Siobhan Lister

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


Dr Julian Rutherford, Professor Bert Van den Berg and Dr Ari Sadanandom

I graduated from Newcastle University in 2015 with a first class honours degree in Biomedical Sciences. During this course I particularly enjoyed learning about immunology, cell signalling and pathogenic organisms. Having enjoyed my time at Newcastle University so much, I decided to stay to study at postgraduate level.

During my undergraduate studies I took part in and won the annual Newcastle University Summer Placements Poster Presentation. During the first year of my PhD I attended the NEPG conference. I also assisted in organising the BBSRC DTP conference which took place in Durham in July. As part of my role I was given the opportunity to chair my first presentation session. 

Ammonium sensing in the wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici

I study Zymoseptoria tritici, a filamentous fungus which infects wheat and is responsible for vast global crop losses. A change from yeast growth to hyphal growth is vital for its pathogenesis and we have identified that this morphological switch occurs in response to ammonium limiting conditions.

Ammonium is generally the primary nitrogen source for fungi. The Mep/Amt/Rh superfamily of transporters are vital for the uptake of ammonium into cells. Ammonium is used by fungi to synthesise amino acids and is therefore important for growth. In the model yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ammonium limitation causes this organism to change from yeast growth to psuedohyphal growth; Mep2 is vital in signalling for this morphological switch.

The aims of my PhD are to determine if ammonium sensing through Mep2 is conserved among fungi. We therefore want to know if Mep2 in Z.tritici is responsible for the morphological switch to hyphal growth and consequently its pathogenesis. To address these aims we intend to delete the Mep2 gene from Z.tritici and test whether the ammonium dependent phenotype and its infectivity of wheat is lost. If this is the case we aim to identify the downstream signalling partners.

Where did I get my PIPs

PIPS Internship Organisation Name 

Centre for Life


Newcastle upon Tyne

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

I wanted to gain event management skills within the science communication world and I also wanted to have more experience of teaching.  I didn’t want to undertake an internship in a lab as I wanted to see what it would be like to work within science outside of a lab.

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

I did get the experience I had hoped for.  I was given a lot of responsibility and I learnt about how many different teams work together to get an event to run.  When I was working in education I had to adapt to helping many different age groups with their practical.

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

I got to channel my creative side; designing a workshop in the education department and creating a make and take activity in the public engagement side.  I didn’t expect to work as closely with the technical team as I did but this was useful as it made me feel more confident when emailing the makers about the space they had been allocated.  I learnt a lot more about health and safety issues as I was involved in requesting risk assessments and public liability insurance from the makers and I attended the meeting where risk assessments were assessed.

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? 

I spoke to someone who had previously undertaken the internship that I did.  I also attended a meeting with the Centre for Life so I could hear more about what they could offer me.

Additional comments

I very much enjoyed my internship and I gained very positive feedback from both the staff I worked with and the people who exhibited at the Faire.

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