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Herchel Smith Fund

 

PhD students


Julie Becher, 2020
 
Julie grew up in the Boston area of the US. She majored in biological chemistry at Dartmouth College and graduated with honors as a salutatorian in 2018 after completing a Senior Honors Thesis studying the degradation products of insensitive munitions. After helping to teach the introductory chemistry courses for a year at Dartmouth as the Teaching Science Fellow for chemistry, Julie began her MPhil with the Bernardes group at Cambridge in 2019 studying prodrug strategies to target the cytotoxic natural product, beta lapachone, to cancer cells. Targeted prodrug designs that mask the toxicity of chemotherapeutic agents until they are inside cancer cells have the potential to greatly improve patient outcomes by allowing therapeutic dosing and patient quality of life during treatment by eliminating side effects. She is continuing this work in the Bernardes group as a PhD student with the generous funding provided by the Herchel Smith studentship. Outside of lab, Julie enjoys taking care of her plants, sculpting, and she is a huge Boston sports fan.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email:


sneha
Sneha Parmar, 2020
 
I completed my undergraduate degree in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development at the University of Minnesota in 2019. During my time there, I worked in Dr. Melissa Gardner's lab where I studied post-translational modifications in microtubules. I completed an Honors Thesis in my final year for which I studied the binding of the EB1 protein to microtubule tips. Until I begin my PhD studies at Cambridge, I have stayed on with Dr. Gardner to investigate forces along the mitotic spindle prior to chromosomal detachment during mitosis in budding yeast. I look forward to further studying cell division in budding yeast, specifically asymmetry in spindle pole bodies as a PhD student under the joint supervision of Dr. Marisa Segal and Dr. Marco Geymonat in the Department of Genetics.
 
Website: Department of Genetics
 
Email:


kacper
Kacper Bonter, 2020
 
My undergraduate research was focused on arsenic and antimony transporters found in early diverging plant groups, such as liverworts. I helped in identifying ACR3 as a functional arsenite transporter in bryophytes, which led to further research regarding the metalloid sensing mechanism in mosses and liverworts. Last year I joined Professor Jim Haseloff’s group for an MPhil degree to again study liverworts in the context of meristem establishment and maintenance. Hopefully during my PhD candidature I will be able to use the open development and ease of genetic manipulation of Marchantia polymorpha to identify key genes and mechanisms involved in meristematic processes, which could be used to synthetically modify development of the plant. I have been interested in how plants develop and organise themselves for years, so I am extremely excited to be able to tackle these issues in my project!
 
Website: Department of Plant Sciences
 
Email:


prada
Jose Enrique Gonzalez-Prada, 2020
 
I grew up in Peru and moved to Cambridge to pursue an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences. During my studies, I became fascinated by the complex mechanisms whereby wide-ranging drugs interact with their molecular targets. This led me to specialise in Pharmacology, both during my undergraduate studies and later by completing an MSc Pharmacology course at the University of Oxford. This year, I am returning to the Department of Pharmacology for a PhD, with the aim of studying the sensory voltage-gated ion channel NaV1.9 and developing protein modulators of channel function. My hope is that this project, at the interface of molecular biology and drug discovery, will contribute to our wider understanding of the role of ion channels in diseases of dysregulated neuronal signalling, such as pain syndromes.
 
Website: Department of Pharmacology
 
Email:


Alberto Echevarría-Poza, 2019
 
I was born in Spain and, as I was always intrigued by science, I decided to take a BSc in Biotechnology at the University of the Basque Country. During my undergraduate degree, I had the fantastic chance to take part in several summer projects on Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After being kindly invited to Dupree’s Lab in the Department of Biochemistry to work for a summer on the plant cell wall, I realised that this was a great place where to keep learning. Now I am starting a PhD on the synthesis and degradation of xylan, a polymer forming the plant cell wall and a source of biofuels and biomaterials. During these years, I will try to learn as much as possible so that one day I can also encourage more people to work altogether for the greater good.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: ae449@cam.ac.uk


Charlotte Dawson, 2019
 
Charlotte completed her undergraduate studies in Biochemistry and Chemistry in 2018 at La Trobe University, Australia. She discovered her passion for proteomics during a summer internship in Professor Michelle Colgrave’s lab at CSIRO where she performed targeted analyses of oat peptides. Following this, Charlotte commenced her Honours year with Professor Marilyn Anderson in the Biochemistry department at La Trobe. Her project involved defining protein markers for extracellular vesicles isolated from the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. For her PhD Charlotte will join the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics under the supervision of Professor Kathryn Lilley. Using quantitative mass spectrometry, she will investigate the RNA-protein interactions involved in the formation of stress granules; specifically how these interactions change in response to cellular insult or during disease pathogenesis. Outside of the lab, Charlotte enjoys playing basketball and has a keen interest in archaeology and ancient history.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: csd51@cam.ac.uk


Josh Dickerson, 2019
 
I studied for an undergraduate Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, where I became interested in structural biology. I did my 4th year Part II project in the group of Professor Elspeth Garman, where I was studying the effects of radiation damage to proteins during data collection at various structural biology sources. I wrote simulations to track how X-rays and electrons lose energy as they move through protein samples, and used them to suggest how data collection parameters can be optimised to minimise the extent to which radiation damage manifests. For my PhD, I will continue to work on developing structural biology methods joining the group of Dr. Chris Russo at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Here I will study the physical phenomena that are currently limiting electron cryomicroscopy and develop methods to improve the resolving power of the electron microscope.
 
Website: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
 
Email: jld62@cam.ac.uk


Diana Arman, 2018
 
Diana is pursuing a PhD in Professor Andrea Brand’s lab at the Gurdon Institute, investigating systemic and local signalling in nutrition-dependent reactivation of neural stem cells in Drosophila melanogaster. She obtained her MSc in Neuroscience degree at the University of Oxford in 2018, where she worked on post-transcriptional regulation in neural stem cell development. During her undergraduate studies at Indiana University, Diana worked on mass spectrometry analysis of cannabinoid receptor 1 phosphorylation, spatial and olfactory working memory systems in rodents, as well as completed a project on cerebral amyloid angiopathy at Rockefeller.
 
Website: The Gurdon Institute
 
Email: da476@cam.ac.uk


Manuela Zimmermann, 2018
 
After graduating, with the highest honours, in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, Manuela now continues her passion for the interdisciplinary natural sciences with a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry in the Knowles group at the University of Cambridge. Her thesis focusses on understanding the organisation of matter on the mesoscopic scale. By applying physical principles to biological systems, Manuela and her collaborators aim to obtain key insights into the mechanisms of protein self-assembly and subcellular organisation. Both aspects are crucial for cellular function, and thus a range of pathological conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, or type II diabetes, are linked to problems in controlling protein structure on the supramolecular level
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: mrz22@cam.ac.uk


Natalija Stepurko, 2018
 
During my undergraduate in in Newcastle University, I secured Amgen Scholarship to come for a summer studentship to Dr Marko Hyvonen’s lab at the University of Cambridge. The project I worked on was challenging to me in all its aspects, but at the end of it, I saw the beautiful story of how protein behaviour and function are affected by only a few extra amino acids at its terminus! I was fascinated by the research conducted in that lab and I asked Dr Marko Hyvonen about the possibility to do a PhD under his supervision, saying that I don’t care which protein to work on as long as I can study the fundamental aspects of protein biology. I am starting a PhD in his lab that is focused on the dissecting signalling mechanism of TGF-β receptors. The project, which I hope will challenge me and allow to progress as a researcher.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: ns752@cam.ac.uk


Vytaute Boreikaite, 2018
 
I was born in Lithuania and came to Cambridge for my undergraduate studies. I read Natural Sciences at Queens’ College, where I specialised in Biochemistry and developed a strong interest in structural biology. I did my Part III project in Professor John Walker’s group at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, where I worked on the biophysical characterisation of the inhibitor protein of ATP synthase. Prior to that, I carried out a summer project in Dr Lori Passmore’s group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. This October, I am returning to this laboratory for a PhD to study the structure and function of protein complexes that regulate polyA tails of mRNAs.
 
Website: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB)
 
Email: vb342@cam.ac.uk


Peter Bolgar, 2017
 
Nucleic acids are the only molecules that are currently capable of evolution. We are designing a new class of sequence-polymers which can template their own formation and hence copy the information stored in the sequence of the monomer building blocks. The ability of a synthetic system to replicate would also enable it to evolve, just like in the case of DNA.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: pb592@cam.ac.uk


Christopher Wan, 2017
 
Christopher was born in Hong Kong and came to Cambridge as an undergraduate. He studied biochemistry at Magdalene College, during which he developed an interest in synthetic biology. Chris completed his MSci thesis in Jason Chin's lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, working on methods for large-scale replacement of genomic DNA in E. coli. Chris since returned to the MRC-LMB for a PhD in Philipp Holliger's lab, where he is investigating RNA self-replication within an origin-of-life context.
 
Website: MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology
 
Email: cjkw2@cam.ac.uk


Laura van Marrewijk, 2017
 
During her undergraduates in The Netherlands, Laura spent a year at the University of Adelaide to work on Crystallography. In 2016 she joined Prof. Colin Taylor’s lab at the Department of Pharmacology (University of Cambridge) for a year-long placement to work on calcium signalling in lysosomes, which made her decide to continue in this field. Laura was awarded the Herchel Smith’s PhD studentship in 2017 to work on calcium signalling in glioblastoma cells.
 
Website: Department of Pharmacology
 
Email: lv315@cam.ac.uk


Tegan Stockdale, 2017
 
Tegan P. Stockdale was born in Darwin, Australia. She completed her Bachelor of Laws (Hons I) and Bachelor in Science, with first class Honours in Chemistry and Biochemistry, at the University of Queensland, attaining the University Medal and being named the Faculty of Science Graduate of the Year 2017. Her past research has been in the area of pharmaceuticals containing polycyclic hydrocarbon scaffolds and the isolation and bioavailability of bioactives from traditional medicinal herbs. She is now undertaking her PhD candidature in the total synthesis of bioactive marine polyketides, within the Paterson Group at the University of Cambridge, under the generous funding of the 2017 Herchel Smith Research Studentship.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: tps35@cam.ac.uk