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Herchel Smith Fund

 

Postdoctoral Fellows


Alexander Nestor-Bergmann, 2019
 
Mathematician by training and biologist by aspiration, Alex’s main interests lie in biomechanics. During his PhD, Alex developed mechanical models of tissues to study how external forces can influence cell division. In 2018, he joined Cambridge as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Benedicte Sanson’s group. His current research focuses on understanding how the active mechanical properties of cells can lead to coordinated and unintuitive tissue-level behaviour. A fundamental aspect of this work is extensive interaction between “wet” and “dry” biologists.
 
Website: Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
 
Email: an529@cam.ac.uk


Georg Krainer, 2019
 
Georg was born in Austria and has a background in the Molecular Biosciences, with a first-class honours degree in Biochemistry and a doctoral degree sum cum laude in Biophysics. Georg’s research activities lie at the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics with a particular focus on understanding the fundamental principles of biomolecular self-assembly and their implications for physiological function and malfunction. As a Herchel Smith Research Fellow in the group of Prof. Tuomas Knowles at the Department of Chemistry and the Centre for Misfolding Diseases, Georg will leverage the combined power of microfluidics and single-molecule detection to explore self-assembly processes in the context of biomolecular condensate formation and protein aggregation involved in neurodegeneration, and their modulation by chaperones and drugs. Outside the lab, Georg enjoys tennis, skiing, classical music, and travelling.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: gk422@cam.ac.uk


Hayley Macpherson, 2019
 
Hayley was born in Melbourne, Australia, where she completed her PhD at Monash University in 2019. She is interested in investigating the role of Einstein's theory of General Relativity (GR) in the formation of the large-scale galaxy structure of the Universe. During her PhD, she performed cosmological simulations that solve Einstein's equations directly to measure the curvature of spacetime that arises due to inhomogeneous, giga-parsec scale structures. During her time at Cambridge, she will be extending this research to analyse GR effects on our cosmological observations by studying the propagation of light rays through her simulations. Aside from the entire Universe, Hayley loves running, surfing, swimming, and live music.
 
Website: Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
 
Email: h.macpherson@damtp.cam.ac.uk


James Matthews, 2019
 
James grew up in North-East Somerset before studying Physics at the University of Southampton, where he also did his PhD conducting research into the outflowing material around supermassive black holes. This PhD work was under the supervision of Christian Knigge. Since then, he has been a postdoc at the University of Oxford, working with Tony Bell and Katherine Blundell. His research interests relate to particle acceleration, cosmic rays, astrophysical jets and the interaction between supermassive black holes and their host galaxies. He is a mostly theoretical astrophysicist, and uses aspects of plasma physics, radiative transfer and hydrodynamics in his research. Outside of work, James is a keen musician and pubgoer who also enjoys running or a game of football.
 
Website: Institute of Astronomy
 
Email: matthews@ast.cam.ac.uk


John Chu, 2019
 
John was born and grew up in Hong Kong. After undergraduate study at the University of Hong Kong, he moved to Colorado State University and pursued a Ph.D in Chemistry under the supervision of Professor Tomislav Rovis. His Ph.D research focused on the synthesis of small nitrogen-containing organic molecules. He is currently developing novel chemical reactions for protein modification in the Gaunt Group at the Department of Chemistry.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: ckc30@cam.ac.uk


Leonie Luginbuehl, 2019
 
Leonie did her PhD at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, where she investigated the transcriptional reprogramming of plant roots during the establishment of the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Her work identified a lipid biosynthesis pathway that is upregulated in root cells during the symbiosis and provides mycorrhizal fungi with fatty acids as a major carbon source. In November 2017, Leonie joined the Hibberd group at the University of Cambridge as a postdoctoral scientist. Using photosynthesis as a model, she will combine experimental approaches with mathematical modelling to understand the genetic basis of cell type specific gene expression in rice leaves.
 
Website: Department of Plant Sciences
 
Email: lhl28@cam.ac.uk


Liisa Loog, 2019
 
Liisa’s research is focussed the evolution of complex human traits. She is a broadly trained evolutionary geneticist, with her first degree in Biological Anthropology (U. Kent), an MSc in Human Evolution from UCL, and doctoral studies at the Research Laboratory for Archaeological Science at U. Oxford. During her postgraduate studies Liisa developed several analytical methods to quantify past levels of mobility and infer past genetic selection and other evolutionary processes using genetic data from archaeological and fossil specimens (also known as ancient DNA). In her current position as a Herchel Smith Research Fellow at the Department of Genetics, Liisa will combine ancient DNA and archaeological data with statistical modelling to study the evolution of human height and how it has changed over time in Europe in response to genetic, cultural and environmental factors such as diet and pathogen exposure.
 
Website: Department of Genetics
 
Email: ll438@cam.ac.uk


Nicolaus Heuer, 2019
 
Nicolaus is a pure mathematician working in Geometric Group Theory. He grew up in Frankfurt and did his undergraduate studies at ETH Zurich. He completed his PhD from Oxford in Spring 2019. One question Nicolaus is interested in is: How efficiently can you bound a loop? This seemingly basic question relates to surprisingly many subfields of Mathematics such as Topology, Geometry, Dynamics and Informatics.
 
Website: Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics
 
Email: nh441@maths.cam.ac.uk


Wolfram Pönisch, 2019
 
Wolfram grew up in Germany and obtained his M.Sc. in Physics from the University of Leipzig. In 2013, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden to obtain his Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Vasily Zaburdaev and Frank Jülicher and supported by the IMPRS CellDevoSys. In Dresden, his research focused on the investigation of bacterial aggregate dynamics with the help of theoretical and numerical models. In summer 2018, Wolfram joined the group of Ewa Paluch at the University College London. In 2019, the lab moved to the University of Cambridge, where he investigates the crosstalk between cell shape and cell fate from a theoreticians point of view.
 
Website: Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
 
Email: wp269@cam.ac.uk


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


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


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