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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.

Simon McDade

Dr McDade is a reader and group leader in the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research (PGJCCR); a co-founder of cloud-genomics and cancer vaccine technology spin-out blokbio and AilseVax; and jointly led the development and is an academic lead of the Genomics Core Technology Unit (GCTU)  with Prof David Simpson.

Work in his Functional Genomics Group (FGG) is focused 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. His groups work is somewhat disease agnostic, with projects closely aligned with large multidisciplinary translational teams with current work focussed on Colorectal, Prostate and Squamous cancers and funding from BBSRC, MRC, CRUK, PCUK-Movember, Bowel Research UK and Innovate UK. 

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

Sarah Maguire

Dr Sarah Maguire is a lecturer in Applied Genomics and Bioinformatics at the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research (PGJCCR) and academic lead for bioinformatics at the Genomics CTU. She has over a decade of experience in cancer genomics and bioinformatics at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and PGJCCR. She is an expert in bioinformatic analyses related to cancer genetics, genomics and molecular pathology, and her research focuses on integrating multi-omics datasets to better understand cancer development and progression.

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. 

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

Sergio Salveti

Sergio graduated in 2019 with a BSc (Hons) Degree in Biology from The University of Nottingham. In 2020, Sergio took the opportunity to expand on his Molecular Biology skills and took up a role as PCR scientist at Randox, contributing to the UK Government testing program. Here, Sergio played a key role in the PCR testing workflow, working at a capacity of up to 100,000 samples daily whilst ensuring testing throughput and laboratory quality standards were maintained. In 2021, Sergio transitioned into a Team Lead position within the Randox SARS-CoV-2 Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) team, working to identify and monitor SARS-CoV-2 variants of concerns. Within this role Sergio was able to gain skills in NGS, taking responsibility for performing library preparation and sequencing of positive SARS-CoV-2 samples.

Taking up a new role in Almac Diagnostics in 2021, Sergio further expanded his NGS skillset and expertise in NGS within the Biomarker Research Unit. Here, Sergio obtained experience in a range of NGS library preparation techniques within a service environment, working on various different projects during his time with the company. In 2023, Sergio joined the GCTU as a Laboratory Technician, where he works with a range of both internal and external researchers to facilitate their NGS sample preparation and data collection, with a focus on single cell sequencing and spatial transcriptomics.

Chris Winnington

Chris graduated with a BEng in Computer Science from Queen's University Belfast. His career began at Microsoft in Denmark, where he assisted with the development of leading-edge visual coding tools, before progressing on to the implementation and development of Enterprise Resource Planning solutions for businesses in Northern Ireland, utilising skills in web design, databases, and programming.

With a keen interest in the future of data and its associated visualisation methods, Chris then started work as an Informatics specialist. During this time he created R Shiny applications for data exploration and was lead developer of an innovative iPhone application that prototyped advanced relational modeling techniques to showcase predictive health screening for the pharmaceutical industry.

Having also worked with Next Generation Sequencing data, Chris further explored his keen interest in this area by moving to the Genomics CTU at QUB. He presently focuses on providing R programming expertise for data analysis and building automation solutions in Python for processing RNA sequencing data, whilst also developing solutions for client data flow using Power Automate & Power FX.

Chris Winnington

William McCann

William is a placement student working in the Bioinformatics team at the Genomics CTU. He is currently working towards a degree in Biochemistry at QUB. Before that, he studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science at A-level.

In the Genomics CTU, William is responsible for managing bioinformatics pipelines and delivering data analysis services and support for customer projects. Aside from this, he is focusing on improving pipeline automation and analysing long-read sequencing data. He is interested in how to use computational tools and big biological datasets to solve previously intractable problems and decipher the mysteries of biology.