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Spotlight on... Professor Gordon Brown

Spotlight on... Professor Al Brown

Spotlight on... Professor Adilia Warris

Spotlight on... Professor Neil Gow

Spotlight on... Dr Alex Brand

Spotlight on... Dr Duncan Wilson

MRC CMM team

The MRC Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM), recently relocated from The University of Aberdeen, is one of the largest medical mycology groupings worldwide. Researchers within the MRC CMM represent a broad umbrella of expertise from fundamental research into the biology of fungal pathogens to patient care and translational science.

This wide-ranging expertise enables the development of unique synergies within the Centre, facilitating the simultaneous analysis of both the host and pathogen to determine their individual contributions to the pathogenesis of disease.‌

Professor Gordon Brown is the Director of the MRC CMM. His primary research interests are C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) and their role in homeostasis and immunity, with a particular focus on antifungal immunity. He holds an honorary Professorship at the University of Cape Town and is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) since April 2020.

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Professor Al Brown is a Co-Director (Education) for the MRC CMM. His research team combines genomics, molecular biology and modelling to define how Candida albicans adapts to the dynamism and complexity of host niches, and how this promotes immune evasion during colonisation and infection.

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Professor Adilia Warris is a Co-Director (Clinical) for the MRC CMM and a paediatric infectious diseases specialist with a specific interest in medical mycology. She is a consultant in paediatric infectious diseases in Great Ormond Street Hospital and her research has a strong translational focus, which includes the host-fungus interaction in specific patient groups with an emphasis on Aspergillus species and the development of new management strategies for invasive fungal disease in children.

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Professor Elaine Bignell is the Co-Director (Research) for the MRC CMM since July 2020. Her research seeks a mechanistic understanding of fungal lung disease caused by Aspergillus with a view to developing novel diagnostics and antifungal therapies. Her approach integrates infection models which transcend multiple experimental scales to address disease outcomes at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ and whole animal levels. Her research has focussed on defining the cause of the disease, and is working on developing treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tools.

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Professor Neil Gow was appointed in September 2018 as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Exeter. He is a microbiologist with whose research focuses on the molecular genetics of cell wall biosynthesis in pathogenic fungi, its potential as a therapeutic target and its influence on immunity. 

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Professor Chris Thornton is a Fungal Immunologist with a specialist interest in hybridoma technology and monoclonal antibodies. His research focuses on mould pathogens of humans, and their detection using lateral-flow technology and antibody-guided imaging. He has had particular success in bench-to-bedside translation of his research to the medical sector through ISCA Diagnostics, a University spin-out company he established in 2012.

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Professor Tom Harrison joined the MRC CMM in August 2020. He is also the Deputy Director of the Institute for Infection and Immunity, and Lead for the Centre of Global Health at St George's University. He is also Honorary Consultant at St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Tom leads a research programme on the prevention and treatment of cryptococcal meningitis, the commonest cause of meningitis in Africa, and responsible for an estimated 180,000 deaths per year and 10-20% of all HIV-related deaths.

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Dr Alexandra Brand is a Wellcome Senior Research Fellow and a fungal cell biologist. She combines molecular and biophysical approaches with live-cell imaging to investigate the regulation of directional growth of hyphae in response to the spatiophysical properties of the environment. This directional growth promotes matrix penetration and host tissue invasion that is fundamental to disease progression.

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Dr Mark Ramsdale is an Associate Professor in Biosciences and joined Exeter in 2006. Mark was Director of Education from 2015 to 2020. The main focus of his research is to further our understanding of stress and programmed cell death responses exhibited by fungi, in particular Candida albicans.

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Dr Duncan Wilson is Wellcome Senior Fellow. He discovered and characterised the first zinc scavenging mechanism of Candida albicans - the secreted “zincophore” system – which is critical for pathogenicity. His current research focuses on understanding how pathogenic fungi manage homeostasis of the essential micronutrient zinc, during infection.

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Dr Steve Bates works on the Molecular and Cellular Biology of the common human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, identifying the cell surface and secreted epitopes that contribute to the host-fungal interaction and virulence. More recently he also started working on Zymoseptoria tritici, the major fungal pathogen of wheat in the EU.

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Dr Rhys Farrer is a bioinformatician who was recruited to the MRC CMM in late 2018. He exploits high-throughput/next generation sequencing to study the evolution, epidemiology and pathobiology of fungal pathogens, and the genomic, transcriptomic, and gene-regulatory variation within fungal populations.

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Dr Carolina Coelho was recruited as an Immunology lecturer within the MRC CMM in February 2019. She is initiating her research programme studying immunity against Cryptococcus neoformans infections as well as the important role of host mitochondria during phagocytic clearance.

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Dr Liliane Mukaremera who is a Lecturer in the Division of Medical Microbiology, was born and raised in Rwanda and experienced first-hand problems related to poverty and infectious diseases in Africa. Her research interests focus on understanding factors that affect the interaction between fungal pathogens and their host, with an aim to understand how these fungi evade the host immune system. One of her primary interests is the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans which causes meningitis, particularly in patients with HIV/AIDS, and results in around 130 000 deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa every year.

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Dr Peter Cook is a Sir Henry Dale Fellow who joined the MRC CMM in April 2020. Peter’s research focuses on understanding how the lung-airway environment influences innate immunity to mediate anti-fungal allergic disease, a recognised key neglected area of research. Of the 500,000 asthma-related human deaths occurring annually, 50% are caused by fungal sensitisation to airborne spores of the environmental mould Aspergillus fumigatus. A mechanistic understanding of asthmatic immunopathology will radically improve therapeutic strategies for all asthmatic disease.

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Professor Andy Borman (Honorary PI) is the Deputy Director of Public Health England’s UK National Mycology Reference Laboratory since 2003 and also an Honorary Professor at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, UK. His research interests include the epidemiology of emerging fungal pathogens and neglected tropical diseases caused by filamentous fungi, the diagnosis and management of fungal infections, the molecular and proteomic identification of pathogenic fungi, fungi associated with cystic fibrosis, and fungal taxonomy, phylogenetics and nomenclature.

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Professor Elizabeth Johnson (Honorary PI) is a Consultant Clinical Scientist in Medical Mycology and the Director of Public Health England’s UK National Mycology Reference Laboratory, Bristol, UK. She has worked in the field of medical mycology since graduating and gained her PhD from Bristol University in 1986 whilst training as a Clinical Scientist. She has been a Consultant Clinical Scientist and the Director of the Public Health England (or its earlier iterations) National Mycology Reference Laboratory and curator of the National Collection of Pathogenic Fungi for the last 20 years. Her particular interests are in the areas of antifungal drugs, diagnosis of fungal infection and identification of pathogenic fungi and she enjoys teaching and disseminating knowledge in these areas. 

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Dr Tihana Bicanic (Honorary PI) is a Reader and Consultant in Infectious Diseases at St. George’s University of London. Her research focusses on evolution, impact and mitigation of antifungal resistance in Cryptococcus and Candida. She has performed clinical trials in cryptococcal meningitis in Africa, as well as translational work linking Cryptococcal virulence phenotype and genomics to clinical presentation and outcome. She is currently Chief Investigator on a multi-centre UK study of aspergillosis complicating severe influenza and COVID19 infection (AspiFlu).

Dr Janet Willment

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Dr Jane Usher

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Dr Petruta Morvay. Petruta is a veterinarian with a strong interest in research. During her PhD she studied fungal contaminants of food and feed with focus on Fusarium spp., and then the role of peroxisomes in health and disease in in vivo models. Since joining the laboratory of Prof. Gordon Brown in 2017, Petruta's research has focused on studying the role of pattern recognition receptors, CLRs, in immunity.

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Dr Alberto Muñoz is the Centre Manager for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. Alberto’s scientific background is in fungal cell biology. ln 2014 he moved into Project Management, where he managed large EU funded projects, as well as UKRI funded programmes, before joining the MRC CMM in September 2019.

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Sara Honey is the Technical Services Lab Manager for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. She manages the operational requirements for the laboratories in the Centre and is responsible for the leadership and management of the technical team who support it. Sara obtained Registered Scientist status with the IST, drawing upon her varied and progressive technical career in industry and education.

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Lorna Barnes is the Communities Engagement Manager for the MRC CMM and is responsible for communications, public relations, outreach and public engagement for the Centre.

Following an MA in Shakespeare and a BA in English from King’s College London, Lorna worked in the film industry shaping projects with writers and directors as a Development Executive, before becoming a Producer in theatre and the art world. Prior to joining the University of Exeter Lorna was Executive Director of arts organisation Clod Ensemble. Lorna is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to engaged research, and the civic role of universities.

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Chris Milnes is the Assistant Lab Manager for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. Chris has been part of the University of Exeter since October 2016, ensuring the smooth running of the facilities as well as providing support to teaching and research groups within the school of Biosciences. Having taken on the responsibility with enthusiasm, he strives to continue the high standard of technical support for world-leading research and learning at the MRC CMM.

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Jules Bristow is the Centre Administrator for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. She joined the Centre in April 2020 after previously working in HE and healthcare administration. Her scientific background is in chemical ecology.

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Dr Vicki Dunn is the Research Development Manager for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. Vicki has a research background in environmental microbiology. She joined the University of Exeter in 2016 having previously worked at the University of Oxford. She provides support for academics applying for external research grants, and has worked across a wide range of disciplines, with academics from Humanities, Engineering, and the Medical School and has experience of preparing applications to a wide range of funders.

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Kate Tresidder is the Research Finance Assistant Manager for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology.

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Yasmin Ariqat is the laboratory Technician for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology.

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Harriet Webber is the HR Recruitment Coordinator for the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology.

Dr Elena Shekhova was recruited as an Early Career Fellow to the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology in 2018. Focussing primarily on Aspergillus fumigatus, she is deciphering the redox signalling that underlies the cross-talk between fungus and phagocyte during infection.

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Dr Roberta Peres da Silva was recruited as an Early Career Fellow to the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology in June 2019. Her research focuses on the endemic fungi Paracocccidioides spp. and Sporothrix spp., and in particular the role of extracellular vesicles in the crosstalk between host and fungus.

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Dr Olga Nev is a MRC Skills Development Fellow working on the project 'Metabolic modelling in the fungal pathogen, Pneumocystis'.

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Dr Ivy Dambuza is a postdoctoral research fellow in Gordon Brown's group working on the project: 'Role of CLRs in Adaptive Immunity'.

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Dr Fabian Salazar Lizama is a postdoctoral research fellow in Gordon Brown's group working on the project: 'Role of CLRs in innate and adaptive immunity to fungi'.

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Dr Alessandra Da-Silva Dantas is a postdoctoral research fellow in Neil Gow's group working on the project: 'Chitin attenuator: a regulated process preventing chitin overexpression and loss of fungal viability'.

Dr Katja Schaefer is a postdoctoral research fellow in Neil Gow's group working on the projects:

  • 'Exo-microbiology - Infection Risk of a Human Mission to Space';
  • 'The biology of Pathogen Recognition Receptor probe binding'; 
  • 'Arginase dependent and independent route for polyamine production in Candida albicans'. 

Dr Dhara Malavia is a postdoctoral research fellow in Neil Gow's group working on the project: 'Targeting Candida albicans cell wall enzymes'.

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Dr Maria Spyrou is a postdoctoral research fellow in Neil Gow's group working on the project: 'Investigating and defining the septasome of Candida albicans'.

Dr Mark Stappers is a postdoctoral research fellow in Neil Gow's group working on the project: 'Use of Pattern Recognition Receptor Probes to identify novel genes involved in Candida albicans cell wall assembly'.

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Dr Khalil Hussain is a postdoctoral research fellow in Neil Gow's group.

Dr Arnab Pradhan is a postdoctoral research fellow in Al Brown's group working on the project: 'Non-canonical signalling mediates changes in fungal cell wall PAMPs that drive immune evasion'.

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Dr Qinxi Ma is a postdoctoral research fellow in Al Brown's group.

Qinxi is originally from Beijing. She did her PhD in Infection Biology at Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research at UCD under supervision of Prof. Geraldine Butler to investigate novel antifungal agents against Candida species. After finishing her PhD, Qinxi moved to Belgium in early 2019, and worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Functional Biology Lab at KU Leuven to decipher the importance of vacuole-mitochondria communication in the yeast models for Parkinson’s disease. She then joined the lab of Prof. Alistair Brown in February 2020 as a postdoctoral research fellow to study the molecular mechanisms that mediates Candida albicans adaption to host niches.

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Dr Leandro Assis is a postdoctoral research fellow in Al Brown's group.

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Dr Tina Bedekovic is a postdoctoral research fellow in Alex Brand's group working on the project: ‘Regulation of apical dominance in Candida albicans hyphae’.

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Dr Ruben Ramalho is a postdoctoral research fellow in Alex Brand's group.

Ruben is a biochemist who became interested in the physics of life. After a PhD in the University of Lisbon working on microtubules and nanotechnology, he joined the Rousso Lab in Ben-Gurion University, working on how the mechanics of the HIV capsid shape the virus’s replication cycle. After a short project on nanotoxicology with the Torsten Lab in Basel University’s Biozentrum, Ruben was keen on returning to the mechanobiology of pathogens, joining Alex Brand’s group in the MRC CMM.

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Dr Alexandre Nore is a postdoctoral research fellow in Duncan Wilson's group.

Dr Elena Roselletti is a postdoctoral research fellow in Duncan Wilson's group.

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Dr Tanmoy Chakraborty is a postdoctoral research fellow in Duncan Wilson's group whose current research focuses on the regulation of Zn homoeostasis in human fungal pathogen Candida albicans.

Tanmoy started his research career in the field of molecular mycology as a Junior Research Fellow in Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, a premier research institute in India under the supervision of Prof. Kaustuv Sanyal. His research interest was cell cycle regulation by protein kinase and epigenetic regulation of biofilm formation by minor histone variants in human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Tanmoy was awarded the Marie Curie ITN fellowship for pursuing his doctoral studies in the laboratory of Prof. Attila Gácser in the Department of Microbiology, University of Szeged, Hungary in 2014. The topic of his PhD thesis was to elucidate the role of fungal eicosanoid molecules and micronutrient acquisition in the virulence of human fungal pathogen Candida parapsilosis.

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Dr Iana Kalinina is a postdoctoral research fellow in Duncan Wilson's group.

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‌Dr Bethany McCann joined Professor Elaine Bignell’s research group on an undergraduate summer studentship in 2014, before undertaking her PhD titled ‘From Bug to Drug: Identification of novel inhibitors of pH signalling in the fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus’ which was completed in 2019 under her supervision. Her PhD research was focused on identifying innovative methods required to find novel inhibitors of the pathogenically important pH signalling pathway of A. fumigatus. During her PhD I undertook an industrial placement with a small drug discovery company, Blueberry Therapeutics.

Her research interests lie in understanding the virulence mechanisms that drive fungal pathogenicity including how fungi adapt, interact with and damage host environments upon infection and how these mechanisms can be exploited for the identification of novel antifungals.

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Dr Laure Reis is a posdoctoral research associate investigating how the interaction between pathogenic gram-negative bacteria and the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans affects C. albicans cell wall structure and pathogenicity.

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Dr Emily Chesshyre is a clinical research fellow in Prof Adilia Warris' group investigating the role of Aspergillus infection in cystic fibrosis lung disease in children and adolescents.

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Dr Laura Ferreras Antolin is a clinical research fellow in Prof Adilia Warris’ group focussing on antifungal stewardship in paediatrics.

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Dr Alison Gifford joined the Centre of Medical Mycology in Sept 2020 as a clinical research fellow undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology. She is an academic paediatric registrar with an interest in child global health, specifically neurology.

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Dr Georgina Newman is a clinical research fellow undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology.

 

Dr Harshani Thabrew is a visiting medical doctor from Colombia University in Sri Lanka.

 

Dr Naamal Jayawardena is a visiting medical doctor from Colombia University in Sri Lanka.

Matthew Edmondson is a reserach technician in Neil Gow's group.

Debra Carter is a reserach technician in Alex Brand's group.

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Ian Leaves joined the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology in January 2020 as a Technician in Alistair Brown’s group. He has an interest in Molecular biology and Microscopy.

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Genna Davies is a reserach technician in ISCA Diagnostics.

Nicolas Helmstetter is a graduate research assistant in Rhys Farrer's Group. He joined the MRC CMM in January 2020.

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Dr Cecilia Rodrigues is a reserach technician in Gordon Brown's group.
Christina Nikolakopoulou is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Gordon Brown funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Characterization of the fungal ligands and physiological functions of MelLec in immunity'. 
Remi Hatinguais is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Gordon Brown funded by the University of Exeter, whose PhD project title is: 'Characterization of a new immune receptor for DHN-melanin'.
Emily Speakman is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Gordon Brown funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Dendritic cell lectin-like receptors and their role in anti-fungal adaptive immunity'. 

Daniel Larcombe, is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Alistair Brown funded by the University of Exeter and registered with the University of Aberdeen, whose PhD project title is: 'Studying adaptive prediction in Candida albicans'.

Mark Peacock is a PhD student under the supervision of Profs Carol Munro (University of Aberdeen) and Neil Gow funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Drug induced tolerance mechanisms: a driver for fungal persistence?' 

Mark completed his BSc (honours) Microbiology, University of Glasgow in 2017, a MSc Stratified medicine and Pharmacological innovation, University of Glasgow in 2018, and a MRes Medical Mycology and fungal immunology, University of Aberdeen in 2019.

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Elliot Mahoney is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Adilia Warris funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, whose PhD project title is: 'Targeting Immunotherapy for Fungal Infections in Cystic Fibrosis'.  

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Callum Parkin is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Alex Brand funded by the University of Exeter, whose PhD project title is: 'Calcium dynamics and signaling in Candida albicans during pathogenesis and drug resistance'. 
Emma Agnew is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Alex Brand funded by the University of Exeter, whose PhD project title is: 'The role of fungal membrane organization in directional growth and tissue invasion by Candida albicans'.  
Mohammed Alsarraf is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Duncan Wilson funded by the Kuwait Embassy. 

Theresa Wacker is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Rhys Farrer funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'The genetics and epigenetics underpinning a broad spectrum of human fungal pathogens'. 

Theresa graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2019 after completing her MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology. She also holds an MSc in Microbiology and Biochemistry.

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  Harry Child is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Steven Bates, whose PhD project title is: 'Characterisation of fungal cellular processes during early infection of wheat by Zymoseptoria tritici.' 
Emer Hickey is a PhD student under the supervison of Professor Al Brown.
  George Vere is a PhD student under the supervison of Dr Peter Cook.

Zoe Ross, based at The University of Aberdeen, is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Alexander Lorenz (University of Aberdeen) and Prof Al Brown funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Genetic diversity as a major driver of phenotypic variability and virulence in local outbreak strains of the emerging pathogen Candida auris'. 

Alexander Currie, based at The University of Aberdeen, is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Adilia Warris funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Preventing Aspergillus-induced inflammation in cystic fibrosis to reduce airway disease'. 

Dr Tyng Hwey Tan, based at The University of Aberdeen, is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Carol Munro (University of Aberdeen) and Prof Gordon Brown funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Development of Aspergillus cell surface-targeting antibodies as novel theranostics'. 

 

Chloe Pelletier, based at The University of Aberdeen, is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr Alexander Lorenz (University of Aberdeen) and Prof Al Brown funded by the MRC CMM training programme, whose PhD project title is: 'Does the phenotypic adaptability of Candida auris enable its success as a multi-drug resistant human pathogen?'.

Alejandra Rodriguez is a visiting MSc student from the University of Amsterdam, working in Prof Al Brown's group on her project 'Mechanisms underlying host-induced immune evasion strategies in Candida albicans'. 
Larissa John is a MRes student undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology course.
Maria Cortada Roca is a MRes student undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology course.
Daniel Jones is a MRes student undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology course.
  Dr Hugh Gifford is a MRes student undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology course.
 

Daniel Conn is a MRes student undertaking the MRes in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology course.

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