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Department of Life Sciences Newsletter
March 2018
Newsletter Archive
Staff Information
Health & Wellbeing

Saujanya Vruddhula, an undergraduate student from the Department of Life Sciences, took home £15,000 prize for her startup, Oggic, which aims to stop counterfeit drugs entering the market using blockchain technology. At the final, held on Tuesday 20 March during Enterprise Week 2018, five finalists battled it out in the hope of winning a share of a £30,000 prize pot. Find out more here.

A new centre investigating the causes of premature birth opens at Imperial College London. The centre, called the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Imperial College London, is supported by a grant from Ferring Pharmaceuticals. March of Dimes is a US charity that leads the fight for the health of all mums and babies. They support research, lead programs and provide education. Prof Anne Dell and Dr Stuart Haslam are co-PIs. Find out more here.

Welcome to New Staff

Communications and Administrative Support Officer
Christo Hall (Crisanti)

Research Associate
Marco Castiello (Brazeau)

Research Assistant
Jack Hatfield (Tobias), Sneha Koneru (Barkoulas)

Research Technician
Ellen Masters (Christophides), Alisje Churchyard (Baum)


Ciarán L. Kelly, George M. Taylor, Andrew Hitchcock, Antonio Torres-Méndez and John T. Heap. A rhamnose-inducible system for precise and temporal control of gene expression in cyanobacteria ACS Synth. Biol.

Paweł M. Mordaka and John T. Heap. Stringency of Synthetic Promoter Sequences in Clostridium Revealed and Circumvented by Tuning Promoter Library Mutation Rates ACS Synth. Biol.

Gatta AT, Sauerwein AC, Zhuravleva A, Levine TP, Matthews S 2018, Structural insights into a StART-like domain in Lam4 and its interaction with sterol ligands, Biochem Biophys. Res. Comms., Vol: 495, Pages: 2270-2274, ISSN: 0006-291X

Zhang, X. , Liu, B. , Wang, Z. , Lan, L. , Yang, Q. , Zhang, P. , Shi, L. , Lang, Y. , Tabib-Salazar, A., Wigneshweraraj, S. , Zhang, J. , Wang, Y. , Tang, Y. and Matthews, S. (2018), A rapid colorimetric method to visualise protein interactions. Chem. Eur. J. doi:10.1002/chem.201800401

Cardona T. (2018) Early Archean origin of Photosystem I. Heliyon, 4: e00548. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e00548.
Press release by Elsevier here:
Press release by Discovery Channel’s


Cardona T, Shao S, Nixon PJ (2018) Enhancing photosynthesis in plants: the light reactions. Essays in biochemistry. In press,


Magnuson A, Cardona T. (2018) Isolation of intact thylakoid membranes from heterocysts of filamentous, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. In: Mock HP, Matros A, Witzel K. (eds) Plant Membrane Proteomics. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1696, pp 137-145. Humana Press, New York, NY.

Shao S, Cardona T, Nixon PJ.  (2018) Divergence of Photosystem II-specific FtsH proteases at the dawn of oxygenic photosynthesis. Photosynthetica,

Guled A. Osman, Michael K. Fasseas,Sneha L. Koneru, ..., Peter Sarkies, Marie-Anne Felix, Michalis Barkoulas. Natural Infection of C. elegans by an Oomycete Reveals a New Pathogen-Specific Immune Response. 
This paper attracted editorial attention and there was a dispatch published to highlight our publication.

Sheppard S., Shulter I., Andoniou C., Cocita C., Adejumo T., Kung SK.P., Sun J., Degli-Esposti MA., and Guerra N. The Murine Natural Cytotoxic Receptor NKp46/NCR1 Controls TRAIL Protein Expression in NK Cells and ILC1s. Cell Reports (2018). March 27


Gabriel N Aughey , Alicia Estacio Gomez, Jamie Thomson, Hang Yin, Tony D Southall CATaDa reveals global remodelling of chromatin accessibility during stem cell differentiation in vivo. eLife 2018;7:e32341 doi: 10.7554/eLife.32341

Featured in The Node:

Steve Matthews has been awarded £200,000 over 26th months from the Leverhulme Trust to study ‘Phosphatidic acid sensing in Apicomplexans’.

Kostas Beis has been awarded a BBSRC grant as a co-PI: 'BBSRC Funded Project: 17ALERT bid: A new multi-wavelength analytical ultracentrifuge for the study of biomolecular interactions’. The value is for £412,601.

Gadi Frankel has had a 5 year MRC programme grant renewal - application
entitled ‘Temporal changes to cellular bioenergetics, cholesterol metabolism, innate immune responses and microbiota during infection’ which was funded at the recent IIB meeting. The application was scored 9 out of 10 and recommended for funding in full.
PhD student Kiran Bountra (Kostas Beis) was awarded the best Short Talk at the ‘7th FEBS meeting: ATP-Binding Cassette (ABC) Proteins: From Multidrug Resistance to Genetic Disease in Innsbruck, Austria.
Research Fellow Chris Wilson was interviewed for a programme called ’The Enigma of Sex' on BBC Radio 4, broadcast on Monday 26th February and can be listened to online here.  Chris talks about bdelloid rotifers.

Tanai Cardona's work was featured in WIRED - click here to read.

The Royal Society have posted online about Gadi Frankel's International Collaboration award for a collaboration with Professor Sandhya Visweswariah from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore- find out more here.

PhD Student Edicson Parra at Silwood Park carried out an ad honorem rapid inventory of plants in the area of her hometown Fusagasuga, Colombia. The community in Fusagasuga had won a legal fight to stop a minning project that would have been devastating for the flora and fauna of their local reserve.  Among the sampled flora, Edicson found a recently described new species endemic to the region Epidendrum fusagasugaënse and the finding of two more orchids. Edicson’s report provided scientific evidence, presented before the court in a public trial, to justify the importance of this particular reserve to preserve the local biota that might locally disappear otherwise. Edicson’s work was featured in the local Spanish press. Click here to read.

Suggestion Box

The Department is committed to becoming a place to work and study that is inclusive and supportive.
We want to enable everyone in the department to help us in achieving that goal.
A reminder that in September 2017 the DoLS Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee launched an online suggestion box to enable staff and students to make suggestions or raise issues relating to gender balance, diversity and inclusion, please visit our online suggestion box. 
The form is secure and allows comments to be made anonymously.

Active Bystander Training

Wednesday 9th May


This training aims to empower staff to challenge poor behaviours, and bring about cultural change through the reinforcement of messages defining the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour.


From Prof Stephen Curry: “I can highly recommend the  Active Bystander training course run by Scott Solder, which I have done myself. He’s an excellent speaker and facilitator; the session was very engaging and very useful. Active Bystander training is just one part of the College’s efforts to address issues raised by the recent review of our institutional culture and the most recent staff survey, which showed that a significant minority of people have experienced some level of harassment at work. We need to address that problem together. The training will equip participants with tools and strategies for challenging poor behaviour and I would encourage staff to attend. I think you will find it worthwhile. You can find more details here.” 


There are still some spaces left on this training so if you would like to take part, please sign up via doodle here.

HoD Citizenship Awards
Throughout 2018 we will be showcasing staff who were presented with a HoD Citizenship Award at the end of 2017.
For the month of March we have Rochelle Aw....

I have been a Research Associate in the Department of Life Sciences, based in the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation, since 2013. For the past two years I have been Chair of the DoLS Postdoc Committee, the aim of which is to create an inclusive and supportive environment for the postdocs of the Department of Life Sciences. We have organised events such as the monthly Beer & Pizza events as well as establishing the annual DoLS Postdoc Symposium. I am also one of the representatives on the Postdoc Rep Network, which includes building relationships with other Departments and putting forward the interest of our postdocs to a wider College audience.