Student representatives 2021

If you have an informal query, or wish to convey your views about the EASTBIO programme to the Management Group, or meet other EASTBIO students from your local institution, you may wish to contact directly your local student representatives - first year students who have kindly volunteered to represent their local constituencies.

The first-year reps are assisted in their role during 2021/22 by second-year reps (as well as the EASTBIO Support Officer and Manager), who stay on to provide continuity and help the new intake, especially with the organisation of the Annual Symposium (9-10 June 2022). As only one person can represent each partner institution, further volunteers are designated as reserves; however, if there is more than two volunteers, you are encouraged to decide as a group about who will represent the partner institution on each occasion (a planning or EDI meeting, or an invite to join the EASTBIO Management Group).

We are delighted that this year we have a group of students who are interested in representing the student body to the EASTBIO Management Group as our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Each rep may have a specific interest in an area of representation that they feel strongly about and we aim to support each one. Approach them if you have an issue you'd like to discuss, a concern or an idea for something that you think is missing in our EDI provision.

Any travel (including subsistence) student reps will undertake as part of their role's duty will be reimbursed by EASTBIO. Included in the role is a bonus 10 training points in recognition of the additional time investment.

Our EDI student representatives are:

Jack Barber (Aberdeen)

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 (Edinburgh)
Project Title: Regulation of Rubisco in a Synthetic Pyrenoid-Like Condensate Expressed in Rice
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 (Edinburgh)
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
International leaders in Genomic Medicine training by NHS England
2016 - Helped more than 80,000 student on
Contact: LinkedIn

Monika Selvakumar (Edinburgh)
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 (Edinburgh)
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 (Edinburgh)

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. 

The EASTBIO first-year student representatives are...

Representing Aberdeen:

Felicitas Pamatat
Project title: Integrating social and ecological approaches for sustainable food production and biodiversity management: The case of Orkney farmers and Greylag Goose.
Personal Note: Hi! I am Feli and your student representative for Aberdeen. In my PhD project, I will be looking at integrating social and ecological approaches to managing biodiversity and food production in Orkney sustainably. My research will focus on applying those approaches to the management of the Greylag Goose population in Orkney and highlighting the impacts of migrating bird species on their seasonal habitat.

Before starting my PhD, I worked at UCL as an intern and research assistant, looking at the ecological impact of biscuits and being part of the 'Sentinel - Social and Environmental Trade-Offs in African Agriculture' project. I did my MPhil (Zoology) in Cambridge, 2019, and my BSc in Bielefeld, Germany, 2018. 

In my free time, I enjoy hiking, climbing, rowing or playing a good board game. I am also really interested in science journalism and always keen to chat about ideas for outreach events. 

If you have any questions or ideas, please drop me an email or come by my office. I am always happy to have a chat. 
Personal website

Representing Dundee:

Mary Tozer

Project title: Developing proteomics to look at the regulation of innate lymphoid cells by IL-33

Personal note: Hiya! I’m Mary and I am 25 from West London. My project aims to dissect the signalling pathways that control the function of type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) with with Prof. Simon Arthur (Dundee) and Dr. Tony Ly (Edinburgh), using a new technique proteomics technique (PRIMMUS) to facilitate analysis on the small, elusive ILC2 cell populations. This will allow us to see which functions help shape the Th2-mediated immune response, particularly looking at which changes are induced by cytokines IL-33 and IL-25. The type 2 immune response is relevant in a variety of maladies including asthma and allergies; inflammatory bowel disease; obesity; and helminth infection in both humans and livestock animals.

I graduated from Lancaster University with a BSc in 2017, followed by an MSc in Biomedicine in 2019, with a dissertation on immunology during co-morbidity with obesity and trichuriasis (helminth) infection. I then worked in water/waste treatment for Thames Water on a graduate scheme, followed by a year in the NHS (South West London Pathology) working in blood sciences. I hope to return to the NHS in a research role post-PhD.

In my spare time, I like crocheting, writing, listening endlessly to BBC 6 Music, vintage and retro clothes, and meandering around charity shops collecting interesting objects.

Representing Edinburgh - CSE:

Rose Doyle

Project title: Development of novel three-dimensional co-culture models of host pathogen interactions.
Personal note: I have recently started my PhD at the University of Edinburgh, under the supervision of Dr. Maddie Moule and Dr Jo Stevens. My project involves the development of three-dimensional co-culture models of bacterial host-pathogen interactions. I hope to be able to use these models, which resemble the pulmonary epithelium, to investigate the genes involved in the dissemination of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of Melioidosis. This will contribute to our understanding of B. pseudomallei pathogenesis. Prior to this, I completed my BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bath, where I discovered my interest in infectious diseases and host-pathogen interactions. I have never been to Edinburgh before, so I’m currently spending most of my free time exploring this incredible city!

I chose to become an EASTBIO student rep for Edinburgh (College of Science and Engineering) as a way to get involved in the EASTBIO community, and meet my colleagues! I’m looking forward to helping to plan the annual symposium because it sounds like a really exciting event.

Amy Newell
Project title: Light control of protein translation and plant biomass
Supervisor's page
 ​​​​​​Personal note: Hi, I’m Amy and I am a PhD student in the Halliday lab at the University of Edinburgh. My project is investigating how different lighting environments affect plant biomass and protein translation. I’m hoping this will generate some new insights into how plants respond to shade which ultimately could enable the use of denser cropping systems.

Prior to this I completed an MSci in Natural Sciences at Lancaster University where I studied modules across the biological sciences, chemistry and environmental science departments. During this time I undertook several projects to further my interest in plant sciences including my master’s thesis which explored the role of blue light and chloroplast RNA Binding proteins in post transcriptional processing in plants.

In my spare time I am a keen squash player and enjoy running and hiking. Outsider of my project, I’m very much looking forwards to exploring a bit more of Scotland.

Gauri Deak

Project Title: Using Cryo-EM to investigate chromatin structure in Trypanosoma brucei
Personal Note: Hi, I’m Gauri. I am a PhD student in the MD Wilson Lab at the University of Edinburgh. My project aims to investigate chromatin structure in Trypanosoma brucei, a divergent eukaryotic parasite that is transmitted by the tsetse fly and causes sleeping sickness in humans and the disease nagana in cattle. I plan to combine biochemical, biophysical, and structural biology approaches to gain insights into the role of DNA compaction, epigenetic modifications, and chromatin-binding proteins in trypanosome gene regulation. This will hopefully improve our understanding of the pathology of sleeping sickness and aid drug development against trypanosomes and related parasites.

Prior to this PhD, I completed an Honours degree in Biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh and worked on neutrophil extracellular traps in the Peter Celec Lab at the Institute of Molecular Biomedicine in Bratislava.

In my free time, I like to hike, run, read, compose funky tunes on the piano, and plunge into chatterbox mode with my friends and family. 

Annis Newman
Project title: Unravelling bile resistance in zoonotic and invasive Salmonella serovars
Personal note: Hello, I’m Annis and I am joining the laboratory of Dr Prerna Vohra at the University of Edinburgh, co-supervised by Professor Mark Stevens. In this PhD project we will examine Salmonella host-adaptation and specifically investigate how invasive Salmonella serovars interact with bile in the digestive system of livestock. Increasing understanding of the mechanisms that Salmonella serovars use to survive in bile will allow us to identify targets for application in vaccine development. Prior to starting my PhD, I graduated from the University of Bath in 2019 with a degree in Biomedical Sciences before working at Public Health England within the Food and Environmental Testing Proficiency Unit. Outside of the lab, I have been taking advantage of living in Edinburgh, spending my free time wild swimming, hiking and eating lots of vegetarian haggis!

For Edinburgh - CMVM:

Carys Redman-White
Project title: Antimicrobial use and resistance: Modelling the animal-human interface
Personal note: Hi, I’m Carys and I’m researching antimicrobial resistance at Edinburgh University. I have a broad range of academic and non-academic interests and particularly enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of One Health research. I studied veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, intercalating in zoology with an emphasis on population dynamics and evolution. After finishing vet school, I spent three years working in clinical practice before returning to university in 2020 to carry out a human-oriented MRes in epidemiology at Newcastle University. During my MRes I focused on infectious diseases and global health and carried out analyses modelling the impacts of COVID-19 control measures on other communicable diseases. In autumn 2021 I began my EASTBIO PhD studentship at the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security (GAAFS) at Edinburgh University. I am approaching antimicrobial resistance epidemiology from a One Health perspective, supervised by Dominic Moran, Andy Peters and Adrian Muwonge. My cat, Eric, also likes to supervise when I work from home.

Representing St Andrews:

Ben Thompson

Project title: Spatial representations of depth: Do cognitive maps facilitate depth perception?
supervisor’s staff research page
Personal note: Hello! I will be studying my PhD in the Ainge lab at the University of St Andrews, looking at how our environment affects the way we navigate. Using in vivo animal electrophysiology and human psychophysics I will investigate the relationship between local and global environmental cues and the activity of spatially-oriented cells in the Medial Entorhinal Cortex of the rat, as well as how distorting environmental geometry can affect the accuracy of spatial cognition in both animals and humans. Insights into the mechanisms of spatial cognition may help us to better understand the neural processes underlying the distressing experiences of confusion, memory loss and wandering in dementias.

I received my Masters by Research in Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews in 2018, and my BMSc in Neuropharmacology and Behaviour at the University of Dundee in 2016. Between my studies I have spent my time working as a science and English language teacher in Japan, as well as volunteering with a Sustainable Development Virtual Field School run by National Geographic Explorers in Latin America and supervising a Mobile Testing Unit during the Covid-19 pandemic. My interests span from environmentalism and natural history to calligraphy and cinema, or whatever else happens to have caught my attention!

Wylan Wong

Project Title: Harnessing bioluminescent bacteria to power photochemical transformations
Lab website
Personal Note:

Hi, I’m Wylan. I began my PhD studies at the University of St Andrews. This project is co-supervised by Dr Craig Johnston at St Andrews and Dr Stephen Wallace at the University of Edinburgh. We are currently working on an interface between synthetic chemistry and synthetic biology – both demonstrating exciting prospects in reducing the environmental impact of chemical manufacturing, but each with major limitations. We focus on the potential application of photocatalysis on the industrial scale while exploring the benefits brought by our favourite microbial workhorse – E. coli.

Prior to my PhD project, I took part in a year-long research placement under Dr Julius Brennecke on the Drosophila piRNA pathway at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) in the Vienna Biocenter. I graduated in 2021 with a first-class BSc in Biotechnology and the Beloff-Chain prize at Imperial College London after completing my bachelor thesis under Dr Patrik Jones on the design and implementation of closed co-cultures of cyanobacteria (Synechocystis) and E. coli.

I’m originally from Hong Kong, but I’ve lived in Europe for some years now. In my free time, I’m an amateur theatre actor and writer, I love watching reptiles and insects do weird things, and I look forward to expanding upon my teaching experience as a PhD student.

Representing SRUC:

Rochelle Kennedy

I am a PhD student at the SRUC in Aberdeen under the supervision of Dr Nick Littlewood, Dr Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor and Prof Kirsty Park. I work on Sustaining biodiversity through mixed farming systems.

I am committed to finding sustainable solutions for agriculture to improve biodiversity across farms, in order to help Scotland meet its biodiversity targets, build more resilient ecosystems, and improve yield by harnessing ecosystem services.

My project will investigate how different farming systems impact on biodiversity. I will be looking at how the reintroduction of livestock into crop systems might benefit biodiversity, compared with crop-only systems that have been on the increase over the past few decades. I will be measuring the effects of these systems on species that are good indicators of biodiversity such as plants and moths. I will also be measuring the effects of reintroducing livestock on bat feeding activity, as they provide an excellent pest control service and are a good indicator of insect abundance. This will help to explain some of the interactions taking place across the food chain.

Before starting my PhD I was working in an ecology consultancy for three years, where I carried out protected species surveys. This is where I discovered the fascinating world of bats!

See here for details of the EASTBIO second-year student reps.