PhD Programme

As part of the Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (formerly known as Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence), 12 PhD studentships were awarded over the project period, with four based at Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle. These capitalised on the expertise of the contributing academic institutions, and offered an outstanding opportunity for students to undertake excellent project based research training within world-class research environments. 

PhD Students were able to spend time in at least two of the institutions as part of an integrated exchange programme to offer a truly exceptional educational support programme, with maximal exposure to state-of-the-art technology in the arthritis field.  Training in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, matrix biology and stromal cell biology were available as part of the programme.  Extensive novel molecular polyomic approaches were also available as part of the programme.

2016 students

Sally Clayton

Project title: The role of microRNAs in the anti-inflammatory actions of glucocorticoids

‌Sally graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MSci in Natural Sciences, specialising in Biochemistry. She then worked as a technology development scientist for Cambridge biotechnology company, Horizon Discovery, where her focus was the optimisation of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing techniques for cell line engineering. Sally was supervised by Andy Clark in Birmingham, and co-supervised by Mariola Kurowska-Stolarska in Glasgow. She was looking at the regulation and function of microRNAs in the actions of the anti-inflammatory steroid hormones, glucocorticoids. This was with particular focus on the molecular regulation of macrophages, which act as key drivers of inflammation.

Sally successfully defended her thesis in April 2020.

‌Sam Finlay

Project title: The characterisation of synovial tissue macrophages and the role they play in inflammation and disease resolution in rheumatoid arthritis

‌Sam graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 2016 with a Masters in Immunology after completing an honours in Immunology and Pharmacology. He was supervised by Mariola Kurowska-Stolarska in Glasgow and Andrew Filer in Birmingham. His project studied the characterisation and function of macrophage sub-populations from the synovial tissue of rheumatoid arthritis patients, both with active disease and in remission, to understand the contribution these cells make to the why the disease starts and why it sometimes becomes a chronic disease. 

Sam successfully defended his thesis in Aprul 2020.

Leonie Schittenhelm

Project title: Determining integrin-mediated regulation of dendritic cells in Rheumatoid Arthritis

‌Leonie graduated with a first class degree in Neuroscience from the University of Glasgow. She investigated how dysregulation of integrin-signalling, especially on dendritic cells, is contributing to the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. Leonie was co-supervised by Catharien Hilkens in Newcastle and Vicky Morrison in Glasgow with further support from Iain McInnes in Glasgow and Andrew Filer in Birmingham.

Leonie successfully defended her thesis in April 2020.

Gemma Vidal Pedrola

Project title: Do age-associated B cells contribute to the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis? 

‌Gemma graduated from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, with a Human Biology degree. She then pursued a Master of Science in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Nottingham obtaining a Distinction. In Newcastle, she was supervised by Amy Anderson, Arthur Pratt and John Isaacs, and co-supervised by Dagmar Scheel-Toellner in Birmingham. Gemma was investigating the role of a subtype of B cells, known as age-associated B cells, in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Gemma successfully defended her thesis in May 2020.

2015 students

Marija Bedaj

Project title: Investigating the impact of JAK inhibitors on DC-T cell interaction in rheumatoid arthritis

Marija graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Biological sciences degree with Honours in Immunology. She was supervised by Paul Garside and Robert Benson from Glasgow, and Francesca Barone and Helen McGettrick from Birmingham. Marija was using a novel Sjogren’s syndrome model and in vivo imaging to investigate the impact of the pathogenic stroma on the behaviour of T lymphocytes in the context of chronic inflammation.

Marija successfully defended her thesis in August 2020.

Rhys Jones

Project title: Determining the Role of Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs) in the Set-up of Central Immune Tolerance

Rhys graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in Biochemistry before pursuing a Master of Research in Translational Medicine at the University of Manchester. His project supervisors were David Withers from Birmingham, and James Brewer and Paul Garside from Glasgow. Rhys determined the role of a newly characterised group of cells, termed innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), in the set-up of immune tolerance in the thymus, a key tissue where auto-reactive T cells are deleted to prevent autoimmunity.

Rhys successfully defended his thesis in March 2020.

Jennifer Mitchell

Project title: Can inducing Toll-like receptor tolerance reduce chronic inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis?

Jennifer graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2015 with a first class degree in Immunology. She was working in Dr. Ruaidhri Carmody's lab in Glasgow with co-supervision from Dr. Carl Goodyear (Glasgow) and Prof. Andy Clark (Birmingham). Jennifer used transcriptomic techniques to investigate whether inducing Toll-like receptor tolerance has a remedial impact on chronic inflammation in arthritis.

Jennifer successfully defended her thesis in July 2019

Kalvin Sahota

‌Project title: The contribution of activation signals 1, 2 & 3 on the metabolic phenotype of CD4+ T Cells and the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis

Kalvin graduated from Newcastle University with an MSci in Biomedical Science and was supervised by Stephen Young and Jane Falconer at the University of Birmingham, Catharien Hilkens at Newcastle University and Christine Wells at Glasgow University. He was looking to understand the implications of irregularities in the immune and in particular CD4+T cell metabolism for the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Kalvin successfully defended his thesis in June 2020.

2014 students

Emilie Cosway

Project title: Factors Controlling the Development and Function of Dendritic Cell Subsets

Emilie graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2014 with a first class honours degree in Biomedical Science. During her PhD, Emilie was supervised by Graham Anderson and William Jenkinson from the University of Birmingham, and Paul Garside and Jim Brewer from the University of Glasgow. Emilie focused on understanding how the thymic dendritic cell populations which have been shown to be strongly involved in the induction of central tolerance are supported in the thymus.

Emilie successfully defended her thesis in November 2017.

Verena Kaestele

Project title: The Functions of Innate Lymphoid Cells in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Verena moved to Glasgow after a year working with Dr Axel Hueber in Erlangen, Germany. She was working in Simon Milling's lab in Glasgow, with strong support from David Withers in Birmingham. Her PhD project focused on the functions of innate lymphoid cells, which will help to understand their roles in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Verena successfully defended her thesis in June 2018.

Laura Ridgely

Project title: Cytokine mediated CD4+ T-cell dysregulation in early rheumatoid arthritis

Laura graduated from Newcastle University with a first class degree in Biomedical Sciences in 2014. Using both traditional and high-throughput molecular approaches, Laura was investigating the downstream functional effects of IL-6 exposure on naive human CD4+ T cells. In Newcastle she was supervised by Arthur Pratt, John Isaacs and David Young, and co-supervised by Ruaidhri Carmody in Glasgow.

Laura successfully defended her thesis in September 2019.

Matthew Wood

Project title: Synovial antigen-presenting cells in inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis

Matthew Wood graduated with a first class degree in Biomedical Sciences from Northumbria University. During his PhD, Matthew was supervised by Catharien Hilkens (main), Gary Reynolds, Muzlifah Haniffa, and John Isaacs at Newcastle University, and Simon Milling at the University of Glasgow. Matthew investigated cellular and molecular heterogeneity in the synovial tissue of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients, particularly synovial macrophages.

Matthew successfully defended his thesis in January 2018.