Current Fourth Years
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Current Third Years
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
Emily graduated from Bangor University with an integrated master’s degree in Zoology with Herpetology. Her 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 her interest in animal behaviour and bio-logging.
Supervised by Professor Darren Paul Croft and Professor Alastair Wilson and in partnership with Activinsights, Emily’s 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.
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.
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.
Current Second Years
Emma graduated from the University of Bath in 2019 with a BSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology. As part of her programme, she spent a year in Dr Karl Morten’s lab at the University of Oxford, where she looked at opportunities for targeting mitochondria as an anti-cancer strategy. During her time at Oxford, Emma saw the potential that targeting mitochondria may hold for treating a range of human diseases, owing to their central function in many aspects of complex life.
For her PhD with Dr Vicki Gold, Emma will explore mitochondrial complex I assembly as a factor for disease. She will be using state-of-the-art imaging methods including electron cryomicroscopy (cryoEM) to investigate the breakdown of mitochondrial networks in complex I mutants.
Michael graduated from the University of Reading in 2018 with a BSc Biochemistry degree and is expected to graduate his MRes in Cardiff University for Bioscience in summer 2020. During studies and research, he developed a passion for cell-cell communication and intracellular signalling. At the Trevor Dale lab, Cardiff, Michael worked on Wnt signalling and liver zonation.
Michael’s PhD focuses on quantifying the molecular affinities between Wnt signalling proteins and their target cell surface receptors. As multiple cell types produce many unique Wnts simultaneously, understanding their binding affinities will improve understanding of Wnt signalling specificity. Quantifying these interactions will involve collaboration with Leica Microsystems, using their state-of-the-art in fluorescence fluctuation techniques associated with single-molecule detection. mRNA over-expression and CRISPR/Cas9-based knock-out methods will be used in the generation of transgenic zebrafish as model organisms.
Under the supervision of Prof Steffen Scholpp and Prof Christian Soeller at the Living Systems Institute in Exeter, Michael focuses in his PhD project on quantifying the molecular affinities between Wnt signalling proteins and their target cell surface receptors.
Tobit Dehnen earned his integrated Master’s degree from the University of Sheffield. For his Master’s project, he worked on home-range ecology in long-tailed tits with Prof. Ben Hatchwell. During his degree he also worked as an intern, studying cultural inheritance, sexual selection and immunity with Dr. Lucy Aplin, Dr. Martin Garlovsky and Prof. Mike Siva-Jothy, respectively.
Tobit is now a PhD student at the University of Exeter—co-supervised by Dr Damien Farine and Dr Neeltje Boogert—studying the social behaviour of vulturine guineafowl. Specifically, Tobit is investigating how parents can impact offspring dominance rank, and which proximate mechanisms regulate such parental effects.
Dunia graduated from the University of Bristol in 2018 with a BSc in Biology. After finishing her biology degree, she completed a summer research internship at the University of Bristol where she examined whether zebra stripes serve as a form of camouflage against parasitism by tabanid flies. Following her internship, she undertook an MRes at the University of Bristol, supervised by Dr. Martin How, where she studied colour vision in stomatopod crustaceans.
Dunia’s PhD research is supervised by Prof Natalie Hempel de Ibarra and Dr Karen Anderson at the University of Exeter. It will examine on how bees learn and remember landmarks in their environment and how fragmented landscapes affect these processes.
Jamie graduated from the University of Bath in 2019 with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences. A yearlong research placement at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) during his undergraduate degree provided an introduction to the exciting field of aquaculture. Here he performed a health screen of wild caught balan wrasse that are extensively used as cleaner fish in Atlantic salmon faming, for the removal of parasitic sea lice.
Jamie’s aquaculture research now moves to the University of Exeter under the supervision of Prof Charles Tyler, in collaboration with WorldFish and Cefas. He will investigate how antibiotic pollution is influencing the microbiome and health of tilapia in Bangladesh. Tilapia is a critical food source for millions of people and is one of the most extensively farmed aquaculture species across the world.
Zoe graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2018 with a MSci in Mathematics, largely focusing on differential equations and their applications particularly in regards to biology. She completed her fourth year project under Dr Paul Roberts in which she constructed a differential equation model for the adsorption of the protein fibrinogen onto a surface, from which emerged key experimentally observed behaviours.
Zoe is now completing her PhD with the BBSRC SWBio DTP and under the supervision of Prof Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova. She will be specialising in endocrinology, and in particular looking at the interactions in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and constructing a mathematical model for this system as a whole.
Sarah graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2018 with a BSc in Biomedical Science. In 2019, she undertook a MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her master’s project was based at the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Surrey where she investigated the ability of zoonotic avian influenza viruses to reassort and produce novel genotypes.
For her PhD, Sarah will work under the supervision of Dr Ben Longdon and Prof Angus Buckling to study the consequences of viral evolution on host shifts. The project will use a bacteria-virus system to ask fundamental questions about what factors underly a virus’ ability to jump between host species.
Current First Years
Ryan graduated from the University of Oxford in 2018 with a BA in Biological Sciences, during which he specialised in themes of evolution and genomics. For his undergraduate research project he, alongside Dr Ellie Bath, looked at the effect of sexual conflict in driving aggressive behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster, which led to a publication. Ryan is now expected to graduate with an MRes from the University of Bristol, on the basis of research analysing the expression of introgressions in the wheat genome, under the supervision of Dr Gary Barker.
For his PhD Ryan will be working with Dr Alex Hayward, Prof. Chris Bass and Dr Pablo Orozco-terWengel, researching how transposons have contributed to eukaryote evolution, first by applying this framework to studying animal development, and then in the context of agricultural domestication; the latter constitutes the bulk of his research with potential applications for improving livestock productivity.
Isobel graduated with a BSc in Environmental Biotechnology from the University of Plymouth in 2020, where she developed her interest in molecular biology, biochemistry, and photosynthetic organisms. Throughout this, she worked on algal projects at Plymouth Marine Laboratory and secured funding to investigate the potential of macroalgae as a fuel and fertiliser. Her placement year at the University of Exeter focused on expressing, characterising and crystallising enzymes with key industrial applications. She was then introduced to the importance of antioxidant defences and the impact of reactive oxygen species through her dissertation on evaluating the role of glutathione peroxidase.
Combining her interests, she will be investigating the function of the antioxidant ergothioneine, in plants and algae. The PhD will determine the occurrence, synthesis, and functions of the metabolite through biochemical and physiological characterisation of ergothioneine mutants, supervised by Prof Nick Smirnoff, Dr Glen Wheeler (MBA) and Dr Katherine Helliwell.
Amber graduated from The University of Exeter in 2018 with a BSc in Biological Science (Microbiology and Infectious Disease). During her studies, she was fascinated by plant innate immunity and plant-microbe interactions, which led her to enrol on a MRes in Molecular Plant and Microbial Sciences at Imperial College. While working on autophagy-related immunity in plants Amber became curious about the spatial and temporal arrangement of plants immune responses.
Following this theme Amber is researching in the laboratory of Dr Michael Deeks, University of Exeter. Amber’s project will address how FORMIN4 and other cargoes are targeted with high precision to sites of immunity. Specifically focusing on the role of small GTPases in defining the response-zone and focusing traffic towards the pathogen.
James graduated from Exeter University with a Masters in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. Having focused on wet lab bioscience during his BSc, James’ MSc project involved comparative genomic study of cultivars of the African subsistence crop, Enset. He quantified a metric called heterozygosity for each strain, and then compared this against their susceptibility to the dangerous bacterial wilt pathogen.
Spending some time working in the RD&E hospital genetics labs since this time, James now hopes to combine his interest in dry and wet lab approaches to address important food security issues in his PhD. Based in the Penryn labs of Professors Bass and Ffrench-Constant, he’ll be endeavouring to understand how a globally significant crop pest (the peach potato aphid) is able to develop resistance to insecticides upon exposure. As part of this study, he’ll also be undertaking rotation projects in web design and insect/plant ecology.
Matt graduated from the University of Bath with a first class honours in BSc Biochemistry. Whilst undertaking his degree, Matt undertook a lab-based project with Dr Stefan Bagby and Mohsina Bashir, developing a method for producing a bacterial hydrophobin that could be used on surfaces of graphene-based biosensors.
His PhD will revolve around answering biological questions utilising the novel Plasmonically Enhanced Whispering Gallery Mode method, at the University of Exeter, with Prof Frank Vollmer. He will begin producing target proteins at the University of Bath with Dr Stefan Bagby, starting with HECT E3 Ubiquitin Ligases, attempting to better understand the mixed-ubiquitin chains that are used in molecular signalling, protein degradation and countless more cellular processes.
Gemma graduated from the Integrated Master of Biology (MBiol) programme at the University of York in 2020. During her degree Gemma completed an Erasmus placement year in Barcelona studying brain tumours in Drosophila melanogaster at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine and the University of Barcelona. For her Masters research project, Gemma worked with Dr Betsy Pownall characterising the development of the extremophile cichlid fish Oreochromis (Alcolapia) alcalica for the first time. She was awarded the Advanced Accreditation Top Project Award from the Royal Society of Biology for her final report.
This has led Gemma to pursue a PhD in the field of developmental biology. She is now working with Dr Steffen Scholpp and Prof Robert Kelsh investigating the function of Wnt signalling in Neural Crest development in zebrafish.