I am originally from Lithuania and I did my undergraduate degree at Imperial College London. I’m interested in all things small, particularly viruses. Currently I am working on the genome structure of Influenza virus. I am interested in learning and applying various high-throughput sequencing methods in my research and also understanding the bioinformatics behind them. I enjoy communicating science to different audiences. I am a member of the Oxford branch of the British Science Association, where we organize science talks in pubs and various other science engagement activities. I also write a lot about research both in my personal blog (www.questiongene.com), as well as for student newspapers.
I studied molecular and cellular biology at the University of Brussels (ULB, Belgium) after having completed my undergraduate studies in biotechnology and crop sciences (HEPHC, Belgium). During my master’s degree I did a 6 month internship in the vaccine department of GlaxoSmithKline (Rixensart, Belgium) to gain insight into research within the pharmaceutical industry and to write my master’s thesis. In addition, I did a 3 month placement at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (Oxford, United Kingdom) where I performed academic research in Prof Jan Rehwinkel’s laboratory. During that time I discovered a passion for immunology – I loved academic research and I decided to undertake a PhD. My PhD programme (Infection, Immunology and Translational Medicine, Wellcome Trust) rotates in 3 different laboratories during the first year, which allowed me to learn different topics, to network in different institutes and pushed me to adapt quickly. I worked with Kevin Maloy on intestinal immunity, Richard Cornall on rare B-cell disorders and with Helen McShane on tuberculosis vaccination (during which I wrote a review in Expert Review of Vaccines). I decided to spend the next 3-years of my PhD in Prof Jan Rehwinkel’s laboratory, exploring the role of a protein called SAMHD1, a deoxynuclotide (dNTP) triphosphohydrolase. SAMHD1 protein is mutated in some patients suffering from an interferonopathy called Aicardi-Goutières Syndrome (AGS) and mutations have been linked to chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and colon cancer. Although the protein is mainly studied for its host restriction function against HIV, I am exploring a metabolic function of the protein in dealing with dNTP unbalances. Since dNTPs are DNA’s building blocks, gaining insight into how the protein is regulating dNTP pools in specific contexts such as highly proliferative cells (cancer cells) could help developing treatment for AGS or CLL. I am delighted to be conducting my research in one of the best research institutes in the world where mentoring, collaboration and team work are key values, and to have had the opportunity to present my work in the UK and to go to international conferences such as the Keystone meeting.
I studied Biochemistry and Cell Biology in Bremen, Germany, for my undergraduate degree and after a short excursion into plant sciences for a summer internship decided that immunology was my area of science. For the rotations I went to the labs of Paul Klenerman, Simon Davis, and Vincenzo Cerundolo and am now jointly supervised by Paul Klenerman, Mariolina Salio, and Vincenzo Cerundolo. I am particularly interested in antigen presentation and its regulation – especially when it comes to non-classical antigens. In my DPhil I am exploring the presentation of bacterial small molecule antigens to MAIT cells. When I’m not in the lab, I like to help inspiring future generations of scientists as part of Oxford Hands-On Science, a public engagement initiative which I helped start together with Beatrice and Meg.
Before joining the programme I did my BSc in Biology at the University of Bath with a placement year. I spent my placement year in lab at the University of Georgia, GA, USA. During that year I became interested in the molecular biology of pathogens – specifically filarial nematodes. This inspired me to pursue a PhD and here I am! My current research interests lie in vector-parasite interactions of kinetoplastid parasites such as Trypanosoma sp. and Leishmania sp. and their insect vectors (tsetse and sand flies etc.). At the moment I am working with D. melanogaster and its natural kinetoplastid H. megaseliae to model these interactions. Outside the lab I have been involved my St. Edmund Hall’s MCR committee and the football team. PhD supervisors: Petros Ligoxygakis, Keith Gull, Helen Farr. Rotations: Eva Gluenz (Leishmania cell biology), Petros Ligoxygakis (Drosophila immunity) and Sarah Gilbert (Adenoviral vectored vaccines).
I am conducting my DPhil project in Nicole Zitzmann’s group, investigating the antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of iminosugars, with a focus on dengue infection. I also collaborate with the Virology and Pathogenesis group at Public Health England, to evaluate further antiviral applications for iminosugars. In addition to my current group, I undertook rotations with Fiona Powrie, on how short chain fatty acids affect macrophage differentiation, and Sarah Rowland-Jones, on the role of TRIM22 in HIV-2 infection. Prior to the IITM programme, I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. During this time I completed a project with Jane Goodall on how Chlamydia trachomatis interacts with endoplasmic reticulum stress responses, and Thierry Roger, on sirtuin responses to pathogen associated molecular patterns, as part of the UNIL Summer Undergraduate Research Programme. Outside the lab, I founded Oxford Hands-On Science (OxHOS), a public engagement society, and I write and edit for ‘Phenotype’.