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Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme


Department of Genetics


I started my PhD in 2018 and although I have lived near Cambridge for a lot of my life I have never lived in the city, so I was very excited to start my research and experience everything that Cambridge has to offer. One of the aspects of research that interests me the most is the translation of scientific findings to medical or commercial applications. As such, I have previously sought out opportunities in industrial settings with extended projects at Horizon Discovery, GlaxoSmithKlein and a full year as an employee at Cambridge Epigenetix. All of these experiences have shaped my passion for translational research and my desire to ultimately work in industry/biotech. I recently completed my PIPS with Start Codon, a Cambridge based Life Science Venture Builder, which also opened my eyes to the world of venture capital and solidified it as a potential career option.


Project Title:

The Role of ER Architecture in Axonal Presynaptic Physiology

Project Summary:

I am a member of Professor Cahir O’Kane’s research group in the Department of Genetics and my PhD project is centred on the physiological consequences of the architecture of axonal ER nanotubules in Drosophila. My experimental approach is to manipulate axonal ER organelle structure in Drosophila to gain insight into the physiological mechanisms at play within the axon. I will achieve this by using mutant Drosophila larvae that I constructed by genetic crossing. I am utilising various approaches to conduct my research: performing larval axon dissections and microscopy in the lab and using computational skills to develop automated pipelines for analysis and data interpretation. The mutations I am studying are directly linked to the crippling, untreatable human disease, hereditary spastic paraplegia, a length dependant axonopathy that impacts lower motor function resulting in weakness and stiffness in the legs. This link with a life-altering disease peaked my fascination with the project. The lab has already done a lot of great work characterising the morphological changes that occur in the axonal ER as a result of the mutations. In my research, I hope to take this a step further and elucidate the physiological ramifications of the mutations, for example in calcium handling. In the bigger picture, I hope these findings could help in the wider community effort to develop better therapies for hereditary spastic paraplegia.

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Professor Cahir O'Kane

Staff Photo

Kishen Chahwala

Contact Details

Job Titles

PhD Student