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Herchel Smith Fund

 

Postdoctoral Fellows


Alexander Fawcett, 2021
 
Alex is from Southampton, and he completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Birmingham and his Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Bristol with Professor Varinder K. Aggarwal FRS. After this, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked with Professor John F. Hartwig, and then returned to the UK to come to the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry. As a Herchel Smith research fellow, Alex is working with Professor Matthew J. Gaunt to develop new methods to functionalise DNA and oligonucleotides, reactions which could have applications in the development of new antiviral drugs and antisense oligonucleotide therapeutics.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: af746@cam.ac.uk


Casey Platnich, 2021
 
Hailing from Calgary, Canada, Casey is a materials scientist working at the interface of chemistry and physics. She received her PhD in Chemistry from McGill University in 2021, where she developed single-molecule fluorescence methodologies to probe the self-assembly pathways of DNA nanomaterials. These materials can then be used as personalised drug delivery vehicles or in biosensing devices. As a Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory, Casey will expand on the use of DNA as a nanoscale building material, capitalising on the information storage density of DNA to build molecular ‘hard drives’ for digital data storage. Working with the group of Prof. Ulrich Keyser, these unique DNA data strings will be analysed using solid state nanopore technologies, enabling single-molecule readout. Casey is also a postdoctoral research associate at Jesus College, Cambridge.
 
Website: Cavendish Laboratory
 
Email: cp769@cam.ac.uk


Hanneke Wiersema, 2021
 
Hanneke is a pure mathematician working in Algebraic Number Theory. She studied at the University of Amsterdam before moving to King's College London for her PhD. In her research she focuses on generalisations of Serre's modularity conjecture, but she is also interested in the Langlands program and in the arithmetic of elliptic curves.
 
Website: Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics
 
Email: hw600@cam.ac.uk


James Dunce, 2021
 
James is investigating how African trypanosomes interact with their mammalian host, focusing on how the movement of receptor molecules on their cell surface alters upon the binding of macromolecular nutrients and components of the innate immune system found in serum. He will utilise a combination of super-resolution microscopy and computational modelling and is guided by biochemical and structural experiments. He completed his PhD at Newcastle University, UK, where he performed crystallographic and biophysical experiments on coiled-coil proteins involved in the assembly of the meiosis-specific chromosome-associated structure known as the synaptonemal complex.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: jmd209@cam.ac.uk


Lakshmi Balasubramaniam, 2021
 
I am a trained Mechanical engineer and I finished my PhD in 2021 working at the interface of biology and physics at Institut Jacques Monod, Paris under the supervision of Dr. Benoit Ladoux and Dr. Rene-Marc Mege. My PhD dealt with understanding experimentally the mechanics of cell migration, cell sorting and cell extrusion by modelling epithelial tissues as an active nematic system. I recently joined the department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience working in the team of Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz where my goal would be to understand the mechanics of pre and post implantation embryogenesis using stem cell models and microfabrication.
 
Website: Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)
 
Email:


Lucie Riglet, 2021
 
Lucie is a plant biologist interested in development and reproduction. After a Master’s degree in life sciences specialising in agriculture, agronomy and forestry, she completed her PhD at the Plant Reproduction and Development lab at the ENS Lyon (France) in 2018. She investigated the early interactions between stigma (female) and pollen (male) during reproduction, specifically the involvement of stigmatic cell mechanics in pollen tube guidance in Arabidopsis thaliana. She then joined the Moyroud lab at the Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU) in 2019 as a Research Associate. She is investigating the developmental processes used by flowering plants to pattern their petals and their role in pollinators attraction using imaging, genetics, computational modelling and pollinators behaviour assays.
 
Website: Sainsbury Lab
 
Email: lr498@cam.ac.uk


Pepen Supendi, 2021
 
Pepen is a seismologist interested in seismic tomography and seismicity. She studied Geophysical Engineering at Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia, where he completed his Ph.D. in 2020. During his Ph.D., he investigated body-wave velocity structure in the Sunda-Banda Arc Transition Zone based on the travel time tomography and analysis of seismicity in the eastern part of Indonesia and shed light on the 2018 Lombok and Palu earthquake sequences. From 2008 he joined to Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG) Indonesia. He joined Cambridge as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the group of Professor Nicholas Rawlinson at Bullard Laboratories, Department of Earth Sciences. His current research is to design and develop research procedures for imaging the 3D seismic velocity structure beneath Sulawesi (Indonesia) and its surroundings by applying local earthquake body wave travel-time tomography and analyzing Indonesia's seismicity.
 
Website: Department of Earth Sciences
 
Email: ps900@cam.ac.uk


Sarab Sethi, 2021
 
Sarab explores how the sounds of an ecosystem can be used to monitor biodiversity and ecological health on large scales. Following an Engineering degree at the University of Oxford, he did his PhD at Imperial College London across the departments of Mathematics, Life Sciences, and Engineering. Sarab has developed custom monitoring devices which transmit real-time data from remote field sites, as well as machine learning based analyses which provide insight into the community level dynamics of ecosystems. During his Herchel Smith fellowship, he will investigate whether soundscape dynamics can predict ecological tipping points. Additionally, he will explore how long term acoustic monitoring networks can best deliver real-world conservation impact, with case studies spread across the globe.
 
Website: Conservation Research Institute
 
Email: sss70@cam.ac.uk


Steve Pates, 2020
 
Steve is a palaeobiologist interested in the diversity and ecology of some of the Earth's oldest animals. During his PhD at the University of Oxford he studied the diversity and palaeobiology of some of the largest animals in the Cambrian oceans, the radiodonts - relatives of modern arthropods like spiders, crustaceans, and insects. As a Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellow he will combine statistical, engineering, and palaeontological methods to explore the interaction between form and function in fossil arthropods, with a view to better understanding how environmental controls may have shaped the evolution of animals in deep time.
 
Website: Department of Zoology
 
Email: sp587@cam.ac.uk


Adrien Hallou, 2020
 
Originally from Montpellier in South of France, Adrien was trained as a physicist and a chemist at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, prior to develop his interest for quantitative approaches of biological systems during his MPhil and PhD in Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. A Kabla (University of Cambridge) and Prof. J-M. Di Meglio (University of Paris). His doctoral work, using both theory and experiments, aimed at understanding the mechanobiology of collective cell behaviours observed in cancer metastasis and early embryonic development. Subsequently, he moved in the group of Prof. B. Simons (Wellcome Trust / CRUK Gurdon Institute) as a Wellcome Trust Interdisciplinary Research Fellow where he worked on mechanochemical pattern formation and on the role of mechanics in oesophagus postnatal development. As an Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellow, he will pursue his interdisciplinary work, combining methods from statistical physics, biomechanics and machine learning with wet lab biology experiments to understand the role of cellular heterogeneity and mechanochemical interactions in cell fate decisions during tissue homeostasis and regeneration. Adrien is currently a Research Fellow at Darwin College.
 
Website: Wellcome Trust / CRUK Gurdon Institute & Cavendish Laboratory
 
Email: ah691@cam.ac.uk


Camille Scalliet, 2020
 
Camille is a French theoretical physicist interested in non-equilibrium statistical physics. She studied physics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, before moving to Montpellier, where she completed her PhD in 2019. During her PhD, she combined numerical and analytical efforts to investigate the nature and formation mechanism of amorphous materials, such as glasses. She was awarded a l’Oreal-UNESCO Fellowship For Women in Science in 2018. In 2019, she joined Cambridge as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Professor Michael Cates’s Soft Matter Theory group. Her current research investigates various aspects of non-equilibrium soft materials, either active or driven. Camille is currently Ramon Jenkins Research Fellow of Sidney Sussex College.
 
Website: Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
 
Email: cs2057@cam.ac.uk


Daniel Congrave, 2020
 
Daniel grew up on Anglesey in North Wales. His background is primarily in the design, synthesis and investigation of organic polycyclic materials for optoelectronics. He obtained an MChem at Bangor University, carrying out research with Prof. Igor Perepichka. Daniel then went on to do a PhD at Durham University with Prof. Martin Bryce, where he developed organoiridium complexes and all-organic thermally activated delayed fluorescent materials for light emitting diodes. He next worked as a postdoc at the University of Cambridge in Dr Hugo Bronstein’s group, shifting emphasis toward organic solar cells and conjugated polymers. His research interests encompass anything where the interaction of organic molecules and light is key, and he believes that solving the underlying research problems in these fields will start with original structural chemistry and molecular design. As a Herchel Smith research fellow in organic chemistry at the Department of Chemistry, Daniel will focus on the near-infrared, where any significant advance in luminescent organic dyes should bridge optoelectronic and biological research.
 
Website: Department of Chemistry
 
Email: dc704@cam.ac.uk


Girish Beedessee, 2020
 
Girish was born in Mauritius and completed his PhD in the field of marine genomics at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan. He continued as a JSPS fellow exploring long read sequencing platforms to understand transcriptomic events. He is interested in investigating the role of biosynthetic enzymes in metabolite combinatorial chemistry. During his time at Cambridge in the Waller lab, Girish will combine biophysics, biochemistry and computational reconstruction of microscopy data to solve an evolutionary novel mode of re-engineering DNA condensation. Outside the lab, Girish loves playing football and travelling.
 
Website: Department of Biochemistry
 
Email: gb629@cam.ac.uk


Megan Hill, 2020
 
Megan grew up in the midwestern United States. After obtaining a bachelor's in materials science from Cornell University she moved back to the Midwest to pursue her PhD in materials science from Northwestern University in the group of Professor Lincoln Lauhon. Her PhD focused on the study of III-V nanowire lasers, particularly imaging nanowire composition using atom probe tomography and imaging nanowire strain using coherent X-ray imaging. During her PhD, Megan gained a passion for synchrotron science. She aims to utilize synchrotron spectroscopy during her fellowship to investigate the switching mechanisms of oxide memristors under the mentorship of Professor Judith Driscoll. Outside of lab, Megan enjoys cooking, intricately decorating cakes, and anything crafty!
 
Website: Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy
 
Email: moh30@cam.ac.uk


Navid Nabijou, 2020
 
Navid grew up in London, receiving his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Imperial College, before spending two years as a research associate at the University of Glasgow. He is a pure mathematician, specialising in algebraic geometry - the study of shapes defined by polynomial equations. He is interested in studying the inherent properties of these shapes; in classifying them and understanding how they relate to one another. The common theme running through his work is the exploitation of hidden combinatorial structures, to probe the geometry of complicated moduli spaces. Beyond the mathematical realm, he enjoys rock climbing, political activism and exploring new places.
 
Website: DPMMS
 
Email: nn333@cam.ac.uk


Tamsin Samuels, 2020
 
Tamsin grew up in Singapore and moved to the UK for her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. She completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Ilan Davis, studying the regulation of neural stem cells in the fruit fly larva. In 2020, Tamsin joined the group of Dr Felipe Karam Teixeira in the Department of Genetics using the model system of the fruit fly germline. As a Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellow, Tamsin will use single molecule imaging of RNA molecules in the fruit fly ovary to examine the molecular regulation of rapid fate transitions during stem cell differentiation. Outside the lab, Tamsin enjoys running and baking.
 
Website: Department of Genetics
 
Email: tjs73@cam.ac.uk


Zoe Wyatt, 2020
 
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Zoe is a mathematician working on general relativity. After undergraduate studies in mathematics at the University of Cambridge, she completed her PhD under the supervision of Pieter Blue at the University of Edinburgh. Her research lies at the intersection of general relativity, nonlinear partial differential equations and mathematical physics. She is particularly interested in using the analysis of partial differential equations to understand the validity of theories of quantum gravity and also to study properties of matter in cosmological models. Zoe is also a Junior Research Fellow at Darwin College.
 
Website: DPMMS
 
Email: zoe.wyatt@maths.cam.ac.uk


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


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