Cohort 5

Cohort 5

Vicky Bennett

Defining the role of efflux in bacterial biofilm formation and antimicrobial resistance to develop new treatments for infection

I completed my undergraduate degree in pharmacology at the University of Bath, including a placement year looking at the purification and characterisation of novel antimicrobial peptides at the University of Plymouth. For my PhD I will continue at Bath, and am going to be investigating the role of efflux systems in bacterial biofilm formation, focusing specifically on catheter associated urinary tract infections. This project will also investigate the potential for existing drugs to be repurposed as efflux-inhibitors and anti-biofilm agents in order to support the development of new antimicrobial agents.

Tim Byatt

Comparative studies of wound repair and scarring

I completed my MSci in Biochemistry at the University of Bristol in 2019. For my final year project in the lab of Prof. Paul Martin, I entered into a new area of research for this lab comparing the wound response in Arabidopsis thaliana and Zebrafish as a novel way of finding new genes of interest in the wound response of plants and animals. Even in the short duration of this project, I gained some surprising results. I then returned to continue this work during a summer internship where I expanded my previous transcriptomic work with a proteomics experiment. I am now carrying this work forward in the Martin Lab as part of a larger comparison project looking at both woundings in plants and animals alongside a comparison of wounds and cancers.

Tim’s studentship is funded by the ScarFree Foundation.

Costas Constantinides

Brain ageing in schizophrenia and as a marker of physical and mental well-being

I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Kent and thereafter completed an MSc by Research in Integrative Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. I furthered my studies with an MSc in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Cyprus University of Technology, followed by a year in the biopharmaceutical industry. I am currently based at the Department of Psychology, University of Bath, focusing on how the brain ages in the general population and in individuals with schizophrenia, and how individual differences in rates of brain ageing may be linked to genetic and non-genetic factors (including lifestyle factors and physical health). This PhD project is interdisciplinary in nature, combining genetics, neuroimaging and epidemiology, with co-supervisors from the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff. I hope that, in the future, my research findings may be applied to deliver individualised predictions for brain and body health across populations and in patients with schizophrenia. I am also interested in public engagement and science communication.

Sam Craft

Advances in the clinical management and laboratory detection of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (‘Spice’)

I completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Liverpool before studying for an MSc in Addiction Science at King’s College London. I then went onto to spend two years as a research assistant in the addictions department at King’s where I worked on a series of studies investigating changes in the composition of cannabis products (concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, ‘THC’ and cannabidiol ‘CBD’) and their role in the aetiology of mental health and addiction disorders. My PhD will seek to address the current challenges in the clinical management and laboratory detection of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs). SCRAs are a heterogeneous and rapidly developing group of compounds with a broad profile of effects, and the treatment of withdrawal and dependence is currently hindered by the lack of evidence-based guidelines. This project aims to use novel analytical methods for detecting specific SCRA compounds in street material and human saliva to help characterise symptomology and inform the treatment of SCRA withdrawal and dependence.

Rebecca Elsworth

Does the experience of fasting have long-term benefits for healthy weight maintenance?

My PhD project falls within the Population Health theme where I am investigating whether a single episode of intermittent fasting benefits healthy weight maintenance using a range of approaches and techniques (quantitative, qualitative and neuroimaging). I am based at the University of Bristol with my lead supervisor Professor Jeff Brunstrom and co-supervisors Dr Elanor Hinton (Bristol), Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield (Bristol) and Dr Natalia Lawrence (Exeter). I have a BSc in Human Neuroscience from the University of Birmingham and an MSc in Applied Neuropsychology from the University of Bristol.

You can follow Rebecca’s research via LinkedIn.

Jessica Foley

An insect model of cognitive decline and extended longevity

I graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2018 with a B.A. in Neuroscience, having written my undergraduate dissertation on the use of optogenetics in probing the giant fibre system in Drosophila melanogaster. I then began an internship focusing on a different kind of flying insect at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, working in an evolutionary genetics lab that studied the evolution of wing-pattern variation in the Heliconius butterfly genus. My interest in neuroscience led me to undertake a fellowship here studying the impact of ageing on cognition in this relatively long-lived butterfly genus, under the supervision of Dr Stephen Montgomery of the Evolution of Brains and Behaviour Lab at Bristol (then Cambridge), and I will be continuing this work during my doctoral research. We are aiming to establish Heliconius as a new model organism with which to identify natural mechanisms of delaying cognitive decline following increases in longevity.

Lara Gordon

Modelling syndemics: hepatitis C virus (HCV) and drug-related mortality among people who inject drugs

I completed my undergraduate degree in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge before studying for an MSc in Engineering Mathematics at the University of Bristol. I am now undertaking a PhD within the Bristol Medical School in infectious disease modelling. Globally around 71 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). High-risk groups such as people who inject drugs (PWID) are disproportionately affected by the virus; in the UK approximately 85% of HCV is transmitted through injecting. PWID are also at risk of drug-related death (DRD), with overdose being the leading cause of avoidable death amongst this population. My PhD will involve developing models to determine the effect of various interventions on HCV and DRD syndemics to determine the combination that has the most positive impact. This research is motivated by the World Health Organisation’s target to eliminate HCV as a global health problem by 2030.

Peta Greer

Investigating Redox Genes as Therapeutic Targets in Alzheimer’s disease

I completed my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology at the University of Dundee and my master’s degree in Integrative Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. Since then I have had the opportunity to undertake two research assistant positions gaining experience in the fields of Caenorhabditis elegans research and in post-mortem analysis of brain tissue from patients with Dementia with Lewy bodies. I have a strong interest in the genetic mechanisms underpinning neurodegeneration and am passionate about harnessing knowledge in this field to inform new treatment strategies within the field of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with harmful, oxidative mechanisms in the brain and it is also known that the redox system that assists in counteracting these effects is decreased in these patients. During my PhD, I plan to manipulate redox genes in Drosophila and induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neuronal models of AD to find new potential therapeutic targets.

Anthony Klokkaris

The epigenetics of Parkinson’s disease: searching for novel drug targets

I completed my MSc in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield where I became very interested in neurodegenerative diseases. During this time, I undertook a research project on Parkinson’s disease, assessing whether different compounds improved mitochondrial function and mitophagy in patient-derived neurons. I am now commencing my PhD at the University of Exeter (supervised by Dr Anna Migdalska-Richards) where I will continue researching Parkinson’s, this time investigating the role of epigenetics in the disease. In particular, I will look at DNA methylation in both neuronal and non-neuronal cells from the brains of Parkinson’s individuals using a combination of cell sorting, genetics techniques and bioinformatics approaches. By understanding more about both the genetics and epigenetics, the hope is that this will shed new insights into the causes and mechanisms of the disease. The ultimate aim is to uncover potential therapeutic targets.

Arthur Newbury

A network approach to understanding the spread of antibiotic resistance

I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Exeter with a degree in Evolutionary Biology. During this time and later, working as a research assistant at the same institution I investigated the spread of antibiotic resistance conferring plasmids through experimental microbial communities. During my PhD, I will be applying techniques from network ecology to monitor, predict and manipulate the spread of antibiotic resistance through complex microbial communities.

Jessica Oliver

Harnessing the Immune Response to Radiotherapy

I obtained an integrated Master’s degree (MBio) in Biomedical Science from the University of Warwick. I have completed several research projects including the effect of A1 receptor agonists in epilepsy, the effect of diet on mental wellbeing, and my Master’s project, which focused on whether phage therapy may be a potential treatment for infection in people with diabetes. For the past year, I have worked for a contract research organisation, supporting clinical trials. My role was to establish pharmacokinetics of novel therapeutics and test for the presence of anti-drug antibodies.

My PhD will be based at Cardiff University in the Gallimore Godkin Cancer Immunology Lab. I will be exploring whether antigen-specific immune responses are important for, or predict, the success of radiotherapy for cancer treatment, whether pre-existing or radiotherapy-induced regulatory T cells impinge on treatment success, and whether pro-inflammatory markers impinge on antigen-specific T cells responses and treatment success.

Alice Phillips

Meeting the mental health needs of adolescents in out-of-home care and care-leavers

Thanks to the MRC GW4 Biomed DTP, I am currently completing a PhD at the University of Bath under the supervision of Dr Rachel Hiller, Prof Sarah Halligan, Dr David Wilkins and Prof John Macleod. My PhD project aims to examine the current provision of mental health support for children in out-of-home care and care leavers and to explore novel trauma-focussed therapy for adolescents. Prior to this, I worked on a large scale RCT at The University of Oxford investigating the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention implemented in schools, in promoting wellbeing and resilience. After finishing my undergraduate psychology degree at Aston University, I completed an MRes in Psychology at Manchester University where I examined the psychometric properties of a novel self-report measure of Basic Symptoms of psychosis.

Grace Marion Power

Is disease risk conferred during childhood set in stone? Using genetics to understand how modifiable lifestyle changes can help prevent disease in later life

I completed a part-time MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine whilst working as a Project Manager and Researcher in their Department for Disease Control. There, my research focused on health equity and vector-borne disease risk in Brazil. My early academic background lies in anthropology and work experience in international development. I am currently studying my PhD at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, on a project that falls within the Population Health theme. My supervisors are Tom G. Richardson (Bristol), George Davey Smith (Bristol), Jess Tyrrell (Exeter) and Tim Fraying (Exeter). Through the application of the principles of Mendelian randomisation, I will be investigating how early life exposures influence disease risk and how conferred risk during childhood may be reversed. By better understanding these causal relationships, we hope to identify important translatable messages that have the potential to impact evidence-driven social policy.

Sarah Rollason

Understanding the role of coinfection in disease and infection control

I studied Medicine at university and have been working as a doctor, primarily in the field of Intensive Care. I am now undertaking a PhD at Cardiff University, supervised by Dr Lello. I am studying the effects of coinfection with malaria, schistosomiasis and giardia to try and understand how infection history and coinfection affects disease severity, transmission rates and treatment efficacy in these three common and clinically important human parasites. This project is exciting as it looks at coinfection in a very young cohort (0-36 months). This will allow a clearer picture of the effects of coinfection to be studied, as previous work on older children or adults can be confounded by their more substantial past infection history.

Jamie Wood

The epigenetic network mediated by Ehmt1 and its role in neurodevelopment disorders (NDD)

I obtained a BSc in Animal Science from the University at Nottingham, during which time I completed a research project with the late Keith Campbell which founded my interest in the stem cell field. I went on to complete an MSc in Stem Cell Technology, during which time I worked to genetically mature stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes using novel optogenetic technology. Most recently I have worked as a stem cell scientist within the UK government Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). My PhD is based at the University of Cardiff and falls under the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme. My project aims to investigate how the epigenetic regulator EHMT1 controls the genetic network that underlies human neurodevelopment and how its dysfunction results in the disorder, Kleefstra Syndrome. The work will combine computational analysis with novel CRISPR technologies to first predict potential genetic targets before functionally testing these predictions in-vitro.

Genevieve Yvon-Durocher

Understanding how interneurons in the medial prefrontal cortex control associative recognition memory.

I completed my Bsc in Biological Sciences at Queen Mary University of London and my MSc Neurosciences as part of the Neurasmus International Scholarship Joint Masters program at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam and Charite, Berlin. I am now working on my PhD at Bristol University, jointly supervised by Professor Zafar Bashir and Clea Warburton, investigating the role of mPFC inhibitory interneurons in associative recognition memory. This project combines behavioural, opto/chemogenetic manipulation, circuit mapping and synaptic physiology techniques to determine how subtypes of interneurons modulate phases of recognition memory.