Bristol student profiles

Current Fourth Years
Current Third Years
Current Second Years
Current First Years

Current Fourth Years

Rachel Britt


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

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

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Glyndwr Jones


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

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

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Kathryn Shelley


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

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

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Alex Willcox


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

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

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Rob Barringer

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

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

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Andrew Devine

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

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

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Calum Graham

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

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Mathilda Gustavsson

CASE studentship

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

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

Katie Higginbottom

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

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

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Abdelwahab Kawafi 

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

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

Chris McCabe

CASE studentship

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

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

Heather Owens

CASE studentship

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

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

Nokomis Ramos-Gonzalez

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

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

Tia Salter

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

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

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Jenn-Yeu Alvin Szeto

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

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

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Current Third Years

Naomi Berthaut

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

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

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Zac Collins

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

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

Maeve Dale

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

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

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Molly Davidson

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

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

Rosie Ford

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

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

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Ben Gillard

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

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

Sam Haque

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

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

Cristiana (Crissy) Iosif

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

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

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Callum Mclellan

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

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

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Tim Neary

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

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

Zoe Parr-Cortes

CASE studentship

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

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

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Gabbie Portlock

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

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

Hayley Reeve

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

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

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Simon Lenz

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

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

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Hester Weaving

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

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

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

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Current Second Years

Michael Beer

Michael graduated from the University of Oxford in 2020 with an MBiochem in Biochemistry. During his Masters, he was a member of the Prof Nicole Zitzmann group. Using a combination of X-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry and interferometric scanning mass spectrometry, Michael structurally characterized the human UDP-glucose glycoprotein:glucosyltransferase 1 enzyme, and subsequently identified and characterized an interaction partner. This work, along with previous research under Prof Peter McHugh investigating interaction interfaces between DNA binding proteins, has cemented his interest in structural biology and biophysics.

Embarking on his PhD, Michael will be working with Dr Jim Spencer and Prof Adrian Mulholland. Michael will examine Macromolecular Rate Theory and investigate how this theory can explain how mutations in bacterial enzymes, outside of their active sites, can confer antibiotic resistance. Throughout his PhD Michael will utilize techniques such as X-crystallography, enzyme kinetics assays and molecular dynamics simulations.

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Joshua Bonser

Joshua graduated from the University of Lincoln in 2019 with a BSc in Biochemistry, followed by a MRes in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Nottingham in 2020. During his undergraduate studies Joshua developed an interest in DNA replication and repair, culminating in him undertaking a project studying novel proteins in the homologous recombination pathway of DNA repair. This extended further resulting in Joshua studying the archaeal accessory helicase Hel308 during his time at the University of Nottingham.

Joshua’s project at Bristol is supervised by Prof Christiane Berger-Schaffitzel and Prof Mark Dillingham, alongside Dr Binyam Mogessie, and investigates modulators of double-stranded DNA break repair and how these discoveries may be applied to increase gene insertion efficiency using CRISPR/Cas9 systems. This project aims to utilise nanobodies and the Trim-Away technique to inhibit and knock out proteins in these pathways to study them and boost DNA insertion efficiency.

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Jess Bowers-Martin

CASE studentship

Jess graduated from Bristol in 2016 with a BSc in Biology before pursuing an MScR in Plant Sciences. During her studies Jess specialised in various aspects of plant sciences with a particular focus on plant adaptation and development. Her master’s project looked at how UV-B light could be utilised to antagonise dark-induced senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana. During 2018 Jess undertook a summer research project under the supervision of Dr Antony Dodd in collaboration with the Bristol-based SME LettUs Grow. This project related to the manipulation of lighting regimes to optimise aeroponic systems within a vertical farming setup and sparked a deep interest in the applications of plant sciences for addressing food security issues.

Jess’ PhD project “Enhancing the stress tolerance and shelf life of horticultural crops through light quality manipulation” is supervised by Prof Kerry Franklin and Prof Alistair Hetherington at the University of Bristol in collaboration with LettUS Grow.

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Charlotte Fletcher

Charlotte graduated from the University of Manchester in 2020 with a MSci in Biology. Her Masters research project involved designing and assembling vectors for recombinant virus-like particle (VLP) expression in microalgae. This, along with a summer placement at the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, contributed to an interest in novel vaccine platforms and biopharmaceutical R&D.

Under the supervision of Prof Imre Berger, Charlotte will contribute to the development of COVID-19 vaccine candidates based on the ADDomer© VLP vaccine platform. She will use synthetic biology and structural techniques to optimise the ADDomer© scaffold for further vaccine innovation.

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Ellie Fletcher

Ellie graduated with a BSc from the University of Warwick in 2019 where she also did an Intercalated Study Abroad Year at Monash University, Melbourne. She then went to the University of York for a MSc by Research looking at photosynthesis in algae, particularly the dynamics of an organelle called the pyrenoid.

Ellie became fascinated by plant organelle dynamics in 2016 when she attended a confocal microscopy workshop at the Gatsby Plant Science Summer School. Ellie is now working under the supervision of Dr Imogen Sparkes and Prof David Stephens to re-engineer Golgi dynamics in plants, as a novel strategy to increase food production. This will be achieved by identifying molecular components, more specifically myosins and their interactors, which drive Golgi movement and affect cell growth.

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Bryony Gardner

CASE studentship

Bryony graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2020 with an MSci in Plant Science. The research projects in her degree developed her interest in genetics and root responses to nutrients in the soil. Her third-year research project involved identifying candidate genes for zinc uptake in Arabidopsis thaliana. She went on to an MSci project with Future Food Beacon fellow Dr Sina Fischer looking at suberin deposits in neo-tetraploid Arabidopsis thaliana roots in response to environmental stimuli.

Joining the Root Development lab in Bristol, Bryony is undertaking a CASE project working with Bristol-based aeroponic vertical farming company LettUs Grow. Plants secrete compounds from their roots known as exudates. The project aims to understand how these compounds might affect plant growth and how this understanding might improve aeroponic cultivation setups to optimise plant growth and nutrition.

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Sioned Heal

Standard studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with Bristol + University of the West of England (UWE) 

Sioned graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with an Msci in Biochemistry. Her final year project was spent in Jeremy Henley’s lab studying the role of sentrin specific proteases (SENPs) in regulating the SUMOylation status of known SUMO targets, specifically the Rho GDP-dissociation inhibitor (RhoGDI).

Sioned will continue pursuing this area of interest by undergoing a PhD project in Bristol under the supervision of Prof Jeremy Henley focusing on the regulation of neuronal energy production by SUMOylation. Here, the SUMOylation status of mitochondrial proteins will be studied and associated with changes in neuronal metabolism. Part of the project will be undertaken in UWE under the supervision of Dr Tim Craig, where the Seahorse XFe24 will be used to measure key metabolic parameters and determine how changes in protein SUMOylation may affect metabolism.

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Katie Jeal

CASE studentship

Katie graduated from the University of Bristol with an MSci in Biology in 2020. During the summer of 2019 she carried out a summer studentship funded by the British Society of Plant Pathology investigating the impact of the fungus Zymoseptoria triticii on wheat. Her final year project investigated whether exposure of plants to UV-B could delay the onset of dark-induced senescence. Both of these projects developed her interest in agriculture and the methods being applied to meet increasing agricultural demands.

Katie’s PhD project will enable her to pursue these research interests further. Under the supervision of Dr Jill Harrison and Prof Keith Edwards her PhD will focus on understanding the CLAVATA signalling pathway in wheat to engineer ears with more fertile grain and an increased yield.

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Celia Mellor

Standard studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with University of the West of England (UWE) + Bristol 

Celia graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a BSc in Biochemistry. Using molecular dynamics, docking and in vitro techniques her final year project investigated potential inhibitors of P. falciparum’s lactate dehydrogenase in the lab of Dr Richard Sessions. This experience, along with a summer studentship with Dr Mike Jones, attempting to covalently link phycocyanin to purple bacteria reaction centres to develop biophotovoltaics, confirmed her keen interest in molecular biology.

Technology plays a vital role in aiding scientific discovery and Celia’s PhD project will use correlative microscopy and impedance spectroscopy to study changes in cell physiology for the use in bioreactors. The project is supervised by Professors Richard Luxton and Paul Verkade in a joint venture between UWE and the University of Bristol.

Amy Mickleburgh

CASE studentship

Amy graduated from the University of Bristol with an MSci in Chemistry. During her degree, she undertook a research project supervised by Matthew Crump and funded by the RSC. This project focussed on expressing and characterising proteins involved in the biosynthetic pathway of thiomarinol and introduced her to the area of chemical biology. She continued in this field for her final year project which investigated the priming mechanism of the mupirocin biosynthetic pathway.

Amy chose to stay with the Crump lab for her PhD project joint with CASE partner UCB Pharma. Her project focuses on applying biophysical techniques to investigate aggregation of α-synuclein molecules on homogeneous surfaces which is thought to play a critical role in the development of Parkinson’s Disease.

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Ellie Murphy

Standard studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with Marine Biological Association (MBA) + Bristol 

Ellie graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a BSc in Biology. In 2019, she carried out a summer placement in Dr Andy Bailey’s lab, extracting and sequencing Trichoderma DNA to facilitate species identification. Her final year project was carried out in Prof Alistair Hetherington’s lab, investigating the involvement of ABA in dark-induced stomatal closure.

Ellie is excited to pursue the field of cell signalling. Her PhD project supervised by Prof Alistair Hetherington and Dr Glen Wheeler involves use of the Mesolens microscope at the Marine Biological Association to investigate how calcium signalling in stomatal guard cells is coordinated across a leaf, and the spatial coordination of stress responses in diatom populations.

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Arthur Norman

Arthur graduated from St Anne’s College, University of Oxford with an MSc in Biochemistry. During his studies Arthur co-led the Oxford team at the international synthetic biology event, iGEM, designing protease detection circuits aimed at diagnosing Chagas disease. During his Master’s project he continued analysing genetic circuits, specifically how synthetic feedforward and feedback circuits can be used to modulate output of genetic systems.

Arthur’s PhD in the Woolfson lab looks at the de novo design of proteins and their assembly in bacterial cells. He will be working with the Savery and Verkade labs to analyse these constructs.

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Annabel Phillips

Annabel graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a MSci in Chemistry. She carried out her final year research project under the supervision of Professor Chris Willis, employing a variety of synthetic methodologies to produce novel drug scaffolds. It was during this project that Annabel became fascinated by applications of chemistry to understanding biological problems, particularly the biosynthetic pathways of natural products.

As a result, Annabel is continuing her studies at the University of Bristol to carry out a PhD under the supervision of Professors Matthew Crump and Chris Willis. She is studying the kalimantacin assembly line, working at the chemistry-biology interface to investigate how the incorporation of β-branches is tightly controlled and if the order of this incorporation can be changed to produce novel chemical entities.

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Sofia Raak

Sofia graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2019 with a BSc in Cell and Molecular Biology. She gained an interest in neurobiology from her honours project and a Wellcome Trust funded biomedical vacation scholarship project at the University of Bath. She continued her studies at Cardiff University, where she completed her MRes Stem Cell Neurobiology degree in 2020 focused on microglia and neurodegeneration.

Her PhD project is investigating how microRNAs and Argonaute proteins impact local protein control at neuronal synapses. The project is supervised by Prof Jonathan Hanley and Dr Cian O’Donell and combines cell culture-based techniques and computational modelling of synapse activities.

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Christopher Richardson

Chris graduated from the University of Bristol in 2015 with an MSci in biology, after which he worked in the plant science industry focussing on genetic screening and generation of knockout varieties before moving on to work as a strain engineer working with filamentous fungi.

His work with construct design and genetic manipulation inspired him to return to the University of Bristol to undertake a PhD centred on gene editing whilst broadening his horizons by working on animal models. His PhD focusses on the optimisation of CRISPR/Cas9 homology-directed repair in zebrafish to introduce mutations in potassium ion channels of the heart which cause cardiac arrythmias.

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Elise White

Elise graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a BSc in Biochemistry. She undertook her final year research project under the supervision of Dr Ross Anderson, using experimental protein biochemistry to investigate computationally designed novel protein scaffolds. Additionally, she completed a studentship with Dr Steve Burston investigating the protein folding characteristics of a bacterial adhesin protein. Prior to university, Elise undertook a Nuffield research placement, using computational modelling to simulate the spread of the Zika virus in South America.

Elise’s experiences during these projects were pivotal to her desire to stay at Bristol to undertake a PhD. Her PhD project is supervised by Dr Marc Van der Kamp and Prof Matthew Crump. It focuses on simulation-led redesign of a polyketide synthase enzyme, combining computational protein modelling with experimental protein biochemistry and biophysical techniques.

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Abbie Williams

Abbie graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2019 with a BSc in Bioveterinary Science and an award for excellent academic performance. During her undergraduate research project, Abbie carried out research on the protective effects of microbiome extracts on avian intestinal epithelial cells, against the invasion of several Salmonella enterica serovars. Building on her microbiology experience, Abbie completed an MRes from 2019-2020 at the University of Liverpool, researching mobile genetic elements and associated fitness costs.

Abbie’s experience in microbiology and interest in microbiome processes has led to her now conducting research in host-microbiome interactions with liver fluke infection. This project, supervised by Prof Mick Bailey and Dr Laura Peachey, will utilise several ‘omics’ technologies to examine and integrate data from gastro-intestinal microbiota, metabolites, and host immune responses. This research will provide a greater understanding of complex host-parasite-microbiome interactions across the course of liver fluke infection.

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Sophie Williams

Sophie graduated from the University of Manchester in 2018 with an integrated M.Sci in Biochemistry. During her master’s degree project, Sophie looked into the structure and function of the S.cerevisiae mitochondrial inner-membrane protein YME1. After graduating, Sophie went on to work as a Microbiology technician at a biotechnology company in Cardiff for two years before returning to academia.

To pursue her interest in membrane protein function, Sophie is currently working with Prof Ian Collinson and Dr Vicki Gold at the University of Bristol, investigating the functioning and mechanism of the bacterial ‘secretosome’. It is the project’s aim to explore the interactions between the holo-translocon, BAM complex and periplasmic chaperones within the secretosome and its role in bacterial outer-membrane biogenesis.

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Current First Years

Dasha Anderson

CASE studentship

Dasha graduated from Durham University in 2020 with an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, prior to which she studied a BSc in Psychology. During her time at university, she developed a strong interest into how psychoactive drugs, both medical and recreational, affect the brain and the resulting policy implications. During her Masters, Dasha explored this through a research project investigating patterns of medical cannabis use, while also chairing the nationwide student group Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Given increasing interest into the potential therapeutic applications of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin for mental health, Dasha’s PhD project will focus on understanding the neurobiology of these drugs using electrophysiological, behavioural and molecular pharmacology. In a collaboration with COMPASS Pathways who are developing psilocybin for clinical use, the project will be supervised by Dr Emma Robinson and Dr Zuner Bortolotto.

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Maisie Brett

CASE studentship

Maisie graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with a BSc(Hons) in Conservation Biology and Ecology, where her final research project under Dr Regan Early looked at the efficiency of bio-control use in UK agriculture based on biogeographical matching of predators and prey.

She completed her MRes as part of the Community Ecology group at the University of Bristol in 2020. During this project she used ecological network analysis to assess the impact of invasive plants on plant-pollinator interactions within Fynbos habitats of South Africa.

Her PhD project supervised by Prof Jane Memmott expands upon this research. By assessing competition between managed honeybee populations and native pollinators, incorporating flowering phenologies and using socio-ecological network analysis, Maisie hopes to inform ecologically sustainable beekeeping practices within heathland habitats that promote pollinator biodiversity.

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Sacha Charlton

Sacha graduated from the University of Warwick in 2021 with a Master of Chemistry (with Industrial Placement). Her final year project was exploring Diels-Alderase enzyme catalysis under the supervision of Prof Greg Challis. Sacha undertook her industrial placement with the Biocatalysis team in the iLAB at AstraZeneca, Gothenburg. This work fuelled her passion for biochemical research with experience in high-throughput automation techniques and analytical chemistry.

Sacha is now undertaking a PhD at the University of Bristol in the groups of Prof Chris Willis and Prof Paul Race, where she can further probe her interests in natural product biosynthesis, organic synthesis and drug discovery. Her project will focus on engineering biosynthetic pathways and biocatalysts to deliver new antimicrobial compounds.

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George Greiff

George graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in Biological Sciences in 2021, completing his honours project on the molecular basis of intergametic signalling in the liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha. In the summer of 2021, he continued working on Marchantia at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge, focussing on natural variation in disease resistance to Phytophthora pathogens. George has a long-standing interest in bryophyte biology and land plant evolution.

George’s PhD aims to determine the molecular mechanisms regulating stem cell function in the moss, Physcomitrium patens. The project is supervised by Jill Harrison and Tom Gorochowski.

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Srikanth Lingappa

CASE studentship

Srikanth graduated from Government Science College, Bangalore University in 2019 with MSc in Biotechnology. Upon graduation, Srikanth joined National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS-TIFR) Bangalore, as a research intern studying Host-pathogen interactions.

Srikanth’s PhD is based at the University of Bristol, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, Cambridge (CASE partner). In his PhD project, Srikanth will use in silico structural modelling methods to predict the structures of trypanosome’s non-variant surface proteins and map the exposed epitopes at the parasite cell surface. After assessing these predictions experimentally, the targets will be used for the development of novel immunotherapeutics. This project is supervised by Dr. Paula MacGregor, Dr. Fabio Parmeggiani, Prof. Imre Berger, and Dr. Andrea Gonzalez-Munoz (CASE supervisor, AstraZeneca).

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Charlotte (Lottie) Muir

Lottie graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BSc in Neuroscience in 2018. Their final year project with Prof Fran Ebling focused on the role of tanycytes in energy balance over time. This sparked a fascination with neuroendocrinology and its interplay with age. Continuing this interest in ageing, Lottie undertook an MSc in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Bristol where they investigated TDP-43 pathology in dementia patients with Dr Hannah Taylor. Most recently, Lottie has been developing their experience with rodent behavioural tests while working as a research technician at the University of Nottingham.

Lottie’s PhD project aims to explore exercise as an intervention for age-related changes to the brain and body clock, looking at clock gene expression (via bioluminescent reporters) as well as whole animal physiology and behaviour. It is supervised by Prof Hugh Piggins, Prof Kate Ellacott, Prof Tony Pickering and Dr Jamie Walker.

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Nathan Palk

Nathan graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2020 with a BSc in Biomedical Science. Following this, he completed a MRes in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bristol where he investigated the link between two-component systems and toxicity in the major human pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus.

For his PhD project, supervised by Professor Ruth Massey and Dr Maisem Laabei, Nathan is continuing his interest in bacterial pathogenesis by investigating the role of membrane stability in the ability of Staphylococcus aureus to form part of the human microbiome and withstand attack from the immune system

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Rokas Petrenas

CASE studentship

Rokas graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2021 with a BSc in Biochemistry. He undertook his final year project under the supervision of Dr Christopher Wood, where he worked on the application of deep learning for protein design. From this, Rokas developed an interest in de novo protein design.

Rokas is undertaking his PhD at the University of Bristol, in collaboration with Rosa Biotech. The project will combine computational protein design with ultrafast spectroscopy to develop a new generation of synthetic biosensors. The project is supervised by Prof Dek Woolfson and Dr Tom Oliver.

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James Rawson

James graduated from the University of Bristol in 2021 with an MSci in Palaeontology in Evolution. During his studies, James developed a keen interest in the relationship between form and function and how this relationship shapes the course of evolution in both living and fossil species. This culminated in his final year project in which James used innovative computational techniques to investigate the functional drivers of evolution in crocodilians and their extinct relatives.

James’ PhD project at Bristol, supervised by Professor Emily Rayfield, Dr Pamela Gill and Professor Abigail Tucker, will examine the functional and developmental evolution of the lower jaw and middle ear in the earliest mammals.

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Hannah Romanowski

Studentship led by Rothamsted Research

Hannah graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Zoology in 2019, where she did her final project in urban ecology focussing on the effects of urban variables on the diet of red foxes. She has since completed an MSc in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Bristol.

She will be studying long-term trends in the abundance and phenology of migrating insects, under the supervision of Dr James Bell and the Rothamsted Insect Survey. Trends will be investigated in relation to climate and landscape variables. This will be then linked to population ecology of insectivorous birds and bats, to investigate if these long-term trends are potential drivers of change.

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Grace Ryall

Grace graduated from the University of York in 2021 with an MBiomedSci in Biomedical Sciences. She undertook her master’s project in Dr Gareth Evans’ lab, where she investigated a potential role for the neuronal kinase N1-Src in the splicing of splicing factors during differentiation. This left her with a desire to further explore how phosphorylation contributes to the molecular pathways critical for normal brain function.

Working with Prof Jonathan Hanley and Prof Clea Warburton at Bristol, and Dr Jon Brown at Exeter, Grace’s PhD project aims to determine if phosphorylation of the Argonaute protein at a specific residue is required for certain types of synaptic plasticity and memory. To this end, she will conduct a range of biochemical, behavioural, and electrophysiological assays using relevant mouse models.

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Izayana Sandoval-Carvajal

CASE studentship led by Rothamsted Research

Izayana graduated from the University of Costa Rica in 2014 with a BSc in biology, three years later she got a degree in molecular biology and biotechnology, and in 2020 she completed her MSc in bioinformatics and system biology at the same University.

Her experience has been focused on mainly virus expression studies by transcriptomics, and also diagnosis and detection of plant viruses, viroids, and bacteria limited to the vascular system. Additionally, aphid molecular taxonomy and characterization of their bacterial endosymbionts. She is passionate about science and enjoys being constantly learning new things. One of her main interests is to contribute to disease management efforts, especially because in her country agriculture is one of the main economical activities.

Currently, she is a student of the University of Bristol and she is developing her doctoral research in Rothamsted Research where she is determining the source of resistance against Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in a resistant line of wheat under the supervision of Prof. Kim Hammond-Kosack, Prof Gary Foster and Dr. Chris Burt.

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Asheesh Sharma

Standard studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with University of the West of England (UWE) + Bristol 

Asheesh graduated from the University of Bristol and University of West of England in 2016 with an MSc in Robotics. During his research project, he developed a swarm of physically connected agents and studied their use as constituents in free form soft-actuators, where their properties allow different swarm behaviour to emerge, leading to a specific morphology.

His PhD is based at the University of Bristol and the University of West of England. The project investigates the use of 3D camera systems to assess the body conditioning and behaviour of cattle. The project is supervised by Dr Andrew Dowsey (UOB), Dr Tilo Burghardt (UOB), Dr Melvyn Smith (UWE), and Dr Mark Hansen (UWE).

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Elliot Stanton

Elliot graduated in 2021 with an MSci in Microbiology from the University of Glasgow. During this time, he undertook a yearlong work placement at Cefas, Weymouth where he completed a research project developing methods to monitor antimicrobial resistance in important pathogens of UK salmonid aquaculture. Upon returning to Glasgow to complete his final year of undergraduate studies Elliot furthered his interest in One Health approaches to tackling the global antimicrobial resistance crisis through performing an in silico research project characterising bacteriocins with potential activity against important plant pathogens.

At the University of Bristol, under the supervision of Dr Kristen Reyher, Dr Andrew Dowsey and Dr Fernando Sanchez-Vizcaino Elliot’s PhD project will seek to answer key questions around one health antimicrobial resistance, enabled through close interaction with various stakeholders and the use of a number of scientifically valuable datasets.

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George Thompson

George graduated from the University of Manchester in 2018 with a BSc in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience. During his degree he gained an interest in circadian clocks in musculoskeletal systems whilst working in the lab of Professor Qing Jun Meng. After University he gained experience in advanced cell culture methods through his work in the Dive lab at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute.

At the University of Bristol he is studying the synthesis and secretion of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins with Professor David Stephens. The project involves using genome engineering to knock out key proteins in the early secretory pathway and circadian clock. High resolution imaging methods including atomic force microscopy with Professor Mike Allen of Plymouth Marine Laboratory will then be used to study the outcomes of these knockouts on ECM formation.

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Fraser Woodburn

Fraser graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Biological Sciences in 2020. In his third-year placement, he worked for a sea turtle conservation NGO in Malaysia with Dr Nicolas Pilcher. When he returned to Cardiff for his final year, he undertook a project on the effect of social context on the production of the male-specific pheromone, cis-vaccenyl acetate, in Drosophila melanogaster with Dr Wynand van der Goes van Naters. He has developed a keen interest in conservation, sensory ecology and neuroethology.

Fraser’s PhD is based primarily at the University of Bristol, supervised by Prof Daniel Robert, and co-supervised by Prof N. Hempel de Ibarra at the University of Exeter. The aim of his PhD is to determine the mechanisms of electroreception in Bumblebees and Honeybees.

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Callum Young

Callum did a neuroscience undergraduate in Bristol, and is staying there for his PhD. His project focusses on the role of GABA signalling in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the midbrain, and how this plays a role in reward learning. He is interested in how animals (and people) form expectations about the world around them, and how those expectations inform future behaviour and decision making.

He hopes to link this to psychiatric pathologies like depression and addiction, which are characterised by aberrant reward processing. This project will utilise a combination of computational and laboratory techniques to investigate reward learning and neural activity in the VTA.

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