Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

This page contains:

EASTBIO EDI key contacts
EASTBIO EDI student representatives
EASTBIO Mental Health First Aid group  - email us if you'd like to chat with one of our first aiders!
EDI resources

We aim to update these pages with relevant information from across our partnership so please do get in touch if you have a relevant piece of information or news that would you like to see here.


People attening a training sessionThe EASTBIO programme team strongly supports you in bringing your whole self to work. We value diversity in all forms and expect all students who join our community to support and promote equality, diversity and inclusion. 

  • At any time, students can complete in person half-day awareness-building courses within any EASTBIO Institution that are aimed to raise their awareness of unconscious bias, to apply that awareness to an HEI setting and to develop ideas for research-led actions to mitigate personal, managerial and organisational bias in key people processes. Online courses are also available via our partner institutions and we would like to know of your suggestions for training you would like EASTBIO to provide to our students or supervisors. 
     
  • Listening to what students have suggested, we aim to embed EDI statements and provision across the EASTBIO life, from recruitment to training. Concrete examples include having EDI sessions in our training, and asking students who help organise or co-organise events to contribute innovative ways of making sure that our EDI mandate is met. We are in the process of setting up a sub-committee and prioritising key actions. 
     
  • We also encourage individuals to become drivers for change by making contributions focused on personal or community-based experiences and insights to boost the visibility of various identities, consolidate our inclusive research ethos and help to embed recognition and broad respect for those identities. EASTBIO supports such contributions to our programme and our media, printed or digital, as well as any student initiative to create resource or network groups for specific student-focus interests. 
     

EDI Contacts

Acting EDI Champion: DTP Manager Dr Maria Filippakopoulou
EDI Officer

EDI Student reps

click on the name for a short personal note or email us!

Student reps short profiles:
Ella Catherall

Project Title: Regulation of Rubisco in a Synthetic Pyrenoid-Like Condensate Expressed in Rice

Personal note: Hi! My name is Ella (She/Her) and I will be studying for my PhD in the lab of Dr Alistair McCormick. In my project, I will be trying to express components of the pyrenoid, a really awesome CO2-concentrating mechanism found in a range of algae and hornworts, in rice. The thing I find most interesting in all of Science is chloroplasts, and so I’m really looking forward to getting to research them every day for the next four years! Prior to starting my PhD, I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Natural Sciences, specialising in Plant Science. As part of my degree, I carried out a computational research project looking at the chloroplasts of red algae in the lab of Prof. Howard Griffiths supervised by Dr Indu Santhanagopalan. I have also completed lab placements at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Oxford Department of Plant Sciences. Outside of Science, I’m a massive fan of musicals and I love going to the cinema. I’m also very passionate about EDI work as a result of my being Autistic and also having been involved in a society at Cambridge focussed on helping people of under-represented gender identities in STEMM fields.

Abdelazeem Elhabyan

Project title: The role of novel non-immunosuppressive cyclophilin inhibitors in inhibition of viral replication for SARS-CoV-2
Personal note: Hi Everyone! I am Abdelazeem and I have just started my PhD in infection medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Our project is collaboration between academia and industry (pharmaceutical companies). I am doing molecular and virology studies on SARS-CoV-2 inhibition using novel compounds that interact with different cyclophilins (human proteins). We think that cyclophilins play a role in SARS-CoV-2 replication. At the same time, I will do protein-protein and protein-drug interactions with those novel drugs and different cyclophilins. We want to know the mechanism by which those drugs suppress viral replication and if this effect is specific to SARS-CoV-2 or if the drugs are inhibitors of all corona viruses. The second important thing is drug safety which we assess using cell culture at the beginning and after than animal studies.

I completed my bachelor of medicine and surgery (MBBCh) at Tanta University in Egypt and ranked 15th on my class of more than 700 graduates and went on to complete my MSc in biomedical diagnostics at Arizona State University, USA with a GPA of 4.0/4.0. My ambition is to be a clinical scientist and transfer the knowledge that we generate at the bench to the bed side (translation research).

Originally, I am from Egypt. In my free time, I like to go on hikes, wander around the city of Edinburgh and visit historical places. Looking forward to seeing you all.
Prizes, Scholarships and Memberships:
2021- Founder and lead educator of Clinical Research School for Arabs(107 lectures) with Egypt Scholars Link
2020
Arab Youth Research Prize for the best 1000 young researchers in all disciplines Link

  • Knowledge Mobilization award 2020 finalist at Arizona State University
  • Genomics England invitation to curate gene panel for COVID-19 research Link
  • Three scholarships by the University of Washington to attend  3 Bioinformatics workshops
  • Graduate student prize by Arizona State University to attend ACED 2020 Early detection of Cancer Summer school

2019 - Full scholarship to study MSc (30,000 US Dollars) by Alghurair Foundation for Education - AGFE
2017 - Elected member of Genetics Society London
Regional trainer in the Arab and MENA region for Galaxyproject.org
International leaders in Genomic Medicine training by NHS England
2016 - Helped more than 80,000 student on socratic.org(Volunteering)
Contact: LinkedIn

Robyn GreeneRobyn Greene

Project title: Neural Circuits of Kinship Behaviour

Personal note: I graduated from The University of Edinburgh with a Masters in Informatics (MInf) in 2022. I became interested in the applications of computational modeling in neuroscience during my Master’s project looking into improving analysis reliability for extracellular neural recordings. For my PhD, I am moving to the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences to work with Dr Ann Clemens. I will be investigating the mechanism by which recognition of kin is reflected in the brain. Given my background in computation, my work will focus on making use of recent developments in computational analysis techniques in order to develop a richer understanding of complex experimental data.

Throughout my undergraduate Master's programme, I benefited from efforts to make minorities feel included in academic spaces. I am really looking forward to working with the EDI team to build a similarly inclusive and welcoming community here with EASTBIO! 

 

Jack Horne

Project title: Assessing microbiome functional traits as indicators of soil health for sustainable agriculture

Personal note: Hi everyone! I’m Jack (he/him) and I’m based in Professor Christine Watson’s lab up at SRUC Aberdeen. I’m extremely excited to be working into the metagenomics of soil, particularly investigating the functional genes involved in the nitrogen cycle, and how differing chemical management regimes have altered the microbiome composition. Previously, I graduated from the University of Aberdeen, and during my time there I worked on a research project involving the microbial respiration in soil along a pH gradient and different crops, while also analysing the impact of shifting the entire field to a new location – I even got to present at the EGU General Assembly for this. I have also volunteered as the Disabilities Liaison Officer and COVID Officer at CASE ABDN during my third year of study, where I received enhanced training for EDI, and I also underwent training from R**e Crisis Grampian for Crisis Response. It was this role that inspired me to return to contributing towards EDI, and I’m excited to help make our institutions and programme a more inclusive place!

 

Sonya Kalakonda

Project title: The role of legumes in achieving net zero: reducing nitrogen losses and improving soil health

Personal note: Hello, I'm Sonya (she/her) and I am starting my PhD at SRUC and The University of Edinburgh. I will be investigating the use of legumes in cropping systems to improve nitrogen use efficiency and decrease GHG emissions. Prior to this I did a BSc in Environmental Science at the University of Manchester and an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Sheffield. I have an interest in ecosystem science and hope to pursue a career in research in this field. In my spare time I like to read fiction, practice yoga and spend time walking outdoors. I also love second-hand/vintage shopping!

I'm excited to be working alongside Jack Horne and the EASTBIO team as your EDI representative. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any feedback you may have. I look forward to representing you and contributing to EDI provision for our EASTBIO community!

Tawakalt OjediranTawakalt Ojediran

University of Edinburgh

Project Title: Nutritional Strategies to stimulate endogenous antimicrobial peptides in poultry: A promising alternative to antibiotics with a smart solution for safe and sustainable poultry farming.

Personal note:

Hello, my name is Tawakalt. I’m an alumnus of University of Ibadan, Nigeria and University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. Currently, I’m undertaking a PhD in Infection and Immunity at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK. My research project involves the use of β glucan and Oligosaccharides derived from yeast and cereal as antibiotic substitute in poultry. Specifically, I will be considering different factors such as bird age, feed additive inclusion level, dietary cereal and challenging conditions (with and without mild sub-clinical disease challenge). The data generated from this research such as zootechnical performance, nutrient digestibility, litter conditions, animal welfare, tissue-specific gene expression of avian host anti microbial peptides, gut integrity and gut health would be utilized to evaluate the effectiveness of yeast and other cereal as an antibiotic substitute in poultry.

My hobbies include reading, surfing the internet and exploring places.

Monika Selvakumar

Project Title: Defining lipidomic biomarkers for the interactions between western diet and liver health using mass spectrometry imaging

Personal note: I am Monika, from India, and I am doing my PhD at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Professors Ruth Andrew, Jonathan Fallowfield and Scott Webster. My project aims to identify lipidomic biomarkers for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) using mass spectrometry imaging. NAFLD is a spectrum of diseases that is mainly associated with obesity, insulin resistance, poor lifestyle habits, and metabolic dysfunction. Although the condition is preventable, it is being treated due to its asymptomatic nature, heterogeneity, and the lack of sensitive diagnostic tools and specific treatment makes it more complicated. My project aims to identify changes in lipids in the liver with response to different diets and compare and correlate it with various stages of NAFLD. This project involves a lipidomics approach to describe hepatic lipids and use mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) to analyze the animal and human liver samples. The lipidomic signature revealed by MSI will identify pathways to assess liver health and disease and identify markers amenable to therapeutic modification either by lifestyle or drugs.

Prior to this PhD, I did my master's degree in "Drug Discovery and Development" at University College London (UCL) and have an undergraduate degree in "Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy)" from Annamalai University, India. 

Mert Ünal Mert Unal

Project title: Computational design of novel proteins to bind unnatural cofactors 
Personal note: Hi everyone! My name is Mert, and I will be conducting my PhD research under supervision of Dr Chris Wells Wood and Dr Stephen Wallace. The project will mainly focus on the replacement of heme cofactors bound to P450 cytochrome proteins with other cofactors that are not utilized by the nature. Such an achievement will help us in expanding the repertoire of chemical reactions that enzymes can perform, as well as increasing our ability to fine-tune their properties, and in the long run, contribute to the development of a biology-based economy. Before beginning my PhD project, I participated in research projects on evolutionary biology, immunology, protein biochemistry and biotechnology, and I am hoping to combine all of my knowledge in a single pot for this project.

If I have free time, I prefer spending it with going out on runs, playing basketball, learning how to press barre chord on guitar, or writing dystopian stories in a humorous manner (especially in a pub setting!).

Other than the personal moral/ethical stance, I am a firm believer that even a casual conversation between different groups of people generates curiosity and broaden the window through which we understand the world around us, key elements of scientific advancement. For this reason, I wanted to be an EDI rep to help ensure the values of EDI are implemented.

Michaela Wegg 

Project title: Ocular Tuberculosis: a one health multiparameter approach to diagnosis
Personal note: My background is as a clinical veterinary ophthalmologist. I graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2015 with a BVSc and an MRes in Clinical Science (veterinary science). I have a postgraduate qualification in veterinary ophthalmology and have worked in veterinary ophthalmology since 2018. I have a small number of research publications in this area.

My PhD project will involve retinal imaging of cattle infected with bovine tuberculosis in order to assess the ocular phenotype for the disease in this species. I will also assess the immune cell composition of naïve and infected bovine eyes. There is currently no information regarding the immune cell composition within the bovine eye. Defining the immune and inflammatory changes that occur in the bovine eye during ocular tuberculosis (OTB) will enable detailed understanding of how OTB develops in cattle. Ultimately, this study will help to identify OTB in people and other species, improving its diagnosis, and lead to the development of therapeutic interventions for all species where treatment can be considered. 

EASTBIO Mental Health First Aid group 

In 2022, BBSRC funding enabled EASTBIO to set up a group of qualified Mental Health First Aiders, including students, supervisors and management members, to lead work that consolidates a culture of respect, equality and diversity within EASTBIO and its partner institutions.

Email us if you want to arrange to speak to one of our First Aidrers!

Depending on availability, we hope to run online drop-in sessions regularly to catch up with everyone - the information will be shared directly with students.

Students and supervisors can contact the group via our mailbox to share any issues, request a one-to-one-meeting with a first aider, or share something of interest to everyone.

Resources

A useful set of relevant resources on The Wellbeing Thesis, accessible to students and supervisors alike can be found here.

Protecting your Mental Health. A practical Guide for Postgraduate Research Students in STEM.

The University of Edinburgh Liberation Officers team can be approached to channel and provide support to marginalised students.