I graduated from University of Surrey in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition that included a variety of modules centred around nutrition, cell biology and cancer pathogenesis. As part of my undergraduate degree I completed a one-year internship at the genetics department at North Carolina State University, USA where I used CRISPR-Cas9 to study context-dependent effects on fitness traits at the Drosophila melanogaster obesity gene, adipose. During this experience I realised how I enjoyed being in a lab environment. I started my PhD (GCRF funded) at the University of Leeds last October as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration of 3 Schools; Food, Cancer and Physics under supervision of Dr James Thorne, Dr Arwen Tyler, Dr Antreas Kalli and Dr Simon Connell. My main interest is how phytosterols interact with the cancer cell plasma membrane, particularly how sterol properties alter membrane mediated cancer signalling and membrane biophysical properties.
Lipids were originally given a passive structural role to the plasma membrane and functions including cell signalling initiation were initially attributed to membrane proteins. We now know that membrane lipids and their properties play a functional role in signalling events and that cancer hallmarks have their origin in deregulated membrane function. Cancer cells show an altered lipid composition compared to healthy tissue, which results in membrane phase separation and domain formation. Cholesterol enriched membrane domains or else called liquid-ordered (Lo) domains or lipid rafts have been reported to be higher in tumors than normal tissues. My project aims to study how components unique to plant plasma membranes and plant foods, such as phytosterols can potentially modulate membrane function in human cells. Dietary manipulation of the plasma membrane by phytosterols is an underexploited research area for cancer prevention or for benefit in patient recovery. Current research in this topic emphasises the requirement for the use of interdisciplinary methodologies to bridge the gap between model and biological membrane ordering. Guided by computational modelling this project aims to use biological assays and breast cancer cells in association with biophysics techniques such as Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to understand how plant sterols with different physicochemical properties affect membrane structure and cancer cell signalling initiation through the plasma membrane.
- BSc Nutrition (1st Class), University of Surrey
- Professional Training, Genetics, North Carolina State University, USA