I studied at the University of Strathclyde where I gained an BSc (Hons) in Forensic Biology, followed by an MSc with distinction in Forensic Science. For these qualifications I undertook dissertation work focusing on molecular techniques for DNA analysis: I worked on sequencing low level DNA and identifying potential PCR inhibition in a novel sequencing system. This molecular background has enabled me to undertake the responsibilities of my current role as a Research Assistant at the Rowett Institute, where I work for Dr Alan Walker.
The focus of our lab is to use anaerobic microbiological techniques to isolate bacteria and carry out various molecular techniques including 16S rRNA gene sequencing on these isolates. The aim of our work is to use these techniques to examine human intestinal microbiota, to see how the microbiota is altered by changes in diet and the effects these changes can have on host health.
I am interested in the use of metagenomic techniques to identify changes in composition and abundance of the human microbiota in response to diet, and linking changes to the functionality of the microbiota and subsequent effect on human health.
Our research aims are focused on investigating how nutrition can help prevent disease by linking human intestinal microbial communities to host health. Currently we are looking at linking fibre-consumption with intestinal microbial communities, with particular focus on comparing Western diets (typically contain greater proportions of processed foods) to more fibre-rich diets seen in isolated, rural societies.
Further to this, we are looking to determine the functionality of key groups of bacteria which may be particularly beneficial or damaging to host health. By determining how these bacteria interact with each other as well as the host, we hope to pinpoint particular contributors to the development of chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel and bowel cancer. A long-term aim of this work is to identify potentially novel bacterial species which could be used as therapeutic treatments for such disease states.