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Summer Studentships and Work Experience

Left: Megan pipettes her samples. Right: Chris mentors Dami in Tissue Culture. (Photo courtesy of Nick David
We believe it is important for our Post Docs and PhD students to mentor students from all levels of study. Explaining your work to others improves clarity of thought, generation of hypotheses and creative thought. Plus, a second pair of hands can be very useful. Learning how to supervise junior colleagues and how to get the most out of their efforts is one of the most important aspects of PhD and post doctoral training.
MSc Students
  BSc Students
  Summer Students
  Work Experience for schools

Masters Students

Bethany Schneiderman, 2017 -2018
Bethany Schneiderman  
Next step: PhD at Imperial

Tafhima Haider, 2016   Farzana Begum, 2016
Tafhima Haider. Photos courtesy of Nick David (   Farzana Begum
Drugs are an excellent tool to explore complex biological processes, such as innate immune sensing pathways and virus-host interactions. I have been working on projects to begin developing a novel class of anti-inflammatory molecules and anti-HIV-1 drugs. Disrupting the interaction between HIV capsid protein and the host cofactor, Cyclophilin A, leads to a Type I IFN response, which prevents infection. JW142 is a synthetic molecule, similar in structure to the well-known anti-HIV-1 drug, Cyclosporine A. Therefore, I have used a biological assay to investigate whether JW142 can bind to CypA and disrupt interactions with Capsid. Inhibiting the cGAS-STING DNA sensing pathway can have beneficial effects for patients suffering from a chronic inflammatory disorder called Aicardi-Goutières Syndrome. I have screened 2000 small molecules to find drugs that target the NF-κB and IRF3 signalling pathways, downstream of cGAS and STING, and further characterised hits to begin to elucidate their mechanism of action.   For my MSc research project, I was fortunate enough to have been under the supervision of both Professor Greg Towers (UCL) and Professor Waseem Qasim (ICH/GOSH), giving me a unique opportunity to collaborate between two labs. Clinical trials have shown successful results in the treatment of congenital and acquired diseases using lentiviral vectors in gene therapy, demanding an improved manufacturing capacity of such vectors. By using state-of-the-art CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology, I aimed to block autotransduction of lentiviral vectors and therefore develop a more stable packaging cell line that is capable of continuously producing high quality therapeutic lentiviral vectors. During my project, I secured a job as a Scientific Officer at the Institute of Cancer Research and I hope to use this experience to pursue a PhD in the near future.
Next Step: PhD in Dr. Clare Jolly’s Lab (UCL), investigating innate immune evasion of HIV Envelope.   Next Step: Scientific Officer at the Institute of Cancer Research

Lauren Harrison, 2016   Juliana Cudini, 2016
Lauren Harrison   Juliana Cudini
My project characterises the domains required for anti-HIV activity of restriction factor MxB. The highly related MxA lacks the restriction capabilities of MxB. This allowed me to make use of MxA/MxB chimeric proteins to determine domains of MxB important for its intracellular location and restriction function. During this project I had the opportunity to develop a broad range of skills including cell culture techniques and the ability to use structural analysis programmes. Everyone within the lab was extremely welcoming and helpful in teaching me new skills and answering my questions, making the task of writing a dissertation an enjoyable experience as opposed to a stressful one. I am very much looking forward to returning to the Towers lab later this year.
  My project involved positive selection analysis of the innate immune component, Complement Factor H, in the hopes of better understanding the evolution of pathogen evasion mechanisms by hosts. The project was a collaborative effort between the Towers Lab and Goldstein group, where I have been recruited to further pursue our findings in the context of autoimmune disorders and meningococcal disease. I hope to continue my work at UCL examining evolutionary relationships between pathogen and host as a PhD student.
Next step: PhD with the Towers Lab, UCL   Next Step: Research Assistant in The Goldstein group, UCL followed by PhD at Cambridge University

BSc Students

Matthew Spencer, 2016
Dan Ntuiabane, 2017
Matthew Spencer Dan Ntuiabane
I was lucky enough to undertake a project exploring the innate immune response to HIV in the Towers lab. I showed that inhibiting HIV-1 with specific drugs triggers a viral DNA dependent, cGAS dependent, innate immune response in sensing capable cells and that this results in decreased infectivity. The Tower’s lab were extremely welcoming and happy to teach me the skills necessary to carry out research in a lab. The journal club and lab meetings certainly helped me with reading and critiquing research papers, skills that will be of great use in the future. PF74 is a small molecule inhibitor, described by Pfizer, which inhibits HIV infection through binding to the capsid and disturbing recruitment of cofactors Nup153 and CPSF6. Our goal is to test the potency of PF74 analogues in their ability to inhibit HIV-1 across four different clades. This is important because anti-viral inhibitors must have broad specificity against circulating HIV variants. The Towers lab are very supportive and happy to teach me all the lab skills that I need for my project and more.
Next Step: Clinical training at UCL Next Step: Clinical training at UCL

Layal Liverpool, 2015
  Alun Vaughan-Jackson, 2015
Layal Liverpool   Alun Vaughan-Jackson
Primate lentiviruses encode accessory proteins that are crucial for immune escape in vivo. Importantly, these viruses must evade innate immune sensing in cells. By using reporter gene assays and protein expression studies, I investigated species-specific regulation of innate sensing by HIV and SIV accessory proteins in cells.
  I joined the Tower’s lab in order to explore my interests in Virology with a focus on the interaction with the host innate immune system. My project focussed on the interaction between the HIV-1 capsid and the host co-factors CPSF6 and Cyclophilin A. We aimed to discover new drugs that could interfere with this interaction and possibly expose the viral particle to the hostile intracellular environment and trigger an innate immune response. The skills I was taught in the lab, both at the bench and away, were instrumental in acquiring myself a place on the Wellcome trust PhD programme at Oxford. This has set me on my first major steps towards a career in academic research and perhaps a lab of my own in the future.
Next Step: PhD at Oxford University
  Next Step: PhD at Oxford University

Summer Students

We take work experience students every year during the summer. We get lots of applicants and so we have to choose who to take on. If you are a bright and motivated sciences undergraduate student with an excellent CV, and would like to join the lab for a project for several weeks, we would love to hear from you.
Look at our interests and think of project ideas related to the interests of the post docs. Typically we help design a project but input from candidates is expected. We expect you to apply for summer student fellowships, for example: the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship, or from the Microbiology Biology Society, or similar.

Bethany Schneiderman, 2017
Bethany Schneiderman  
My project involves functional studies of an innate immune sensor, cGAS. I mutated amino acid residues in cGAS that have undergone positive selection during evolution, likely in response to viral infection. I am currently evaluating the activity of the cGAS mutants using interferon reporter assays, with the goal of providing insights into the evolutionary history of cGAS.
Next Step: MSc

Meiyin Lin, 2015 and 2016   Elysia Upton, 2015 and 2016
Meiyin Lin   Elysia Upton

The lab hypothesises that the capsid is essential for evasion of the innate immune system. It prevents DNA sensors, a type of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), from recognising reverse transcriptase products. However, mutations in proteins that form the capsid might result in the premature release of these products into the cytoplasm. DNA are normally not found in cytoplasm and hence the presence of viral DNA molecules can activate DNA sensors. I am trying to identify the sensors that trigger the innate immune system during infection by mutant HIV-1. We use CRISPR to knockout known sensors and determine if they are essential in this triggering Interferon-Stimulated Genes (ISG).

Mei worked in the Towers lab throughout her second year and again after her third year. She was funded by a Harry Smith vacation studentship from the SGM secured by her in early 2015.

  I am a recent Biology graduate from Imperial College, and am working in the Towers Lab before going on to study for an MSc in Integrated Immunology at Oxford University. With Dr Katsia Bichel, I am working on part of a project investigating the biophysical properties of the HIV-1 capsid that regulate reverse transcription initiation.
 Next step: Research position in a lab in Singapore whilst applying for PhDs
   Next Step: MSc in Integrated Immunology at Oxford University

Megan Crawley, 2016   Kevin Ng, 2016
Megan Crawley. Photos courtesy of Nick David (   Kevin Ng. Photos courtesy of Nick David (
Myxovirus resistance (Mx) proteins – MxA and MxB – are interferon-induced GTPases, both with antiviral functions. MxA is well characterised compared to MxB. However, MxB has recently been shown to have antiviral activity against HIV-1 by blocking nuclear translocation of the proviral DNA. This summer I performed experiments to determine whether the different isoforms of MxA and MxB have similar restriction activities and whether they work by a similar mechanism. From September onwards I will begin my MSci project which will also consider host factors controlling HIV tropism.   The lab has previously demonstrated that HIV-1 recruitment of host protein cyclophilin A (CypA) is required to evade the innate immune response during early stages of cell entry. Under the supervision of Dr. Lucy Thorne, I have been investigating a potential role for CypA in modulating DNA sensing pathways and downstream interferon response using both mutant and drug-based techniques. We additionally aim to explore cell type-specific variations in host DNA sensing and immune response pathways, and their potential implications for viral tropism.
 Next step: MSc at UCL
   Next step:  Final year in the Honours BSc in Microbiology and Immunology program at the University of British Columbia, Canada

Work Experience for schools

We work with Inspire! and individual schools to provide work experience for 16 and 17 year old students with a passion for biological science and a keen and inquiring mind.

Page last modified on 21 feb 18 17:48 by Jane Lorna Elizabeth Turner