Cardiff student profiles

Intake 2015
Intake 2016
Intake 2017
Intake 2018

Intake 2015

Benjamin Bowen


Ben graduated from Cardiff University in 2015 with a BSc in Biochemistry after returning to education having worked for many years as a motorcycle dealer. His final year project was in the synthetic biology lab of Dr Dafydd Jones, using Escherichia coli with an artificially-expanded genetic code to express proteins bearing non-natural amino acids at specific locations. These non-natural amino acids provide reactive “handles” that allow the proteins to be specifically bound to other molecules/surfaces.

This PhD project follows on from the previous work, also in Dr Jones’s lab. It investigates the oriented binding of beta-lactamase inhibitor proteins to graphene sheet and carbon nanotubes, to develop a protein-based transistor for sensing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The project is in collaboration with Exeter Physics, Cardiff Physics and Queen Mary University of London.

Claire Dumenil


Claire graduated in 2014 from the University of Amsterdam. Her MSc was orientated in chemical ecology, assessing sexual communication in moths, with Dr A. Groot, University of Amsterdam, and plant-mosquitoes interactions with Dr T. Martin, CIRAD, and Dr F. Chandre, IRD, France. Claire followed her research interests in species interaction as a voluntary researcher with Dr A. Groot, assessing variation in sex pheromone production in moths. She further investigated the transmission of social information in fruitflies, with J.C. Billeter, University of Groningen.

Claire’s PhD project is about understanding how the agricultural pest Drosophila suzukii discriminate and choose its numerous host fruits, using its olfactory system. Probing of its olfactory system will bring great insight on host plant selection in insects. She is working with Dr Wynand van der goes van Naters, Bill Symondson (Cardiff University) and Mike Birkett (Rothamsted Research).

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Alex Mullins


Alex graduated in 2015 from Cardiff University with a BSc Hons in Microbiology. His BSc included a placement year at Unilever analysing the efficacy of novel preservative systems to Gram-negative bacteria in home and personal care products. Alex’s dissertation focused on the molecular biology of Burkholderia, investigating the the secondary metabolite biosynthesis gene clusters responsible for antimicrobial production.

Alex is currently working under the supervision of Prof Eshwar Mahenthiralingam and Prof Jim Murray at Cardiff University on the potential use of Burkholderia ambifaria as a biological control agent and plant growth promoter by exploiting the secondary metabolite production and plant interaction capabilities of the organism. The project aims to isolate pathways of interest from different strains and combine them via synthetic biology approaches.

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Nicole Pacchiarini


Nicole graduated from the University of Manchester with a joint honours BSc in Neuroscience and Psychology. She then undertook a MSc in Clinical Neuroscience at King’s College London. Here, she spent the majority of her time exploring the neural and behavioural basis of the mouse neurexin-1-α deletion, which has links with schizophrenia and autism.

Nicole is now undertaking a PhD at Cardiff University under the joint supervision of Prof Rob Honey (Psychology) and Prof Kevin Fox (Bioscience). The project investigates perceptual learning using the rodent whisker system and experience-based changes in the barrel cortex. This project attempts to understand the neural mechanisms of perceptual learning in rodents using the whisker system. She will be investigating this using methods which include two photon microscopy, optogenetic imaging and behavioural paradigms.

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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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Maria Howland


Maria graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Biomedical Science. During her degree, she undertook a placement year in Sarasota, Florida working on in vivo and in vitro models for Gulf War Illness. Here she developed an interest for developing viable cell-based models for complex health and disease systems.  After graduating, Maria worked as a cell biologist in an industrial R&D laboratory, using microarray analysis to study gene expression in animal intestinal cells for a commercial animal feed company.

Maria will now be undertaking a PhD project under the supervision of Prof Julian Marchesi and alongside industrial partner Kirkstall Ltd, looking at validating a cell-based model of the human gut barrier incorporating flow into the system.

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.

Jacob Pope


Jacob graduated from Cardiff University in 2017 with a BSc in Biochemistry. His interest in synthetic and structural biology piqued in a professional training year where he undertook a project to construct and characterise artificial protein oligomers resulting in engineered protein variants with novel and synergistic properties. His final year undergraduate project involved investigating alternate methods for attaching proteins to nanodiamonds as a basis for novel drug therapies.

Jacob is now furthering his career as a biochemist by undertaking a PhD at Cardiff University under supervisors Prof Paola Borri and Dr Mark Young, to investigate the spatio-tempororal dynamics of membrane proteins and lipid domains by applying interdisciplinary approaches such as high resolution optical microscopy and cryo-electron microscopy.

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Faye Watson


Faye graduated with a BSc in Biology from Cardiff University in 2016 and went on to do a Master of Research in Bioscience at Cardiff. During both projects she worked on a new model plant system, first determining its use as an asexual system for genetic modelling and then aiming to use it as a factory for the production of important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Faye’s PhD project revolves around the cellular machinery underlying plant fertilisation, and whether endocytosis plays a pivotal role in the relationship between male and female plant organs. She hopes to be able to use all skills gained from her PhD for a future in scientific research, communication and outreach.

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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 his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. He worked during her last year with Dr. Elena Vara in the understanding of the possible effect of Xanthohumolin in aging of the liver.After this, she pursued a 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

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

Keen to pursue my interests in protein biochemistry, my PhD project will be taking place in the synthetic biology lab of Dr. Dafydd Jones. Here, I will be tackling the rising threat of antibiotic resistance through research into early diagnosis. Beta-lactamase inhibitor proteins recognise markers of antibiotic resistance, and my 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. I hope the knowledge and skills gained from my PhD will propel me towards an exciting career in biotechnology.

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Božo Lugonja

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

Following this I have 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.

I’m now looking forward to undertaking research looking into novel water treatments for Cryptosporidium parasites in the laboratory of Prof Jo Cable. This will enable me to combine my 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

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

My 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, I decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD in the area of antimicrobial resistance and the discovery of novel antibiotics in particular.

I 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. I am 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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