SMA Newsroom

Sep 4, 2020

Six young scientists organise an online SMA Research Conference on 10th & 11th September

Six dedicated young PhD students from institutions across the UK are organising an online SMA research conference on 10th & 11th September. Find out more about them, their work and their interests outside the laboratory!


Ines Boehm[/caption] Ines completed her BSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Salzburg and Johannes Keppler University Linz (Austria), before joining the University of Edinburgh where she graduated with a distinction for her MSc in Drug Discovery and Translational Biology in 2016. Ines secured a PhD stipend by the Anatomical Society to study the cellular and molecular anatomy of the mammalian neuromuscular junction and is currently in her 3rd year PhD at the University of Edinburgh in Integrative Physiology. The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a synapse, integral in linking motoneuron and muscle, responsible for signal transduction and generation of movement. Ines is interested in understanding what differs between health and disease at the NMJ, as well as between different mammalian species, which will help develop animal models better suited to research on human disorders.

In her spare time, Ines often goes to explore the beautiful landscapes of Scotland and loves sharing her passion for whisky.


Joe Hoolachan[/caption] Joseph is a second year PhD student based at Keele University School of Medicine and is a member of the Bowerman lab group. Joseph’s research is focused on identifying clinically available drugs that could be repurposed to treat skeletal muscle pathologies in spinal muscular atrophy using transcriptomics alongside cellular and mouse models.

Additionally, Joseph is employed as a graduate teaching assistant for laboratory demonstrations of first- and second-year medical students. Outside of academia, Joseph’s hobbies include cooking, baking, reading fantasy literature and gaming.  


Rachel Kline[/caption] Rachel is a final-year PhD student in Dr. Tom Wishart’s Lab at The Roslin Institute, Edinburgh. She is looking at common factors at the molecular level that appear to link SMA and other progressive, degenerative conditions, such as Batten Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and different types of dementias. In order to identify what these factors are, she uses a combination of protein techniques and computational predictions to narrow down over a thousand potential factors down to a couple hundred of the most likely common candidates. She then tests these candidate factors in fruit fly models of these diseases to see how they control the health of the nerve cell and to see whether they can be targeted with either genetic or drug treatments.

When she is not in the lab, her favourite pastimes are running (either solo through the beautiful hills by her lab, or else in training and racing with her local club), reading (especially history books) and experimenting in the kitchen (to yield rather tastier-looking results than her experiments with fruit flies!)


Anna Motyl[/caption] Anna is a final year PhD student on the MRC Doctoral Training Programme in Precision Medicine. She did her undergraduate degree at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, studying biological sciences. She then moved on to do her MSc by research at the University of Edinburgh, where she developed an interest in neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration, and decided to stay to pursue her studies. For her PhD with Prof Tom Gillingwater, Anna is investigating embryonic manifestations of Spinal Muscular Atrophy in a severe mouse model of the disease. The project relies on a systemic (looking at a range of organs and tissues) and multi-level approach (using micro-computed tomography, histological techniques and mass spectrometry proteomics).

Outside of the lab, Anna likes all things creative, from drawing and playing music to improvisational theatre. She also loves going back to her passion for biology, by looking for plants and animals hiding in the beautiful Scottish parks and reserves.


Roxanna Munir[/caption] Roxanna is in the final year of her PhD at Glasgow Caledonian University, in Dr Gillian Hunter's lab. Her PhD focuses on a gene, CYTSB, and how it might relate to disease processes in organs in SMA. After completing her undergraduate degree in Medical Science at the University of Edinburgh, Roxanna went on to obtain her Master's by Research at the same university, where she focused on compensatory mechanisms in models of SMA. ​She has been working in the field of SMA for almost 4 years and is proud to be part of such a collaborative and passionate community.

Roxanna also loves to paint, draw, sew and all things crafty and creative. She has a strong love for rap music, and an even stronger love for cats!


Emma Sutton[/caption] Emma is a Ph.D. student in the Bowerman lab at Keele university. Emma’s main focus has been in the field of neuroscience. She achieved 1st class (Hons) B.Sc. in neuroscience with psychology before completing a neuroscience M.Phil specifically studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on neuroblastoma, breast and prostate cancers. Emma is now continuing her studies in the Bowerman lab on Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), an area she is highly passionate about. Her Ph.D. involves examining the therapeutic potential of Mifepristone for the treatment of SMA, alone and in combination with an SMN-dependant gene therapy. Outside of her Ph.D.

Emma is a keen swimmer and animal lover, with two springer spaniels at home keeping her busy.