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Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme


Babraham Institute

Research theme: Biosciences for an integrated understanding of health


I studied Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield. During this time I carried out a couple of research placements. One taking place at the University of Manchester, in the lab of Professor Ralf Paus, looking at the role of HGF in hair follicle growth and pigmentation. After graduating, I worked for Croda Chemicals as a Skin Care Applications placement student where I became familiar with an industrial setting. Here, I learnt about the rules of skin and sun care formulation, whilst also hosting in vivo panel studies. Additionally during my placement year, I started my own Etsy business where I offer commission art. Since I could remember, drawing has always been a fond hobby of mine. Being able to create pieces for other people is challenging, yet rewarding (most of the time...). From working in industry, I knew I wanted to go back into research so decided to carry out a PhD. In terms of what I'd like to do in the future, I am not sure just yet, however, it would be exciting to combine Art and Science together somehow!


Project Title:

Characterising the role of PTPRF and PTPRK in cell adhesion dynamics

Project Summary: 

My project involves investigating the role of Receptor Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases (RPTPs) in disease and subsequently their regulation and signalling. PTPRF is a phosphatase which has been implicated in cellular functions such as adhesion and differentiation. The group hypothesise that PTPRF localises to focal adhesions through its extracellular domain, and binds to and dephosphorylates key focal adhesion regulators. Previously experiments by the lab have discovered that loss of PTPRK, another member of the RPTP family, impairs hemidesmosome formation. The hemidesmosome is important in anchoring undifferentiated cells of the stratum basale layer of the epidermis to the basal lamina. The significance of maintaining the hemidesmosome can be seen in, for example, the disease epidermolysis bullosa, which is characterised by serious skin blistering. The project will aim to identify substrates of PTPRF and to characterise phenotypes associated with its loss or mutation. Such techniques that will be performed during this project include 3D cultures of skin equivalents, to explore its function. The lab is also particularly interested in the impact of aging on phosphatase activity and tissue homeostasis, for example, as a result of oxidative stress. Aging can lead to thinning of epidermal and dermal skin layers. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors have the ability to influence the equilibrium balance between oxidant and antioxidant, inducing excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. ROS can activate skin aging-related signalling pathways such as NF-kB and apoptosis, to which phosphatases may be impacted upon.

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Dr Hayley Sharpe

Staff Photo

Tiffany Lai

Contact Details

Job Titles

PhD Student