Cohort 2.1

Cohort 2.1 is the first group of students in BioMed2. They started in 2022 and you can read about their research projects below.

Lucy Barrass

Life-course influences for mental ill health: an analysis of birth cohort data from the Philippines

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at Newcastle University before going on to work at the NIHR Innovation Observatory where I used horizon scanning methods to identify and monitor health technologies. Whilst working there, I completed my MSc in Public Health and Health Services Research where my dissertation focussed on the association between area-level deprivation and physical activity, using cross-sectional data. My PhD project will explore life course influences on mental health in the Philippines, allowing the opportunity to gain experience using epidemiological data in a global health context.

Tessa Bate

Identifying opportunities for repurposing of approved drugs to new cancer indications using genetic and observational approaches

I completed a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at Durham University and then a MSc in Bioinformatics and Genetic Epidemiology at Cardiff University. My PhD project is part of the Population Health Sciences theme and is based at the University of Bristol with co-supervisors from the University of Exeter. This project aims to identify clinically approved oncological and non-oncological drugs which could be repurposed for cancer treatment using Mendelian randomisation and a target trial with data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).

Kate Bruce

Analysing the differentiation and function of the neurons damaged in Huntington’s Disease

I have a keen research interest in neuro-regenerative medicine. After serving in the US Army, I attended Michigan State University, where I received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on several research projects while an undergrad, including developing an open-source EEG hardware and software application capable of sonification of the time-series data. I moved across the Atlantic to do my MRes in Bioscience at Cardiff University, where my research focussed on the intersection of differential gene expression changes in FoxP1 CKO and HD brains and how these may relate to the differentiation of medium spiny neurons. My PhD project with Prof Anne Rosser, Dr Mike Taylor, and Dr Jonathan Brown at Cardiff and Exeter Universities further investigates the development and differentiation of medium spiny neurons in the context of clinical applications for cell replacement therapy in Huntington’s Disease.

Kate Davies

Suppression of T cell immunity and antibody production during virus infection and sepsis

After completing my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences, I obtained an MPhil in Pathology from the University of Cambridge. During this time I began researching T and B lymphocytes, working on the design of a novel profiling method for lymphoma diagnosis. Following on from this project my interest in immunology has grown further, having worked on several new projects as a research assistant at Cardiff University. My first project investigated dysregulation of the complement system in severe COVID-19 amongst other infections and diseases. More recently, I’ve focussed on superantigens and their interactions with specific T cell subsets. My PhD project will build on this knowledge to investigate the mechanisms by which superantigens may drive dysfunction in CD4+ T follicular helper cells, leading to suppression of T cell immunity and antibody production during infection and sepsis.

Joshua Dawe

Homelessness and elimination of HIV and hepatitis C virus in people who inject drugs: Building evidence for better action

I’m an early career public health researcher, with interests in epidemiology and infectious disease modelling. I’m a passionate advocate for the rights of people who use drugs. My research interests are in the areas of hepatitis C, HIV and injecting drug use. My research aims to better understand the structural drivers of HIV and hepatitis C transmission among people who inject drugs.

Christian Fitch

Developing a national capacity for adjunctive phage therapy to treat antibiotic-resistant respiratory infections through Citizen Science

Throughout my four-year integrated Master’s in Biochemistry at the University of Exeter, I worked closely with the Temperton Group and associated Citizen Phage Library. Here, I developed a passion for bacteriophages – the natural predators of bacteria, and how they can/have been used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial disease. Through the GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP, I am returning to the Temperton Group to investigate many aspects of clinical phage therapy, from bacteriophage isolation and analysis to design of effective phage formulations. Through links with the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the Mahenthiralingam group at Cardiff University, I am focussing on bacteria causing respiratory disease, primarily those that form the intrinsically antibiotic-resistant Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC). I am also aiming to help develop national interest in “bacteriophage therapy” through engaging in the Citizen Science arms of the Citizen Phage Library.

Tressan Grant

The regulation of tumour cell cytolysis by cancer associated fibroblasts

I graduated from the University of Sussex with a MSc in Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Cell Biology. Since then, I’ve worked at Immunocore developing Immune-modulating T cell receptors against cancer, infectious and autoimmune diseases (ImmTAX® molecules). I have a keen interest in immune cell interaction with diseases and cancer. My PhD project will be seeking to better understand how different types of cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) impact tumour cell killing by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Additionally, I will investigate mechanisms of anti-tumour CTL activation by bi-specific T cell engagers, in isolation and subsequently as modified by CAFs. My project will be supervised by Dr. Ute Jungwirth.

Sophie Hearn

Absence makes the will grow stronger? Boosting abstinence campaigns to reduce alcohol and meat consumption to improve public health

I completed my BSc in Psychology through the Open University and my MSc in Psychological Research Methods at the University of Exeter. I have developed a keen interest in research that targets health related behaviours and lifestyle. My MSc research focused on the detrimental health, environmental, and animal welfare impacts of meat consumption by testing a novel, computerised intervention that aimed to reduce meat consumption. My PhD will also explore this topic by focusing on the effectiveness of abstinence campaigns such as ‘Veganuary’ and ‘Dry January’ in helping people reduce consumption of meat and alcohol. My research will explore the potential cognitive and social mechanisms underlying successful abstinence such as, reward processes, inhibitory control, attitudes, norms and identity. It will then aim to strengthen the effects of the campaigns by adding interventions that target the key mechanisms identified.

Kratika Mujmer

Regulation of stress response by astrocytes

I am originally from India, where I did my BSc honours in Cell & Molecular Biology from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. I developed an interest in Neuroscience through various summer internships during my studies and then pursued an MSc in Cognitive Science from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar. My PhD project will allow me to work at the interface of molecular biology and cognition and will focus on examining the role of astrocytic lactate in stress. Using techniques such as 2-photon imaging, lactate amperometry, and bioinformatics we will attempt to understand how astrocytes modulate stress response and uncover novel therapeutic targets to combat mood disorders such as clinical depression. My research will be supervised by Dr. Valentina Mosienko at the University of Bristol’s School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience.

Sophie Nye

The filamentous growth of fungal killers: a combined mathematics and lab approach

I completed my master’s degree in Physics at the University of Exeter. For my master’s project, I performed and analysed simulations of a section of the Sun’s interior, in order to investigate how angular momentum transport via convection can lead to differential rotation in the Sun. I am now undertaking my PhD in Exeter, investigating the filamentous growth of fungi Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus. Globally, filamentous fungi cause over 600,000 life-threatening infections in humans per year, with most deaths being caused by Candida Albicans and Aspergillus Fumigatus, which rely on their ability to invade host tissue by forming penetrative elongated filaments called hyphae. By combining wet-lab experiments with image analysis and mathematical modelling, this project aims to further the understanding of the invasive growth of these fungi.

Kieran Reynolds

The role of ‘parasitism islands’ in infection by soil-transmitted helminths

I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of East Anglia, where I gained an interest in bioinformatics in my third year, leading on to me studying for an MSc in Bioinformatics at the University of Bath. Following this, I worked for a year in Dr Vicky Hunt’s lab at Bath working on a number of computational projects in the areas of parasite genomics and small RNA regulatory pathways in nematodes. For my PhD I will be staying at Bath, under the supervision of Dr Hans-Wilhelm Nüetzmann and Dr Vicky Hunt, studying how genes involved in parasitism in soil transmitted helminths are clustered in genomes, how this is involved in parasitism and epigenetic features involved in the regulation of the genes within the clusters.

Orsolya Szekely

Using brain stimulation to understand contributions of higher-level motor function to pathological pain

I am a PhD student at the University of Bath, funded by the GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP under the Neuroscience and Mental health theme. My PhD project, under the supervision of Dr Janet Bultitude, concentrates on higher-level motor functions in patients with chronic pain conditions. Using cognitive tests and non-invasive brain stimulation (transcranial magnetic stimulation), my research will investigate the cortical motor contributions to chronic pain and potential new targets for treatment.

Mason Taylor

Using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) and computational modelling to understand the role of sleep in disease progression in amnestic mild cognitive impairment

I completed my undergraduate in Psychology at Cardiff University, during which I undertook a placement year at Cardiff Memory Team, working in the research and clinical assessment of patients with dementia. Following my undergraduate studies, I completed an MSc in Brain Imaging and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Birmingham. Here my dissertation focussed on sleep in ageing using diffusion MRI, actigraphy, and cognitive data. My PhD aims to understand the role of sleep in the progression from amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) to dementia. To achieve this, I will use mobile EEG to record sleep in the home environment, assess how sleep relates to waking cognitive performance using a battery of tests, and develop mathematical models using sleep EEG to predict the conversion of aMCI to dementia.

Claire Tume

Exploring the early genetic origins of schizophrenia at the cellular level

I have a BSc Biochemistry degree from the University of Surrey, which included a professional training year researching anorexia nervosa at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. I completed an MSc in Translational Neuroscience at Imperial College London, before working as a Research Support Assistant at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, studying neurodevelopment using cerebral organoids. I have spent the last two years working as a Research Assistant at the CRUK Cambridge Institute, investigating the influence of mutations on stem cell dynamics. My PhD is at Cardiff University and is supervised by Professor Nicholas Bray. I will be generating single cell sequencing data from developing human brain tissue to investigate the cell types and mechanisms mediating genetic risk for schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric conditions.

Seline Uran

Understanding the neural mechanisms of antidepressant withdrawal and links with depressive symptoms, reward processing and relapse

I completed my master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Human Neuroimaging at the University of Sheffield. For my research project, I analysed data from the ABCD data consortium to investigate the relationship between neural markers of reward processing in childhood and depression and anxiety outcomes in adolescence. My current research interests center on developing neural predictors of mental health outcomes. I will further my research interest in my PhD, in which I will investigate the longitudinal effects of antidepressant (AD) withdrawal. In my project, I will use EEG to explore the underlying neural mechanisms of AD withdrawal in clinical populations. I will also assess the effects of AD withdrawal as it relates to reward processing, mood, and relapse using EMA, behavioural and neuro-cognitive assessments.

Visesh Vignesh

Developing an implantable sensor for cortisol detection

My work involves the development of an implantable biosensor for the detection of cortisol, and possibly other key hormones in the body. The areas of research I am interested in include biosensors, nanotechnology, electronics, cell biology and organic chemistry, to name a few. My previous degrees have been in biotechnology engineering and biomedical sciences, and I would describe myself as a biologist attempting to become a chemist/physicist.

Daojiong Wang

Anticipating antimicrobial resistance: predicting the resistance-spectrum of emerging β-lactamase variants using atomistic simulation and experiment

I obtained a master degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China. I am now a PhD student at Bristol University, under the supervision of Dr. Marc van der Kamp. My research focuses on using atomistic simulation of β-lactamases complexed β-lactams to investigate the dynamics and reactions with different enzyme variants. Combined with experimental work, we hope to get a deeper insight into the resistance patterns and predict which new resistance-conferring enzyme variants could arise.

Rebecca Ward

Improving cancer risk stratification using population based patient characteristics and cancer genotype

I have recently completed a Bioinformatics MSc at the University of Bristol, having previously worked as a Cancer Audit Facilitator within the NHS. During my PhD, I will be based at the University of Exeter in the research groups of Prof Chrissie Thirlwell and Dr Sarah Bailey, and I will also be working closely with the South West Genomic Laboratory Hub (Exeter and Bristol). The project will examine the impact of common long-term health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and thrombocytosis on cancer risk. Using a combination of clinical and genomic data, we hope to identify novel molecular sub-groups of cancer, which could improve patient cancer risk stratification and may identify new therapeutic targets.