Favourite film - Old Boy (original version)
Technician - Jack McGeown
I am the technician and proud first ever member of the Courtney Lab. Special skills include solving a Rubik’s cube in under 5, Card shuffling and balloon animals (Insider tip: the snake is the easiest). I graduated from Ulster University with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Science in 2017. From there I moved to pursue a Master’s in cancer research at the Herman B Wells centre for research in Indianapolis, Indiana. My work at the Wells centre mainly focused on APE1/Ref-1 a novel endonuclease enzyme with dual roles in DNA repair and redox activation of oncogenic transcription factors. My project involved determining the therapeutic potential of APE1/Ref-1 in various cancer types- both as a lone treatment and in combination with other drugs.
After graduating from my Master’s with distinction I worked in the R&D department in Norbrook laboratories where I developed different methods of drug extraction from biological tissues. Deciding industry wasn’t for me, I moved back to academic research and started working as a technician in the Courtney lab in 2021. As well as ‘housekeeping’ duties in maintaining lab stocks and reagents I have conducted my own project in targeting various writer proteins for methyl modifications and determining their effect on viral replication. In my time at the Courtney lab I have had the opportunity to expand my skills with new molecular techniques such as generating knock out cell lines using CRISPR/Cas9 as well as cloning and qPCR.
Favourite film - The Princess Bride
PhD student - Hannah Coutts
I received my BSc in Biology from the University of Arkansas in 2015. I then left the states moved to Scotland, where I graduated with my MSc in Infection Biology from the University of Glasgow. During my time at Glasgow Uni, I worked in the Davison Lab at the Centre for Virus Research, where my research focused on the role of the cytoskeleton during infection with Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). I then went on to receive an MScR in Infection and Immunity from the University of Edinburgh. I had the privilege of working at The Roslin Institute under Dr. Finn Grey and Dr. Elly Gaunt. My work again centred on HCMV, however my focus was understanding the role of viral genome dinucleotide content on replication and gene expression.
Currently, I am a PhD student in the Courtney Lab where my role concerns mapping epitranscriptomic RNA modifications across the IAV genome and its transcripts, and elucidating their roles in the viral lifecycle. Such modifications have been implicated in affecting several post-transcriptional regulatory functions such as RNA secondary structure, translation efficiency and immune recognition. Our lab utilises recent technologies and that allow for us virologists to pinpoint the precise location of RNA modifications, determine their evolutionary conservation and to explore their phenotypic effects.
Favourite film - Lord of the Rings Return of the King.
PhD student - Stefano Bonazza
I am a first-year PhD student in the Courtney Lab.
I hold an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and a master’s in Cellular and Molecular Biology, both obtained at the University of Bologna. As part of my master’s, I worked for one year at the Heinrich Pette Institute for Experimental Virology in Hamburg (Germany), studying Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). In particular, I employed single-molecule light microscopy to assess the role of subnuclear organelles in the biogenesis of the HCMV replication compartment.
My main interests lie in the many ways viruses hijack cellular processes to their benefit, as well as the intricacies of the host defence mechanism. I like employing high-technology microscopy approaches to dissect complex biological problems.
In the Courtney Lab, I am studying the mechanisms that guide the deposition of epitranscriptomic modifications on Influenza transcripts. It is known that many modifications are installed onto cellular transcripts co-transcriptionally, and the writer proteins responsible for their deposition are able to interact with the RNA polymerases of the cell. Thus, it is a possibility that the Influenza Polymerase (FluPol) could act as a recruitment hub for writers, resulting in the modification of all viral transcripts. I am currently employing single-molecule confocal microscopy, as well as unbiased proteomics approaches, to investigate the association between the FluPol and the writer machinery during infection.
Favourite film - How to Train Your Dragon
MSc student - Rebecca Shields
I’m an MSc student in the Courtney lab. In short, I’m a book lover, yoga enthusiast and a bit of a science geek. My favourite book genres include romance and psychological thrillers (if you haven’t read ‘The Silent Patient’ - add it to your list). I studied a BSc in Biomedical Science at Liverpool John Moores University. Whilst in Liverpool, I was part of the Biomedical Science society and was particularly interested in Immunology and Microbiology. My dissertation focused on the co-infection of HIV and Tuberculosis which furthered my passion of immunology and more specifically, immunological responses to viral infections. This led me to study an MSc in Experimental Medicine at Queens University Belfast, in which I also obtained the role of student course rep. Within the Courtney lab, our main field of interest is Flu Epitranscriptomics. However, my current project focuses on identifying RNA-binding host proteins that play an essential role within the packaging process of Influenza A. This named ‘FluRIC’ method is adapted from Alfredo Castello’s lab and aims to capture the RNA-binding interactome of wild type WSN and a rescued reporter virus, WSN-mScarlet. This will enable the isolation and analytical comparison of any host proteins interacting with packaging signal on the HA vRNA segment in WT WSN, and mScarlet in WSN-mScarlet reporter virus.