simon Thundow (CASE Studentship)

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Safeguarding UK hop production from Verticillium nonalfalfae: Using genomics to develop race-specific diagnostics and generate Verticillium resistant hop through Host Induced Gene Silencing (CASE Project), supervised by Dr Helen Cockerton (University of Kent, Dr Alessia Buscaino (University of Kent), and Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB East Malling).

2nd Rotation Project: Phenotypic constraints on crop improvement and the domestication of novel crops, supervised by Dr Mark Chapman (University of Southampton), Dr Yann Bourgeois (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Rocio Perez-Barrales (University of Portsmouth).

Robert Ulrich (Industry co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Project Title and supervisors: Identification and characterisation of vitamin B12 binding proteins for use in B12 extraction and purification, supervised by Prof Martin Warren (University of Kent),  Dr Hartwig Schroeder (BASF) and Dr Evelyn Deery (University of Kent).

Roman Urban

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Development of selective CLIC1 inhibitors for the treatment of glioblastoma, supervised by Dr Jose Ortega-Roldan (University of Kent), Dr Mariana Oana Popa (University of Sussex) and Professor Jeffrey Hill (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Assembly and Dynamics of DNA Repair Complexes, supervised by Neil Kad (UKent), Laurence Pearl (USusx) and Antony Oliver (USusx).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Rudolf Virchow Center for Integrative and Translational Bioimaging

Hannah Uri

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Identification of determinants of virus phenotypes, including SARS Coronavirus-2/COVID-19, supervised by Dr Mark Wass (University of Kent), Martin Michaelis, (University of Kent) and Christopher McCormick (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Using long-read sequencing to study structural genomic variants in animals and plants, supervised by Dr Marta Farré (University of Kent), Dr Suzanne Litthauer (NIAB-EMR) and Dr Alessia Buscaino (University of Kent).

Chloe Uyl (CASE Studentship)photo of Chloe

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Improving Second-Generation Biofuel Production: Exploiting the Natural Diversity of the Yeast Scheffersomyces Stipitis (Case Project), supervised by Dr Alessia Buscaino (Primary supervisor: University of Kent), Dr Oliver Severn and Dr Phil Kirk (Co-supervisor: Singer Instruments, CASE Partner).

2nd Rotation Project: Plastic-eating yeast: towards plastics as feedstocks for synthetic biology, supervised by Dr Tobias von der Haar (University of Kent) and Dr Andy Pickford (University of Portsmouth).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Singer Instruments (CASE partner)

During the third year of her undergraduate degree, Chloe decided to choose a laboratory-based research project in Microbiology. Here, she began researching genomic and phenotypic diversity amongst the yeast Scheffersomyces stipitis with Professor Alessia Buscaino as her supervisor. Chloe obtained a first-class degree in Biomedical Sciences from The University of Kent in 2020, and was keen to continue her scientific research.

Chloe joined Professor Alessia Buscaino’s laboratory based at the University of Kent for her final PhD project. She is now approaching the final year of her PhD investigating genomic and phenotypic diversity in the yeast Scheffersomyces stipitis, with the aim to improve the production of second-generation biofuels produced from lignocellulosic biomass. Chloe completed a three-month placement at her CASE partner Singer Instruments, a company that specialises in laboratory automation to accelerate research for biologists who want to make the world a better place.

Follow updates from Chloe’s PhD project on Twitter: @ChloeUyl

Natasha Ward

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Memory molecules and where to find them – does our brain store memories in binary format? supervised by Dr Ben Goult (University of Kent), and Prof Kevin Staras (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: What is the extent of structural diversity and individuality of amyloid protein assemblies? supervised by Dr Wei-Feng Xue (University of Kent) and Prof Louise C Serpell (University of Sussex)

NIAB

Joshua Fennell

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture and Food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Adaptation of cutting-edge photonic tools to understand food spoilage biology, supervised by Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB), Prof Adrian Podoleanu (University of Kent), and Dr Matevz Papp-Rapar (NIAB).

2nd Rotation Project: Improve strawberry growth consistency in vertical farming supevised by Dr Mark Else (NIAB), Dr Eleftheria Stavridou ( NIAB) and Dr Andrew Simkin  (University of Essex)

David FisherProfile picture of David

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture and Food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD project: Environmental and intra/interspecific approaches to nutrient security – Fruit for the UK’s food security, supervised by Dr Eleftheria Stavridou (NIAB), Prof Guy Poppy (University of Southampton), and Dr Jenny Baverstock (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Genomic constrains on domestication: Why are so few species domesticated? Supervised by Dr Mark Chapman (University of Southampton) and Prof Adam Eyre-Walker (University of Sussex). Location University of Southampton.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Global Challenges Research Fund

David graduated from the University of Southampton in 2020 with a BSc (hons) in Biology. He is fascinated by all things plants, but his work is primarily focused on understanding and improving important crop traits, including stress tolerance, resource-use efficiency, and nutritional composition. Such research is part of the ongoing effort to ensure that everyone always has access to enough nutritious food, in a future where rapid climate changes, evolving geo-political landscapes, and increasingly frequent global shocks, pose major threats to all aspects of nutrition security.

To date, David has worked with local and international partners on several projects aiming to produce novel genomic resources for underutilised crops, including Hyacinth bean (Lablab purpereus L.) and Perrenial horsegram (Macrotyloma axillare L.). He has also worked to identify genomic markers and genes that could underpin agronomically valuable traits in legumes, as well as exploring the potential role of transposable elements in the domestication of Brassicas.

David’s PhD project is combining applied biology with scenario and trade analyses, to develop an interdisciplinary framework for studying and improving local vitamin C security. His work will look to scrutinise and build upon current assesments of micronutrient security in the UK food system, as well as investigating ways of increasing the vitamin C content of an important UK crop, strawberry. David is especially interested in the application of beneficial stressors (eustress), such as temporary water deficits, as a means increasing micronutrient accumulation in strawberries. Ultimately, the project will further current understanding of what can be done to maximise the nutritional value of local crops, and the role that nutrition-smart agriculture could realistically play in addressing nutrition insecurities in future food systems.

Erick Gomes Oliveira

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Manipulation of chloroplast density to enhance photosynthesis and nutritional value of tomato, supervised by Dr Andrew Simkin (NIAB) and Prof Matthew Terry (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Harder, stronger and faster crops – bioengineering of Streptomyces-plant symbionts, supervised by Dr Simon Moore (University of Kent), Dr Matevz Papp-Rupar (NIAB) and Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB).

Erick Oliveira was awarded his undergraduate degree in Forestry Engineering from the University of Brasilia, Brazil before going on to study a Msc in Advanced Biology from the University of Seville, Spain.

As part of his undergraduate degree he spent two years working at EMBRAPA, The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation investigating the expression of genes involved in reproduction in Brachiaria brizantha, a grass of interest within biotechnology. For his Masters thesis Erick worked on a Plant Physiology project that looked at the effect of Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria on strawberries exposed to draught conditions. Prior to starting this PhD Erick was helping in the fight against COVID-19 by working as a lab scientist at one of the diagnostic laboratories in Manchester.

For his first rotation Erick is working on the manipulation of chloroplast density to enhance photosynthesis and nutritional value of tomato with Dr Andrew Simkin (NIAB) and Dr Mathhew Terry (University of Southampton).  The overall aim of this project is to manipulate chloroplast development and density to produce tomato plants with higher pigment content, enhanced photosynthetic performance, increased yield, and faster developmental performance (i.e. early harvest).

Erick’s research interests revolve around the creation of novel biotools in order to create more efficient and sustainable agriculture across the globe. Outside of the laboratory Erick has a keen interest in languages speaking Portuguese, Spanish, English and currently learning French.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Wild Bioscience

University of Portsmouth

Austeja BakulaiteAuste profile photo

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Network and topological modelling of transition states in the Wnt signalling pathway, supervised by Dr Rob Ewing (University of Southampton), Dr Ruben Sanchez Garcia, (University of Southampton) and Dr Rhys Morgan(University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Development of novel small molecule inhibitors of Tyro3 receptor tyrosine kinase, supervised by Dr Sassan Hafizi (University of Portsmouth), Prof John Spencer (University of Sussex), and Prof Paul Cox (University of Portsmouth).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT)

In 2020, Auste graduated with BSc Biomedical sciences from University of Brighton. During her final year project, Auste investigated the effects of RGFP966, a histone deacetylase 3 inhibitor, on the viability of tumour-associated macrophages and the expression of certain macrophage markers, which led to her developing interest in cancer research.

Later, in 2021, Auste graduated with MSc by research Biomedical sciences from the University of Edinburgh. During her MSc, Auste investigated type I interferon induction in senescent cells as well as characterized the function of a protein – KDM8, implicated in numerous types of tumours, and identified its’ interactors in pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells.

She is currently a Postgraduate Research Student within Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton, studying Cancer-associated protein-protein interaction networks. In particular, she is investigating proteins, which are potentially interacting with ubiquitin specific protease 7 (USP7), a deubiquitinating enzyme, associated with many different cancer types. This could help with understanding USP7 role in cancer as well as lead to the discovery of novel targets for anti-cancer therapeutics.

In her free time, Auste enjoys playing guitar and going on walks.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), Thailand

Alex Cahill

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project :Engineering enzymes for the deconstruction of waste polyester textiles, supervised by Prof Andy Pickford (University of Portsmouth), Dr Tobias von der Haar (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: De novo design of metallocorrin enzymes, supervised by Dr Bruce Lichtenstein (University of Portsmouth), Prof Martin Warren (University of Kent), and Prof Ross Anderson (University of Bristol)

Alex graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 2022 with a BSc in Biochemistry. Their final year project, supervised by Prof. Steve Wood, focused on using X-ray crystallography data to solve a protein-ligand structure. During this project Alex developed a strong interest in the structure-function relationship of proteins and how the structure of a protein can be modified in order to give it a desired function.

Alex then went on to complete an MRes within the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth. Their project, supervised by Prof. Andy Pickford and in collaboration with scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, focused on engineering IsMHETase to improve the thermostability and durability of the enzyme. Ideonella sakaiensis MHETase is the second enzyme in a synergistic two enzyme mechanism for the hydrolysis of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics. During this project Alex developed skills in protein production and purification, as well as in the biophysical characterisation of enzymes using methods such as differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Outside of the lab, Alex enjoys reading sci-fi, fantasy, and horror books, drawing, and playing computer games.

Ana Ferreira (Industry co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Project Title and supervisors: Comparative effects of alcohol and GABA mimetics on the brain-gut-microbiota (BGM) function, supervised by Prof  Jerome Swinny (University of Portsmouth), Dr Delia Belelli (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Murphy Wan, (University of Portsmouth).

Tia FletcherHead and shoulder photo of Tia

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project : Exploiting natural variants in potassium channel genes to understand their roles in neural function, behaviour and development, supervised by Prof  Matthew Guille (University of Portsmouth), Diana Baralle (University of Southampton), and Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Investigating the mechanisms controlling stability and degradation of nucleic acids in mitochondria, supervised by University Dr Robert Baldock (University of Portsmouth), Prof Garry Scarlett (University of Portsmouth), and Prof Sarah Newbury (University of Sussex).

Tia completed her BSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Portsmouth (including a placement year in Pathology at Spire Hospital Portsmouth). Her main areas of interest are developmental biology and genetic disease, these led her to complete an MRes focusing on modelling novel, rare genetic diseases in the tadpole. She is also passionate about making research more accessible for the general population and is currently working on webpages for the Human Disease Gene Website Series aimed at patients with rare genetic conditions and their families.

Her PhD project aims to use the western clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis) to model variants in potassium channel genes. Her first gene of interest is KCNC4 which encodes a voltage gated potassium channel. Currently, Tia is using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system to knock out KCNC4 in X. tropicalis to generate the disease model. She is then analysing morphological, behavioural and electrophysiological changes present in tadpoles carrying genetic mutations in KCNC4. This will allow scientists and clinicians to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of the disorder more completely. She will then apply these techniques to other potassium channel genes to help improve diagnosis and interventions for people who have pathogenic variants in them.

Ian Hunter

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Exploiting rare genetic disease genomes to identify novel, key developmental control genes, supervised by Prof Matt Guille (University of Portsmouth), and Prof Sarah Ennis (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Targeting potassium channels in oligodendrocytes to maintain myelin and a healthy brain across the lifespan, supervised by Prof Arthur Butt (University of Portsmouth), Dr Anthony Lewis (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Emma Veale (University of Kent).

Tom Roberts-McEwenTom profile photo

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture and Food

1st Rotation Project: Can fruit production and viticulture be enhanced by ecosystem services from wild mammals? supervised by Dr Fiona Matthews (University of Sussex) and Dr Francis Wamonje (NIAB).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Using group living spiders for biological pest control, supervised by Lena Grinsted (University of Portsmouth), Alan Stewart (University of Sussex), Yann Bourgeous (University of Portsmouth), Matt Guille (University of Portsmouth).

Tom graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with honours. His third-year project focused on optimising contemporary use of nematodes as biological control agents of agricultural pests, and his dissertation aimed to unravel the intricacies of disease transmission within social insect colonies. The combination of these projects led to his interest in studying the use of group-living invertebrates for agricultural enhancement.

Tom graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 2022 with a Master of Research degree in Biology, awarded with Distinction. Their research, revolving around applied entomology and sustainable agriculture, aimed to test the efficacy of the group-living tropical tent-web spider as a biological control agent of pest arthropods. This work was later published in the journal Insects.

After his Master of Research degree, Tom continued to work with the University of Portsmouth as a research associate based in southern Spain. Here, he monitored wild tropical tent web spider colonies in order to understand resource inheritance among conspecifics and web associates. Tom later undertook a temporary role with the University of Toronto, where he assisted with the collection of false widow spiders for a population genetics study.

Both of Tom’s SoCoBio rotation projects involve understanding how the removal of agricultural pests by natural predators contributes to the protection of crops. They hope that this work will contribute to enhanced food security, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries, where range shifts of agricultural pests cause disproportionate socioeconomic deficit. Alongside their PhD, Tom works part-time as a Research Officer, facilitating conversation between universities and industry by sharing novel biotechnological advancements to encourage collaboration.

Tom is also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, and hopes to use his platform in STEM to empower young queer people to pursue a career in science. When he’s not caught up in the webs of spiders, he enjoys attending live music events, hiking, and socialising.

Konstantinos TornesakisKonstantinos standing in front of an event stall

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life / Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Computational predictions of thermostability and binding affinity changes in enzymes, supervised by Prof Paul Cox (University of Portsmouth), Prof Jonathan W. Essex (University of Southampton) and Dr Gerhard Koenig (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project: Production of chemicals and fuels by creating new linear paths for efficient bacterial assimilation of CO2 and formate, supervised by Prof John McGeehan (University of Portsmouth), Prof. Martin Warren (University of Kent).

Konstantinos has been awarded his B.Sc. degree (Integrated Master) in Biotechnology, from the Agricultural University of Athens. During his studies, he undertook a thesis project in enzymology, where he did inhibition assays to study the interactions, between human glutathione-S-transferase isoenzymes with natural and synthetic compounds, for potential inhibition processes. He then proceeded to complete his M.Sc. studies in Systems Biology in the same university. In his master thesis, Konstantinos focused in plant stress metabolomics and evaluated the tolerance of various legumes species in salinity stress. In order to investigate the stress response, he used GC-MS analysis to quantify the levels of osmolyte compounds in leaves and roots tissues.

During his undergraduate degree, he also did a traineeship in the Biochemical Laboratory of the Institute of Child Health as a laboratory assistant, while for his master he undertook two laboratory placements in bioinformatics and plant stress physiology, in the Agricultural University of Athens.

Konstantinos’ interests are related to the enzymatic degradation of plastics and its improvement through engineering, towards robust and environmentally friendly plastic recycling. Plastic recycling using enzymes has been gaining a lot of attention, since the discovery of IsPETase, a hydrolase that can degrade PET to its monomers. Since then, various enzymes that can degrade other types of plastics have been identified as well, with a great effort being put on improving them for industrial scale recycling. In the Center of Enzyme Innovation, Konstantinos is using computational methodologies, such as protein docking and molecular dynamics simulations, and focuses on increased enzyme thermostability and polymer binding affinity. He is aiming to identify beneficial mutations in plastic degrading enzymes that can allow them to work in higher temperatures and with improved affinity to the polymers. Having identified those mutations, he will then produce and test them against commercial types of plastic substrates.

University of Southampton

Fiyinfoluwa AdenekanPicture of Fiyin working in a lab

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Identification and activity of new regulators of cell division, supervised by Dr Marcin Przewloka (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton) and Dr Helfrid Hochegger (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Interrogating the b-catenin interactome for novel modulators of Wnt signaling, supervised by Dr Rob Ewing (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton) and Dr Rhys Morgan (School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Tocris Bioscience (Bristol, UK) Cookson Ltd

Fiyin’s interest is improving the scientific community’s understanding genetic regulatory networks in everyday biological processes. As the expression or suppression of gene may be responsible for diseases.

In July 2016, Fiyin graduated from The University of Portsmouth in Biology (BSc). In his final year project, he investigated the localisation of haemopoietic stem cell factors during Xenopus embryogenesis which involved a range of immunohistochemistry techniques to probe proteins responsible for blood cell differentiation. This inspired him to learn more about cells and mechanisms that controls cells. In September 2017, he completed an MRes at Portsmouth that investigated the role of Histone variants.

This project will investigate potential regulators of Cell division. A proteomics screen identified a list of proteins that may contribute to cell division. This will be confirmed through the application of CRISPR editing, bioinformatics and observed via time lapse microscopy.

Dan AspiazuDan Aspiazu sitting in garden holding a drink

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project: Chemical Tools to Interrogate Protein-Misfolding Diseases, supervised by Dr Sam Thompson (University of Southampton) and Dr Wei-Feng Xue (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Amyloid, what role does structural polymorphism play in neurotoxicty, supervised by Phil Williamson (University of Southampton), Wei-Feng Xue (University of Kent), and Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton) .

Dan studied Chemistry at the University of Oxford, St Catherine’s College for undergraduate and integrated Masters, graduating in 2023.

Dan’s interest lies in medicinal chemistry, involving the discovery and synthesis of small-molecule drugs to treat diseases caused by protein-protein interactions. This interest is reflected by his choice of Master’s project and SoCoBio PhD rotation projects, and he has tackled this problem from different angles and fields of science. For his Master’s, Dan investigated Deubiquitinase-Targeting Chimeras (DUBTACs) as a means of treating diseases caused by excessive protein degradation mediated by the Ubiquitin-Proteosome system, using computational screening techniques, protein expression and purification, solid-phase peptide synthesis, small-molecule synthesis and assays.

For his first SoCoBio rotation, Dan synthesized a series of peptide mimetic-lipid conjugates, to investigate their effect on Amyloid formation for potential treatment of Parkinson’s disease and/or type II diabetes. In his second rotation, Dan is expressing the protein alpha-synuclein, and investigating how its different amyloid polymorphs affect neurotoxicity in the development of Parkinson’s disease using structural biological techniques involving solid state protein NMR.

Outside of the lab, Dan enjoys cooking, painting, going to the gym, martial arts, football and pub trips with his friends.

Rachel Buchanan

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture and Food

1st Rotation Project : Towards sustainable agriculture: Using genomics to understand Cryptosporidium infection in cattle breeds, supervised by Dr Marta Farré Belmonte, (University of Kent) , Dr Mark Chapman (University of Southampton) and Dr Anastasios Tsaousis (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Implications of mobile genetic elements on biofilm formation in Pseudomonas syringae and its biological control, supervised by Dr Tomislav Cernava (University of Southampton),  Dr Xiangming Xu (NIAB), and Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton).

Final PhD project: Phage mitigation of Klebsiella infection: a new approach for AMR, supervised by Dr Franklin Nobrega – (University of Southampton), Prof Vincent O’Connor (University of Southampton), and Dr Matthew Wand – UKHSA (CASE partner)

Rachel completed her integrated master’s at the University of Southampton in 2023. During this time she completed two microbiology-based lab projects which involved sequencing and characterising a novel bacteriophage genome, and identifying potential mechanisms allowing synergy between bacterial defence systems. She also spent several months studing at Yonsei University in South Korea, undertaking courses in Genetics, Pharmacology and Korean language. These experiences led to her developing an interest in bacterial communities and genetics, and she applied to SoCoBio as projects were available in both of these areas.

Due to coronavirus disrupting the student practicals during her degree, Rachel took up work at Southampton General Hospital, working in the Microbiology and Virology labs screening patient samples for MRSA and coronavirus. Rachel also worked in the CV&T and Oncology Outpatients department, preparing and organising testing required prior to patient appointments.

Rachel’s first rotation project involved conducting a meta-analysis to summarise the current situation of Cryptosporidium in cattle worldwide, with the hope that this will lead to further study in underrepresented regions. On her second rotation, she is investigating the role of lignin precursors and how they may affect swarming behaviours in Pseudomonas species.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys playing Netball and Tennis and continuing with her Korean language studies.

Joshua Byrne

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme:Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project : Optical imaging of synaptic transmission: a transformative technology to probe the functional determinants of behaviour, supervised by Prof Leon Lagnado (University of Sussex), and Prof Vincent O’Connor (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Designing Glial-derived exosomes for use in nervous system repair , supervised by Melissa Andrews (University of Southampton) and Arthur Butt (University of Portsmouth).

Dyuti Basu ChoudhuryPhoto of Dyuti by the sea

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Unveiling the role of ApoE in microglial development and function, supervised by Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola (University of Southampton) and Dr Sarah King (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Understanding the role of protein conformation at the nanoscale: In-situ TERS studies of amyloidogenic Tau aggregation, supervised by Prof Sumeet Mahajan (University of Southampton), Dr Iris Nandhakumar (University of Southampton), Dr Jurgita Zekonyte (University of Portsmouth), and Prof Amrit Mudher (University of Southampton).

Dyuti did an integrated masters in Biotechnology from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, India. She did an internship at the end of her third year for a month where she studied the interaction between gold nanoparticles and serum proteins. For her dissertation, she worked on the project Myeloperoxidase mediated dysregulation in Acute-on-chronic-liver failure pathogenesis. This project looked at the immunological basis of liver disease and focused on finding a background mechanism of disease progression. After the end of the dissertation period, she continued working on the project for a year.

Dyuti’s interest lies in studying about neurodegenerative diseases and the mechanisms behind the the dysregulation of a highly efficient system. She is particularly interested in studying about the contribution of immune cells in neurodegenative diseases such as Alzheimer’s .

Outside the lab Dyuti Enjoys reading books and music.

Holly Champney

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project:Implications of mobile genetic elements on biofilm formation in Pseudomonas syringae and its biological control, supervised by Dr Tomislav Cernava (University of Southampton),  Dr Xiangming Xu (NIAB), and Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Micropollutant biodegradation by marine microbes — deciphering key players and developing bioindicator technologies, supervised by Kenneth Wasmund (University of Portsmouth), John Williams (University of Portsmouth), and Marc Dumont (University of Southampton).

Holly completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Southampton and received a First Class Honours in BSc Biology. Her dissertation looked at differences between two yeast species across a geographic divide and earned a Royal Society of Biology Accreditation Top Project Award. Furthermore, during her second year, she undertook a summer placement with SoCoBio looking at the carotenoid content of different types of tomatoes. This experience inspired her to apply for a SoCoBio DTP PhD project the following year.

Holly is passionate about plant microbiology and how microbial methods can be used to improve agriculture. Her PhD project explores how certain lignin precursors alter the phyllosphere microbiome and how this can be exploited to control pathogenic Pseudomonas species.

In February 2023, Holly received an Inspirational Women of Portsmouth award in the category of women in STEM and continues to work within the Portsmouth community to promote STEM careers in underrepresented groups.

In her spare time, Holly enjoys reading, crocheting or going for walks along the coast.

Alex ClarkeHead and shoulders image of Alex

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Killing intracellular pathogens with antibiotic nanocapsules, supervised by Dr Nick Evans (University of Southampton), Dr Seung Lee (University of Southampton), Dr Tracey Newman (University of Southampton), and Dr Adam Whelan, Dr Jo Prior and Dr Izzy Norville (DSTL Porton Down).

2nd Rotation Project: Drug discovery and repurposing to target key bacterial respiratory complexes, supervised by Dr Mark Shepherd (University of Kent), Prof Mark Wass (University of Kent), and Dr Simon Waddell (University of Sussex).

Alex’s interest lies in development of alternative antimicrobial treatments for antimicrobial resistant pathogens. She feels passionately that AMR is a key problem, often overlooked by many people, and would love to contribute to a solution.

Alex completed her undergraduate degree, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science, at the University of Plymouth in 2019. In her final year, she undertook a research project attempting to discover novel bacteria-derived antimicrobials (bacteriocins) from deep sea sponges. Following this, she moved to the University of Edinburgh to undertake a Masters by Research degree in Biomedical Science, with a focus on microbiology. Whilst at Edinburgh, Alex completed two 20-week projects: one focussed on the discovery and characterisation of bacteriophage; and the other a systematic review of phage therapy for bone and joint infection. This systematic review demonstrated that bacteriophage were highly safe and efficacious against bone and joint infection and was published after the completion of her degree.

Outside of the lab, Alex loves to bake, and enjoys selling her wares to raise money for various charities.

Brandon Coke

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Projects & Final PhD Project: Interrogating the b-catenin interactome for novel modulators of Wnt signaling, supervised by Dr Rob Ewing (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton) Dr Rhys Morgan (School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Projects: Identification and activity of new regulators of cell division, supervised by Dr Marcin Przewloka (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton) and Dr Helfrid Hochegger (University of Sussx).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Singer Instruments

Brandon is a recent Biochemistry masters graduate from the University of Birmingham. Throughout his undergraduate degree he extensively worked with R and Python’s PANDAS library for data analysis to analyse and present data ranging from enzyme kinetics, drug response curves and qPCR data. During his masters, Brandon studied in Dr Nik Hodge’s lab to develop 3D liver organoids for toxicological testing. This project assessed whether culturing cells as 3D organoids as opposed to conventional 2D cultures improves their sensitivity to genotoxicants in the comet and γ-H2AX assays. This experience allowed him to develop his skills in growing and maintaining both conventional 2D and 3D organoid mammalian cell cultures, qPCR and data analysis in R. Additionally, during his undergraduate degree  he worked as an intern at local molecular diagnostics company specialising in – Advanced Molecular diagnostics and helping them develop materials for their numerous qPCR products destined for the UK market.

Currently, Brandon is working with Dr Ewing’s and Dr Morgan’s groups to uncover novel β-catenin protein-protein interactions. Although there are well established β-catenin interactions with cadherins, the destruction complex and the LEF-1; there are also more obscure but nonetheless relevant protein interactions with other oncogenic and tumour-repressor proteins. Consequently, identifying these interactions may enable the development of novel cancer therapies. The project is primarily focused on the β-catenin interactome in leukemic cells; however, the analysis has expanded to other cancer cell lines to identify differences and commonalities in the β-catenin interactomes. This analysis includes analysing proteomic data across these cell lines to perform both gene ontology (GO) analysis to identify common molecular functions and biological process the β-catenin interacting proteins and to produce GO enrichment maps to understand the links between the GO terms. The analysis also includes using RNA-seq data to assess whether expression of these interacting proteins significantly change in cancer. This analysis will eventually lead to wet-lab experiments to elucidate the role of the novel β-catenin binding proteins and assess their potential as druggable targets for cancer treatment.

Brandon’s main interests in research is the use of bioinformatic tools as of its ability to provide a far greater insight into the intricate mechanism behind the complex biology behind the inner workings of cells due their ability to pool together large data sets. Finally, Brandon has a keen interest in using R and Python programming due to their applicability in a diverse array of tasks ranging from data analysis, data presentation and automation of repetitive tasks.

Matthew Davis-LunnMatt standing leaning against an art sculpture

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Defining the role of the talin-kindlin-integrin axis in the regulation of neurite outgrowth, supervised by Dr Melissa Andrews (University of Southampton) and Dr Ben T. Goult (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Are phosphoinositide lipid messengers key regulators of RNA biology?  supervised by Prof Nullin Divecha (University of Southampton) and Prof Anastasia Callaghan (University of Portsmouth).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Academy of Medical Sciences

Matt graduated from the University of Surrey with a BSc in Biochemistry before coming to Southampton to pursue a MRes focusing towards neuroscience. Here, his project focused upon the role of focal adhesion kinase in regulating neurite outgrowth.

Matt’s research interest is in neuronal biochemistry, and following a successful masters project in this field he is continuing at Southampton for his first rotation project which more widely encompasses the focal adhesion proteins regulating integrin activation, and their potential application to neuroregeneration. Matt aims to direct his own research throughout his career, and as such hopes pursuing a PhD will develop his ability to do this, whilst similarly gaining experience in entrepreneurship and scientific communication through other training provided by the SoCoBio DTP.

Outside of the lab, Matt can usually be found at a gig, catching up with the football, or just having a coffee nearby, but also takes a keen interest in other topics around neuroscience and cognitive function.

Callum EllisPhoto of Callum Ellis

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Defining links between the mitochondrial stress response and inflammation, supervised by Dr David A Tumbarello (University of Southampton) and Dr Lisa Mullen (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Unravelling the Molecular Mechanism of Progression in Alzheimer’s Disease: Implications for therapy, supervised by Prof Jonathan Essex (University of Southampton), Prof Louise Serpell (University of Sussex), and Prof Amrit Mudher (University of Southampton).

Callum graduated from the University of Southampton in 2016 in Biomedical Sciences, with his dissertation looking at pathology of a contagious cancer in Tasmanian Devils. He has spend the last 5 years since then working in the pharmaceutical industry in a number of roles at Lilly as part of their commercial graduate scheme, and joined the SoCoBio DTP in October 2022.

He joined the DTP to persue his passion for science with a view to taking some of his learnings from the commercial sector and applying them to his passion for science. In particular he has interest in mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease, as well as the computational modelling side of disease, and whether this can be used to further our understanding and save time and resources in drug development, diagnosis and treatment.

Outside of the lab Callum will likely be found outside usually some combination of cycling, climbing, surfing or sailing and is always keen for a squash opponent.

Charles EllisPhoto of Charlie

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Understanding how lysosomes become dysfunctional in neurodegeneration, supervised by Dr J. Arjuna Ratnayaka (University of Southampton), Professor Louise Serpell (University of Sussex), and Dr David Tumbarello (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Memory molecules and where to find them – does our brain store memories in binary format? Supervised by Dr Ben Goult (University of Kent) and Prof Kevin Staras (University of Sussex).

In 2022, Charlie graduated from the University of Sussex with a BSc in Neuroscience, undertaking a final year dissertation focusing on retinal synaptic neuromodulation by nitric oxide.

His interests are the cellular pathology of visual / neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related macular degeneration), synaptic function / dysfunction, memory, structural / cellular biology and eating behaviours. Additionally, he is interested in computational neuroscience and how this can be applied to predictive technologies and machine learning, for example, by using Python.

Charlie’s current project hopes to investigate lysosomal dysfunction molecularly with aims to understand a pathway that is heavily linked to neurodegeneration. He hopes to utilise this PhD to develop practical skills in various techniques / methodologies to study important biological functions.

Outside of research, Charlie enjoys hiking, spending time in nature with friends and the odd game of chess!

Oreoluwa Fakeye

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Diversity and regulation of GluN1-NMDA receptor subunits in health and disease, supervised by Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (University of Southampton), K. Deinhardt (University of Southampton) and Andrew Penn (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Investigating the role of molecular motors in neuronal connectivity: Implications for autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, supervised by Dr Katrin Deinhardt (University of Southampton), Prof Majid Hafezparast (University of Sussex) and Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Metrion Biosciences

Johanna FishPhoto of Johanna Fish

DTP Wellbeing Champion

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Dissecting Signalling Pathways with PROTAC Chemical Probes, supervised by Dr Matthias Baud (School of Chemistry, University of Southampton), Prof David Harrowven (School of Chemistry, University of Southampton), and Prof Georgios Giamas (USussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Biosynthetic Potential of the Radical SAM Enzyme Lipoyl Synthase, supervised by Prof Peter Roach (University of Southampton) and Prof John Spencer (University of Sussex).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Nanomerics Ltd

Johanna returned to the University of Southampton upon completion of her master’s degree in Chemistry in 2020 to pursue her PhD at the interface of Chemistry and Biology. Her undergraduate projects were medicinal chemistry focussed, and so developed a strong background in chemistry and its application in a pharmaceutical setting. These included conformational bias introduction by fluorination, and a natural product synthesis from a different, highly abundant natural product.

For her master’s dissertation, she undertook synthesis of novel DNA nanopores covalently bonded with monoclonal antibodies and then was able to measure the biological activity of the compounds using various biological techniques.

Johanna’s primary research interests are in utilising interdisciplinary research to improve patient outcomes, motivating her choice of PhD project. PROTACs are a relatively new, highly promising technology that could reduce side effects and issues experienced by patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy. However, to become sufficiently viable, they require physicochemical refinements, which is where her project begins.

She also holds a strong interest in humanitarian work, to improve the lives of vulnerable people through policy, and ensuring medicine and safety standards are accessible and maintained, regardless of geographical and economic status. She hopes to continue her line of work within the medicinal chemistry industry, and to incorporate this into it.

Outside of the lab, Johanna dedicates time working on projects to improve mental health, improve research culture, and to increase the visibility of minority groups within STEM, including ethnic minorities and neurodivergent people. She is a Welfare Officer for the Biological Sciences Postgraduate Society, is part of the School of Biological Sciences EDI committee and at university level, and has been a wellbeing champion for SoCoBio since 2020. She passionately believes that the best science is completed when everyone is enabled, heard and equitably provided for, and hopes to keep this spirit on as she progresses through her career.

 

Amanda Gilbert

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Liver organoid systems to identify metabolic signalling functions underlying liver regeneration and enhance drug discovery, supervised by Dr Nicole Prior (University of Southampton) and Professor Jeffrey Hill (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Elucidating how epithelial cell polarity maintenance safeguards genome stability during cell division, supervised by Dr Salah Elias (University of Southampton) and Dr Kok-Lung Chan (University of Sussex).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics, University of Adelaide (one month IPIPS),

Adam GreenAdam Green in a laboratory

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project : How to build a chloroplast: Unravelling chloroplast communication with the nucleus, supervised by Prof Matthew Terry (University of Southampton) and Prof Martin Warren (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Decoding plant O-glycosylation signalling networks, Supervised by Richard Meek (University of Southampton), Matthew Terry (University of Southampton, and Andrew Pickford (University of Portsmouth).

Adam completed his undergraduate degree in BSc biology at the University of Sheffield graduating in 2020. Following this he attended the University of Warwick to complete an MSc in Sustainable Crop Production with a 5 month research project in the field of plant pathology graduating in 2021. Shortly after this Adam started a role as a research assistant at NIAB based in East Malling, Kent. As part of the crop physiology and production team he worked on experiments with a range of fruits including strawberries, raspberries and blackberries and investigated their response to different water and nutrient treatments. After almost 2 years in this role he decided to pursue a PhD in molecular plant biology to further his own knowledge and development.

The main purpose of Adam’s project at the University of Southampton is to investigate the role of the GUN1 protein in retrograde signaling (chloroplast to nucleus communication). Adam works with the model plant Arabidopsis Thaliana and will use a variety of techniques including genetic, molecular biology and proteomics.

Adam hopes to contribute to advancing the knowledge of this area and produce novel ideas. Alongside developing himself as a proficient scientist and communicator.

Linda GuantaiHead and shoulder photo of Linda

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project : Drug-microbiome-host interactions in Parkinson’s disease, supervised by Dr Fatima Pereira (University of Southampton), and Prof Jerome Swimmy (University of Portsmouth), and Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Gut feelings: Inflammation in the gut and the impact of dopamine metabolism on brain function, supervised by Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton), Murphy Wan (University of Portsmouth), and Jerome Swinny (University of Portsmouth)

Linda has an academic background in biological sciences, tropical and infectious diseases (BSc Microbiology/Biotechnology, MSc Tropical, and Infectious diseases) from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She has research experience in the areas of bacteriology, bacteriophage therapy, virology, molecular biology, disease diagnostics (including TB), data analysis, mycology, and other microbiology processes. She worked as a research associate in the project using bacteriophages as a one health approach to control Salmonella in poultry at (International Livestock Research Institute) ILRI funded by IDRC since 2019 to 2023 where she managed the Phage’s laboratory. For her master’s dissertation, she investigated the effectiveness of a combination of bacteriophages and antibiotics in the control of multidrug resistant Salmonella Enteritidis isolated from Poultry farms in Kenya.

Previously, she also worked at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) on various Antimicrobial Resistance profiling studies and on a project isolating and characterizing Campylobacter-specific bacteriophages funded by Phages for global health, Government of Kenya, and Wellcome Trust. She volunteered in mycology lab at KEMRI determining the aflatoxin levels in different maize flour sold commercially in Kenya after completing her undergraduate degree and interned in the same institute for a year working on several projects focussed on AMR.

Linda is currently studying drug-host-microbiome interactions in Parkinson’s disease for her first rotation project. The project aims to further explore the implications of Parkinson’s disease drugs especially entacapone on composition and activity of human gut microbiota, the repercussions this may have on the host and how the effects vary among different individuals.

Linda is interested in undertaking research to contribute to the development of tailored/ alternative antimicrobials to control antimicrobial resistance and improve human, environment and animal health using the One health approach.

 

Johanna Haszczyn (Industry Co-funded Studentship)Head and shoulder photo of Jo with view of beach and sea in the background

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

Project Title and supervisors: Investigations of the determinants of nerve agent potency to define novel routes to mitigate the effects of environmental toxins, supervised by, Professor Vincent O’Connor and Professor Lindy Holden-Dye (University of Southampton), and Dr. Chris Green, Dr James Kearn and Dr. John Tattersall (DSTL)

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Defense science and technology laboratory (DSTL) (Industry partner)

In 2020 Johanna finished her undergraduate degree in Pharmacology with a first class degree. As her final year dissertation, she investigated the immunological response of canines to Leishmania infantum in an endemic area of Valenica, Spain. As part of Erasmus+, Jo was able to live and work in Valencia for three months which solidified her decision to work in research. After completing her degree, Jo applied to the SoCoBio programme to continue her research career focusing on her main interests, toxicology, pharmacology and neuroscience.

Jo is currently studying at the University of Southampton, where she is investigating new ways of treating nerve agent poisoning using the model organism C. elegans. This project aims to understand the mechanisms of nerve agent intoxication and to identify novel routes of mitigation of the effects seen in nerve agent poisoning in the C. elegans model. Jo recently completed an 11 month placement at her co-industry partner DSTL, where her data is working towards her first publication.

In her spare time, Jo partakes in public engagement having volunteered with Pint of Science for three consecutive years. Jo enjoys climbing, running, walking with her dog Luna or watching the latest movie.

Theo Hornsey (Industry Co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

Project Title and supervisors: Correlative imaging for fracture prediction in the military, supervised by Dr Claire Clarkin, – University of Southampton), Prof Julie Greeves OBE PhD , (Professor of Applied Physiology, Army Health and Performance Research (AHPR)),and Dr Jemma Kerns (University of Lancaster).

Theo graduated from the University of Southampton with a 1:1 MSci in Natural Sciences in 2022.

Steven HoughtonSteven Houghton working in laboratory

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Analysing the functional significance of a primate-specific non-canonical glutamate receptor subunit, supervised by Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton), Dr Katrin Deinhardt (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton), Dr Andrew Penn (University of Sussex), and Prof Louise Serpell (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Microbes and the ageing brain: do host-microbe interactions accelerate age-related cognitive decline? supervised by Dr Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton) and Dr Marina Ezcurra (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Biocleave

In 2019, Steven graduated from the University of Southampton with a first-class integrated master’s of Biochemistry degree with honours. During his master’s year he completed a 5-month laboratory project supervised by Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero that aimed to investigate whether a second shorter isoform of the GluN2A NMDA receptor subunit—called GluN2A-S—is incorporated as part of a functional receptor at the plasma membrane. This was investigated by exogenously expressing a plasmid encoding GluN2A-S in the Human Embryonic Kidney (HEK293) cell line and recording the electrical properties of the cell using whole cell patch clamp electrophysiological recordings. This work continued into an 8 week post-graduate summer internship funded by the ARUK pump priming grant and lead to co-authorship on a scientific journal article titled, “A primate-specific short GluN2A-NMDA receptor isoform is expressed in the human brain”. During this time, Steven was also asked to perform a series of electrophysiological recordings for a third year PhD student, Connor Maltby, which lead to co-authorship on another scientific journal article titled, “ A 5′ UTR GGN repeat controls localisation and translation of a potassium leak channel mRNA through G-quadruplex formation”.

Steven took a year break and undertook a role as a Teaching Assistant at John Madejski Academy followed by a role as a Field Technician for the Environment Agency in Reading. Steven has now returned to the University of Southampton to undertake a PhD with Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero to continue to analyse the functional significance of the primate-specific GluN2A-S NMDA receptor subunit. He intends to investigate whether GluN2A-S within an NMDA receptor is localised to the synapses of neurons despite lacking the binding motifs of PSD95 which normally lead to clustering and stabilsation of NMDARs at the synapse. A better understanding of how GluN2A-S functions within an NMDA receptor will provide insight into synaptic communication at excitatory glutamatergic neurons. These neurons, found in brain regions such as the hippocampus, and these receptors play key roles in learning and memory.

Outside of the lab he enjoys cycling, weightlifting, and spending time with his family and friends.

Matthew Irwin  (Industry co-funded Studentship)Matt standing in lab

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Project Title and supervisors: Microbial biotechnology approaches to optimize chemical oxygen demand and enhance nitrogen and phosphorus removal in wastewater treatment, supervised by Dr Yongqiang Liu (University of Southampton), Prof Jeremy Webb (University of Southampton) and Juhani Kostiainen (Plantworks System Limited).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Industry partner Plant Work Systems (PWS)

Matt originally completed his undergraduate degree in Environmental sciences (BSc), during the course of which he developed an interest microbiology and the use of specific microbes for the sustainable treatment of water and energy generation. Matt has also completed summer internships at the Environment agency and Hydrolize ltd (a natural swimming pool company). The experience he gained during these internships led to his undergraduate project “The use of microbial biofilters for the treatment of river drinking water”, with the aim of investigating the feasibility of a novel water treatment system with limited power and no chemical requirements.

Following this, he completed an MRes in Advanced Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton under Professor Jeremy Webb. The main focus of his research project was investigating “The effect of water hardness on the structure and composition of biofilms in Aerobic granular sludge (AGS) reactors”.

This work led to the undertaking of this PhD project which aims to further explore the role of microbial biofilms within wastewater treatment systems and how these could be influenced to improve sustainable water treatment. Particularly Matt is interested in the potential of using newly developed community editing technologies to tailor the composition of water treatment biofilms to enhance the removal of Phosophorus and Nitrogen.

Liliana Jeziorska (Industry Co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Project Title and supervisors: Nanobody technology: feeding target authentication and mitigation strategies in crop protection, supervised by Prof Vincent O’Connor (University of Southampton), Dr James Dillon (University of Southampton) and Dr Marcus Guest (Syngenta, Industry partner).

Abhishek Johan Issac

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: What are the structural elements of amyloids that determine their toxicity? supervised by Dr Philip Williamson (University of Southampton), Dr Wei-Feng Xue (University of Kent), and Prof Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Deciphering the bacterial signalling: Aptablotting of the HptRS two-component system in Staphylococcus aureus, supervised by Dr Seung Lee (University of Southampton) and Dr Christopher Mulligan (University of Kent).

Emily Jones

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Synthetic biology approaches to construct metal analogues of vitamin B12 to act as anti-microbial and imaging agents for health applications, supervised by Dr Andrew Lawrence (University of Southampton) and Prof Martin Warren (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Chemical Tools to Interrogate Protein-Misfolding Diseases, supervised by Sam Thompson (University of Southampton) and Wei-Feng Xue (University of Kent).

Liam Jones (Industry Co-funded Studentship)Picture of LIam

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Project Title and supervisors: Microbiologically-influenced corrosion (MIC): Development of a model system to investigate the role of biofilm communities within MIC and their control using industrial biocides, supervised by Professor Jeremy S Webb (National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), Biological Sciences, University of Southampton), Dr Maria Salta (School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth), Dr Torben Lund Skovhus (Docent, VIA University College, Denmark), Dr Julian Wharton (Mechanical Engineering, University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Industry partner DNV

Mr Liam Jones is a postgraduate research student in Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton and is a part of the South Coast Biosciences Doctoral Training Programme (SoCoBio DTP). Liam has studied Biochemistry at undergraduate and Masters level at the University of Waikato, NZ and University of Manchester, UK respectively. Liam worked as a technical assistant at Qiagen and a scientist at Medtrade Products Ltd before returning to academia. At Medtrade Liam was particularly interest in the research and development of new technologies in advanced wound care to help manage biofilms.

Liam is striving to become a specialist in the area of biofilm research. His PhD focusses on the development of a model system to investigate the role of biofilm communities within microbiologically-influenced corrosion (MIC) and their control using industrial biocides.

During his Masters project he participated in research studying a novel gene, DAP3, thought to be associated with Perrault Syndrome. Additionally, he researched the thioredoxin system and the effects on ER homeostasis.

In his free time, Liam’s hobbies include bouldering, yoga, calisthenics, PC gaming and anime to name a few.

Anastasia Kolesnikova

A photo of Anastasia smiling in a bright green sweater holding a three different coloured books.

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food and Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Phenotypic constraints on crop improvement and the domestication of novel crops, supervised by Dr Mark Chapman (University of Southampton), Dr Yann Bourgeois (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Rocio Perez-Barrales (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project: Safeguarding UK hop production from Verticillium nonalfalfae: Using genomics to develop race-specific diagnostics and generate Verticillium resistant hop through Host Induced Gene Silencing, supervised by Dr Helen Cockerton (University of Kent), Dr Alessia Buscaino (University of Kent) and Prof Xiangming X (NIAB).

Anastasia graduated from Imperial College London with a degree in Biochemistry. During her final year, she specialised in structural biology, bioinformatics, plant immunity and science communication. She decided to follow up on her interest through a masters, completing an MRes in Big Data Biology at the University of Southampton. Her MRes thesis was focused on understanding drought response in an underutilized crop, lablab.

Overall, her research interests lie in food security, plant biology and computational methods. In her spare time, Anastasia partakes in public engagement, science communication, water polo, archery and Irish dance.

Ryan Lawrence (Industry co-funded Studentship)Ryan Lawrence profile photo

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health and Understanding the rules of life

Project Title and supervisors: Unravelling the structure and conformational dynamics of membrane proteins using H/D-exchange mass spectrometry and cryo-EM, supervised by Dr Eamonn Reading (University of Southampton) and Dr Zainab Ahdash (UCB Pharma, industry partner)

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Industry partner UCB Pharma

Ryan achieved an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from UCL in 2021. His final year research project focused on the antioxidant function of Coenzyme A in regulating the metastasis suppressor protein NME1. Ryan’s main research interests lie within Biochemistry, its many applications, and implication in translational and interdisciplinary research.

The PhD project will explore the dynamics of membrane protein multidrug resistance efflux pumps using cryo-EM and hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry.

Samuel Liu (CASE Studentship)

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Immune signatures for Healthy Aging, (CASE Project) supervisors: Prof Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton) and Prof Paul Skipp TopMD Precision Medicine Ltd), and Dr Jay Amin (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Multimodal imaging of selective recollection in youth and ageing, supervised by Dr Alexa Morcom (University of Sussex) and Dr Zara Bergström (University of Kent).

Amy LovegroveAmy in laboratory

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Sustainable food security through aquaculture: Establishment of algal technology for optimal aquaculture growth and health, supervised by, Prof Chris Hauton and Prof Tom Bibby (University of Southampton), and Prof Colin Robinson(University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Genetic basis of interspecies oviposition deterrents impacting the horticultural pest, Drosophila suzukii, supervised by Herman Wijnen, (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton),  Dr Bethan Shaw (NIAB East Malling) and Dr Michelle Fountain (NIAB).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): Iracambi Research Centre, Brazil

After completing BSc and MRes studies in Natural Sciences and Freshwater Biology respectively, Amy joined the SoCoBio DTP programme to pursue her passions of molecular biology and ecology. Her PhD project aims to develop more sustainable practices within the aquaculture industry, particularly focusing on disease management. She creates novel applications of modified microalgal diet for oyster disease management, and is finishing up her PhD research with infection trials in-vivo.

She is the president of the Biological Sciences Postgraduate Society, the Social Media and Comms officer for the NOCS postgrad society which keeps her busy. She also enjoys getting stuck in to scientific outreach through events like the School of Biological Sciences Outreach Festival, and Pint of Science every year. Outside of PhD life, Amy’s greatest loves are her two cats, and when she’s not bothering them, she’s singing in her local choir.

 

Emily Lucas

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project : Elucidating how epithelial cell polarity maintenance safeguards genome stability during cell division, supervised by Dr Salah Elias (University of Southampton) and Dr Kok-Lung Chan (University of Sussex)

2nd Rotation Project: Defining mechanisms that link mitochondrial quality control to the innate immune response, supervised by Dr David A Tumbarello (University of Southampton) and Dr Lisa Mullen (University of Sussex).

Final PhD Project: Investigating the role of molecular motors in neuronal connectivity: Implications for autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, supervised by Dr Katrin Deinhardt (University of Southampton), Prof Majid Hafezparast (University of Sussex), and Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): CASK Research UK

Shubhangi Mahajan

Management Board Student Representative

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Viruses in the rhizosphere: the role of phages in the soil and plant root environment, supervised by Dr Marc Dumont (University of Southampton), Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton), and Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB).

2nd Rotation Project: Environmental and genetic determinants of Brassica crop damage by the agricultural pest Diamondback moth (CASE Project), supervised by Dr Herman Wijnen (University of Southampton), Dr Fryni Drizou (Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)), and Dr Haruko Okamoto (University of Sussex).

Macy Martin

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Phage mitigation of Klebsiella infection: a new approach for AMR, supervised by Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton), Professor Vincent O’Connor (University of Southampton), and Dr Matthew Wand, (UKHSA, CASE partner).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: SMART: SMart ARchiTecture – use of antimicrobial copper alloys in public infection prevention strategies, supervised by Sandra Wilks (University of Southampton), William Keevil (University of Southampton), Mike McGrath (Necon Technologies).

Macy completed her integrated master’s studies at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2022 with first class honours in MSci Biomedical Sciences. Macy has a longstanding interest in infectious diseases and medical microbiology, and during her undergraduate studies she acted as Vice President of HIV Education (HIVE) Southampton. Her third year dissertation focused on the effects of suppressive antibiotic combinations on antibiotic resistance rates in E. coli. Her Master’s thesis explored the efficiency of a novel technique in decontamination of surgical instruments, and it was this that first sparked her interest in alternative treatments for antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections.

Macy’s research interests centre on the global burden of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and alternative antimicrobial therapies to treat bacterial pathogens with complex resistance profiles. Her interests lie at the interface of academic and clinical research. Macy’s first rotation project encompassed all of these interests, as she joined the Nobrega Microbial Interactions Lab to investigate bacteriophage mitigation of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella infections.

Yomna Moqidemprofile picture of Yomna

DTP Wellbeing Champion

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life, Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project: Design of SSAs for novel small molecule human therapeutics, supervised by Prof Michelle Garrett (University of Kent), Dr Jennifer Hiscock (University of Kent), Dr Tim Fenton (University of Southampton), and Mr Sashi Kommu (Clinician and Surgeon, Department of Urology, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Defining the role of Factor Inhibiting HIF (FIH) as a key regulator of extracellular matrix homeostasis, supervised by Dr Yihua Wang (University of Southampton), Dr Andrea Bucchi (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Mark Jones (University of Southampton).

Henry Nvenankeng (Industry co-funded Studentship)Henry sitting in lab

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Project Title and supervisors: Eat-2-ing away: acetylcholine receptor binding subunits lacking vicinal cysteines, a new pharmacophore for mitigation of plant parasitic infection supervised by Prof Vincent O’connor (University of Southampton), Professor Lindy Holden-Dye(University of Southampton), and Philippa Harlow & Marcus Guest, Syngenta Limited.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Industry partner Syngenta Limited

Henry graduated from the University of Ghent, Belgium, with a Master of Science degree (Hons) in Agro and Environmental Nematology in 2020. Before moving to study abroad, he studied at the University of Buea, Cameroon, where he obtained a Bachelor and a Master’s degree in Crop Protection. He has always had keen interests in sustainable plant pest and disease control strategies. For his master’s research, in 2020 he spent 7 months at the University of Bonn, Germany, where he investigated the mechanisms underlying the effect of a bacterial secondary metabolite (Rhamnolipid) on plant parasitic nematodes (PPNs).

Nematodes that parasitize on crops have been reported to cause severe quantitative and qualitative yield losses. For his Ph.D research, Henry seeks to understand the role of the receptors that control the pumping of the feeding apparatus (pharynx) of nematodes with a keen attention on Eat-2 (an acetylcholine receptor binding subunits lacking vicinal cysteines). Information and knowledge gathered from his findings could serve in the development of a new pharmacophore for the mitigation of PPNs.

In his private time, Henry really enjoys listening to music, watching documentaries, cycling and working out in the gym.

 

 

Klaudia PiotrowskapPicture of Klaudia

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project: Exploiting rare human disease genomics to discover novel developmental control genes, supervised by Professor Matt Guille (University of Portsmouth), Professor Sarah Ennis (University of Southampton), Dr Colin Sharpe (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Understanding the epigenetic regulation of fibroblast ageing, supervised by Prof Gareth Thomas (University of Southampton) and Dr Tim Fenton (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC)

Klaudia graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a BSc (Hons) Biochemistry (2015-2018) and MRes Science (Biochemistry) in 2019. Throughout her time as an undergraduate she has developed an interest in genetics, specifically gene expression, and where possible she has selected units related to this field. During her MRes she worked on non-canonical DNA structures including A-form DNA and i-motifs which are increasingly known to be involved in transcriptional regulation. After completing her master’s degree, she worked as a research assistant at the European Xenopus Resource Centre where she supported multiple internal and external research projects.

Novel bioinformatic approaches combined with high-throughput sequencing has led to identification of rare genetic variants in the human genome. In theory, genes that are crucial for the function of an organism will be depleted of such variants, whereas non-essential genes will tolerate variant accumulation in natural ‘healthy’ populations. In recent years, gene editing tools have allowed scientists to disrupt gene function in model organisms and in return provide information about the phenotypic changes. Klaudia intends to implement this approach in her project which aims to discover novel developmental control gene using Xenopus as a model organism. This knowledge about these novel genes will then be integrated into the gene regulatory networks and improve understanding of health and disease.

During Klaudia’s PhD journey she is hoping to develop the necessary transferrable skills and knowledge to make progress as a researcher. She believes that the structure of the SoCoBio programme including the taught courses and developmental training will provide her with a great opportunity to learn a variety of in silico, in vitro and in vivo techniques; by completing two rotation-projects and an industrial placement.

Paige Policelli (CASE studentship)photo of Paige

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Assembly and Dynamics of DNA Repair Complexes, supervised by Dr Neil Kad (University of Kent) Professor Laurence Pearl (University of Sussex) and Dr Antony Oliver (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Friendly fire: understanding regulation of the genome editing enzyme APOBEC3A in cell growth and anti-viral responses (CASE project), supervised by Dr Tim Fenton (University of Kent), Prof Michelle West (University of Sussex) and industry partner Dr Maria Emanuela Cuomo, Associate Director, UK Lead for Cell Biology and Genome Editing / CRISPR (AstraZeneca, CASE Partner).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) & National Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) & CASE partner AstraZeneca

Paige recently graduated with a First class Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Kent, where she was also awarded the Faculty of Sciences Rotary Prize for high academic performance. Paige’s interests focus on protein biochemistry, but in particular how the complexities of binding site architecture and kinetics regulate important protein functionalities.

Following her passion, she has had work experience in top institutions. At the Francis Crick Institution, Paige “knocked-out” rho-associated kinase (ROCK) in order to prevent the metastasis of renal cancer cell lines (HEK293T) in the hope of this being a therapeutic target in the future. At the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR), Paige was investigating the effect of tyrosine kinase inhibitors to counteract the upregulation of VEGF in renal cancer cell lines (786-0), preventing angiogenesis and consequent renal tumour growth.

Paige has also recently completed an internship at AbBaltis, developing ELISAs that can reliably detect IgG/IgM antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins during the Covid-19 pandemic. She also conducted other immunology tests including allergen line blots and IIFT to diagnose autoimmune diseases.

At Kent, Paige is currently studying the assembly and dynamics of the DNA structural maintenance protein, Smc5/6. This one-of-a-kind research allows the visualisation of Smc5/6 binding onto constructed bacteriophage λ DNA tightropes in real-time via single-molecule techniques. Collaborating with the University of Sussex, Paige will be investigating questions such as: How does Smc5/6 bind to dsDNA/ssDNA? How do Nse components come into play? What is the significance of ATP hydrolysis? Understanding how Smc5/6 ensures the fidelity of homologous recombination is fundamental in the understanding of DNA repair and the basis of major disease.

Outside of academia, Paige was vice-chair woman for UKC Women’s Football Team. By completing a PhD, Paige hopes to develop expert knowledge, network and meet a community of fantastic scientists whilst travelling and being able to communicate her science effectively.

Sophie PowellSophie head and shoulder photo

Year of Study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Investigating the role of PURA in neurodevelopment using CRISPR/Cas9 saturation gene editing, supervised by Prof Diana Baralle (University of Southampton), Prof Matt Guille (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Gabrielle Wheway (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Defining the role of the talin-kindlin-integrin axis in the regulation of neurite outgrowth, supervised by Melissa Andrews (University of Southampton) and Ben Goult (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Promega UK Ltd

Sophie graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry with Professional Placement (2015-2019). She undertook her placement year at Cardiff University under the supervison of Dr Emyr Lloyd-Evans, where she gained an interest in neurological disorders through the characterisation of a mouse glial cell model of Niemann-Pick C disease, a rare childhood neurodegenerative disease. Sophie was keen to continue the momentum of her placement through her final year project, through which she expanded on her cell culture knowledge to successfully maintain and manipulate mouse embryonic stem cells. This involved undertaking a stable transfection to enable the inducible RNAi knockdown of ANG, a key protein implicated in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, creating a cell line that could be differentiated to study the effect of reduced ANG experession in motor neurons and multiple other cell types of interest.

Sophie subsequently completed her Master of Research (MRes) in Stem Cell Neurobiology at Cardiff University (2019-2021) under the supervison of Prof. Lesley Jones, which involved the generation and characterisation of FAN1-variant Huntington’s disease patient iPSCs and iPS-neurons. Through this project Sophie undertook HDR (homology-directed repair) CRISPR gene editing in order to produce an edited patient iPSC line with single nucleotide polymorphism in the DNA-binding domain of the DNA repair enzyme FAN1. She then used these FAN1-variant HD cell lines to test the hypothesis that deficient versions of FAN1 could be hastening the onset of motor symptoms by permitting expansion of the Huntingtin CAG repeat over time in specific cell groups of the HD brain. Sophie was pleased to be awarded the 2019 Cohort MRes Prize for Best Research Project for this work, and for the opportunity to publish her first paper, entitled ‘What is the pathogenic CAG expansion length in Huntington’s disease?’ (doi: 10.3233/JHD-200445) for the Journal of Huntington’s Disease.

Sophie’s first rotation project, ‘Investigating the role of PURA in neurodevelopment using CRISPR/Cas9 saturation gene editing’ felt like a natural continuation of her research – building on her extensive cell culture experience and CRISPR knowledge to investigate PURA, a gene involved in neuronal proliferation, dendrite maturation and localised mRNA translation in neurons during neuronal development. De novo mutations in PURA are responsible for a severe neurodevelopmental condition, PURA syndrome, and PURA may play a role in both ALS and expanded repeat disorders. However, the changes in PURA function that mediate disease remain unclear. The aim of this project is to provide further insight into PURA dysfunction in disease and identify therapeutic avenues for treatment of these neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. This will be achieved by using CRISPR/Cas9 to systematically assay the effect of every possible amino acid substitution of PURA in cell lines, followed by further characterisation in frogs.

Through this project, Sophie is eager expand upon her pre-existing experience by working with in vitro and in vivo models to undertake exciting research with real-world benefits to the treatment of neurological disease.

Fardina RahimiPhoto of Fardina

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Genetic basis of interspecies oviposition deterrents impacting the horticultural pest, Drosophila suzukii, supervised by Associate Professor Herman Wijnen (School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton), Dr Bethan Shaw (NIAB East Malling), and Dr Michelle Fountain (NIAB East Malling).

2nd Rotation Project: Interrogating the b-catenin interactome for novel modulators of Wnt signaling, supervised by Professor Rohan Lewis (Professor in Placental and Integrated Physiology Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton), Professor Sarah Newbury (Professor in RNA Biology and Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange, University of Sussex), Professor Ying Cheong (Professor of Reproductive Medicine Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton and Medical Director of Complete Fertility Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Biote veterinary laboratories

I am curious about the interactions between different organisms and their effect on themselves, the world around us as well as human life. Food security is a priority for any nation, given the current concerns over climate change, land use and the decline in the agricultural labour force. It is thus important to ramp up food production efforts in an innovative manner in the face of a projected rise in population and limited availability of arable land. I look forward to the opportunities to explore about different species and apply my finding from the lab to global levels.

My current research focuses on the interaction between Drosophila Suzukii and Drosophila Melanogaster species, in the aim of controlling the pest species and implementing a safe and effective way to stop it’s billion-dollar damage on the world.

Anne RomeroAnne Romero in the ECR at the University of Southampton surrounded by plants

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Genomic constrains on domestication: Why are so few species domesticated? Supervised by Mark Chapman (University of Southampton), Adam Eyre-Walker (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: What are rhizosphere microbial characteristics associated with healthy plants? Supervised by Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB East Malling) and Dr Marc G Dumont (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): FA Bio

Anne’s main motivation throughout academia has been addressing food security challenges through crop and management improvements. She completed her BSc Biology degree at the University of Southampton and then went on to work as a technicians at various organisations, including Covance Food Solutions and Syngenta. Following this, she completed her MSc by Research in Agriculture, Ecology and the Environment at the University of Reading. This led her to return to the University of Southampton as a research technician working on a NERC/BBSRC project investigating plasticity and domestication in Brassicas. As a research technician, she gained insight into crop genetic variation for adaptation to environmental stresses.

Outside of academia, Anne is both a nature lover (travelling, camping, hiking) and a homebody (reading, cross-stitching, baking).

Anne’s PhD project will explore the mechanisms that could have contributed to the evolutionary advantage of tomato crop progenitor in early cultivation compared to wild relatives focusing on plasticity, rate of mutation and trait-linkage. Another focus of this research is on TE contribution to the diversification of the tomato clade, that is vital in exploiting TE insertions near or within genes, and their influence on physiological and morphological variation, which can be utilised for crop improvement.

Daniela Rothschild Rodriguez head and shoulder photo of Daniela

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Gut bacteria and the brain: the surprising impact of bacteriophages, supervised by Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton), Jessica Teeling (University of Southampton) and Jerome Swinny (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project: The causes and consequences of sexual reproduction in bacteria, supervised by Prof Adam Eyre-Walker (University of Sussex) and Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (iPIPS): King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand

Daniela Rothschild-Rodriguez completed her Bachelor studies at the University of Kent in Biomedical Sciences. During her BSc, she underwent a placement year working as a research assistant at the Department for Health at the University of Bath, conducting clinical research in Cancer and Exercise Immunology. Her experiences motivated her to continue her studies at PhD level, and she is now a postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton in Microbiology.

The gut microbiome influences many physiological and metabolic functions. It has been shown to play a role in various diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and neurodegenerative disorders. Amongst the gut microbiota are bacteriophages (phages for short), specific viruses of bacteria. These outnumber the bacteria in our gut but are largely understudied. Daniela’s project focuses on phage-bacteria-host interactions in this complex environment and how these bacterial predators influence gut dysbiosis.

Molly Rutt (CASE studentship)

DTP Wellbeing Champion

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD project: The role of endometrial gland derived extracellular vesicles in mediating an optimal uterine environment (CASE project), supervised by Dr Jane Cleal (University of Southampton), Prof Rohan Lewis (University of Southampton), Professor Sarah Newbury (University of Sussex), and Professor Ying Cheong: Complete Fertility (CASE partner).

2nd Rotation Project: The effect of the microbiome and microbial bioactives on semen quality and reproductive health, supervised by Dr Gary Robinson (University of Kent) and Dr Peter Ellis (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS):  CASE partner Complete Fertility

Molly graduated with a first-class degree in Biochemistry from the University of Bath in 2021, undertaking a final year project studying the genetic mechanisms linking fertility treatment with subsequent placental complications during pregnancy.

Her interest is in reproduction and developmental biology, with both of her rotation projects focusing on potential aspects of infertility. This rotational aspect of the SoCoBio provides the opportunity to focus on reproductive health from two different angles – both male and female factor fertility. Molly hopes to utilise this breadth of insight to progress to a career in embryology and IVF treatment, utilising her multidisciplinary research background.

 

Annabelle Somers (Industry co-funded Studentship)Annabelle shoulder and head photo

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Project Title and supervisors: Achieving micronutrient security in a post pandemic and post EU-exit world – “Parsnips as a superfood”, supervised by Prof Guy Poppy (University of Southampton), Dr Jenny Baverstock (University of Southampton), Dr Eleftheria Stavridou (NIAB East Malling), Prof Philip Calder (University of Southampton) AND Dr Frances Gawthrop Tozer Seeds.

Annabelle is passionate about Sustainable Food Security, and finding answers to the question of how to provide sufficient, nutritious food for 10 billion people by 2050, without destroying the ecosystems that allow us to prosper in the first place. Having completed a BA in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, with a specialism in Plant Sciences, Annabelle’s background is in crop biology and agricultural sustainability, however she is excited to explore more of the link between nutrition and health through her PhD, particularly in the context of the current pandemic.

Iolanta Spanner (Industry Co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Understanding the antimicrobial properties of natural plant extracts and herbal infusions, supervised by Dr Sandra A Wilks (University of Southampton), Prof Bill Keevil (University of Southampton), and Dr Vivien Rolfe (Pukka Herbs Ltd).

2nd Rotation Project: Viruses in the rhizosphere: the role of phages in the soil and plant root environment, supervised by Dr Marc Dumont (University of Southampton), Dr Franklin Nobrega (University of Southampton), and Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB).

Jack Stubbs (Industry Co-funded Studentship)Picture of Jack Stubbs

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

Project Title and supervisors: Developing novel approaches for time resolved structural biology, supervised by Dr Ivo Tews (University of Southampton), Dr S. Mark Roe University of Sussex), Dr Jonathan West (University of Southampton), Drs Agata Butryn & Pierre Aller, Diamond Light Source Diamond Light Source (match funder), Patrick Shaw Stewart, Douglas Instruments Ltd (CASE partner).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Douglas Instruments Ltd (CASE partner)

Jack recently graduated with an MSci in Biochemistry with a Year Abroad from the University of East Anglia. His MSci research project focused on investigating the allosteric regulation of SH2-domain containing inositol phosphate phosphatase 2 (SHIP2) using a combination of real-time enzymology and molecular dynamics simulations. During the summer before starting his PhD, Jack worked as a Research Assistant at the John Innes Centre (JIC) working on resolving the structures of two plant receptor-effector complexes involved in the the mechanism of action of blast disease in rice crops.

He is fascinated by the field of structural biology, which comes inherently from being a visual learner throughout his undergraduate studies. During the PhD, Jack hopes to solve multiple protein structures, which will provide further functional insights. This knowledge will contribute to an integrated understanding of human health and disease, a key player in treatment development and drug discovery.

The project is focused on optimising the crystallisation of three important protein targets to obtain homogenous microcrystals, which can be utilised at the beamline as part of upcoming technologies including serial synchrotron crystallography (SSX) and serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) to generate dynamic molecular movies in real-time. The three protein targets are Pdx1, a drug target for malaria or tuberculosis, Hsp90, a chaperone implicated in maintaining many cancers and Isopenicillin-N-synthase (IPNS), required for conversion of a natural tripeptide substrate into isopenicillin-N, a b-lactam antibiotic. The hope is that along with the help of industry partners, technologies developed during the PhD will be utilised by other beamline users in the field, whilst also becoming mainstream at both synchrotons and XFELs.

Lucy Sutton (Industry co-funded Studentship)

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Project Title and supervisors: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in the fresh produce supply chain (CASE project), supervised by Professor Bill Keevil (University of Southampton), Dr Callum Highmore (University of Southampton), Helen Brierley (Vitacress Salads Ltd), and Simon Budge (Vitacress Salads Ltd).

Jamie Thomas (Industry co-funded Studentship)Head and shoulder photo of Jamie outdoors

DTP Wellbeing Champion

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Biosciences for integrated understanding of health

Project Title and supervisors: Investigating the role of 5-Hydroxytryptamine receptor subtypes in the modulation of cell-specific immune function, supervised by Diego Gomez-Nicola (University of Southampton), Dr Max Ahmed (Compass Pathways) and Dr Gary Gilmour (Compass Pathways).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Compass Pathways (Industry partner)

In 2019, Jamie graduated from the University of Kent, having completed a BSc in Biomedical Science. Following this, Jamie remained at the University of Kent and completed an MSc in Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr Campbell Gourlay, in which he investigated how mitochondrial dysfunction influenced lipid droplet regulation – using Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism. Although considerably different from his MSc project, Jamie’s interest in immunology, cell signalling and neuroscience is well suited to his PhD project, which is centered around characterising the immunomodulatory effects of 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptor subtypes (7 Families and 15 Subtypes in mammals).

Interest in this field has emerged following the identification of 5-HT receptors subtypes on almost all immune cells, alongside a number of these receptor subtypes being described as having immunomodulatory functions, however a deep and detailed characterisation of the all the 5-HT receptor subtypes has yet to be conducted. Additional, the intricate interactions that exist between the nervous system and immune system have become a major point of interest in trying to understand the physiology of both of these systems. In combining the investigation of the role of 5-HT receptor subtypes in cell-specific modulation of immune function, alongside considering the wider perspective of the neuro-immune axis, the findings of this project may shed light on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underpin various neuro-degenerative, psychiatric and immune disorders. This project benefits from the co-supervision by the industrial partner COMPASS Pathways (https://compasspathways.com/), who are interested in accelerating patients access to evidence-based innovations intended to treat mental health disorders.

The PhD project will aim to:
1) Study the expression of 5-HT receptors subtypes in a variety of immune cells.
2) Characterise the cell-specific immunomodulatory effect mediated by the 5-HT receptor subtypes.
3) Identify if the 5-HT receptor subtypes immunomodulatory effects can by manipulated using known agonists and antagonists.

In his free time, Jamie enjoys keeping fit by going on regular runs in his local area, alongside playing rugby for his local club. When not exercising or working, Jamie enjoys a cheeky bit of cooking and (obsessively) binging Netflix.

Muhammad Zalkifal

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Bioproducing succinic acid from hydrolysate of biomass waste in a biofilm reactor, supervised by Dr Yongqiang Liu (University of Southampton) and Dr Mark Shepherd (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Kent Cherries – unlocking a powerhouse of goodness to promote metabolic health and longevity, supervised  by Jenny Tullet (University of Kent), Marina Ezcurra (University of Kent) and Michael Dallaway (Rent a Cherry Tree).

University of Sussex

Shahd Al Balushi (CASE Studentship) Shahd head and shoulder image

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Accessing and recording task-related neuronal activity in the cerebral cortex: using targeted recording configurations (CASE Project), supervised by Prof Miguel Maravall (University of Sussex) and Dr Rodrigo Bammann (Scientica Ltd, CASE Partner).

2nd Rotation Project: What goes wrong in Alzheimer’s disease? Elucidating pathology-driven synaptic signalling defects in brain circuits, supervised by Prof Kevin Staras (University of Sussex) and Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka (University of Southampton).

Shahd graduated the University of Starthclyde with a 1st class in Bsc (hons) in Biosciences with Teaching, in which she took part in the PGCE program for secondary school teaching in Biology during her final year. Shahd then moved on to complete her Masters degree in the University of Kent in Biomedicine. Her Masters dissertation explored the gut-brain axis through investigating the effects of anthocyanins on C. elegans health and ageing.

Shahd is now working in the Maravall lab on the maze project for her first rotation, in which she focuses on the exploratory behavioural analysis of freely moving mice in a maze. Hence, she is developing the maze’s modular structure and automation as well as training the mice to detect tactical cues within the maze. Ultimately, the results of this project will advance our understanding of how sensitive the somatosensory cortex is to both sensory and non-sensory stimuli.

Beyond her academic life, Shahd enjoys crocheting, painting, reading various genres of fiction novels as well reading and writing poetry.

 

Susmita Aown(CASE Studentship)photo of Susmita

Management Board Student Representative

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Host plant relationships of insect potential vectors of Xylella fastidiosa, supervised by Dr Alan Stewart (University of Sussex) and Michelle Fountain (NIAB).

2nd Rotation Project: What are rhizosphere microbial characteristics associated with healthy plants? supervised by Prof Xiangming Xu (NIAB) and Dr Marc G Dumont (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): CASE partner Royal Horticultural Society , Wisley

Susmita studied her undergraduate degree at University of Northampton, and her Masters at Anglia Ruskin University. Her passion is in grassland ecosystems and insects. Susmita’s interest in grasslands, especially calcareous grasslands, developed while she was working as a Volunteer Officer at the Wildlife Trust BCN in at Lings Office in Northampton during the summer of 2018. She then worked on an undergraduate project that investigated plant species richness and dynamics of plant composition in abandoned quarries in Northamptonshire using historical plant data from Northamptonshire Natural History Society.

After graduating with a BSc. in Biology, she worked as a Field Research Assistant at the University of Northampton, where she learned more about different insect pollinators, and their interactions with plants. Susmita then went on to improve her knowledge and research skills in plant-pollinator interactions through her Masters project with Dr Thomas Ings at Anglia Ruskin. She investigated the which plant traits and bee traits affect the plants that bee visits for collecting nectar and pollen in UK farmlands.
After finishing her MSc. in 2020, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Conservation Evidence, helping a PhD student at University of Cambridge to gather and wrangle GIS data. Susmita spent the summer of 2021 as a Volunteer Reseacher at the Butterfly Conservation, mainly doing transect walk at the Salcey Forest in Northampton. She recorded butterflies in Salcey Forest for the UK Butterfly Monitoring System.

Susmita thoroughly enjoyed the rotations. She believes that the rotation projects fashioned her with a variable box of research skills such as literature review, and writing skills, experimental design and data analysis skills as well as transferrable skills such as team working, independent working, interpersonal skills. She believes that rotation projects help her gain valuable skills in setting up experiments in lab and in field, which she did not have before starting her PhD. The rotations also provided her opportunities to network in the plant-pathogen industry sector.

Susmita is now in the second year of her PhD, devoting her time to her final PhD project which was her first rotation project with Dr Alan Stewart and Dr Michelle Fountain. The aim of the project is to study the ecology, biology, and behaviour of Philaenus spumarius, the main insect vector of Xyllela fastidiosa. Xyllela fastidiosa is a notorious plant-pathogen that causes leaf-scorch, and plant dieback. It is widespread in America, and well known for causing Pierce’s Disease. In 2013 it was first detected in Apulia, Italy, where it caused a massive outbreak in olive groves. Xyllela fastidiosa is an economically important plant-pathogen, and is insect transmitted. The diseases caused by Xyllela do not have any cure, and hence, stopping the spread of bacteria is the primary way to prevent crop damage. The bacteria has not yet been detected in Great Britain, but there is high possibility that Xyllela fastidiosa might come to Britain through imported plant materials. Therefore, learning about the insect vector, and the susceptible crops are critical to prevent Xyllela spread in the UK, as well as come up with Integrated Pest Management techniques.

Susmita has been working in collaboration with lavender and grapevine farmers in Sussex and Kent to survey their farms for the presence of her study insect, P. spumarius. She has also been formally interviewing the farmers to build up picture of common farm practices in lavender farms and vineyards in Sussex and Kent. Her aim is to establish if the farming practices might be affecting the presence, absence, and abundance of the insect in these habitats. Her first fieldwork season has been very warm and fun (along with being lots of work!).

Outside of academia Susmita is interested in equality and easy access to science, and science communication. She has become the Vice-Chair of The Racial and Ethnic Equality and Diversity (REED) Ecological Network. The Network is doing amazing work to improve EDI in Ecology and Conservation, please use this link to learn more about it – https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/membership-community/reednetwork/.
The REED Network has a place close to heart being part of the REED community helped her reach the other side through a very rough time during the pandemic. I joined the REED committee as the new vice-chair to contribute to REED community and help others get over difficult times and ensure that they reach the goals and dreams they dreamt.

Susmita also likes to knit for friends and family, make clothes, listen to audio books, play piano, and cuddle her cats Rosie and Caramel when they would let her!

Dan Beach

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme:Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project : Using AI and big data to identify a set of biologically validated drug targets for hard-to-treat cancers, supervised by Dr Frances Pearl (University of Sussex), Michelle Garrett (University of Kent) and Stuart Farrow (CRH, CASE partner).

2nd Rotation Project: Variation in the mutation rate across the human genome, supervised by Adam Eyre-Walker (University of Sussex) and Marta Farré Belmonte (University of Kent).

Rhianne Broadway

DTP Wellbeing Champion

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Viral variants: assessing the impact of natural strain variation on the structure and function of virus replication and transcription factors, supervised by Prof Michelle West (University of Sussex) and Prof Mark Wass (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Uncovering the structural and molecular mechanism of CBTF, a key regulatory transcription factor during early embryonic development, supervised by Dr Erika Mancini (University of Sussex), Prof Matt Guille (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Garry Scarlett (University of Portsmouth).

Rhianne went to university after doing an access to HE course as a mature student, going on to get a 1st in Biomedical Science at University of Sussex, with a dissertation that tested the antigenicity of a novel Ikoma-virus g-protein epitope with Dr Edward Wright. She published a review during her degree titled ”Potential Role of Diabetes Mellitus-Associated T Cell Senescence in Epithelial Ovarian Cancer Omental Metastasis”. Rhianne is now doing a PhD in Biochemistry and is determined to make a difference through scientific research. She is particularly interested in virology, proteins, particularly transcription factors and how these can be studied to give us answers to bigger or unanswered questions and drug development.

Rhianne lives with her three cats and is an avid gamer (both computer and tabletop). She also enjoys cooking and reading fantasy novels.

 

Alice Clark (CASE studentship)Picture of Alice

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Coastal rewilding and food security: understanding restoration pathways using ecoacoustics and environmental DNA (eDNA) (CASE project), supervised by Dr Mika Peck (University of Sussex), Dr Ian Hendy (University of Portsmouth), Dr Reuben Shipway (University of Portsmouth), Dr Katie Critchlow CASE Partner: Naturemetrics.

2nd Rotation Project: Growing complimentary crops and nutritionally rewarding cultivars to sustain insect pollinators and crop pollination on farms, supervised by Prof Dave Goulson (University of Sussex) and Dr Michelle Fountain (NIAB).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): NatureMetrics (CASE partner)

Alice has a strong interest in biodiversity and conservation which is what led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in zoology at Trinity College Dublin, which she graduated from in 2018. She then continued her studies at the University of Sussex where she carried out an MRes in Evolutionary biology. After her studies, Alice interned at the European Commission in the Directorate General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) in the unit dealing with scientific advice and data collection.

Alice’s first rotation was in coastal rewilding. The aim of this project is to monitor the health of the Sussex seabed, following the introduction of a trawler ban in March 2021, using environmental DNA (eDNA) and Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS). During her second rotation Alice investigated the attractiveness of different apple cultivars to pollinators.

For her final PhD project she decided to continue the research from her first rotation. This project is an opportunity to understand how marine systems might recover following the removal of trawling pressure. Sussex Bay once harboured dense kelp beds which provided nursery grounds for fish, mitigated storm damage to the coast and acted as a carbon sink. The hope is that with this new byelaw the kelp forests will recover and healthy populations of priority threatened UK species, such as herring, mackerel and common sole will return.

Alice carried out her PIPS with her CASE partners, NatureMetrics, at the beginning of her second year. She worked with the R&D team and learnt a number of important lab skills and gained a better understanding of what working in industry is like.

Alice is currently in the process of publishing her first paper which compares the two biomonitoring methods used in her research: BRUVs and eDNA.

In her spare time Alice enjoys going for swims in the sea, running, baking, and scuba diving.

Hope Haimepicture of Hope

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Regulating RNA stability to increase protein production of cells under stress conditions, supervised by Professor Sarah Newbury (University of Sussex) and Professor Mark Smales (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: The influence of oxidative stress on protein structure and assembly in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegernative diseases, supervised by Prof Louise Serpell (University of Sussex) and Dr Wei-Feng Xue (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): GSK

Hope graduated from the University of Sussex in 2019 with a degree in MSci Biochemistry. She developed a keen interest for RNA and molecular biology and gene regulation while working with the Newbury Lab, BSMS, to investigate the role of the exoribonuclease, XRN1, in osteosarcoma disease progression. Following university, Hope undertook an MRC funded Research Technician post with the Foster Lab, IMSR, University of Birmingham. Here she focused on targeting 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type-7 (HSD17B7) as a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of colorectal cancer. Hope is currently in her first year of a SoCoBio DTP PhD completing her project on ‘Regulating RNA stability to increase the protein production of cells under starvation conditions’ with the Newbury Lab and Smales Lab. Previous work has shown human and Drosophila cells with a depletion of the exoribonuclease, DIS3L2, and grown in starvation conditions to result in an increase in protein production and cellular proliferation. Hope will employ a variety of molecular and industrial biotechnology techniques to develop an understanding of the mechanisms used by DIS3L2 to regulate RNA stability during the cellular stress response, as well as manipulating growth conditions to optimise protein translation of bioactive proteins within nutrient-deprived cells. CRISPR will be crucial in generating novel cell lines to manipulate DIS3L2 expression. As well, polysome profiling and transcriptomic analyses will be useful in analysing relevant cellular mechanisms to improve translation efficiency of medically important proteins within the novel cell lines. Findings would be of great economic advantage and will shed light on the importance of RNA stability in the cellular response to stress, with discoveries applicable to human disease and the development of clinical therapies. Outside of the lab, Hope enjoys getting involved with public engagement activities and rock climbing.

Fiona LancelotteHead and shoulders image of Fiona

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Multimodal imaging of selective recollection in youth and ageing, supervised by Dr Alexa Morcom (University of Sussex) and Dr Zara Bergström (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Learned changes in odour experience: a neural, genetic and behavioural analysis, supervised by Prof Martin Yeomans(University of Sussex), Dr Lorenzo Stafford (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Matthew Parker (University of Portsmouth).

Fiona completed a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of York. Her Masters dissertation investigated graded effects of modality on semantic control processes, with a large focus on the macroscale gradients thought to underlie neural function and their relevance to semantic cognition.

Before starting her PhD, Fiona was a Research Associate at the University of East Anglia. Focussing on researching cognitive and neural correlates of personal semantic memory (knowledge of one’s past) in young and older adults, including individuals at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.

She is particularly interested in the neural underpinnings of memory. As part of past projects, Fiona has used fMRI, EEG and behavioural measures to extend what we know about the inner workings of memory. Fiona’s first rotation project looks at the effect of prior knowledge on episodic memory (i.e., memory of events in ones past) and the role cognitive control may play.

Outside research Fiona enjoys playing hockey, hiking and throwing on the potter’s wheel.

Letitia McMullanpicture of Letitia

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: How does a mild restriction in blood supply constrain hippocampal function? Supervised by Catherine Hall (University of Sussex) and Mariana Vargas-Caballero (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: The role of the nucleus accumbens in stimulus-controlled appetite and satiety, supervised by Dr Eisuke Koya (University of Sussex), Dr Hans Crombag (University of Sussex), and Dr Jerome Swinny (University of Portsmouth).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): GSK

Letitia graduated from her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham in 2020. Throughout her degree she was inspired to pursue a career in neuroscientific research so that she could contribute to the rapid advances in understanding brain physiology and pathology that is being seen today. Her project serves to uncover how a chronic, mild restriction in blood flow to the hippocampus, which has been widely observed in both Alzheimer’s disease patients and animal models of the disease, constrains function of hippocampal neurons and circuits. Through this PhD, she aims to develop a wide variety of highly versatile in vivo and in vitro laboratory techniques, data analysis, computational modelling and scientific writing and communication skills, and also to establish contacts with scientists from diverse backgrounds. Letitia hopes that through achieving these aims, she will be well set up for a successful future career in scientific research. In her free time, she enjoys playing table tennis, tennis and squash, running, and going to the gym.

Emily Kate MillerchipHead and shoulder photo of Emily

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture and Food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Perennial crops for sustainable cities, supervised by Dr Elizabeth Nicholls (University of Sussex), Dr Daniel Ingram (University of Kent), and Prof David Goulson ( University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: Understanding the genomics and ecology of floral nectar to enhance crop-pollinator interactions, supervised by Dr Maria Castellanos,  (University of Sussex) and Dr Mark Chapman (University of Southampton).

Emily completed her undergraduate degree in Zoology from The University of Sheffield in 2021. During this degree she developed an passion for understanding the role of beneficial insects within agriculture and the development of sustainable green spaces within urban areas.

This led her to complete a MRes Consevation Biology from the University of Sussex in 2023. Her masters dissertation project researched the effect of inter-vine wildflower planting on insect natural pest enemy diversity, in Sussex vineyards. This project was in association with the insect conservation charity Buglife and the Changing Chalk project.

Emily’s current research is analysing the benefits and costs assoiated with planting perennial crops in urban agriculture. This project involves working with urban agricultural sites, though citizen science projects, to collect information on resource use, biodiversity and crop yields for perennial crops.

Outside of her academic pursuits, Emily enjoys reading, baking and hiking with friends and family.

Courteney Kayleen Pienaar

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project: Do interactions between endometrial derived extracellular vesicles and the microbiome mediate an optimal uterine environment?, supervised by Dr Jane Cleal (University of Southampton), Prof Gary Robinson (University of Kent), and Prof Ying Cheong, (Complete Fertility, University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Manipulating the molecular features of long non-coding RNAs to regulate gene expression in an industrial context, supervised by Sarah Newbury (University of Sussex), Tobias Von derHaar (University of Kent), and Ben Towler (University of Sussex).

Courteney completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Sussex, studying Biomedical Science and graduating in 2023. During her time at the University of Sussex, she undertook a summer research project in the Newbury laboratory, which investigated the mechanisms underlying long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) translation and regulation. She then continued her research in this area during her undergraduate project, focusing on the regulation of lncRNA by the exoribonuclease Pacman. Through these research projects, she realized that she wanted to pursue a doctoral degree to continue her research in the field. Courteney is currently undertaking her second rotation project in the Newbury lab, where she continues to research the molecular mechanisms underlying lncRNA regulation, particularly focusing on translation-coupled decay mediated by the 5′-3’ exoribonuclease Pacman.

Beyond the lab, Courteney likes to keep active. She also enjoys cooking and spending time with friends.

Joanna Renaut (Industry co-funded Studentship)head and shoulder photo of Jo

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

Project Title and supervisors: Dynamic modelling of synthetically lethal pathways to enable the development of cancer therapeutics, supervised by Dr Frances Pearl (University of Sussex), Dr John George (Oppilotech Ltd), and Dr Helfrid Hochegger (DRaKE)

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Industry Partner Oppilotech Ltd

Jo completed an Access to HE course as a mature student before going on to gain a First Class with Honours BSc in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sussex. She stayed on to study an MSc in Cancer Cell Biology where she achieved a Distinction. It was during her undergraduate degree that she developed an interest in bioinformatics and cancer research, and she was able to explore this during her MSc through her dissertation project where she analysed computational data to predict personalised medicine regimes for oesophageal cancer patients. Jo has continued this project into her PhD bringing much improvement to the prediction algorithm.

Jo will be expanding her knowledgebase into modelling by dynamically modelling pathways for specific synthetic lethal gene pairs and their biological processes in order to find new therapeutic options.
Further to this, Jo has spent time during her second year carrying out experimental validation of synthetic lethal predictions learning techniques such as CRISPR Cas9 knockouts and siRNA knockdowns, sterile tissue culture techniques, western blotting, and PCR. Future plans for third and fourth year include expanding her computational knowledge into machine learning and graph theory.

Outside of her PhD Jo enjoys playing boardgames, baking and decorating cakes and is also a keen gardener with an allotment plot; she also teaches coding to women and non-binary people for a large not-for-profit company who offers their courses free to students.

Finally, Jo has taken on the role of student rep for the Biochemistry cohort at Sussex, a role which she is now entering for the third year running in which she runs a monthly coffee afternoon for all the life sciences and chemistry PGR students alongside collecting feedback to make change within the school.

 

Annie RobertsonHead and shoulder photo of Annie

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD project: Risky decision-making: revealing the neural mechanisms of behaviour selection that maximise survival, supervised by Prof Kevin Staras (University of Sussex) and Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Integration of visual and modulatory inputs in the early visual system, supervised by Prof Leon Lagnado (University of Sussex), Dr Sylvia Schroeder (University of Sussex), and Prof Arjuna Ratnayaka (University of Southampton).

Annie graduated from the University of Sussex in 2021 with a 1st class BSc in Psychology with Neuroscience (Hons). Her dissertation was focused on the investigation of NMDA receptors in the development and maintenance of aversive associative memories, which may play a crucial role in PTSD, phobias, and addiction disorders. This sparked an interest in the mechanisms which underpin neurological diseases and behaviours, with the hope that a better understanding of what is happening at a cellular and molecular level may be able to inform better treatment possibilities. Following this passion, she went on to earn a scholarship and bursary to complete her MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Human Neuroimaging at the University of Sheffield in 2022 where she examined the expression of parvalbumin-expressing interneurons in the globus pallidus of autism spectrum disorder models. This further solidified her love for research and led her to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience, which she began in 2022 after being awarded a studentship from the SoCoBio DTP.

Her current research is concerned with identifying the neural circuitry which drives decision-making processes in survival contexts. For instance, when animals are faced with starvation of predation they express appropriate behaviours which maximise their survival in each of these scenarios. However, when animals experience both predation and starvation simultaneously they must be able to evaluate the costs and benefits of engaging in either food seeking or anti-predator behaviours. In other words, they must engage a decision-making process which allows them to evaluate and select the most appropriate action in a given situation. The pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, has well characterised and understood neural circuitry, and additionally displays species specific anti-predator and feeding behaviours. Therefore, by using electrophysiological techniques we can access and read out the neuronal activity involved in these key behaviours and consequently determine how one circuit is chosen over the other. This project will also involve the development of a novel imaging technique for Lymnaea stagnalis, which will hopefully be optimised and utilised concurrently with electrophysiological methods to help answer the question: how does the brain drive decisions when an animal is faced with conflicting motivational states of survival?

When not busy with her academic pursuits, Annie is a lover of video games and table top role-playing games such as dungeons and dragons. She is also an avid reader of fantasy and graphic novels.

 

Tatum Sevenoaksprofile photo of Tatum

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Learned changes in odour experience: a neural, genetic and behavioural analysis, supervised by Prof Martin Yeomans (University of Sussex), Dr Lorenzo Stafford (University of Portsmouth), and Dr Matthew Parker (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project: The gut microbiome-brain axis: An important player in behaviour and brain function, supervised by Dr Marina Ezcurra (University of Kent) and Prof Amritpal Mudher (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Emteq

Tatum graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc Honours in Pharmacology and went on to complete a Masters in Neuroscience at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa where she grew up. Her Masters dissertation focused on the investigation of maternal and infant neuroinflammatory markers with neurodevelopment outcomes; she enjoyed incorporating both neuroscientific and immunological disciplines in her research.

Following her Masters, Tatum worked as a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT for 2 years where she was involved in numerous projects gaining exposure to a variety of neuroscientific disciplines and topics including neuroimaging, psychosis and mental health. As a research assistant Tatum has consolidated her passion for interdisciplinary research which motivated her to apply for the SoCoBio programme allowing her the experience of developing skills across different labs throughout her rotation year.

Tatum is currently completing her first rotation at the University of Sussex under the supervision of Prof Martin Yeomans. She is investigating the effects of habitual caffeine use and acute caffeine abstinence on mood, cognitive performance and brain activity. This project will expand our knowledge surrounding the neural mechanisms underlying caffeine dependence and withdrawal and has the potential to contribute to questions regarding plasticity and addiction.

Nikolaos SiderisPhoto of Nikolaos

DTP Wellbeing Champion

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: MicroRNA-based single-cell CRISPR screens to discover microRNA-mRNA networks involved in carboplatin resistance in ovarian and lung cancer, supervised by Dr Leandro Castellano (University of Sussex), Prof Mark Wass (University of Kent), and Prof Martin Michaelis (University of Kent).

2nd Rotation Project: Manipulating the molecular features of long non-coding RNAs to regulate gene expression in an industrial context, supervised by Prof Sarah Newbury (University of Sussex), Dr Tobias von der Haar (University of Kent), and Dr Ben Towler (University of Sussex).

Nick completed his undergraduate studies in the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Thessaly Greece. During this time, he discovered his passion for understanding the cellular functions and intricate networks that control the progression and fate of human pathologies. His BSc thesis project involved studying the regulatory role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) by working to identify and functionally analyze lncRNAs in gastric cancer through inducible silencing via shRNA oligos.

After completing his BSc, he interned at the same lab continuing his project, demonstrating protocols to both under and post graduate students, and taking part in public outreach events. During that time, he was also the wet-lab advisor for the iGEMThessally2019 group, which was awarded a gold medal in the iGEM competition.

Following his undergraduate work studying lncRNAs in cancer he completed an MSc course in “Cancer Cell Biology” at the University of Sussex with distinction and worked as an associate tutor. His thesis project involved studying the effect of mutations in lncRNA oncogene promoters in breast cancer with broader implications on patient outcome. His involvement in these lab projects provided him with the necessary training in applied and computational techniques essential to studying and understanding the mechanisms of gene expression in cancer and its regulation and fuelled him to continue on this track joining the SoCoBio DTP.

Nick’s first rotation project focuses on studying the involvement of dysregulated non-coding RNAs and their targets in conferring tumour resistance to specific chemotherapeutic agents in ovarian and lung cancer. The hope is that discovering these dysregulated gene networks will provide new insights into the evolution of chemoresistance as well as new therapeutic avenues to overcome relapse. By being part of SoCoBio he aims to obtain the practical skills and knowledge in new techniques and the experimental methodologies required for studying cancer in depth and developing novel life-saving therapeutic approaches.

Outside of research Nick enjoys tabletop games such as D&D, going to the gym, martial arts, reading fantasy novels and going out with friends.

Abigail Talbotpicture of Abigail

Year of study: Year 4

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the Rules of Life

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD project: From atomic to in vivo: a characterization of ILF3 nucleic-acids interactions in the context of eukaryotic transcription regulation, supervised by Dr Erika Mancini (University of Susex), Dr Garry Scarlett (University of Portsmouth), Dr Matthew Guille (University of Portsmouth), Ruth Murrell-Lagnado (University of Sussex).

2nd Rotation Project: The roles of evolutionarily conserved microRNAs in feeding and nutrition- from flies to mammals, supervised by Prof Claudio R. Alonso (University of Sussex) and Dr Jaswinder K. Sethi (University of Southampton).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Diamond Light Source

Abigail graduated from Aberystwyth University in 2019 with a BSc in Genetics and completed her MSc in Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Cell Biology in 2020 at the University of Sussex. Her first rotation project focuses on the double stranded RNA binding protein, ILF3 in the frog Xenopus laevis, and its interactions with the promoter gene gata2. Abigail is interested in eukaryotic transcription regulation as well as behavioural neurogenetics. Outside of the lab she is an avid movie goer and enjoy spending time on Brighton beach. Abigail’s aims for her PhD are to gain a wider scope of lab skills and to attain deeper knowledge of an important biological function.

 

 

Kaya Taylor (Industry co-funded Studentship)Kaya at her graduation

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Project Title and supervisors: Exploiting Mycobacterium tuberculosis biofilm-derived phenotypes for transformative novel drug discovery, supervised by Dr Simon Waddell (University of Sussex), Prof Jeremy S. Webb (University of Southampton) and Dr Joanna Bacon, Principal Scientist, TB Discovery Group, National Infection Service, Public Health England, Porton Down.

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)

Kaya completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Portsmouth studying marine biology. After a work placement in Spain in her second year Kaya’s focus shifted to marine microbiology, specifically looking at combating antibiotic resistance in marine environments using naturally occurring probiotic bacteria. This led to her masters in applied aquatic biology focussing on using bioinformatics to analyse the genomes of symbiotic wood-digesting bacteria that live on the gills of shipworms, as a potential application to optimising biofuel production.

Throughout her masters Kaya remained interested in bacterial diseases and drug discovery. Now Kaya is working with Mycobacterium turberculosis, a disease causing pathogen that affects millions of people worldwide, with emerging antibiotic resistant strains and limited access to drug regimens. Her project will focus on the heterogeneity of bacteria produced within microbial biofilms as a route for novel drug discovery in the fight against turburculosis.

Despite her career change, Kaya maintains a keen interest in marine biology, regularly diving and exploring coral reefs around the world.

Lucy UnwinHead and shoulders photo of Lucy

Year of study: Year 1

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project : Understanding the genomics and ecology of floral nectar to enhance crop-pollinator interactions, supervised by Dr Maria Castellanos,  (University of Sussex) and Dr Mark Chapman (University of Southampton).

2nd Rotation Project: Perennial crops for sustainable cities supervised, by Elizabeth Nicholls ( University of Sussex), Daniel Ingram (University of Kent), and Dave Goulson  (University of Sussex).

Lucy graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2021 with a First Class Honours in Environmental Science. Her undergraduate research project, which used MaxEnt climate suitability modelling to predict future distributions of UK butterflies under climate change, ignited a love for biodiversity conservation and research.

Lucy went on to complete a Master’s degree in Global Biodiversity Conservation at the University of Sussex, for which she received a Distinction. For her Master’s dissertation project, Lucy used Differential Scanning Calorimetry to investigate the role of lipid thermal fingerprints in predicting seed bank storage behaviour at the Millenium Seed Bank, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Throughout her studies, Lucy has maintained a keen interest in plant ecology and evolution. Now, for her first SoCoBio project rotation, Lucy is investigating the interaction between genetic and ecological aspects of floral nectar to better understand variation in floral nectar characteristics. She aims to understand the genetic basis and plasticity of floral nectar traits; what the cost of nectar production for a plant might be; and the importance of nectar variability to pollination quality.

Outside of research, Lucy enjoys hiking, running and pilates, as well as cooking and eating food with her friends and family.

James WoodwardJames head and shoulder profile photo

Year of study: Year 3

BBSRC Theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

1st Rotation Project and Final PhD Project: Growing complimentary crops and nutritionally rewarding cultivars to sustain insect pollinators and crop pollination on farms, supervised by Prof Dave Goulson (University of Sussex) and Dr Michelle Fountain (NIAB).

2nd Rotation Project: Characterising Malus koreana as a source of pest and disease resistance for utilisation in apple rootstock breeding, supervised by Dr Suzanne Litthauer (NIAB) and Dr Marta Farré Belmonte (University of Kent).

Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS): Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Wakehurst)

James is interested in ecosystem services, environmental conservation and plant science. He is excited to make a substantial contribution to sustainable food security and environmental conservation through collaborative research as an entomologist.

James studied biochemistry at University of Bath which included a professional placement in the Natural Capital and Plant Health Department at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. While working with Prof. Phil Stevenson and Dr Hauke Koch at Kew James discovered the value of non-crop plants for pollinator health and thus how they enhance ecosystem services for melliferous crops. Their project investigated the capacity of nectar to reduce the disease load of a prevalent gut parasite (Crithidia bombi) in bumblebees (Bombus spp.). To conclude their project he co-authored a paper, entitled “Flagellum removal by a nectar metabolite inhibits infectivity of a bumblebee parasite”, with his colleagues at Kew (Koch et al., 2019. Current Biology).

Following this James worked with Dr Michelle Fountain and Celine Silva in the Pest & Pathogen Ecology Department at NIAB EMR on a BBSRC funded Integrated Pest Management (IPM) project. Through collaborating with Natural Resources Institute, their research allowed farmers to lure Nesidiocoris tenuis, a controversial biocontrol agent, off tomato plants using our synthesised sex pheromone before it fed on the crop in commercial greenhouses.

James then worked with Mike Davies and Dr Eleftheria Stavridou in the Crop Science & Production Systems team at NIAB EMR to optimise resource use efficiency when conducting fertigation of horticultural crops including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and aubergines.

James’s current SoCoBio DTP project aims to understand if, and why, pollinators prefer foraging on different cultivars of crops including strawberries, raspberries, apples and oil seed rape. He is studying the nutritional quality of nectar and pollen as well as planning to conduct visitation surveys to elucidate these preferences. This research could facilitate the design of complimentary cropping systems with combinations of cultivars which sustain healthy pollinator populations, and thus crop pollination, on farms for the entire UK growing season.

James also enjoys playing music, climbing, drawing, gardening and baking with friends.

Emily WoodsEmily woods

Year of study: Year 2

BBSRC Theme: Understanding the rules of life

1st Rotation Project & Final PhD Project: Unraveling the brain mechanisms behind how cognitive and physical stimulation dampens food cravings and food consumption in mice, supervised by Dr Eisuke Koya (University of Sussex), Dr Hans Crombag (University of Sussex), and Prof Jerome Swinny (University of Portsmouth).

2nd Rotation Project: All-optical analysis of neuronal circuits in the cerebral cortex using a novel imaging configuration (CASE Project), supervised by Prof Miguel Maravall (University of Sussex) and Dr Christian Wilms (Scientifica Ltd)

Emily graduated from the University of Kent with a 1st class Psychology (BSc Hons) degree, where she discovered her interest in Neuroscience. She was then awarded the Chancellors Master’s Scholarship (2020) to study Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where she achieved a Distinction MSc degree. During her Master’s dissertation, Emily investigated the influence of the phosphoprotein DARPP-32 and sex differences on reward-related behaviour in mice, where she developed keen research interests in motivation and addiction.

Following her studies, Emily volunteered as a research assistant at the Singer lab (University of Sussex), where she assisted with analysing ultrasonic vocalisations from rats. This work informed a PhD project investigating the affective state of rats during cocaine and heroin self-administration. This work allowed Emily to further explore the research areas of motivation and addiction, and strengthened her interest in pursuing a career in research.

Emily’s first rotation project is investigating the brain mechanisms behind how cognitive and physical stimulation dampens food cravings and consumption in mice; specifically looking at the effects of cognitive and physical stimulation on cue-evoked Fos expression in prefrontal interneurons. This project aims to inform current understanding on how brain mechanisms can work to reduce food cravings and consumption.

Outside of academia, Emily enjoys cooking, avoiding seagulls on Brighton beach, and watching Netflix.