Katherine O’Mahony

Department of Biosciences Durham University Stockton Road Durham DH1 3LE


Chris Hutchison and Arto Maatta

I am primarily interested in ageing biology including the role of nuclear lamins in the ageing cell. Having previously studied the role of lamin A in Epithelial to Mesenchymal transitions in colorectal cancer cells, my focus has now turned to the role of nuclear lamins in cellular defence of oxidative stress and the maintenance of healthy tissue into old age.

My broader interests extend to the preservation of health and well-being into old age with a focus on how we can manipulate our diet to achieve this. Dietary restriction (DR) has recently gained a lot of media attention for its potential benefits in attenuating age-related damage. This area of science is of great interest to me, given the impact we all know diet has on our well-being and healthspan.

Project title: An investigation into Skin Ageing Biology

I am studying the molecular mechanisms behind cellular senescence in ageing skin using 3D in-vitro based models. In particular, I will be looking at the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) in the causation of senescent cell by-stander effects. This part of my project involves developing 3-Dimensional skin cultures from both senescent and younger proliferating cells.

The second half of my project looks at the effect that DR has on the skin, which is achieved using mouse models. I am using immunohistochemistry to assess the levels of DNA damage and cellular proliferation in numerous skin samples from young and old mice and also from mice subjected to DR to determine whether DR can improve the quality of skin into old age.

In 2014 I have secured a 3-month internship with Procter and Gamble where I will be looking at statistical data concerning the impact that diet and lifestyle has on the skin.

Additional Activities

  • SEB conference (Valencia), August 2013
  • Nuclear Envelope conference (Brunel), September 2013
  • British Science Festival volunteer, September 2013

Where did I get my PIPs

PIPS Internship Organisation Name 

Procter and Gamble


Egham, Surrey

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

Coming from a wet lab, I wanted to understand how science is used and applied in an industrial setting.  Procter and Gamble is a large, multi-national company that develops products used daily by millions all over the globe.  In being exposed to the company environment I hoped to understand how science is integrated with business and product development in a very prestigious work-place.

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

I was surprised to find that the tempo of the work was often slower than in the lab, which I was not expecting, given the size of the company.  I do feel that I gained a great insight into how scientific knowledge functions in a large company.  I was fortunate enough to meet several great people: Elena-Lurieluke who taught me the importance of networking and developing your contacts and Simon Pack, a senior statistician at the company who taught me a great deal about how epidemiological studies are run and how to design a quality study.

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

I did not expect my interpersonal skills to be challenged as much as they were (which was a good thing!).  Coming from the lab, you can go several days without having a professional connection as you are working in a more relaxed environment where you are interacting with other PhD students and perhaps technicians and post-docs.  At Procter and Gamble, reading other people, having the patience to say the right things at the right time and being well-mannered were daily essential skills which are clearly of importance in high-end business.

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 really did miss the lab while I was working in the office at Procter and Gamble.  I do not feel that purely office based work is suited to my brain and body, as I think best on my feet when I am moving around and performing experiments which is when I seem to develop ideas. For these reasons it has confirmed that a future career in laboratory research is a viable option for me. But, from working at Procter and Gamble, I understand that this kind of work does not necessarily have to be carried out at an Academic institution and that there are often better paid lab jobs with more stability in an industrial setting.

Additional comments

Thank you for the funding that made this internship possible.  I have learnt a great deal about industry and myself through this 3 month placement.  

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