Group Leader

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Diana Fusco, PhD

  • University Lecturer, Dept. of Physics, University of Cambridge

  • Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California-Berkeley (2014-2018)

  • PhD in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Duke University (2014)

  • MSc in Theoretical Physics, Universita' degli Studi di Milano (2008)

  • BSc in Physics, Universita' degli Studi di Milano (2006)

Diana's interest in biology started as a physics undergrad studying topological properties of the transcriptional network in budding yeast. After that, she was hooked and moved to soft matter and protein self-assembly for her PhD, under the supervision of Dr. Charbonneau at Duke. Unsatisfied with addressing questions exclusively on the computational side, she embarked onto a hybrid postdoc in Dr. Hallatschek lab at UC Berkeley, where she studied the evolutionary consequences of spatial range expansion combining microbiology and mathematical modeling.

Postdocs

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Temur Yunusov, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge

  • Research Laboratory Coordinator, Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge (2013-2021)

  • PhD in Developmental Neuroscience, University of Cambridge (2013)

  • BSc in Ecology and Environmental Studies from the National University of Uzbekistan (2007)
     

After completing my BSc in Tashkent, I worked at the Institute of Regional Problems, Samarkand Academy of Sciences as part of a team analysing the soil and water quality of the Zerafshan river basin, in order to investigate the impact on flora in the region. My PhD research In Cambridge focused on the development of genetic tools to study the cholinergic interneurons in Drosophila melanogaster larvae. Upon completing my PhD I worked as a Research Laboratory Coordinator in the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. My research there focused on studying the cellular interfaces between plants and both mutualistic (R. irregularis) and pathogenic (P. palmivora) microorganisms using a variety of techniques, including genetic manipulation, fluoresence imaging and microdissections.

My current work focuses on exploring the potential of the bacteriophage system as a model for studying strategies and mechanisms of evolution. Bacteriophages are uniquely adapted to take control over the bacterial metabolism and to replicate at maximum efficiency. The mechanisms and strategies they employ could shed light on metabolic processes in bacteria. To elucidate these, I plan to work on phage gene-editing to visualize phage-bacteria interactions at single-cell resolution and develop a system to use phages as probes to study the bacterial processes.

Graduate Students

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  • PhD student in Physics, University of Cambridge

  • MPhys. Physics, University of Edinburgh (2018)

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the behaviour of bacteria and bacteriophage in explicitly spatial settings. Bacteria and phage commonly exist in natural environments with spatial structure, yet research into the influence of spatial settings on their behaviour is relatively scarce. In particular, I am interested in how spatial settings shape the evolution of phage and bacteria, and what insights this can provide about host-pathogen interactions in general.

Michael Hunter

Michael Hunter

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Nikhil Krishnan

  • PhD student in Physics and Gates Scholar, University of Cambridge

  • MD, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio (2020)

  • BSc. Biophysics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio (2016)

As a medical student, I frequently helped take care of patients with antibiotic resistant infections. Through my clinical experiences, I encountered the daunting global crisis of antibiotic resistance first-hand. The apparent complexity of this problem compelled me to approach it as a physicist, striving to reduce the complexity of evolution into fundamental mechanisms. I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to work on a piece of this puzzle through my thesis project, which will examine how evolution acts on short- and long-range cell-to-cell interactions within bacterial biofilms through theory and simulations. As an aspiring physician-scientist, I am greatly motivated to carry forward this broad, interdisciplinary approach to further our understanding of microbial evolution and improve clinical strategies for prevention and treatment of antibiotic resistance.

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Alberto Scarampi

  • PhD student in Biochemistry/Biophysics, BBSRC-DTP scholar

  • BSc. Biotechnology, Imperial College London (2019)

During my undergraduate degree I developed a passion for synthetic and systems biology: two fields of research that aim to engineer and deconstruct living systems in order to understand their assembly logic. I am now trying to apply those principles to study how and why certain bacteria are able to sense and generate electrical signals when living in biofilms. In particular, I am curious about the molecular mechanisms and genetic components that allow cyanobacteria to produce electricity from sunlight, air and water. I am also keen about developing biophysical techniques to investigate how the evolution of electrical signalling in structured communities of cyanobacteria contributes to the emergence of collective properties.

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Aaron Smith

  • PhD Student in Biological Physics, University of Cambridge

  • PGCE. Secondary Science with Physics, University of Cambridge (2021-22)

  • BA and MSc Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge (2017-21)

I completed my undergraduate degree during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a slightly unusual career path, but a keen awareness of the value of good educators. Having now completed a teaching degree I am excited to put this to use during undergraduate supervisions alongside my research over the course of my PhD. I am interested particularly in how our (comparatively) simple models of bacteriophage behaviour work and where they break down, and I am excited to be working on models and technologies that may one day see life-saving medical application.

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Hassan Alam

  • PhD student in Physics, University of Cambridge

  • MSc in Physics, University of Waterloo, Canada (2022)

I am interested in understanding the coevolution of phages and bacteria in complex microbial environments. For this purpose, I use mathematical models and develop algorithms to study possible evolutionary trajectories of phage-bacteria interactions. These interactions depend on many biological and physical factors like bacteria life, proximity, physical barriers, etc. Therefore, I explore how different biophysical parameters control viral fitness in microbial systems. These theoretical studies also guide my experiments to test my hypotheses on phage-bacteria ecosystems.

Undergraduate Students

  • Joseph Knight: Part III Physics student
  • Kirke Joamets: Part III Physics student
  • Zhisong Liu: Part III Physics student
  • Gil Krikler: Part III Systems Biology student
  • Pannaree Boonyuen: Part III Systems Biology student

Former Members

  • Dr. Racha Majed: Postdoctoral Research Associate (2019-2021) - currently working for a start-up in Oxford

  • Armin Eghdami: Physics Master Student (2020) - currently graduate student at UC Berkeley

  • Hannah Horton: Summer Undergraduate Research Student (2020)

  • Siqi Fang: Summer Undergraduate Research Student (2020)

  • Tongfei Liu: Summer Undergraduate Research Student (2019)

  • Sherry Jiatong Jiang: Summer Undergraduate Research Student (2019)

  • Chris Dickinson: Part III Physics Student (2019-20)

  • Callum Holmes: Part III Physics Student (2019-20)

  • Amy Bowen: Part III Physics Student and Summer Undergraduate Research Student (2020-21) - currently PhD student at the Francis Crick Institute

  • Brendan Beh: Part III Physics Student (2020-21)

  • Caredig ap Tomos: Summer Undergraduate Research Student (2021)

  • Peter Hampshire: Part III Physics Student (2021-22) - currently PhD student at MPI for Complex Systems

  • Shashvat Verma: Part III Physics Student (2021-22) - currently Research Assistant in the Bohndiek Lab