Cardiff student profiles

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

Current Fourth Years

Jennifer Benton

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

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

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Fiona Messer

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

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

Rakhee Dhorajiwala

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

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

Cristina Fernandez-Garcia

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

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

Rebecca Gwyther

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

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

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Božo Lugonja

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

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

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

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Yoana Petrova

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

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

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

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Nina White

CASE studentship

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

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

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Current Third Years

Ashley Baldwin

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

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

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Ryan Coates

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

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

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Rosie Craddock

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

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

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

Luke Davies

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

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

Emily Heath

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

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

Sean Hubbert

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

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

Scott MacAulay

CASE studentship

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

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

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Lainey Williamson

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

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

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Current Second Years

Nico Bruyniks

Nico graduated from Cardiff University in 2018 with a BSc in Biotechnology. Following his bachelors, Nico commenced a MPhil at Cardiff University under the supervision of Prof Eshwar Mahenthiralingam, which he completed in the summer of 2020. For his MPhil project, Nico investigated rhizosphere and soil dwelling Burkholderia bacteria for specialized metabolite production. The 2-year MPhil project provided invaluable experience of an independent long-term research project and inspired Nico to pursue a PhD.

For his PhD project, Nico will investigate the contamination of salad leaves by Listeria monocytogenes, an opportunistic bacterial pathogen responsible for the most serious foodborne disease outbreaks under EU surveillance. This interdisciplinary research project will combine microbiology, plant biology and analytical chemistry to improve food safety through understanding plant-bacterial interactions and developing new rapid detection methods for food borne pathogens.

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Dana Jackson

Dana graduated from Cardiff University in 2020 with a Master in Biochemistry. During her undergraduate studies, Dana undertook a Professional Training Year in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Cardiff School of Medicine. In her penultimate year, she gained extensive interdisciplinary research experience within the specialty of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it was her Master’s project with Dr. Mark Young which solidified her enthusiasm for the field of biochemistry and molecular biology. This focused on developing and optimising NanoLuc® Binary Technology (NanoBiT) to study real-time N- and C-termini interactions of the P2X7 receptor.

Dana will remain at Cardiff University to pursue a PhD under the supervision of Prof Helen White-Cooper, Dr Sonia Lopez de Quinto and Dr Richard Lewis. This will investigate the relationship between comet and cup mRNAs and specific RNA binding proteins in elongating Drosophila spermatids, including their interactions, localisation, translation, and mutagenesis.

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Rachel Sellick

Rachel graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2017 with a BSc (Hons) in Anatomy and Human Biology, before undertaking a Master of Research in Biomedical Sciences and Translational Medicine. As part of her undergraduate degree, Rachel spent a semester abroad, studying at the University of Newcastle, Australia which guided her interest in Neuroscience and Neurodegenerative disease. In 2019 and 2020, Rachel worked as a Research Assistant with the Brain Repair Group at Cardiff University and set up her own business, Scarlet River Management.

To continue her interest in Neurodegenerative research, Rachel’s PhD research will include analysis of genetic function and the molecular mechanisms associated with Medium Spiny Neuron development and implications in Huntington’s Disease (HD). The anticipated outcome is an advance mechanistic understanding of the genetic suppression of neurodegeneration, which is a foundation for future new treatment development in HD.

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Isadora Sinha

Isadora graduated from Cardiff University in 2019 with a BSc in Genetics. During her degree, she undertook a placement year at the division of Cancer and Genetics (UHW) where she investigated the factors influencing patterns of somatic mutations. She also completed a CUROP placement under Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth at Project Seagrass, collecting and analysing data relating to the citizen science mobile application, SeagrassSpotter. For her final year project, she worked with the Frozen Ark Project, under Prof Mike Bruford and Dr Mafalda Costa, on characterising novel microsatellites in the European hedgehog using in silico methods. Isadora remained at Cardiff University to complete a MSc in Bioinformatics, which included analysis of genetic and transcriptomic neurological data in various projects.

Isadora’s PhD project, under the supervision of Prof Anthony Isles and Prof Nick Bray at Cardiff University, will investigate how imprinted Grb10 influences brain growth.

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Current First Years

Alistair Holland

Alistair graduated from Cardiff University with an MBiochem in Biochemistry with a Professional Training Year (PTY) in 2021. He spent his PTY at the school of chemistry at Cardiff University collaborating with a biotechnology company to streamline the production process of a novel hemocyanin. His final year project was undertaken in the lab of Prof. Hilary Rogers investigating the role of the Arabidopsis thaliana gene SAG21 in the wound response. Together, this led to wanting to pursue a PhD in plant biotechnology.

For his PhD project, Alistair will be investigating how to increase essential oil yields in mint plants through genetic manipulation of key biosynthetic pathways.

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Naomi Hughes

Naomi graduated from the University of York with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences in 2020. Throughout her bachelor’s degree, Naomi became increasingly interested in the role of the human microbiota in health and disease and the development of antimicrobial resistance. This curiosity brought her to conduct a Master of Research at Imperial College London during which, Naomi has conducted two projects under the supervision of Professor Julian Marchesi. One explored the metabolome and protease activity of C. perfringens in vitro as a pathobiont for Crohn’s Disease and the second, investigated the ability of buffered medium to support a faecal bacterial community.

Naomi will work under the supervision of Professor Eshwar Mahenthiralingam at Cardiff University and Professor Matthew Avison at the University of Bristol to investigate pathogenic community dynamics, identify metabolic modulators of antimicrobial resistance, and use her findings to improve antimicrobial susceptibility testing.

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Emily Stonelake

Standard studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with Swansea University + Cardiff University 

Emily graduated from Cardiff University with an Integrated Masters in Neuroscience. During her studies, she gained research experience investigating the effect of risk genes in stem-cell derived microglial models of Alzheimer’s disease. She then undertook her master’s project in the Brain Repair Group under supervision of Dr Mariah Lelos, which looked at analysing the functional efficacy of stem cell-derived cell replacement therapies in a rodent model of Parkinson’s disease. 

Emily is now undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Prof Yuqin Wang at Swansea University in collaboration with Prof Meng Li at Cardiff University. The project aims to investigate the interplay of cholesterol homeostasis and neural development, combining both neural stem cell technology and advanced mass spectrometry techniques.

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Hanna Wyszynska

Olsztyn born, Hanna came to England in 2017, to pursue BSc in Neuroscience at Keele University. During her Bachelors degree she mainly focused on learning and memory, molecular neuroscience and bioinformatics. Her dissertation was a systematic review which focused on the effect of free radicals on memory consolidation. Her PhD project will focus on the formation of memories of touch and follow their path in the rodent brains. The research will use electrophysiological techniques and viral transfections. The project ties to her interests of learning and memory, and will allow her to enhance her programming and bioinformatic skills.

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