Anna Barwinska-Sendra

Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences (ICaMB) Medical School Newcastle University Catherine Cookson Building Framlington Place Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE2 4HH


Dr Kevin Waldron

I graduated with MSc degree (Hons) in Applied Biotechnology from the Agricultural University in Krakow. After graduation I worked for two years in the clinical histopathology laboratory in the John Paul II Hospital in Krakow. During my work in the hospital I developed a keen interest in various pathologies caused by microbial infections and the possibility of their prevention.

In my PhD project I will further explore my interests by studying molecular and biochemical basis of antimicrobial activity of metals against a major hospital acquired and community acquired human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, an organism that has become the recent focus of much attention due to the rise in infections by methicillin resistant strains (MRSA).

Project title: Resistance to copper toxicity in Staphylococcus aureus 

Staphylococcus aureus is a commensal bacterium colonizing skin and mucous membranes of about one third of the healthy human population. This opportunistic pathogen is causing a large number of nosocomial (hospital acquired) infections worldwide every year. Due to its antibiotic resistance, finding new potential antimicrobials and identifying new targets for their action remains crucial.

Copper is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms, required as a redox active cofactor for many important enzymes. However excess copper is extremely toxic to all organisms but the mechanism(s) of action of copper toxicity are not clear.

The aim of my PhD project is to investigate the mechanisms of copper ion toxicity using genetic screening methods. In order to identify Staphylococcus aureus mutants that exhibit increased copper resistance, two different approaches are being used: (i) the systematic screening of a library of defined gene deletion mutants and (ii) phage-mediated Tnp mutagenesis. Copper-resistant strains will be identified from these libraries and the mutations genetically identified, which will allow hypotheses to be generated for subsequent testing and downstream analysis (i.e. RT-PCR, proteomics, in vitro biochemistry).

Other Activities 

Presentation of a poster at StaphGBI conference, Dublin 2013


Stevenson, J., Barwinska-Sendra, A., Tarrant, E., & Waldron, K. J. (2013). Mechanism of action and applications of the antimicrobial properties of copper. In A. Méndez-Vilas (Ed.), Microbial pathogens and strategies for combating them: science, technology and education (4 ed., Vol. 1, pp. 468–479). Formatex Research Center.

Where did I get my PIPs

PIPS Internship Organisation Name 

Institute of Biology and Technology, CEA


Scaly, Paris, France

When deciding on your internship, what did you want to experience and what did you hope to gain from that experience? 

I wanted to get an experience of work in a non-academic organisation and develop some new skills in biophysics. 

Did you get the experience you were expecting and did you achieve the personal development you had hoped to make? 

Yes, I did. Overall, the placement gave me an opportunity to work amongst world class scientists. I was exposed to a multicultural working environment different to the UK university one. I feel that I improved my communication and managerial skills.

Did you discover anything about yourself or make any achievements that you were not expecting?

I found myself dealing better with the stress of living and working in a foreign country and not speaking the language. I managed to learn some French while living in Paris. 

Has the internship made you feel differently about potential career options and has it helped to put the skills from research into a broader context?

The internship allowed me to learn about career options different from the academic one but still staying in a close relationship which may be what I will try to accomplish in the future.

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