This page contains information about our current cohorts of students and the work that they have been doing as part of the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP.
I completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Exeter, and an MSc in Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol. Whilst studying at the University of Bristol I was involved in research examining the effect of alcohol consumption on risky decision making. Following my studies, I worked as a research assistant at the University of Bristol. This work involved testing hypotheses that pleasing fragrances can influence emotional processing and behaviour, due to olfactory pathways to brain regions associated with motivation, reward, emotion and emotional decision making. Thanks to being awarded the MRC GW4 Biomed DTP, I am currently completing a PhD at the University of Bristol. My PhD project is grouped within the DTPs “Neuroscience and Mental Health” theme, and aims to examine the neural processes underlying a common movement disorder known as Essential Tremor. Using mathematical analysis of electrophysiological data, the projects aims to distinguish underlying neural networks contributing to Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease.
I am based at the University of Bristol, in the School of Clinical Sciences, and my project falls within the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme of the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP. I have joined Professor James Uney’s lab at Bristol, and the project is in collaboration with Professor Nick Allen at Cardiff University. The research I am working on relates to protein and mitochondrial metabolism in neurodegenerative disease. The project initially involves validating druggable genetic targets which are involved in the regulation of mitophagy, a process which is dysregulated in neurodegenerative pathologies including Parkinson’s disease.
Having completed my MSci Biochemistry at King’s College London, I am now part of the Diezmann lab at the University of Bath. Although the majority of the population have fungi of the Candida genus growing harmlessly on or in their body, for people with impaired immunity Candida can become pathogenic, with more than 50% of patients with systemic Candida infections succumbing to the disease. My project aims to better understand the interaction of the host with fungal Hsp90, a protein which plays an essential role in Candida virulence. This information may form the basis for new therapeutic drug targets.
I am based at the University of Exeter studying for a PhD in the field of Infection and Immunity. My research is concerned with sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) signalling; S1P is a ubiquitous signalling molecule present across Eukaryota that mediates diverse and important aspects of the immune response. Our lab have identified several bacterial species that contain genes coding for a sphingosine-1-phosphate lyase (S1PL); a PLP-dependent enzyme that degrades S1P to enhance bacterial survival during infection. Through my PhD I intend to establish how these prokaryotic S1PLs act as a virulence factor. I will also be probing the possibility of S1PL-inhibitors being used as therapeutics to boost bacterial killing by leukocytes during their infection by a range of different bacteria.
I am currently undertaking my first year of my PhD at the University of Bath and Cardiff University. My research falls under the Infection, Immunity and Repair (IIR) theme, and focuses on developing a prototype wound dressing for the treatment of bacterial infections. Ultimately, I wish to develop a wound dressing which releases bacteriophage (viruses which infect bacteria) into the wound in response to a ‘trigger event’ or stimuli, thus giving a burst release of bacteriophage only when required. This allows for the early treatment of the infection, which could prevent more serious complications such as septicaemia, and could also potentially lessen the likelihood for prescription antibiotics.
I studied BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science at the University of Reading from 2013, graduating in 2016 with first class honours and having completed my dissertation work in endocrinology under the supervision of Professor Phil Knight. From 2016 I started as a GW4 MRC PhD student based at Cardiff University School of Medicine, in collaboration with Bath University. I am under the Infection, Immunity, and Repair division and supervised by Dr David Cole and Professor Andrew Sewell. My project aims to understand HLA-1 flexibility and its role in infection and autoimmunity.
My research theme is Neuroscience and Mental Health. I will be working at the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University with Dr Bray and Dr Hill and at University of Exeter, with Prof Mill’s epigenetics group. For my project, I will use ATAC-seq and bioinformatics techniques to identify regions of the genome that regulate gene expression in the developing human brain. I will then integrate my data with other genomic datasets including those from studies of neuropsychiatric disorders to help elucidate genetic risk mechanisms for these conditions.
I am based at the University of Exeter, studying a PhD under the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme. I am interested in the brain circuits which control hunger and feeding. Specifically my project will look at the contribution of non-neuronal cells in the brain to these circuits at the cellular and behavioural level. It is hoped that by understanding the neural circuits underlying hunger and feeding that this will better inform therapies for obesity and eating disorders.
I am a Dietitian and a Nutritional Epidemiologist. I hold a BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics from Harokopio University (Greece) and an MSc in Epidemiology and Public Health from Wageningen University (The Netherlands). Currently I am a PhD student at the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences of the University of Bristol, supervised by Dr Laura Johnson (University of Bristol), Professor Tim Frayling (University of Exeter) and Dr Laura Howe (University of Bristol). My project focuses on the pathways leading from a series of genetic and environmental determinants to specific eating behaviours and, over time, to obesity, using longitudinal data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). I also maintain a strong interest in dietary assessment methodology and teaching.
I obtained a BSc in Biochemistry (Pharmacology) from the University of Surrey. Since graduating, I have worked as a Molecular Pathologist at Eli Lilly and Company. I am now undertaking a PhD based at the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol in the theme of Neuroscience and Mental Health. My project will focus on dementia research, exploring the relationship between synaptic dysfunction and degeneration in a mouse model of dementia using whole-cell electrophysiology recordings and two-photon imaging.
I am based in the Henry Welcome Building at Cardiff University under the Immune, Infection and Repair theme. My research is focused on defining the mechanisms by which anti-tumour T cell responses are suppressed in the tumour microenvironment. Cytotoxic T cells (CTL cells) have the ability to recognize and eliminate tumour cells however these efforts are largely suppressed in the tumour microenvironment. Using a combination of in-vivo and imaging approaches, my PhD project will explore how a subset of T cells termed regulatory T cells (which are highly enriched within tumours) suppress anti-tumour CTL responses. Understanding how anti-tumour responses are suppressed will provide useful in the design of new immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer treatment.
I am based in both Bristol and Cardiff, and my PhD falls into the Neuroscience and Mental Health research theme. I am interested in the role of glutamate transport in newborn brain injury. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and my research focuses specifically on the main glutamate transporter, which re-uptakes glutamate from the synaptic cleft following signalling, making sure it does not build up and cause injury. The hypothesis is that a mixture of genetic and environmental factors interact through epigenetic effects and affect the ability to dynamically regulate this transporter, making some babies more vulnerable than others when they experience hypoxia (e.g. due to birth asphyxia or prematurity). The overarching aim is to use genetic, epigenetic and neuroimaging information to develop neuroprotective strategies targeting the glutamate transport pathway that can protect the brain of animal models initially and of newborn babies in the future. This is a public health matter as newborn brain injury is currently the leading cause of neurodisability in childhood.
I am a PhD student at the University of Exeter Medical School, under the supervision of Dr Katie Lunnon (Exeter), Dr Daniel van den Hove (Maastricht), and Dr Liz Coulthard (Bristol). I graduated with a Research Master in Fundamental Neuroscience from Maastricht University (the Netherlands), where I had a particular interest in the epigenetics of Alzheimer’s disease. My PhD project, in the theme of Neuroscience and Mental Health, focuses on identifying novel blood biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease. During my PhD I will integrate genome-wide genetic, epigenetic and gene expression measures in blood from Alzheimer’s disease patients with detailed clinical, epidemiological and neuroimaging data with the aim to identify unique biomarkers for AD.
William David Thompson:
I am based at the RILD building at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (though my project is with the University of Exeter). I am part of the Public Health research theme and my project is “Using Mendelian Randomisation to investigate the association between intra-uterine factors and foetal growth”. Numerous things influence birth weight (like diabetes and maternal smoking). However, whether a factor actually causes lower or higher birth weight or is being confounded by other things is often unclear. Mendelian Randomisation acts as an alternative to an RCT, by investigating whether genes associated with a factor (like blood glucose) are also associated with an outcome (like birth weight). As genes are believed to be distributed randomly in the population, this can help avoid confounding.
Axel’s project is within the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme and is investigating the cortical underpinnings of pathological pain. Using neuropsychological testing of people with chronic pain and normal controls, this project is investigating the possibility that such conditions may arise due to changes in motor control and sensory processing in the brain.
During my education I completed a Bachelor in Cogitive Psychology and a Masters in Neuroscience, both from University of Padua, Italy. The research projects I have been involved in during my studies investigated abnormal cognition of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar spectrum disorder (MRC CBSU, Cambridge, UK; Gent University, Belgium). My current PhD project investigates the role of pulsatile hypothalamic signals in regulating the hormonal dynamics of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, using mathematic theory of dynamical systems and neuroendocrinology/neurophysiology experiments. A disrupted activity of the HPA axis due to stress is thought to be involved in the aetiology of many kinds of psychopathology, and especially in mood disorders.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of York, throughout which I developed my interest in memory and clinical neuroscience. I was then awarded a scholarship from the University of East Anglia to study an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, where I focused my interest on Alzheimer’s Disease and APOE4, it’s biggest genetic risk factor. As part of the GW4 partnership, I am now based in CUBRIC, working with Dr Jiaxiang Zhang at the University of Cardiff and Dr Naoki Masuda from the University of Bristol. We are investigating functional connectivity in young adults with the APOE4 risk gene using fMRI. We hope that looking at normal brain function in at risk young adults may help to explain how APOE4 substantially increases the chances of developing the disease later in life.
I am PhD student studying under the Neuroscience and Mental health theme at the University of Exeter. I obtained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Dundee and an MSc in Integrative Neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh. My PhD project will be investigating the circuit mechanisms that underlie the disruptions seen in network oscillations in Alzheimer’s disease, specifically focusing on the role interneurons play in impairing slow wave oscillations. I will be using both electrophysiological techniques and viral targeting technologies to record and manipulate interneurons in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease with the aim to study their network and intrinsic properties.
I have previously completed a four-year undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at Cardiff University. This included a one-year placement in the cell biology laboratory of Professor Dr. Hauck at the University of Konstanz in Germany and two three-month placements in the laboratory of Dr. Lloyd-Evans at Cardiff University. I am now a PhD student in the Lloyd-Evans laboratory at Cardiff University. My project, titled ‘Investigating the impact of metallic nanoparticles on biological systems and lysosomal function’, aims to determine the effect of heavy metal nanoparticles on inducing lysosomal dysfunction and Alzheimer-like phenotypes in cellular and zebrafish models. This should reveal whether environmental exposure to nanoparticles can lead to infiltration of these nanoparticles into the brain with subsequent lysosomal dysfunction and induction of Alzheimer like pathology.
I am based in Bristol University working with Elanor Hinton (Bristol), Natalia Lawrence (Exeter), Jeff Brunstrom (Bristol) and Julian Hamilton-Shield (Bristol). My research is exploring personalised interventions for childhood obesity, working with the clinical population in Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and school populations. I hold a BSc in Psychology, and an MSc in Health Psychology and my research now sits within the Population Health Theme.
I obtained a Medical Sciences (BMedSc) degree followed by a Master in Public Health (MPH) from the University of Birmingham. Following my studies, I worked as Research Associate in Public Health Research at the University of Bristol where I was jointly funded by DECIPHer and the NIHR SPHR. My role involved working on different studies ranging from substance misuse to sexual health topics and I applied various research methods such as literature searches, systematic reviews, qualitative methods, primary data collection and quantitative analysis. I am now very grateful to be undertaking a GW4 BioMed MRC DTP Studentship at the University of Bristol. My project falls under the Population Health theme and will be looking at increasing physical activity levels in pre-school aged children. I will be using epidemiology, systematic review and qualitative methods to look at associations between physical activity and pre-school/home environments to design an intervention to increase physical activity.
I have an MA in Physics from Cambridge University and a PhD in laser spectroscopy, obtained while working in the electricity supply industry. I have worked in applied research, engineering, project, programme and change management and have a coaching business. Thanks to this MRC GW4 Biomedical research award, I have made the transition to the medical field where I hope to make a valuable contribution. My PhD is at Exeter University, working with Dr Chris Scotton, together with Dr Katie Lunnon (also in Exeter) and Professor Mark Lindsay (in Bath). I shall be exploring the genomics of lung disease Pulmonary Fibrosis, which is currently incurable, difficult to diagnose and carries a prognosis worse than many cancers. My work will include both genetics and epigenetics via culturing cells, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics. I hope to make a difference to patients and their families.
I am currently undertaking my PhD at the University of Bath, under the supervision of Prof Jean van den Elsen (Bath) and Prof Christiane Berger-Schaffitzel (Bristol). My project falls within the “Infection, Immunity and Repair (IIR)” theme and aims to improve our understanding of how Staphylococcus aureus can evade our immune system. This will involve determining the structure and function of the supra-molecular structure that facilitates the evasion of our immune system. This complex is comprised of a Staphylococcus aureus immune evasion protein (Sbi) and components of our immune system. By better understanding this mechanism of immune evasion it may be possible to design more effective treatments.
I obtained a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and an MSc in Health Psychology from the University of Bath. I am undertaking a PhD based at Cardiff University within the School of Bioscience in the division of Biomedicine, under the supervision of Professor Rosalind John (Cardiff University, Bioscience), Professor Stephanie van Goozen (Cardiff University, Psychology) and Dr Rebecca Pearson (University of Bristol, Social & Community Medicine). My PhD falls under the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme. It will investigate placental programming in infant neurodevelopment in the context of maternal care, utilising both the Grown in Wales (GIW) cohort and the ALSPAC cohort.
I completed my dietetics degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University and am now based in the Exercise, Nutrition and Health Science centre at the University of Bristol, under the GW4 Population Health theme. My research is focused on investigating the role of dietary patterns in modifying the progression of Type 2 diabetes, responsiveness to diabetes medication and development of diabetes complications. These findings will hopefully go on to inform the development of individualised approaches to the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
Early life adversity (ELA), such as abuse or neglect in childhood, has been shown to result in a number of changes in the brain that increase susceptibility to a range of psychiatric disorders in adulthood, including major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction, among others. Based at the University of Bristol, I, together with collaborators from Cardiff University, aim to investigate genetic risk factors involved in those brain circuit changes caused by ELA. I will primarily employ electrophysiological and behavioural approaches in animal models of ELA to characterise the changes in neurophysiology caused by the interaction of the genes of interest with ELA. Elucidating these genetic risk factors will hopefully lead to the eventual clinical treatment and prevention strategies for patients affected by ELA.
I am a PhD at the University of Bristol, and my project falls under Infection, Immunity and Repair theme. Prior to arriving in Bristol, I obtained my undergraduate degree from the University of Helsinki, and MSc in theoretical and computational chemistry from the University of Oxford. My research focuses on tackling the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is mainly due to enzymes called β-lactamases: these enzymes can hydrolyze the β-lactam ring structure present in many antibiotics, which leaves the drug inactive. Utilizing high-performance computing, we can model this process using combined quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics simulations (QM/MM). Additionally, the project will include experimental work in enzyme kinetics for validating computational results. The final aim of my project is to develop efficient and accurate computational assays for determining if a drug will be broken down by a β-lactamase.
In 2016 I graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc (hons) in Psychology. As part of this I worked for a year as an honorary research assistant at the University of Reading within the Child and Adolescent Depression and Anxiety Clinic on a long-term follow-up of parent-led CBT for offspring anxiety disorders. I subsequently completed an MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences at UCL, where my research work focused on disparities between changes in self-report measures of depression and patients’ perceptions of changes in mood. I worked for a year as a research assistant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, examining healthy ageing in relation to concussion in former professional rugby players. I am currently completing a PhD at the University of Bath examining self-referential processing and social reinforcement learning as potential mechanisms for antidepressant action. We hope to better understand who will benefit from antidepressants at an early stage by examining changes in self-referential emotional processing. My project falls under the ‘Neuroscience and Mental Health’ category of the GW4 MRC DTP.
I am a medical doctor and a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. My PhD project at the University of Exeter Medical School (under the Infection, Immunity and Repair theme) is on ‘Serum nitrate as a biomarker of infection in gastroenteritis patients’. Patients with infective diarrhoea exhibit an increase in serum nitrate concentration secondary to high nitric oxide synthesis. The proposed study will investigate if serum nitrate concentration reveals the cause of acute diarrhoea in patients admitted to the hospital emergency department and whether an innovative point of care analyser can measure serum nitrate quickly and robustly. The findings could potentially lead to the introduction of a simple, cheap, diagnostic test for gastrointestinal infections which could decrease the turnaround time for diagnostic results. My supervisors for this project are Professor Paul Winyard (Exeter), Dr Miranda Smallwood (Exeter), Professor Nigel Benjamin (Exeter & Torbay Hospital) and Professor Frank Marken (Bath).
My PhD has a really long title but is essentially looking at associations between BMI and disease. We know BMI is associated with many diseases (e.g. cancer, diabetes, all-cause mortality) but the exact mechanisms that lead from abnormal BMI to disease states is unknown. Under the supervision of Professor Nic Timpson and Drs Kaitlin Wade and Laura Corbin at the University of Bristol, my research is focused on identifying these mechanisms. Before getting this PhD I completed both my BSc Sports and Exercise Science and MSc Biotechnology degrees at the University of Essex. I also did time as a research tech looking at the tumour microenvironment.
Before applying for this PhD position, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Science at the University of Pavia and my interest in science at a molecular level drove me to obtain my Master’s Degree in Functional Genomics at the University of Trieste. Here, the aim of my thesis project was the wide characterization of induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) derived from cord blood mesenchymal stem cells (CBMSC), isolation of extracellular vesicles and identification of their regenerative potential in an in vitro model. Now, the aim of my PhD project is to reveal the restorative effects of small nano-vesicles (exosomes), derived from stem and progenitor cells, as system for initiating tissue repair and regeneration in diverse disease settings. Exosomes may represent valid therapeutic alternatives to the direct injection of stem and progenitor cells.
My research theme is Neuroscience and Mental Health. I will be working at the DRI Centre in the Hadyn Ellis building with Prof. Julie Williams and Prof. Nick Allen at Cardiff University. I am interested in understanding the impact of polygenic risk genotype on the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). For my project, I will establish novel microglia models from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from individuals identifies at the extremes of polygenic risk of AD. Cells derived from high and low AD risk will be compared using multiple functional assays. Understanding how the polygenic risk plays a role in the pathophysiology of the disease will hopefully provide novel potential therapeutic targets.
I started studying neurodegenerative diseases during my BSc in Biotechnology in Rome and I immediately fell in love with the subject. For this reason, for my MSc thesis in Medical Biotechnologies, I focused on the role of the Histone Deacetylase 4 in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. After my graduation, I applied to the “Unipharma Graduates” project, winning a 6-months-long research grant to work at the Institut Pasteur of Paris where I investigated the role of the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in Alzheimer’s Disease. Being awarded a MRC GW4 Biomed DTP, I am currently working in the Infection & Immunity Division at Cardiff University, under Prof. Philip Taylor. Since a rare coding variant of ABI3 has been recently identified as associated to Alzheimer’s diseases, my project aims to understand its contribution to microglial function and AD development. Hopefully this will lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms and to the identification of a druggable target.
After studying Biology and later Immunology at the University of Aberdeen, my interest in bacteria and their phages brought me to the University of Exeter for a Masters by Research degree in Biosciences. Based on the University’s Cornwall campus, I am now researching antibiotic resistance for my PhD. In my project, I aim to develop a novel CRISPR-based technology to eradicate antimicrobial resistance genes from complex bacterial communities.
My PhD is based at the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute at Cardiff University in the Harwood lab. My research involves looking at a gene (CACNA1C) that has been linked to a range of psychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. I will alter the expression of this gene in neuronal cells and look at the effect this has on their electrical activity. This will help us to understand the role of this gene in psychiatric diseases.
I completed my master’s degree in Pharmacy at the University of Manchester and have been working as a Clinical Pharmacist at Southmead hospital in Bristol for the past two years. I was awarded the MRC GW4 Biomed DTP and I am now based at the University of Bristol under the supervision of Dr. Paul Curnow. My project is under the theme of ‘Immunity, Infection and Repair’; it involves bioprospecting deep sea sea-sponges for novel antimicrobials to fight the growing global issue of antimicrobial resistance. Initially, my project involves culturing rare sponge-associated bacteria to isolate promising antibiotic producers from this previously untested and isolated environment. I will use classical microbiology, genomic analysis and protein purification techniques to identify lead compounds and test them against multiple strains of resistant bacteria.
I am based at Cardiff University School of Medicine, under the Immunity, Infection and Repair theme. My research is focused on developing cancer vaccines based on replication-deficient human cytomegalovirus known to have a unique ability to stimulate potent T-cell responses. This approach will investigate if immune-modulatory strategies can be harnessed to induce robust and protective T cell responses against tumours. I will develop and optimise these viral vectors and then determine vector-induced anti-tumour protection based on in vivo models of lung and bowel cancer. Together this will hopefully generate a safe and effective anti-cancer viral vaccine.
I am a recent graduate of the University of Bristol where I studied for a BSc in Cancer Biology and Immunology. My project is based at Cardiff University under the supervision of Professor Awen Gallimore, within the theme of Infection and Immunity in collaboration with Professor Christoph Wuelfing and Dr Mike Ashby at the University of Bristol. I am undertaking a project investigating cellular interactions between tumour cells and immune cells, focusing largely on T-cells of the immune system, and a type of T-cell called regulatory T-cells. I will be using two-photon microscopy which enables imaging of these interactions in vivo in mice. The project aims to elucidate mechanisms regulating the interactions between tumour cells and T-cells to support the development of anti-cancer immune therapies.
My research theme is Neuroscience and Mental Health. I am based at Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) at Cardiff University. My PhD project involves the development of structural and functional high-field MRI techniques, including time-of-flight angiography and arterial spin labelling, to study whether impaired brainstem perfusion leads to hypertension.
I obtained a BSc degree in Genetics from Cardiff University, where I am also continuing for my PhD. My project is based in the Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics in the team of professor Anthony Isles. My interests lie in imprinted genes and the various disorders associated with imprinted clusters. For my PhD I will have the opportunity to study Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a disturbance in the imprinting of a cluster of genes in chromosome 15. I will be performing various behavioural tests on different mouse models of Prader-Wili Syndrome, in order to achieve better understanding of how individual genes in the cluster might affect specific behavioural phenotypes. My project will hopefully also contribute towards the establishment of a platform for testing of drugs that might ameliorate some of the symptoms of PWS.