Welcome to my homepage. I'm currently a first year PhD student at the MOAC Doctoral Training Centre, University of Warwick and below is a brief overview of who I am and my research.
Life before MOAC
I graduated from the Uni. of Warwick in 2008 with a 2:1 in a BSc Biochemistry with Intercalated Year. Shortly afterwards, I undertook a Warwick Undergraduate Research Scholarship (part of the Warwick URSS programme ) during the summer months of 2008. In this project, I was working in Biological Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Corinne Smith on studying a transporter protein complex, TatAdCd, with electron microscopy (EM). The premise of this project was to analyse various preparations of this protein and ascertain the conditions for producing uniform complexes that could then be utilised for further structural work. This aspect has been continued on by a PhD student.
One of the core reasons I decided on MOAC back in 2008 (which at this time of writing seems a long time ago now!) was its emphasis on structural and biophysical techniques to observe and determine the function and structure of biomacromolecules. I found these fields particularly interesting during the 3rd year biochemistry modules on these areas, partly because of the wealth of information that can be gleaned from using such tools. Additionally, I have a curiosity into how things in general work, and this became more apparent during the undergraduate course. Small machines at the molecular level such as proteins are fundamental to life, and it's kind of like "How do they do it? Why do they do it this way?". Despite its complexity, there appears to be a certain elegance to how it all works, and trying to unravel that is, for lack of a better phrase, cool. Trying to find this out requires, amongst others, a set of techniques based in the biophysical and structural fields, hence why MOAC was a good choice.
Additionally, taking a MSc in multi-disciplinary science training enabled me to enhance the training during the undergraduate course and the research scholarship, giving me more confidence to operate in a lab/research environment.
Life during MOAC (MSc year: 2008-2009)
I joined the DTC family in September of 2008 with the MSc cohort where we were trained in molecular biology, structural techniques and simulations and modelling, to name but a handful of the skills we were taught. We were initially taught for 6 months in lectures and practicals on these aspects, before selecting a trio of 8 week mini projects to commit to for the remaining 6 months. The mini projects I selected were:
Mini project 1) Cloning and expression of reticulon 13 with Dr. Lorenzo Frigerio in Biological Sciences, University of Warwick
Mini project 2) Structural studies of TatA using synthetic peptides with Dr. Ann Dixon in Chemistry, University of Warwick
Mini project 3) Studying weak acids and their membrane interactions using molecular dynamics with Prof. Mark Rodger, University of Warwick.
An overarching theme with these 3 projects was the focus on membranes and membrane proteins.
PhD topic (October 2009-2012): Structure, topology and function of reticulons (Dr. Ann Dixon, Chemistry, and Dr. Lorenzo Frigerio, Biological Sciences, University of Warwick)
For the PhD, I hope to continue the work undertaken during the 1st miniproject and combine that with the Dixon group's expertise in biophysical techniques. This will hopefully assist in elucidating the topology of reticulons and relate this to the currently known structural and functional aspects of this ER shaping membrane protein. The array of techniques projected to be used during this PhD include ToxCAT oligomerisation assays, circular and linear dichroism, nuclear magnetic resonance, confocal microscopy, X-ray crystallography (potentially) and in vivo studies of the reticulon protein.
Life outside of the DTC
When not busy with academic work, I'm currently the Warwick Students Union co-project leader for the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), a national organisation of volunteers helping to maintain the woodlands in the UK. Along with Alistair Irvine (a fellow MOAC student and joint project leader), we co-ordinate with the BTCV and student volunteers to recruit enough volunteers and make sure everyone has a safe and fun time!
MOAC Doctoral Training Centre
University of Warwick