Currently, work in my lab focuses on understanding the cross-talk of membrane trafficking and cell signalling within the cell via deciphering interactions and trafficking of several membrane proteins/receptors:
Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR): understanding how FGFR and its downstream signalling pathways regulate membrane trafficking;
Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP): dissecting physiological role of APP by studying its trafficking, the interactors of its intracellular domain and the biological consequences of these interactions.
Aquaporin 4 (AQP4): identifying the key membrane transport regulators involved in trafficking AQP4 between the plasma membrane and intracellular vesicles in response to changes in osmolarity.
Recently I have established a collaboration to study the role of Stress Granules in C. elegans Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease models.
My main inspiration is my father who was a scientist and a professor. He was always supportive of my goals and natural interest in biology to explore how the world works.
In three words or phrases: Supportive, outcome-oriented, guiding students to become independent researchers.
Provision of Teaching
I prefer to take responsibility for your technical training at first but expect you to contribute to the project from the very start by independently researching appropriate literature, methods and experimental design.
Progression Monitoring and Management
I like to be kept up to date and will expect to see evidence of method development/data generation results on a weekly basis. I will expect you to take full ownership of your progression but will be always available to discuss a plan of action together. I am here for advice and guidance to help you reach the goals you set for yourself.
I am often available outside the usual business hours. We will also have regular team and individual meetings to monitor progress. Whilst I expect you to keep up with my team communications I will expect you to manage your work/life balance. 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 meetings will be a mixture of face to face or via video chat or telephone, and although I have an open door policy my pattern of being contactable for an instant response is not predictable.
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.
Certain tasks in my lab need to occur at set times, and students need to be able to commit to a rota/timetable shared with other members of the team.
Notice Period for Feedback
I need at least 1 week’s notice to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words.
Dr Balklava is the primary supervisor on the below project:
Deciphering the role of stress response in neurodegeneration
Stress granules (SGs) are dense aggregations of proteins and mRNAs appearing in the cytosol under stress conditions. They are transient and dynamic structures and play a critical role in mRNA metabolism and translational control by modulating the stress response. SG formation is transient and represents a physiological response to stress, however chronic stresses associated with aging and neurodegeneration lead to formation of persistent SGs that contribute to aggregation of disease-related proteins.
SGs dynamics have been mainly studied in yeast or human cell lines and not enough information is available on stress granules in multicellular organisms. C. elegans represents a powerful model to study neurodegeneration and dissect molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways contributing to pathology. An array of established C. elegans mutants can give insight into different aspects of neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis. Similarly, several tools are now available to study the role of cytoplasmic stress granules in stress response in C. elegans.
The aim of this project is to use C. elegans models for neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD)) to investigate stress response and SG dynamics and role in neurodegeneration in young and aging adults. This will be achieved through the following objectives: Objective 1: Analyse SG dynamics in C. elegans AD and PD models using fluorescently labelled SG markers. For this objective GFP-tagged SG markers TIAR-1 and GTBP-1 will be crossed into AD and PD mutant worms and SG dynamics will be analysed using fluorescence microscopy at different time points throughout the lifetime of the animals in the presence and absence of acute stress. Objective 2: Investigate whether modulation of SG formation affects AD and PD disease phenotypes and general worm fitness indicators. This objective will be achieved by crossing loss-of-function mutations of SG key proteins TIAR-1 and GTPB-1 into mutant AD and PD worms and analysing the resulting phenotypes at different time points throughout the lifetime of the animals. Together these objectives will allow to understand whether SGs play a crucial role in AD and PD pathogenesis and potentially suggest novel therapeutics for neurodegeneration.
Wolozin, B. and Ivanov, P. (2019). Stress Granules and neurodegeneration. Nat Rev Neurosci, 11, 649-666, doi: 10.1038/s41583-019-0222-5.