Team

Mathew Horrocks (Team Leader)

Mathew was born and brought up in Halifax, West Yorkshire, before studying Chemistry at Oriel College, University of Oxford. He did his Master's project with Professor Mark Wallace, where he was first introduced to single-molecule techniques. Following this, he moved to the University of Cambridge to work with Professor David Klenerman, developing microscopy techniques to study the protein aggregates formed in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Following a brief stint researching in New South Wales, Australia, Mathew returned to Cambridge in 2016 to take up a Junior Research Fellowship at Christ’s College, and a Herchel Smith Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. He moved to the University of Edinburgh to head the ESMB Group in January 2018. 

When not in the lab, Mathew enjoys competing in triathlons, and has completed an Ironman in Weymouth (2016).

Takeshi Kaizuka (PDRA)

Takeshi joined the lab in July 2021 as a post-doctoral research associate. He comes from a background of Cell Biology, Biochemistry, and Neuroscience. His research interest is synaptic protein complex and its diversity in the brain. When he was a PhD student, he worked on analysis of the proteins related to autophagy in Prof Noboru Mizushima’s lab at the University of Tokyo, Japan. To study neuroscience, he next joined Prof Toru Takumi’s lab at RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. He focused on the postsynaptic density (PSD), a large protein complex essential for synaptic function. Using proteome analysis, he found alteration of PSD composition in developing brain and brain with neurodevelopmental disorders. To extend research on PSD, he joined Horrocks group and Prof Seth Grant’s group at the University of Edinburgh. Now he is investigating nanoarchitecture of PSD95 complexes, a core scaffolds in PSD. Combining single-molecule and super resolution microscopy technique in Mathew lab and the workflow of synapse analysis in Grant lab, he is trying to reveal nanoarchitectures of individual PSD95 complex in whole brain.


Ji-Eun Lee (PDRA)

Ji-Eun joined the lab in April 2021 as a post-doctoral research associate. She comes from a background of Physical Chemistry. During her PhD, she focused on determining the single-molecule fluorescence dynamics of various π-conjugated multichromophoric systems to design optimal molecular devices. This also involved developing confocal and wide-field fluorescence microscopy approaches in Prof Dongho Kim’s laboratory in the Department of Chemistry, Yonsei University, South Korea. To broaden her skillset, especially in the subjects of biophysics and super-resolution imaging, she joined Prof Sir David Klenerman and Dr Steven F. Lee at the University of Cambridge in July 2015. Within this post, she was part of the team that developed spectrally-resolved PAINT (points accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography) or sPAINT. Using this, she characterised individual α-synuclein protein aggregates formed in Parkinson’s disease. To gain experience in live cell imaging, she subsequently moved to work with Prof Mark Leake at the University of York in 2018. She investigated protein aggresomes showing liquid-liquid phase separation in living cells using millisecond timescale Slimfield microscopy. And she also worked on exploring DNA gyrase activity in living cells associated with DNA topology. Now, in Horrocks group in collaboration with UCB Pharmaceuticals, she focuses on characterising pathogenic structures of tau aggregates, associated with Alzheimer’s disease, within human biofluids using single-molecule and super resolution microscopy methods. She also applies this technology to investigate the capacity of therapeutic antibodies, such as those developed by UCB, to bind to and inhibit the seeding capacity of protein aggregates.


Rebecca Saleeb (PDRA)

Rebecca joined the lab in January 2021 as a post-doctoral research associate. Rebecca comes from a background of Cell Biology and Biotechnology, having completed a BSc(Hons) in Cell Biology at Durham University and a Masters in Biotechnology at the University of Queensland. Her strong interest in interdisciplinary science and passion for understanding the mechanisms of cellular biology through imaging technology led her to specialise in optical microscopy. Rebecca completed her PhD in the labs of Dr Paul Dalgarno and Prof Rory Duncan, working at the biophysics interface to apply next generation imaging technology to the life sciences, and in particular towards understanding the final stages of autophagy. She since spent four years as a bio-imaging specialist/bio-imaging facility manager sequentially at the Edinburgh Super-Resolution Imaging Consortium, Lisbon’s Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown and Queen Mary University of London, where she helped researchers answer diverse questions of biology spanning the fields of neuroscience, cancer, immunology and cardiovascular biology. Rebecca pursued a dedicated research project within the Horrocks lab in collaboration with UCB Pharmaceuticals, where she used single-molecule microscopy to explore the structure and pathogenic capacity of α-synuclein aggregates, a hallmark of synucleinopathies such as Parkinson’s Disease. She is now a Edith Lady Edith Wolfson Non-Clinical Research Fellow for the Motor Neuron Disease Association.

Dylan George (PDRA)

Dylan joined the lab in July 2022 as a post-doctoral research associate. He received his master’s degree in Chemistry in 2018 and has since been working towards completing his PhD at The University of Sheffield with Dr. Timothy Craggs and Professor Ashley Cadby. Here he has been working towards improving the throughput of single-molecule FRET measurements with the aim of making the drug screening of 10k candidate biomolecules within 24 hours a real possibility. 

 

He is also passionate about designing single-molecule methods that are accessible to researchers through either commercial or open-source projects. For example, designing the EI-FLEX by Exciting Instruments Ltd, an instrument that provides confocal single-molecule FRET and FCS for protein conformations, binding and diffusion studies. 

 

He is now focussing on using super-resolution microscopy to study transmembrane rotary motors with the Horrocks and Cockroft group at The University of Edinburgh. Outside of the lab he enjoys hiking, travelling and playing rugby.

Rachel James (PDRA)

Rachel joined the group as a postdoctoral research associate at the start of 2024. She has an undergraduate BSc degree in Neuroscience from the University of Glasgow, and a PhD in Medical Genetics from the University of Edinburgh. For her PhD, she generated antibodies to investigate the protein function of a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia. One of the findings from her PhD was localization of this protein to mitochondria. The investigation of mitochondrial function in disease then became the focus of her postdoctoral research. She has since worked on several research projects to investigate the mitochondrial mechanisms of neurological and psychiatric disease using molecular, biochemical, and imaging methods. Most recently, she obtained a Daphne Jackson Trust fellowship to resume her research career following a break from academic research. Her project was centered around investigating mitochondrial function in parent carriers of patients with spinal muscular atrophy, a childhood motor neuron disease. She is now continuing her research on motor neuron disease, where she is using single-molecule microscopy to image protein aggregates in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


Abigail Dos Santos (PDRA)

Abigail joined the lab in February 2024 as a postdoctoral research associate. Her background is in biotechnology and molecular biology, having completed a BSc in Biotechnology in her home country of India and then an MSc in Human and Molecular Genetics at the University of Sheffield. Her research project during her MSc sparked an interest in the mechanisms of neurodegeneration, specifically in ALS. She then went on to begin a PhD in Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, working on developing and optimising a microfluidics-based model of the neuromuscular junction to study and test potential therapeutics for C9ORF72-ALS. In the ESMB group, she now works on using single-molecule and super-resolution microscopy to image TDP-43 and FUS aggregates in ALS.


Judi O'Shaughnessy (Histology Technician)

Judi is a histology technician in the group working on Motor Neurone Disease. She previously worked with Dr Jenna Gregory at the University of Edinburgh. 

Agustina Salis Torres (Research Assistant)

Agustina joined the lab in July 2023 as a Research Assistant. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. She developed an interest in heart disease during her Honours Project at the Roslin Institute, where she was supervised by Vicky MacRae. She focused on investigating novel molecules that may mediate the protective effects of calorie restriction against vascular calcification. Now, her project in the Horrocks lab aims to illuminate the role of mitochondrial elongation in arterial calcification. Agustina will employ super-resolution imaging techniques to study mitochondrial dysfunction. She will be analysing changes in mitochondrial shape in calcified cells as well as investigating the nanoscopic organisation of critical proteins involved in mitochondria dynamics. 

Tianxiao Zhao (Research Assistant)

Tianxiao Zhao joined the Lab in August 2023 as a research assistant. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at China Agricultural University in 2022. He then moved to University of Edinburgh and did his Master’s project with Dr Mathew Horrocks, where he was first introduced to single-molecule detection with optical methods. He studied the protein aggregates that related to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) with super-resolution imaging techniques.

 

Currently, Tianxiao’s research interests are centred around the detection of RNA sequences associated ALS using confocal microscopy. He is committed to find a biomarker for this incurable disease.

 

Beyond the Lab pursuits, Tianxiao also finds balance in his life through badminton and the artistry of photography.


Xiao Tan (PhD Student)

Xiao, who is also called April, joined the lab in September 2023 as a joint PhD student between Dr. Mathew Horrocks’s and Dr. Vicky MacRae’s group. Before this, she  has completed a Master’s Degree in Phathology and Phathophosiology at Guangzhou Medical University in China. During that period, she gained aboundant scientific training both for critical thinking and experimental skills.

Her project will aim to investigate the role of mitochondria during the calcification of arteries. The project will test the hypothesis that mitochondrial elongation and dysfunction underpins arterial calcification, it will apply machine learning protocols to a super-resolution microscopy approach to assess mitochondrial morphology in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). In parallel, established laboratory techniques will be used to induce and assess calcification in VSMCs, including qPCR, Western Blotting and immunofluorescence staining etc. Assessment of fixed cells by super-resolution microscopy with DNA-PAINT will determine spatial expression and location of individual mitochondrial fission/fusion regulators. Mitochondrial function will be investigated through biomedical assays. Finally, functional studies will establish the individual effects of knock out or overexpression of specific mitochondria regulators on VSMCs calcification, through CRISPER-Cas9 gene editing/activation protocols.

Outside the lab, she enjoys time in singing, dancing and working out in the gym. She can also play the piano and swim. :)

Candace Adams (PhD Student)

Candace joined the Single-Molecule Biophysics group as a PhD student as part of the EASTBio scheme. Prior to this, Candace was a Senior Research Scientist at LightOx Ltd. She is working on the structure of post-synaptic complexes in a collaborative project with Professor Seth Grant. 

Haresh Bhaksar (PhD Student)

Haresh is a PhD student in the Wellcome Integrative Cell Mechanisms program, co-supervised by Prof. Lynne Regan. Prior to joining the lab in early 2022, he graduated from Imperial College London with a degree in Biological Sciences. As part of his degree, he also completed an Industrial Placement at Glaxo SmithKline’s R&D facility in Stevenage, where he developed a high-content imaging assay to study acute liver toxicity in HEPG2 cells. Continuing his interest in imaging, he completed his final-year project with Prof. Cristina Lo Celso, mapping the 3D organization of megakaryocytes in the mouse bone marrow. He is currently interested in studying protein aggregates in neurodegeneration using super-resolution imaging techniques.


Noelia Pelegrina-Hidalgo (PhD Student)

Noelia is a PhD student who joined Dr Horrocks lab with a Medical Research Scotland Scholarship, and co-supervised by Dr Tilo Kunath at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine. She is originally from Spain but she attended the University of Dundee and graduated with BSc (Hons) Neurosciences. During her Erasmus year in Sweden, she had the opportunity to join a research group working on neurodegenerative diseases, more specifically Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. This experience was a mind-opening time, where her passion for neuroscience grew exponentially and she decided that this would be her future career. Then, she had the pleasure to work as a lab technician at Dario Alessi’s group. There she had the chance to learn about mass spectrometry and its potential as a research tool. During her PhD, she will be focusing on a-synuclein and its role in Parkinson’s disease as a pathological hallmark. For this purpose, we will collaborate with Oxford Nanoimaging (ONI), our industrial partner, to use super-resolution microscopy. Additionally, we will investigate a-synuclein physiological role in healthy midbrain neurones, since it has been proven to be involved in innate immunity.

Zuzanna Konieczna (PhD Student)

Zuzanna joined the lab as a PhD student in the EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership. She has completed a master’s degree in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry at Edinburgh which included a 12-month industrial placement at AstraZeneca. Her work as a support practitioner has stirred an interest in the human brain and neurological diseases, and she is hoping to use her skillset as a chemist to tackle multidisciplinary research. Her project will aim to study and characterise amyloid structures in the brain. Through combining highly specific and sensitive peptide-based probes (project co-supervised by Prof Marc Vendrell) with a novel microscopy technique (FS-FLIM: Full Spectrum Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy), she hopes to observe cytotoxic proteins in situ.

Ryan Ferguson (Master's Student)

Ryan is a Master's student in the group working on the detection of cryptic exons and extracellular vesicles associated with ALS.

Previous members

Dr Zoe Gidden (2019 - 2024)

Zoe completed a PhD developing the LIVE-PAINT super-resolution technique in mammalian cells. She was co-supervised by Professor Lynne Regan.

Evan Baerg (2023)

Evan was a visiting undergraduate student from Santa Clara University, USA. He worked on the development of aptamers for extracting proteins from complex mixtures. 

Dr Katie Morris (2019 - 2023)

Katie completed a PhD studying PSD95 superclusters, which make up a large proportion of the post synaptic proteome. She was co-supervised by Professor Seth Grant.

Tianxiao Zhao (2023)

Tianxiao was an M.Sc. research student in the group, and stayed on as an RA, and is now a PhD student in the group. He works on the detection of cryptic exons.

Shannon Kim (2023)

Shannon was a visiting student from Chicago University, and worked on characterising the fluorescence lifetime of dyes.

Dr Craig Leighton (2018 - 2023)

Craig completed his doctoral studies in the group developing a specialised surface to immobilise and image proteins, and also worked on visualising proteins associated with Parkinson's disease. He subsequently completed a post-doc in the group working with Dr Vicky MacRae at the Roslin Institute on the super-resolution imaging of mitochondrial dysfunction in heart disease. He's now a Life Science Strategy Consultant with Executive Insight in London.

Dr Alex Chappard (2018 - 2023)

Alex was a PhD student in the group using single-molecule confocal microscopy to understand the aggregation of alpha-synuclein in cells. He also developed an approach for visualising unlabelled oligomers using confocal microscopy.

Manaal Shah (2023)

Manaal joined the group as a final year biology student researching the blood brain barrier with Dr Blanca Diaz-Castro.

Ruth Oi (2023)

Ruth was a joint biomedical student with Dr Jelena Baranovic researching the structure AMPA receptors.

Remi Johnston (2023)

Remi was a B.Sc. student in the group researching the nanoscale structure of post-synatpic density clusters. 

Dr Owen Kantelberg (2018 - 2022)

Owen completed his PhD in the group developing aptamers to visualise TDP-43 aggregates. He now works for LifeArc in Stevenage. 

Freya Hogg (2022)

Freya was a Wellcome Trust iCM summer student. Whilst in the lab she worked with Zoe to optimise the generation of TDP-43 using yeast to then investigate liquid-liquid phase separation. 

Izabela Skowronska (2022) 

Iza was an Afton School of Chemistry summer student working on the proteins associated with Parkinson's disease. 

Abhishek Saini (2022)

As part of his M.Sc. in Medicinal Chemistry, Abhishek worked with us on the use of aptamers for imaging TDP-43, the protein associated with ALS. 

Dr Bhanu Pratap Singh (2021-2022)

Bhanu was a PDRA in the group investigating the structure of alpha-synuclein fibrils, and their interactions with lipids.

Eleanor Mathias (2022)

Eleanor was a 5th year MChem student at the University of Edinburgh. She was working to establish a fully automated multi-channel super-resolution microscopy workflow, which she used to characterise amyloid protein conformers and associated proteins in post-mortem brain tissue using DNA point accumulation in nanoscale topology (DNA-PAINT).

Robyn Cumberland (2022)

Robyn was a 4th year BSc student working on an assay to detect alpha-synuclein aggregates.

Junru Yu (2021)

Junru was an MSc in Biological and Medicinal Chemistry student at the University of Edinburgh. Her project involved characterising the physical sizes of PSD-95 complexes and exploring whether the sizes of these vary in different brain regions.

Berta Fatás Rodríguez (2021)

Berta was an MSc in Biological and Medicinal Chemistry student at the University of Edinburgh. She was working on the analysis of amyloid-beta aggregates, associated to Alzheimer’s disease, using single-molecule and super-resolution techniques.

Niamh Harper (2021)

Niamh was a 4th year BSc student working on imaging lambda DNA samples for modelling polymer movement. 

Kelly Wood (2019-21)

Kelly worked on synthesising chemical probes to use in the development of a new super-resolution microscopy technique, for the detection and characterisation of protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases.

Toria Twiddy (2020-21)

Toria was an M.Chem. chemistry student at the University of Edinburgh. Her project centred on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and involves using an aptamer to image cytosolic aggregates of TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) in super-resolution.

Aimee Bryce (2020-21)

Aimee was a final year chemistry (MChem) student at the University of Edinburgh. Her final year project focused on using fluorescence microscopy techniques to highlight liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) in UBQLN2.

Sarah Aitken (2019-20)

Sarah was an undergraduate MChem Medicinal and Biological Chemistry student from the University of Edinburgh and joined the group to complete a year-long research project. During her project Sarah studied neuroinflammation caused by amyloid-B aggregation involved in Alzheimer’s Disease.

Yiyun Jin (2018-19)

Yiyun worked with us on a novel alpha-synuclein antibody. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master's degree in Medicinal Chemistry. 

Blair Hoggan (2018-2019)

Blair joined us as part of his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Whilst here, he worked on a new range of fluorophores for single-molecule detection methods.

Zuzanna Konieczna (2018)

Zuzanna was an undergraduate chemistry student, working towards an MChem in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Her work as a support practitioner has stirred an interest in the human brain and neurological diseases. She joined the group to complete a summer research project funded by EASTBio, helping to develop a new sensor to observe protein aggregation.