Promotions for academic staff
Published on 14 November 2022
We have a bumper crop of promotions this year as part of the 2022 Annual Review process for academic staff.
Top row from left: Jorunn Bos, Laura Cleghorn, Piers Hemsley, Henry McSorley, Ignacio Moraga Bottom row from left: Melissa D’Ascenzio, Helge Dorfmueller, Gary Tarver, Michele Tinti and Stephen Patterson
Jorunn Bos, Laura Cleghorn, Piers Hemsley, Henry McSorley and Ignacio Moraga promoted to Grade 9/Reader; Melissa D’Ascenzio, Helge Dorfmueller and Gary Tarver promoted to Grade 9/Senior Lecturer; Michele Tinti and Stephen Patterson promoted to Grade 8.
Jorunn Bos is a Principal Investigator in the Division of Plant Sciences and the James Hutton Institute and has been promoted to Reader. Jorunn’s research group focuses on understanding how aphids, major pests of crops globally, can cause infestations leading to crop loss. Her research specifically looks at the role of aphid saliva proteins in promoting host plant susceptibility, as well as the molecular mechanisms underlying plant defences. Outcomes of this research will facilitate the much-needed development of novel and sustainable aphid control strategies that provide an alternative to current synthetic chemicals. In addition, Jorunn has led on the Division of Plant Sciences public engagement activities over the past 5 years, and in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute and Dundee Botanic Gardens coordinated exciting events and projects to inspire the next generation scientists and share her fascination of plants with the public.
Jorunn said: “I am delighted to be promoted to Reader, and very grateful to my team members over the years, colleagues and collaborators for contributing to an exciting and rapidly evolving research area and also for showing a drive to share plant sciences research with the wider community.”
Laura Cleghorn is the Tuberculosis Portfolio Manager in the Drug Discovery Unit (part of the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research) and has been promoted to Reader. Laura leads a team of multi-disciplinary scientists at Dundee looking to identify new anti-tuberculosis agents; an essential part of this work includes working with multiple external collaborators in both industry and academia across the world. Recently, Laura has been instrumental in gaining new funding for the school to support this work going forward.
Laura said, “I’m delighted to have received this promotion in recognition of the work I have been leading. Tuberculosis is a devastating disease for millions of people globally and there is an urgent need for new treatments. I am privileged to work with a great group of people committed to doing vital research in this area. A key aspect of science is working as a team, both within the school but also with our external partners, and I would like to thank everyone for their contributions towards this effort.”
Piers Hemsley is a Principal Investigator in the Division of Plant Sciences where he is a joint appointment with the James Hutton Institute. He has been promoted to Reader. Piers and his lab research fatty acid-based post-translational regulation of plant proteins, with particular emphasis on receptors controlling the growth/defence trade off.
Alongside his research, Piers is a founding member of SLS Research Integrity Group and Chair of the James Hutton Institute Research Integrity Group, advising on best practice in research, digital data capture and annotation and open science compliance. Piers also co-ordinates plant science teaching and expanding presence of plant sciences within the teaching content at the undergraduate level. He achieved a Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of this. He is also the Gatsby foundation mentor for Undergraduate Plant Sciences.
Henry McSorley is a Principal Investigator and the Deputy Head of Cell Signalling and Immunology and has been promoted to Reader. Henry’s group works on how parasitic helminths modulate host immune responses, and the effects of this on allergies, asthma, obesity and fibrosis.
Henry said, “I am delighted to receive this recognition of my team’s work, and my role at the University. Over the next few years, I plan to expand our work to structure-function relationships of parasite secreted proteins, and how these interact with the immune system. I hope that our work will lead, directly or indirectly, to the design of new treatments for immune-mediated diseases. I am very lucky to work with such a great team of scientists in our group, and I thank them for all their hard work, especially over the last couple of years.”
Ignacio Moraga has been promoted to the position of Reader. His research studies how cytokines regulate immune cells fate decisions. His laboratory manipulates cytokines immuno-modulatory activities, using protein engineering, to better treat human diseases. Gaining insight into the molecular mechanisms that underlie cytokine functional diversity will greatly advance our understanding of cytokine biology and immune regulation.
Melissa D’Ascenzio has been promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer in recognition of her contributions to curriculum design, students’ experience and equality, diversity and inclusion.
Since 2016, Melissa has been leading the restructuring of the biological chemistry and drug discovery (BCDD) undergraduate curriculum, a most welcomed change that led to closer alignment with national and international competitors. In the words of Professor William Kerr, chair in Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde, the new BCDD curriculum is a “modern, relevant, vibrant, and valuable degree programme” with a chemistry provision that is to be considered “outstanding and comparable to nationally leading standards [..] within such a blended degree offering.” The relevance of this restructuring reaches further than national boundaries, as the new BCDD degree is an effective recruitment tool for both national and international students.
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Melissa has been the co-chair of the SLS Athena SWAN committee since 2018. The need to capture the voice of undergraduate students on ED&I matters led her to establish the first UoD undergraduate Athena SWAN committee, which launched in 2019/20. The committee has seen a steady uptake of students over the years and has been involved in initiatives aimed at raising awareness of equality and diversity issues in the student body. On that note, Melissa and a team of researchers from DJCAD have started collaborating on a project funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry to develop wheelchair-friendly lab coats.
Melissa said “I am delighted to receive this promotion in view of my contributions to SLS culture and teaching provision. If I achieved this professional objective, it is thanks to the support provided by my mentors and colleagues in SLS, particularly those in BCDD and DTU. It is a pleasure to work in such a dynamic, inspiring and supportive environment."
Helge Dorfmueller is a Wellcome Trust funded Sir Henry Dale Fellow in the Division of Molecular Microbiology. He has been promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer after also recently successfully passing his tenure evaluation. Helge's research focus is on how pathogenic streptococcal bacteria produce and regulate their surface glycan structures with the objective to provide and explore novel therapeutic opportunities.
Helge said, “I would like to thank all my students and postdocs - past and present - for being a great team, working with me on exciting challenges. Thanks a lot also to my mentors for their advice!”
Gary Tarver leads the Synthetic Methodologies Team within the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR). The Synthetic Methodologies Team was established in 2019 with the principal goal of establishing enabling chemical approaches within the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) to support drug discovery programmes. Work within the team has focussed on establishing a range of synthetic approaches to assist drug discovery efforts. These have included flow chemistry, plate based chemistry, late stage functionalisation, biotransformation and route development and scale up.
Gary said, “Science is a collaborative effort. I am grateful for the opportunity to help develop these techniques and see them adopted by project teams. I am extremely fortunate to work with such a talented and supportive team within the DDU without whom this promotion would not have been possible. I would like to thank my own team members for their dedication and hard work, my colleagues within the school for continued help as techniques have been developed and to WCAIR and DDU management for their continued support”
Michele has worked at the University of Dundee for 12 years where he started as a bench scientist. He subsequently self-trained as a bioinformatician to analyse his groups and divisions data. One of Michele's wider professional activities is participating in machine learning competitions hosted at the international "Kaggle" platform owned by Google. Michele recently developed a machine learning predictor of RNA stability for COVID vaccines in Kaggle that scored fourth place out of 1636 participants. The skills acquired in this, and other machine learning competitions allowed Michele to develop algorithms to unlock the biology of Trypanosoma brucei, a parasite studied in the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery that is responsible for the tropical disease Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness.
Michele said: “I have always been open and supportive to providing help for data analysis to the members of our division, of the School of Life Sciences and external collaborators. I’m extremely grateful to Professors Ferguson, Horn and Drs Wyllie for their continuous support in my career.”
Stephen Patterson is the chemistry team leader for the Mode of Action (MoA) group (modeofactiondundee.org) within the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR). The principal goal of the MoA group established by Dr Susan Wyllie in 2015, is to determine the molecular target(s) and/or mechanism(s) of action of compounds with the potential to treat neglected tropical diseases. Stephen’s role within the MoA group is to design the chemical tools used in the group’s research. Stephen has played an important role in obtaining funding to establish innovative chemical biology technologies within WCAIR.
Stephen said “The MoA group is having a transformative impact on neglected diseases drug discovery, and I am very pleased that my contribution to this critical work has been recognised. I would like to thank Dr Susan Wyllie and Prof Ian Gilbert for supporting my promotion application.”