Youth Academy

Our NWCR Centre PhD Studentship is a combined program supported by NWCR and the Universities of Liverpool, Lancaster and Bangor. We have considerable experience in providing high quality Ph.D. training based on the exceptionally strong research expertise within the Centre. Work at the NWCR Centre is supported by international centres of excellence, including the: NWCR Institute - University of Bangor, Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Lancaster University, MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science, Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine, Centre for Genomic Research, Centre for Preclinical Imaging, LBIH Biobank, Instrumentation available through the Technology Directorate, UoL.

We are delighted by our growing Youth Academy. View the videos below to find out more about our Studentships. 

Miss Lucy Ireland


Lucy graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in BSc Genetics with Industrial Experience (Hons) in 2014. During her degree Lucy gained an understanding of molecular diseases, including cancer, and how changes to DNA can have large consequences on human health.

After graduating, Lucy joined RedX Oncology to acquire more scientific skills in a cancer research setting.

To progress her scientific career and contribute to the current and future cancer research, she decided to apply for the NWCR PhD studentship. Lucy was very excited to join Dr. Mielgo’s research group, who focuses on elucidating cell signalling pathways that promote Pancreatic Cancer Progression.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the world and has a very poor prognosis. Only ~20% of patients are candidates for surgery due to metastatic spread. Since chemotherapy is the standard of care for unresectable tumours, developing new strategies to improve the response to therapy is critical to improve outcome for this disease. Desmoplasia (excessive fibrotic stroma) is a pathological characteristic of PDA. Desmoplasia is driven by cells from the tumour microenvironment including cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and immune cells, and plays a key role in tumour progression and therapy resistance.

However, the molecular-cellular events that initiate and drive desmoplasia, as well as the role of desmoplasia in pancreatic cancer progression remain unclear.

Thus, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the complex tumour microenvironment in pancreatic cancer could open new avenues in the treatment of this devastating disease.

Miss Erithelgi Bertsoulaki


Erithelgi graduated in 2014 from the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Patras, Greece. From her early years of studies, she knew that she wanted to work in cancer research.

Neuroblastoma is the most common extra-cranial solid cancer in childhood and the most common cancer in infancy. We know something about the genes, which drive this particular cancer, but much less about how they do this. The product of one of these genes is an enzyme called “Alk kinase”, for which there are some reasonable drugs that inhibit its activity. However, patients acquire resistance to these drugs; therefore it is desirable to identify other targets, which may cooperate with Alk. This would offer the opportunity to treat patients with a “double whammy” cocktail, to which it is more difficult to acquire resistance.

Erithelgi’s project aims to identify such factors using sophisticated cell models of neuroblastoma together with a mass spectrometry instrument, which we use to tease out molecular signatures related to excessive Alk activity.

Follow-up work will then centre around how they can use this information to design new drugs or evaluate prognosis. The project represents a new collaboration between a basic science group led by Profs Michael Clague and Sylvie Urbé, together with clinical input from Prof. Barry Pizer based at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Miss Valaria Quaranta


Valaria Quaranta graduated in Biological Sciences at the University of Parma (Italy), and subsequently proceeded with a two years Master degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics. She is keen to pursue cancer research to further understand cancer and develop treatments for thousands of people.

The NWCR funded MRes/PhD Programme has offered Valeria an innovative and exciting cancer research training environment at the University of Liverpool. She is currently undertaking research in the field of pancreatic cancer and tumour immunology, supervised by Dr Michael Schmid.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive malignant disease of the exocrine pancreas that affects approximately 7000 people every year in the UK and carries a dire prognosis for which novel therapeutic strategies are urgently needed. Although it was originally thought that our immune cells would kill cancer cells, recent evidence suggests that cancer cells can “hijack” certain immune cell functions and use our immune cells to their own benefit. For example, tumour infiltrating immune cells, specifically leukocytes (also known as “white blood cells”) secrete high amounts of factors that aid the cancer cells to proliferate, survive, and metastasize. In fact, clinical studies have shown a correlation between abundance of leukocytes and poor prognosis. Thus, it is of upmost importance to
better understand the tumour promoting functions of our immune cells.

Valeria’s research projects aims to identify and target tumour promoting functions of immune cells in pancreatic cancer. Findings obtained from these studies might open new avenues to fight pancreatic cancer.


Miss Terpsi Vitti 
Proton beam therapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and uveal melanoma.
Supervisor: Dr Jason Parsons (University of Liverpool)

Miss Angharad Wilkie 
Investigation of therapy-induced ciliogenesis, and a novel dual regulator of ciliogenesis and DNA repair
Supervisor: Dr Chris Staples (Bangor University)

Mr Thomas Leather
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging markers for identification of IDH mutation and grading of gliomas
Supervisor: Professor Harish Poptani (University of Liverpool)


Mr Sean Duffy
Supervisor: Dr Pat Eyers (University of Liverpool).
Proteomics Meets Cancer Therapeutics: Comprehensive Analysis of Cellular Drug Interactions in CML using Mass Spectrometry-based Thermal Proteomic Profiling.
Miss Ottilie Swinyard
Dr. Nikki Copeland (University of Lancaster).
Molecular analysis of Ap4A-mediated regulation of DNA replication and genome stability.
Ms Claire Kelly
Supervisor: Professor Harish Poptani and Dr Violaine See (University of Liverpool).
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging markers for identification of IDH mutation and grading of gliomas