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.

Chris Donaldson

I'm a final 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.

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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 PhD in IICD, 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 (especially 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 worked 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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Nicole Vickerstaff

I’m a 4th year undergraduate studying Microbiology at the University of Sheffield. I joined the lab in 2022 under the supervision of Dr Simon Johnston as part of my MBiolSci 4th year project. I will be studying host pathogen interactions of desiccated Cryptococci and looking at how actin-based surface ridges on macrophages are involved in environmental sensing and phagocytosis of Cryptococcus neoformans. When I’m not in the lab you’ll most likely find me in the gym or down at the pub on a Friday evening.


Previous lab members

Dr Stella Christou

Dr Jacob Rudman

Dr Jaime Cañedo

Matthew Smith

Mabel Johana Ortiz de Leo


Rebecca Quirke

Dr James Bradford

Dan Jones


Louise Richards

Dr Aleksandra Bojarczuk

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Dr Katherine Pline


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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