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Herchel Smith Fund

 

PhD students


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


Alexander Bates, 2016
 
Alexander works on mapping neural connections in the brain of the fruit fly, Drosophils melanogaster, in order to understand how neurons that underlie the generation of innate behavior in the fly interact with those that govern memory recall. In the fly as well as higher organisms, these two systems must interact in order for the fly to make ethologically sensible choices based on its previous experience in an environment, however the neural substrate for this interaction is not known. Alexander is also interested in how a structure in the fly brain, analogous to the human amygdala, extracts higher features of olfactory sensory input and channels them to other brain regions. He intends to complement his computational work - leveraging an electron microscopy data set in order to trace neuronal processes and assess synaptic connectivity - with wet-lab work, namely electrophysiology, in order to try to validate the circuit level hypothesis he seeks to generate.
 
Website: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
 
Email: ab2248@cam.ac.uk


Catherine Keija Xu, 2016
 
Catherine studied Chemistry at Cambridge, before deciding to stay on for a PhD under Professor Christopher Dobson. Her research focuses on investigating the biophysics behind protein misfolding diseases, in particular Parkinson's Disease.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: cx220@cam.ac.uk


Matthew James Anketell, 2016
 
Matthew studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge, specialising in organic chemistry and graduating in 2016 with an MSc. His masters project was working towards the total synthesis of the bioactive marine natural product patellazole B in the laboratory of Professor Ian Paterson, where he has remained for the PhD. Matthew is now primarily working on the first total synthesis of the actinoallolides. These are a novel family of polyketide natural products which show potent activity against protozoan parasites of the genus Trypanosoma, the causative agents of human African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and Chagas disease.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: mja70@cam.ac.uk


Terence Tang, 2016
 
Terence obtained the undergraduate Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford in 2016, where he developed an interest in using structural biology to understand the function of protein complexes. Currently, he is a second-year PhD student in the Passmore Group in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and currently working on understanding the highly conserved Pan2-Pan3 complex, which is important in regulating transcript stability and so has great implications on gene expression. To do so, Terrence is using a combination of in vitro biochemical assays and structural biology. Outside of his academics, he enjoys travelling (who doesn’t?) and he is self-teaching photography, in the hopes that he can one day contribute to a travel blog.
 
Website: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
 
Email: ttang@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk


Zhen Du, 2016
 
Zhen studied biotechnology at Penn State University and obtained her MPhil degree in Pharmacology at Cambridge before continuing her PhD study in Prof. Laura Itzhaki’s group at the Department of Pharmacology. Her research focuses on probing protein homeostasis mechanisms in long-lived naked mole-rats and its relationship with human diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases.
 
Website: Department of Pharmacology
 
Email: zd248@cam.ac.uk