Delivering NBIC’s Research Strategy

Cristian Aparicio-Maldonado

After completing his BSc in Biochemistry and MSc in Virology, Cristian moved to TUDelft (The Netherlands) for his PhD in molecular microbiology: on the interaction between bacteria and their viruses (phages). This research focused on understanding the biological and molecular mechanisms of anti-phage defence systems, as well as the co-evolutionary mechanisms of phage resistance. Cristian joined NBIC in August 2022 after finishing his PhD research. Here, supervised by Jeremy Webb and Franklin Nobrega, he studies the role of defence systems and phages in the formation and dynamics of bacterial biofilms.

Dr Natalie Bamford

Natalie completed her PhD at the University of Toronto in 2019. Her research focused on fungal biofilm matrix components, and was carried at the Hospital for Sick Children. She used structural biology and biochemistry to investigate the machinery involved in the production and processing of matrix exopolysaccharides.

In autumn 2019, Natalie joined the lab of Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall at the University of Dundee. Her current research uses a multidisciplinary approach, and is co-supervised by Professor Cait MacPhee at the University of Edinburgh. Natalie is investigating the interactions of matrix components at the molecular level, in the model organism Bacillus subtilis. She is interested in teasing out the methods microbes use to induce biofilm structural complexity.

Dr Bruna Baggio

Bruna has experience with surface science, including thin film deposition, ultra-high vacuum systems and scanning tunneling microscopy. She completed her PhD in physics at Federal University of Santa Catariana in Brazil, working with various material characterization techniques such as XRD, TEM, SEM, EDX, UV-vis and Raman spectroscopy.

During her PhD she also studied single molecules using low temperature STM  at Fudan University in China. She has worked as a PDRA at the University of Liverpool, studying single crystals in electrochemistry environments by SXRD at synchrotron light facilities. Bruna joined NBIC in March 2022, working in the Surface Science Research Centre at the University of Liverpool.

Dr Peng Bao

Dr Peng has a multidisciplinary background. He earned his PhD in experimental condensed matter physics, then worked in the field of semiconductor physics for three years (including nanofabrication, characterization, and computer simulation of thin-film transistors). He has also worked in the field of microwave device engineering for three years (improving and characterization of tunable microwave devices), and in the field of biophysics for ten years (lipid membranes and membrane proteins, LC crystal droplet biosensors, and microfluidics).

Peng joined NBIC in May 2021. He is working in Professor Rasmita Raval’s group in the Surface Science Research Centre at the University of Liverpool. His current research interests include biosensors, synthetic cells, microfluidics, and especially on antimicrobial surfaces.

Dr Susana Direito

Susana is an Industrial Research Associate in Biological Physics and part of ECFP (Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership) core team within the University of Edinburgh. She focuses on delivering impact from research within the Soft Matter and Biological Physics group. She has expertise in microbiology and molecular biology techniques.

Her scientific interests include biofilm formation, detection, eradication and advancing antimicrobial technologies. She has won awards related to these topics, including an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Award and a NBIC Proof of Concept (POC) award to study biofilm formation in venous catheters, in collaboration with an SME.

Dr Sam Fenn

Sam’s PhD at the University of Nottingham focussed on identification and characterisation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence factors with therapeutic potential. This work led onto his current interests, understanding the effect of reduced oxygenation on metabolism and virulence in opportunistic pathogens.  Sam is continuing his research at University of Nottingham and joined NBIC in October 2021. His role at NBIC will be to expand on the work from his PhD, exploring the impact of reduced oxygenation on developing and mature biofilms in the context of human infection.

Dr Callum Highmore

Callum’s PhD focused on foodborne pathogens in the viable but nonculturable state. During his NBIC Fellowship, he will be applying Raman spectroscopy techniques for the detection and characterisation of biofilm in a range of samples spanning food and healthcare sectors, with the intent of continuing his research into nonculturable bacterial states.

This research will be carried out in collaboration with the Faculties of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and Medicine, and in the first instance will assess the clinical utility of Raman spectroscopy as a diagnostic tool in Cystic Fibrosis.

Dr Jiaqi Luo

Jiaqi completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering at Central South University (China). His joint PhD program between Saarland University (Germany) and University of Lorraine (France) mainly focused on the investigation of copper surfaces in antibacterial efficiency tests from the corrosion aspect. He therefore gained experience in various surface and microstructural characterisations, thin film deposition approaches, and surface structuring techniques.

Within the Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces supervised by Professor Rasmita Raval, his current research interests include development of antibacterial surfaces, design of antibacterial efficiency tests, and investigation of bacteria-surface interaction using electron microscopy and spectroscopy.

Dr Gavin Melaugh

Gavin is a NBIC Fellow in the Physics Department at the University of Edinburgh working with Professor Cait MacPhee and Rosalind Allen. Gavin studied Chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), moving to the Physics department to do his PhD in molecular modelling and computer simulations of porous liquids.

This work led to the design, synthesis, and characterisation of the first ever liquids of this kind. At Edinburgh, Gavin uses a combination of experiments and computational simulations to investigate aggregation and collective phenomena in biofilm-forming bacteria such as the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the wastewater treatment bacteria Comamomas denitrificans.

Dr Ryan Morris

Ryan holds degrees from Boston University (B.A. Physics) and King’s College London (MSc. Theoretical Physics). He completed his PhD in mechanisms of protein self-assembly at the University of Edinburgh in 2013. Since then, he’s held a postdoctoral position at Edinburgh where he’s studied both molecular components of biofilms, as well as investigating population-level dynamics of bacteria and biofilms.

He has a strong interest in collective behaviours of bacteria and applying microfluidic technologies to better understand microbial life in spatially complex and dynamic environments.

Dr Joe Parker

Joe has a decade of experience understanding evolutionary and ecological relationships between organisms using DNA sequence data, spanning everything from viruses to whales and oak trees. Recently he became an early adopter of portable nanopore sequencing technology using the USB-connected MinION device, and is an expert in field-based DNA sequencing and analysis.

At NBIC, Joe applies rapid, portable real-time data collection methods and develops cloud-based, big-data analytics to produce actionable insights into biofilm species composition. He is also interested in using this data to pose deeper questions about biofilm evolutionary processes including horizontal gene transfer and antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Shaun Robertson

Shaun is a Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham. He completed his PhD in Microbiology at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), investigating physical factors that affect bacterial biofilm formation.

This was followed by a 2-year postdoctoral position, aiding in the continued development of a nanovibrational bioreactor (nanokicking) at UWS and the University of Strathclyde. Shaun’s area of research focuses on the development of polymicrobial biofilm models and understanding the interplay between microbes present in these biofilms. He is also interested in pursuing multidisciplinary projects and is actively engaged in public engagement events.

Dr Manuel Romero

Manuel completed his PhD at the University of Santiago, exploring enzymatic mechanisms to interfere with signalling systems used by pathogenic bacteria to coordinate virulence factor production, biofilm formation and adaptation to environmental changes. At the University of Nottingham, he studied the influence of global post-transcriptional regulatory networks on selection of free-living or biofilm associated lifestyles in the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Manuel’s expertise covers molecular microbiology techniques, communication systems in pathogenic bacteria and imaging of microbial communities, as well as the discovery of potential targets for biofilm eradication and exploring the mechanisms behind new antibiofilm drugs/surfaces discovered after HT approaches.

Dr Fadi Soukarieh

Fadi obtained his degree in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences from Damascus University, and his PhD in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Design from the University of Nottingham. He worked on an anticancer drug discovery project targeting CDK9, and on a multinational project (SENBIOTAR) for the discovery of new PqsR antagonist as novel antipseudomonal and antivirulence agents.

He joined NBIC in January 2019 and is currently focusing on the management and detection of biofilm using Medicinal Chemistry tools and approaches. This includes virtual and in-vitro screening of compound libraries, design and synthesis of small molecules and hybrid and prodrugs with enhanced permeability profiles.

Dr Nga-Tsing ‘Kayto’ Tang

Kayto completed her MEng and PhD in chemical engineering and analytical science at the University of Manchester. Her PhD involved the study of cells associated with urological cancers using both Raman and FTIR techniques. In collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, she investigated a series of prostate and bladder cells lines that represent those cells that might be found in urine samples and using a chemometric approach. Also, she interfaced a microfluidic platform to the Raman system to study the uptake of dietary fatty acids by prostate cancer cells, which has implications for prostate cancer progression. She also worked as a PDRA at the University of Manchester after graduated from her PhD, which was a project funded by AstraZeneca as an extension of an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Award (IAA). She is now focusing on analysis of biofilms using Raman spectroscopy and associated technologies.  

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