Bristol student profiles

Intake 2016
Intake 2017
Intake 2018
Intake 2019

Intake 2016

Siobhan Bennett

Siobhan graduated from the University of the West of England in 2016 with a BSc in Biological Sciences. During her undergraduate studies, Siobhan completed a year in industry, working under Dr Stefan Bagby at the University of Bath. This year involved biochemical protein studies of HACE1 and glycation studies in Manduca Sexta which inspired her to embark on a PhD at the University of Bristol.

Her PhD focuses on the protein Ubiquitin C-Terminal Hydrolase L1 (UCHL1) which is an important deubiquiting enzyme present in neurons and the brain. Loss or dysfunction of UCHL1 results in axonal dystrophy particularly in spinal neurons. The aims of the PhD are to understand the molecular basis of UCHL1 function in axonal maintenance and dysfunction using confocal imaging to correlate phenotypes to ageing deficits. Another aspect will determine the interaction partners or any proteins regulated by UCHL1 to give more of an insight into this enigmatic protein.

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Alice Bochel


Alice graduated from the University of Bristol in 2016 with a Bsc in Biochemistry. As an undergraduate she spent a summer working at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron facility. She then completed her final year project in the Wolfson Bioimaging Facility with Dr Paul Verkade, learning a range of light and electron microscopy techniques.

Her research now is in the area of structural biology, as she investigates the structure of the Insulin-like Growth Factor 2 receptor (IGF2R/M6PR) and its interaction with the IGF2 ligand. This research is carried out with Prof Matt Crump in the School of Chemistry and with Dr Paul Race in the School of Biochemistry.

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Rachel Britt


Rachel graduated from Birkbeck, University of London in 2014 with a BSc in Biodiversity and Conservation, before then completing an MSc in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus.

Rachel is now working towards a PhD at the University of Bristol where she is combining her interests in animal behaviour and parasitology, investigating spatial interactions between livestock and their environment as a determinant of parasitic disease risk. The project, supervised by Dr Eric Morgan and Dr Christos Ioannou, involves fieldwork to monitor sheep behaviour using GPS collars, accelerometers and behavioural observations, as well as parasitological laboratory analysis and data analysis to explore how parasite load is associated with space use and movement.

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Laura Cole


Laura graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Neuroscience. During her second year she went to the University of Wisconsin and shadowed PhD students who were interested in the HPA axis and glucocorticoids. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Laura went on to graduate from Bristol University with an MSc in Applied Neuropsychology and work as an Assistant Psychologist for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

For her PhD, Laura will use her understanding of neuroscience and psychology to investigate the significance of physiological pulsing of glucocorticoids on locus coeruleus activity. Hopefully this will help us to understand how the dysregulation of glucocorticoids might lead to aberrant activity of motivational and autonomic circuits in disease states.

Bethany Eldridge


Bethany graduated from the University of Bristol in 2016 with an MSci in Biology. During her studies, Bethany specialised in plant sciences and in her final year carried out a research project which analysed the effectiveness of CRISPR to knock-out meiotic genes in wheat. Alongside her undergraduate degree, Bethany also undertook work as a research assistant in the Molecular Plant Biology group at the University of Southampton, whose research focused on characterising genes involved in chloroplast biogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. Bethany also collaborated as a co-researcher on a social sciences project, which explored the role of digital diversity and sense of belonging to the University of Bristol in non-traditional students.

To pursue her interest in plant sciences, Bethany is currently working within the Root Development group at the University of Bristol. Bethany’s interdisciplinary PhD project hopes to identify and characterise root traits which contribute towards root-soil cohesion in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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Barbara Gorda


Barbara graduated from Cardiff University in 2016 with a BSc in Biochemistry including a Professional Training Year. During her placement year, Barbara worked for a year at AstraZeneca in Mölndal, Sweden, where the focus of her project was optimising intracellular protein expression in mammalian cell systems in comparison to the baculovirus insect system.

At the University of Bristol, Barbara will work with Prof Imre Berger in the generation of a streamlined synthetic baculovirus genome for the purpose of improving protein production. The project involves a collaboration with AstraZeneca, which will offer the state of the art CRISPR system for the genome engineering required to complete the task.

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George Hutchins


George graduated from the University of Bristol in 2015 with his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. He worked briefly at King’s College London in the field of immunology, before returning to Bristol to begin his PhD, supervised by Dr Ross Anderson and Prof Adrian Mulholland.

George is now working on the design of de novo oxidoreductase proteins. These haem binding proteins are developed from basic protein scaffolds, with the goal of engineering powerful functional activity into the design. While the designs are sometimes influenced by natural proteins, the main aim to produce catalytic structures with novel properties, un-tested by natural evolution.

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Rachel Hutchinson

Rachel graduated from the University of Bristol in 2015 with an MSci in Biology. Her final year project in the Trypanosome Research Group led to the rediscovery of Trypanosoma suis, a parasite that had not been seen for over 60 years. Following her MSci project, during which she developed two highly sensitive detection tests for T. suis, Rachel co-authored a paper with Prof Wendy Gibson, published in Infection, Genetics and Evolution.

Rachel has returned to the University of Bristol to continue her work on T.suisand aims to characterise this relatively unknown pathogen, exploring its developmental cycle, host range, distribution and pathogenicity. Trypanosomiasis has a devastating impact on livestock in sub-Saharan Africa; Rachel will use the newly-identified isolate of T. suis to expand understanding of the evolution of tsetse-transmitted trypanosomes, drawing on genomic and transcriptomic data from collaborators at the University of Exeter and Cambridge University.

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Erik Landin

Erik graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2016 with a BA & MSci in Natural Sciences. He did his third year project with Dr Daniel Nietlispach; investigating the motions of the looped regions of Sensory Rhodopsin using 19F NMR. He went on to do his MSci with Prof Sir Tom Blundell; targeting MabA (FabG1) from Mycobacterium tuberculosis with a fragment based approach.

Having joined the Crump lab in Bristol Erik is working on NMR to study ligand binding to GPCRs and how this may be useful to the drug discovery process. This is a joint project between the University of Bristol and the CASE partner UCB Pharma.

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Angela Neves

Angela graduated from the University of Lisbon in 2015 with an MSc in Biotechnology. As part of her programme she spent a year working in the biocatalyst group in the Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (Lisbon, Portugal). During her studies, Angela specialised in the immobilization of inulinase in polyvinyl alcohol and in chitosan polymers for sugar production.

To pursue her interest in protein characterization and enzymology, Angela is currently working with Dr Paul Curnow and Dr Paul Race to study the structure and function of the alcohol acyltransferases from yeast and fruit. The aim is to gain an understanding of this enzyme family.

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Ashley Pridgeon

Ashley graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2016 with an MBiolSci in Biochemistry and Genetics. During his course Ashley carried out various research projects including analysing protein-protein interactions in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and characterising fluorescent neurons in mouse nervous tissue. Ashley became particularly interested in plant cellular signalling pathways after studying the CLAVATA signalling system involved in regulating plant growth and development.

Ashley is currently working under the supervision of Prof Alistair Hetherington in the University of Bristol. Ashley’s project focuses on reactive oxygen species and their role in regulating the opening and closing of stomata in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. These microscopic pores (stomata) are mostly found on the underside of leaves and are involved in modulating gas exchange and plant metabolic processes in response to changing internal and environmental conditions.

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Georgiana Stan

Georgiana graduated with a BSc Biomedical Science from University of Essex where during a placement project she got to experience first-hand what scientific research entails. While investigating the properties of rhodopsin, a photopigment causing neurodegeneration, Georgiana quickly became interested in the complexity of the nervous system. This led her to pursue an MSc Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Bristol during which she had the opportunity to learn more about neuronal imaging techniques by looking at cellular markers of neuronal development.

Convinced a career in research would be ideal for her, Georgiana is now working under the supervision of Dr Jonathan Hanley towards deciphering the molecular interactions of PICK1, a scaffold protein regulating neuronal trafficking events that underlie memory formation. In order to achieve this, she will be using live imaging techniques to describe the various interactors of PICK1 and develop a computational model in collaboration with Prof Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova.

Lucy Troman


Following completion of a 3 year Biochemistry BSc at the University of Bristol, Lucy stayed and undertook a 12 month research internship with Prof Mark Dillingham in the DNA-Protein Interactions Unit. This followed on from her undergraduate work looking at the activity of a helicase protein found within Bacillus subtilus but evolved into looking at new targets to reduce antibiotic resistance.

Lucy has now moved downstairs to the world of structural biology where she works with Prof Imre Berger, Prof Ian Collinson and Prof Christiane Berger-Schaffitzel to elucidate the structure and mechanism of the SecYEG-SecDFYajC-YidC Holo-translocon, a bacterial super-complex responsible for protein insertion and secretion through membranes.

Matthew Wilkinson

Matthew graduated from Newcastle University in 2016 with a BSc in Pharmacology. During the course of his degree Matthew carried out a summer studentship investigating novel endoribonuclease candidates involved in ribosome biogenesis before developing an interest in neuroscience. This led to a final year project investigating the co-localisation of cannabinoid 1 receptors and 5-HT neurones in the Dorsal Raphe Nuclei of rat brains.

Matthew is now working with Prof Jack Mellor, Dr Emma Robinson and Prof Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova to investigate the changes in neurocircuitry caused by early life adversity. Abuse and neglect in childhood is known to increase susceptibility to a range of psychiatric diseases including anxiety and depression and by understanding the process through which this happens Matthew hopes to inform new therapeutic strategies.

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Intake 2017

Alan Beavan


Alan graduated from University of Manchester in 2017 with an MSci Genetics, where he studied the importance of considering the functional relationships of proteins when analysinghuman disease. It is the evolution of genomes and systems that most interests him.

He will be studying genome evolution during speciation in the group of Prof Davide Pisani, on the SWBio DTP programme. Using species with geographically isolated populations, he will be comparing the rates of evolution among the speciating lineages and comparing them with mainland populations. This will inform the field of study concerned with calibrating the tree of life in time.

Alex Coulton

Alex received a BSc in Biology from the University of Bristol in 2017. In the summer of 2015, he undertook a curatorial role at The Natural History Museum, primarily focussing on the organisation of caecilians from the Seychelles. He then went on to perform an extensive study on the metazoan phylogeny in the summer of 2016, in which he utilized novel phylogenetic techniques to try and shed light on the controversial placement of the comb jellies.

Alex’s PhD project centres around the functional genomics of wheat, specifically on the characterisation of genes involved in segregation distortion. This is a phenomenon in which some loci deviate from Mendelian ratios in progeny, and can thus have negative implications for the wheat breeding process.

Naomi Culleton


Naomi graduated from the University of Bristol in 2017 with a BSc in Pharmacology. During her undergraduate degree she worked on a 10-week research project, at the University of Bath, funded by the British Pharmacological Society. This project involved working closely with Emma Robson (a final year SWBio DTP student) and Prof Roland Jones on their investigation of neural oscillations in the entorhinal cortex. This built both an interest in neural communications, and (some) patience for electrophysiology!

Naomi’s PhD will be determining the pathways and synaptic mechanisms of the prefrontal cortex in recognition memory, supervised by Prof Zafar Bashir and Prof Clea Warburton.

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Megan Jackson


Megan graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with a Bsc in Medical Sciences. She undertook her final year project under the supervision of Professor Robert Pawlak, studying the expression of proteins in areas of the brain that control stress and anxiety. From this, Megan developed an interest in the biological mechanisms behind mental health disorders.

Megan’s PhD is based at the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. The project will investigate whether changes in biological rhythms that underlie endocrine and sleep patterns lead to the development of apathy. The project is supervised by Dr Emma Robinson, Prof Stafford Lightman and Dr Hugh Marston.

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Glyndwr Jones


Glyndwr graduated from the University of Bristol in 2017 with a BSc in Biology. During his undergraduate study he undertook a project which investigated the roles of the Respiratory Burst Oxidase Homologues (RBOHs) C, D and F in the closure of stomata through different biotic stimuli in Arabidopsis thaliana cotyledons. This lead to a deeper interest in plant and stomatal biology.

Glyndwr is currently working under the supervision of Prof Alistair Hetherington at the University of Bristol. His project will look at understanding the basis of stomatal adaptation to increased atmospheric CO2. This work will be conducted in both Arabidopsis and wheat.

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Emily Lythell


Emily graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2017 with a Masters in Biochemistry. Her research project looked at the protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions involved in plasmid partitioning in E. coli, a mechanism widely used by bacterial populations to maintainbeneficial plasmid-encoded traits. This fundamental mechanism and its role in the propagation of antibiotic resistance sparked a greater interest in the molecular mechanisms of antibiotic resistance.

Emily’s PhD project is supervised by Dr Jim Spencer from the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Prof Adrian Mulholland from the School of Chemistry. Using both experimental and computational techniques, Emily will be studying the structure and mechanism of bacterial outer-membrane enzyme MCR-1. MCR-1 confers resistance to colistin, a last-line polymyxin used to treat gram negative bacterial infections. Since the discovery of MCR-1 in China in 2014, it has spread around the world, representing part of the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

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Emily Price


Emily graduated from the University of Cardiff with a BSc in Biomedical Science in 2015. During her time there she developed a particular interest in the field of Neuroscience which led her to pursue an MSc in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Bristol. For her MSc research project she had the opportunity to investigate the activation of the Fkbp5 gene in the rat brain after acute stress. Emily then continued in the same laboratory as a Research Technician before undertaking her PhD which will follow on from her MSc project by investigating the epigenomic and transcriptional mechanisms controlling stress-induced Fkbp5 gene expression in the hippocampus. Fkbp5 is highly relevant for mental health research as genomic variations in this gene are associated with an increased risk of developing stress-related disorders such as depression.

Matt Rowe


Matt graduated from the University of Bristol in 2017 with a MSc in Chemistry. His final year project was completed under the supervision of Professor Matt Crump where he used gene editing techniques to study the role of proteins within the biosynthesis of the antibiotic mupirocin.

Matt has decided to stay at Bristol for his PhD in order to further contribute to the elucidation of the biosynthetic pathway of mupirocin. The aim of this research focuses on the discovery of novel antibiotics to help combat the rise of multiply resistant bacteria.

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Kathryn Shelley


Kathryn graduated from the University of Oxford in 2017 with an M.Biochem in Biochemistry. She completed her final year project in the lab of Professor Elspeth Garman, during which she wrote software to enable the detection of specific radiation damage artefacts and incorrectly identified metal ions within protein crystal structures.

Kathryn is currently undertaking her PhD in de novo protein design with Prof Dek Woolfson, during which she aims to further parametrise the relationship between protein sequence and structure.

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Stephanie Tran


Stephanie graduated from The University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Neuroscience and from Durham University with a MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience. It was during these experiences that she discovered her interests in learning and memory and how animal models can be used as a powerful tool to help elucidate the underlying mechanisms. This prompted Stephanie to pursue a PhD project at The University of Bristol in the same area.

The project, supervised by Prof Clea Warburton, Prof John Aggleton and Prof Zafar Bashir, involves investigating the interplay between the brain regions; the hippocampus, nucleus reuniens and prefrontal cortex, and their role in recognition memory – using a combination of behavioural techniques and technologies to manipulate brain function, such as optogenetics and pharmacogenetics.

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Alex Willcox


Alex graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc Hons in Neuroscience in 2017. During the penultimate year of her course, Alex undertook a professional training year at Boston University investigating neural contributions to age-related visual decline in Rhesus Monkeys. Upon returning to Cardiff, she undertook a final-year project characterising the expression profile of BDNF in Rat platelets. Her experiences during these projects were central to her desire to undertake a PhD and peruse a career in research.

Based at Bristol University, Alex will be studying under the supervision of Dr Richard Apps and Dr Iain Gilchrist, working towards her PhD entitled “The Importance of Neural Plasticity in Ageing”.

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Zongfan Yang


Zongfan graduated from China Pharmaceutical University in 2014 with BSc in Biotechnology and completed his MSc in Synthetic Biology & Biotechnology a year later at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in biological medicine development thus he worked at a R&D institute of a pharmaceutical cooperation (CTTQ) primarily focusing on quality control methodology development for drug research process and cell line construction.

At the university of Bristol, Zongfan is working on the exploration of mechanism and inhibition of the plasmid-mediated colistin resistance determinant MCR-1, supervised by Dr Jim Spencer and Prof Adrian Mulholland. This project involves in silico simulation and experimental validation, which is a great combination of dry lab and wet lab approaches.

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Intake 2018

Rob Barringer

Rob graduated from Imperial College in 2018 with an M.Res in Structural Molecular biology, after a PG.Cert in Protein Crystallography from Birkbeck in 2016, an M.Sc in Biomedical Blood Science at Keele in 2013 and a B.Sc in Biomedical Science at Keele in 2012. Between 2014 and 2017 Rob worked in clinical transfusion and emergency diagnostics, before maintaining the gynaecological tissue bank at the Barts Cancer Institute. His move to research was driven by a subsequent stint in industry as he worked in biopharmaceutical Method Development at UCB as an ELISA expert. Prior to Bristol, Rob was working on the structural characterisation of a Type IVB Secretion System core complex from Legionella with Tiago Costa at the MRC’s CMBI.

Rob is currently undertaking his PhD in structural characterisation of streptococcal adhesins with Dr Paul Race, to understand how bacteria are able to selectively choose which surfaces to adhere to.

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Andrew Devine

Andrew graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018 with an MChem in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry. Throughout his degree he developed an interest in the interface between chemistry and biology, leading to him undertaking a final year project investigating the applications of the fluorinase enzyme from Streptomyces cattleya, under the supervision of Professor David O’Hagan. Enzyme catalysis represents an alternative method for radiolabelling tracers for PET imaging and the project identified several novel substrates with potential applications in this area.

Undertaking this project sparked a strong interest in biocatalysis and the potential of harnessing nature’s biosynthetic machinery to produce useful compounds, thus prompting Andrew to pursue a PhD in this area. The project will be supervised by Professor Chris Willis and will aim to explore the biocatalytic potential of enzymes on the abyssomicin and mupirocin biosynthetic pathways, with a view to producing novel bioactive compounds.

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Calum Graham

In 2018, Calum graduated from The University of Durham with a First Class MBiol degree in Biological Sciences. For his Masters project he conducted research into the role of the chloroplast protein PULP in Arabidopsis thaliana freezing tolerance under the supervision of Dr Heather Knight. In the summer of 2017 he carried out a British Society of Plant Pathology funded project in Prof Katherine Denby’s lab at The University of York investigating the targets of oomycete effector proteins. His interest in plant responses to abiotic and biotic stresses lead Calum to undertake a PhD at The University of Bristol. His PhD, under the supervision of Dr Antony Dodd, investigates the relationship between the circadian clock, chloroplast gene expression and cold tolerance in plants.

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Mathilda Gustavsson

Mathilda graduated from University of the West of England with a BSc(Hons) in Biology. During this time, she developed an interest in cell- and environmental signalling in plants. In her final year project, she investigated the effects of ABA and varying light quantities on photoprotection and movement in a model species alga.

Mathilda completed a Masters by Research at the University of Bristol, where she investigated the effects of high temperature and ultraviolet-B light on stomatal movement and development. Research such as this has application within food security in a changing climate, an area Mathilda is very passionate about. She developed a further interest in photobiology, which lead her to the PhD she is now undertaking. Mathilda is working in Professor Kerry Franklin’s lab at the University of Bristol, where she is investigating how to manipulate light quality to improve crop quality as well as freezing tolerance in a commercial herb.

Katie Higginbottom

Katie graduated from a 4 year Integrated Masters degree in Biology at the University of Manchester in 2018. Her research project covered the design and production of a novel chloroplast transformation construct, engineered to give Petunia plants enhanced disease resistance against problematic Grey Mold and Fusarium Wilt fungi. Katie is interested in research that seeks to apply genetic techniques to solve plant science issues, and to optimise the genetic transformation process.

Katie’s PhD project, “Optimising a universal plant transformation system for orphan crops”, is supervised by Dr Heather Whitney, with Professor Keith Edwards and Professor Carmen Galan. The aim of the project is to optimise a novel plant transformation system to allow: universal usage across plant species, transformation of orphan crops (i.e Sorghum), increased speed of obtaining successful transformants, increased efficiency of transformation, increased transformation possibilities.

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Abdelwahab Kawafi 

Abdelwahab graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BSc in Biomedical Science, he then went on to complete an MSc in Space Physiology and Health in King’s College London. Abdelwahab is interested in using model animals to understand the effect of microgravity on human physiology.

He is currently working with Dr Chrissy Hammond to explore the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to improve the analysis of in-vivo datasets using zebrafish.

Chris McCabe

Chris graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Biology followed by an MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation at UCL. His master’s project was based at the Natural History Museum, London, where he investigated the comparative phylogeography of herpetofauna in a Honduran national park. Following a foray into gene editing at the Medical Research Council Chris is returning to Bristol to pursue his interest in evolutionary biology.

Chris will work under the supervision of Prof Emily Rayfield to investigate the evolution of venom in solenodons. Solenodons are the only extant mammals that possess a modified dental venom delivery system. This project aims to investigate why solenodons have a venom system, what its function is and how it evolved.

Heather Owens

Heather graduated with an MSc in Microbiology from the University of Liverpool in 2017 after originally studying Biological Sciences in Reading. Her MSc project aimed to better understand the activity of an enzyme key in Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus infection, SOX. During this research, she developed a key interest in microbial genetics and the molecular mechanisms underpinning infectious disease.

Heather’s PhD project is supervised by Dr Darryl Hill and Dr Katy Turner and aims to understand emergence of antimicrobial resistance within populations of N.gonorrhoeae. She is using a combination of phenotypic and genotypic analysis to ultimately inform a model which can be applied in future therapeutic interventions against gonorrhoea.

Nokomis Ramos-Gonzalez

Nokomis graduated from the University of Bristol in 2018 with a BSc in Pharmacology. During 2017 Nokomis carried out an 8-week research project sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and supervised by Dr Rhiannon Jenkinson, which involved primary culture of mini gut organoids. For her final year project, she worked with Prof Eamonn Kelly looking at novel GRK inhibitors supressing arrestin recruitment to mu opioid receptor.

Nokomis’ PhD project will involve looking at novel biased agonists at mu opioid receptor, using in vitro cell signalling studies, in vivo techniques and molecular dynamics simulations, supervised by Prof Eamonn Kelly and Dr Richard Sessions. The aim of the project is to investigate conformational changes at mu opioid receptor triggered by biased agonists and their possible action in vivo.

Tia Salter

Tia completed her BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry at Imperial in 2018. In the summer of 2017, she undertook a project with the Collinson Lab at the University of Bristol. This project focused on analysis of the transport of proteins across membranes by the bacterial Sec-machinery. Having developed an interest in antimicrobial resistance during her degree, Tia was especially interested in investigating secretion of beta-lactamases.

Tia decided to return to the University of Bristol and is now working under the supervision of Prof Ian Collinson and Prof Matthew Avison. By developing in vivo and in vitro secretion assays, the aim of her PhD project is to analyse the transport of a range of beta-lactamases.

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Jenn-Yeu Alvin Szeto

Alvin graduated from Cardiff University in 2015 with a BSc in Biochemistry. He developed an interest in protein structure and engineering while on a summer placement, using site-directed mutagenesis to introduce zinc affinity in cytochrome b562. Alvin continued to develop skills in structural biology through an MRes in Biosciences, incorporating unnatural amino acids to capture interacting proteins with the P2X7 ion channel, as well as investigating the structure of the P2X7 C-terminal using computational modelling and X-ray crystallography.

Alvin is currently working with Prof Christiane Berger-Schaffitzel and Dr Mark Dodding at the University of Bristol. The focus of his PhD project is to determine the structure (using Cryo-EM) and function of the SMG-1-8-9 complex during nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), a surveillance mechanism that recognises and degrades mRNAs containing premature stop codons. Mutations in proteins involved in NMD result in neurodevelopmental disorders and various cancers.

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Intake 2019

Naomi Berthaut

Naomi graduated from the University of Bristol in 2019 with a BSc in Neuroscience. During her degree, she carried out a SWBio DTP summer research placement in Prof Zafar Bashir’s lab, investigating the effects of acetylcholine on synaptic transmission in the CA2 region of the hippocampus using in vitro electrophysiology. For her final year project, she worked in Dr Paul Dodson’s lab, looking into sleep disturbances in mice models of Parkinson’s disease. These experiences were central to her interest in neuroscience research, and led her to undertake a PhD combining experimental and computational approaches.

Naomi’s PhD project is supervised by Dr Mike Ashby and Dr Cian O’Donnell. It aims to investigate how neurons control the trafficking and distribution of mitochondria in long-range axons, using two-photon microscopy to track individual mitochondria, and the larger scale and power of computational models to simulate trafficking in entire axonal trees.

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Zac Collins

Zac graduated with an Integrated Masters in Biochemistry from the University of York in 2019. During his masters project he investigated the role of bacterial Gam proteins and their role as DNA end-binding proteins. It was during this project that Zac became fascinated by the defence systems employed by bacteria to protect themselves from bacteriophage and other selfish elements. This caused him to want to pursue a PhD project in this field.

Zac’s PhD project is titled “Structure-function studies of the bacterial plasmid defence system Wadjet” and is supervised by Prof Mark Szczelkun and Prof Christiane Berger-Schaffitzel. This project aims to use both structural techniques, as well as biophysical analysis to determine how proteins involved in the newly discovered Wadjet system interact with foreign plasmid DNA to protect their hosts.

Maeve Dale

Maeve graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2018 with a BSc in Genetics. Her final year project utilized viruses as a tool to investigate the stress response and defence mechanisms of plants. This sparked an interest in both research and sustainable crop development which lead to a research based MSc at Durham University. There she investigated the role of cell wall dimerisation in drought and freezing tolerance.

Her interest in food security continues in her PhD with Prof Alistair Hetherington. This project will focus on intercellular signalling pathways involved in plant tolerance against stresses such as salt, cold and drought.

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Molly Davidson

Molly graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Neuroscience in 2018. Her final year undergraduate project with Dr Pete Brennan involved investigating whether social buffering pheromones are able to reduce a stress response in mice.Molly remained in Bristol to complete a MSc in Molecular Neuroscience. This included a research project with Dr Kevin Kemp which aimed to develop a model of progressive multiple sclerosis using organotypic cerebellar slices.

Her PhD project will combine behavioural experiments with computational modelling to investigate how affective states influence decision making. This project is supervised by Prof Mike Mendl, Prof Iain Gilchrist, Dr John Fennell and Dr Liz Paul at the University of Bristol in collaboration with Prof Peter Dayan at the Max Planck Institute.

Rosie Ford

Rosie graduated from the University of Bristol in 2019 with a BSc in Biology. She completed her final year project under the supervision of Dr Antony Dodd during which she investigated the regulation of plant sensitivity to herbicides by the circadian oscillator. In the summer of 2018 Rosie carried out a British Mycological Society funded project supervised by Dr Kathryn Ford at the University of Bristol relating to the development of a CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system for the fungus Armillaria mellea. During this research she developed a keen interest in the molecular techniques that may be used to combat food security issues, including those presented by fungi.

Rosie’s PhD project, “The role of RIPP proteins in plant pathogenic fungi”, is supervised by Dr Andy Bailey and Prof Gary Foster and aims to characterise the role of a metabolite produced by Zymoseptoria tritici, a wheat-pathogenic fungus.

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Ben Gillard

Ben graduated from the University of Worcester with a BSc in Human Biology, followed by a MSc from the University of Bristol in Molecular Neuroscience. Ben continued at the University of Bristol as a technician, firstly as part of the Diabetes and Metabolism group at Southmead Hospital and then more recently as part of the Molecular Neuroendocrinology Research Group. His recent work has been to investigate the molecular mechanisms of desert adaptation, in particular the effect of dehydration on the kidney of Camelus dromedarius.

Ben’s PhD project will continue his work on molecular mechanisms of desert adaptation, now studying molecular regulation in different tissues of the desert rodent Jaculus jaculus using various -omics approaches.

Sam Haque

Sam graduated from the University of Bath with the BSc in Biochemistry. During this time she undertook a placement year confirming her love of research. After graduating, Sam secured a role as a laboratory analyst in a fast-paced industrial environment. This year out lead to Sam opting to do an MSc in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Bristol where she acquired a keen interest in neuroendocrinology. For her MSc research project, she had the opportunity to look at the regulation of apelin receptor gene expression within the brain.

Sam has decided to continue on at the University of Bristol for her PhD studies, now working with Prof Hans Reul looking at novel roles of the mineralocorticoid stress hormone receptor during neurogenesis of the dentate gyrus. This project aims to understand the effects of stressful events on neuronal maturation.

Cristiana (Crissy) Iosif

Crissy graduated from University of Leicester in 2018 with a BSc in Physiology and Pharmacology, then, in 2019 she completed her MRes in Neuroscience. In the second year of her undergraduate degree, Crissy took part in a summer placement, during which she studied the hEAG cardiac potassium channel using voltage clamping. In the final year of her degree, she completed a project studying how β2 adrenoceptor stimulation influences glycolysis rates in astrocytes. During her Masters degree, she studied the effects Huntingtin loss has on the mitochondria; Huntingtin is a protein involved in Huntington’s Disease which is now used as a therapeutic target.

Crissy is now working with Prof Zafar Bashir, Prof Richard Apps and Dr Jasmine Pickford studying the how the cholinergic projections sent from the pedunculopontine nucleus regulate motor learning in the cerebellum. To do so, she will use in vivo and in vitro electrophysisological techniques.

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Callum Mclellan

Upon graduating from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Biology, Callum remained at Bristol to undertake an MRes in Behavioural Ecology starting 2018. His master’s project, supervised by Prof. Innes Cuthill, sought to determine whether avian predators learn additional information from their environment when educating themselves on the dangers of chemically-defended prey.

Having developed a keen interest in Behavioural Ecology, Callum is excited to pursue this field in his PhD project under the supervision of Dr Stephen Montgomery. Staying at the University of Bristol, Callum will examine the selective drivers that have resulted in some Lepidopteran species adopting a gregarious (group-living) lifestyle during their larval stages.

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Tim Neary

Tim graduated from the University of Bristol in 2018 with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry. After graduation Tim worked with Dr Fabio Parmeggiani on the characterisation of de novo designed modular domains to better enable the implicit design of repeat protein arrays. During this time, Tim developed a keen interest in de novo protein design.

Tim’s PhD project, under the supervision of Dr Fabio Parmeggiani and Dr Ross Anderson at the University of Bristol, aims to design novel binding modular units for use in the construction of repeat protein arrays.

Zoe Parr-Cortes

During her Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol, Zoe took a year out to complete a BSc in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, where she experienced research for the first time. Following her Veterinary degree, Zoe worked in general practice for 2 years. Wanting to pursue research again, she undertook a 6-month project as part of the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Clinical Primer scheme funded by the Wellcome Trust. After completing this, Zoe decided to undertake a PhD at the University of Bristol.

Zoe’s PhD aims to understand whether and how dogs detect changes in cortisol levels in dogs and humans. Dogs are beginning to be trained to assist patients with Addison’s disease; a condition resulting in low cortisol levels, suggesting dogs can discriminate cortisol levels via scent. Zoe aims to assess sensitivity and specificity of their response and use mass-spectrometry to identify critical compounds that trigger alerting behaviour.

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Gabbie Portlock

Gabbie graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience in 2019. Over 2017/18, she completed a 12-month biology placement at Eli Lilly, where her research focused on developing novel in vivo models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related tauopathies. During her industrial placement and multiple projects at university, Gabbie developed a particular interest the molecular mechanisms underpinning the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, such as AD and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Gabbie’s PhD project is supervised by Dr Paul Dodson and Dr Jiaxiang Zhang and is titled: ‘encoding of decision making by dopamine neurons’, relating to PD and tauopathies such as progressive supranuclear palsy. Gabbie will use in vivo behavioural testing, electrophysiological recording and computational modelling to further characterise sub-populations of dopamine neurons involved in decision making and impulsive choices.

Hayley Reeve

Hayley holds undergraduate and MRes degrees in Psychology from the University of St Andrews, where she applied a behavioural approach to explore rodent cognition. Her interests have since shifted towards the neural processing underlying cognition, having integrated neuroanatomy and neurophysiology with behaviour during research assistant posts at the University of Sussex and the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford. Most recently, she contributed to data collection using electrophysiology and optogenetics in combination with behaviour to investigate memory-related activity in the hippocampus and beyond.

She joins the University of Bristol for her PhD on interactions between the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex during goal-directed behaviour, under the supervision of Prof Richard Apps, Prof Clea Warburton, and Dr Nadia Cerminara.

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Simon Reichel

Simon graduated from the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen, Germany, with a BSc in Biomimetics. Learning from nature and applying this knowledge to technology fascinated him throughout all his studies.
His thesis was about the biomechanics of the landing performance in locusts. After a short study break (working as a Software Engineer at the German Research Institute for Artifical Intelligence), he came back to insects and studied the adhesion of beetles in a MPhil at the University of Cambridge.

In Bristol, Simon will be studying the acoustic camouflage of moths and how to incorporate their structures into artificial systems, supervised by Dr Marc Holderied.

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Hester Weaving

Hester graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Biological Sciences and MSc (Res) in Veterinary Parasitology.

Her interest in Applied Entomology and Ecology was sparked during her final year dissertation project on the blowfly Lucilia caesar, an important carrion decomposer. She was interested in the quantity of lipid the flies maintained and if this varied with size, or between sexes or individuals at different reproductive states. This project led Hester to further her scientific training by studying for a Masters with Prof. Richard Wall and Dr Bryony Sands. Her research examined the effect of pesticide exposure on the reproductive physiology of dung-colonising beetles.

At present, Hester is working towards a PhD on tsetse flies, an African vector of disease. Working closely with Dr Sinead English, the project investigates maternal allocation of nutrients under different environmental scenarios.

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