EASTBIO Student Cohort 2019

To find more about our 39 new students, who started their doctoral studies in the autumn of 2019, either scroll down the page or click below on one of the four priority areas each student's research is based within.

Agriculture and Food Security (AFS)
Bioscience for Health (BfH)
Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBB)
World Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB)

Induction Day, Dundee, 8 October 2019

Agriculture and Food Security (AFS)

Sam Borrowman (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: Pathogen effector proteins that target the host plant S-nitrosylation machinery
Personal note:
After high school I worked as a seed analyst where I learnt technical and analytical procedures for assessment of the health and quality of Scottish crops and identification of important fungal pathogens. After working for three years, I decided to pursue a biology degree at Heriot-Watt University and graduated in 2019. My PhD is hosted in the University of Edinburgh and I will be investigating a specific plant-pathogen interaction between a fungal parasite called Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei (also known as powdery mildew) and its host plant barley. It was previously demonstrated that effector proteins secreted by this fungus during infection may bind and inhibit crucial immune-regulating enzymes; possibly enhancing pathogen virulence. These enzymes are highly conserved throughout life kingdoms and serve as fundamentally important regulators of both plant and animal innate immune response. I aim to discover how these effector proteins subvert host immunity to increase pathogenesis and demonstrate that conclusions gained from this research may be widely applicable to both plant and animal immunity fields.

Laurine Brouck (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: RNA Editing Ligase 1 and F1-ATPase as novel drug targets for veterinary diseases caused by trypanosomatid parasites
Personal note:
After graduating in Biochemistry & Pharmacology at the University of Strathclyde, I was eager to embark on a PhD that tackles one of the major - and sometimes overlooked - global health issues: the neglected tropical diseases.
My project focuses on trypanosomatid infections in humans and cattle, and aims to contribute to the discovery of new medications for the associated neglected tropical diseases. Research in this field has been sparse and despite some medical advances with the new FDA-approved drug fexinidazole, disease persists in animal reservoirs and causes devastating economic loss in some of the poorest countries in the world. During my PhD, I will look at two enzymes that are unique and essential to trypanosomes: RNA Editing Ligase 1 and F1-ATPase. I hope to expand our knowledge of the structure and activity of these drug targets in order to aid drug discovery efforts.
Outside of my PhD, I enjoy practising martial arts and doing all kinds of handicrafts (but mostly knitting socks!).

Philip Butlin (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: Molecular mechanisms that control plant growth plasticity
Personal note:
I’m part of Prof. Karen Halliday’s lab at the University of Edinburgh. My research focuses on how phytochromes regulate plant architecture in response to external stimuli, such as light and temperature. As part of my project, I will also be trying to develop our understanding of the role of the circadian clock in the shade avoidance response, as well as trying to clarify the ecological relevance of these changes. Hopefully, my work will lead to the identification of molecular strategies to improve plant architecture in dense cropping environments that normally reduce yield. I am originally from Cardiff, but before coming to Edinburgh I completed an MSci in Biology at the University of Bristol, where I conducted research into the role of sigma factors in plant cold tolerance. Outside of my work, I enjoy cooking and playing (and watching) a number of sports.

Willow Fox (Edinburgh - CMVM)
Project title: Genome-wide identification of novel therapeutic targets for the control of bovine Staphylococcus aureus infection (CASE)

Beth McCaw (Aberdeen)
Project title: Evolution and epigenetic regulation of host plant choice in a specialised herbivore, the global crop pest seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus
Personal note:
Hi, I'm Beth and I'm a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen. My project focuses on how the seed beetle pest species, Callosobruchus maculatus, can adapt to environmental changes through epigenetic modification. Prior to this, I studied BSc Biological Sciences at University of Aberdeen, where I studied the role of epigenetics on thermal performance in the seed beetle for my honours project and won the Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards Prize in BSc Biological Sciences. I'm currently determining whether changes in global DNA methylation is associated with changes in DNA methyltransferase expression and phenotypic fitness in beetles under thermal stress. In my free time, I enjoy climbing, boxing and hanging out with friends and family.

Amy McGoohan (Edinburgh - CMVM)

Project title: One Health Aquaculture: Healthy Food, Healthy Animals, Healthy Ecosystems

Personal note:
Hello, I’m Amy and I am a PhD student at the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security (GAAFS). My supervisors are Dr Jon Hillier and Dr Susan Jarvis from GAAFS and also Professor Dave Little from University of Stirling.  My project is centred on the sustainability of aquaculture. The main purpose is to establish a sustainability scale for environmental, health and welfare impacts of the industry. This data will then be used to create a decision support tool for companies to evaluate how sustainable their farming methods are and identify best practice.  To start this large project, my PhD will focus on the Scottish industry and will look at trout, salmon and mussels in particular.  Before starting my PhD I did an honours degree in Marine Biology at Heriot Watt University, after which I spent two years working in the aquaculture industry for a Scottish salmon farming company.

Dewi Owen (Edinburgh - CMVM)
Project title: Establishing drivers for the generation and transmission of antimicrobial resistance in the food chain
Personal note:
I am excited to have started a PhD supervised by Dr Thamarai Schneiders at the University of Edinburgh, where I am based, and Dr Nicola Holden at the James Hutton Institute. The aim of the project is to study the impact of pesticide exposure and the potential for the development of antimicrobial resistance in common microorganisms found within the food chain. Antimicrobial resistance is an increasingly important topic, making further research in the field vital for human and environmental health.   
I previously completed a BSc in Immunology and Infection at University College London, with my third year project investigating the variability in immune response to BCG infection. I then stayed at UCL as a research assistant working on two different research themes; rapid molecular diagnostic tools in hospital-acquired pneumonia and secondly, a new drug regimen for pulmonary tuberculosis. 
In my spare time, I enjoy badminton, hill walking and football, even though I’m not very good!

James Owen (Edinburgh - CMVM)

Project title: Discovering new host-pathogen interactions to develop antivirals and vaccine strategies against PRRSV (CASE) 

Sophia Puliasis (Dundee/JHI)

Project title
: Novel computational method development for shotgun proteomics

Personal note:
I did my undergraduate degree in Bioinformatics at the University of Dundee and have stayed on here for my PhD. My project is a joint studentship with the James Hutton Institute, supervised by Dr Runxuan Zhang, Dr Piers Hemsley, and Dr Dominika Lewandowska, based in the Information and Computational Sciences group. My topic is still quite open-ended, but I’m currently focusing on the use of alternative proteases for protein digestion in shotgun proteomics and the integration of genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data to aid in the identification and discovery of new peptides. I like spending my free time with friends, being outdoors, and travelling.


Thomas Thrower (Edinburgh - CMVM)

Project title
: Exploiting stem cell and gene editing technologies
towards discovery of genetic variants important for muscle development and meat
production (CASE)

Personal note:
Hi I’m Tom, I moved to Roslin institute from Sussex where I completed an undergraduate in genetics. My PhD work includes generating for the first time a reversibly immortalized pig muscle stem cell line and investigating genes associated with proliferation and muscular development via CRISPR-Cas9. This work fits into a scientific effort to make food production more efficient to accommodate the ever-growing needs of the world population; assuming everyone doesn’t turn vegetarian first.

Daniel Underwood (Aberdeen)
Project title: The role of the Rab32/BLOC3 host defence pathway in controlling Staphylococcus aureus infections
Personal note:
After completing my BSc in Biomedical Science (Hons) at Oxford Brookes, and my MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM I have found a home in the Baldassarre lab group here at the University of Aberdeen (which is quite the change as I’ve spent the majority of my life in the south of England). Here, I will be attempting to elucidate the role of the Rab32 GTPase in macrophages as a defence mechanism against S. aureus infections. This small trafficking protein has recently been shown to play a role in the survival of S. enterica serovars in different hosts, and it is hoped that equal success can be shown with this pathogen. Although I may be researching macrophage defence mechanisms now my interests have moved around – from complement responses to TB to the effect of Parkinson’s Disease on the respiratory system (the latter of which I presented at the BCUR Conference 2018 and can be found online.

Bioscience for Health (BfH)

Stephanie Brien (Edinburgh - CMVM)
Project title: Investigation of the immunogenetic and infection status of scimitar-horned oryx and livestock in Tunisia, and the risk of wildlife-livestock disease transmission (CASE)
Personal note:
I am based at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute, where I am investigating the genetic diversity of immune markers in the genome of scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), a critically endangered species of desert-adapted antelope native to northern Africa. I will conduct fieldwork to assess the infectious disease status of livestock and semi-wild populations of oryx in Tunisia and explore the implications of immunogenetic variation on the risk of interspecies disease transmission. This information will be used to forecast the outcomes of management interventions, such as controlled trial releases.
My background is in veterinary medicine and my interest in One Health led me to intercalate in biological anthropology and to undertake an MSc in epidemiology. As well as gaining broad clinical veterinary experience, I have worked on a diverse range of research projects from studying Bluetongue infection in livestock in East Anglia, to monkeypox in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in Cameroon, and the field ecology of black-bellied pangolins (Phataginus tetradactyla) in Cote d’Ivoire. My PhD project unites my interests in population health, conservation and interdisciplinary research.


Eilidh Fummey (Edinburgh - CMVM)

Project title: Exploiting large-scale exome sequence data to determine the genetic control of healthy aging

Personal note
I have joined Chris Haley’s lab at the Institute of Genetic and Molecular Medicine (IGMM), part of the University of Edinburgh, to undertake my PhD. I completed my undergrad degree in Neuroscience in 2019, but my PhD project is in the field of quantitative genetics. The goal is to identify new methods for finding genetic variants that underlie traits associated with aging such as changes in bone mineral density and cognition.



Tegan Knott (St Andrews)
Project title: Brain circuits for cognitive control (CASE)
Personal note
Hi, I’m Tegan! I previously completed my integrated master’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of Dundee and have now moved 30 minutes down the road to St Andrews where I am undertaking my PhD in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience. I will be looking at the processes involved, and the brain areas required for rapid and flexible learning which allow us to ‘think outside the box’. Throughout my Ph.D. I will investigate how this network of brain areas assign credit to stimuli and filters out unwanted or redundant information from other stimuli to prevent overloading which could result in process failure. Rats, like humans, have the ability to form attentional sets when learning about compound stimuli with multiple ‘aspects’ that can be predictive of reward, hence, we will be exploiting a rat’s natural curiosity to search for food (digging for a food reward) using the attentional set-shifting task that requires a series of two-choice discriminations. Using Pharmacogenetics we will be able to manipulate the brain circuitry of the rats in order to map the roles of specific brain regions in cognitive function. This will require the surgical administration of ‘designer receptors’ to the region of interest will permit the administration designer drugs to temporarily and reversibly ‘switch off’ regions of interest. My Project is also a CASE studentship with the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim so I will also be going out to Germany to continue my research later on in my project!

Dominika Kwecka (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: How do signalling networks control host-pathogen interactions?
Personal note
I am Dominika and I am a PhD student based at The University of Edinburgh. My PhD continues the work I started during my Honours Project and my summer internship with Dr Nisha Philip investigating the role of the cyclicAMP protein kinase (PKA) in the transmission stages of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei. I aim to elucidate the importance of PKA during the transmission of the parasite and I hope to understand the signalling networks governing this process. Outside the lab I enjoy hiking, kayaking or climbing and I am part of the Karate Club at the Uni!

Czar Martin (Aberdeen)
Project title:  Identification of novel regulators of skeletal muscle mass (CASE)

Megan Sumoreeah (Dundee)
Project title: The role of autophagy in regulating immunity in the lung 
Personal note
Upon completing my BSc (Hons) in biology, during which I found a love for immunology, I undertook an MSc in Allergy at the University of Southampton. The MSc allowed me to hone my interests further, leading to my collaboration with Professor Simon Arthur at the University of Dundee, investigating the role of autophagy in the regulation of lung immunity. At the current time, regulation of autophagy is not well understood in the function of immune cells. In lung diseases, such as asthma, autophagy becomes deregulated causing several issues including hypertrophy and/or hyperplasia. My project aims to investigate the pathways responsible for regulating autophagy and explore the specific cells involved which may, in turn, suggest a new therapeutic target for lung diseases.

Conor Mitchell (Dundee)
Project title: Project title: The functional link between protein O-GlcNAcylation and X-linked intellectual disability
Personal note:
I attained my bachelor’s degree (Hons) in biochemistry from The University of York, during which I worked for a year in the analytical and structural chemistry group at AstraZeneca (oncology medicinal chemistry division). After a summer internship in glycomics, I developed an interest in the role of glycans in health and disease, and subsequently joined the lab of Professor Daan van Aalten in Dundee. My project focuses on elucidating the functional link between protein O-GlcNAcylation and X-linked intellectual disability, and is part of the Bioscience for Health (BfH) branch of the Eastbio programme. In my spare time, I enjoy scuba diving, long distance running, and reading on ancient history. Please also see the van Aalten group website.

Claire Pirie (Aberdeen)
Project title: Can regenerative medicine scaffolds efficiently modulate the immune response to improve the outcome of bone tissue repair? (CASE)

Benjamin Read (St Andrews)
Project title: Probing Allosteric Inhibition and Activation of Acinetobacter baumannii ATP Phosphoribosyltransferase (ATPPRT)
Personal note
I am part of the da Silva lab at the University of St Andrews. It is no secret that antimicrobial resistance is on the rise, therefore, there is a greater need to identify new molecular targets and develop novel drugs to combat this advancement. A. baumannii is implicated in hospital-associated infections (HIAs) and recurrent pneumonia. With it now being recognised by the WHO as the most critical bacterium against which new antibiotics are needed, my project looks towards the characterisation of a potential new target within its genome. I will focus on ATPPRT, which catalyses the first step in the histidine biosynthesis pathway, and has been shown to be essential for A. baumannii to persist in the lungs post-infection. This enzyme becomes inactive as a result of allosteric product inhibition at the regulatory subunit (i.e. the final product, histidine, binds to stop catalysis). Therefore, disrupting enzymatic activity through allosteric activators will prevent the bacteria to persist in the lungs…an interesting area to be explored for drug discovery!

Barnaby Stonier (Dundee)
Project title: Novel anti-bacterial toxins: mode of action and delivery between cells
Personal note
My project focuses on the Type 6 Secretion System (T6SS), a molecular weapon used by many gram-negative bacteria to inject toxic effector proteins into target cells. Some of these toxins are active against host eukaryotic cells while some target other bacteria. The Serratia genus has a particularly active T6SS and some strains of Serratia produce toxins which have not yet been characterised. My project aims to investigate the novel strain SJC1043, working out under what conditions its T6SS is expressed and elucidating the mechanisms of action of the toxins. The discovery of new antibacterial mechanisms would have the potential to be useful in the development of new classes of antibiotics, something which is vitally needed in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance.

Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBB)

Letizia Delle Vedove (Aberdeen)
Project title: The protein synthesis production line: mechanisms and stress responses governing ‘just-in-time’ tRNA delivery to the ribosome 
Personal note
Hello everyone, I am Letizia, and my PhD project will focus on the eukaryotic elongation factor 1A (eEF1A), a protein needed for the transport of amino acid-charged tRNAs to the ribosome.  Over the next four years, I will study the phenotype of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells in which this protein has been mutated, and how this influences the efficiency of overexpression of recombinant proteins on an industrial scale. My understanding of this will also be achieved through mathematical modelling of translation elongation. Moreover, I will collaborate with the University of Edinburgh in studying the same protein and its mutations in mammalian systems, where it is also involved in the onset of neurodevelopmental diseases.
Aberdonian by adoption (I moved here from Italy to study both my BSc and MSc), I enjoy going on long and relaxing walks, reading and baking.

Daniel Edwards (Edinburgh - CSE/Chemistry)
Project title: Repurposing protein nanopores as artificial transmembrane enzymes
Personal note: 
I recently completed my MChem studies at the University of Lincoln, receiving the Bruker and BASF awards for best performance in chemistry. My previous research interests focussed on the targeted synthesis of novel biological probes, establishing my fundamental understanding of small molecule and protein binding interactions. This was further demonstrated during my industrial placement at Intertek Pharmaceutical Services Manchester, where I developed strategies for the manufacture and clinical analysis of PEGylated protein therapeutics within highly regulated laboratories. My current PhD project, at the University of Edinburgh, aims to develop catalytically active transmembrane protein channels for applications in reactive pathway elucidation and biochemical flow systems. As a member of the industrial biotechnology and bioenergy (IBB) focus group I am keen to participate in industrial outreach and collaborative discussion towards fostering sustainability in the future of bioscience research (for updates please see @DanEdwardschem on Twitter).

Emma Hobbs (St Andrews)
Project title: Identifying, characterising and engineering fungal plant cell wall degrading enzymes for enhanced biocatalysis in biofuel production
Personal note
Hi I’m Emma. I obtained a BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Surrey, which included a 12 month placement at GlaxoSmithKline’s Medical Research Centre (Hertfordshire, England) within the Protein and Cellular Sciences department, working to design and generate candidate protein targets. For my PhD I am being joint supervised by Dr Tracey Gloster (St Andrews) and Dr Leighton Pritchard and Dr Sean Chapman of the James Hutton Institute (Dundee). My research involves using bioinformatics to data mine fungal genomes to identify potential cell-wall carbohydrate degrading enzymes; using X-ray crystallography and enzymatic assays to determine their structure and function; and the use of synthetic biology approaches to optimise their carbohydrate-active properties for use in biofuel production.
Honours and prizes:
Biochemistry Founder's Prize for Written Exposition, University of Surrey 2018.

Alice MacAulay (Edinburgh - CSE/Chemistry)
Project title: Development of biocatalytic enzyme cascades for industrial biotechnology
Personal note: 
I will be undertaking my PhD as part of the EastBio Industrial biotechnology and bioenergy group. My project focuses on creating an enzyme cascade to convert fatty acids into long chain alky-amines. Initially I will concentrate on characterising the kinetics and producing a substrate bound crystal structure of the transaminase FumI. With the information gained I will perform directed evolution to optimise FumI for industrial substrates.
Prior to my PhD, I achieved an MSci in Natural Sciences, from the University of Bath. During which I undertook a placement at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France, where I gained molecular biology experience, cloning, expressing and purifying a recombinant kinase using a bacterial expression system. In Bath my Masters project built on this experience as I expanded to working in a yeast expression system focusing on a protein implicated in ageing.

World Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB)

Jack Armstrong (Edinburgh - CMVM)
Project title: Engrams and neural circuitry for episodic memory
Personal note
I want to understand how animals organise and store memories of the past within the brain. By combining optogenetic techniques and whole cell recordings, my project will be looking at the neurocircuitry of the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC) and how signal processing and circuit plasticity organises components of episodic memory. This research is based in the University of Edinburgh in the Neuroscience department.
Prizes and awards

  • Awarded the Biological Sciences (Neuroscience) Prize: awarded to the best graduate in neuroscience
  • Awarded the Experimental Project Prize: awarded to the top three experimental project students


Mihaly Badonyi (Edinburgh - CMVM)

Project title: Elucidating the molecular determinants of dominant-negative mutations in protein complexes

For further details, see Mihaly's LinkedIn profile.



Abigail Brewer (Dundee)
Project title: Engineering an Affinity-directed Protein Missile System (AdPROM) for inducible degradation of target proteins

Personal note
Hi, I’m Abbie and I am a PhD student based in the Sapkota laboratory at the University of Dundee. My project will focus on broadening the applicability of the affinity-directed protein missile (AdPROM) system. Here, high-affinity binders (e.g. nanobodies) are used to fuse a protein of interest with the CUL2-RING E3 ligase complex, resulting in efficient degradation of the endogenous target protein. Before my PhD, I completed my BSc (Hons) degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Dundee and during this time I undertook an Erasmus exchange to CEU San Pablo in Madrid, Spain. My degree enabled me to strongly focus on cell signalling and drug discovery and I look forward to combining and further exploring these interests in my PhD. In my free time I am learning Spanish and I enjoy meeting friends, hiking in the beautiful Scottish countryside and travelling.

Dagmar Der Weduwen (St Andrews)

Project title: Archerfish as a model for sophisticated social learning

Personal note
I’m a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. Archerfish sometimes employ a complex hunting mechanism, by which they shoot down prey located above the water surface using jets of water expelled from their mouths. This spitting behaviour provides an ideal system in which to study social learning in these group-living fish. I will be determining whether archerfish learn this behaviour by imitating their conspecifics, as well as which neural pathways may be responsible for this social learning. My previous work includes the study of blue tit nest characteristics in relation to environmental factors and several studies on the dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds. In my free time, I like to write, bake, and listen to podcasts.
Research outputs:
der Weduwen, D., & Ruxton, G. D. (2019). Secondary dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds: A review. Biological Reviews. doi: 10.1111/brv.12537

Zoe Gidden (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: Non-perturbative use of fluorescent proteins for super-resolution microscopy
Personal note
My project is co-supervised by Prof Lynne Regan and Dr Mathew Horrocks and aims to fluorescently tag proteins in mammalian cells, so that they can be imaged using super-resolution microscopy, while minimising the effect on the normal function of the protein. I completed my undergraduate degree in Biophysics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada which gave me a strong grounding in all the natural sciences. I have always been excited by interdisciplinary research so my PhD project perfectly suits my interests and I get to play (safely) with lasers. When I am not in the lab I enjoy getting outside by running and hiking but if it’s too dreich I usually head to the swimming pool or curl up under some blankets with a book.

Akanksha Jain (Edinburgh - CMVM)
Project title: Determining the role of new molecules in activity-dependent bulk endocytosis 
Personal note
Hello, I am Akanksha! After obtaining my MSci degree in Cell biology from University College London, I started my PhD project in Prof Michael Cousin lab based in the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences. During intense neuronal activity, efficient endocytosis of synaptic vesicles is vital for sustaining neurotransmission. Under these conditions, activity-dependent bulk endocytosis (ADBE) becomes the dominant mode of synaptic vesicle trafficking. My project aims to discover the role of molecules specifically involved in this pathway, particularly focusing on the role of small GTPase Rab23 and new proteins affecting ADBE. This project will therefore significantly contribute to the physiological understanding of ADBE in health and disease. I really love working in the lab, but you can also find me away from lab either cooking, playing badminton or exploring the charming city of Edinburgh!

Eftychia Klimi (Edinburgh - CMVM)
Project title: Vascular-targeted gene therapy to block proliferation of smooth muscle cells using a novel adenovirus vector (CASE)
Personal note
Hi! I’m Effie and I’ve graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the University of Sussex. Currently, I’m based at Prof Andrew Baker’s group at the QMRI Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, interested in the vein grafts used as conduits in heart bypass surgery. The heart bypass is the most commonly performed surgical treatment for coronary artery disease, which is the leading cause of death globally. However, almost half of grafts will become occluded and fail within 10 years, mainly due to the proliferation and migration of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in the vein wall. miRNAs have been shown to play an important role in regulating the function of VSMCs and recently, novel miRNAs have been identified that are able to block VSMC proliferation. My PhD project, therefore, focuses on developing a vascular-targeted gene therapy using a novel adenovirus vector, aimed at delivering therapeutic miRNA to the wall of those venous conduits in order to block VSMC proliferation.

Adam Kovac (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: Making a spindle in the right place

Clarice Lei (Aberdeen)
Project title: In vivo enhancer manipulation using CRISPR genome editing
Personal note
Hello, I’m a PhD student based at the Institute of Medial Science, Foresterhill.  I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen and have stayed on to pursue my postgraduate study.  My project is looking at disease susceptibility, in the project we are focusing on in vivo enhancer manipulation using genome editing techniques such as CRISPR/CAS9.  We aim to optimise the “knock-in” strategy and investigate the genetic basis of appetite regulation by analysing feeding behaviour, weight gain and metabolism in mice.  I am passionate to explore on how specific genetic variants contribute to disease susceptibility and to investigate the relationship between the molecular genetic networks and animal behaviour.  I aspire in developing gene-based medicines for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases using advanced biotechnology.

Laura MacKenzie (Aberdeen)
Project title: Understanding the generation and dynamics of Bartonella diversity, host specificity, vector specificity, infection length, and competitive ability in mixed infections in fragmented host populations
Personal note
Hi, I am Laura and I am currently undertaking my PhD at the University of Aberdeen. My research will focus on understanding the disease patterns and the generation of genetic diversity of bacteria from the genus Bartonella, a vector-borne hemoparasitic disease. The project is primarily based around a well-studied metapopulation of water voles, naturally infected with multiple Bartonella species. I will be using the wealth of data from this model system to investigate the processes shaping genetic diversity and disease dynamics of a vector-borne disease in fragmented multi-host systems.
Prior to my PhD I graduated from the University of Aberdeen, where I was awarded the Zoology Prize for outstanding achievements. Outside my research, I have a wide range of hobbies including hiking, swing dancing and sewing.

Edward Martin (Edinburgh - CSE)
Project title: Sonification of biological sequences
Personal note
What can we learn about genetics by listening to proteins? Can we harness human  understanding of   non-verbal sound to improve exploratory data analysis of biological data?
My project investigates how sound can aid researchers in knowledge extraction from protein and genetic data sets, for example protein sequences or multiple alignments. I write software which creates audio files designed to convey information, known as sonifications. They can be thought of as sound visualisations, like the clicking of a Geiger counter or the beep of a heart rate monitor. This innovation seeks to connect biological researchers with their data in a complementary way to traditional visual and quantitative methods. It combines elements of computer programming, bioinformatics, psychoacoustics, and sound design. If you are interested, then feel free to get in touch!


Hesho Shaweis (St Andrews)

Project title: The ‘little brain’: Error detection by the cerebellum and its role in motor learning

Personal note
For my PhD, I have joined the Zwart lab at the University of St Andrews. My research interests lie in neuroethology, where my project focuses on the olivo-cerebellar system specifically. Our aim is to understand how information is integrated in the neural control of adaptive motor learning.



Crystal Silver (Aberdeen)
Project title: Mechanisms of social agency
Personal note
I am a PhD student within both the Social Interaction and Consciousness lab (SInC Lab) and the Consciousness, Attention and Perception lab (CAP Lab) at the School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen. My PhD is interdisciplinary in nature, spanning social and cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. My project seeks to investigate the mechanisms of Social Agency (i.e. our sense of responsibility for our actions, and the consequences of those actions, during interaction with an independent agent) through a combination of behavioural, eye-tracking and EEG techniques. My wider research interests are related to how we interact with each other, either in the real world or through computer interface. I have previous collaborative projects scrutinising the relevance of agency behind leading eye movements (i.e. gaze cues; presented at European Conference on Eye Movements 2019), and the social influences of attraction online. I graduated with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Psychology from Abertay University in 2019, winning the British Psychological Society Undergraduate Award. During my time as an undergraduate, I also completed a Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland Vacation Scholarship in the summer of 2018. Outwith my studies, I enjoy outdoor activities including hill walking, running and sea kayaking, and I am a keen DIY, craft and cooking enthusiast.

Eleanor Stroud (Aberdeen)
Project title: Causes and consequences of microbiome variation in the fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)