Research Assistants

Hermione Webster (Research Assistant, now PhD student)

As a Research Assistant, I spend most of my time working in a laboratory. My role is mainly focused on genetic sequencing of bacteria and viruses that infect humans. Using new technologies, we can identify antibiotic resistance, outbreaks and much more. 

The path that lead me to this role, was a degree in microbiology with a drive for investigating human pathogens and a passion for lab work. 

My current projects include setting up a COVID-19 sequencing lab within the NHS, here I have helped the lab develop new skills and techniques, creating a whole new team specific to COVID sequencing. 

Natalia Kapel (Previous Research Assistant)

I am a Research Assistant working mainly in the microbiology laboratory conducting various research projects focussing on different aspects of human-related bacteria and viruses. 

In my current role, I mainly use technology called Next Generation Sequencing that looks at the genetic make-up of bacteria and viruses. I am particularly involved in developing new methods and protocols to allow for more accurate detection of human pathogens.

I became a research assistant after doing an undergraduate degree in Biology with Molecular Biosciences and then a PhD in Medical Microbiology. 

In my First Project: ‘Twist Bioscience Respiratory Virus Enrichment Panel’, I am working with a biomedical scientist, Elizabeth Kalimeris, who is doing her Master’s Project, on developing a new protocol for more thorough method of detecting Respiratory Viruses from patients’ samples

We are using a ready-made sequencing panel that looks for most common human respiratory viruses based on their genetic code. First, we obtain a nasopharyngeal sample (sample from nose and throat) from a patient with suspected viral infection. Then, we extract nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) that are present in that sample, and subject them to several procedures using various chemicals and reagents. Finally, we are able to analyse genetic information from the sample, using the DNA sequencing technology to find out which specific viruses were present in the patient’s upper respiratory tract. 

My Second Project is entitled: ‘Assessing the ONT Q20+ chemistry’ 

Oxford Nanopore Technology sequencing is becoming quite popular among scientist all over the world, due to its accessibility, ease of use, and size. Recently, a new, updated version of the sequencing unit, called a flow cell, was released. I am assessing its capabilities, by sequencing DNA of four well-characterised bacterial species, to validate how this new flow cell performs in comparison with the older version. Knowing which technology to use in research projects is crucial for obtaining most accurate and up-to-date results.