Our Former Students talk about life after their PhDs

2008 cohort

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James Halstead -

I finished by PhD in 2013, part of the first cohort to complete the Wellcome Trust Program in Cell and Developmental Biology. I’d already caught the research bug, but in Ilan Davis’ group I got hooked on using advanced microscopy to answer fundamental questions, particularly relating to RNA and cell biology. After my PhD I moved abroad to Switzerland to pursue postdoctoral research, developing single molecule RNA imaging techniques with researchers that had come to speak at Oxford. From there I took a leap to Australia where I now work as a senior postdoctoral fellow in a large department in Sydney, part of EMBL Australia, dedicated entirely to single molecule science. I’ve published papers examining RNA biology in both field-specific and general interest journals, including Science, Elife, RNA, and Nature Cell Biology (and more are on the way), and won external funding at every stage to pursue my own ideas. I’m now lucky enough to be in a position where I can supervise my own students, write grants, and build my skills for independence. There is no doubt in my mind that the WT CDB program was a spring board into the international science, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

I hope that future young researchers will have the opportunity to learn as much as I did from the WT CDB. How to sum it up? Two things stand out. The first year was particularly formative for me. The opportunity to work with two different top class labs, ranging from young start-ups groups to established world-leaders, and to meet with a different group leader each week to discuss their latest thinking, was amazing. It taught me something very important: talk talk talk with as many different experts as you can. You won’t always agree, but you’ll probably learn something (and you never know where the next collaboration may come from). The second is more of a personal note. I’ve worked with four group leaders from the CDB course and, in each case, I’ve learnt the importance of supporting junior scientists. Never was this more the case than with the Davis group; looking back I realise how much I was supported and encouraged to pursue ideas that were both interesting and challenging. When things worked, we did high-fives, when things didn’t, we regrouped. This has shaped my own approach to supervising, and I hope I can now impart this on my own students.

Françoise Howe -

I did my PhD and post-doc with Prof. Jane Mellor in the Department of Biochemistry, Oxford. My research focused on the role of chromatin and antisense transcription in the regulation of gene transcription, using yeast as a model organism. I then joined the scientific administration team at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Oxford, where I provide scientific writing support and I am responsible for research data management, communications and public engagement initiatives.

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Maria Elena Mogni -

Since completing the Wellcome Trust D.Phil programme in chromosome and developmental biology, I have used my scientific, lateral thinking and analytical skills gained during my D.Phil to transition into the medical communications field. Specifically, I currently work in central London in the editorial field, where I enjoy using my attention to detail to raise the quality of medical writing projects, checking their scientific accuracy and assist the development of new business with independent literature searches. Working in this field enables me to keep up with current healthcare topics as well as learn about new drugs. I am also exposed to a variety of therapeutic fields, where my ability to research for complex scientific facts developed during my D.Phil helps me on a day-to-day basis to obtain valuable scientific insights.

 

Edgar Pogna -

I received my Bachelor and Master in Molecular Biology from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, where I studied paediatric genetic diseases, Noonan and Costello syndromes, at the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanita). I moved out of Italy in 2008 to join the first cohort of DPhil students enrolling in the newly launched Wellcome Trust programme in Chromosome and Developmental Biology at the University of Oxford. I conducted my research in the laboratory of Prof. Louis Mahadevan, studying the post-translational modifications of HGMN1, a nucleosome binding protein, in response to the activation of immediate early genes c-fos and c-jun. After completing my DPhil, I decided to explore new opportunities outside academia, and I joined L.E.K. Consulting in 2014, a global strategy consulting firm with a focus on the Life Sciences and Healthcare industries. In the past 5 years at L.E.K., I conducted 30+ projects, supporting large pharma, mid-size biotech, generics pharma, nutraceuticals, and hospital MedTech, across various type of engagement, such as Business plan development, Due Diligence support, Portfolio Assessment, Competitive Positioning, and more. After spending about 8 years in the UK, between Oxford (Trinity College) and London, I moved to Germany in 2016 and I currently live and work in Munich.

Edgar Pogna
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Konstantina Skourti-Stathaki -

Dr. Konstantina Skourti-Stathaki received a BSc in Biology at the University of Crete, Greece and a MSc in Molecular Biology and Biomedicine at the IMBB/FORTH Institute and University of Crete, where she developed a strong interest for gene expression regulation. Following the award of a Wellcome Trust studentship in Chromosome and Developmental Biology, she moved to Oxford, U.K to conduct her PhD with Prof. Nick Proudfoot. During these years, Konstantina discovered that R-loop structures, long perceived as a trigger for genomic instability, are required for efficient transcriptional termination (Skourti-Stathaki et al. 2011 Molecular Cell). This work was one of the first pieces of evidence that R-loops play an important, beneficial role in transcriptional regulation. She then stayed at the lab of Nick Proudfoot as a postdoctoral researcher, where she blended her research on gene expression regulation and R-loops with the chromatin field, and she discovered that R-loops can promote the formation of a repressive chromatin mark via the RNAi pathway in a subset of mammalian termination regions (Skourti-Stathaki et al. 2014 Nature).

In 2014, Konstantina was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue her research interests as an independent postdoctoral researcher. She worked in the labs of Prof. Ana Pombo in Berlin and Prof. Adrian Bird in Edinburgh, where she discovered a novel mechanism of transcriptional repression mediated by R-loops and Polycomb proteins in mouse embryonic stem cells (Skourti-Stathaki et al. 2019 Molecular Cell). Even though Konstantina’s main research focus is on the role of R-loops in transcriptional and epigenetic regulation, she is also interested in understanding the role of R-loops in DNA damage. She has therefore established an ongoing collaboration with Prof. David Livingston in Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, a pioneer in BRCA1-mediated DNA damage repair response. Konstantina is currently based in the University of Edinburgh as a postdoctoral researcher in Adrian Bird’s lab, while applying for independent Group Leader positions.

2009 Cohort

Anne Grijzehnout -

I did my PhD with Professor Neil Brockdorff in the Department of Biochemistry. My research focused on the role of the AEBP2 protein, a member of the Polycomb-Repressive Complex 2. I remember many happy hours in the tissue culture room, chatting to my colleagues, as well as the excitement of discussing new findings and ideas in lab meetings and journal clubs. I also did a short post-doc with Neil to finish and publish my work, an achievement I am still proud of.

I then made the jump to consulting and joined Oliver Wyman in their London office. I worked on demanding projects across industries and in several different countries. The skills I learnt during my PhD were important in my success in the role, but I also had to learn many new skills. After three years at Oliver Wyman, I decided to join Medtronic, the world’s largest medical device company. There I work in the Integrated Health Solutions team, helping healthcare providers enhance quality care and manage costs.

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Hannah Long -
During her DPhil, Hannah worked with Profs Rob Klose and Roger Patient to investigate conservation of DNA methylation patterns from fish to man, and uncover mechanisms that dictate the formation of non-methylated islands across the genome. After completing this work, Hannah was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Professor Doug Higgs at the University of Oxford, and Professor Joanna Wysocka at Stanford University. During her Fellowship, Hannah is investigating how distal regulatory regions, known as enhancers, modulate gene expression during the development of the neural crest, a transient embryonic cell type which gives rise to many diverse adult tissues, including the majority of the human face. In the longer term, Hannah hopes to better understand how non-coding genetic variation can contribute to human craniofacial disease and normal face variation.

Stuart Meiklejohn -

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Catarina Vicente -
I am originally from Portugal and have a background in genetics and cell biology. I did my undergraduate degree in Genetics at the University of York, with a year-in-industry at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College. I graduated from my DPhil in the lab of Prof Jordan Raff at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in 2013. My thesis project focused on centrioles and cell division in the Drosophila embryo. Following my DPhil I worked for three years at the Company of Biologists, a not-for-profit publishing company in Cambridge, where I was the community manager for the Node, a community website for developmental biologists. I was also the online editor and press contact for the journal Development. This was followed by a short stint as Digital Communications Officer at Lady Margaret Hall College. Since September 2017 that I have been the Public Engagement and Communications Officer at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford. I support our researchers to engage the public with their research in a variety of ways, from school visits and science festivals to writing and podcasting. I am also responsible for all public-facing aspects of the institute, from our digital presence to press releases.

Jamie Zhan -
Jamie Zhan completed her DPhil in Chromosome and Developmental biology, studying the molecular mechanism of the Fanconi Anaemia DNA repair pathway. Upon graduation, she entered strategy consulting for the pharmaceutical industry, first with Kinapse Ltd. in London and then moved to Singapore with IMS Consulting Group (now IQVIA) in 2014. After three years in consulting, Jamie joined CapitalBio eHealth in Beijing as the Managing Director of Centre for Health Management Operations. CapitalBio is one of the largest genetic technology companies in China, where she led successfully a new line of business covering strategy development and international affairs, and launched new programs jointly with government agencies in population health management.

Jamie Zhan

In 2018, Jamie was admitted to the Master of Public Health (MPH) program in Health Management at Harvard University. Her study focused on financial and economic management of healthcare systems with a special interest in the role and impact of private industry (biotech and payer/ provider systems) in improving patient care outcome. Jamie has just graduated from the MPH program this summer (2019), and will join Expansion Technologies, an early-stage biotech spun-out from MIT Media Lab, as General Manager, responsible for clinical development strategy and business operations.

2010 Cohort

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David Brown -
Since my Wellcome Trust Studentship, I joined UCSF as a postdoc in Bo Huang’s group which employs state of the art fluorescence microscopy techniques to tackle central questions in cell biology. I am still fascinated by chromatin biology and the regulation of gene expression, and work on several projects in this area. I am also developing tools to streamline the generation of knock-in cell lines particularly in non-dividing cells. I have recently begun to teach R and python for scientists and have mentored several grad and undergrad students. It has been so much fun that at the end of my postdoc I am hoping to find a teaching position back in the UK. Please get in touch if you are interested in visiting the Huang Lab or UCSF, or you are looking to hire an enthusiastic molecular biology lecturer.

Laura Corrigan -

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Stephen Fleenor -
After defending his thesis in July 2014, Stephen became a high school science teacher in San Antonio, Texas, USA. He taught various science subjects for three years before earning the Edgewood District Teacher of the Year award in 2017. During his time teaching, he developed a specialty in teaching students who are learning English and for helping native English speakers achieve high levels of literacy, and in late 2017 he shifted to training and coaching teachers in this area. Now as an educational consultant with Seidlitz Education, Stephen has authored the book Teaching Science to English Learners and trains and coaches teachers nationwide, as well as conducting research on effective teaching practices.

Zsofia Novak -
I completed my MSc in Biology in Budapest, Hungary at Eotvos Lorand University after carrying out my MSc project on DNA repair in Prof. Matthew Whitby’s lab at the University of Oxford. I joined the Wellcome Trust Chromosome and Developmental Biology DPhil Programme in 2010. Following my research rotation projects in Prof. Whitby’s lab and Prof. Jordan Raff’s lab I completed my DPhil in the Raff lab studying the regulation of centrosome duplication. Since finishing my DPhil I have stayed as a postdoc in the Raff lab where I have continued my research on cell cycle dependent regulation of the centrosome cycle and have helped supervise a number of MSc and DPhil students in the lab.

Zsofia Novak
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Sharon Ruane -
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2011 Cohort

Karolina Chocian -
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Alex Davidson

Alexander Davidson -

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology at University College London, where my research projects focused on the biology of ageing, and segmentation in arthropod development. I came to Oxford in 2011 to join the Wellcome Trust Chromosome and Developmental Biology Program, where I worked in Ilan Davis' lab and completed my DPhil on the role of mRNA localisation and translational control in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. I focused on using super-resolution microscopy to image uncover a mechanism for regulating localised translation by spatial restriction of translational activators. During my DPhil, I was also fortunate enough to row twice in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race (winning as President in 2013) and represent Great Britain at the Under-23 World Rowing Championships in 2012. I am now a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where I am part of the Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products practice, specialising in Digital and Analytics.

Serena Ding -
I received my Bachelor’s in Biology from the University of Richmond, Virginia, USA, where my honors thesis project focused on gene regulatory networks in sponge development. I then leaped across the pond to Oxford for my DPhil. During the CDB programme I worked with Dr. Alison Woollard in the Biochemistry Department on the regulation of asymmetric stem cell divisions during C. elegans development. Outside of the lab during my DPhil, I spent lots of time dancing with the University’s salsa team, and was the team captain during 2014-2015. Since completing my DPhil, I’ve been conducting postdoctoral research with Dr. Andre Brown at Imperial College, still working with C. elegans but on a completely different topic and scale—I am now studying worm collective behaviours using quantitative phenotyping and model simulations.

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Harry Fischl -
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Katarzyna Kozyrska -
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2012 Cohort

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Lars Hanssen
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Hamish King -
Hamish King completed his undergraduate training at Flinders University of South Australia before moving to Oxford to complete his DPhil in Chromosomal and Developmental Biology in the Department of Biochemistry with Prof Rob Klose. During his DPhil studies, he investigated the molecular mechanisms that allow genes to be turned on and off using chromatin-based and transcriptional genome-wide assays. Hamish is now a Sir Henry Wellcome Post Doctoral fellow at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, where he is studying the gene regulatory networks that control human B cell date decisions using cutting-edge single-cell genomics.

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Greta Pintacuda -

After completing my PhD in Neil Brockdorff’s Lab I stayed around for a short Postdoc, finishing off work for my main paper. I then moved to Cambridge MA where I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Kevin Eggan’s Lab at Harvard, working on human iPSCs (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Greta_Pintacuda).

Anna Dorothea Senft -
Anna Dorothea earned her PhD in Chromosome and Developmental Biology from the University of Oxford in 2016 working in the lab of Liz Robertson. She studied how components of the TGFb signalling pathway specify embryonic cell fates in the early post-implantation mouse embryo. After her PhD, Anna Dorothea stayed with Liz for her first PostDoc focusing on tissue-specific roles of TGFb signals during primordial germ cell development. In 2019 Anna Dorothea joined Todd Macfarlan's lab at the NIH to explore roles of zinc finger proteins and endogenous retroviruses during early embryonic and extra-embryonic cell fate specification in mammals.

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Adam Volanakis -

I am from Greece and I studied Biology at the University of Crete. After my undergraduate studies, I moved to University of Oxford to complete an MSc by research in the laboratory of Dr. Lidia Vasilieva where I worked on RNA processing and the role of splicing in the regulation of gene expression. In 2012 I received the Wellcome trust scholarship in Chromosome and Developmental Biology and started my DPhil. in the laboratory of Prof. Nick Proudfoot where I worked on the regulation of transcription termination and mRNA export. After completing my DPhil. I moved to Harvard Medical School to work as a research fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Stephen Buratowski. In 2018, I received an EMBO long-term fellowship. My work focuses on using single molecule resolution microscopy to study transcription elongation and the role of certain transcription factors in disease.

2013 Cohort

Tomasz Dobrzycki -

During my final year at the CBD programme I successfully applied for a Scientist position at an Oxfordshire-based biotechnology company, Immunocore. I joined the company shortly after my viva and I have stayed in the job since. My work involves testing and screening novel immunotherapy drugs in vitro before they proceed to clinical trials. I also present the results of my research at internal symposia and represent the company at international conferences.

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James Holder

James Holder -
Whilst reading for a Masters of Biochemistry, at the University of Oxford, I became fascinated by the cell cycle. This interest developed into a desire to understand how cells integrate and respond to a diverse range of signals during mitosis to enable faithful inheritance of genetic material into two daughter cells. Upon graduating in 2012, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust DPhil scholarship in Chromosome and Developmental Biology, continuing at the University of Oxford where I worked under the supervision of Professor Francis Barr. These DPhil studies concentrated on the regulation of phospho-protein phosphatases throughout mitosis and mitotic exit, and how their substrate specificities determine the order and timing of events during these periods. This work utilized a range of cell biological and biochemical methodologies with a particular focus on a high temporal resolution, phospho-proteomic analysis of mitotic exit in vivo. Following completion of my DPhil, I am currently working as a Post-doctoral researcher for Dr. Ivan Ahel, where I examine the complex interplay between cell cycle progression and the DNA damage response. Specifically, the cross-talk and overlap between poly-ADP ribosylation and phosphorylation of serine residues.

Benjamin Kroeger -
I joined the WT CDB programme in 2013 and went on to complete my DPhil in 2017 under the supervision of Prof. Clive Wilson. During my DPhil I used the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to study the genetic and cell biological mechanisms underlying secretion, in the context of reproduction. Since finishing my DPhil, I’ve moved to Melbourne, Australia, where I now work as a Postdoc in Prof. Kieran Harvey’s lab at Monash University. I am continuing to explore my passions in cell and developmental biology in my current research, which focusses on the role of the Hippo cell-signalling pathway in organ growth.

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George Ronson -
George Ronson completed an M.Sci at the University of Cambridge prior to joining the Wellcome Trust Chromosome and Developmental Biology D.Phil programme in 2013. After completing a successful rotation in Dr. Fumiko Esashi’s group, he joined the laboratory of Prof. Nick Lakin, to study the relationship between PARP family members in DNA repair, and how this relates to cancer therapy. After submitting and successfully defending his thesis, he continued as a post-doctoral researcher in the Lakin group to complete this project. Following successful publication of this work in 2018, George joined the group of Prof. Jo Morris at the University of Birmingham, where he presently works as a Research Fellow. His current work involves using multiple model systems to understand how the breast and ovarian cancer predisposition gene BRCA1 functions in controlling DNA repair and DNA replication.

Anne Turberfield -
Anne studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specialising in Biochemistry, and attended undergraduate summer research programmes at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories and Vienna Biocenter. During her Master’s project in the Surani lab, Anne showed that nuclear localisation of the arginine methyltransferase PRMT5 is associated with DNA hypomethylation in mouse embryonic stem cells. Anne was awarded a Wellcome Trust Chromosome and Developmental Biology DPhil studentship in 2013, and completed rotation lab projects in the Higgs and Klose labs. In 2017 she was awarded a three month Wellcome science policy internship at the Academy of Medical Sciences, during which she wrote the Academy’s response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Inquiry on Genomics and Genome Editing. Anne’s DPhil work in the Klose lab revealed that the histone demethylases KDM2A and KDM2B play a widespread and demethylase-independent role in repressing transcription in mouse embryonic stem cells. After passing her DPhil viva in December 2018, Anne submitted a manuscript of her DPhil work and is currently performing revision experiments during a short postdoc in the lab.

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2014 Cohort

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Jack Feltham -
I have recently completed the CDB D.Phil program in the lab of Professor Jane Mellor, where I am now doing a short postdoc studying post-transcriptional gene expression in the Yeast Metabolic Cycle, a model biological rhythm in S. cerevisiae. I grew up in a small village outside of Bath and before starting the program I read Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge with a focus on Biochemistry. Outside of the lab I enjoy promoting scientific outreach through the Pint of Science organization and writing popular science articles for online and print audiences. I also practice taekwondo and korean kickboxing and enjoy taking my work home with me by experimenting with pickling and fermentation.

Kirsten Legg -
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Hannah Ralph -
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Tamsin Samuels -
I completed my DPhil in Ilan Davis’ lab in the Department of Biochemistry, studying the role of post-transcriptional regulation in neural stem cell biology. Prior to this, I studied Biochemistry as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, including a placement at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, with Dr Simon Bullock. During my undergraduate degree I also undertook summer placements at A*STAR in Singapore and the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London. I chose the Chromosome and Developmental Biology programme for my DPhil because of the high quality of labs involved in the programme, as well as the emphasis on broad skill and knowledge development in the first year as the best preparation for the final project. I completed rotations in Prof Ilan Davis’ lab and Prof Rob Klose’s lab, before choosing to return to work with Ilan Davis on a project involving both microscopy and RNA sequencing. Since completing my DPhil, I have been preparing my work for publication during a short post-doc with Ilan Davis, and plan to continue my research career in academia.

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Aiden Walker -
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