Professor Robert Hirt and Dr Andrew Jackson
I have a general interest in infectious disease and mechanisms of pathogen survival in the host. I’m particularly interested in zoonotic and wildlife diseases. I’m fascinated by investigating ‘niche’ parasitic strategies, such as novel mechanisms of nutrient acquisition from the host and symbiosis between parasites and other microbes.
Studying host specificity through comparative biology of Trichomonas vaginalis and Trichomonas gallinae
My project involves investigating the basis of host specialisation in the two protozoan parasites Trichomonas vaginalis and Trichomonas gallinae. Both belong to the large group of anaerobic protozoan parasites, the trichomonads. T. vaginalis is the most common non-viral human sexually transmitted disease in the world and is of major concern due to its association with preterm birth, increased HIV transmission and aggressive cervical and prostate cancer. T. gallinae is a widely distributed avian oral parasite which has caused severe damage to wild bird populations and may threaten some endangered bird species. The two parasites are closely related and likely share a recent bird-infecting ancestor, suggesting a host jump from the bird mouth to the human urogenital tract. My project will use a wide variety of computational (comparative genomics and transcriptomisc, phylogenetics etc.) and lab-based (protein chemistry, molecular biology, cell imaging, transcriptomics, growth experiments) to assess the basis of host specialisation and capacity for cross species transmission in this model system. Major themes of my investigation include the importance of prokaryotic to eukaryotic lateral gene transfer and the pseudocyst morphological form in the pathobiology of the parasites.
Where did I get my PIPs
PIPS Internship Organisation Name
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)- farmland ecology
When deciding on your internship, what did you want to experience and what did you hope to gain from that experience?
I was interested in gaining experience in ecological research as I have possible ambitions to become involved with wildlife disease and ecological projects in the future. I am also passionate about wildlife conservation and I am interested in finding a setting in which I could pursue this. I was also aiming to gain experience in computer programming and data analysis. Finally, I wanted to gain experience in research in a non-academic setting.
Did you get the experience you were expecting and did you achieve the personal development you had hoped to make?
Yes, I gained a lot of experience how charity-based ecology research is done. I became proficient in programming in R.
Did you discover anything about yourself or make any achievements that you were not expecting?
I wasn't expecting to be involved with public engagement during the internship and discovered that while it isn't something I haven't considered much, I was very excited by the benefit and can see the importance.
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 am now very interested in going into charity research as I enjoy working in this environment. The project was based primarily around research, so my research skills couldn't be applied to a boarder context.