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Wellcome Trust PhD Student Cohort 2016

Fay_Geraldine name

Academic and Work Experience Prior to Sept 2016 Programme Start: I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology with a focus on neuroscience at Harvard University (Cambridge, USA). I then spent two years working as a research assistant and a teaching fellow at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

PhD Programme – Year 1 – MRes and Project Rotations: During my first year I completed three very different rotations that came together to inform my PhD project: (1) I studied the role of innate lymphoid cells in mouse intestinal organoid development with Dr Joana Neves and Dr Graham Lord; (2) I examined the role of Wnt3a in mediating asymmetric cell division in mouse embryonic stem cells with Dr Shukry Habib; and (3) I formed a collaboration between Dr Eileen Gentleman and Dr Ciro Ciappini, specialists in materials engineering, and Dr Davide Danovi, the director of cell phenotyping for HipSci, to optimise culture conditions and characterise mechanosensing properties of human induced pluripotent stem cells in 3D PEG-hydrogels. During this rotation I also attempted to use nanoneedles to induce gastrulation in hiPSC-spheroids, with an aim to better understand how mechanotransduction might inform germ layer formation.  

Fay_Geraldine cells

PhD Programme – Years 2 to 4 – Doctoral Studies: To have a ‘gut feeling’ is more than an idiom, as the intestine not only digests food and excretes waste, but helps the micro-organisms in our gut interact with the white immune cells in our blood. I am now working with Dr Eileen Gentleman and Dr Joana Neves to study the role of mechanosensing and innate lymphoid cell interactions in intestinal organoid development and integrity when cultured in 3D PEG-hydrogels.   I will study how these three units interact in real life by creating a replica ‘intestinal immune-system in a dish’, which consists of 3D mini-guts called organoids that I will inject with disease-associated microbiome strains and surround with innate immune lymphoid cells, which protect us from infection and help keep the intestinal epithelium healthy. I am interested in improving the culture conditions necessary for the maintenance of this system, using novel hydrogels and tissue-engineering techniques to make it as similar to the human body as possible. I will then use this model to study why the composition of the microbiome has such a dramatic impact on human health and well-being, and more specifically I will also use it to understand what environmental and genetic causes act together to cause inflammatory bowel disease, using this platform to look for new drug targets for the treatment of this severe and incurable disease.

Congratulations to Geraldine Jowett for receiving the:

  • ‘In vitro precision medicine’ award of £10,000 from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for her ‘Intestinal immune interactions in a dish’ proposal.  September 2017. 
  • Susan Tucker Award for the most outstanding student in the Biomedical and Translational Sciences MRes programme.  October 2017.

Geraldine Jowett ORCID webpage

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