Exeter student profiles

Intake 2015
Intake 2016
Intake 2017
Intake 2018

Intake 2015

Jennifer Broniewski


For her PhD project, Jennifer is working with CRISPR-Cas, specifically investigating the importance of CRISPR mediated immunity in bacteria-bacteriophage systems. A system such as CRISPR-Cas is physically tiny, yet the potential impact of variation in this system is far reaching in ecological contexts.

Jennifer particularly enjoys the problem solving element of designing elegant, repeatable experiments which serve to elucidate the selective pressures which operate in these systems and the mechanisms upon which selection acts. At the same time she’s enjoy being able to extrapolate findings and apply them to broader evolutionary theory, and it is in this span of applications which her passion for evolutionary biology lies.

Through her varied lab roles she has gained experience in a range of microbiological techniques including culturing bacteria, performing fitness assays, experimental evolution and molecular microbiology including genetic analysis.

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Pablo Capilla-Lasheras


After graduating in Spain, Pablo headed off to the UK to pursue a career as an evolutionary biologist. He completed an MSc in Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity and Epidemiology in Glasgow, doing his dissertation on the effects of urbanisation in the immune system of wild birds. In his research, Pablo enjoys combining state-of-the-art quantitative approaches and laboratory work in order to understand evolutionary and ecological processes and some of the molecular mechanisms that may underlie them.

During his PhD, supervised by Dr Andy Young and Dr Alastair Wilson, Pablo is exploring how cooperative behaviour helps inbred individuals thrive in the wild. His project involves the analysis of a long-term data set and the use of RAD-Seq technology to quantity genome-wide levels of heterozygosity. The project aims at improving our understanding of sociality from an eco-evolutionary perspective.

Connor Horton


Connor graduated from the University of Exeter in 2014 with a BSc (Hons) in Medical Sciences where his final year project looked into how Drebrin and Omega-3 fatty acids affect the formation of membrane protrusions in mammalian cells. Due to his interest in neurodegenerative disease, he spent a year as an EU funded research technician at King’s College London on a project that examined the therapeutic potential of stem cell implants in Alzheimer’s disease. Connor is now working towards a PhD at the University of Exeter where he is investigating the role the Exocyst complex plays in determining cell shape and polarity.

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James Marks


James graduated from Exeter University in 2014 with a BSc in Biochemistry and became a lab technician in his current lab, where he started studying the role of motor proteins in mitosis in fruit flies.

James has continued to study microtubule based motor proteins for his PhD with particular interest in their roles in the dynamics of chromatin nucleated microtubules. This involves combining live cell imaging with Biochemistry, reverse genetics and high resolution image analysis to elucidate how these motor proteins organise mitotic spindles grown in a chromatin-driven manner. He enjoys the challenge of combining a wide range of techniques.

Ashley Smith

Ashley graduated from the University of Exeter in 2015 with a BSc in Biochemistry. He completed his undergraduate project under the supervision of Dr Stefano Pagliara where he used Microfluidics to develop a protocol for determining the response of B-lymphocytes to Mechanical pressure.

Ashley’s final year research project was by far the most enjoyable aspect of his university studies and as a result decided to apply for the BBSRC SWBio DTP. He is currently still working with Dr Pagliara in Microfluidics, however he is now using it to develop a novel technique for the identification and isolation of bacterial persister cells under antibiotic treatment.

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Emily Wood


Emily graduated from the University of Exeter in 2015 with a BSc in Biochemistry. Her final year project focused on the trade-off between resistance to bacteriophage and the susceptibility to antibiotics in the model organism Escherichia coli.

Emily decided to stay at Exeter for her PhD, supervised by Dr Ivana Gudelj and Prof Robert Beardmore. The project will be looking at the multiplication-survival trade-off, and the impact that it has on the pathogen diversity. This knowledge will then be applied to clinical isolates.

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Intake 2016

Harry Child


Harry graduated from the University of Bristol with an MSci in Biology. During his degree, he developed an interest in fungal biology whilst conducting research into the biosynthesis of statin drugs in fungal secondary metabolism. Modules in plant disease and agricultural biotechnology fuelled his growing interest in the issue of food security, leading him to conduct his final year research project on potential effector molecules of the fungal pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici, which causes the disease Septoria tritici blotch in wheat leaves.

In his PhD at the University of Exeter, Harry will continue his research into this devastating global disease, focusing on the role of autophagy and chromosome stability in the host-pathogen interaction between Z. tritici and wheat.

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Tom Chaloner


Tom graduated from the University of Oxford in 2015 with a BA in Biological Sciences. Completing an extended essay assignment on utilizing host induced gene silencing to protect crop plants against pathogenic fungi confirmed Toms interest in plant pathology and food security.

Tom is now at the University of Exeter investigating acclimation and adaptation of plant pathogenic fungi to climate change. This project combines mathematical modelling, genomics, bioinformatics, plant pathology and microbiology, and is under the supervision of Dr Dan Bebber and Prof Sarah Gurr.

Tom also has a keen interest in education and university access. During his time at Oxford he mentored GCSE students outside of the national curriculum and acted as an Access Ambassador for The Queen’s College. Further, he has previous experience both as a teacher in an academy in Liverpool, as well as a private tutor.

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Jack Common

Jack completed his BA in Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford, and while there developed a keen interest in the evolutionary dynamics that unfold between pathogens and their host organisms.

His PhD project with Dr Edze Westra will explore host-pathogen dynamics using bacteria-phage as a model system. This system offers an excellent opportunity to test many aspects of fundamental theory about the factors affecting disease spread and evolution. In addition, the genomic targets of selection can be characterised, offering a rigorous test of how adaptation takes place at the level of the DNA. He will look at how ecological factors, such as diversity, abundance and spatial structure, influence host-pathogen adaptation, and use results from these experiments to inform new theory about host-pathogen evolutionary dynamics.

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Amy McLeman

Amy graduated from Bangor University with a BSc in Zoology and Conservation in 2012 with a project identifying the function of the pattern of the Vipera berus species and the effect of size on the patterns function when considering avian predation. Following this she completed an MSc at Exeter University in Biodiversity and Conservation in 2013. Her master’s project on bacteriophage as a method for plants to self-medicate against bacterial infections led to her employment within the University of Exeter Medical School. She studied bacteriophage evolution with the hope to gain insight into their use as alternatives to antibiotics, further to this she looked to identify active antimicrobial compounds within seaweeds. A post as an Assistant Plant Pathologist with NIAB also gave her experience in the underpinnings of large scale field trials all with the aim of aiding food security.

Amy is now working on developing a novel pesticide with the aim to find a compound that will be effective against pests but safe for bees. This work is being carried out with the supervision of Prof Richard Ffrench-Constant, Prof Chris Bass and Dr Alistair Miller (Darr House).

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Jack Plume

Jack spent four years at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2016 with an MBioSci in Biomedical Sciences. His final year project focused on elucidating the conformational cycle of the ABC transporter Sav1866 from Staphylococcus aureus, though other projects have focused on traumatic brain injury and the effect of a high fat diet during pregnancy on offspring gene expression.

Jack’s interest in molecular microbiology has led him to undertake a PhD with Dr Alan Brown and Dr Steve Porter, where he is aiming to identify and characterise heavy metal resistance determinants in the Burkholderia cepaciacomplex, which are opportunistic pathogens that infect patients with cystic fibrosis.

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Pamela Prentice


Pamela graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc Hons in Zoology. Her honours project investigated the effects of parent and offspring communication in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, which resulted in her first publication in the journal of Behavioural Ecology. Pamela then went on to complete a MSc in Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the University of Edinburgh. Her research thesis investigated the effects of social bonding and personality in domestic goats, which lead to her second publication in the journal of Behavioural Processes. Following her MSc, Pamela was employed as a Research Assistant with the Red Deer Research Programme on the Isle of Rum Scotland, and also within Edinburgh Zoo, working for St Andrews University investigating the effects of environmental enrichment on capuchin monkeys.

Pamela is now undertaking a PhD with the University of Exeter. Her current research will use a quantitative genetics approach to investigate the evolution of animal intelligence, using Trinidadian guppies as her study species. The project is supervised by Prof Alastair Wilson and Dr Alex Thornton, both of the University of Exeter.

Craig Willis

Craig graduated from the University of Exeter in 2016 with a BSc in Applied Human Physiology with Mathematics, where his undergraduate project explored the effects of oral N-acetylcysteine supplementation on potassium regulation and high-intensity exercise tolerance in humans.

During his studies, Craig developed a strong interest in the mechanistic bases of physiological adaptation, health and disease; particularly in relation to age-related muscle decline. As such, Craig’s PhD (under the supervision of Dr Timothy Etheridge, Prof Christian Soeller and Dr Ryan Ames) aims to utilise an interdisciplinary approach to provide new insights into the mechanisms underpinning exercise-mediated muscle adaptation and its deregulation during the ageing process in humans.

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Intake 2017

Antony Brown


Antony graduated from the University of Sheffield with an MBiolSci in Biology in 2015. His final year project looked at the effect of nest insulation quality on incubation behaviour in long-tailed tits.

Antony has a keen interest in evolutionary ecology and my PhD will explore the trans-generational effects of parental age on offspring fitness and telomeres (chromosomal ‘caps’ that play a role in senescence), using a wild population of white-browed sparrow weavers as my study system. His project is supervised by Dr Andy Young (University of Exeter, Cornwall campus), in collaboration with Prof Alastair Wilson (University of Exeter, Cornwall campus) and Prof Duncan Baird (Cardiff University).

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Laura Bulson


Laura graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2017 with an MBiolSci, in Biology with a Year Abroad and Integrated Masters. She attended the University of Queensland in her second year and this was where her interest in ecological entomology was ignited. For her Masters, Laura designed an exploratory investigation into the diversity and transgenerational transfer of the gut microbiome of the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius for which she was awarded the Professor Ian Rorison Prize in Biology.

She is now undertaking a PhD with Dr Lena Wilfert at the University of Exeter, where she will be investigating the effects of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics within the environment (primarily from agriculture) on bumblebee and honeybee gut microbiomes, focusing mainly on microbiome diversity, the evolution of antimicrobial resistance, and host fitness.

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Will Davison


Will graduated from his degree in biological sciences with study abroad from the University of Exeter in 2016. He spent his year abroad studying at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia where he developed a strong interest in all things marine. On his return to the UK he undertook his undergraduate research project investigating how aspects of water chemistry in rockpools can interact to alter the physiology and behaviour of the green crab, Carcinus maenas.

Will’s PhD (supervised by Prof Rod Wilson and Dr Eduarda Santos) aims to look at how water chemistry conditions found in aquaculture facilities can impact on physiological and transcriptional proccesses in a range of commercially relevant species. The project aims to understand how water chemistry conditions can be manipulated to maximise productivity of aquaculture facilities.

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Jim Galloway


Jim’s undergraduate degree was a BSc Biology (Hons) at Royal Holloway, University of London, and he then studied for an MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology at the University of Exeter (Penryn). His MSc research project tested the survival benefit of substrate colour-matching in chameleon prawns.

Jim’s PhD project aims to examine the importance of vision in animals capable of colour change, and how this ability to change colour aids in camouflage with Dr Martin Stevens’ Sensory Ecology group at Exeter, and Dr Nick Roberts’ Vision for Ecology group in Bristol. He will specifically be identifying the properties of the vision marine crustaceans known to be able to change colour over a variety of timescales, and the role these properties play in allowing animals to change colour to match environments.

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Katie Hall


Katie graduated from the University of Sussex with a BSc Hons in Biology in 2015. Her final year project investigated the locomotion of tardigrades and compared it with those of other Ecdysozoa species. At the University of Sussex Katie developed a strong interest in the behaviour of social insects. This led her to complete a MSc by research in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter investigating the spatial aspects of foraging behaviour in Eastern honeybees, Apis cerana.

Katie is now continuing bee behaviour research at the University of Exeter. Her PhD, under the supervision of Dr Natalie Hempel de Ibarra and Prof Kevin Gaston, will examine bee behaviour in dim light.

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Owen Wright


Owen graduated from Cardiff University in 2017 with a BSc (Hons) in Zoology. During his degree, Owen investigated parasite load and the behaviour of guppies in a research placement, which inspired him to pursue a PhD. He also completed a placement year at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London where he worked on characterising and detecting infectious diseases of British herpetofauna.

For his PhD, Owen will continue to work on his interests of behaviour and disease by exploring the health and behaviour of honeybees in the Asian tropics. Supervised by Dr Natalie Hempel de Ibarra and Dr Lena Bayer-Wilfert in collaboration with Dr Hema Somanathan (IISER Thiruvananthapuram), this interdisciplinary and international project will investigate the foraging behaviour and disease ecology of an ecologically and economically important pollinator.

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Intake 2018

Josh Arbon

Josh completed his BSc in Zoology, and subsequent MRes in behavioural ecology at the University of Bristol. The focus of this research was on the context-dependency of cooperative contributions, working on the sentinel system of the dwarf mongoose with Prof. Andy Radford.

He is currently supervised by Dr Alex Thornton at the University of Exeter, investigating the adaptability of learning strategies, dominance and social networks. Animals are known to employ strategies when learning from others, and this work will investigate how these can be altered, thus shedding light on learning plasticity and its constraints.

Toby Baril

Toby received an MBiochem from the University of Southampton in 2018, where he studied DNA methylation-mediated gene expression in Diabetes and various psychiatric disorders using in-silico methods. From this, Toby has developed an interest in genetic features that can generate new genes or modify the expression of existing ones.

Toby’s PhD is based at the University of Exeter (Penryn), where he will investigate the role of transposable elements in the evolution of host genomic complexity, under the supervision of Dr Alex Hayward and Dr Karl Wotton.

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Jen Clements 

Jen is part of the ESRC-South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) programme, and is also associated with the SWBio DTP.

Jen has been interested in agricultural practice and policy since her undergraduate dissertation on organic farming and the Common Agricultural Policy. Following her BA in Archaeology & Anthropology at Oxford, she pursued an MSc in Social Research Methods at the University of Sussex. Her masters dissertation focused on methodological responses to issues of scale within the Anthropology of Europe since 1975.

She is now based at Exeter’s Penryn campus, where she works under the supervision of Dr Jane Wills, Dr Juliet Osborne and Dr Matt Lobley. Her PhD project concerns the development of a post-Brexit domestic agricultural policy and the emerging trade-offs between economic, environmental and social aims among key stakeholders. The ultimate aim is to combine interviews, surveys and economic data in order to model potential outcomes.

Jennifer Finlay

Jennifer graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2018 with an MSci in Biological Sciences. She undertook both her honours project and masters project with Professor Samuel Martin, where she looked at the role of supplementing functional amino acids into the diets of farmed salmonid fish, and their effects on gene expression.

When studying for her MSci, Jennifer developed a passion for the aquaculture industry, which led her to apply for a PhD with Professor Rod Wilson and Dr. Robert Ellis, looking at how elevated CO2 can affect the physiology, behaviour, and welfare of lumpfish, a possible key species for the future sustainability and productivity of the industry. After her PhD Jennifer wishes to work within the aquaculture industry to further enhance its sustainability and productivity.

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Ellie Hassan

Ellie graduated from the University of Dundee in 2016 with a BSc in Psychology, where her dissertation used eye-tracking to investigate mental simulation of actions. Having developed a keen interest in cognitive psychology, she decided to undertake an MSc in Human Cognitive Neuropsychology at the University of Edinburgh which she completed in 2018. Her masters project under the supervision of Dr Rob McIntosh investigated the effects of age and modality on the size-weight illusion.

Her PhD project is supervised by Prof Andrew Jones and Dr Gavin Buckingham. This aims to investigate the effect of fatigue on sensorimotor control across the lifespan. It is joint-funded by the BBSRC and ESRC.

Jordan Hembrow

Jordan graduated from the University of Exeter with a Masters in Physics. His masters project looked at the coacervation of elastin protein derivatives to determine if the primary sequence is consistent throughout the body. In a summer placement, he was tasked with building a digital breast phantom for use in cancer research. The adaptation of the TORUS code used in astrophysics for a biological application sparked his interest in interdisciplinary research and bioinformatics.

Though this summer placement, he was introduced to Dr David Richards at the University of Exeter. Under his and Dr Mike Deeks supervision, Jordan will be modelling phytopathogen-targeted secretory vesicles alongside collecting data in the lab to validate this model. In understanding the immune response of plants to fungal attack, it may be possible to reduce pesticide use or increase crop yield.

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Paddy Hooper

Paddy graduated from the University of Bath in 2018 with a Bsc in Biology, where he developed an interest in microbial evolution and pathogenesis. During his degree he carried out an industrial placement at the CEFAS laboratory, Weymouth. His work contributed to the characterisation of a novel Endozoicomonas-like organism infecting UK king scallop (Pecten maximus) stocks. His time at CEFAS developed his interest in the implications of pathogens on aquatic food security.

This led him to undertake a PhD under the supervision of Dr Eduarda Santos at the University of Exeter and case partners at CEFAS, Weymouth. His research uses a combination of molecular and bioinformatic approaches to investigate the virulence factors of Neoparamoeba perurans, the causative agent of amoebic gill disease in Atlantic salmon.

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Emily Price

I graduated from Bangor University with an integrated master’s degree in Zoology with Herpetology. My master’s project focused on using GPS tracking technology to determine whether behavioural traits affect cognitive decisions made by homing pigeons when navigating in a familiar area. This sparked my interest in animal behaviour and bio-logging.

Supervised by Professor Darren Paul Croft and Professor Alastair Wilson and in partnership with Activinsights, my PhD project will use a variety of the latest measurement technology to record behaviour of Poll Dorset sheep to determine the relationships between behaviour, health and production. This project will improve the health and production of the UK sheep flock, addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the UK sheep industry.

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Matthew Scurlock

Matt graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc in Biochemistry. In the course of his studies he has completed 2 research projects. The first was a summer placement where he studied MdfA, a key mediator in some multi-drug resistant bacteria. The second was studying the post-translational regulation of the transporter P-glycoprotein, which when over expressed, is known to convey drug resistance in cancers.

His PhD project will be focussed on the multikinase signalling networks essential for the survival of Burkholderia pseudomallei. These networks are predicted to coordinate responses to environmental stresses (e.g. an antibiotic) which thus allow for the survival of the bacteria. Identification and subsequent structural studies of the proteins involved in these signalling networks will allow for the rational drug design of compounds that inhibit these signalling networks. This may help to overcome antibiotic resistance in Burkholderia pseudomallei.

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Hugh White

Hugh completed his BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology and MSc in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology at the University of Exeter. Hugh is now undertaking a PhD studying the genetic and evolutionary basis for bacterial species. By exploring where ecologically important genes are located in the genome – and the frequency of gene transfer within and between strains of bacteria– he hopes to understand factors affecting how bacterial traits evolve and spread between strains.

Bacterial genomes are separated into core genes, which are shared by all strains in a group, and accessory genes, which are shared only by some strains. However, the ecological impact of genes from the core and accessory genomes needs further study. Gaining an understanding of the location of ecologically important genes and the frequency with which they are shared between strains could provide important information for ecological studies and disease control.

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