Our Dynamic Cell Biology students

Our students are currently investigating a large range of scientific questions within the field of dynamic cell biology. Click on each name below to find out more about each student's research and why they chose to pursue a PhD in Dynamic Cell Biology at Bristol.

All the photographs on this page were taken by Will Razzell, a student on the Dynamic Cell Biology programme.

Tom McVicar

Tom McVicar

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The opportunity to apply diverse imaging techniques to study different key cell biology questions was a big attraction. The rotation year allowed me to gain valuable technical experience and helped me to decide which area of cell biology research most interested me.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

I am investigating how human cells are protected from damaged mitochondria. Normally the powerhouses of our cells, dysfunctional mitochondria are a major cause of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's disease. In healthy cells, damaged mitochondria are degraded by a process termed mitophagy. We are looking at novel protein involvement in mitophagy and have found that mitochondrial degradation is tightly regulated by energy homeostasis.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

I hope to continue mitochondrial research and would like to take a post-doc position in either the United States or Europe (or even, dare I say it, anywhere with a bit of sun!).

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Bettina Urban

Bettina Urban

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The one-plus-three structure of programme with choice of great labs for rotations, reputation of research at Bristol University.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

To investigate the role of proto-oncogene BCL-3 in colorectal cancerogenesis. BCL-3 is a potent survival factor in colorectal adenoma and carcinoma cells; AKT phosphorylation is up-regulated in NF-kappaB dependent manner through simultaneous activation of PI3K and mTOR pathways, and expression is increased in response to inflammation.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

BCL-3 regulates AKT, beta-catenin and COX-2 - implications for colorectal carcinogenesis, treatment and prevention, also in context of inflammation such as IBD. I got a job offer for a postdoctoral position at the University of Texas to start summer 2013 (after a six to eight months maternity break).

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Matt Gallon

Matt Gallon

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme

I didn't know exactly what I subject area to do my PhD in and Bristol offers a great selection of labs doing interesting work, which the rotations allowed me to sample.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

I am studying the role of a membrane trafficking protein, SNX27, in polarisation of cells in development utilising both cultured cells and the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. I seem to have disproved my original hypothesis that SNX27 recycles proteins involved in cell polarity to the plasma membrane.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

Hopefully my research will lead to a better understanding of the physiological relevance of trafficking mechanisms that have mainly been studied in cultured cells. If my PhD is successful I will go on to post-doctoral research.

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Graham Britton

Graham Britton

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The quality of the labs within the programme, the opportunity to do diverse rotation projects and the research resources available - particularly the imaging facility.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

I am interested in understanding the cellular mechanisms that dictate how T-cells respond to self-antigen and how we might exploit this understanding for therapeutic benefit in autoimmune diseases. By studying T-cells that respond differently to self-antigen I have found that changes in 'immunological synapse' formation affect downstream signaling and thus dictate the T-cell response.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

A greater understanding of the T-cell responses which underpin autoimmunity may help in the development and refinement of targeted interventions for diseases like multiple sclerosis. I plan to continue working in academic labs, probably studying the immune system.

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Jenny Baston

Jenny Baston

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The Dynamic Cell Biology programme appealed to me because I was interested in cellular signalling and the structure of the programme and support from the Wellcome Trust was a good opportunity. The facilities at Bristol and the city itself won me over because its a great place to live.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

I'm researching the signalling mechanisms involved in prostate cancer cell migration following cell-cell collisions, and how these mechanisms influence cancer cell invasion. Our lab showed that cancer cells and untransformed cells stop moving, repolarise and migrate away from one another following cell-cell contact, whereas cancer cells that collide with normal cells just keep barging into the normal cells. We showed that these events are regulated by Eph receptor signalling and are due to altered Eph receptor levels in metastatic prostate cancer cells.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

Our research will improve understanding of prostate cancer cell invasion and metastasis and could lead to improved patient care or treatment in the future. I hope to continue investigating the mechanisms involved in cancer cell invasion in the future by doing postdoctoral research.

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Jon Gillespie

Jon Gillespie

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The attraction of this prestigious programme is underpinned by high quality research projects that provide a unique opportunity to experience a broad and deep range of research topics.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

My PhD has focused on investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. Using Drosophila, I showed the functional significance of a protein-protein interaction involving CASK and CaMKII, mutation of which is associated with neurological disorders. By demonstrating their role in controlling neuronal growth and excitability, in addition to the requirement of CASK in Drosophila learning and memory, I was able to give mechanistic insight into the function of these two proteins.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are you future career plans now?

My research could lead to the discovery of drugable targets for neurological conditions involving CASK and CaMKII. In the future, I hope to be able to continue doing neuroscience research after doing a degree in graduate medicine, combining clinical insights with basic research.

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Court Harding

Court Harding

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The programme is a good choice to both explore a range of tecniques and aspects of research.

What is the key research questions of you PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

The key research question related to the 'coupling' interaction between a potassium channel (SK2) and an atypical acetylcholine receptor (a9a10), and whether this coupling interaction can be recapitulated in a mammalian expression system. So far the receptor appears broadly similar as in vivo, although coupling has not yet been demonstrated.

Where do you think you research could lead and what are you future career plans now?

I'd hope the research could, one day, lead to prophylaxis for noise-induced hearing loss. As for my future career plans, I'm considering the clinical route.

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Ruth Mitchell

Ruth Mitchell

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

This is an excellent programme where the rotations allow you to see a variety of different labs and learn a range of techniques before settling into a PhD.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

have just finished my third rotation and am just deciding on specifics of my PhD research project looking at tolerance and autoimmunity specifically in the context of multiple sclerosis.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

Doing a PhD opens up a range of options for career plans. At the moment, it is nice to see how my research fits in with clinical applications in terms of clinical trials. I am open to different career options at the end of my PhD, possibly industry or some form of health care job.

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Ian McGough

Ian McGough

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The primary reason I picked Bristol was the extensive and varying areas of research encompassed in the programme. I hoped this would allow me to sample different topics of research before deciding on the best fit for me. In addition I chose Bristol due to its excellent imaging facilities.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

The aim of my research project has been to address role of the endosomal trafficking complex retromer in regulating the formation of Wnt morphogenic gradients. During the course of my Ph.D I have identified a novel retromer complex that regulates the trafficking of the Wnt "chaperone" WLS and identified the mechanism be which this novel retromer complex generates cargo enriched transport carriers.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

My research well hopefully lead to a greater understanding of how morphogenic gradients are generated and maintained. I am currently in the process of applying for post-doctoral fellowships that will allow me to continue my interest in intracellular trafficking.

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Laura Carney

Laura Carney

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The interplay between ‘applied’, more disease centred, and ‘core’, more biochemical projects in the dynamic cell biology programme really appealed to me. Combined with the focus upon imaging throughout these areas, with use of a world class imaging facility, persuaded me to apply to the programme.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

My PhD research project aims to determine the temporal and spatial dynamics of IL-10 expression in a peripheral tolerance model of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE), the mouse form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While we can induce IL-10 dependent resistance to EAE in mice (more commonly known as tolerance), it is still unclear as to when and where IL-10 functions. Current work using an IL-10 GFP transcriptional reporter mouse has established the spleen to be the main source of IL-10-expressing cells in tolerised mice.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

Ultimately, it is hoped the determination of the location and the timing of IL-10 expression in tolerance induction will enable both a greater understanding and optimisation of current peptide therapy for MS.

Following my PhD, I hope to use my scientific knowledge by moving into the field of patent law. In this way I will have experienced both the forefront of scientific research, and the steps that follow in order to realise research from a commercial and therapeutic viewpoint.

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Mandy Bell

Mandy Bell

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The reputation of the University and the chance to experience research in a few different areas before choosing the final project.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

The role of the cytoskeleton in erythrocyte enucleation. So far I have been investigating the potential role of spectrin in protein sorting during enucleation.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

My research could lead to a better understanding of human hereditary haemolytic anaemias. In the future I plan to stay in science, either in industry or in academia.

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Liz Emery

Liz Emery

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?

The reputation of Bristol University, the labs available and the Wellcome Trust. Also, the structure of the first year.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

I am interested in how colorectal cancer stem cells adapt to the tumour microenvironment, in particular hypoxia. I have found that the key intestinal stem cell marker LGR5 is down-regulated in response to hypoxia in colorectal adenoma, carcinoma and metastasis derived cells.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

I hope to determine the biological significance of my findings: does LGR5 suppression facilitate cancer stem cell adaptation and survival in hypoxia?

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Helen Tunbridge

Helen Tunbridge

What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme

My main motivations for applying to Bristol and specifically to the Dynamic Cell Biology programme were the excellent reputation of the university and its research, and the broad range of subjects available to study. The organisation of the course itself, and the seminars in the first year were also an important consideration as I felt they would help broaden my horizons and teach me how better to present my (and others') work.

What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?

My research will be using live cell imaging to better understand the signalling differences between pathogenic and protective T cells, in the context of peripheral tolerance induction, in an animal model of multiple sclerosis.

Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?

I'm hoping to continue a career in research following my PhD, but have not made any firm decisions as yet. I am enjoying working in academia but also had very positive experiences working in industry for a year, and am interested in undertaking an internship in communications or policy making, which may open up new avenues. I have many options available to me, but fortunately plenty of time before I have to make any decisions!

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