Lab Group Members
Denise Fitzgerald, PhD
Denise undertook her B.Sc. in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at University College Dublin (1996-2000) where she went on to pursue her PhD in Immunology under the mentorship of Prof. Alan Baird (2000-2004). During this time Denise developed a keen interest in CNS demyelinating diseases and in 2004, she moved to Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia to pursue postdoctoral training in MS research. During that time, Denise was awarded a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (USA) which supported her commitment to MS research. In 2009, Denise moved to Queen’s University Belfast to start her own independent Multiple Sclerosis research group where she is currently Senior Lecturer in Immunology. In 2016 Denise secured Northern Ireland’s first Wellcome Trust Investigator Award. Although she has less time for experimental work than she used to, the group still allow her to play in the lab from time to time!
Andrew Young PhD
Andrew completed his undergraduate bachelor’s degree in the University of Glasgow in the subject of Immunology in 2009, before becoming Denise’s first PhD student, finally submitting his thesis in 2013 entitled ‘The Regulation of T cell Responses by Interleukin-27: Implications for Autoimmune Disease’. After a short post-doc in the school of Pharmacy here at Queens University Belfast, Andrew had a small but productive stint in industry with a company called Iontas, based in Cambridge. However, the lure of academia pulled him back into a post-doc with Denise on the role of CD4+ T cell subsets in remyelination.
Michelle received a masters in neuropharmacology and assisted research on modulation of the glial scar before pursuing a PhD on the activation of endoplasmic reticulum stress signalling in myelination at the National University of Ireland Galway. Her current project involves studying the regenerative profile of immune cells in multiple sclerosis.
Marie Dittmer, MSc PhD
Marie completed her M.Sc. in Molecular Life Science at the University of Luebeck, Germany, in 2014. During her M.Sc. she traveled a lot and successfully completed an internship in this very lab group. For her Master’s thesis, she decided to do the practical work at the University of Toronto, Canada on the role of the P2X7R in Alzheimer’s Disease. Getting a taste for neuroimmunological research, she decided to come back to Belfast to study the role of T cells in CNS remyelination. Marie graduated July 2017 with her PhD and joined the group as a PDRF.
During her free time, Marie likes to explore the beautiful parts of the city as well as the surrounding areas and visit Belfast’s various restaurants. Additionally, she is a big fan of the world of musicals and is dreaming about her own career onstage.
George joined the Fitzgerald lab in 2014 as part of a Medical Elective & Summer Placement Award Scheme (MESPAS) from the BSI. This triggered his interest in Neuroimmunology and presented him with the opportunity to study for a PhD. His project aims to investigate the interaction of human immune cells with stem cell-derived oligodendrocytes and to unravel new mechanisms that promote myelin repair. George is currently working with our collaborators in the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh. His best day in the lab is one that gives him with enough cells to work with!
Nira De La Vega Gallardo
Nira completed her Biology degree at Queen Mary, University of London (2013). Shortly after, she received a M.Sc. in Cell and Gene Therapy at University College London (2014). During this time, she learned about the difficulties involved in developing therapeutics for neurological conditions, due to the current gap in knowledge in their pathogenesis. This encouraged her to pursue a career in Neuroscience, and joined us in 2016 to begin her PhD. She currently investigates the role of the protein CCN3 in myelination and remyelination.
Frances completed her B.Sc. in Cell Biology at the University of St Andrews (2010-2014), and completed her M.Sc. by Research in Integrative Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh (2014-2015). During her master’s degree, she undertook a research project in Prof. Charles ffrench-Constant’s lab investigating the roles of endothelins and their receptors in myelination and remyelination of the central nervous system. Frances then went on to work in Dr. Veronique Miron’s lab as a research technician (2015-2016), validating candidates identified from microglia on oligodendrocyte differentiation and remyelination. She joined the Fitzgerald group in 2016 as a PhD student, investigating the mechanisms of T cell-mediated oligodendrocyte differentiation and remyelination.
Melanie graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 1992 with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry followed by an M.Med.Sc. in Clinical Laboratory Medicine in 1993. She has worked as a Research Technician at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1996-9) and Research Assistant at The Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge (1999-2016). She joined the Fitzgerald lab in January 2017 as a Research Assistant and is enjoying life back home in Northern Ireland and at Queen’s.
John graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Science in 2009 and moved from Edinburgh to join the group in May 2014 as a Visiting Researcher. He became Technician in March 2016 and provides support across the various projects in and out of the lab. His main roles are in histology, Western blotting, immunohistochemistry and microscopy. In his free time, John enjoys cycling, playing tennis, performing with QUB Big Band and would rarely be seen without a hot cup of Mellow Birds© coffee in hand.
Research Assistant/ Clinical Coordinator
Jill has volunteered with the group since February 2014. She started by counting cells and developed further skills in cryosectioning and immunohistochemistry. Her background is in nursing. Jill's husband has secondary progressive MS and this is what motivated her to volunteer with us. In May 2016 she obtained a part time position and coordinates the clinical research studies with the Belfast Trust physicians. Her passion ,as you can see from the picture is horse riding.
Johnny offers his time and committment, contributing to the smooth day to day running of the laboratory. Johnny takes charge of racking tips as well as delivering packages and assisting in the office, proving himself to be an invaluable member of the team. When he is not working hard in the lab, Johnny enjoys music and dancing.