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Fellowship Academy profiles - MHLS

Yaser Atlasi, headshot
Dr Yaser Atlasi
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

I am interested in mechanisms of epigenetic regulation in health and disease. I use state-of-the-art genomics, proteomics and computational biology approaches to explore the epigenetic parallels between embryonic, adult, and cancer stem cells. My aim is to make fundamental discoveries that can ultimately solve important health challenges within society.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?
My interdisciplinary research to understand mechanisms of epigenetic regulation will provide new approaches for controlling stem cell differentiation in regenerative medicine and will open new avenues for targeted therapies in cancer, ultimately improving the quality of life within the society.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Being awarded the VC's Illuminate fellowship to start my independent research group at Queen's University Belfast.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Follow your research passion.

Pure: Dr Yaser Atlasi

 

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Dr. Áine Aventin
Nursing and Midwifery

As Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow within the School of Nursing & Midwifery at Queen's, I specialise in human behaviour and social research methodology and their application to the development, evaluation and implementation of complex health-related interventions. My research interests include: sexual and reproductive health and education, with a particular focus on adolescent men and their role in enabling women’s health; the use of digital technology to engage the public in health-related behaviours; and innovative evaluation-related research methodology.

What is your proudest career achievement?
It is a great source of pride for me to see a sexual and reproductive health intervention, which I co-led the development of If I Were Jack, move through the development and evaluation stages from co-design, feasibility testing in Northern Ireland, UK-wide evaluation and now adaptation for use in Southern Africa. It’s wonderful to think that something I was involved in developing is making a real difference to people around the world.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Know your ‘unique selling point’ and make sure that you can demonstrate that your research plans are in line with key Queen’s strategies.

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Eleni Beli, headshot
Dr Eleni Beli
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

With a focus on diabetic complications, the Beli lab is investigating how a desynchronized biological clock in diabetes affects progression of diabetic retinopathy. Currently, the focus is on how to align broken diabetic cellular rhythms with different feeding regiments in order to prevent diabetic retinopathy. The lab uses type 1 and type 2 diabetic models and multi-omics approaches to identify circadian signatures that affect vascular health.
Ultimately our interest is in chronotiming drug delivery, biomarker sampling and in designing non invasive lifestyle interventions to delay the onset of diabetic retinopathy.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?
Living with diabetes has been made easier with insulin pumps and medications. However, the risk of developing complications remains high, and a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic complication can be scary and confusing. Our laboratory is interested in the role of circadian rhythms in the progression of diabetic retinopathy and in designing non invasive lifestyle interventions to delay the onset of diabetic retinopathy to empower patients to prevent this debilitating complication from diabetes.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Career achievements were the Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship from JDRF and the Vice Chancellor Fellowship from QUB that enabled starting this independence line of research. The proudest career achievement though is training the new generation of scientists and installing an interest and curiosity in scientific careers.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Find your fit and just go for it.

Pure: Dr Eleni Beli

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Dr Simon Cameron
Biological Sciences

My research involves the application of mass spectrometry and microbiology to health and disease. I have a particular focus on human milk profiling and developing methods to take a systems biology approach to understanding the role that different components of human milk play in the development of the infant microbiome.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Securing a Vice-Chancellor's Fellowship and moving to Belfast to start my independent research programme.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Do not be afraid to step outside of your research comfort zone but make sure that you have the support and expertise that you require to do so.

 

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David Courtney headshot
Dr David Courtney
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

I am researching the transcriptional regulation of viral RNAs, primarily influenza A virus, and the cellular pathways hijacked during viral replication to increase pathogenesis. A large part of my work is focused on RNA modifications.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?

If we better understand the cellular pathways essential to the viral replication cycle we may more rationally design antiviral molecules to interrupt these interactions and impede viral growth.

What is your proudest career achievement?

Receiving the email from the ERC offering me my starting grant. That made all my work over the preceding years in academia worth it and meant that my family and I could finally settle down with the job security that came with it.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?

Be enthusiastic. Try and let your enthusiasm come across in your writing and especially during interviews for fellowships. Panel members will always find it hard to get excited about a project if you're not excited about it.

Pure: Dr David Courtney

Lab website: Dr David Courtney

 

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Dr. Blánaid Hicks
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

I am a VC fellow, working within the Centre for Public Health at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science. My research is in the field of pharmacoepidemiology and cancer epidemiology. Specifically my research programme utilises large electronic healthcare datasets and statistical methods to identify commonly used medications that influence the risk of cancer and cancer survival and to evaluate the safety of cancer treatments, particularly for patients with kidney cancer.

What is your proudest career achievement?
My career so far has been extremely rewarding. Particularly rewarding are the times when your latest paper is published, when you teach your first class or taking part in public engagement activities, but my proudest moment to date was being awarded a Cancer Research UK Population Research Fellowship.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
My advice for anyone considering applying for a Vice Chancellor’s fellowship at Queen’s is don’t forget to highlight your unique selling point as a researcher and just go for it! It is a wonderful opportunity!”

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Dr. Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad
Dr. Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

I am the Principle Investigator and Patrick Johnston Research Fellow, working in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's. My main research interest is mRNA translation and decay.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Securing the Patrick Johnston Research Fellowship is my proudest career achievement to date.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
"Explore the existing strengths and expertise at Queen’s and identify and highlight how your skills can complement those."

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Emma Kerr headshot
Dr. Emma Kerr
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

I am a Cancer Research UK Werth Trust Fellow and I lead a dynamic and collaborative research group in PGJCCR. We focus on understanding how changes in cancer metabolism may drive resistance to therapy, and tease apart therapy-imposed metabolic vulnerabilities that we can exploit to improve responses.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?
Resistance to therapy is a major problem for cancer patients as it limits the efficacy of treatment and promotes poor outcomes. By understanding how metabolism can promote resistance, and finding new ways to target these resistance mechanisms, we hope to improve treatment efficacy for cancer patients.

What is your proudest career achievement?
I'm proud of securing a CRUK CDF to establish my research group here at QUB, it has been an incredible support, but I'm most proud of what my team has achieved over the last 3 years, setting up key resources and platforms, and producing some really exciting findings that we're getting ready to publish.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Don't be shy - get yourself a good mentor that will be honest with you and can help you establish yourself as an independent researcher, and speak to as many people in your field of choice to strengthen your collaboration opportunities!

Pure: Dr Emma Kerr

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Dessi Malinova, headshot
Dr Dessi Malinova
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

I am interested in the mechanisms governing immune cell interaction, which are crucial for mounting effective immune responses. The research brings together immunology, cell biology and genetics to understand immune synapse formation, endocytosis and antigen presentation in B cells and dendritic cells.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?
Investigating fundamental immune cell biology can help us to understand and modulate immune responses. This impacts our fight against infectious diseases as well as malignancy and autoimmunity - conditions with enormous health and economic burden and an increasing incidence in ageing societies.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Securing a Patrick G Johnston Fellowship, setting up an independent group and supporting other early career researchers

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Be bold. Ask for advice and feedback. Have clear short- and long-term goals.

Pure: Dr Dessi Malinova

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Dr Stephen McMahon
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

My current fellowship focuses on developing models to predict how individual patients will respond to radiation therapy. These models take into account individual differences in the genetics of patients’ cancers, to identify those which may be more or less sensitive to radiation, to enable treatments to be individually tailored. 

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?

This research will be to enable radiation therapy to move away from current approaches, which deliver the same doses to all patients, to a more personalized approach where treatment doses are tailored based on individual features. This will help improve patient outcomes and reduce side effects for radiotherapy patients. 

What is your proudest career achievement?

Receiving the Jack Fowler award from the Radiation Research Society, given to recognise contribution to the field by young investigators. 

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?

It’s important to have a clear vision of what your research is about and what its impact will be (both scientifically and in society), as this is an important part of pitching your proposal to the wide audience involved in evaluating most fellowship proposals. 

Pure: Dr Stephen McMahon

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Una McMenamin, headshot
Dr Úna McMenamin
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

My research focuses on the identification of modifiable risk factors for cancer development and progression using routine health records. My UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship will generate robust population-level evidence to inform treatment and surveillance strategies for women with diagnosed with endometrial (or womb) cancer and its precursor condition; endometrial hyperplasia.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?
My Fellowship will help inform UK and international clinical guidelines to enable better-informed shared decisions regarding the surveillance, treatment and follow-up of women diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia and cancer. The involvement of patients and clinicians will ensure the research is relevant and will help identify future priority areas for research. 

What is your proudest career achievement?
I am proud of achieving three Fellowships to date including a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, a QUB Vice Chancellor’s Patrick G. Johnston Fellowship and a Cancer Research UK Population Research Fellowship but I think my proudest moments are seeing the achievements of my research students - they are amazing!

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Don't undersell yourself! Get in touch with people who have gone through the process - they are usually more than happy to offer advice.

 

Pure: Dr Úna McMenamin

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Centre for Experimental Medicine - Entrance
Dr Bianca Plouffe
Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

My background and field of expertise is G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signalling. This family of receptors are the target of one third of the actual prescribed pharmacological treatments, given the wide variety of physiological functions associated to GPCRs. My particular interest is compartmentalised G protein signalling. I aim to tackle molecular mechanistic questions related to this non-canonical signalling mode using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET)-based technology and to exploit these mechanisms to design new therapeutic approaches. My actual targets are type 2 diabetes, glioblastoma multiforme, and atherosclerosis.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Securing a position as an independent researcher and have the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?
Expand your field of expertise, be curious, and think outside the box. Focus on your joy to do science if you feel overwhelmed and contaminate your team with this passion! Most importantly, use the complementary expertise available in a wide international network of collaborators. Team work is the key!

 

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Jonhatas Dutra Silva headshot
Dr Johnatas D Silva
School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

During my fellowship, I will use cutting edge technology and employ the most physiological human lung tissue models to date to study the biology of Acute Lung Injury and to test therapeutic potential of innovative stem cell-based therapy.

How does your research and its outcomes impact on wider society?

This project will provide unprecedented insight into the human endotype-specific biology so much needed to develop personalised therapy for patients. Moreover, I expect opening new avenues for future studies of immune signalling, molecular basis of susceptibility and development of pathology in Acute Lung injury. Therefore my research has strong potential to achieve significant impact to the society.

What is your proudest career achievement?

The Marie Curie Fellowship is one of the proudest career achievement. This fellowship gave me the opportunity to develop my own research project with a large degree of autonomy, to receive multidisciplinary scientific training combining medical research with innovation technologies and thereby an exceptional opportunity to attain professional maturity.

What one piece of advice would you give to those considering applying for a Fellowship?

Receive a fellowship represents a prestigious type of funding and it undoubtedly will help in further supporting the evolution and fixation of your career to independent investigator and research team leader.

Pure: Dr Johnatas D Silva

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