I received my BSc in Pharmacology from the University of Liverpool in 2006 and followed by a PhD with Prof. Michael White, also at Liverpool, studying the regulation of NF-kB signalling in live-cells (awarded in 2011). I then moved to the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge to undertake my postdoctoral training with Professor Alfonso Martinez Arias. In 2017, I was awarded a David Sainsbury NC3Rs fellowship to use the gastruloid model system (see below) to study Left-Right Asymmetry in mammalian development. I joined the University of Liverpool in 2019 to take up a Tenure-Track Fellowship in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.
I am interested in understanding, quantitatively, cell decision-making processes during early development. I use mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to study these processes in a model system where cells are faced with choices similar to those that exist in physiological environments in a simple, tractable, measurable system: the Gastruloid system.
Gastruloids are aggregates of mESCs generated in non-adherent culture, which are able to effectively recapitulate many of the processes of early mammalian development such as symmetry-breaking, polarisation, gastrulation-like movements and the development of the three embryonic axes. Crucially, Gastruloids are easy to generate, can be experimentally manipulated with ease, and can be used to ask questions which are exceptionally difficult or impossible to address in the embryo.
I am currently using the Gastruloids to probe the processes governing symmetry-breaking and pattern formation during mammalian embryogenesis, specifically those involved in left-right asymmetry. As only animal models exist to study left-right asymmetry, Gastruloids are able to greatly reduce and hopefully replace the requirement of mouse embryos for this work.