Lab Members

Current lab members

Dr Simon Johnston

I did my PhD with Professor Laura Machesky on the Arp2/3 complex and the actin cytoskeleton, and was a post-doc with Professor Robin May working on host pathogen interactions of Cryptococcus. Now I am occasionally allowed in the lab to do microscopy.

Jaime Cañedo

I finished my Master's degree in Cardiff University where I worked in the lab of Prof. Helen White-Cooper, using imaging approaches and mathematical analysis to investigate the transport of a unique set of intracellular proteins in Drosopila spermatids. Currently, I'm a final year PhD student looking at the mechanical events of actin-mediated particle uptake by immune cells called phagocytosis. I use different types of live imaging, super-resolution and electron microscopy techniques to capture phagocytic events in in vitro setting. My experimental data are compared with simulations by working very closely with theoretical physicists to better understand the biophysical underpinnings of phagocytic process.

Outside the lab, I enjoy singing with my choir, travelling and exploring the beautiful sceneries of the UK and Europe.


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Jacob Rudman

I completed Masters in Pharmacology at the University of Bath in 2017. Here, I found a passion for studying respiratory disease, further solidified by a year-long industrial placement at GSK in the respiratory department.

Now I am a third year DiMeN DTP (MRC) PhD student, who is attempting to understand how the healthy immune system is able to clear Cryptococcus neoformans in the lung. To do this, I use mouse models and ex vivo precision cut lung slices to directly visualise host-pathogen interactions in mammalian tissue.

In my spare time, I maintain a live music review blog, take part in tough mudders and am currently designing combat robots.


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Chris Donaldson

I'm a 3rd year PhD researcher, having joined the lab in 2017 after completing BSc Pharmacology and MSc Translational Neuroscience . My research, funded under an MRC DiMeN DTP studentship, is focused on developing therapies for cryptococcal meningitis. For this, I have developed and optimised zebrafish models for high-throughput drug screening. In addition, I have been researching how antifungals get in to the central nervous system, and how this can be modulated for improved disease outcomes.

When I'm not in the lab, I'm usually busy with my many, many plants, trying to build something or working on disability equality in academia.


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Stella Christou

I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen with a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology in 2017.

Currently I am a third year PhD student supervised by Professor Kathryn Ayscough (BMS) and Dr Simon Johnston. My studentship is funded by BBSRC DTP White Rose. I work on elucidating the role of cell wall composition and hyphal switch during the host-pathogen interactions of a commensal fungal pathogen called Candida albicans.


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Jacqui Chalakova

In 2018 I completed a Master’s degree in Translational neuroscience. During my masters project I was supervised by Prof. Marysia Placzek. I contributed to her work in understanding the genetics of early hypothalamic development in the chick embryo animal model. During my master's degree I found a passion for incorporating different scientific disciplines to understand neurological pathologies, which lead me to my choice of an interdisciplinary project for my PhD.

My PhD project works on the understanding of the mechanisms of raised intracranial pressure in cryptococcal meningitis. My focus is the pathophysiological processes arising from the biophysical properties of the pathogen. It appears that cryptococcal infections affects intracranial pressure in a very complex way, involving all the components of the cranium: brain, vasculature and CSF circulation. My project involves using a zebrafish infection model to mimic the mechanisms that cause this increase in pressure.


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Arturo Landeros de la Isla (Sayers lab)

I studied my undergrad in biotechnology engineering at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico. After that I applied for a direct PhD at the IICD department of the Medical School. My work is focused on DNA replication inhibitor as potential antimicrobial agents against parasitic (Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania infantum) and fungal organisms (Cryptococcus neoformans).

I really love my country and my culture and I will constantly speak about (specially food, which sometimes I cook if you want to give it a try).


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Mahrukh Shameem

I joined the lab in 2019, as part of the DiMeN DTP. Having completed a MSc in Clinical microbiology and having work in Dr Catherine Pashley’s Clinical mycology lab, I developed a strong interest in opportunistic infections in respiratory disorders. My project - in collaboration with AstraZeneca – aims to observe the effects of the IL-33/ST2 pathway in chronic respiratory diseases and infections. We will use an inter-disciplinary approach to explore this field.

Throughout this PhD I also hope to promote inclusivity within academia and STEM by representing women and the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community.



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Rebecca Quirke

I am currently studying for an MSc in Antimicrobial Resistance after completing my degree in BSc Biochemistry and Microbiology at the University of Sheffield. My masters project, supervised by Simon Johnston, will investigate whether macrophages help or hinder the antifungal effect of fluconazole in patients with cryptococcosis. I will be studying the interaction between Cryptococcus neoformans and macrophages in the presence and absence of fluconazole using live cell imaging microscopy.

Outside of the lab I spend my time training for 400m, competing for the University club at BUCS nationals and for my home county Sussex at a regional level. In March 2021 I started volunteering at vaccine clinics administering COVID-19 vaccines to patients in Sheffield.


Mabel Johana Ortiz de Leo

I am a Mexican MD graduate and finished my training at the University of Veracruz, Mexico. Since I was in medical school, I became interested in infectious diseases, specifically HIV. Currently, I am pursuing a MSc in Antimicrobial Resistance at the University of Sheffield under the supervision of Dr Simon Johnston. In my project, I will investigate a possible new mechanism for antimicrobial resistance by studying the cryptococcus neoformans heteroresistance mechanisms to fluconazole and the role of macrophages by using susceptibility testing methods such as microdilution assays and other microbiology techniques.

In my spare time, I write for a blog I created along with a PhD student friend called “ “scientifically speaking”, in which we discuss scientific and medical topics. I am also a volunteer at an organization called “Saving with science”. The aim is to improve awareness and give adequate information to the general population about managing the COVID-19 disease. One of my future aims is to increase the visibility of women in medicine and science.

Matthew Smith

I completed my undergraduate degree in Chemistry part-time with the Open University and I am currently studying for an MSc in Molecular Medicine at UoS. This is my first experience of lab work. The best science experience I had was field work in the Peruvian Amazon with entomologist Dr Ross Piper and a number of other scientists specialising in various areas of research ranging from botany to parasitology.

My project is using a zebra fish larvae muscle tissue model to investigate the pathogenic effect of Streptococcus pyogenes. I will be using micro-injections and microscopy to assess the effects of the bacterium on the muscle tissue of the zebra fish. Hopefully this will allow for a deeper understanding of S. pyogenes, and will open doors for fish models that can be observed in real time rather than a murine model where the outcome is generally based around mortality.

In my spare time I work in a bar and spend a lot of time bouldering in the Peak District when the weather is good.

Previous lab members

Dr. James Bradford

Dan Jones


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Louise Richards

Dr. Aleksandra Bojarczuk


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Dr. Katherine Pline


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Dr. Harriet Knafler

Dr. Hamid Fehri


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Dr. Josie Gibson


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Dr. Robbie Evans


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Dr. Alfred Kamuyango


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