David Phillips fellows
Interested in becoming a fellow? Go to the David Phillips Fellowships page (in Funding section).
For details of all current David Phillips fellows, please use the links below.
Dr Ryan MacDonald, University College London
Support for synapses: the role of cell adhesion molecules in glial morphogenesis
Ryan is a developmental neuroscientist in the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London. The aim of his BBSRC fellowship is to understand how a healthy nervous system is built and maintained throughout life. The nervous system, which includes the brain and retina, contains specialised cells that carry out numerous support functions called glia. Glia have elaborate projections that enable them to make precise contacts with neurons and ensure their proper function. These close relationships break down with increasing age and may significantly contribute to disease. Ryan will use high resolution time-lapse microscopy, molecular biology and genetics in the zebrafish retina to determine cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling glial cell development. This research will allow us to better understand how glia and neurons establish their close relationship, with the ultimate goal of promoting the maintenance of these contacts to improve the healthy ageing of the nervous system.
Dr Patrick Moynihan, University of Birmingham
Peptidoglycan release and recycling in pathogenic mycobacteria
Most bacteria wrap themselves in a cell wall which protects them from a wide range of stresses. Textbooks often present this wall as a static, un-changing structure. This is completely false. To grow, divide and carry out metabolic operations the cell wall must be dynamic and plastic. This is true of all walled bacteria but represents a unique challenge to Mycobacterium tuberculosis which has a complex cell wall. The peptidoglycan (PG) layer of the mycobacterial cell wall is essential for its survival and is known to be heavily modified during growth. This process generates a diverse array of small molecules including fragments of PG, which are important for immune stimulation and we have recently shown are recycled by the bacterium. As a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow I will be determining the molecular basis for peptidoglycan synthesis, degradation and recycling in this important human pathogen.
Dr Vivek Nityananda, Newcastle University
Attention-like processes in insects: applications to pollinator biology and health
Vivek is a neuroethologist working at Newcastle University to discover the sensory and cognitive solutions of insects. Insect brains are orders of magnitude smaller than primate brains. Yet they solve several of the same visual problems that primates do - often with smart efficient solutions. One of the most important of these problems is that of selective attention - choosing one target and ignoring the distractors, something that is vital for foraging or avoiding predators. Vivek’s project will investigate how insects manage to do so by combining insights from neuroscience, psychology and ecology. The research will also investigate the role these attention-like processes play in pollination and in particular how pesticides might affect the sensory systems of pollinators. The aims are thus to further advance the rapid recent progress of research into insect visual processing and enhance our understanding of the effect of pesticides on pollinator health.
Dr Sharon Zytynska, University of Liverpool
Unravelling beneficial multi-species interactions in a cereal crop system
Sharon is an evolutionary ecologist who works to understand how the growth of crop plants can be influenced by the different species that exist in agroecosystems. Currently we are tackling the global problem of sustainably feeding a growing population. Sharon’s research investigates how we can use beneficial soil bacteria and earthworms to increase plant yield while simultaneously defending against insect pests - essentially using beneficial species interactions to mitigate the loss of yield we see when we reduce chemical pesticide and synthetic fertilizer inputs (for example in organic farming). Using a combination of greenhouse/field experiments and molecular analyses, she will characterise these interactions from the ‘genome to the field’. A fuller understanding of how beneficial species work together to improve plant health can lead to identification of important molecular pathways involved in biocontrol for future plant breeding, and provide advice for exploiting beneficial interactions in our agricultural systems..