EDI student representatives
Project title: Neural Circuits of Kinship Behaviour
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.
In my spare time, I enjoy running, swimming and cooking for friends!
Jack Horne (Aberdeen)
Project Title Assessing microbiome functional traits as indicators of soil health for sustainable agriculture
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 (Edinburgh)
Project Title The role of legumes in achieving net zero: reducing nitrogen losses and improving soil health
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!
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.
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.
EASTBIO first-year student representatives
Project Title Modelling Healthy and Sustainable Seafood Choices
Hi, my name is Cathrine (she/her)! I graduated in 2019 with a BSc in Nutrition from Liverpool John Moores University, where I conducted my dissertation research on sustainable nutrition and diets knowledge of nutrition students in the UK. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on EU-funded sustainable diets/food systems projects as a Junior Manager at the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) and then as the Food Service Sustainability Advisor at the WWF-UK, where I was the technical lead on the sustainable diets workstream. Contributing and finding solutions for sustainable diets and food systems is what I am really passionate about, I get to do just that with my research! My research project will focus on modelling data on nutrition composition, environmental impact and price of seafood to develop a decision support tool to help users explore alternatives to current diets and highlight health, environmental and cost benefits of certain swaps.
Project Title Identifying the link between viral infections and foraging behaviour in the honeybee brain
Hi I'm Tesni! I graduated with a BSc and MBiol in Zoology from the University of Leeds in 2022, and my final year project focused on studying magnetosense in bumblebees. This work inspired my interest in studying bees and their behaviour which led me to this PhD project at the University of Aberdeen. I will be studying deformed wing virus in honeybees, the effect of this virus on honeybee behaviour, learning and memory formation and investigating the link between these behavioural changes and the viral loads and location of the virus in the brain. Outside of the lab I enjoy knitting and crocheting, reading, yoga and walking my dog (a high energy Border Collie who loves adventures)!
Max Charles Vallarino
Project Title Dynamic interactions between health and growth in salmon: The genomic basis of energy allocation.
Hi there! My name is Max, I am originally from Italy, and my PhD project will focus on elucidating the key role of the insulin-like growth factor pathway in facilitating crosstalk between health and growth systems in Atlantic salmon. This project will examine gene function, both in vivo and in vitro, using gene editing approaches to define how energy is allocated during immune stimulation. I am very excited to spend the next four years working on a project that has the potential to help improve farmed fish production in the long term!
I graduated in summer 2022 from the University of Aberdeen with a degree in MSci Biological Sciences. During the course of my MSci degree, I had the opportunity to carry out three separate research projects on topics ranging from gill health in Atlantic salmon to the genetic basis of a rare colour polymorphism in a species of intertidal isopod. Outside of research, I enjoy swimming and exploring the countryside near Aberdeen!
Project Title Post transcriptional Regulation of Oscillatory clock gene expression during somitogenesis
Hi, I am Rosie Gallagher, I did my BSc and MSc by research here in Dundee, and I am continuing to do a PhD. My current research interests are looking at the post-transcriptional regulation of the different signalling pathways in the context of the segmentation clock. During my master’s, I focussed on optimizing protocols to enable me to study YTHDF2’s role in somitogenesis. YTHDF2 has been found to have connections with the notch signalling pathway, an important pathway in somitogenesis; therefore, my PhD will build upon this work. Outside of research, I am involved in university life as a student ambassador and a peer connector, and outside of the university, I also enjoy drawing, painting and volunteering
Edinburgh - CSE
Project Title Mathematical models of RNA and protein synthesis dynamics and their integration with gene expression data
Hi! I'm Andrew and I'm just starting my PhD at the University of Edinburgh. I graduated from the University of York in 2022 with an integrated master's degree in mathematics (MMath). It was at York where I began studying applications of mathematics in biology. My master's project involved constructing a population genetics model to estimate the rate of facultative sexual reproduction in populations of the single-celled parasite Leishmania. I'm continuing my interest in mathematical biology with my PhD project, as a member of the Grima Group, where I will be constructing mathematical models of gene expression and RNA and protein synthesis.
In my free time I enjoy running, particularly parkrun, which I am excited to try Edinburgh's several courses, and I enjoy visiting museums and learning history.
Project Title CRISPR-mediated precision gene editing in algae
Hello, I am Cristina Ponce, born and raised in Ecuador! I am a scientist with an interest in bringing science closer to society, especially by finding sustainable solutions to our everyday problems. My PhD project will focus on CRISPR-mediated precision gene editing in algae. I will be performing my PhD project as part of Dr Attila Molnar’s lab.
Before starting my PhD, I studied a BSc at the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain). During my 4 years at Navarra, I performed a research project on genetic markers associated to cardiac fibrosis resulting from myocardial infarction, to identify potential markers of interest for therapy development. After graduating from a 4 year BSc, I moved to Edinburgh and completed an MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh and had the opportunity of carrying out an Industrial placement with MiAlgae LTD as part of my final MSc dissertation project. During this project, I discovered the potential that algae and microalgae hold for a sustainable future. Not only can algae capture carbon from the environment, but it could ideally serve as a platform for biotransformation, energy source acquisition, and byproduct or waste upcycling. The MSc served as an incredible experience, but after that 1-year program, I worked as a Research Associate II (for a year) at ASKBIO, a gene therapy company that employs AAVs as vectors for therapy delivery. Working as a researcher in a fast-paced industry like pharma, where it is in our hands to develop therapies for rare diseases, opened my eyes to how important it is to find queues on the biological mechanisms of action to develop any product or industrial strategy.
I am really excited to start this new experience, developing a novel project that might hold great potential for industrial applications, but also to increase the knowledge available on the use of CRISPR in photosynthetic organisms. I am a really social person that really enjoys sailing and hanging out with friends and when not in the lab will often be found traveling around the world or hanging out with friends, enjoying life!
Project Title Deep learning for optimisation of cell factories
Hi! I am Yuxin. I have recently started my PhD at the University of Edinburgh, under the supervision of Dr Diego Oyarzún. My research interests lie in the intersection of machine learning and synthetic biology, with a particular emphasis on deep learning methods for optimisation of protein production and the genotype-phenotype mapping problem. With deep learning pipelines, we may forecast protein production and radically improve strain performance. This can be helpful to accelerate cell factories development with a minimal experimental burden.
Before coming to Edinburgh, I obtained a BSc in Chemistry at Fudan University, and an MSc in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College. I also worked as an R&D Technologist at Unilever. In my spare time, I enjoy singing in the chorus, playing the guitar and exploring the city of Edinburgh.
Project Title Uncovering the basis of cellular self-regeneration
Guten Tag everyone! My name is Christoph, though most people immediately jump to Christopher for some reason. I'm originally from Cologne, Germany, where I started studying Biology. However, after discovering my interest for Bioinformatics, I betrayed my hometown and finished my Bachelor's of Quantitative Biology in Düsseldorf instead. There, I also appended my Master's studies in the discipline of Synthetic Biology, trying to quantitatively engineer the plant phenotype by means of genetic engineering. That project sparked a lasting fascination with interfacing nature and technology.
Now having arrived in the beautiful Scottish capital of Edinburgh, I am studying the ability of cells to self-regenerate. Split between the groups of Dr Weisse and Dr Laohakunakorn, I conduct cell-free microfluidics experiments on transcription-translation systems and use those results to inform models of said systems to explore the parameters governing self-regeneration. This knowledge would be critical for the generation of fully synthetic minimal cells, which could revolutionise our understanding of the origin of life, the way we produce and deliver drugs, provide clean platforms for basic research and lots more!
Whenever I am not in a dark windowless laboratory, however, I like to write stories about sciency stuff on a blog, play the piano worse that I should be able after 15 years of trying, indulge in amateur woodworking or run around (usually in circles).
Edinburgh - CMVM
Project Title Parasitic Co-Infections: The impact of gastrointestinal helminths on susceptibility to African trypanosome infections
I am Temitayo (either Temi or Tayo is fine) and it's such a tremendous opportunity to meet you all. I have recently started my Infection and Immunity PhD at the Roslin Institute/R(D)SVS with Prof. Neil Mabbott and Prof. Liam Morrison to investigate the impact of gastrointestinal helminths on susceptibility to African trypanosome infections. Both African trypanosomiasis and gastrointestinal helminth infections limit the profitability of the livestock industry, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. To study these infections, single infection models have been used either in mice or cattle, and these are not accurate representations of what happens in a clinical setting. Are co-infections with these diseases beneficial or more hazardous to the animals? And, how does the immune system as well as host cells responds to these individual parasites in co-infective conditions? These are the questions my PhD is set to answer with the intent of developing better control strategies in terms of vaccines and management practices.
I am a veterinarian by training and I completed my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the premiere university in Nigeria (University of Ibadan) in 2018. After practicing for a year as a small animal and disease diagnostic practitioner, I moved to the University of Ghana under the World Bank's Africa Centre of Excellence Master of Philosophy Fellowship to study Molecular Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens. Here I worked on African trypanosomiasis with the Theresa Manful Gwira Lab using cheminformatics and cytological assays to identify the drug targets of certain synthetic compounds from Novartis and the Medicine for malaria ventures. After my master's degree, I worked for the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) as a bioinformatician and a project coordinator for a SARS-CoV-2 sequencing training and support project jointly funded by Wellcome and FCDO.
Away from research, I enjoy walking and enjoying the lovely city of Edinburgh, cycling and playing the piano. I am also a co-conveyors of Global Scholarship Forum; an organization that provides information on travel abroad & scholarship opportunities, essay reviews and interview preparation tips to outstanding African students with dreams and passion to study outside their countries.
Project Title Putting a shell on oyster disease: Exploring genetics and metabolomics of the parasite Bonamia to prevent pathogen spread
How can one organism infiltrate the immune cells of another, and what could this interaction indicate for ocean health, aquaculture and oyster reef restoration in Scotland? By the end of my PhD, I hope to shed light on these questions and more!
Before joining the EASTBIO 2022 cohort, I earned my BSc in Marine Biology from the University of St Andrews and my MSc in Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology from the University of Aberdeen. Additionally, I have gained valuable experience in the fields of parasitology, cellular biology and marine ecology from previous research positions at Johns Hopkins University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I hope to combine my prior experiences and my love of all things ‘oyster’ into my PhD research at the Roslin Institute.
In the UK, there are several groups attempting to restore native European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, populations by transplanting animals from healthy aquaculture sites to locations where they have been historically present. Although this sounds like a clear solution, when you transplant the oysters, you also run the risk of transplanting pathogens and disease. Bonamia parasites severely limit restoration attempts by infecting the oyster’s haemocyte cells, which typically protect the oyster against infections, often resulting in mortality. To re-establish populations of native oysters in Scotland, we need to better understand the biology and movement of pathogens to make more informed management solutions. Under the supervision of Dr. Tim Bean, I am excited to be researching the biology and genetics of Bonamia to:
- Understand the phylogeography of parasites from infected UK sites
- Develop methods, utilising metabolomic techniques, to maintain parasite cell cultures in vitro
- Design trials of infections in individual animals, tissue culture explants and haemocyte cultures
Compare the infection process between tolerant and naïve oyster populations
Project Title Advancing control of sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) through development of sea louse in vitro assay systems
Hello! My name is Alexander Dindial, and I am researching novel in vitro assay systems for the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis), a tremendously damaging parasite of salmon aquaculture worldwide. I seek to use my previous knowledge and experience from my education at Binghamton University and Johns Hopkins University to exploit cell culture techniques to decrease the use of live fish for studying lice. Ultimately, I hope that my work will help improve animal welfare and provide a new and exciting means of studying salmon lice.
Moredun Research Institute
Project Title Modelling host/parasitic nematode interactions with ovine ‘mini-gut’ organoids
Hi, I’m Hannah. Prior to starting my PhD, I completed a BSc in Veterinary Bioscience and an MRes in Parasite Control at Aberystwyth University. During my MRes, I worked with the Morphew group and investigated the global phosphoproteomics of Fasciola hepatica. I have recently started my PhD studentship at the Moredun Research Institute in partnership with the Roslin Institute. The overall aim of the project is to use ovine abomasum organoids to identify and characterise components of nematode extracellular vesicles (including Teladorsagia circumcincta and Trichostrongylus colubriformis) which are involved in host: parasite interactions. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring the city of Edinburgh and walking in the surrounding countryside. When it rains, I enjoy reading, baking, and having a coffee with friends.