A CBCB Cell-ebration

Heath MurrayKevin WaldronEarlier this month, the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology held its inaugural Symposium. Here, the CBCB’s Heath Murray and Kevin Waldron tell us about what happened at the event.

One of the aspects of ICaMB that makes it a unique institute is the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology (CBCB), a group of researchers who are focused on understanding fundamental biological questions using bacteria as model organisms. The CBCB was founded by Professor Jeff Errington FRS and is the world’s first major research centre with a focus on bacterial cell biology. Since its inception, CBCB has relocated to a purpose-built £30 million facility in the Baddiley-Clark Building, and has grown to include more than 20 different research groups. In a relatively short time, CBCB members have made outstanding contributions to our understanding of numerous aspects of fundamental cellular processes in a wide range of bacteria.

Prof Kenn Gerdes from the CBCB discusses how bacteria can form dormant variants that evade the immune defence response.

Prof Kenn Gerdes from the CBCB discusses how bacteria can form dormant variants that evade the immune defence response.

In order to recognise the success and the breadth of science being generated in the Centre, we recently held the inaugural CBCB Symposium on July 9-10. More than 120 members of the CBCB community participated in the two-day event, underscoring the critical mass of researchers at Newcastle University working within the field. This excellent turnout certainly contributed to the overall success of the event.

Research themes covered by talks from group leaders in the CBCB included sporulation, infection, persistence, biofilms, metabolism, motility, and morphogenesis. We also heard about the emerging subject of synthetic biology, where bacterial organisms will be programmed much like computers to perform discrete biological tasks.The CBCB Symposium was highlighted by inspirational talks from three distinguished external scientists, Jan Löwe (Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge), Mervyn Bibb (John Innes Centre, Norwich), and Simon Foster (Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Sheffield).

Prof Simon Foster explains how the superbug Staphylococcus aureus grows and divides.

Prof Simon Foster explains how the superbug Staphylococcus aureus grows and divides.

Professor Löwe discussed his work using a range of biochemical and structural approaches to analyse the bacterial cell division and morphogenesis machinery. Professor Bibb explained how his lab utilises a combination of next generation DNA sequencing and bioinformatics with classical genetic analysis to discover novel antibiotics. Professor Foster showed how studies on the fundamental aspects of bacterial cell biology can be harnessed to better understand host-pathogen interactions that can eventually be translated into vaccine development, with his focus on the ‘super bug’ Staphylococcus aureus..

Participants hold discussions over dinner and drinks following the Symposium.

Participants hold discussions over dinner and drinks following the Symposium.

At the end of the Symposium participants gathered together for dinner and drinks in the informal setting of the Forum. This provided an interactive end to the event that allowed researchers throughout the CBCB to meet one another, discuss the amazing science, and develop connections.

Deep Impact

Alginate bread on a pedestal under show-biz lights

Alginate bread on a pedestal under show-biz lights.


Another excellent post by ICaMB’s Dr Matthew Wilcox as the fame of alginate spreads and seaweed bread goes on tour!

Well, I was kindly invited along to the BBSRC Fostering Impact awards ceremony in London a couple of weeks ago and although I wasn’t up for anything, Newcastle University were.

Fostering impact is a scheme run by the BBSRC to capture the economic and social impact of research funded by them.  There are three competitions that fit the fostering impact scheme; ‘innovator of the year’, ‘activating impact’ and ‘excellence with impact’.  The first is for an individual researcher, the second is for the knowledge exchange teams and the final award is for research organisations (runs from 2013 – 2015).

Outside eventInside eventThe knowledge exchange and commercialisation team at Newcastle University has changed substantially over the past couple of years.  What was once a centralised Business Development Directorate has now become the Research Enterprise Service, comprised of three teams, each embedded in one of the Faculties.  Each Institute or School now has their own dedicated business development manager (BDM), with ICAMB’s BDM being Laura Rush (who is very nice).  They are now much easier to contact, whether it’s just a quick question or the drafting of patents.

Home baking

Home baking practice.

Newcastle’s application for the Activating Impact award was submitted back in October 2013 and used the wonderful research done by the beautiful people of ICAMB as its basis.  In January the RES team found out that they had successfully made it to the final five (from 18) and through to the grand final in London.  Newcastle was up against the knowledge exchange and commercialisation teams from King’s college London, Queen Mary University of London, University College London and University of Aberdeen. One of the requirements of the competition was to bring along someone to the final who had worked with RES, a ‘user’ (according to the BBSRC).  They also wanted an iconic object?!  Alginate bread it was then.  Back in the kitchen I went. How many loaves would I need to feed the people there? Two should do it, right?

Martin and Laura on the train gearing up for competition.

Martin and Laura on the train gearing up for competition.

In London Martin Cox presented the case for Newcastle in front of a panel of scientists, business types and other technology transferers, assembled by the BBSRC. Demonstrating what Newcastle does well, how BDM’s have been embedded into each institute and also what they would do with the money if we won (£100k).  He also described the additional internal funds that are available to help activate impact.  FMS has two funds available; the first is to help with data collection for translational grant applications, the second is to support further claims in patent applications.  The two internal grants can both potentially support a post doc salary for three months, plus consumables.

Dengue fever carrying mosquito

Dengue fever carrying mosquito.

The awards ceremony combined the ‘innovator of the year’ and ‘activating impact’.  I got a glitzy stand for my bread and also had the chance to look around the other pretty amazing stuff that was on display, like Dr Luke Alphey’s work. Luke ended up being named both social innovator and overall innovator of the year for his work on the genetic control of pests, including the dengue fever carrying mosquito.

I even got to meet the new (ish) CEO of the BBSRC, Professor Jackie Hunter, who was definitely not snapped stuffing free stuff into her bag!

BBSRC's CEO Jackie Hunter enjoying the exhibition

On the right BBSRC’s CEO Professor Jackie Hunter enjoying the exhibition.

Unfortunately Newcastle did not win, but being down to the last five of the competition is brilliant and should give confidence to ICAMB scientists that when help is required in achieving impact (social or economic), we have a great team to help.

Queen Mary University of London, whose entry was also being supported by a previous BBSRC Enterprise Fellow and King’s College London, ended up being joint winners each scooping £100k.

Perhaps if a few more of the world leading researchers in ICaMB engaged with the Enterprise team, they might not have to only take some eejit and his bread to the competition next year and increase NU’s chance of winning!

Students take the stand: 2nd Year Post-Graduate Research Talks Day


by Dr Tim Cheek

The annual ICaMB 2nd year PGR Talks Day was held at the Research Beehive in November 2013

Every year, we give our 2nd year Phd students to present their research in a relaxed, informal setting to their peer group and to the incoming 1st year students. The purpose of the event is two-fold:

– provide 2nd year students with a new presentation skill of giving a research talk to an informed but non-expert audience

– give 1st year students  an illustration of the diversity of the science that is done in ICaMB and an idea of where their own research should be in one year’s time when it will be their turn to speak.

This year’s talks on eukaryotic biology ranged from whole organism mammalian physiology (“The effect of neuromodulatory medication on the oral mucosa”, Mustafa Al-Musawi, Jakubovics lab) to single cell yeast genetics (“The role of the CST complex in telomere integrity, Kate Clark, Lydall lab)].

Jack Stevenson presents his work on copper metabolism in S. aureus

A key aim of basic bioscience research carried out in ICaMB is that it underpins our understanding of the molecular basis of disease and disorder and informs future translational biomedical approaches. This aim was strongly evident with talks on mitochondrial translational defects in encephalomyopathy (Maria Wesolowska, Lightowlers lab), the molecular basis of disease caused by non-invasive enteric pathogens (Oli Amin, Kenny lab), the role of the oxidative stress response in mediating fungal infections (Melanie Ikeh, Quinn lab), the molecular basis of “ribosomopathies”- human disorders of ribosome dysfunction (Loren Macdonald, Watkins lab), the effects of Resveratrol (Suzanne Escome, Ford lab) and DNA methylation (Joy Hardyman, Ford lab) on age-related genes, and on the role of membrane transport proteins in renal stone disease (Sarah Rice, Thwaites lab). The theme was extended with talks on how dysfunction in metal ion homeostasis in cells plays a key role in disease and disorder, for example calcium signals in neuroblastoma (Claire Whitworth, Cheek lab) and copper in Alzheimer’s disease (Eliona Tsefou, Dennison lab). Copper metabolism in lower eukaryotes was discussed in a talk on copper trafficking in yeast (Kerrie Brusby, Dennison lab) and in prokaryotes by talks on copper binding sites in Bacillus subtilis (Gianpiero Landolfi, Dennison lab) and Staphylococcus aureus (Jack Stevenson, Waldron lab).

The evolution of eukaryotic cells, their genomes and organelles, is also of great interest to ICaMB researchers who collaborate with, among others, the Natural History Museum in London. One talk described the development of better methods, based upon likelihood and Bayesian approaches, for phylogenetic analysis of molecular data (Svetlana Cherlin, Embley lab). The aim is to improve the reconstruction of phylogenetic trees relevant to understanding the early evolution of eukaryotes and the origins of eukaryotic genes.

Another illustration of the diversity of ICaMB research is that laboratories are also engaged in the development of new technological strategies for biomedical research. This was demonstrated by talks on the development of a primary tissue culture model system that can be used to identify the renal toxicity of new therapeutic drugs (Sarah Billington, Colin Brown lab), a simplified detection process for aggregation in the manufacture of biotherapeutics (Alysia Davies, Lakey lab), and on the use of natural antisense transcripts that may lead to improved gene silencing strategies in clinical applications (Monica Piatek, Werner lab).

Sarah Shapiro discussing her work on gut microbiota

The Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology in ICaMB is at the forefront of research into fundamental aspects of the cell biology and biochemistry of bacteria. Research provides scientific insights crucial for the discovery and development of new antibiotics, as well as providing solutions to a huge range of industrial and environmental problems through the emerging discipline of synthetic biology. This focus was reflected by talks on bacterial cell wall peptidoglycans (Adam Lodge, Vollmer lab) and D-alanine (Karzan Sidiq, Daniel lab), on system noise in the transcription of negatively regulated bacterial genes (Thomas Ewen, Hamoen lab), on the bacteriocin colicin (Daria Stroukova, Lakey lab), on cell wall deficient bacteria (L-forms; James Brown, Errington lab) and on the role of dental plaque bacteria in biofilm formation (Jill Robinson, Jakubovics lab). The theme was advanced with two talks on complex glycan recognition, acquisition and degradation by human gut bacteria (Sarah Shapiro, Bolam lab; Max Temple, Gilbert lab). Results of this research have applications in a number of areas including the development of biofuels derived from plant cell wall material and in personalised nutrition approaches to optimise microbiota function for the benefit of human health.

Students chatting about the talks and their research

This opportunity to talk about science and to engage with peers in a semi-formal environment, with no academic staff, is invariably voted by 1st and 2nd year students as their most favoured ICaMB event of the year. This year was no different. With 26 speakers and around 50 attendees in each of the 4 sessions, ICaMB students are clearly voting with their feet!



Dr Tim Cheek is the ICaMB Postgraduate Tutor.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD studentship in ICaMB more details can be found at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/camb/study/postgraduate/index.htm


PANIC: the postgraduate network of ICaMB http://www.societies.ncl.ac.uk/panicicamb/index.html

Postgraduate Opportunities at ICaMB http://www.ncl.ac.uk/camb/study/postgraduate/index.htm


Careers PAN!C

by PAN!C committee

PAN!C committee

Last Tuesday marked the biggest PAN!C event to date: the Careers PAN!C Postgraduate Symposium. Like many postgraduate research students, it’s likely you’ve been subjected to those pesky lab bench shackles, leaving you little time to give a second thought for what may lay beyond the dreaded viva! There are so many career paths that lay open to you, but it’s difficult to make a start with career planning when it seems like such a distant and sometimes scarily unattainable goal. Can you keep up with the endless pressure of lab confinement with the small chance of attaining an academic professorship (since only 0.45% of PhDs become professors)? After such specific research training is it all a massive waste to move to a different field or change careers? And how the heck can a family life fit in with career success?

After being awarded the Innovation Funding in June, which was an important milestone for PAN!C, the committee were able to organise a half day symposium to showcase the vast array of career options available to PhD students and make the haze of career planning a little clearer.

The symposium hosted 12 insightful career development talks with speakers giving their account of a career path in a range of professions including academia, industry, recruitment, teaching, journalism and patent law. There were also useful stalls from Bionow, SRG and the NHS as well as information from Covance and the Careers Service providing.

The common theme from the speakers was about having passion and enthusiasm for science and research, a notion we can all relate to in our PhDs. This motivation is sure to carry us in good stead to be able choose pretty much any science-related career out there. In short, we chose a good starting point!

Another useful point from the day is that it’s important for postgraduate students to identify and reflect upon their transferable skills and not only to recognise careers where they are likely to succeed but also to fully demonstrate their ability to a potential new employer. Honing this skill will facilitate the diversification to other fields by acknowledging the valuable skill set we gain over our postgraduate studies.

An important take home message from many of the speakers is that determination and drive are so important whatever career you choose. As Ed Yong mentioned, play the long game with your career, it takes much time and effort to build but ultimately it’s worth it. You’ll need to push yourself hard, especially early on, to aid your career progression and rise to a position of responsibility. Often those with successful careers attribute this in part to ‘being in the right place at the right time’ but it’s also about creating opportunities for yourself and being prepared for those make or break situations when they come around. Professor Judith Howard mentioned that it is important to find your inspiration, whether it be a figure or an experience that motivates you or even just a field you really enjoy. Be sure of what you want to do then get out there and just do it. Success doesn’t come easy, but it’s certainly within reach.

PAN!C would like to thank the Postgraduate Innovation Fund for financial backing of the symposium and future academic events, and ICaMB for continued support of PAN!Cs endeavours. Of course, the rapidly growing numbers of postgraduate students getting involved with our events also deserve a massive thank you. Over 60 attended the symposium and the day was a huge success, with 100% of feedback stating it was good or excellent! Such enthusiasm and input from students over the last year has really helped PAN!C become established and have an impact both within ICaMB and recently other institutes across FMS, so much so that we see this as only the beginning of the PAN!C community!

The day ended with refreshments and wine for all and a well-deserved stint in the pub for the committee!


If you are interested in joining the PAN!C committee and furthering your organisational and networking skills, please get in touch. We’re always keen for new members and new ideas, the more the merrier!






IPA Update: What’s it like to work for Nature?

By the IPA committee

Thursday 23rd May saw the IPA’s second Science Lives Seminar. Following on from our first talk about the realities of establishing an independent research group in academia, the IPA wanted to explore what else a post-doc can do. What are our alternative careers?

To start answering this question, we invited Dr Andrew Jermy, a senior editor at Nature, to give us a talk on his career in journal editing.

Postdocs waiting to hear either (a) how to publish their papers in Nature or (b) how to work for Nature

Dr Jermy’s talk started by illustrating his personal experience. Like all of us, he completed a PhD in the biological sciences field and then did two short post-docs before he decided to leave academia to start a career in editing, first at Nature Cell Biology, followed by  Nature Reviews Microbiology and now more recently at Nature. To achieve this, he used his networking skills as he had met someone currently working for Nature at conference. Hint, keep building up your contacts! It was very interesting for us all to understand the motivations that brought him to try a new and alternative career. “Getting bored of waiting for westerns to come out of the developer”, he repeated several times.  Maybe he is not the only one?

Dr Jermy also described the several different job entry levels possible at Nature, something that applies generally to many of the larger scientific journals.  We now have a much better idea of what working for a scientific journal actually entails and where we could slot in. He pointed out that in this kind of career you need a keen interest in all science, as well as being constantly on top of the cutting edge research in your specific editing field. The ability assimilate information quickly and handle up to 40-50 papers per month, while travelling to conferences and universities is also a must. On the other hand, Dr Jermy underlined that his job is not a simple 9-5 job.  However, he can work from home and with the advantage of a permanent position as well as opportunities for career progression, this can make his career more family-friendly than what we post-docs are used to. Ultimately, this career seems ideal for those post-docs who no longer enjoy working at the bench, but still enjoy the other aspects of scientific life, such as reading, writing and networking at conferences.

Andrew demonstrates the Nature ‘secret handshake’

There was however much more to Dr Jermy’s talk than the career side… he gave practical tips to post-docs who want (or maybe its better to say wish) to submit a paper to Nature; from the title to the covering letter, from the abstract to the “style” of writing. Dr Jermy made a clear point that the philosophy of the journal is not to bin 90% of the papers they receive, but to focus on helping the top 10% of the articles emerge and get published. Finally, did you know you can send a pre-submission enquiry to Nature, asking if your scientific results are of interest before going through the long and painful online submission? Helpful for everyone!

After the seminar there was an informal chat-session, useful for post-docs to ask questions in a relaxed environment, helped of course by a beer in our hands!

The IPA wishes everyone a nice Summer and we will see you all for our next social event: a barbecue in September, a perfect occasion to give a warm welcome to new post-docs joining ICAMB as well as for all the current post-docs and final year PhD students to get together for the beginning of a new academic year.

Updates will follow on the website.

IPA Committee

IPA is run by Postdocs, for Postdocs. Get involved!


IPA Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/462376430446559
Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biosciences: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/camb/
Newcastle University: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/
Nature Journal: http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html
Andrew Jermy’s twitter page: https://twitter.com/jermynation

British Society for Medical Mycology meeting – on fungal pathogens and the mycobiome


We’ve all heard about the human microbiome, a term usually referring to the bacterial organisms inhabiting the human body and its interactions with our bodies. Research published in Nature this week focuses on an often neglected part of our microbiome:  the rich fungal community, ie, the mycobiome! So this is the perfect time to highlight the annual meeting of the British Society for Medical Mycology hosted by Newcastle University in April.


The meeting was organised by ICaMB’s Julian Rutherford, Julian Naglik (King’s College London) and Riina Richardson (BSMM treasurer, Manchester University) with excellent support from Adam O’Neill. Julian Rutherford and Jan Quinn tell us what happened.




by Julian Rutherford & Jan Quinn

Candida albicans infection of oral mucosa - an example of nasty fungal infections

The BSSM meeting is the premier conference in the UK for researchers studying human fungal infections. These fungi can cause a wide range of infections, ranging from ‘thrush’ to severe systemic infections acquired in hospitals.

It was great to host this meeting in Newcastle this year and very gratifying that, with almost 100 delegates, this was the best attended meeting in recent years. However, the meeting got off to a somewhat interesting start as both national and international leaders in the medical mycology field arrived at Newcastle just as Sunderland beat ‘The Toon’ 3-0. It took some explaining, especially to our international colleagues, why there were more police than people on the streets of Newcastle… We were particularly pleased to welcome Professor El Sheik Mahgoub (University of Khartoum) who was present at the first BSMM annual meeting 49 years ago.

Reflecting the diverse nature of the BSMM membership, poster presentations and talks covered all aspects of Medical Mycology, including genomics, systems biology; cool tools and new infection models; pathogenicity mechanisms; and fungal immunity. Newcastle labs were well represented with Jan Quinn chairing a session, and 5 presentations from post-docs and PhD students from the Quinn and Lilic groups.

One of the most entertaining talks was given by Prof David Underhill, who highlighted the importance of fungi within the human microbiome (an aspect us fungal fanatics often find neglected!). Not only did his data clearly support the presence of a rich fungal community in the gut – the “mycobiome” – but that colonisation with specific fungal species can trigger immune responses and consequently inflammatory diseases such as colitis.

We were also treated to some amazing 3D images of the fungal infection process in a whole animal model  by Simon Johnston.

Visualising the progression of cryptococcosis infection using zebrafish. Cryptococci are expressing GFP (green) and zebrafish are labelled for filamentous actin (red).











Lars Erwig also provided amazing visualisation of fungal infections with his images of C. albicans infecting macrophages:

Candida (top right, budding cell) infecting a macrophage








However, the pinnacle of the meeting was the Foundation lecture given by Scott Filler. Scott has led the field in understanding Candida albicans invasion of host cells which is a key to this fungal pathogen causing life threatening systemic infections. Highlights of his talk included the identification of the invasins that induce human host cells to take up the fungus and the generation of an anti-Candida vaccine raised against one of these invasions that protects mice from systemic Candida infections.

As in previous years, one session consisted of talks by PhD students with Shirley Tang (King’s College London) taking home the £100 prize money for best student talk with her presentation on the role of the Candida albicans protein Ece1 in damaging oral epithelial cells. The prize for best student poster was awarded to Robert Evans (University of Birmingham) for his poster describing his work on the role of phospholipase B in cryptococcal pathogenesis.

The Sing Song Book!


The meeting is also a very social event: the annual dinner was a great success with BSMM president Chris Kibbler giving his usual entertaining after dinner speech. This was followed by the traditional sing-song led by Professor Frank Odds on piano and a few croaky voices at the sessions the following day! As usual, few could resist joining in on the all time favourite Bohemian Rhapsody!

Prof Frank Odds with the lead singers (left) and an enthusiastic chorus (left)



This year the meeting concluded with a Career Workshop for Medical Mycologists, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award for Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology, of which Newcastle University is a consortium member. Jan Quinn gave (honest!) advice on the post-doc to PI transition, and there were also talks on non-academic and clinical career paths. This was finished by an interactive CV writing session led by Prof. Al Brown from Aberdeen University – ‘photographs on CVs?’ was a heavily debated point! And the agreed view was: don’t include them! What do you think – please let us know by adding a comment!

This was a very successful meeting and it will surely be remembered by those attending. For all those interested in fungal pathogens – see you next year!

More details on BSMM: 

The BSMM has approximately 350 members from all over the British Isles, Europe and the USA and includes clinicians, clinical scientists and research scientists. The Newcastle meeting was the last to be held with Chris Kibbler as BSMM president. Professor Rosemary Barnes (Cardiff) takes over as president and the 50th BSMM meeting will be held in Manchester.



British Society of Medical Mycology: http://www.bsmm.org/

Wellcome Trust Strategic Award for Medical Mycology and Fungal: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/mmfi/



Why PAN!C?


ICaMB’s PhD and Master students now have their own Network – PAN!C. Here they tell us about the network, its aims and activities so far, as well as plans for the future.

by the PAN!C committee

The idea for a Postgraduate Network in ICaMB – PAN!C – was conceived in Campus Coffee in November 2012 by Claire Whitworth and Kerrie Brusby in the hope of uniting the near 90 postgraduate students within the institute. Since then, the PAN!C committee has gained 5 more committee members: Beth Lawry, Monica Piatek, Jonathon Briggs, Max Temple and Adam Crawshaw. The aim of PAN!C is to strengthen the community of postgraduate students around the institute and, in particular, improve interactions between the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology and Medical School building laboratories, enhancing both the academic and social experiences of students within the institute.

Jeff’s talk for PAN!C

Our first academic event back in March and was a real success, with a strong turnout of over 50 students to a career talk given by Professor Jeff Errington. His talk was based on his journey from being a student through to becoming an academic at the very top of his field and balancing his thriving business ventures with the stresses of academia.

We are currently planning our next academic event, again about careers but from a new perspective, which we’ll have more information about soon. We are hoping over the next few months to invite more speakers and if you have any suggestions of whom you might like to hear from or a subject that you would like to see covered, please email us!

Over the past 4 months we’ve also had a number of social events ranging from pub quizzes to laser questing, events which have had a good turnout and positive feedback from students. We have plenty of more events up our sleeve so keep an eye out for emails and posters advertising them soon!


PAN!C are currently applying for support from the University so that we can have more great events in the future, particularly for academic events, such as talks, workshops and more. To help us obtain this support we would really appreciate it if you could complete our very short survey, it takes less than 2 minutes.

For any questions about PAN!C or to suggest an idea for an event, be it academic or social please get in touch  with the PAN!C committee. We want PAN!C to be all about the postgraduate students in the Institute so we want students to have influence on what we do, get involved with our events and have fun! We are really grateful for the support shown by students, academics and the institute as a whole and hope that this continues so that an even bigger PAN!C ensues.



PAN!C: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PANIC/522401521125495?fref=ts
Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biosciences: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/camb/
Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology : http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cbcb/
PAN!C survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PLHLBHC

IPA Update: Pub Quiz and Nature Editor visit


April 27th saw the ICaMB postdoc association (IPA)’s second social event with a Friday Night at the North Terrace pub.  Here the IPA committee describes the evening and upcoming VERY IMPORTANT EVENT

By the IPA

All those involved with the IPA social evening and pub quiz thought it was a terrific success, with a good turn out of Postdocs and final year PhD students letting off some steam after their hard week at work.

The pub quiz. Postdocs hard at work.

It was a great night and we all enjoyed the drinks and delicious North Terrace food, including generous portions of tasty potato skins and pizzas, which were very much approved of (even by Alessio). While some got serious over a game of darts, others chatted over pints – however the best part of the night was by far the PUB QUIZ.

Who is this man? One of the tough questions at the IPA pub quiz. Fortunately everyone got this one right.

The IPA committee prepared the questions with an international angle that went down well with our multi-national postdoc community.  It was amusing to see the quality team-work used to answer questions on intercontinental cuisine and different languages. Particularly with the question “how does a Geordie spell the word home?”* Although the Italian Quiz Master occasionally struggled to read the questions in a ‘proper’ English accent, this just kept the postdocs on the ball! We had 4 competing teams, with every team randomly formed with different lab members, so everyone got to know and chat with new people.

Victory went to the ‘baby PINK team’ after winning the tie break question with their closest answer to “What is the length of the River Nile?”** Not easy! Their 1st place prize was North Terrace Deli sandwich vouchers. Yummy!

The result. A close run thing.

The IPA committee is looking forward to our next social; a barbecue in September!  We are in the process of seeking a good venue!

Before this we have our next Science Lives Seminar with the invited Nature Microbiology senior editor Dr Andrew Jermy giving an exclusive talk to our Postdocs and final year PhDs. Get Thursday 23rd May 4pm blocked now in your busy diaries – you can’t miss hearing about how this former postdoc established a career in editing for one of the most renowned journals in our field. We, as postdocs, need to keep our career options open, and this does not seem like a bad one! The PIs are perhaps even more excited than us about his visit, not that they are invited to the seminar (haha unlucky), but we can expect some serious sweet-talking in Andrew Jermy’s tight schedule of meetings with ICaMB academics the following day! We all know that PIs don’t have much time, but all of them have managed to rearrange their outlook calendars for this guest!

* Answer is ‘yem
** Answer is 6,650 km (4,130 miles)

If you have any suggestions for themes for future events please  get in touch with the IPA committee.



IPA Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/462376430446559
Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biosciences: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/camb/
Newcastle University: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/
Nature Journal: http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html
Andrew Jermy’s twitter page: https://twitter.com/jermynation

ICaMB Postgraduate Research Symposium – students’ views


Once a year the final year PhD students in ICaMB have a one day symposium to present their data.  Here we ask some of these students to tell us how they found the occasion and discuss the projects they found particularly interesting.

 By Thomas Kinsman, Alexander Egan, Emma Button and Nichola Conlon

The ICaMB PGR Symposium was held on 25 March 2013. This annual symposium provides not only an excellent opportunity for final year PhD students to present their work to a mixed scientific audience of fellow students, research technicians, post docs and more senior researchers, but is also an excellent demonstration of the diversity of top quality research that is going on in ICaMB labs. The symposium and lunch were generously sponsored by GT Vision.

Session 1 – Reported by Thomas Kinsman (Lewis Lab)

The first session was centred on the study of DNA, yet talks ranged from the molecular biology of DNA polymerase processivity to the role of extracellular DNA in dental plaque biofilms. In addition to enabling me to gain a greater appreciation of the work that goes on in other labs within ICaMB, it was interesting that one of the speakers made a point of saying that preparing their talk had been very useful because it had made them realise they had enough results to write-up their PhD – I had not fully appreciated that this was another value of these talks!

Session 2 – Reported by Alex Egan (Vollmer Lab)

The second session of the symposium featured the work of students who look at various aspects of bacterial cell biology including; cell wall synthesis and cell division, bacterial cell motility, copper transport and storage and DNA replication. What immediately stands out from that list is the vast range of biological problems we work on here in ICaMB, and that’s just a small representation of the bacterial labs here. A positive impact of this vast range is that it creates an excellent centre for diverse knowledge, not just in gross terms, but in the myriad of different cellular and molecular techniques. With use of relatively simple yet elegant microscopy to study biological problems on cellular levels to the use of biochemical approaches to characterise the molecular basis of bacterial processes, it highlights that there’ll always be someone with experience who can provide advice and insight into almost any approach to biology. Having been on both the giving and receiving end of this, I believe it’s one of the great strengths of the symposium.

Session 3 – Reported by Emma Button (Veal Lab)

Session three was an exciting session in which talks ranged from the important interactions between the host and gut microbiota to mathematical equations used to refine a statistical modelling process that identifies subtle interactions involved telomere maintenance. Highlights of the session included a talk on the diverse roles of a peroxiredoxin (PRDX-6) in stress resistance and ageing, and a description of the importance of a DNA licensing protein (Cdt-1) and how it controlled DNA replication during embryo development in the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.

Session 4 – Reported by Nichola Conlon (Thwaites Lab)

The final session had talks that were all related to the gut, yet ranged from studies at a molecular level to in vivo human clinical trials. The first talk demonstrated how understanding the structure of mammalian amino acid transporter proteins in the plasma membrane is vital in understanding the pathology of gastrointestinal diseases and in improving drug specificity and targeting. An interesting insight followed into the mystery surrounding the mechanisms by which enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC) disrupts the intestinal epithelium to cause diarrhoeal disease. The talk described the ways in which EPEC targets host cell proteins and pathways and highlighted the complexity in understanding such a common disease. Focus then shifted to the gut in its entirety with an intriguing description of an in vitro ‘model gut’, which is used to study the effects of various compounds on digestion. This model has proved effective in identifying alginate as a novel lipase inhibitor that can inhibit fat digestion similar to a current commercially available drug that is plagued by unwanted side effects. In vitro then moved to in vivo with the final talk which described a human clinical study in which ileostomy patients were used to assess the ability of alginate-enriched bread to inhibit fat digestion in vivo. Preliminary results revealed that, as observed in the model gut, alginate can also inhibit fat digestion in vivo when added as a supplement to food. The idea is that alginate could be incorporated into everyday foods, such as a loaf of bread, to try and combat obesity in a ‘health by stealth’ manner.

Personally, I found the symposium a complete success: everybody in attendance, students and staff alike, seemed to benefit in different ways from the experience. As a first year student in my lab said to me, they are looking forward to their turn in two years time.

Postgraduate Newsbite I


One of the aims of our blog is to make it a forum to share what is happening, so this week we focus on upcoming events important for our postgraduate students.

Firstly, the Postgraduate Research Symposium is taking place on Monday, 25th. This is a unique opportunity for all of us to hear more about the exciting research being carried out by our students. It’s also a great occasion for the students, a chance for them to share their work with the whole Institute and practice those ever important presentation skills.

So please come and show your support on Monday 25th March, 9.30 to 4.30, in Lecture Theatre D. Don’t forget you also get a chance to meet the students over lunch, provided in the Boardroom. We will also cover details of the day in our Blog next week – so come back then to find out more!

ICaMB’s Postgraduate association, PAN!C, start their academic events this afternoon at 4pm, in the Baddiley-Clark seminar room.  ICamBlog regular Jeff Errington will be giving a “Careers talk” where he will discuss his own experiences in academia and in setting up two spin out companies from his research. MRes, PhD students and Postdocs are all welcome.

Also, next Wednesday, 27th March, PAN!C social events continue with a pub quiz at Mr Lynch in Jesmond at 8.30pm.

We will soon hear about their plans for future events, so watch this space for more news from PAN!C.