Group photo of 2017 cohort - EASTBIO Induction Day - Dundee, 6 October 2017
To find more about our 43 new students, who started their doctoral studies in the autumn of 2017, either scroll down the page or click on one of the four priority areas each student's research is located in.
Lizzie Billington (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Understanding the mechanism of influenza A virus PB1-F2 immune signalling antagonism
Hi, I’m Lizzie. I did my MBiolSci (integrated masters) at the University of Sheffield, including research projects on periodontitis, bioinformatics, and N. gonorrhoeae. I’m currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, where I’m studying an accessory protein of bird flu, PB1-F2. PB1-F2 is often transferred from avian strains in pandemics, and interacts with the immune system in many ways, depending on the virus lineage. Next year I’ll be moving down to the Pirbright Institute to do some animal work, but in the meantime I’m focusing on making mutant proteins to characterise.
Jade Bleau (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Compartmental, Selective and Reversible Redox Signalling in Plant Immunity
Anneli Lofstedt (Aberdeen)
Project title: Strategies to balance enhanced fish consumption with sustainable fish production
Hi! I am a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen based in the School of Biological Sciences. I am looking into strategies to enhance human fish consumption towards dietary recommendations with sustainable aquaculture production and wild caught fish in the UK. Before starting my PhD, I completed my BSc in Marine Biology at Aberystwyth University and then moved further north to Bangor University for my MSc in Marine Environmental Protection. Outside of research, I am looking forward to exploring more of Scotland.
Anneli is also EASTBIO student rep for Aberdeen.
Beth Moore (Aberdeen)
The role of sex, climate change, and land use on the spread of aphid pesticide-resistance in the UK: a PhD project using transcriptomic and GIS-based approaches
Sally Myles (Dundee)
Project title: Understanding how plant pathogens cause disease – who does what to whom and where?
Kathryn Scobie (Aberdeen)
Project title: Optimising rodent control strategies in rural Madagascar to increase agricultural productivity and reduce zoonotic disease risk through targeted community actions
Hi! My name’s Kathryn, and I’m currently studying for a PhD at the University of Aberdeen. For my project, I will be looking at how ecologically based rodent management strategies may be implemented in rural areas of Madagascar with the aim of increasing agricultural yields and reducing transmission of zoonotic diseases through improved control of rodent pests. This project will adopt an interdisciplinary approach, integrating findings of ecological surveys, field experiments and questionnaire data, to consider how to effectively implement control on the ground.
Prior to starting my PhD I completed a Masters in Conservation and Ecology at the University of Bristol, for which I studied the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on the habitat use of the southern woolly lemur. The following three years I spent in Madagascar, working on conservation and community development projects with a local NGO.
Scobie, K., Schwitzer, C. & Holderied, M. (2017) Observations of Avahi meridionalis in Eucalyptus plantations. Lemur News, 20.
Chester Zoo Studentship 2014
Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund 2014 and 2016
Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation 2014 and 2016
Olivia Watt (Aberdeen)
Project title: Genetic determinants of plant bioactive production - Informing crop breeding for health
Hi, I’m Olivia and I am doing my PhD at the Rowett Institute in association with the James Hutton Institute (JHI), Dundee. I have an interest in health and nutrition, and am passionate about plant-based diets. Wholegrains are known to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases, but their full health effects are not yet known. My project involves working with barley, a crop that is currently underutilised as a human food source. I will be undertaking an acute human study to compare the bioavailability of phytochemical compounds in barley lines once consumed. I will then investigate the genetics behind the phytochemical pathways at JHI. This will include molecular genetics and potentially crop breeding. This will all contribute to further improving the health benefits of barley crops. I will also be involved in public engagement events promoting barley and healthy diets.
Before starting my PhD, I graduated with an MSci in Biochemistry with First Class Honours from the University of Aberdeen. This included a yearlong industrial placement at the European Screening Centre in early stage drug discovery in a high-throughput screening environment.
Outside of science I am very into fitness, particularly weight training. I am a qualified Personal Trainer and POP Pilates® instructor. I am also involved in theatre – performing and teaching classes locally.
Agata Barbara Wawszczyk (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Translational control of a bacterial micro-injection system
Tara Isabel Canela Wight (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Enhancing plant resilience via stress-priming – a solution for sustainable agricultural development
I am a PhD student in Naomi Nakayama’s group in the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. My project focuses on the effect of mechanical stress on the resilience of plants. Mechanical stimulation has been used by Japanese farmers for centuries to improve the structural strength of crop plants and to improve tolerance to various biotic and abiotic stresses. I will investigate the effect of this technique on the morphology and gene expression of Arabidopsis thaliana. I am particularly interested in the mechanism behind the development of cross-resistance to multiple different types of environmental stress. I will also investigate the effect of mechanical stimulation on the growth of various crop species and will work with subsistence farmers in countries such as Ethiopia to conduct field trials and develop protocols to increase crop stress tolerance and yield.
Prior to starting my PhD, I completed a BSc in Natural Sciences and an MRes in Biology at Durham University. Outside of the lab, I spend a lot of time campaigning about climate change, I love to bake and I have just started playing roller derby.
Ben Ashley (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Exploring the catalysis and structural biology of proteins on the biosynthetic pathway to ketomemicins
I completed my Masters degree in Chemistry at the University of Warwick in June 2017. This included a final year research project under the supervision of Professor Tim Bugg, in which I worked on engineering a ligninolytic peroxidase from Pseudonomas fluorescens for improved properties for biotechnological application. I joined Campopiano Group at Edinburgh in September 2017.
My PhD project will initially focus on characterising and engineering KtmB, a PLP-dependent enzyme which catalyses a key step in the biosynthesis of an unusual class of peptidomimetic natural products.
Sarah Blincko (St Andrews)
Project title: Dissecting the role of Hedgehog signalling during development, regeneration and ageing in vivo using novel phosphorescent small molecules
Hi! My PhD is divided between the Biomolecular Sciences Department and the Department of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews. Before starting my PhD, I completed my BSc and MRes at the University of Durham. My project investigates Hedgehog signalling in our organism of interest, amphioxus, which is a marine, invertebrate organism capable of regeneration. One way to do this is to look at the effects of disrupting the Hedgehog signalling pathway with chemical treatments. In addition, I hope to develop phosphorescent iridium complexes that can be used to live image this pathway. This work could potentially improve the bioimaging tools available and aid our understanding of Hedgehog signalling in the context of regeneration. In my free time I enjoy baking, reading and travelling.
Aron Ferenczi (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Developing and utilizing a transgene-free genome editing toolbox for the production of high value pigments in unicellular photosynthetic organisms
I graduated in 2016 from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Plant Science. Following on from my final year project, I continued to volunteer and eventually became employed part-time to work on the same project during my MSc in Bioinformatics. This work lent itself to further opportunities, which now form my EASTBIO CASE studentship. My project, under supervision of Dr Attila Molnar, is co-sponsored by Scottish Bioenergy, who specialize in microalgal biotechnology. Broadly, our aim is to optimize the production of microalgal products. This work is driven by increasing consumer awareness and consequently, a growing demand for naturally sourced products in the nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and food markets.
Honours and prizes:
Highly Skilled Workforce Scholarship 2016-2017 (MSc)
Lang Scholarship Prize for Top Project in Plant Science 2016 (jointly awarded, BSc)
Gemma Fisher (St Andrews)
Project title: Mechanism and engineering of a cold-adapted hetero-oligomeric ATP-phosphoribosyltransferase: implications for synthetic biology
My PhD project is based at the University of St Andrews in the da Silva group and concerns enzymology. ATP-phosphoribosyltranserase (ATP-PRT) is the first enzyme in the histidine biosynthetic pathway. The aim of my project is to investigate the mechanism of ATP-PRT. Histidine is synthesised industrially. By understanding the mechanism and important residues for catalysis from ATP-PRT we aim to generate opportunities for protein engineering.I am interested in biocatalysis. The particular ATP-PRT I am working on comes from a cold-adapted bacteria.Cold-adapted enzymes are of interest to the biotechnology industry because of their ability to facilitate catalysis at a lowered temperature relative to their mesophilic counterparts.
I completed a BSc in Biochemistry also at the University of St Andrews so I'm happy to answer any questions about St Andrews in general and the EASTBIO programme.
Bethany Allen (Aberdeen)
Project title: The role of innate cell PTP1B in susceptibility to infection
Hello! I am studying at the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. I have a particular interest in immunology and the factors that influence susceptibility to, and resolution of, infection. For my PhD, I am exploring the role of non-receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) in the immune response to fungal infection by Candida albicans. This project has important implications for pharmaceutical development, as PTP1B inhibitors are currently being developed as potential therapies for conditions such as diabetes and breast cancer.
Before moving to Aberdeen, I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of York. I also worked at AstraZeneca for one year as a bioscience placement student in the Genetic Toxicology department.
Matilda Cederblad (Aberdeen)
Project title: Electrophysiological assessment of visual processing after brain injury
Verity Hill (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: How can real-time sequencing of viral genomes help inform epidemiology and public health of acute viral epidemics?
Hi, I'm Verity and I'm a PhD student in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at Edinburgh! My project is examining the whole genome sequences from the West African Ebola epidemic in 2014-16 to learn why the epidemic was structured the way it was. I'll be using epidemiological data linked to these sequences to run simulations of the epidemic and learn which public health interventions may work best. If there's another epidemic of an RNA virus in the next few years then I will be attempting to apply these models to help control it in real time.
Previously I did a BA in Biology at Oxford, and an MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. When I leave the computer, I'm super keen on music and backstage theatre.
Sian Emma Jones (Dundee)
Project title: Functional analysis and development of the Staphylococcus aureus Type VII secretion system as an antibacterial target
Jordan Mitchell (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Development of multi-parametric tests for the diagnosis of feline tuberculosis
Hi, I’m Jordan and I am a PhD student based at The Roslin Institute in the University of Edinburgh. I did my BVM&S Veterinary Medicine at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and graduated with Distinction, before spending a period of time working in small animal general practice.
Feline mycobacterial disease is under-diagnosed in the UK and current diagnostic tests have various limitations which can impact negatively on cats and their owners. Of those cases of feline mycobacterial disease we can successfully culture, the majority are caused by Mycobacterium microti or M. bovis, which can also be called tuberculosis. In collaboration with an industrial partner, my project aims to improve our understanding of the underlying immunological response to mycobacterial infection and use this knowledge to develop a novel diagnostic assay for use by veterinarians to improve diagnosis, help tailor treatment and better inform prognosis.
Joseph Moore (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Network analysis of entorhinal-hippocampal circuits for spatial cognition and memory
I am a PhD student at the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh. My project involves studying the connections in the brain that process information about an environment, such as visual landmarks and local contextual cues, to allow formation of episodic memories. Working under the supervision of Dr Emma Wood, I am using molecular manipulations and recording neural activity in behaving mice to determine the precise functions of cortical inputs to the hippocampus in spatial processing. This is particularly relevant to health, as these connections are some of the first to deteriorate in Alzheimer’s disease.
Prior to this, I completed a BSc (Hons) in Neuroscience at the University of Bristol, studying neural network activity in a rat model of intellectual dysfunction for my dissertation.
Fiona Jane Ramage (Dundee)
Project title: Is there a role for GABA-A receptor alpha-5 subunits in cognitive deficits caused by consumption of a high fat diet?
Hi, I’m Fiona, and have just started my PhD at the University of Dundee! I am working with three supervisors (two in Dundee and one in Aberdeen) studying the impact of high fat diets on the brain. Specifically, I aim to find out whether the activation of alpha-5-containing GABAA receptors is a possible mechanism for the detrimental effects of a high fat diet on episodic memory function in mice, using techniques ranging from behavioural studies to electrophysiology. Before moving to Dundee, I studied for an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh and a BSc in Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Manchester. Outside of the lab, I tend to cycle through a number of different hobbies, at the moment focusing on climbing and learning the guitar!
Fiona is also EASTBIO student rep for Dundee.
Daniela Schnitzler (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Investigating a role for the gut microbiota in stress axis dysfunction and anxiety behaviour in prenatally stressed rats
Hi! I’m a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, Roslin Institute. Originally from Austria, I have lived in the UK since 2011, having done my undergraduate degree in Aberdeen, and an Industrial Placement in York. My project looks at the role of the gut microbiome in the stress axis dysfunction of prenatally stressed rats. We know that changes in the composition of gut bacteria is linked to neuropsychological changes, like depression or anxiety. In addition, maternal gut bacteria are conferred to the offspring during birth. We also know that maternal exposure to stress “programmes” the offspring, resulting in altered physiology and behaviour in adulthood. These offspring have greater stress responses due to stress axis dysfunction. My work will investigate whether the gut microbiome contributes the changes in the stress axis and anxiety-like behaviour in prenatally stressed rats, and the mechanisms involved. I am also particularly interested in potential sexual dimorphisms that may be revealed, and the specific signalling underlying these. The project will also investigate whether adverse phenotypes of prenatally stressed rats can be reversed by manipulating gut microbiota. When I am not busy with Science, I like taking my dog for long walks in the beautiful Scottish countryside, spending time with my friends in the vibrant city, or curling up at home with a book.
Website (will be live soon)
Danny is also EASTBIO student rep for UoE_CMVM.
Tom Watson (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Development of pluripotent cell lines from Livestock, and animal models for pharmacology/toxicology applications
Aikaterini Zafeiri (Aberdeen)
Project title: Mechanisms via which the human fetus is at risk from over-the-counter analgesics
Hello! I am a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, based in the Institute of Medical Sciences. My project is about exploring drug metabolism in the human fetal liver. The main focus is to identify the effects of prenatal analgesic exposure (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen) on hepatocytes and liver transcriptome and proteome, underlying potential consequences for the conceptus’s postnatal and adult life. This study aims to shed light on fetal pharmacokinetics and potentially raise awareness about drug use during pregnancy, or even set the base for the production of analgesics that are safe-to-use by pregnant women.
Prior to starting the PhD, I graduated with a First Class Honours MSci in Molecular Biology from the University of Aberdeen. During my Degree I undertook a 12-month Industrial Placement at the Biomedical Research Foundation Academy of Athens (BRFAA) in Greece. There I worked within the field of Developmental Biology, investigating cardiac-specific mutations using Danio rerio (zebrafish).
In my free time I enjoy cooking, videogames, reading and exploring new exciting places around the world.
World Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB)
Courtney Bernadette Ann Aitken (St Andrews)
Project title: Neurophysiological markers of memory error monitoring across the lifespan
I’m currently studying for my PhD under Dr Akira O’Connor and Dr Ines Jentzsch in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews. My project is looking at the occurrence of introspective memory phenomena (e.g. déjà vu) and their incidence across the lifespan. Young adults tend to experience the phenomena most often with the frequency of experience decreasing thereafter. Similarly, people taking medications that facilitate dopamine transmission can experience particularly intense recurring déjà vu episodes. These behavioural and neurophysiological findings are similar to those in error-monitoring research whereby the efficiency of error-monitoring systems decreases with age-related decline in dopaminergic functioning. Memory errors typically increase with age rather than decrease. Therefore, my project will be looking at whether the experience of introspective memory phenomena is indicative of a memory error monitoring system working optimally.
Tadas Andriuskevicius (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Co-ordination of telomerase and DNA repair machineries in cells with DNA damage
Kyle Bennett (Dundee)
Project title: Investigating the role of the TRAF 6 E3 Ubiquitin ligase in T Cells
Jack Brydon (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Synthetic-interferon mimetics as potential cross-species therapeutic biologics
Benjamin Craske (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Defining the spatial and temporal function of the CENP-E motor during mitosis using rapid light-induced regulation
I am a PhD student in Julie Welburn’s group at the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology (University of Edinburgh). My project aims to further characterise the function and regulation of CENP-E, a kinesin-7 motor which is essential for chromosome congression, alignment and segregation during mitosis. Mutations to CENP-E result in chromosome misalignment and unstable microtubule-kinetochore attachments. Depletion of CENP-E using CRISPR or RNAi result in prometaphase arrest and thus CENP-E’s role in the later stages of cell division are unclear. My project involves optimising the control of an engineered protease specifically targeted to CENP-E, which would allow for rapid depletion during a chosen stage of mitosis and provide further insight into CENP-E’s spatial and temporal function.
Prior to starting my PhD, I graduated from Durham University with a first class honours in Biological Sciences, during which I undertook a 15-month industrial placement as a research scientist for Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies.
Tadhg Devlin (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Heterochromatin and associated histone PTMs in Trypanosoma brucei
Helen Katharine Feord (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Clocks across taxa: Conserved circadian timekeeping mechanisms
Jacob Ridley John Francis (St Andrews)
Project title: Developing a network-based understanding of Drosophila larvae locomotion using computational neuroscience and live imaging of neural activity
I am working under Dr Stefan Pulver in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews.
Understanding how neural networks implement behavioural decision-making is a fundamental goal of neuroscience. I will apply cutting-edge techniques in neurogenetics and live imaging to explore how a locomotor-related central pattern generator (CPG) selects and implements motor programmes. I will perform live imaging of CPG activity using genetically-encoded calcium indicators in Drosophila larvae. I will then apply and develop computational neuroscience tools for the analysis of live imaging data. I will also work with Bayesian network inference algorithms, a powerful computational methodology for revealing network structure.
Jessica-Lily Harvey-Cox (St Andrews)
Project title: Developmental stress and biological rhythms
Alexandra Hazel Margaret Jebb (Aberdeen)
Project title: Effects of early and adult environment conditions on the biology of long-lived species: testing the “predictive adaptive response” hypothesis
I am a PhD student working in the biological sciences department under the supervision of both Dr. Julien Martin and Dr. Pierre Bize. Throughout the course of my project I will be working with a long-term dataset collected from a natural population of yellow-bellied marmots located in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. My principle aim is to use physiological markers to support conclusions about how maternal or early environment affects offspring performance.
Before starting my PhD, I completed both my BSc and my MRes at the University of Liverpool. In the last two years I have worked on the biology of small mammals, in both my Masters and as a research assistant in South Africa and I look forward to spending more time in the field, and laboratory, working on the topics I enjoy.
Karina Kangur (Aberdeen)
Project title: Perception of Material and Texture in Vision and Action
I am a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen under the supervision of Dr Constanze Hesse (Aberdeen) and Dr Julie Harris (St Andrews). My research focuses on how the visual system processes form and shape and how certain object properties, such as texture, are processed by the perceptual system. My project will help us gain a wider understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying texture perception. In order to study this, we are planning to conduct a series of experiments using modern eye- and hand-tracking equipment with a wide range of techniques, such as behavioural reaching/grasping, perceptual ratings, computational analysis of material properties and neuropsychology.
Prior to my PhD, I obtained my undergraduate and master of research degrees in Psychology. My undergraduate thesis focused on hand- and mobile eye-tracking in grasping and locomotion tasks and my MRes thesis on optimal decision-making in pointing hand movements.
Kangur, K., Billino, J., & Hesse, C. (2017). Keeping Safe: Intra-individual Consistency in Obstacle Avoidance Behaviour Across Grasping and Locomotion Tasks. i-Perception, 8(1), 1-10.
Susana Keane (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Dissecting the proviral functions of Jmjd6 in Influenza A Virus infection
I am doing my PhD in Infection and Immunity at the Roslin Institute in University of Edinburgh in Paul Digard’s group. Previously, I did both my BSc (Biomedical science) and MRes (Biosciences) at Newcastle University. My project is about virus-host interactions in influenza A virus (IAV) infection. Specifically, I am looking at the role of a host protein, Jmjd6, which may have a proviral function. I will be using cell culture and animal models to investigate how and when in the IAV life cycle Jmjd6 is having its effect. IAV is a highly contagious human and animal pathogen which is responsible for between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths every year during annual epidemics. Treatment of IAV infection is limited and understanding of how the virus interacts with the host allows opportunities to develop ways of inhibiting it.
Nina Kozar (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Role of LGI and ADAM proteins in the functional organization of the myelinated axon
I am a PhD student in Dies Meijer’s group at the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences (University of Edinburgh).
My project focuses on the distribution of voltage gated potassium channels (Kv) within myelinated axons. Defective clustering of these complexes has been seen in many neurodegenerative disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis. Preliminary data suggest the involvement of interactions between LGI2/3 and ADAM23 in functional Kv clustering. During this project, we will try to establish how these proteins contribute to the assembly and stabilisation of Kv complexes in both myelinating axons as well as axons remyelinating after injury.
Prior to starting my PhD, I completed a BSc (Hons) in Immunology at the University of Glasgow. In my free time, I enjoy horseback riding and traveling.
Felicity Macdonald (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Dissecting the interaction between the EGF-R and IL33-R signalling pathway and its physiological relevance for resistance against bacterial lung infections
Samantha Jacqueline Mpaulo (Abeldeen)
Project title: Orthogonal DNA Double-Strand Break Formation during Meiosis
I am a PhD student working in the Lorenz lab, within The Institute of Medical Sciences, at The University of Aberdeen. My project focuses on characterising Spo11-induced double-strand breaks during meiosis in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. To do this, I will use CRISPR/ Cas9 technology to create several Cas9-Spo11 gene fusions which I will then evaluate in classic meiotic recombination assays. In addition, I will also be investigating the impact of other components of the double-strand break machinery (also known as Spo11 co-factors) and the involvement of the meiosis-specific chromatin environment. This will allow me to gain insight into the relationship between double-strand break formation and repair outcome, on various cellular levels.
Before embarking on my PhD studies, I completed my BSc in Medical Genetics followed by my MSc in Human and Molecular Genetics, both from The University of Sheffield.
Honours or Prizes: Sheffield Postgraduate Scholarship funded by Rod Stead (2016)
Margaret Frances Peyton Jones (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Importance of kinetochore-driven cohesin loading at a heterochromatic pericentromere for accurate chromosome segregation during meiosis
Hi, I’m Meg, and I’m based at the University of Edinburgh, having done my undergrad in Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford. My project is focused on targeted cohesin loading during meiosis. Cohesin loading, a highly conserved mechanism, is vital for ensuring accurate segregation of chromosomes to daughter cells. It also plays a role in DNA repair and transcriptional regulation. Using fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe) as a model organism, I’m investigating the proteins responsible for establishing the pericentromere; the cohesin-rich area flanking the centromere, which generates tension facilitating the attachment of microtubules to sister chromatids and prevents recombination occurring in this region. Out of the lab I love singing in choirs, dancing, spending time with friends, and generally trying to enjoy life as much as possible. Feel free to contact me about anything and I’ll do my best to help!
Meg is also EASTBIO student rep for Edinburgh_CSE
Charlotte Scoynes (Edinburgh_CSE)
Project title: Structural and functional studies of WIZ, a zinc-finger protein required in epigenetic regulation of gene expression
Rebecca Smith (Edinburgh_CMVM)
Project title: Advanced bioinformatics tools and pipelines for the next-generation of microbiome analysis