Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

This page contains:

EASTBIO EDI key contacts
EASTBIO EDI student representatives
EASTBIO Mental Health First Aid group
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.

The 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

EDI Champion (acting): DTP Manager Dr Maria Filippakopoulou
EDI Officer

EDI Student reps - click on the name for a short personal note or email us!
Erin Brown (Aberdeen)
Jack Barber (Aberdeen) Email me
Ella Catherall Edinburgh) Email me
Abdelazeem Elhabyan (Edinburgh) Email me
Logan Newstead (Edinburgh) Email me
Monika Selvakumar (Edinburgh) Email me
Mert Ünal (Edinburgh) Email me
Annamaria Wakileh (St. Andrews) Email me
Michaela Wegg (Edinburgh) Email me

Student reps short profiles:
Jack Barber
Project Title:
 'Why doesn’t the evolution of antibiotic resistance have a larger fitness cost?'
Supervisor’s Staff Research Page
Personal Note:
My PhD project is being supervised by Dr Tom Vogwill at the University of Aberdeen (co-supervisors: UoE's Prof Nick Colegrave and UoA's Prof Stuart Piertney). Together, we plan to utilise a range of techniques to investigate the fitness costs associated with antibiotic resistance, including laboratory microbiology, data synthesis and comparative genomics. The experimental evidence we aim to provide will reveal key missing pieces in our understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms underpinning antibiotic resistance, and the results could both improve the validity of laboratory experiments and inform clinical practice. I’m a Glasgow native, and in 2021 I graduated with an integrated master's degree in microbiology from the University of Glasgow. During my year-long master’s placement at HIPS in Saarbrücken, Germany, I worked with Dr Ronald Garcia to isolate and characterise soil myxobacteria with the aim of identifying novel antimicrobial agents - and I also discovered a novel family of soil bacteria in the phylum Bacteroidetes! When I'm not working hard in the lab, my favourite thing to do is spend the night in watching classic films from the 1930s-60s.

I was drawn to being an EDI rep first and foremost because I'd like to raise the profile of LGBT+ researchers in postgraduate research. I think it’s important that EASTBIO students, EASTBIO staff members and our host institutions come together to challenge the long-held belief that LGBT+ researchers should leave their identities at home when they come to work so that we can all enjoy more diverse science. If you'd like to chat with me about EDI ideas or concerns (LGBT+ related or not), please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Ella Catherall
Supervisor's staff research page
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
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

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

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 
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.

Annamaria Wakileh
Project title: The neural basis of descending motor control (CASE)
Personal note: Hi, I’m Annamaria! My project is supervised by Dr Maarten Zwart and Dr Stefan Pulver at the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St. Andrews. Before undertaking this PhD, I completed a BSc (Hons) Biochemistry just across town- at the University of St. Andrews’ School of Biology.

My project aims to investigate the extent to which the brain controls how movements and the finer details thereof are performed, using the fruit fly as a model organism. By doing so, I will be further investigating previous findings which evidenced that the brain’s involvement in neural pathways goes beyond sending commands to the spinal cord for it to start, stop, or change movements, as previously thought. Using connectomics, optogenetics, as well as lightsheet microscopy and voltage imaging to detect neural activity, I hope to contribute to the collaborative effort of producing a full wiring diagram of the fruit fly’s nervous system. I will also be working with Cairn Research as part of my Industrial CASE Studentship to develop or test open-access software for synchronising multiple data streams. In addition to my studies, I enjoy listening to music, painting, photography, reading, and going on walks.

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, with BBSRC funding, we set up a group of qualified Mental Health First Aiders, including students, supervisors and management members, to lead work that consolidate a culture of respect, equality and diversity with EASTBIO and its partner institutions. We will shortly publish details of First Aiders and basic info on how to speak to us.



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.