Cohort 3

Cohort 3

Ainhoa Arana Echarri

Anti-cancer immunity, liquid biopsies and lifestyle factors as predictors of breast cancer treatment outcomes

I completed my BSc in Health Biology at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Madrid, doing my five-month research project at the Metabolic Research Group (GRM) of the DeDuve Institute in Brussels. During my research, I studied the response of leukemic cells to chemotherapeutic nucleoside analogs. I then spent ten months at the Genome Dynamics and Function Department in the CBMSO Institute in Madrid. I furthered my studies with an MSc in Cancer Cell biology at the University of Sussex in Brighton, where I also undertook a six-month project studying the role of XRN1 in Mesenchymal Stem Cell lineage cancers and its potential use for treatment.   I have a strong interest in cancer research and thanks to the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP programme, I am now in the first year of my PhD. My research falls under the Infection, Immunity and Repair (IIR) theme and it aims at unravelling the potential role of immune function, liquid biopsies and lifestyle variables as predictors of treatment outcome. The results of this study could present relevant information, which may positively impact the management of patients with this prevalent disease. I am based at the Department of Health at the University of Bath, under the supervision of Dr. James Turner, Prof. Mark Beresford and Dr. John Campbell, in collaboration with the University of Cardiff (where I get supervised by Dr. Rachel Butler and Dr. Robert Jones).

Samuel Baker

Gene-environment interplay in the generation of health inequalities

I am based at the University of Bristol, studying a PhD under the population health theme. I obtained my BSc in Economics and Financial Management from the University of Hull. I also have an MSc in Economics from the University of Leeds, both institutions being in the UK. The project that i am working on is supervised by Dr Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder, Professor Frank Windmeijer, Dr Neil Davies and Professor Tim Frayling. The project will focus on investigating Gene Environment interactions, with specific work being undertaken to investigate if a privileged environment can protect individuals who are genetically susceptible to risky health disorders. This research will look to take advantage of ever increasing access and collection of genotyped respondents from studies such as the UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), the UK Biobank among many others. This research is highly linked to that of the New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe (NORFACE). As part of my study i have the pleasure of attending these meetings to gain additional knowledge from subject matter experts. This also allows for the possibility of greater international collaboration.

Stefan Brugger

Exploring the emergence of psychotic experiences using multimodal neuroimaging and mathematical modelling

I am based in CUBRIC at Cardiff University. My project involves examining the occurrence of hallucinations using the tools of psychophysics, computational modelling and neuroimaging. I am working with Christoph Teufel and Krish Singh (CUBRIC), as well as James Walters (MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics) and Rosalyn Moran (Bristol Engineering Mathematics, King’s College London). I hold an MSc in Neuroscience and am a medical doctor, specialising in psychiatry.

Harriet Cornwell

Refining the construct of resilience and identifying neural markers of resilience in young people

I studied BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Surrey from 2013 to 2017. During my degree I also completed a placement year as a Research Assistant at Southampton University. I am currently studying my PhD at Bath University, on a project that falls under the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme. My research focuses on the concept of resilience; the idea that some people maintain positive mental health despite exposure to adversity. I will initially be using Computational Psychiatry methods to try and refine the construct of resilience. I will then apply these findings to the structural MRI data collected in the FemNAT-CD study. I will use voxel- and surface-based morphometry methods to identify brain structural markers that distinguish resilient young people from their non-resilient peers. Finally, I hope to replicate and extend these findings using independent datasets (e.g. from the ALSPAC study).

Michael Daly

Preconception Health Improvement: Intervention development to target multiple modifiable risk factors for multiple adverse perinatal outcomes

I am originally from Ireland, and studied Applied Psychology at University College Cork before completing an MSc in Health Psychology at the University of Bath. I have previously held research assistant positions at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry and on the PROTECT study at the University of Bath, as well as having worked as a healthcare support worker and clinical trials administrator.    My PhD project involves designing an intervention to improve the health of women and their partners prior to pregnancy, with the aim of consequently improving child and maternal outcomes. This intervention design will be informed by both quantitative and qualitative methods, such as a systematic review of previous research, a large-scale survey of women’s current knowledge of, and attitude towards, pre-conception health, and in-depth interviews with a range of purposively sampled participants.

Body mass index and obesity: investigating gene-environment interactions

Hi, I’m Amy. I am undertaking a PhD based at the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol, within in the population health theme. I graduated with BSc Medical Sciences with professional training year, from the University of Exeter. In this time I spent a year at GSK as an industrial placement student. My PhD involves studying the gene-environment interaction associated with body-mass index (BMI) and obesity. I will first define measures of environment and lifestyle, using both questionnaire results and quantitative measures, such as those recorded in the UKBiobank study. Then using panels of >10 million genetic variants I will perform BMI genome-wide association studies.  I will select and analyse environmental and lifestyle measures that are associated with BMI, to identify the effect of genetics and environmental/lifestyle factor on BMI.

Luke Deane

Investigating the impact of inflammation after cancer surgery and radiotherapy in zebrafish and man

Following my undergraduate degree at Exeter, I worked for two years as a researcher at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Abzena. I currently study the earliest stages of Cancer formation and use a mix of live imaging and genetic studies to probe the involvement of the innate immune system in resolving or promoting tumour growth. If possible, I will also investigate the rare Abscopal effect and investigate its mechanism in vivo.

Nina Di Cara

Mental health data science in rich longitudinal population cohorts

My first degree was in Mathematics and its Applications at Cardiff University, graduating in 2016. Following that I trained as a Social Worker in London and worked in Child Protection for two years, whilst also completing an MSc in Relationship Based Social Work through the University of Bedfordshire. As a Social Worker I always felt that there must be ways for maths and social problems to intersect more than they currently do, and am really excited to have the opportunity to start my current PhD project at the University of Bristol through GW4 Biomed, where I will be investigating the relationship between social media use and mental health. I am based at the Integrative Epidemiology Unit and am supervised by Dr Claire Haworth, as well as Dr Oliver Davis.

Mark Ferguson

Using birth cohorts to understand the impact of urban green space on child health and wellbeing

Mark’s undergraduate degree was in Environmental Sciences, and his postgraduate degree was in Sustainability. This interdisciplinary training focussed on the balance between improving human development while reducing our impacts on the natural environment. Since graduating, Mark’s research has centred on measuring access to green infrastructure and assessing the equitable distribution of environmental benefits.

Mark’s PhD project is titled: Using birth cohorts to understand the impact of urban green space on child health and wellbeing    To do this Mark will produce environmental data to assess contact with nature. He will link this longitudinally to health outcomes amongst children growing up in two UK birth cohorts; ALSPAC (Bristol) and Born in Bradford. In doing so, he will contribute to the knowledge of mechanisms by which the natural environment may produce improved health outcomes. Focussing upon childhood, he will improve the understanding of if we accrue health benefits during this period, and whether this influences health and wellbeing throughout the life course.    His supervisors are Dr Ben Wheeler (University of Exeter), Dr Alison Teyhan (University of Bristol) and Dr Rosie McEachan (Born in Bradford).

Naomi Heffer

Examining the link between multisensory and socio-emotional processing in anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder

Having completed my BA in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, I am now working in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, in collaboration with the Mood Disorder Centre at the University of Exeter. My project aims to clarify the role of multisensory integration in virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), and to determine whether there is evidence of altered multisensory integration in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may be linked to the socio-emotional deficits which are observed in the disorder. I hope that in the future my research may be applied to optimise the therapeutic benefits of VRET for PTSD by manipulating the multisensory presentation of stress-inducing cues. I also have a keen interest in public engagement and serve as one of the postgraduate public engagement representatives for the Department of Psychology.

Elliott Hibbs

Pericyte-mediated vasoconstriction and hypoperfusion in Alzheimer’s disease

I graduated from the University of Exeter in BSc Medical Sciences. I undertook a placement in my 3rd year at the Dementia Research Group at Southmead Hospital in Bristol during which I developed a keen interest in neurodegenerative diseases and Alzheimer’s research. I then spent a year working in the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s brain bank. My PhD project will investigate the mechanisms of pericyte-mediated cerebral hypoperfusion in Alzheimer’s disease. The project will involve cell culture and live cell imaging to investigate the relationship between vasoactive compounds and pericyte contraction, as well as animal models to observe the effects in living tissue.

Katy Hole

Polyphenols as inhibitors of tau toxicity: protecting neuronal network function in Alzheimer’s Disease

I am studying a PhD in the Neuroscience and Mental Health Theme at Bath. I obtained a Masters in Neuroscience at the University of Southampton where I discovered an interest in neurodegenerative diseases. A common pathology in Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of tau aggregates in the brain. I am looking to see if particular polyphenols have the ability to bind to the tau protein and prevent it from aggregating. To do this, I will first characterise cellular models of tauopathy, and use these to investigate what effect the polyphenols have on tau aggregation, as well as their bioavailability at a cellular level. Then, after determining the most effective compounds, I will assess the impact they have on neuronal network dysfunction in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. This project aims to increase the understanding of tau pathology in Alzheimer’s disease while investigating the mechanisms and effectiveness of a potential therapeutic.

Suzan Kors

Unveiling novel links between organelle cooperation, lipid metabolism and neuronal function in health and disease

I completed a BSc and MSc in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands). During my master I joined the group of Professor Michael Schrader at the University of Exeter, where I studied the regulation of peroxisome-organelle interactions. Peroxisomes play a role in multiple metabolic pathways, including the degradation of fatty acids and the synthesis of plasmalogens; myelin sheath lipids that insulate nerve axons. Peroxisomal dysfunction leads to severe neurological problems, but the molecular and pathological mechanisms are not well understood. During my PhD I will continue the work of my master and investigate the role of peroxisomes in neuronal function. The research aim is to understand the mechanisms of peroxisome-organelle cooperation and their impact on neuronal function and neurodegenerative disorders. My project falls within the “Neuroscience and Mental Health” theme of the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP, supervised by Prof. Michael Schrader (University of Exeter) and co-supervised by Dr Jon Hanley (University of Bristol) and Dr Gaynor Smith (Cardiff University).

You can also find out more about the Schrader Lab, and their research, where Suzan is based, by looking on their website.

Gabriella Margetts-Smith

Does disrupted retrosplenial cortex connectivity underlie memory impairments in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease?

I obtained a BSc in Psychology and MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex. Following my studies I remained at Sussex working as a research technician, where I was involved in investigating the neuronal ensembles underlying appetitive behaviour. I am currently completing a PhD at the University of Exeter under the supervision of Dr Mick Craig (Exeter), Professor Andrew Randall (Exeter), Professor John Aggleton (Cardiff) and Dr Michael Kohl (Oxford). The project aims to investigate whether retrosplenial cortex connectivity with other areas of the brain is altered in an Alzheimer’s disease model. I will be mapping and characterising the circuitry of the retrosplenial cortex using anatomical and electrophysiological techniques as well observing the functionality of these connections.

Sali Morris

Dissecting an antibiotic resistance network in the hospital ‘superbug’ Enterococcus faecalis

In 2016 I graduated from Cardiff University with Bsc (Hons) in Biomedical Science with a Professional Training Year.   After being awarded a studentship with the MRC GW4 Biomed DTP, I am currently undertaking a PhD based at Bath University under the supervision of Dr Susanne Gebhard in collaboration with Dr Steven Porter at Exeter University.   My PhD falls under the Infection, Immunity and Repair theme and involves investigating the bacteria Enterococcus faecalis, which is currently a major public health burden due to its high level of antibiotic resistance. My project aims to establish resistance genes and signalling pathways involved in this resistance and in the hope they can be used as future therapeutic targets.

Kasia Parfitt

Using next generation approaches to define epidemiology and develop therapies for the neglected cystic fibrosis lung pathogen Burkholderia multivorans

I am a MRC GW4 BioMed DTP student working in the School of Biosciences, as part of the Microbiomes, Microbes and Informatics group.    The overall aim of my project is to fully define Burkholderia multivorans parthenogenesis and to develop novel therapeutics against infection. This is to help decrease the number of premature deaths in Cystic Fibrosis patients.

Daniel Routledge

Extracellular trafficking of Wnt signal in gastric cancer

I completed my Masters of Biomedical Science at the University of Southampton and am now based at Exeter  University for my PhD. I have joined Dr. Steffen Scholpp’s lab and my project is focusing on the extracellular trafficking of Wnt signals in gastric cancer cells. In particular, I am investigating the role of specialised signalling filopodia, termed cytonemes, in paracrine Wnt signalling and its significance in the growth and maintenance of gastric cancer cells. I will also investigate the role of Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts (CAFs) in the production and propagation of Wnt via cytonemes in the maintenance of the tumour and its microenvironment.

Nico Scholz

Targeting the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System in Glioblastoma

I am a PhD student in Julien Licchesi’s lab at the University of Bath within the GW4 Population Health research theme. Throughout my undergraduate in Biochemistry and Immunology at the University of Strathclyde I have maintained a keen interest in cancer research, which I am excited to further pursue through my PhD project: “Targeting the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System in Glioblastoma”. As the most common type of brain tumour and with its exceptionally poor survival rate, advancing therapeutic approaches is a priority. I am focussing on the E3 ubiquitin ligase HECTD1 and its role in malignant transformation. The multidisciplinary nature of the project allows me to gain expertise in basic and translational cancer research.

Jessica Walters

The role of microRNA activity in regulating synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease

I came to the University of Bristol following an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Sussex to continue studying the molecular mechanisms underpinning Alzheimer’s Disease. I am using biochemistry techniques in Dr Jon Hanley’s lab in Bristol and electrophysiology in Dr Jon Brown’s lab in Exeter to investigate the role of argonaute phosphorylation in synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease.