Happy Birthday PAN!C


PAN!C-BethBy Beth Lawry

ICaMB’s postgraduate student association (PAN!C) celebrated it’s 2nd birthday in February. Thank you to all 40+ of the ICaMB postgraduate students who came and enjoyed our night of celebrations!

Yep, if you’re an ICaMB postgraduate student, I’m the one who clogs up your inbox with emails about yet another PAN!C activity. The past few years, since Claire Whitworth and Kerrie Brusby began the ICaMB postgraduate association, have been an amazing whirlwind. To celebrate PAN!C’s birthday I thought I’d share my highlights with you.

PAN!C CV Workshop, June 2014

PAN!C CV Workshop, June 2014

In February 2013, PAN!C applied for and won a University Innovation Grant, and were invited to celebrate with the Vice Chancellor. These funds have enabled PAN!C to host numerous events, both academic and social, for ICaMB’s PhD student community. In November 2013 we hosted our careers symposium. Of course, we’ve all been given the usual, generic career options for people with PhDs, but that wasn’t enough for PAN!C. We wanted our students to have the opportunity to hear about careers they perhaps had not thought of, and provide the chance to meet professionals in these areas…. We even had an interesting insight into running a pole dancing business! In 2014, PAN!C hosted a CV workshop, with experts providing information on how to improve and tailor your CV to a variety of sectors. We had 12 speakers, and over 60 students attended the day.

PAN!C Climbing, February 2014

PAN!C Climbing, February 2014

Both the Careers Symposium and CV workshop received extremely positive feedback, from students and speakers alike, with 100% of responders stating they’d recommend the workshops. It’s worth noting that, while organising these events, I made contacts with people from industry, teaching, law, business and recruitment, all of whom I’m still in touch with. PAN!C has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to network with my peers, and gain skills in team work, grant applications, leadership and communication.

PAN!C are crowned FMS quiz champions, May 2014

PAN!C are crowned FMS quiz champions, May 2014

On the social side, PAN!C has always strived to bring together the many groups within ICaMB. Together we’ve conquered our fears and climbed to dizzying heights at the Newcastle Climbing Centre, skated on ice at the Centre for Life in a somewhat Bambi fashion, hit a pin or 2 whilst bowling at MFA Bowl and became Quiz Champions of FMS!

Another highlight was the PAN!C Bake Off, where I almost fell into a sugar induced coma!….. mmmmm cake. And along the way we raised a massive £361.56 for charity (which was split between Macmillan, Doctors without Borders and Age UK).


Fabulous cakes at the PAN!C Bake Off, September 2014

Since forming, the PAN!C committee has had 10 members, and I’d personally like to thank every one of them for contributing and making this association such a fantastic and fun thing to be a part of. I’d also like to thank the ICaMB postgraduate students too. We’re a student led committee for the students and without you we’re nothing!

I’m nearing the end of my stint at Newcastle University, so it’s time to pass the PAN!C reigns over. It’s something that has improved my time management and helped me to focus on my PhD work. I hope you too realise the opportunity that PAN!C offers. You can give as little or as much time as you like, involve yourself with conference organising or just attend the socials. So, get involved and let’s keep the party going!

If you want any further information or just to chat about PAN!C, please don’t hesitate to contact me: b.m.lawry@ncl.ac.uk.

Discovery at the Discovery Museum



Great Hall

Great Hall

Ready to replicate the success of last year’s Away Day, it was en masse outing time for ICaMB again! Time to find out who all the new faces are, and to find out exactly what that person you have a ‘hello and a nod in the corridor’ relationship with actually does at the bench all day. This year we headed to the Great Hall of the Discovery Museum. Despite the leaking roof caused by the downpour outside and the sometimes dodgy acoustics the day was still a success.

Serious faces, this is science

Serious faces, this is science

ICaMB is a fast paced, constantly evolving institute. Everybody is busy with their own research, making a break and a get-together once in a while a vital part of reminding ourselves of the vast range of expertise and diverse set of interests beavering away in our labs and offices. The answer to that tricky problem or that elusive technique is quite possibly just a few yards away.

But also fun!

But also fun!

With that in mind, this year’s Away Day felt particularly important as we welcomed 8 new academic groups to ICaMB from CAV (Campus for Aging and Vitality) as well new IRES fellows and a list of other recent recruits. Drs Victor Korolchuk and Gabi Saretzki from the CAV both spoke at the away day about their interests in neurodegenerative diseases and the role of oxidative stress in the ageing process.

As ever the day was kicked off by the Institute director, Bob (Professor Robert Lightowlers), who gave us a taster of ICaMB’s growth and success stories over the past year. Without breaking into the tune of that well known Christmas song; 7 Vacation Studentships, 6 BBSRC awards, 5 MRC awards, 2 Wolfson awards, 2 Senior Investigator awards and 1 Henry Dale ………. Not to mention all the promotions, outstanding research papers and commercial contracts = 1 happy Bob.











A cell-tastic morning then ensued: the completely dispensable nature of bacterial cell walls (Professor Jeff Errington); the role of NF-kB in the pathogenesis of lymphoma (Dr Jill Hunter); and the cell death independent functions of inhibitors of apoptosis (new IRES recruit Dr Niall Kenneth). The session was wrapped up by Dr Paula Salgado summarising 3.5 years of structural C. difficile research in 15min. Some feat Paula!

Of course just as last year, an absolute highlight of the day were the six, animated, three minute thesis presentations by our brave PhD students ……..  Soon to be followed by the look of horror on several Professorial faces when it was suggested by PAN!C that at next year’s Away Day we have a session of 3 minute PI pitches! We can’t ignore the demands of our PhD students now can we? And congratulations to Mandeep Atwal from the Cowell/Austin lab who against steep competition was awarded the prize for best three minute thesis.

The possibilities of alginate bread?

The possibilities of alginate bread?

A spot of oxidative stress and the evolution of peroxidases by Dr Alison Day, and some lunch completed the morning’s discovery. Though half an hour later and Dr Peter Chater had us all wishing we’d had an alginate packed lunch (and a go with the model gut!). Perhaps the Pearson lab can cater next year’s event? If it’s good enough for the One Show it’s good enough for the ICaMB Away Day.

A major focus of the Away Day is not just to learn about the breadth of exciting research carried out in our institute, but also to learn all about the very latest techniques and expertise ripe for exploitation. This year the focal point of new techniques came from Dr Alex Laude and the Bio-Imaging facility, with some beautiful images and super resolution microscopy techniques, which again left a number of the audience wanting a turn!

P1000375An afternoon transcribing and translating with Dr Danny Castro-Roa; learning about how the crucial nature of cell polarity means we really don’t mix up our arse from our elbow (thank you new IRES recruit Dr Josana Rodriguez); and last but by no means least, how on earth all that DNA manages to faithfully copy and repackage itself time after time from yet another new recruit, Professor Jonathan Higgins.

This completes our diverse and entertaining line-up, just leaving enough time for complementary wine, and the amusement as speakers and audience alike embarrass themselves at the ICaMB quiz (and I hear also in the pub afterwards).

ICaMB PhD studentship opportunities

PhD student recruitment season is upon us.  If you or maybe someone you know is interested in a doing PhD in Cell and Molecular Biosciences in a leading UK Research Institute (that happens to be based in one of the most exciting yet affordable cities in the UK), then read on.  This year we are giving you an early preview of the opportunities available in ICaMB and telling you a bit about who we are and what doing your PhD here with us has to offer.

ICaMB PhD students benefit from being in a dynamic and well funded research environment with access to state of the art technology.  Our research interests cover the cutting edge of bacterial cell biology all the way through to eukaryotic cell signalling and cancer research.  ICaMB investigators have been awarded £39.32M since 2008, which includes major funding from the Wellcome Trust, the ERC, BBSRC, The Royal Society, Cancer Research UK, Leukemia and Lymphoma Research and the Association of International Cancer Research.


PhD students do not exist on experiments alone and the ICaMB PhD student association PAN!C helps to facilitate social as well as scientific interactions.  You can read more about PAN!C in a previous ICaMB blogpost.


The recent 2nd year PhD student presentations

Below we have listed the MRes/PhD Studentships scheduled to begin in ICaMB in September 2014.  These are also listed on the ICaMB website, where they will shortly be formally advertised. Further details of the projects and guidelines on how to apply, will be posted in the next few weeks.  However, if you would like further details about the projects NOW you can contact the named supervisor directly or the ICaMB Postgraduate Tutor Dr Tim Cheek (email tim.cheek@ncl.ac.uk).  In exceptional circumstances, especially if the prospective applicant already has interviews arranged at other institutions, we can expedite and fast track the interview process (please contact Tim Cheek for more details if this applies to you). 

Eukaryotic Cell Biology

The last year has seen a lot of recruitment activity in ICaMB, one result of which was the appointment of three new PIs as part of our Independent Researcher Establishment Scheme (IRES). We introduced Dr Owen Davies, Dr Niall Kenneth and Dr Josana Rodriguez recently.  Doing PhD research with a new PI offers the chance to work at the bench directly with a young and enthusiastic scientist at the top of their game.  Many ‘first’ PhD students go on to achieve great things. There was great competition for our IRES positions and a PhD position with any of these new PIs promises to be a rewarding experience.

Title of Studentship: Uncovering the molecular basis of homologous chromosome synapsis by the synaptonemal complex during mammalian meiosis
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Dr Owen Davies (email owen.davies@ncl.ac.uk)

Title of Studentship: What are the protective roles of XIAP in the response to oxidative stress?
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Dr Niall Kenneth (email niallk@med.umich.edu)

Title of Studentship: Understanding microtubule dependent signalling in the generation of cellular asymmetries
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Dr Josana Rodriguez (email josanarsl@googlemail.com)

We also have PhD studentships available with Prof Brian Morgan and Dr Elizabeth Veal. Both PIs are investigating the important area of oxidative stress signalling (relevant to many diseases, including cancer) using the model organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Caenorhabditis elegans and publish routinely in high impact journals, such as  Molecular Cell. A PhD in either lab provides an opportunity to work at the cutting edge of research into eukaryotic cell signalling.

Title of Studentship: How does the regulation of ubiquitin/ubiquitin-like pathways determine cellular responses to reactive oxygen species?
Funding Source:BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Prof Brian Morgan (email brian.morgan@ncl.ac.uk)

Title of Studentship: Understanding how hydrogen peroxide signals control cell growth, survival and ageing
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Dr Elizabeth Veal (email elizabeth.veal@ncl.ac.uk)

Host-Microbe Interactions

The next two positions complement each other, with one exploring the host’s reaction to microbes while the second focusses on the microbe’s response to the host. Dr Judith Hall and Dr David Bolam are both key members of ICaMB and have a strong track record as PhD supervisors. So if you have an inclination towards exploring innate immunity or diving into the growing community of microbiologists interested in the microflora that interacts with us on a daily basis, maybe one of these two posts is for you.

Title of Studentship: Dissecting the role of the Dectin-1 Receptor in the Innate Defences of the Uro-genital Tract
Funding Source: Dr William Edmund Harker Foundation
Supervisor: Dr Judith Hall (email judith.hall@ncl.ac.uk)

Title of Studentship: Understanding how the mucosal layer is a microbial niche within the gut microbiota
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Dr David Bolam (email david.bolam@ncl.ac.uk)

Bacterial Cell Biology 

The final two positions are both located in the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, affiliated to ICaMB. You can read up on our work on bacterial cell biology in previous posts including our investigations with bulging bacterial cells to explain division, how we explode bacteria for science, or highlighting a recent paper from Nikolay published in the prestigious journal Science. In addition, Yulia Yuzenkova was recently awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship and her research was featured on the ICaMB blog.

Title of Studentship: Cyanobacterial transcription machinery
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Dr Yulia Yuzenkova (email yulia.yuzenkova@ncl.ac.uk)

Title of Studentship: Bacterial immunity and multi-drug resistance
Funding Source: BBSRC DTP
Supervisor: Prof Nikolay Zenkin (email nikolay.zenkin@ncl.ac.uk)

Please note that there are eligibility requirements for BBSRC DTP studentships (link to download pdf).

Typical ICaMB laboratory space


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