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Dr Robert Mahen

R Mahen

Contact Details

Dr Robert Mahen


Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Leicester

Research Interests

Life is sustained by the collective function of subcellular molecular machines termed organelles. Much is still to be understood about the assembly and function of organelles – a question which is critical to human health and disease.

We seek to understand the fundamental functions of centrosomes – microtubule-based organelles that allow cells to divide, move and sense their environment. Defects in centrosomes cause many poorly understood developmental diseases and are also implicated in carcinogenesis. Our work uses combined tools from fluorescence microscopy, genome editing and biochemistry, to understand the function of centrosomes across scales, with a long-term goal to treat human disease.

During cell division centrosomes form spindle poles, and thus are important for accurate chromosome segregation. My work has developed technologies to study centrosomes directly inside living cells, and proposed new models for how centrosomes are constructed from component parts during mitosis. Centrosomes also form cilia: hair-like appendages used for cell sensing and motion in a range of different human tissues. My recent work has pioneered imaging of cytoskeletal fibres nucleated by centrosomes termed rootlets, with a view to understanding human ciliary structure and function. We are collaborating with groups from across the University of Leicester to understand centrosome functions in human tissues from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Scientific Inspiration

Alan Turing, Marie Curie, Robert Oppenheimer. Giants who saw things differently and were aware of the wider context of their research.

Supervision Style

In three words or phrases: Supportive, inclusive, adaptive

Provision of Training

I take responsibility for your initial training, providing a good foundation for independence later

Progression Monitoring and Management

I will expect you to take full ownership of your progression but I am here for advice and guidance to help you reach the goals you set for yourself. I have an open-door policy for troubleshooting.


I am known to email my team/PhD students at all hours of the day and night, however I will not expect you to do the same. I am happy to discuss any issues that are impacting your ability to fulfil your potential or my/our expectations.

PhD Students can expect scheduled meetings with me:

In a group meeting

At least once per week

In year 1 of PhD Study

At least once per week

In year 2 of PhD Study

At least once per fortnight

In year 3 of PhD Study

At least once per fortnight

These one on one meetings will be a mixture of face to face and via video call or telephone, and I am usually contactable for an instant response on every working day.

Working Pattern

The timing of work in my lab is completely flexible, and (other than attending pre-arranged meetings), I expect students to manage their own time.

Notice Period for Feedback

I need at least 1 week’s notice to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words