Dr Alper Akay
UKRI Future Leaders Fellow / Principal Investigator

I studied Biology at the Middle East Technical University, Turkey and did a MSc in Molecular Biology at the University of Amsterdam. I then moved to Scotland where I did my PhD on RNA-binding proteins and non-coding RNAs in C. elegans at the laboratory of Anton Gartner. During my postdoctoral research with Eric Miska at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, I explored multiple RNA mediated gene regulatory mechanisms including small silencing RNAs, long non-coding RNAs and RNA modifications. I am particularly interested in how RNA regulates essential processes in the cell and how RNA functions as a signalling molecule during developmental processes.

2012 – 2019 Postdoctoral researcher at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge in Eric Miska’s lab
2007 – 2012 PhD at the University of Dundee, Anton Gartner’s lab
2005 – 2007 MSc at the University of Amsterdam
2000 – 2005 BSc at the Middle East Technical University

Dr Roberta Skukan
Research Technician / Lab manager

As a fresh graduate, I always wanted to participate in the international project combining genetics and ecological approach. I got my long wanted opportunity and finished my doctoral thesis “The use of ecological studies, molecular tools and citizen science to assess the biological invasion status of the green seaweed Codium fragile subsp. fragile (Suringar) Hariot 1890 in the southern area of the Bay of Biscay, Cantabrian Sea” under the supervision of J. M. Rico and Y. J. Borrell as part of AQUAINVAD-ed project, funded by H2020-EU. At the beginning of 2020 I obtained a Research Technician position in Akay Lab where I will be performing laboratory research, support and service in terms of C. elegans maintenance and genotyping. Furthermore, I am looking forward learning about gene expression and RNA-seq data analysis in this widely used model organism by assisting PI and other researchers in the group projects. 

March 2019 – present Research Technician, University of Norwich, UK
November 2015 – November 2018 PhD at University of Oviedo, Spain
September 2011 – December 2013 Master in Fisheries and Game Management, University of Zagreb, Croatia
October 2010 – July 2013 Master in Experimental Biology, module Zoology, University of Zagreb, CroatiaOctober 2006 – September 2010 Bachelor of Biology, University of Zagreb, Croatia


Skukan, R., Rico, J. M., & Borrell, Y. J. (2021). DNA barcoding-based assessment of the invasive and native non-crustose Codium species in the central Cantabrian Sea, southern Bay of Biscay. Botanica Marina64(1), 49–54.
R. Skukan, Y.Borrell Pichs, J. Rico and L. Miralles, “Find invasive seaweed: an outdoor game to engage children in science activities that detect marine biological invasion”, Journal of Environmental Education, doi: 10.1080/00958964.2019.1688226, 2020.
– T. P. Muha, R. Skukan, Y. Borrell Pichs, J. Rico, C. Garcia de Leaniz, E. Garcia-Vazquez and S.  Consuegra, “Contrasting seasonal and spatial distribution of native and invasive Codium seaweed revealed by targeting species-specific eDNA”, Ecology and Evolution, vol. 9, iss. 15, p .1-13, 2019. 
– Y.Borrell Pichs, M. Montes, R. Skukan, E. Garcia-Vazquez and J. Rico, “DNA Barcoding, a Master Key to Unravel the Past and Present of Exotic Seaweeds in the Cantabrian Sea”, Barcode Bulletin, vol. 8, iss. 1, p. 6-7, 2017.

Dr Aduragbemi Adesina
Senior Research Associate

I studied industrial chemistry at the Federal University of Technology Akure graduating with BTech (Hon) degree. I also had six-month industrial training experience working as a food and drug quality control analyst at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Nigeria. I undertook an MSc degree in Chemical Biology at Cardiff University and continued at the same university for my doctoral degree after a prestigious international scholarship award. My doctoral training was under the supervision of Prof R.K Allemann and Dr. L.Y.P Luk investigating the physical basis of catalysis of dihydrofolate reductase from different organism including mesophilic, thermophilic and psychrophilic bacteria as well as in humans.
The highlight of my doctoral research was unraveling the often-neglected role of ligand-ligand electrostatic interaction in enzyme catalysis, revealing a comprehensive approach to enzyme catalysis beyond protein dynamics and protein-ligand interactions. I continued in the group as a postdoctoral researcher working on protein-protein interaction using a variety of techniques. Currently, my focus is on investigating the role of RNA modifications in gene expression using C. elegans as a model organism, employing both molecular biology and analytical chemistry techniques.


Adesina, A. S., Świderek, K., Luk, L. Y. P., Moliner, V., & Allemann, R. K. (2020). Electric Field Measurements Reveal the Pivotal Role of Cofactor-Substrate Interaction in Dihydrofolate Reductase Catalysis. ACS Catalysis10(14), 7907–7914.
– Luk Y.P.L., Ruiz-Pernía J.J, Adesina A.S., Loveridge E.J., Tuñón I, Moliner V, and Allemann K.R (2015). Chemical Ligation and Isotope Labeling to Locate Dynamic Effects During Catalysis by Dihydrofolate Reductase. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.,54, 9016–9020
– Olasehinde, E.F., Adesina, A.S., Fehintola, E.O., Badmus, B.M., Aderibigbe, A.D., (2012). Corrosion Inhibition Behaviour for Mild Steel by Extracts of Musa sapientum Peels in HCl Solution: Kinetics and Thermodynamics Study. IOSR J. A. Chem. 2 (6), 15–23

Dr Tim Pearson

Senior Research Associate

I studied physiology at Southampton University and neurobiology at Durham University. Thereafter my post doc positions at Russell group Universities have related to research in areas of; CNS oxygen deprivation and adenosine (model for stroke), obstetric research into pre-mature labour (and IUGR, pre-eclampsia) and skeletal muscle research studying sarcopenia/ageing and the role of ROS, amino acid transport and satellite cells. Currently I focus on RNA metyltransferases in C. elegans and their effect upon gene/protein expression.


Recent publications: For others see Orchid; 0000-0002-3653-4421. 

−Enhanced small neutral but not branched chain amino acid transport after epigenetic sodium coupled neutral amino acid transporter-2 (SNAT2) cDNA expression in myoblasts. Pearson, T., Wendowski, O. & Powell, P. (2021). Jnl of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. 12(3): 811-822.

−The WD and linker domains of ATG16L1 required for non canonical autophagy limit lethal influenza A virus infection at epithelial surfaces, Wang, Y., Sharma, P., Jefferson, M., Zhang, W., Bone, B., Kipar, A., Bitto, D., Coombes, J., Pearson, T., Man, A., Zhekova, A., Bao, Y., Tripp, R., Carding, S., Yamauchi, Y., Mayer, U., Powell, P., Stewart, J. & Wileman, T. EMBO (2021) 40(5):e105543. IF=10. 

−The ATG5-binding domain and coiled coil domains of ATG16L1 maintain autophagy and tissue homeostasis in mice independently of the WD domain required for LC3 associated phagocytosis. Rai, S., Arasteh, Jefferson, M., Pearson, T., Wang, Y., Zhang, W., Bicsak, B., Divekar, D., Powell, P., Nauman, R., Beraza, N., Carding, S., Florey, O., Mayer, U. & Wileman, T. Autophagy (2018) 15(4): 599-612.  IF=8.59. 

−The role of eEif6 in skeletal muscle homeostasis. Revealed by endurance training co-expression networks. Clarke, K., Ricciardi, S., Pearson, T., Bharudin, I., Davidson, P., Bonomo, M., Brina, D., Scagliola, A., Simpson, D., Beynon, R., Khanim, F., Ankers, J., Sarzynski, M., Gosh, S., Pisconti, A., Rozman, J., Hrabe de Angelis, M., Bunce, C., Stewart, C., Egginton, S., Caddick, M., Jackson, M., Bouchard, C., Biffo, S. & Falciani, F. Cell Reports (2017) 21(6):1507-1520. IF=8.2.

−Long-term administration of the mitochondria-targeted antioxidant mitoquinone mesylate fails to attenuate age-related oxidative damage or rescue the loss of muscle mass and function associated with aging of skeletal muscle. Sakellariou, G., Pearson, T., Lightfoot, A., Nye, G., Wells, N., Giakoumaki, I., Griffiths, R., McArdle, A. & Jackson, M. FASEB. (2016). fj.201600450R. IF=5.3.

Katarzyna Hencel
PhD Student

I studied at the University of Dundee receiving the Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology. During my studies I carried out several projects in Dr Sarah Coulthurst lab, whose group focuses on studying the type VI secretion system in Serratia marcescens. During my PhD project, I will investigate how metabolism regulates RNA modifications in C. elegans. 

Aykut Shen
PhD Student

I completed my bachelor’s (BSc) program at the University of Dundee, Scotland, in Biological Sciences (Bioinformatics) with a particular interest in bioinformatics. Through the James Black student internship in the Holden Lab at the James Hutton Institute, I had an opportunity to contribute to a project which aimed to improve the new practice of producing foods and medicines, the vertical farms. I completed my honours project in the Simpson Lab in the division of gene regulation and expression focusing on the identification and characterization of non-coding RNAs in the plant model Arabidopsis thaliana. During my PhD, I will study how expression of genes change in the absence of RNA modifications and how we can use sequencing methods to identify modified RNAs.

Anastasia Li
PhD Student

I completed an integrated MSci degree in Molecular Genetics at King’s College London, where I focused on cancer research and epigenetics. As a part of my 4 year degree, I was able to complete two research projects at Dr Michelle Holland’s Lab, which focuses on epigenetics and post-transcriptional gene regulation research. In the 3rd year, I validated putative IRES (integrated ribosome entry sites) sequences that are used for maintaining translation under conditions of global translational repression in mice. In the following year, my research focused on elucidating involvement of RNA modyfying machinery in colon cancer. During my PhD, I will be studying paternal inheritance of modified RNAs in C. elegans.

Gulcin Baykal
Erasmus Student

Gulcin is doing her MSc at Yildiz Teknik Universitesi, Turkey. She joined our lab as an Erasmus student and she is working on altering metabolic pathways in bacteria as C. elegans diet.

Research Project Students


Aaron Stokes – Bacterial mutagenesis

Benjamin Garnham – Detection of m6A modification on RNA