Cardiff student profiles

Intake 2016
Intake 2017
Intake 2018
Intake 2019

Intake 2016

Jordan Cuff

Jordan graduated from Cardiff University in 2014, having studied Biology with a particular focus on ecological interactions and community ecology, particularly concerning earthworms. He has since completed an MRes in Biosciences at Cardiff University, which allowed him to explore invertebrate communities in heart-rot of beech trees.

Jordan’s PhD project at Cardiff University is titled “Nutrient-specific foraging and the role of spiders as aphid predators”. This will use metabarcoding, analytical biochemistry, community modelling, bioinformatics and many other techniques to determine whether prey selection by spiders in agricultural systems is dictated by the macronutrient content of their previous prey. Particular focus will be drawn to aphids, the predation of which by spiders is often disproportionate to their abundance in these systems.

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Edward Cunningham-Oakes


Edward graduated from King’s College London with a BSc Pharmacology with Extra Mural Year degree. During this programme, he undertook a one year placement at St. George’s, University of London, researching synergistic efficacy of aminoglycoside antibiotics and Nordihydroguaiaretic acid against resistant and sensitive strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

Keen to pursue his interest in microbiology and development of antimicrobial resistance, Edward is currently working with Prof Eshwar Mahenthiralingam, Dr Tom Connor and Unilever in a CASE collaboration. He will be using whole genome sequence to understand the basis for bacterial resistance, and to anticipate adaptation in response to preservatives, which is important for industry to develop novel product preservation strategies.

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Siôn Edwards

Siôn graduated from Cardiff University in 2016 with an MChem in Chemistry. During this time, he undertook a summer studentship with CITER under the supervision of Prof Phil Stephens, Dr Ian Fallis, Dr Stephen Paisey, and Dr Angelo Amoroso developing novel, long-term stem cell tracking agents. His final year project was a continuation of his summer studentship, designing dual-mode SPION (superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticle) imaging agents in an attempt to track the fate of stem cells in-vivo under the supervision of Dr Ian Fallis and Dr Angelo Amoroso.

Siôn’s PhD project is supervised by Dr Ian Fallis, Prof David W. Williams, and Dr Athanasia Dervisi. The purpose of the project is to design silver N-heterocyclic carbene (Ag-NHC)-based transition metal masked antibiotics (TMMAs) and use them as mechanistic probes for studying 1) acquired soft metal resistance; and 2) the circumvention of antibiotic resistance mechanisms by metallo-adducts of pre-existing agents.

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Greg Hammond

Greg graduated from Cardiff University in 2013 with a BSc (Hons) in Optometry. Following this, he successfully completed a pre-registration training period to become a fully-qualified optometrist and has been practising in community optometry since then. As part of his BSc, he took part in a student exchange programme with Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine/Doshisha University in Japan. Here, he experienced ophthalmological research, with a specific interest in the cornea. This helped with Greg’s final year research project reviewing Modern Surgical Treatment of Corneal Endothelial Cell Dysfunction and sparked his interest in the cornea.

Greg is currently working with Prof Andrew Quantock, Prof Bruce Caterson and Dr Rob Young on his PhD project, investigating the control of the corneal epithelial stem/progenitor cell niche.

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Joel Southgate

Joel graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Biochemistry, during which he developed a particular interest in the intersection of biosciences and computer science. During his degree, Joel developed software for performance benchmarking of commercial and academic cloud computing/HPC platforms for bioinformatics purposes. Subsequent work with nanopore sequencing and software development acted as a natural path into bioinformatics.

Joel’s PhD project focuses on the development of single-cell sequencing technologies, both experimental and computational, for the purpose of T-cell receptor chain pairing, particularly in pigs. In doing so it is our aim to address fundamental questions about the population structure of mammalian T-cells.

Lorna Sumption

Lorna graduated from Cardiff University in 2016 with a BSc Genetics. As part of the degree she undertook a placement year at the Institute of Infection and Immunity in Cardiff with Dr Tim Hughes. This year involved investigating two key regulators of the complement system and their effects on atherosclerosis in mice.

For her final year dissertation she assessed the role of the imprinted gene Phlda2 in the placenta on post-natal depression in women and mice. Carrying on from this, Lorna is now working with Prof Ros John and Dr Anthony Isles at Cardiff to investigate how gene expression in the placenta affects both post-natal depression in mothers and adverse behavioural and emotional outcomes in infants.

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Intake 2017

Jennifer Benton

Jennifer graduated Cardiff University this year with a MChem degree, during which she undertook a placement year with a pharmaceutical company, Vectura. Jennifer worked in the early phase development team on the development of dry powder inhalation formulations to treat airways diseases. Her time there helped develop her interests in biological chemistry and inspired her to pursue a PhD. Her final year MChem project involved developing a novel catalytic system to perform organic reactions in water by using the streptavidin-biotin protein-ligand interaction.

For her PhD, she will produce new and unnatural semiochemical terpene compounds, which are used to protect plants from insect predation in agriculture. This will be done biosynthetically in fungal host organisms using gene manipulation and metabolic engineering techniques, under the supervision of Prof Rudolf Allemann.

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Holly Kings


Holly graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2016, with a first class MSci degree in Neuroscience. She spent her third-year placement with The Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, investigating epigenetic therapies for the treatment of Ependymoma. Her undergraduate dissertation investigated physiological indicators of tinnitus by studying changes in activity in the auditory cortex. This was supervised by Dr Mark Wallace at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research.

For her PhD project Holly is working to optimise closed loop stimulation in slow wave sleep, supervised by Dr Penny Lewis. She is studying within the Neuroscience and Psychology of Sleep (NAPS) laboratory at the award-winning Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC). She will also collaborate with Rhythm, a leading neurotechnology company based in Paris.

Outside of her studies Holly has a passion for communicating science at a variety of events from science festivals to schools.

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Lucy Lewis


Lucy graduated in 2017 from Cardiff University with a BSc Hons in Biomedical Science (Neuroscience). This included a Professional Training Year working with the Brain Repair Group to optimise cell replacement therapy in rodent models of Parkinson’s disease, where she became more focused on behavioural neuroscience.

During her degree, Lucy developed an interest in neuropsychiatric disorders, and is now working towards her PhD at Cardiff University with Prof Dominic Dwyer, Prof Mark Good and Dr Emma Robinson (University of Bristol). This project focuses on behavioural analyses to examine the interacting cognitive, affective and motivational mechanisms of reward processing, and exploring their biological underpinnings.

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Fiona Messer

Fiona graduated from the University of Bristol with an MSci in Zoology. Her final year project, investigating the effect of heat stress on the mating ability of Drosophila fruit flies, developed her interest in the molecular and developmental aspects of sperm development. Fiona will be combining this with her interest in sexual selection and sexually antagonistic coevolution for her PhD project.

Fiona will be supervised by Prof Helen White-Cooper, Dr Sonia Lopez de Quinto and Dr Araxi Urrutia investigating molecular and developmental factors involved in sperm development in Drosophila pseudoobscura, a species which produces two different sperm morphs with different functions. Her PhD will focus on how one population of germline stem cells develops into two distinct populations of mature sperm cells, looking at patterns of gene expression in developing spermatogonia, experimental analysis of gene function using a CRISPR Cas9 system, and studying the evolutionary history of the identified genes.

Dan Pitt


Dan graduated in 2017 from Cardiff University with a BSc (Hons) Zoology including a professional training year. His dissertation modelled the domestication history of cattle with approximate Bayesian computation and identified signatures of selection between geographically distinct breeds.

Dan is now undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Dr Pablo Orozco-terWengel and Prof Mark Beaumont. Dan’s PhD project, “unravelling local adaptation in the genome of British sheep”, builds on similar themes to his undergraduate work. It will involve analysing novel British sheep samples with population and quantitative genetic approaches to investigate the domestication process. Focussing further on identifying specific adaptations of British sheep linked to the UK’s heterogeneous agricultural landscape.

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Intake 2018

Rakhee Dhorajiwala

Rakhee graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Biochemistry with a Year in Professional Training (PTY). During her PTY she worked in Dr Hilary Rogers’ group to study how the aroma of strawberries can be used as a marker for freshness, and discovered a love for working with plants in a commercial setting. This led her to return to Dr Rogers’ lab after graduating and spending a year working in a lab.

Her PhD project aims to better understand the genetic mechanisms behind lily flower opening. Part of achieving this will involve collaborating with Waitrose and the University of Royal Holloway, to investigate the possibility of controlling when lily flowers open, therefore improving their commercial shelf life.

Cristina Fernandez-Garcia

Cristina graduated from the University Complutense of Madrid in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. She worked during her last year with Dr. Elena Vara in the understanding of the possible effect of Xanthohumolin in ageing of the liver. After this, she pursued an MSc in Biomolecules and Cell Dynamics at the University Autonoma of Madrid. During this year, she worked at the Gregorio Marañon Hospital researching the effect of anaesthesics in inflammation during a lung resertion surgery with one-lung ventilation with Professor Ignacio Martinez Garutti.

Cristina is now working with Professor Joaquin Navascues Meleroat Cardiff University to discover New backward-compatible, drug-controllable misexpression tools to investigate intestinal stem cell activation in vivo in the fly.

Rebecca Gwyther

Rebecca graduated from Durham University in 2018 with a MBiol in Biosciences. Specialising in molecular biology and biochemistry, her final year project focused on characterising an elusive A. thaliana protein, SUMO5, under the supervision of Prof. Ari Sadanandom.

Keen to pursue her interests in protein biochemistry, Rebecca’s PhD project will be taking place in the synthetic biology lab of Dr. Dafydd Jones. Here, she will be tackling the rising threat of antibiotic resistance through research into early diagnosis. Beta-lactamase inhibitor proteins recognise markers of antibiotic resistance, and her project will involve engineering these proteins to interact with carbon nanotubes. This should develop a protein-based transistor which can detect and respond to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Rebecca hopes the knowledge and skills gained from her PhD will propel her towards an exciting career in biotechnology.

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Božo Lugonja

Božo graduated with an MSc in Molecular Biology of Parasites and Disease Vectors from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. His dissertation project focused on the effect of fever and pro-inflammatory cytokines on the cytoadherence of malaria parasites.

Following this Božo worked in a variety of research roles including looking the aetiology of Sjogren’s syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis; influenza clinical trials and most recently coordinating genetics research projects at the National Centre for Mental Health.

Božo is now looking forward to undertaking research looking into novel water treatments for Cryptosporidium parasites in the laboratory of Prof Jo Cable. This will enable him to combine his passion for infectious diseases, whilst also developing new skills in bioengineering, in the research of a poorly understood but globally significant pathogen.

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Yoana Petrova

Yoana graduated with a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) from the University of Bath in 2016. Since then she has worked as a pharmacist and as a drug safety associate for the government.

Yoana’s final year undergraduate project looked at antibiotic resistance in planktonic bacteria and biofilms and ways to increase the susceptibility of clinically relevant pathogens to antibiotics. Having seen the impact of antibiotic resistance in the clinic, she decided that she wanted to pursue a PhD in the area of antimicrobial resistance and the discovery of novel antibiotics in particular.

Yoana will be undertaking a PhD project, supervised by Prof Eshwar Mahenthiralingam in Cardiff, looking at ways to use Burkholderia spp as biotechnology agents for the production of novel antibiotics. She is very excited to learn new skills in molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics.

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Nina White

Nina graduated with a BSc in Biology from Cardiff University in 2017. Her interest in molecular ecology developed while DNA barcoding native insect pollinators during a placement year at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in Sydney. Subsequently, her final year project involved bioinformatic analysis of genetic variation between wild and captive populations of the critically endangered Madagascar big headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis).

Nina’s PhD will focus on understanding the newly observed recovery of the critically endangered mountain chicken frog (Leptodactylus fallax) after the species was nearly wiped out by the infectious disease chytridiomycosis. Nina will examine host defences and pathogen virulence factors to understand the mechanisms behind the recovery.

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Intake 2019

Ashley Baldwin

Ashley graduated from Cardiff University in 2019 with an integrated master’s degree in Biological Sciences. During his degree, he conducted a summer project assessing the post-harvest quality in fruit. This project led to an interest in working with plants, especially maintaining fruit quality post-harvest. Consequently, he did his master’s project looking into the effect of cold storage on gene expression in strawberries.

Ashley’s PhD is based at Cardiff University, in collaboration with the University of Bath. His PhD aims to gain a better understanding of how genome complexity and higher-order gene regulatory mechanisms act on nutritional value and aroma of strawberries.

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Ryan Coates

Ryan graduated with an Integrated Masters degree in Biological sciences from Cardiff University in 2019. His undergraduate degree was mostly focused on genetics and genetic engineering, eventually specialising with plant synthetic biology during his final year. Ryan was a part of the Cardiff iGEM team for two consecutive years, with key roles in two plant synthetic biology projects.

Since then, his interest in the field has continually developed, leading him to undertake a PhD in Cardiff University which aims to over-express a complex mammalian protein, P2X7, using plants as the chassis, in order to produce vast amounts of the protein for structural studies. The aim of this project is to ultimately understand the protein enough to design therapies for abnormal P2X7 proteins which are involved in a wide variety of diseases. It also aims to develop a pipeline for the production of mammalian proteins in plants.

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Rosie Craddock

Rosie is currently undertaking a neuroscience-based PhD under supervision of Professor Frank Sengpiel at Cardiff University.

In 2019, Rosie graduated from Cardiff University with a first-class master’s degree in Neuroscience. During her studies, she developed a major interest in neuronal information processing, and decided to embark on an academic career researching into the area, starting by undertaking a technique-heavy, relevant PhD.

Within Prof Frank Sengpiel’s lab, Rosie works to find the mechanism by which the structure, connectivity, plasticity and function of the mouse visual system are affected by sensory input, as well as by heritable, neuro-developmental defect.

Luke Davies

Luke graduated from Cardiff University in 2019 with a BSc in Genetics. In addition to genetics, Luke is interested in ecology and undertook his placement at Danau Girang Field Centre. Here, Luke learnt how to conduct ecological research and studied habitat selection of raptors as his project. Following this, his dissertation was genotyping the ploughshare tortoise; studying their population structure and the genetic health of captive individuals.

Luke is now moving into livestock genetics with a PhD focused on domestic water buffalo. This livestock species is essential in developing countries by providing draught power and a source of dairy and meat. Luke will be characterising the domestication process of water buffalos and, identifying genetic markers associated with local adaptations and traits of farming interest

Emily Heath

Emily graduated from Cardiff University in 2019 with an integrated masters in Biochemistry. During her undergraduate degree she was part of the university’s iGEM team working on a project utilising plant synthetic biology to tackle the problem of aphids as crop pests. Her final year project focused on the role of the extracellular matrix protein Tenascin C in breast cancer in mouse models.

At Cardiff university Emily will be working on a project with Dr Emyr Lloyd-Evans and Prof Colin Berry which ties her research interests together. Her project will focus on investigating the mechanisms of specificity of insecticidal toxins for invertebrates and some cancer cells.

Sean Hubbert

Sean graduated from Cardiff University in 2019 with and Integrated Master’s degree in Biological Sciences. During his time there, Sean specialised in molecular biology and biochemistry, while also developing an interest in gene expression regulation. This interest was furthered during his master’s research project where he investigated the localization and function of an RNA-binding protein during cellular stress in Drosophila melanogaster embryos.

Sean is now undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Dr Mike Taylor and Dr Walter Dewitte, investigating the molecular mechanisms which regulate muscle development in D.melanogaster. In particular, Sean is focused on understanding how class IIa histone deacetylase proteins regulate mef2, a crucial transcription factor involved in regulating muscle cell differentiation.

Scott MacAulay

Scott graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2016 with an Honours degree in Marine & Freshwater biology. He then went on to study at the University of Stirling where he achieved a Master’s with Distinction in Aquatic Pathobiology. His master’s research involved investigating the efficacy of RTFS resistance in Rainbow Trout (Onchorynchus mykiss) and the knock-on effects it may have had.

Scott is currently studying his PhD in novel methods for early detection and prevention of fish pathogens at Cardiff University with Prof Joanne Cable and Dr Amy Ellison, in partnership with the Environment Agency.

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Lainey Williamson

Lainey graduated from Cardiff University with an Integrated Masters degree in Biochemistry in 2019, during which she developed an interest in structural biology and biotechnology. This interest was pursued during a summer research placement, aimed at characterising two potential novel bioreporter genes. With the aim of applying her skill set to alternative disciplinary areas, Lainey completed her masters project in the Dementia Research Institute, where she investigated the role of oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s Disease phenotypes using the fruit fly as a model organism.

Lainey is now undertaking a PhD, supervised by Prof Colin Berry and Dr Emyr Lloyd-Evans, aimed at characterising the interaction of the pesticidal protein, Bin, with its receptor, an alpha glycosidase found in Culex mosquitos. Specific aims include elucidating the structure of this receptor, and increasing our understanding of the specificity of toxin-receptor binding, which will have wider implications for both agriculture and food security.

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