David Phillips fellows
Interested in becoming a fellow? Go to the David Phillips Fellowships page (in Funding section).
Dr Matthew Apps, University of Oxford
A Biological Framework of Reduced Physical and Social Activity across the Lifespan
Matt is cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Oxford. The aim of his BBSRC fellowship is to understand the neurobiological basis of different components of our motivation, how they change as people get older and the links between motivation and levels of daily activity. He uses techniques such as online computer games and computational modelling approaches to try and understand why some people are typically very motivated and others aren’t, why some people are very motivated and active in some aspects of their lives but not in others, and why people find things “effortful”.
Using brain imaging and deep brain stimulation he will map out which systems in the brain underlie people’s willingness to put in effort into different aspects of their lives and why some behaviours get more effortful as people get older.
Dr Marco Di Antonio, Imperial College London
Disrupting DNA G-quadruplex secondary structures to revert premature ageing
Marco is a chemical-biologist working at Imperial College London to investigate DNA structural and epigenetic changes associated with ageing.
DNA packaging and chromatin organisation are gradually compromised as we age, leading to gene misregulation and ageing related disorders. Marco’s research combines synthetic organic chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology and genetics to map and target ageing-dependent alterations in DNA structures and chromatin organisation on a genome-wide scale. His research aims at generating the fundamental biological knowledge to design small-molecule probes targeting and reversing chromatin alterations caused by ageing and, ultimately, promoting healthy ageing across the life course.
Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, University of Cambridge
The regulation of plant-nematode parasitism
Sebastian is a plant-pathologist who is fascinated by the inter-kingdom communication between plants and parasitic nematodes. What makes plant-parasitic cyst nematodes different from many other plant pathogens is that they have specialised secretory tissues that deliver proteins into the host, and that these proteins have the remarkable ability to cause existing plant cells to re-differentiate into a novel tissue. How this parasitism process is regulated, in the nematode and in the host, is one of the great unanswered questions in the field.
A series of recent breakthroughs have revealed a spatio-temporally resolved multi-stage ‘Parasitism Programme’ – giving us our first insight into the regulation of plant-parasitism. Sebastian’s project is designed to identify the ‘Regulators’ of the Parasitism Programme, and determine their efficacy as a series of targets for the biotechnological control of plant-parasites of global economic importance.
Dr Teresa Thurston, Imperial College London
Analysing antibacterial immunity from two sides: host versus pathogen
Teresa is a cell biologist who is fascinated in understanding how intracellular bacteria cause disease. As the outcome of infection will be determined by both the host immune response and the bacterial virulence factors present, her research aims to address both sides of the coin. On the host side, Teresa is focused on understanding how innate immune responses, which provide a first line of defence against pathogens, can detect and restrict the growth of intracellular bacteria. To complement this, she will study how Salmonella enterica, serovars of which cause gastroenteritis and typhoid fever, interferes with innate immune responses through the delivery of “effector” proteins into the host cell. Overall, the goal is to use a combination of cell biology, biochemistry and structural biology to uncover novel molecular interactions that occur between host and pathogen and ultimately alter the fate of intracellular bacteria. This is important due to the rising risk of antibiotic resistant pathogens, including Salmonella.
Dr Jenny Zhang, University of Cambridge
3D-Printed Platforms to Study and Utilise the Photoelectrochemistry of Photosynthetic Biofilms
Jenny is a multidisciplinary chemical biologist who is fascinated by the metabolic power of microbial biofilms. In particular, she is interested in how biofilms can be exploited in biotechnology to perform tasks such as water remediation, chemical synthesis and clean and renewable energy generation. For example, photosynthetic biofilms, such as cyanobacteria and algae, can generate electricity when irradiated with sunlight, similar to a solar cell. This is an appealing approach to generate renewable energy since photosynthetic microorganisms are abundant, resilient, can self-repair, and are amenable to bioengineering. However, such technologies are hindered by knowledge gaps within the complex field of biofilm biology, where the biofilm-material interface is not well understood. With the aid of 3D-printing, Jenny will explore how the morphology of the biofilm scaffold influences biofilm productivity. She will also employ photoelectrochemical techniques to understand how and why the photosynthetic biofilms are producing electricity in the first place.