Year 2 Scholars

Faculty of Natural Sciences

Xiaoyan Lin - Department of Chemistry

Xiaoyan Lin Department: Chemistry
Title of Research: Aptamer-modified nanopipette for single molecule detection of proteins

Summary of Research

Single Molecule Detection (SMD), which enables measurement of structural and chemical variance of apparently identical single molecules, has been one of the ultimate goals in chemical analysis. With the dimensions of a sensor decreased to a scale similar to that of a nanoscale object, the ultimate in sensitivity can potentially be achieved. With submicro to nanoscale size of pore at the tip, nanopipettes have the capability to analyze charged targets at the single-molecule level without labelling. I intend to design nanopipette with aptamers modified on the surface for single molecule analysis of proteins.

Due to the electronic potential applied over the nanopipette, charged biomolecules translocate through the tip of nanopipette, causing a detectable conductance modulation related to their dimension and charge, which can be measured by the change in ionic current. I expect that this will result in a promising platform for single molecule analysis of proteins, such as streptavidin and lysozyme, and it will also provide insight into the interaction between protein/DNA. Due to the high affinity and specificity of aptamers towards the targets, it is expected that only the target proteins can bind to the aptamers and give out signal, while other analogous proteins will translocate through the nanopipette with minimal change in the ionic current. This will pave the way for a novel strategy in single molecule diagnostics.

Viktoria Urland - Department of Chemistry

Viktoria Urland Department: Department of Chemistry
Title of research: A high throughput, real-time, micro-droplet platform for the synthesis and biological evaluation of quadruplex binders

Summary of Research

Guanine-rich nucleic acid sequences have the ability to self-assemble into quadruply-stranded structures known as G-quadruplexes. Over 370,000 potential quadruplex sequences have been identified in the human genome. They play an indispensable role in various cellular processes like telomere maintenance, genomic stability and regulation of DNA replication and transcription. A considerable proportion of potential quadruplex sequences is located in the promoter regions of genes that play an important role in cell signalling. G-rich repetitive sequences were also identified in the telomeric region. The enzyme telomerase, which is overexpressed in ca. 90 % of all cancer cells, is inhibited if single-stranded telomeric DNA is folded into a quadruplex structure.  Consequently, G-quadruplex sequences are attractive targets for the development of anticancer drugs. Several compounds including metal-salphen complexes have been identified to be good G-quadruplex binders. Their medicinal significance led to the need for a rapid and efficient screening method to identify the best potential binders for a physiologically relevant G-quadruplex DNA/RNA.

My project aims at developing a high throughput, real-time platform for evaluation of quadruplex binders exploiting microfluidics technology. Microdroplets containing the fluorescently labelled G-quadruplex will be generated with a nanopipette integrated into a microfluidic device. The ultimate goal is to merge these droplets with droplets containing the compound and fluorescently studying the effect on the stability of the nucleic acid. We also envisage to gauge the cytotoxicity of these compounds against a number of different cell lines in a similar platform. The microdroplet platform offers outstanding advantages like the reduction of measuring time and sample volume. Moreover, we also plan to assess the effect of the quadruplex binders on the functional properties of the quadruplex with a main focus on their interactions with proteins like helicases.




Faculty of Medicine

Andrea Martinez Rodriguez - Department of Surgery and Cancer

Andrea Martinez Rodriguez Department: Surgery and Cancer
Title of Research: Genetic Mapping of Metabolomic Markers of CardioMetabolic Diseases

Summary of Research

Cardiovascular diseases represent the main cause of mortality worldwide. Several cardiovascular diseases, coined cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs), are associated with alterations of metabolic processes. CMDs consist of a cluster of disorders including diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and coronary artery disease.

CMDs represent a major challenge in healthcare because they can be present for years before becoming clinically apparent. For instance, it has been reported that the pancreatic β-cell function is already significantly reduced at the time of clinical diagnosis of type II diabetes. Accurate biomarkers for CMDs are of particular interest since the delay or the prevention of morbidity is often possible via pharmacological interventions or behavioural approaches. In this respect, metabolmic quantitative trait locus (mQTL) mapping, which searches for statistical associations between genetic variants and metabolic traits, has been proposed as a very promising tool for biomarker discovery.

The main aim of my PhD project is to perform an mQTL study in order to identify metabolic biomarkers of CMDs and susceptibility genes amenable to new diagnostic tests. For this, I will use a clinical cohort of CMDs patients from Lebanon, characterized by the presence of high frequency of consanguinity. Consanguinity, along with family history of disease, has been demonstrated to play a major role in the development of CMDs through enhanced autozygous inheritance of recessive CMDs susceptibility gene variants. A comprehensive mapping of metabonomic markers of CMDs conducted on a population with detailed clinical and stringent epidemiological characteristics along with high degree of consanguinity, is the most suitable approach to identify susceptible metabolites that would not be suspected based on our current understanding of CMDs pathology.

Catherine Teo - Department of Medicine

Catherine Teo Department: Department of Medicine
Title of Research: Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1-Induced Collective Cell Migration In Human Skin Keratinocytes

Summary of Research

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections of humans were initially identified during ancient Greek times. Greek scholars, notably Hippocrates, used the word “herpes,” meaning to creep or crawl, to describe spreading herpetic skin lesions. The infection of HSV-1 initiates at skin epithelial cells, in which the epidermis comprises keratinocytes as a predominant cell type. Therefore, the human keratinocyte is a physiologically relevant cell type to understand the transmission of HSV-1 in this natural host cell.

The focus of my PhD project aims to elucidate specific mechanisms in HSV-1 spread and intercellular transmission that are currently poorly understood. It is hypothesised that HSV-1 infection induces the specialised process of directed collective cell migration, which may be one of the strategies employed by HSV-1 for efficient viral transmission between skin cells. On the other hand, the migratory response may be part of host cell response to combat infection. HSV-1 may exploit the cellular immune responses and couple these to the potential migratory response of skin keratinocytes.

My research encompasses various fields of specialisation in biology, including virology, cell biology, and immunology, and will reveal the novel interplay between HSV-1-induced collective chemotaxis and virus propagation. The mechanisms of chemotaxis will be elucidated via various approaches, including the study of reorganisation of skin cells as migration is induced, changes in gene and protein expression and of the cellular organisation such as in the known tight junctions between cells. In addition, the chemotactic factors, in particular addressing whether they are virus or host encoded, will be identified. The rigorous training gained at Imperial College London in various techniques in bioimaging and molecular biology, in particular the exploration of novel method based on click chemistry to explore virus-host interaction, will be extremely valuable in pursuing my scientific career. I hope that my research work will provide a stimulating addition to the complex field of cell-cell transmission of viruses.

Midhat Salman - Department of Medicine

Midhat Salaman Department: Department of Medicine
Title of Research: The identification of novel mutations causing Familial motor neuron disease/amyotophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) and the elucidation of disease mechanisms with these and the recently established and more prevalent mutations causing FALS.

Summary of Research

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly progressing late onset neurodegenerative disease that affects upper and lower motor neurons. It causes muscle weakness, atrophy and spasticity and is usually fatal within 3-5 years of disease onset, due to respiratory failure. Approximately 5-10% of ALS cases are familial (FALS) while the rest are sporadic (SALS). In general, the disease course is similar in both FALS and SALS. However, clinical heterogeneity in disease onset and duration is found even in patients harbouring the same mutation.

Over the last five years, considerable advances in the identification of mutations have highlighted the importance of genes involved in RNA processing which promote the formation of nuclear RNA aggregates or foci. These mutations together with most other FALS mutations converge on a common pathway leading to impaired protein quality control. This in turn leads to the build-up of ubiquitinated protein inclusions positive for TDP-43 (or FUS), widely seen in FALS and an established hallmark of sporadic ALS. The precise mechanisms need to be established. To date more than 20 genes have been discovered that cause FALS and account for ~ 70% of cases. More are still to be discovered for the remaining families.

With only a single treatment available for the disease so far, that increases life span by only 3 months, the aim of my PhD project is to identify and validate new genes and understand the molecular pathogenesis of ALS in detail. This will help in finding new possible therapeutic targets for disease treatment, the identification of different disease risk factors and also in the generation of disease models for future studies.

Leor Roseman - Department of Medicine

Leor Roseman Name: Leor Roseman
Title of Research: Neuroimaging research on visual hallucinations produced by psychedelic drugs.
Email address:

Summary of Research

Visual hallucinations, especially with eyes-closed, are one of the hallmarks effects of classic psychedelic drugs (5-HT2A receptor agonists). Yet, a comprehensive neurobiological account of the mechanism of visual hallucinations is still lacking. We are using neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and MEG in order to investigate the neural correlates of visual hallucinations. The main aim of this research is to explore the extent to which the visual cortex is involved in the psychedelic state. By using retinotopic methods and measuring functional connectivity, we are able to look at how different sub regions of the visual cortex commincate with each other and with the rest of the brain while hallucinations occur.

Before the ban on psychedelic research at the end of the 60’s, thousands of research papers were published on the effects of LSD. The absence of psychedelic research for 40 years has set back progress in understanding their effects. An important part of my research will be to write a review paper about psychedelic visual hallucinations based on papers from the 50’s and 60’s. The aim of this review paper will be to bridge and translate this lost knowledge to what we are discovering today in our modern science.

Psychedelic science is undergoing a major renaissance at present. It is a great privilege to be doing this research and to have the support of Imperial College London.

Faculty of Engineering

Nicholas Farandos - Department of Chemical Engineering

Nick Farandos Department: Chemical Engineering
Title of Research: 3D Printing of Functional Layers for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells and Electrolysers

Summary of Research

I am a PhD student in the Electrochemical Engineering Group, supervised by Professor Geoff Kelsall and Dr. Camille Petit. My interests lie within energy storage using environmentally-friendly fuels such as hydrogen. This field is becoming increasingly important due to the shift towards intermittent renewable energy sources (solar and wind) for which the electricity grid is currently poorly positioned to accommodate due to limited hydro-storage capability. A consequence is that at peak usage times, energy demand may exceed supply. Electrochemical devices allow highly efficient conversion of electrical energy into hydrogen, and vice versa, as they are non-Carnot process limited, and therefore are an attractive potential technology to solve this problem.

I am specifically interested in solid oxide-based fuel cells and electrolysers due to their high conversion efficiencies. Presently the architecture and design of the micro-scale structure, on which the global performance of the device critically depends, has been limited, primarily because of fabrication constraints. A consequence of this limitation is that the present understanding of micro-scale operational processes such as electronic, ionic, and gas transport to and from the reaction sites is incomplete, i.e. why the degradation of solid oxide devices operating in electrolyser mode is greater than in fuel cell mode. However the advent of high-resolution 3D printing technologies offers the potential to print pre-defined and reproducible architectures which can dramatically enhance device performance and provide deeper insight into the micro-scale mechanisms. My project involves modelling micro-scale architectures of functional layers (electrolyte and composite electrodes), formulating suitable colloidal dispersion ‘inks’ from which to fabricate solid oxide devices, and producing the devices using a CeraPrinter X-Serie (Ceradrop, France) 3D printer.

Mitchell Liddell - Department of Earth Science & Engineering

Mitchell Liddell Department: Earth Science and Engineering
Title of Research: The building of North America: Seismic evidence from Northern Canada

Summary of Research

With the notable exception of the plate boundaries, processes that have long-since ceased formed most of the geology we encounter on Earth. By constructing models based on observed tectonics we can often predict with remarkable accuracy the salient geological features seen elsewhere. For Phanerozoic (after 550 Ma) rocks this assumption is reasonable, but during the Precambrian (before 550 Ma) when the oldest rocks were forming, Earth conditions were likely very different. The precise onset of 'continental drift', for example, remains ambiguous. To study these questions we look towards geological evidence preserved within ancient plates (often termed 'shields') that have remained largely unchanged since the Precambrian. However, this type of study cannot always be achieved by traditional field geology. Geophysical methods must be used instead to probe deep into the Earth.

I am using seismic tomography to analyze data from northern Canada as part of a research group focused on the open questions of early Earth processes. The study region, in Nunavut near Hudson Bay, is an ideal laboratory for this type of study, boasting a rock record spanning more than 2 billion years. The chemistry and temperature of rocks at depth affect seismic wave-speed, so the arrival-times of seismic energy can be related to the deep structure of the plates. After crustal formation, deformation can impart fabrics that remain frozen for hundreds of millions of years; this too can be detected seismically. The focus of my research is to examine the changing structure and composition of the deeper portions of the plates (the mantle lithosphere) and relate them to ancient tectonic processes. For example, seismic evidence for plate-scale under-thrusting (e.g., present-day India beneath Tibet) would be a strong indication that plate tectonics were operating by at least 1.8 Ga. Our goal is to place fundamental new constraints on the processes that formed North America, and advance our understanding of the earliest days on Earth.

Mitch Liddell completed his BSc and MSc in geophysics at the University of Alberta, in Canada, before coming to Imperial College to pursue PhD studies.

Alfonso Muinelo Herranz - Department of Materials

Department: Materials
Title of Research: Detection of Misfolded Protein Aggregates in Brain Tissue for Early Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

Summary of Research

Parkinson’s disease is a widely spread neuropathy affecting about 1 in every 500 people. Treatments available focus on dopamine replacement, a key feature of the disease, yet these treatments are symptomatic in nature and do not stop the underlying degeneration. Its clinical symptoms, while well-known, are easy to mistake for other movement disorders, and can vary wildly amongst patients. Early diagnostic of Parkinson’s is therefore a major obstacle. The disease is characterized by the appearance of brain stem deposits of insoluble misfolded α-synuclein protein aggregates. Detection of these misfolded proteins would provide a reliable diagnostic technique which could greatly improve the efficiency of upcoming neuroprotective treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

The main aim of my PhD is to develop a novel diagnostic platform which can both target and detect misfolded α-synuclein aggregates without causing systemic toxicity to surrounding tissues. Targeting will be achieved by gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) with peptide sequences capable of targeting the aggregates. Gold nanoparticles are a biocompatible and efficient choice. AuNPs can be easily synthesized in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Their inert and non-toxic nature is well-proven. AuNPs are also easily functionalized. A wide range of organic molecules can be tethered onto the AuNP surface through thiol groups. In this project, the AuNPs will be functionalized by coating them with self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of polyethylene glycol (PEG) on the surface of the particles. The monolayers will act as a deliberate passivation layer, allowing AuNPs to remain soluble in water by preventing particle aggregation. Furthermore, their hydrophobicity will also prevent fouling. Afterwards, peptide sequences capable of specifically targeting the α-synuclein aggregates will be bound to the passivation monolayer.

Maria Anna Chatzopoulou - Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Department: Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering 

Summary of research

I am a PhD student, in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department, working within the Urban Energy Systems group, under the supervision of Dr. James Keirstead and Professor David Fisk. My project is in collaboration with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. My research focus is to identify the most promising – in terms of reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions- energy demand and supply technologies with applications in non-domestic buildings, by investigating means to optimise their efficiency and potential adoption strategies.

The EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. Since, buildings account for 40% of global energy consumption and 37% of CO2 emissions, EU and National governments have set goals for decarbonizing the building stock. The concept of nearly-zero-energy buildings and cost-optimal set of energy measures have been introduced. The growing need to meet demanding standards for energy systems performance requires the development of novel approaches and modelling techniques able to identify which set of measures would yield the most benefits. Additionally, novel technologies such as tri-generation, adsorption cooling etc. require further investigation, in order to understand their performance characteristics. In this context, my research seeks to develop novel tools for i) thermodynamic modelling of selected innovative energy technologies; ii) evaluating energy systems efficiency integrated to buildings, using parametric analysis and optimization techniques; and iii) assessing the energy performance at district-scale level.

Marianna has completed her MEng in Mechanical Engineering (Distinction) in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, prior to her MSc on Environmental Engineering and Business Management, at Imperial College London (Distinction). After the fulfillment of her Master's degree, she worked in the Industry (in London) for a couple of years, as a Mechanical Engineer, designing bespoke energy systems with applications in buildings.  Marianna has been presented with various awards for excellent academic performance, by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious affairs, and has been also awarded a scholarship for postgraduate studies at Imperial College London, by HELMEPA.


Te-Cheng Su - Department of Materials

Te-Cheng Su Department: Department of Materials
Email: of Research: In situ synchrotron radiography and tomography studies of semi-solid deformation in Al alloys and steels 

Summary of research

High pressure die casting (HPDC) is a metallurgical process which forces molten or partially-solidified metal into a die. The process can rapidly produce engineering parts that have good strength and dimensional accuracy. The application of high pressure on viscous alloys was to enhance the feeding and reduce the formation of casting porosity, but it has been found that several unexpected types of casting defect such as macrosegregation, dilatant shear band and cracks may appear after the casting process. These defects can be detrimental to the toughness of cast parts. To clarify the sources of these defects, the deformation of partially solidified alloys by applying in-situ X-ray synchrotron radiography has been widely investigated in the last five years. This approach has developed from the 2-D direct observation and a series of image analysis on semi-solid alloys in isothermal holding. Further, some breakthroughs have been made such as tomographic reconstruction to observe the three-dimensional granular behaviour of partially solidified alloys during casting.

There are several undiscovered combinations of semi-solid microstructure types, stress and strain modules which may affect the mechanical response of partially solidified alloys under loading. Therefore, the project is to investigate the effect of grain size, shear strain rate and solid fraction on deformation mechanisms of Al-Cu alloys and steels in the semi-solid state by the application of in-situ X-ray synchrotron radiography and tomography. The research project is proposed to adapt ideas and methods from to soil mechanics to track microstructural evolution including the liquid flow field, strain field and grain motion during loading in order to develop new perspectives for filling, feeding and defect formation in alloy casting.


Evangelia Skiada - Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Evangelina Skiada Department: Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Email address:
Title of research: Consistent Incorporation of Topography Effects in Ground Motion Prediction Models

Summary of research

I am working within the Soil mechanics group under the supervision of Dr. S. Kontoe and Dr. P. Stafford. My research focus is the quantification of the parameters that from literature have been reported to affect topographic amplification and the probabilistic consideration of the numerical modelling outputs for developing ground motion prediction equations (GMPEs) for the topographic amplification assessment.

Topographic amplification of seismic motions has been well recognized even before any instrumental records of ground motions were available. Documented observations from destructive earthquakes have shown that damaging effects tend to increase where steep relief of complicated topography is present. In the recent past, there have been numerous cases of recorded motions and field experiments that provide evidence of topographical effects on seismic motion. Due to the limited number of instrumented evidence from major earthquakes and the quantitative disagreement between theory and observations, nowadays topographic amplification phenomena are still not very well understood. Unlike amplification due to soil layering, there is very little guidance available in most seismic code provisions for topographic effects despite their significance in engineering practice. Topography effects are currently incorporated in ground motion prediction equations in a very crude manner only as part of the general variability introduced by travel path and site effects. Predictive equations and design codes are associated with a greater uncertainty or a larger standard deviation and may underestimate the intensity of the actual ground shaking beneath structures located on hills and ridges. Clearly there is a need for systematic study of these effects to improve the existing code provisions and predictive tools. 

Evangelia has an MEng in Civil Engineering (first class degree) and an MSc in Analyses and Design of Earthquake Resistant Structures (Distinction) from the National Technical University of Athens. She has also been awarded a distinction for the MSc course in Soil Mechanics and Engineering Seismology, at Imperial College London. Among a number of awards and scholarships throughout her studies, she received the ‘Atkins Prize’ in 2012, awarded to a student of Imperial College for making the best overall contribution in the area of soil dynamics and engineering seismology including the dynamics of geotechnical structures. She worked as a graduate geotechnical engineer for two years in London, performing computational geomechanics and earthquake engineering design for major seismic projects. 


Robert Charlton - Department of Materials

Department: Materials
Title of Research: Computational study of the excitonics of doped organic molecular crystals for a room-temperature maser
Email address:

Summary of Research:

Masers (microwave lasers) have long been restricted in their applications by the impracticality of their operating conditions. For instance, solid state masers require cryogenic freezing and strong magnetic fields. In 2012, the first room-temperature maser was demonstrated using a p-terphenyl crystal doped with pentacene [1]. Before this can become a practical device, however, the lack of continuous operation must be dealt with, in addition to the efficiency of the maser. 

This raises the question of whether replacing pentacene with other dopants can help to improve performance. An ab initio understanding of the excited states of pentacene would enable us to guide the work of experimentalists for maser development. This requires us to consider the impact that the p-terphenyl crystal environment has on these excitations. While wavefunction-based (WFT) quantum chemical methods can yield highly accurate results for excitation energies, their computational cost renders large systems such as this beyond their reach. Linear-scaling density functional theory (DFT), as implemented in the ONETEP software [2], can be used to efficiently simulate large systems, but DFT is a ground state theory at heart and thus unsuitable for excitonic properties.

My research will focus on combining these methods by considering a WFT subsystem to be embedded in a DFT environment [3] and the implementation of this approach in ONETEP. Such an approach will enable us to treat the excited states with a high level of accuracy while providing a thorough description of the environment with which we can analyse the influence of the wider crystal.


[1] M. Oxborrow, J. Breeze & N. Alford. Nature, 488: 353–356 (2012).

[2] C. K. Skylaris et al. J. Chem. Phys., 122, 084119 (2005).

[3] A. Gomes & C. Jacob. Annu. Rep. Prog. Chem., Sect. C: Phys. Chem., 108: 222-277 (2012).

Imperial College Business School

Engin Iyidogan - Imperial College Business School

Engin Iyidogan Department: Imperial College Business School - Finance
Title of Research: Network and Financial Contagion i -class Approach

Summary of Research

The studies on financial networks have broadened in recent years, especially after the realization of strong interconnections in modern banking system. While there is an exclusive literature about financial linkages, lack of empirical work fails to provide a clear conclusion. Complementary to this literature, my study focuses on grasping all aspects of the linkages between large banks using network notion.

My research plans to identify how financial networks propagate during crisis times and which elements are main channels for the spread of shocks. I attempt to provide i -class and corner i-value approaches to make a better judgment on network structure and density, respectively. The main principle in my methodology is to sort all weighted edges in a network and removing edges from lowest weight to highest weight. i is a number between 0 and 1, which represents the percentage of surviving edge in network. The surviving edges called as “i-class of edges”, surviving nodes as “i-class of nodes” and our new network as “i-0.75 class of network”. After these calculations, each node has their own degree under i-class of network, which can be used in the calculation of strength function of nodes. There is no optimal i-value range for mesh networks; instead, it is possible to determine corner-i values for each network. The idea behind corner value is that if a node becomes edge-free during this removing edge process, this critical i-value called “corner i-value of network”, ic.a

Jingyu Zhang - Imperial College Business School

Jingyu Zhang Department: Finance Group, Imperial College Business School
Title of Research: Institutional Ownership and Endogenous Information Acquisition
Email address:

Summary of Research

My research

explores how informed investors endogenously acquire private information in a standard (noisy) rational expectations framework. Unlike Grossman and Stiglitz (1980), informed investors are

allowed to acquire more precise information through paying a higher information cost. The basic model presents the relationship of optimal information acquisition with risk aversion and with learning ability. The extended model features two groups of informed investors: high learning ability (institutional investors) and low learning ability (retail investors). Both groups are allowed to endogenously acquire information. Heterogeneity in learning ability is modelled through differential information costs between the two groups for the same level of acquired precision. Numerical results deliver the following predictions: (1) Average acquired precision is increasing in prior uncertainty; (2) average acquired precision is decreasing in risk aversion; (3) average acquired precision is “V-shaped” in the fraction of high learning ability out of all informed investors. Empirical evidence at both aggregate market level and individual firm level is provided and discussed around these predictions.