Over the last 15 years I have worked in the laboratory of Prof. Soraya Shirazi-Beechey on several projects in the fields of intestinal microbiology, physiology, gene expression and nutrient sensing. My main interest has always been in microbiology and I have worked, and am still working, on a number of projects involving the molecular characterisation of intestinal microbiota in response to dietary factors or supplementation. These projects have involved many molecular biological techniques, with my current project, looking at the effects of dietary supplementation with artificial sweetener on swine gut microbiota, based on next-generation sequencing and quantitative real-time PCR. In addition, I have also worked on the isolation and culture of important gut bacteria, in particular Lactobacillus from pig intestine, in order to study the effects of artificial sweetener on growth kinetics and gene expression.
However, during this time I have also been fortunate to have participated in other aspects of intestinal physiology and nutrient sensing (one of the major interests of Prof. Shirazi-Beechey) which have involved the use of intestinal tissues (from various species including human, mouse, horse and pig) to study gene expression related to colorectal cancer, dietary supplementation with artificial sweeteners and regulation of nutrient transporters. In addition I have also become proficient in techniques such as cell culture, gene silencing and ELISA, in order to study gut hormone secretion in response to dietary nutrients.
I have authored and been co-author on several papers published in high impact international peer-reviewed journals and have given presentations at a number of national and international conferences, including being an invited speaker at the American Society of Animal Sciences Annual Meeting, in New Orleans USA in 2011. Furthermore, I have assisted Prof. Shirazi-Beechey in writing successful (and sometimes non-successful) grant applications, which has given me invaluable experience in this area. Further to this, in February 2015, we were successful in obtaining a BBSRC grant to study the impact of habitat and diet on the gastrointestinal microbiota of commercially important fish species.