Future Leader fellows
Interested in becoming a fellow? Go to the Future Leader Fellowships page (in Funding section).
Dr Michael Bok, University of Bristol
Looking with gills: The evolution and function of distributed visual systems in fan worms with a view to future resilient sensor arrays
Mike is interested in the evolution and function of unusual visual systems in invertebrates such as fan worms and mantis shrimp. Based at the University of Bristol, Mike is researching the bizarre radiolar eyes of fan worms; small compound eyes distributed in the hundreds across their gill-like feeding tentacles that function for predator avoidance. Besides an independent evolutionary history, these eyes are also an exciting study system for the neurological wiring of distributed sensory systems. Mike is working to learn how the information from hundreds of eyes is integrated and processed in a consistent, resilient and adaptable manner. He hopes to gain biomimetic insights that could benefit synthetic distributed networking.
Dr Matthew Loxham, University of Southampton
The Biological Effects of Shipping-Related Particulate Matter Air Pollution
Matt is interested in how our cells respond to particulate matter air pollution, and how these responses vary depending on the characteristics of the particles. His highly interdisciplinary research uses a range of cellular and molecular biology approaches, coupled with analytical chemistry and imaging techniques, to understand how myriad cellular responses are linked to the physical and chemical properties and sources of the particles. His current work looks at particle emissions from shipping and dockside activities, using models of the lung exposed to particulates collected from various dock sources to investigate how such emissions may affect the lungs of residents of port cities and coastal areas. The ultimate aim is to better understand and predict how people might be affected, and to find efficient ways of reducing the effects of exposure.
Dr Estrella Luna-Diez, The University of Sheffield
Exploiting the immune system to tackle emerging filamentous diseases in tomato
Estrella is a Plant Scientist working at the Plant Production and Protection (P3) Centre at The University of Sheffield. Over the years, she has developed a multifaceted experience portfolio ranging from physiology to biochemistry, genetics and plant-microbe interactions. Her research will exploit the immune system of the tomato crop to enhance protection against emerging filamentous diseases. She will do this through priming the defence capacity of plants to prepare to respond faster and stronger against attackers. Her project uses breakthrough methodology in quantitative disease phenomics that will allow her to perform large scale experiments. The ultimate goal of her project is to provide novel strategies that offer “one-step-ahead” solutions against the risks associated with devastating outbreaks of emerging diseases.
Dr Stefan Mairhofer, The University of Nottingham
Uncovering Root Responses to Environmental Signals with Dynamic µCT Image Analysis
Stefan is based in the Computer Vision Lab at The University of Nottingham. His research interest lies in the image analysis of plant biological systems and quantification of plant architectural traits for studying the growth and development of crop plants. For this project, he is using X-ray micro computed tomography to develop new computational techniques to investigate the dynamic behaviour of root systems in response to their environment. Particular attention is given to the effect of different soil structures and the resource competition between interacting plants. The ultimate goal is to improve our understanding of roots’ perception of and reaction to environmental conditions, which is important for achieving sustainable food security.
Dr Adrian Muwonge, The Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh
The dynamics of antimicrobial resistance genes in the pig and human gut microbiome in Uganda
Adrian is a Molecular Epidemiologist based at The Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh. He has previously worked on tuberculosis at the human-animal interface in Africa but his work currently focuses on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Gene exchange at this interface. AMR is a global public health threat which increases the mortality and morbidity of common diseases. It not only diminishes the therapeutic value of drugs but also drives the costs of health care beyond the reach of millions of people globally. The irrational use of antimicrobials in our livestock is creating an additional source of resistance for the human population. In this regard, defining the fundamentals behind AMR gene generation, sharing within the gut microbiota and ultimately their exchange at the human-animal interface offers the best chance of developing effective and sustainable control measures globally. Adrian’s project is based in a setting of epidemiological relevance and exploits our current advancements in molecular techniques as well as efficiency in data processing. The work profiles and dissects antibiotic driven changes in the gut microbiome of humans in contact with pigs. Furthermore, it makes predictions on AMR gene exchange potential there by defining the occupational risk.
Dr Rowena Packer, Royal Veterinary College
Comorbidity and characteristics of canine neurodevelopmental disorders and their impact on animal welfare
Rowena is an animal behaviour and welfare scientist at the Royal Veterinary College, who is interested in the impact of health on animal welfare. During this fellowship, Rowena will focus upon idiopathic epilepsy, a complex chronic brain disorder that affects both humans and dogs. Although seizures may be the signature symptom of epilepsy, co-morbid neurodevelopmental disorders are commonly diagnosed in people with epilepsy including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which may indicate shared underlying pathophysiology. Using a combination of behavioural and cognitive assays, quantitative EEG and MRI techniques, Rowena aims to establish whether ASD and ADHD-like behavioural abnormalities occur as a co-morbidity of canine epilepsy, and where present, identify associated neuroanatomical and neurophysiological markers, and explore their impact on canine welfare.
Dr Jack Rivers-Auty, The University of Manchester
Understanding how dietary zinc and inflammation impact healthy ageing in the brain
Jack is a neuroimmunologist based at The University of Manchester. He is interested in how inflammation contributes to ageing and whether zinc deficiency accelerates the ageing process through inflammation. Inflammation is a beneficial response by your body to tissue damage or infection. However, when inflammation is chronic or excessive it can affect the health of your body and your brain. Inflammation is regulated by signalling molecules called cytokines which are released by your cells after they “sense” damage or infection. Jack’s project will investigate molecules involved in the “sensing” processing which appear to be extra-sensitive when you are zinc deficient. This work will expand our understanding of the interplay between zinc deficiency, inflammation and accelerated ageing, emphasising the importance of a good diet in healthy ageing.
Dr David Seung, John Innes Centre
Elucidating the mechanism of starch granule initiation in developing wheat grains
Starch is the major calorific component of our staple foods, such as wheat, rice and potatoes. Yet, we still do not fully understand how starch is produced in plants, despite its unquestionable importance. My research aims to develop our understanding of starch biosynthesis at the molecular detail. Plants produce starch as insoluble granules, and I have discovered novel proteins that initiate the formation of these granules in Arabidopsis leaves. During my fellowship, I will investigate whether these proteins are also important for initiating starch granules in the wheat grain, and I will look for additional proteins that are involved in granule formation. This work will lead to wheat varieties with altered starch properties, as well as enhanced nutritional qualities and health benefits.
Dr Sarah Stewart, University of Cambridge
Mediating intercellular communication: mechanisms of extracellular vesicle transfer between cells
Sarah is a molecular and cell biologist based at the University of Cambridge. She is interested in how cells at distant sites within the body communicate with each other via extracellular vesicles. Microvesicles and exosomes (together termed extracellular vesicles) are small membrane bound structures released under both normal homeostatic and pathological conditions. The focus of her work is understanding how extracellular vesicles deliver messages such as proteins, DNA and RNA into distant recipient cells. Directly showing that this process occurs and describing the mechanism is fundamental for understanding the role of extracellular vesicles in human health and disease. This work will also have ramifications for the use of extracellular vesicles as therapeutics.
Dr Jolanda van Munster, The University of Manchester
Sweet spots for fungal lignocellulose degradation; elucidating the enzymatic mechanism underpinning interaction of Aspergillus niger with wheat straw
Jolanda is a fungal geneticist and enzymologist, who is interested in the mechanisms behind microbial degradation of recalcitrant, complex carbohydrates. She currently focusses on fungal degradation and modification of plant lignocellulose. Fungi secrete enzymes to efficiently degrade complex plant lignocellulose to simple sugars. This ability is exploited in biotechnology, where these enzymes are used to produce sugars for subsequent conversion to biofuels and high-value chemicals. We have very limited understanding of how fungi, via the activity of such enzymes, affect the actual plant lignocellulose substrate. Jolanda aims to study the biochemical mechanism underpinning the degradative effect of the fungus Aspergillus niger and its enzymes on a complex lignocellulose substrate. Using an interdisciplinary approach, she will apply state-of-the-art techniques novel to the field to characterise both the surface of wheat straw during fungal growth and degradation, and the suite of degradative enzymes. This research will enhance our understanding of how the fungal enzymatic machinery interacts with and deconstructs lignocellulose, a prerequisite for improving their exploitation in sustainable biotechnology.