Prior to pursuing this project, I studied for a Bachelor’s degree in Physics at the University of York. During these studies, I retained a keen interest in the biosciences and was afforded the opportunity to work alongside Dr Steven Quinn on investigating the aggregation of proteins involved in the Alzheimer’s pathway. This work provided a wealth of experience in the use of high resolution fluorescence microscopy and tuned my interest toward the development of novel biophysical techniques for the investigation of nanoscale biological structures. After completing my physics degree, I was eager to continue my development as an interdisciplinary scientist by studying for a live cell based PhD project within the Biology department. This project, based between York and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and which aims to shed light on important immunological processes, will provide invaluable training in the study of mammalian cells whilst allowing for the continued development of the cutting-edge techniques seen within the Biophysics teams at both York and NPL.
This project aims to add new understanding in how the stimulation of cell signalling proteins, known as chemokines, is used for the regulation and formation of the immunological synapse (IS). The IS is the junction formed between immune cells that allows the stable transfer of information that is crucial for a host response to infection. This project will hone in on the involvement of chemokine receptor CCR5 in the IS, with initial investigations on model cell-lines to address basal CCR5-ligand behaviour. The project will progress onto more relevant primary macrophages and their IS formation with T cells, investigating the dynamics of chemokine receptor-ligand interactions, chemokine binding to cell-surface proteoglycan, and local membrane lipids and proteins interactions during IS formation. Throughout this project, multiple length/timescales, from single molecules through to subcellular structures, cells and cellular populations will be investigated. This will be achieved by the use of various state of the art microscopy techniques including total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy allowing the rapid tracking of single molecules across the cell and structured illumination microscopy (SIM) which will allow the acquisition of super resolution 3D images.