I graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2004 with a BSc in Microbiology and Genetics, where I was introduced to the world of Biophysics, and followed this by taking an MRes degree in Liverpool's world renowned Surface Science Research Centre in 2005 to reinforce this interest. For my PhD I'm situated in Leeds under the supervision of Prof. Peter Stockley in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, Prof. Alistair Smith in the Centre for Molecular and Nanoscale Physics and Dr Sarah Harris in the IRC for complex fluids and polymers. My research utilizes molecular techniques, single molecule fluorescence microscopy and molecular dynamic modelling using huge supercomputers to analyse the impact that sequence variation has on the secondary structure, kinetics and dynamics of RNA aptamers from the phage MS2.
In the last academic year my research has moved into the areas of fluorescent Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS) and also into the theoretical side of the biophysical sciences using Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations to model the MS2 TR RNA hairpin structure that I study experimentally. Through FCS the 'chemical kinetics' of the structures can be determined. This kind of information gives folding rates, melting temperatures and also sheds some light on the mechanisms of folding on a single molecule level. MD on the other hand, provides a tool which can be manipulated to invoke specific changes not possible in the lab.
Above right: Simulation of an MS2 TR RNA Hairpin (Jonathan Westwood).