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Gibson Group: Ashfaq Ahmad


Ashfaq was born in Swat Valley, Pakistan where he grew up. He studied Biotechnology (with specialization in Plant Biotechnology) at the University of Swat. During his final year, he undertook a research project under the supervision of Dr. Nisar Ahmad, in the area of Plant celll and tissue culture, investigating the effect of plant growth regulators, nanoparticle, and light on the production of secondary metabolites in the plants. He also worked as a Research assistant in a project of Molecular Biology with Dr. Fazal Akbar at the University of Swat. He graduated in 2016 with a Gold Medal by securing the highest grades in his class. Following his graduation, he was awarded the Mastermind scholarship by the Belgian government to pursue an M.Sc. course (by research) i.e. Interuniversity program in Molecular Biology (IPMB), organized by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Universiteit Antwerpen. He did his master thesis under the supervision of Prof. Rouslan Efremov, in the laboratory of Electron Cryogenic Microscopy. His thesis involved the genomic engineering of an operon in the E. coli through lambda red coupled CRISPR/Cas9 system for enhancing the expression of a specific protein, a prerequisite for structural and functional analysis of protein. In September 2019, Ashfaq started working as a Marie-Curie fellow and PhD student in the Gibson group (Prof. Matthew Gibson) as part of the European project NanoCarbLink opens in a new window. His work is focused on the recombinant production of carbohydrate-binding proteins and the investigation of their function.

Research Interests

  • Studying biomolecular corona of nanomaterials
  • Genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 system
  • Polymer synthesis and nanomaterials functionalisation.
  • Measuring bimolecular interactions using biophysical techniques i.e., Biolayer Interferometry
  • Expression, purification, and characterization of recombinant proteins (bacterial expression system)
  • Cloning and site-directed mutagenesis

Research publications

  1. Ghazal B, Saif S, Farid K, Khan A, Rehman S, Reshma A, Fazal H, Ali M, Ahmad A, Rahman L, Ahmad N. Stimulation of secondary metabolites by copper and gold nanoparticles in submerge adventitious root cultures of Stevia rebaudiana (Bert.). IET nanobiotechnology. 2018 Jan 10;12(5):569-73.(Link )Link opens in a new window
  1. Idrees M, Sania B, Hafsa B, Kumari S, Khan H, Fazal H, Ahmad I, Akbar F, Ahmad N, Ali S, Ahmad N. Spectral lights trigger biomass accumulation and production of antioxidant secondary metabolites in adventitious root cultures of Stevia rebaudiana (Bert.). Comptes rendus biologies. 2018 Jul 1;341(6):334-42.(Link )Link opens in a new window
  2. Ahmad A, Ali H, Khan H, Begam A, Khan S, Ali SS, Ahmad N, Fazal H, Ali M, Hano C, Ahmad N. Effect of Gibberellic Acid on Production of Biomass, Polyphenolics and Steviol Glycosides in Adventitious Root Cultures of Stevia rebaudiana (Bert.). Plants. 2020 Apr;9(4):420. (Link )Link opens in a new window
  3. Baker A.N., Richards SJ., Pandey S., Guy C.S., Ahmad A., Hasan M., Biggs C.I., Georgiou P.G., Zwetsloot A.J., Straube A., Dedola S., Field R.A., Anderson N.R., Walker M., Grammatopoulos D., Gibson M.I., ACS Sensors, 2021, 6, 10, 3696-3705, Glycan-based Flow-Through Device for the Detection of SARS-COV-2 from Patient Swabs. (Link )Link opens in a new window
  4. Georgiou P.G.,Guy C.S., Hasan M., Ahmad A., Richards SJ., Baker A.N., Thakkar N., Walker M., Pandey S., Anderson N.R., Grammatopoulos D., Gibson M.I., ACS Macro Letters, 2021, Plasmonic Detection of SARS-COV-2 spike protein with Polymer-Stabilized Glycosylated Nanorods - (Link ) - Editor's Choice Article
  5. Ahmad A., Georgiou P., Hasan M., Pancaro A., Nelissen I., Gibson M. I., RSC Nanoscale, 2022. Polymer-Tethered Glycosylated Gold Nanoparticles Recruit Sialylated Glycoproteins into their Protein Corona, Leading to Off-Target Lectin Binding. (Link)
  6. Judge N, Georgiou P, Bissoyi A, Ahmad A, Heise A, Gibson M.I., Biomacromolecules, 2023. High Molecular Weight Polyproline as a Potential Biosourced Ice Growth Inhibitor: Synthesis, Ice Recrystallization Inhibition, and Specific Ice Face Binding. Https://

Research presentations

Poster Presentations:

  • Glyco-nanomaterials, their protein corona, and interaction with lectins - Chemistry Postgraduate Symposium - University of Warwick - 2021
  • "The biomolecular corona glycosylated nanoparticles affecting interaction with lectins" - Chemistry Departmental Symposium University of Warwick - March, 2022.
  • "Do glyconanoparticles still work after glycoprotein corona formation?" - RSC and ICI Application of Carbohydrates: Medicinal Chemistry and Materials conference - Queen's University Belfast - 21st -22nd November 2022.

Oral Presentations:

  • CSSB Cluster seminar - Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick - Nov, 2021. "Glyco-nanomaterials, their protein corona, and interaction with lectins"
  • Chemistry PG Symposium - University of Warwick - 25th May 2022. "Polymer-Tethered Glycosylated Gold Nanoparticles Recruit Sialylated Glycoproteins into their Protein Corona, Leading to Off-Target Lectin Binding"
  • Macro group UK’s Young Researchers Meeting, 18th and 19th July 2022, University of Nottingham. "Polymer-Tethered Glycosylated Gold Nanoparticles Recruit Sialylated Glycoproteins into their Protein Corona, Leading to Off-Target Lectin Binding"

Outreach Activities

During April-July 2020 I was involved in “I’m a Scientist, Stay at home”, a UK programme for chatting with UK students and teachers. This is an online activity that helps school students stay connected with science, their teachers, and their classmates during the school summer term. The activity gets young people talking to real scientists online through live chat sessions, to learn about real science. Due to the pandemic situation worldwide, most outreach activities were cancelled and this was a wonderful opportunity to reach out to school students while staying at home. Based on the field of study I was placed in “Disease Detectives Zone”.

During the chats, I had the opportunity to discuss my research and the work conducted in our labs. From my interaction with school students, I observed that the students often struggle to see the applications of the things they learn in classroom science lessons, especially if they don’t have science-related aspirations. In such situations, interactions with working scientists help them see the basic science getting translated into applied science in the form of product developments. It was also a great opportunity to help the students discover the wide range of STEM careers available to them, which would later help them make informed decisions about their future. Through this experience, I learned about communicating our work in different styles and to different groups of people but more importantly, it taught me a lot about how to see the bigger picture of our work, and how to pull out the key bits of information.

Awards and prizes

  • Early Career Researcher Travel Bursary (£250), RSC and ICI conference, Queen's University Belfast, November, 2022.
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD Fellowship, 2019-2022.
  • Mastermind Scholarship (for MSc studies) by Flemish (Belgian) government, 2017-2019
  • Gold Medal (undergraduate studies) by University of Swat, Pakistan, 2016.


PhD in Chemistry
[Marie-Curie PhD fellow]
University of Warwick
2019- 2023

M.Sc in Molecular Biology
KU Leuven, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Universiteit Antwerpen
(Inter-university program)

BSc in Biotechnology
University of Swat