We offer new and exciting fellowships supported by Imperial College BHF Centre of Excellence. The centre is led by Professor Martin Wilkins and includes world leading scientists across a diverse range of disciplines united in their drive to apply their research to address cardiovascular disease.

The centre is run from the National Heart and Lung Institute, which is a large and highly successful department within the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College. The CRE research environment is multi-disciplinary, includes close collaboration with disciplines including Bioengineering, Data Science and Chemistry. It is progressive, innovative, translational and cuts across basic and clinical science. We have a culture which is supportive and inclusive.

BHF CRE Fellowships 2022 - Post-doctoral 

These 15-month Post-doctoral Fellowships, are aimed at individuals positioning themselves for an externally funded fellowship. We have now successfully awarded 5 Research Fellowships for 2022. 

The successful candidates were:

Dr Richard Wang, Research Associate, Cardiac Bioelectronics & Devices, Department of Materials 

My work focuses on the development of implantable bioelectronic devices to regulate both engineered heart tissues and native myocardium. Through this, I hope to develop a new class of implantable devices that can improve clinical outcomes for heart failure patients. This project spans various interdisciplinary facets including electronics engineering, tissue engineering, novel materials and microfabrication, and clinical cardiac electrophysiology. As such, I am extremely fortunate for the opportunity to collaborate with a wide network of extraordinary researchers at the NHLI and the various Engineering Departments. These exciting daily interactions are what drives high-impact research and excellence, and allows me to continue striving towards my best work.

Dr Soumaya Ben-Aicha Gonzalez,  Research Associate, Cardioimmunology in Atherosclerosis 

After my PhD I have been working at the Imperial College London, National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) for 3 years now, and the opportunities that the NHLI bring to the early career investigators is without a doubt remarkable. Numerous webinars, seminars and collaborative meetings at the NHLI enriched my scientific vision and network, together with my recent appointment as a Nucleus member of the Scientist of Tomorrow (SoT) from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Here at the Imperial College London, I have been able to combine my previous cardiovascular knowledge with immunology expertise in the setting of atherosclerosis. Overall, the NHLI has given me a platform to pursue and progress in my academic research career. Being awarded the BHF Centre of Research Excellence Fellowship will undoubtedly boost my professional progression and help in developing further my studies. Importantly, this fellowship gives me the support needed to unveil the immune-therapeutic possibilities against atherosclerosis.

Dr Pamela Swiatlowska, Research Associate, Cardiovascular Mechanobiology

My research interest is focused on understanding the mechanoregulation of the cardiovascular system at different scales through interdisciplinary approaches. My overall contributions to the field, were recognized by the ‘Top 5 Early Career Investigators 2022’ nomination made by the British Society for Cardiovascular Research. Vast experience collected during the student research projects at the University of Virginia and Imperial College London as well as postdoctoral work at the New York University and Queen Mary University London, successfully translated into the BHF CRE Postdoctoral Fellowship 2022. Here, I will be investigating the role of mechanobiology in the epigenetic regulation of the heart diseases.

I look forward to establishing new collaborations that will drive innovation and research impact. Previously navigating through different leadership roles, I hope to build up on the laid foundations and progress in order to excel in the upcoming leadership opportunities.

Dr Mohamed Abdelaziz, Research Associate

During my PhD and postdoctoral role at the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery, my research was geared towards the development of electromechanical systems, surgical robotics, and medical devices that assist clinicians in improving the quality and outcome of endoscopic and endoluminal procedures. In parallel to my postdoctoral activities, I started collaborating with Prof. Prapa Kanagaratnam, Dr. Nick Linton, and their team at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) to lead the engineering developments of a novel multi-electrode catheter to determine the underlying mechanisms of the poorly understood, atrial fibrillation. The aim of this project is to manufacture a new catheter that: (a) enables physicians to map cardiac electrical activation in vivo with greater resolution, and (b) reliably finds the circuits and drivers that cause this arrhythmia to persist. Being awarded the BHF Centre of Research Excellence Fellowship will facilitate the accelerated development, integration, and testing of the catheter, and will serve as a catalyst to further build my capacity both personally and professionally. I look forward to extending my collaborations with the wider NHLI community and impacting patients’ lives through research excellence and innovation.

Dr Chloe Armour, Research Associate

My background is in computational and image-based modelling of cardiovascular diseases. In this project, I will be focusing on pulmonary hypertension (PH). The project aims to utilise multiple imaging modalities that patients often undergo when in hospital to develop a computational model which can aide in improving PH diagnosis. In particular, this will be hugely beneficial for patients with co-morbidities where diagnosis can be challenging. Ultimately, the computational modelling methods will be integrated with other areas of research within NHLI, such as omics and mobile heath data, to build a digital twin of PH. Working within NHLI gives me the opportunity to develop these projects by collaborating with a wide range of brilliant researchers.


BHF CRE Fellowships 2021

The following BHF Fellowships were awarded:

Dr Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala, BHF Transitional Fellow, Cardio-Respiratory Interface - see below

Dr Wei Xuan Chan, BHF Transitional Fellow, Department of Bioengineering 

I have accumulated expertise in biosystem simulations and AI programming. My current research interest is to use AI in bridging bioengineering research and clinical applications.  One of my current research focuses on using physics-informed neural network to significantly reduce turn over time for patient specific simulations and surgical planning, specifically aimed at hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The other research aim is on improving prediction of heart failure risk with large clinical database and suitable AI model.

Dr Regis Joulia – BHF Intermediate Fellow, Inflammation, Repair and Development, NHLI

Following a Phd in France and postdoctoral studies at the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University, I joined Imperial College and the BHF CRE in July 2021. My current research focuses on understanding how blood vessels are affected by respiratory diseases such as asthma. It is now clear that chronic lung disease patients develop cardiovascular disorders, however the mechanisms remain unknown.

Since starting my early career BHF fellowship, I have established in vivo models and image analysis tools to investigate how repeat exposure to allergens, such as dust mites or pollen, and the subsequent inflammatory response will undermine the stability of blood vessels. This is particularly concerning as allergic airway diseases are observed in pre-school children and have been shown to result in lifelong respiratory defects and cardiovascular disorders. The NHLI is a fantastic place for research. Not only does it offer cutting-edge platforms, the intense transdisciplinary approach between the cardio and respiratory researchers is an ideal environment that will lead to significant translational discoveries that will ultimately help patients.

Dr Kathryn McGurk, BHF Immediate PBSR Fellow, Cardiovascular Genetics

I am studying adult cardiac trabecular morphology in the UK Biobank dataset. Cardiac trabeculae form a network of muscular strands that line the inner surfaces of the heart. Their function in adults remains unclear. I will explore whether pathways that specify trabecular development are unrecognised modifiers of ventricular performance and are causally associated with the progression of remodelling in cardiomyopathy. In particular, I will identify the rare variants with large influences over variation in trabecular complexity. This will identify gene–trait associations, elucidate gene function, and pinpoint effector genes that underlie the common variant signals. The identification of the genes and phenotypes with relationships to trabecular complexity will provide an understanding of key mechanisms of cardiac development and adaptive response.

Dr Selene Pirola – BHF Junior Fellow


Current Fellows

Dr Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala, Research Associate, Cardio-Respiratory Interface

My research is focused on using circulating progenitor cells to study vascular physiology/ pathophysiology and I am lucky enough to be located in an institution which is home to the largest concentration of leading scientists in progenitor cell research. Our regular seminars and network meetings, such as those provided by the Vascular Science Network, have increased networking opportunities with people at all levels and provided me with a platform to present my work and receive excellent constructive feedback.

My recent collaborations with the Department of Infectious Diseases working with live SARS-CoV-2 has opened up a completely new but very exciting opportunity to expand my research niche and importantly contribute to COVID-19 research. As a member of the EDI committee, I have been involved in monitoring and evaluating policies/ practise for inequalities and contributed to our Athena Swan application.

The diverse NHLI ‘Science and Culture’ webinars supported by the committee have been a particular highlight at the end of the week. Finally, I have taken full advantage of our entitled 10 days training to gain official teaching qualifications provided by the superb Educational Development Unit where I have made many new friends. This includes obtaining my Fellowship in the Higher Education Academy and most recently my master’s in education.

Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, Clinical Senior Lecturer, Cardiovascular Trials and Epidemiology

Working at the National Heart and Lung Institute is full of endless opportunities. Imperial College offers a fantastic environment for fostering new cross-sector and cross-discipline collaborations. It has given me a platform to pursue ground-breaking novel research in the placebo-controlled testing of interventional procedures. Even when my results have been controversial, I was supported and encouraged to keep focussing on rigorous science aimed at improving clinical outcomes.

Dr Ahran Arnold, Clinical Research Fellow, Cardiovascular Trials and Epidemiology

I am a BHF Imperial CoRE post-doctoral research fellow at NHLI, having completed an NIHR Imperial BRC funded PhD at NHLI in cardiac electrophysiology and prior to that an academic clinical fellowship at NHLI. Through these roles, I have spent over six years as a research fellow at NHLI, which have been hugely enjoyable and productive.

My work focuses on physiological haemodynamic biomarkers, mechanisms and innovations in pacemaker therapy, machine learning for electrophysiology and sudden arrhythmic death risk stratification.

The most important and helpful benefit of NHLI for my research career so far has been NHLI fostering collaborations between academics within NHLI and across different Imperial departments as well as with international academic groups, established industry and start-ups.

NHLI-facilitated collaborations have led to joint grant applications between my group and Imperial engineering departments as well as projects with innovative start-ups. 

Dr Wenjia Bai, Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, Department of Computing and Department of Brain Sciences

I have enjoyed my experience within the department. I was an engineer or computer scientist by training. I got the chance to work closely with cardiologists, radiologists and electrophysiologists within a diverse and supportive research environment. This allows me to see the gap between latest computer science technologies and clinical needs at cardiovascular imaging, and to re-think how to best develop a technology that solves the real-world problems. I am continuosly working towards this direction.

Dr Ramzi Khamis, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Cardiology, Vascular Science

Working at Imperial comes with many advantages, but the most obvious one is having access to a large resource of expertise and collaboration opportunities. For me as, as a translational cardiovascular medicine clinician scientist and a BHF fellow, this is invaluable as my group can tap into the experience of both basic scientists and clinical scientists from a wide variety of disciplines with ease. This is of course fascinated further by being part of the BHF CRE umbrella.

Dr Sally Kim, Research Associate, Cardio-Respiratory Interface

As an early career researcher, I have maximised my time at NHLI by learning new skills in lung cell and molecular biology within the highly collaborative environment. I acquired essential writing skills for grants and fellowships with my mentor’s guidance and excellent support from the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre.

Dr Nicholas Kirkby, Research Fellow, Cardio-Respiratory Interface

I’ve been working as an independent research fellow in NHLI for 7 years, first through the Imperial College Research Fellowship and now through a British Heart Foundation Intermediate Fellowship. My progress and successes have been only possible because of the extraordinary mentoring I have received from academic colleagues within NHLI. This has been firmly supported by the enriching and collaborative environment of the institute and across Imperial College that have allowed me to develop my research in basic vascular pharmacology to incorporate the latest approaches and focus it towards rapid translation.

Dr Charis Pericleous, Research Fellow, Vascular Science

My research has benefited immensely from the intellectual and practical expertise across NHLI, and I have seized opportunities to form exciting new collaborations both within and outside the Department that will be integral to my career progression.

Dr Christopher Rhodes, Non-Clinical Lecturer in Pulmonary Vascular Disease, Vascular Science

Being a research fellow in the NHLI offers the opportunity to be part of a wider community with interests and expertise in topics close to home such as vascular biology combined with close links to groups leading research into broader fields such as epigenomic regulation of disease, cancer and population studies such as UK Biobank.

Dr Marta Varela, Research Fellow, Myocardial Function

For my research I aim to use cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and computational models of cardiac biophysics to better characterise and understand the mechanisms of arrhythmias.

I have enjoyed the truly disciplinary environment at NHLI and also the many opportunities to also engage closely with colleagues from other departments at Imperial. NHLI’s ambitions to enable excellent high-impact research resonate closely with my own aims and it has been a joy to do research in this environment over the past 10 months.

Dr James Ware, Reader in Genomic Medicine, Genetics and Imaging

I have appreciated the wide range of expertise and different perspectives within the department, supporting studies across a range of scales from single molecules to human populations, and reaching from bedside to bench and back again.  I have also found the environment very supportive during phases of transition between clinical training, research training, and research independence.  There is a further wealth of complementary expertise in neighbouring departments within and without the faculty, making ambitious and important research questions tractable through inter-disciplinary collaboration.