PhD symposium at UCD, Dublin

21st & 22nd November 2019, Conway Institute, University College Dublin

Keynote Speakers

The Keynote Speakers of 2018 were:

Dr Elizabeth Wayne

UNC Chapel Hill


“Changing the weather: tuning macrophage activation for gene and drug delivery”


Elizabeth Wayne, Ph.D., is an NIH Carolina Center for Nanotechnology Training Program T32 postdoctoral fellow in the Carolina Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Prior to UNC, she completed her Ph.D. at Cornell University in biomedical engineering in 2016 and earned her B.A. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009.

Macrophages are a natural choice for gene delivery. Macrophages are a member of the innate immune system whose functions include phagocytosis of cellular debris and initiating the inflammatory response including the recruitment of other immune cells. Macrophages are found in large numbers in solid tumors and in other diseases where inflammation is prevalent, such as neurodegenerative disease and atherosclerosis.

Previously published work in the Kabanov group has demonstrated macrophages’ ability to horizontally transfer genes to ischemic muscle cells and that this activity is enhanced within the presence of pluronic block copolymers. Preliminary research shows that macrophages are also capable transferring genetic material to cancer cells. Wayne’s central goal is to develop a macrophage-mediated nonviral delivery system to deliver genetic material to the tumor environment.

Wayne has been named a 2017 TED Fellow. She is an advocate for women in academia. She co-hosts the PhDivas podcast and is featured in the Super Cool Scientists: Women in Science Coloring Book.

Dr Heather Hendrickson

Massey University


“Phage Hunting, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Viruses”


Heather is fascinated by evolution and the microbial world. Her laboratory works on the evolution of bacteria (cell shape, effect of predation and horizontal gene transfer) and the discovery and biology of bacteriophages, the viruses of bacteria. Heather’s lab is also working on DNA replication termination in bacteria and how the evolutionary and molecular details of this process can be reconciled.

Prof. Jay Hinton

University of Liverpool


“Comparative transcriptomics identifies a single SNP mutation that controls virulence of African Salmonella”


Jay Hinton joined the Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, in 2012. Jay’s interest in the way that bacterial pathogens cause disease in humans led him to begin working on Salmonella in 1990. He discovered that the H-NS protein is responsible for silencing gene expression in bacteria in 2006, and pioneered an approach that revealed a “snapshot” of bacterial gene expression during the process of infection of mammalian cells in 2003. Recently, Jay has focused on the role played by small RNA molecules in the regulation of infection of mammalian cells by Salmonella, and the mechanisms that bacterial pathogens use to cause disease in humans.

Jay is now using RNA-seq-based transcriptomics to understand the virulence of new variants of Salmonella in the current epidemic of invasive disease in sub-Saharan Africa, and to investigate the infection biology of these dangerous bacteria. The underlying theme of current research is to understand the intricate interplay of gene expression that leads to bacterial disease, to pave the way for new antibiotics and vaccines.

Dr Mihail Sarov

Max Planck Institute


“Genome engineering for function discovery”


Our group aims to understand the restructuring in cell organisation through a combination of high-throughput transgenic techniques and in vivo imaging of cellar components on a systems scale. We are particularly interested in mapping the restructuring of nucleus in parallel with the establishment of cell specific gene expression patterns. We maintain a strong focus on technology development in the field of genome engineering and we collaborate with numerous labs on implementing and refining these techniques. We oversee the Genome Engineering Facility at the MPI-CBG, which provides access to this core technology to the MPI-CBG and the Dresden campus. Our lab is a member of the Center for Regenerative Therapies at the TU Dresden.

Prof. Syma Khalid

University of Southampton


“Focusing the Computational Microscope on the Cell Envelopes of Gram-negative Bacteria”


Syma graduated with a first class degree in Chemistry from the University of Warwick in 2000. She remained at Warwick to read for a PhD under the supervision of Professor P Mark Rodger. After obtaining her PhD in 2003, she moved to the University of Oxford as a postdoc in Professor Mark Sansom’s lab, to study the structure-function relationship of bacterial membrane proteins. In 2007, she was appointed as RCUK fellow in Chemistry at the University of Southampton, in 2010 was appointed to full lectureship. In 2016 she was promoted to full professor She has ~15 years of experience in the development and application of molecular dynamics simulations to the study of biological molecules. Her research interests are centred around the dynamics of biomolecules in and around biological membranes. Her formal training as a chemist combined with her interest in the biological relevance of the systems she studies enables her to adopt a truly multi-disciplinary approach; collaborators include Bert van den Berg (Newcastle), Ben Luisi (Cambridge) and Peter Bond (A*STAR, Singapore). Syma’s international reputation is reflected in the invitations she receives to speak at national and international meetings each year.

Syma has authored over 40 peer-reviewed papers and 4 book chapters and is on the editorial board of Scientific Reports. She serves on the management group that leads CCPBiosim. In addition, she is a local section committee member of the RSC, and also serves on the management committee of the British Biophysical Society.

Prof. Alexandre Bonvin

Utrecht University


“Adding the structural dimension to the Facebook of life by integrative modelling”


Alexandre Bonvin (1964) studied Chemistry at Lausanne University, Switzerland and obtained his PhD at Utrecht University in the Netherlands (1993). After two post-doc periods at Yale University (USA) and the ETHZ (CH) he joined Utrecht University in 1998 where he was appointed full professor of computational structural biology in 2009. In 2006, he received a prestigious VICI grant from the Dutch Research Council. He was director of chemical education from February 2009 until February 2012 and vice head of the Chemistry Department from 2010 until April 2012. He is participating to several EU projects, has coordinated the WeNMR e-Infrastructure project ( and is leading the MoBrain Competence Center under EGI-Engage. His work has resulted in over 200 peer-reviewed publications.

Prof. Michele Vendruscolo

University of Cambridge


“Principles of protein structural ensemble determination”


In the last 15 years our research has been focused on the development of methods of characterising the structure, dynamics and interactions of proteins in previously inaccessible states. These methods are based on the use of experimental data, in particular from nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, as structural restraints in molecular dynamics simulations. Through this approach it is possible to obtain information about a variety of protein conformations, as for example those populated during the folding process, and about protein interactions in complex environments, including those generating aggregate species that are associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

More recently, these studies have led us to investigate the physico-chemical principles of proteins homeostasis and their application to the development of therapeutic strategies against neurodegenerative diseases. Starting from the observation that proteins are expressed in the cell at levels close to their solubility limits, we are developing approaches to prevent or delay misfolding disorders based on the enhancement of our quality control mechanisms against protein aggregation.