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Herchel Smith Fund

 

Postdoctoral Fellows


Andrea Dimitracopoulos, 2018
 
After training as a Biomedical Engineer at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Andrea started his PhD in Theoretical Physics and Cell Biology at University College London, on the CoMPLEX programme. Under the supervision of Buzz Baum, Tom Duke, and Thomas Surrey, he studied the role of the physical properties of the cell (such as geometry and stiffness) in the context of cancer cell division. Andrea is now following his passion for research at the interface between physical and life sciences in the Franze Lab at the University of Cambridge, where he is studying the role of the physical properties of neurons and their environment on axon formation during neuronal development. Outside the lab, Andrea enjoys coming up with new cooking recipes, playing and designing video games, and spending time with people close to him.
 
Website: Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)
 
Email: ad865@cam.ac.uk


Ariel Rapaport, 2018
 
Ariel grew up in Jerusalem, Israel. He carried out his studies at the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at the Hebrew University. His research interests are Fractal geometry, Probability and Ergodic theory. In particular, he is interested in the dimension properties of self-similar and self-affine sets and measures.
 
Website: Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics (DPMMS)
 
Email: ar977@cam.ac.uk


Daniel Whiten, 2018
 
Daniel was awarded his PhD from the University of Wollongong, Australia in 2016 for studying the role of extracellular chaperones in motor neuron disease. He then joined the University of the Cambridge as a postdoctoral researcher to investigate the structure-function relationship of protein aggregates involved in neurodegeneration. Daniel's current research is at the interface of biology and the physical sciences and examines the link between protein aggregation and neuroinflammation.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: drw40@cam.ac.uk


David Furman, 2018
 
David was born in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. He was 4 years old when his family moved to Israel. When not in front of the computer, he enjoys observing nature and contemplating its essence. David obtained a BSc in Chemistry (magna cum laude) from Ben-Gurion University-Israel and a PhD in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry from Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Israel. His research efforts focused on the development and use of efficient computer models to deepen our understanding of chemical reactivity in condensed-phase energetic systems at extreme conditions. He was a visiting scholar in the department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn. State University-USA. Before moving to Cambridge, he served as the head of an independent research group in the Chemistry Division at NRCN-Israel. His current research is motivated by one of the major mysteries of our time; the chemical origins of life on Earth. He recently discovered that, under appropriate conditions, amino acids and other central biogenic molecules could form inside cavitating primordial water streams with dissolved inorganic gases. At present, he aims to take his study one step further by tracing a favorable chemical route towards life’s earliest biopolymers. For that, he plans to develop novel computer models to circumvent experimental difficulties and directly observe the mechanisms of peptide-bond formation on early Earth.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: df398@cam.ac.uk


Eelco Tromer, 2018
 
Eelco is an evolutionary cell biologist, with a background in molecular cell biology and evolutionary bioinformatics, who enjoyed his primary research training at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. His main interest lies in understanding how eukaryotic cells evolved highly divergent molecular mechanisms to execute chromosome segregation during cell division, a process that is central to the propagation and maintenance of life as we known it. He is particularly fascinated by kinetochores, small cellular structures that couple chromosomes to microtubules of the main cell division machine called the spindle. In the group of Dr Ross Waller at the Department of Biochemistry, Eelco will leverage the combined power of comparative genomics, proteomics and super resolution microscopy to interrogate the molecular function and evolution of highly divergent kinetochores of the apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii and dinoflagellate Perkinsus marinus; parasitic species that pose a global threat to human and animal health. When he is not in the lab, Eelco likes to explore the countryside and mountain ranges on foot together with his wife Gertine.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: ecet2@cam.ac.uk


Ewain Gwynne, 2018
 
Ewain's research interests are in probability theory. He is especially interested in random curves and surfaces that arise in statistical mechanics, and has done work on Schramm-Loewner evolution, Liouville quantum gravity, random planar maps, and Brownian surfaces. Ewain will finish his PhD in 2018 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Website: Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics (DPMMS)
 
Email: egwynne@maths.cam.ac.uk


Lemonia Chatzeli, 2018
 
Lemonia is a developmental biologist interested at how epithelial organs are formed and how developmental signals re-activated in the adult tissue contribute to regeneration and cancer. She obtained her PhD at King’s College London where she investigated the role of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in branching morphogenesis and regeneration of salivary glands in Prof Abigail Tucker’s lab. She then moved to Cambridge as a postdoc in the group of Prof Benjamin Simons and Dr Bon-Kyoung Koo to study how the activation of common developmental signals in the adult stomach could initiate tumour formation. Her interest in organ development led her to undertake a new project in the lab of Prof Benjamin Simons as a Herschel Smith postdoctoral fellow where she would combine statistical and experimental approaches to trace the cellular dynamics driving salivary gland branching morphogenesis and tumour initiation.
 
Website: MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute
 
Email: lc717@cam.ac.uk


Stephen Dolan, 2018
 
Stephen completed his PhD in Molecular Microbiology at Maynooth University, Ireland, unravelling the biosynthesis of toxic secondary metabolites produced by the human fungal pathogen, Aspergillus fumigatus (2012-2015). He then joined the Welch group at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, to investigate the link between central carbon metabolism and virulence in the bacterial pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As a Herchel Smith Fellow, Stephen’s research focus is to examine the molecular mechanisms that govern interkingdom interactions during polymicrobial infection. Outside of the laboratory, Stephen enjoys judo, cycling and travelling.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: skd41@cam.ac.uk


Ala Bunescu, 2017
 
Ala grew up in Tirgul Vertiujeni in the northern part of Moldova. After receiving an MSc degree in Chemistry at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées of Rouen, France, she did her doctoral studies with Professor Jieping Zhu at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, working on copper catalyzed difunctionalization of doubles bonds. Afterwards, she joined the Hartwig group, at UC Berkeley, as a postdoctoral researcher founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and working on metal-catalyzed C-H functionalization transformations. In her spare time, Ala loves drawing, playing badminton, cooking and travelling.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: ab2517@cam.ac.uk


Berta Vard Fernandez, 2017
 
Berta is a mathematician by training; she spent a year studying a Masters degree in sociology of science before starting to work in biology during my second Masters degree in Systems and Synthetic Biology at Imperial College, London. After Masters she moved to the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona to pursue a doctorate degree in evolutionary and developmental systems biology under the supervision of Dr. Johannes Jaeger. During her PhD she used data-driven mathematical modeling to study pattern formation during segment determination in Drosophila and other species of flies. In October 2017 she joined the Steventon Lab as a Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellow where she plans to combine experimental and dynamical modeling approaches to understand neuromesodermal progenitor competence and differentiation in zebrafish embryos.
 
Website: Department of Genetics
 
Email: bv291@cam.ac.uk


Dawei Zhang, 2017
 
Dawei Zhang was born in China. He obtained his PhD degree from ENS-Lyon in France in June 2017. He joined the research group of Prof. Jonathan Nitschke at the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, as a postdoctoral researcher in July 2017. His current research focus is to construct metallo-supramolecular capsules for recognition and catalysis.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: dz302@cam.ac.uk


Elena Scarpa, 2017
 
The shape of the body and organs relies on cell migration, cell rearrangements and, importantly, on cell division orientation. Cells are tridimensional objects, and it is essential that the plane of their division is tightly controlled to make sure that organs achieve the correct shape, size and architecture. Elena studies oriented division in vivo using the Drosophila embryo as a model. Here, the majority of cells divide according to their cell shape in an orientation that correlates with a tissue-scale force. In contrast, a subset of oriented mitoses in the same tissue do not follow the cell shape rule. Instead, they require an actomyosin cable, which generates high subcellular force. This is a unique system, where can be separated the impact of local, subcellular-scale tension versus tissue-scale forces on the orientation of cell division in vivo.
 
Website: PDN – Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
 
Email: es697@cam.ac.uk


John William Wills, 2017
 
John completed his Ph.D. at Swansea University College of Medicine, before moving to Ottawa, Canada to pursue post-doctoral studies at Health Canada and the University of Ottawa. During this time, John developed a strong interest in high-content imaging using light microscopy and electron microanalytical techniques to characterise the physiologic behavior of engineered nanoparticles in biological systems. In the spring of 2017, John was awarded a Herchel Smith Fellowship to develop ‘In Situ Cytometry’ – a microscopy, image analysis and machine-learning based technology that aims to permit ‘flow-cytometry type’ analyses of intact tissue sections. John is currently focussed on demonstrating the capabilities of this approach by investigating the roll of newly-discovered, endogenous gut nanomineral particles in shuttling antigen, promoting oral immuno-tolerance and how possible dysfunction in this pathway might lead to Crohn’s disease. Currently, John is also the Hertha Ayrton Research Fellow of Girton College.
 
Website: Department of Veterinary Medicine
 
Email: jw2020@cam.ac.uk


Nadav Avidor, 2017
 
Nadav’s main research interests are helium atom scattering, molecular structure & dynamics on surfaces with a special interest in the formation of hydrogen bond based networks.
 
Website: Department of Physics
 
Email: na364@cam.ac.uk


Sofia Otero, 2017
 
Sofia did her PhD at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, in the lab of Crisanto Gutierrez, studying histone variants dynamics during root development. Since June 2015, she’s been a postdoc at the Helariutta lab at SLCU, where she studies phloem development in the Arabidopsis root. Concretely, she aims at understanding the gene regulatory networks controlling companion cell identity. In her free time, she likes writing, travelling and doing sports.
 
Website: Sainsbury Laboratory
 
Email: sofia.otero@slcu.cam.ac.uk


Tom Hutchcroft, 2017
 
Tom got his PhD at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after finishing the maths tripos in King’s. His research is in discrete probability. He is particularly interested in how the geometry of a space is reflected in the behaviour of random processes on that space and vice versa. More specifically, his research has touched upon random walks, random trees, random planar maps, circle packing, percolation, self-avoiding walk, and random permutations.
 
Website: DPMMS - Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics
 
Email: t.hutchcroft@maths.cam.ac.uk


George Lansbury, 2016
 
George’s scientific focus is on extragalactic phenomena: those which occur in the distant Universe far beyond our own Milky Way galaxy. In particular George is interested in observing the supermassive black holes which lurk at the centres of (possibly all) galaxies. When these black holes rapidly feed on surrounding material they light up as “active galactic nuclei”, some of the brightest and most energetic objects in the Universe, which can impact on the growth of galaxies. George uses telescopes in space (such as the NASA mission NuSTAR) and on the ground (including large telescopes in Chile and Hawaii) to perform surveys of these growing black holes, and to study in detail their physical environments.
 
Website: Department of Astronomy
 
Email: gbl23@ast.cam.ac.uk


Joanna Waldie, 2016
 
Joanna’s PhD research focused on semiconductor nanostructures that transmit electrical current one electron at a time. She is now working at the University of Cambridge, in partnership with the UK National Physical Laboratory and other National Measurement Institutes, to develop these single-electron devices into a new standard of electrical current whose accuracy is guaranteed by quantum physics. A key goal of the research is parallelisation of these single-electron devices, to make them more suitable for everyday applications. Thus Joanna’s research combines both fundamental physics and development of products for end-users.
 
Website: Department of Physics
 
Email: jw353@cam.ac.uk


Nuno Miguel Oliveira, 2016
 
Nuno studies the marvels of microbial behavior, ecology and evolution. In particular, his research aims to unveil the natural ecology of bacterial motion. How do bacteria sense clonemates, other bacterial species or potential hosts and control their motility accordingly? And how does that motile behavior affect their impacts on us? To answer these questions Nuno spies bacteria using time-lapse microscopy and single-cell tracking algorithms, which he combines with classical tools from molecular microbiology and mathematical modelling.
 
Website: Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
 
Email: nmdso2@damtp.cam.ac.uk


Sebastian Pike, 2016
 
Seb was awarded a Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2016 after completing a DPhil at the University of Oxford followed by postdoctoral studies at Imperial College London. Seb’s research interests lie at the interface between molecules and materials, in particular, designing new metal oxide cluster molecules. These molecules can be considered tiny versions of well-known semiconducting materials, and may absorb energy from light. Seb’s research investigates how their small size affects their properties due to quantum confinement effects.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: sp842@cam.ac.uk


Ulrich Dobramysl, 2016
 
Ulrich is a member of the Gallop Lab at the Wellcome Trust / Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, studying the growth and regulation of filopodia, which are finger-like protrusions from cell membranes. He does computational modelling and analysis of large, experimentally generated data sets, applying the methods of statistical physics in order to understand features of the actin cytoskeleton.
 
Website: Wellcome Trust / CRUK Gurdon Institute
 
Email: Ulrich.dobramysl@gurdon.cam.ac.uk


Giovanni Rosso, 2015
 
Giovanni is an Italian mathematician, born in the North of Italy in a small town surrounded by rice fields. After completing a bachelor in Mathematics in Turin and joint Master between Padua and Paris, he got his Phd from KULeuven and Paris 13. His research interest is algebraic number theory; he studies the interplay between algebra (Galois representations), analysis (automorphic forms), and geometry (motives). In particular, he is interested in how the values of a certain function (the so-called L-functions) associated with a Galois representation controls the arithmetic of the Galois representation. To do this, he use p-adic deformations and p-adic families of automorphic forms.
 
Website: Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics (DPMMS)
 
Email: gr385@cam.ac.uk