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Meet The Team

Meet our People

Courtney Ward

Courtney obtained a BSc in Biochemistry from Imperial College London in 2013, during which she spent a year working on an ocular drug delivery system at GSK. Following her undergraduate degree, Courtney undertook a MRes in Structural and Molecular Biology at Imperial for which she was awarded the Centenary Prize. Courtney remained at Imperial to complete her PhD in Structural Biophysics, unravelling the mechanism of pore formation by a bacterial toxin using Cryo-EM and computational modelling.

Following her studies, Courtney returned to Northern Ireland to begin a KTP fellowship working between the CCRCB and Causeway Sensors to help develop new biosensor assays. In 2018, Courtney took up a position as Senior Scientist at Randox, working within the antibody design team to help identify the next generation of diagnostic biomarkers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Courtney was seconded to work within the Randox testing program as PCR lead and Training Team Lead, before taking up a position as Head of Quality within clinical testing.

In June 2022 Courtney returned to QUB to take up the position of Manager of the Genomics Core Technology Unit where she is responsible for the overall operation of the unit and, working alongside the Academic Leads, ensuring the unit remains at the forefront of cutting-edge genomics techniques.

Courtney Ward

Simon McDade

Dr McDade is a lecturer and group leader in the centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. Work in his Functional Genomics Group (FGG) is focussed on applying cutting edge genomics technologies and aligned integrative computational strategies to investigate transcription factor function and de-regulation in disease, with a particular interest in the p53 family. 

Prior to Dr McDade’s academic appointment, he undertook postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Professor Dennis McCance dissecting the roles played by p63 and its isoforms in differentiation, growth control and disease.  Dr McDades interest in genomics stems from work as a visiting scientist in Prof Alan Ashworth’s and Dr Chris Lord’s research group at the Institute for Cancer Research, where he developed protocols for ChIP-seq of p63 and p53 in primary cells.

Simon McDade

David Simpson

Dr Simpson obtained a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences (1988) and PhD in Molecular microbiology (1995) at the University of Leicester. Following postdoctoral positions in the Department of Ophthalmology at Queen’s University Belfast studying diabetic retinopathy he was appointed as a Lecturer in 2001. He studied the regulation of retinal gene expression and inherited retinal degeneration and was amongst the first to exploit next generation sequencing (NGS) techniques to screen panels of candidate genes for the inherited retinal disease Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).

As a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Experimental Medicine he extended his interest in the molecular cell biology underlying diabetic vascular complications, specifically the role of microRNAs in regulating gene expression in the retina and vasculature. His molecular biology experience led him to champion uptake of NGS technology and he was instrumental in establishing the Faculty Genomics Core Technology Unit which he continues to lead academically with Dr McDade. He is currently using NGS to profile small RNAs in model systems and in blood and urine as potential prognostic markers for cardiovascular disease. Most recently he has driven investment in single cell RNA-Sequencing and is applying this new technology to a range of pathologies, specifically to study how individual cells in the retina are affected by diabetes as an approach to find new ways to treat the disease.

David Simpson

Hossein Esfandiary

Hossein graduated with a BSc (Hons) Degree and PhD from the University of Ulster in Biomedical Sciences.  Hossein then spent several years working for the department of research and development quality control at Randox laboratories.  Hossein then undertook a research fellow position at Queen’s University Belfast in the field of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. He went on to become an HCPC-Registered Clinical Scientist and has gained extensive experience in clinical diagnostic genetic testing at Belfast Regional Genetics Centre and Sheffield Children’s Hospital Molecular Genetics Laboratory.

Hossein then took on the responsibility of managing the former Genomics Core Technology Unit based at Belfast City Hospital where he gained valuable experience in sanger sequencing technology and applications.

Pauline Erwin

After graduating from the University of Ulster with a Bsc (Hons) degree in Medical Laboratory Science in 1988, Pauline started work for QUB in the Department of Surgery, RVH. Her main research interest was inflammation and infection. She completed her PhD in 'Lipopolysaccharide Binding Proteins in Acute Phase Serum' in 1996.

In 2006 Pauline changed direction and joined the Genomics Core Technology Unit as a senior technician. After retraining she worked with many external and internal customers of the unit offering a genomic service including sequencing, fragment analysis, genotyping, gene expression and methylation analysis. The unit has since combined with the new FMHLS GCTU in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology where she has extended her training to include Next Generation Sequencing.

Marc Fuchs

Marc studied Zoology, Ecology and Molecular Biology at Heidelberg University, where he spent time focusing on classical Sanger sequencing of zoological specimen and Protein analysis of fungi. Marc then took up position in Parasitological research with the Biological School of Sciences in Belfast, where he applied his experience with Sanger sequencing and quantitative gene expression analysis.

After establishing an enzyme activity assay in Health Sciences to screen for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, he moved on to the clinical genetics laboratory in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, where he gained extensive  experience in Next Generation Sequencing, working up NGS methods on three sequencing platforms: the Ion Torrent PGM and Illumina’s Miseq and Nextseq500. Aside from gaining experience in custom panel design, Marc also performed downstream analysis of NGS data using analysis platforms such as IVA,  CLC Workbench and Partek.

Marc was recruited to the genomics core in 2017 and has developed an array of NGS workflows on our various liquid handling platforms. 

Sarah Maguire

Sarah graduated from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth with a degree in Genetics and Bioinformatics. She undertook a PhD focusing on comparative genomics of fungal species at University College Dublin. She graduated in 2013 and began a post-doc at the Institute of Cancer Research working with the Complex Trait Genetics and Functional Genomics teams.

Her research focuses on the genetics and genomics of cancer predisposition. Its specific aim is to translate findings from large-scale epidemiological studies to establish correlations with tumour phenotypes and to determine the causal relationships between genomic variation and functional aetiological mechanisms.

In August 2017 she relocated to the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and, along with her research, is responsible for the development and maintenance of analysis pipelines for the Genomics Core Technology Unit

Shauna Lambe

Shauna graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics and Computer Science. She remained at QUB to undertake an MSc in Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics. As part of her MSc project she worked with Dr Simon McDade and developed a ChIP-Seq pipeline with particular focus on analysing p53 and p63 in breast cancer.

After graduating from the MSc in 2016, Shauna spent several years working as a bioinformatician for the Internal Products team and the Commercial Bioinformatics team at Almac Diagnostics. There she developed internal bioinformatics analysis pipelines and provided computational data analysis support for a wide range of biomarker research and customer projects. She was also the lead analyst for the implementation of gene expression signatures for Almac Diagnostics’ claraT software.

In 2019, Shauna returned to Queen’s University Belfast as a bioinformatician in the Genomics Core Technology Unit. Here she is responsible for the development of analysis pipelines and delivering data analysis for customer projects.

Silvia Carvalho

I attended University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro in Portugal where I received my BSc degree in Genetics and Biotechnology and my MSc degree in Comparative, Technologic Molecular Genetics. While I was studying I was involved in projects studying antimicrobial resistance of enterococci and E. coli isolated from fecal samples of animals as well on isolating and identifying the vaginal microbiota of the Portuguese Miranda Donkey breed (my master’s dissertation). After my master’s I continued my path in research as a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher at Queen’s University of Belfast under the project ATBEST. This short fellowship focused on identifying microorganisms related to lignocellulosic biomass degradation in anaerobic digestion. From 2018 to 2021 I worked as a Research Assistant at the Rivers and Lochs Institute of Inverness College UHI. During that time I gained substantial experience in Next-Generation Sequencing as I was involved in the development and validation of methods for eDNA metabarcoding/metagenomics and genotyping by sequencing of the projects of the Institute.

In March 2021 I moved back to Belfast and joined the Genomics Core Technology Unit of Queen’s University of Belfast.

Silvia Carvalho

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