2024 Undergraduate Student Vacation Bursary Awards


Investigating the mechanism of action of cell wall targeting antifungal monoclonal antibodies against Candida tropicalis

Dr Takashi Kubota (University of Aberdeen) will supervise Ewan Kellie:  

"As an undergraduate studying genetics, I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the Aberdeen Fungal Group's important research. The project's emphasis on developing novel monoclonal antibodies that target fungal cell walls is especially interesting, as it represents a promising approach to combating the growing global threat of drug-resistant fungal infections."

The fungal cell wall is a great target for antifungal therapies as many of the components are fungus-specific. Takashi's lab has developed monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that recognise and bind to surface-exposed cell wall peptide epitopes in Candida albicans. Pilot data indicate these lead mAbs can bind to other Candida species including C. auris, C. parapsilosis and C. tropicalis. Ewan will investigate binding of the lead mAbs to a selection of C. tropicalis clinical isolates and test the mAbs in immune cell assays to determine if they enhance phagocytosis of C. tropicalis by mouse macrophages.


Aspergillus fumigatus modulation of Prostaglandin E2 to avoid clearance by the respiratory epithelium

Dr Margherita Bertuzzi (Universtiy of Manchester) will supervise Sophie Teruuchi:

"Since beginning my Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Manchester, I have always had an immense passion for the study of infectious diseases. Although I have learned in detail about diseases caused by many complex bacteria and viruses, the topic of fungal pathogens never appeared extensively in my modules. Earlier this academic year, however, Dr. Margherita Bertuzzi gave two lectures about human fungal diseases, teaching about the basics of how different fungi invade a host, common fungal infections like mucosal candidiasis, and the more life-threatening infections. Her specialty, Aspergillus fumigatus, interested me particularly..."

Inhalation of Aspergillus fumigatus spores cause over three million chronic and more than two hundred thousand invasive diseases annually worldwide. Invasive Aspergillosis carries a 50% mortality rate overall, but mortality rate approaches 100% upon infection with increasingly frequent azole-resistant isolates. Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of novel strategies for the clinical management of fungal infection. Studies in Margherita's lab have shown that crosstalk between fungal and mammanlian prostaglandins might aid fungal survival in the lungs. Sophie wil investigate whether this interaction impacts the ability of the host's airway epithelial cells to clear inhaled Aspergillus fumigatus spores.


Effect of garden redesign on fungal fruiting bodies (a community science project)

Dr Liz Beal (Royal Horticultural Society) will supervise Heidi Wheatley

"As an Environmental Science student who has a strong interest in biodiversity and conservation, I am very excited to work on a project which will focus on supporting the continued conservation and preservation of rare and native fungi. I decided to study environmental science as I wanted to work towards a career where my actions resulted in a positive impact on biodiversity and the natural world. I also aspire to support the increase in scientific data available to enable evidence-based change to be implemented."

Two different major garden redesign projects have occurred at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Wisley. The areas were previously inhabited by fungal species, such as the Stubble Rosegill, Volvariella gloiocephala and the Magpie Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea. Redesign has included placing mulch directly on top of existing grass and complete removal and replacement of the topsoil. A monitoring system using a community science ‘fungal hunt’ science campaign will be used to assess whether fungal fruiting bodies reappear after heavy soil disturbance, or if garden redesign can cause loss of specific fungal species. 


Use of historical foray data to assess long-term changes in ectomycorrhizal fungal communities

Dr Nathan Smith (National Museum Wales) will supervise Zhiru Guoli:

"Earlier this year, I was introduced to two computational methods of modelling organisms’ interactions: Elements of Metacommunity Structure analysis and cooccur... Fungi-fungi interaction within the soil is critical to primary production and a series of other ecosystem functions. However, there exists few study of fungi-fungi interaction with the utilization of cooccur and network analysis. Hence, I am truly excited for this opportunity as it is not only a good chance for me to practice and refine my computation and statistical analysis ability, but also a possible way to introduce a new perspective to the study of fungi-fungi interaction."

Foray records represent a unique and underutilised source of data able to provide ecological snapshots across a long temporal period. Whilst fungal records have been used in mycological research to assess changes in sporocarp fruiting phrenology and host affinity in fungi, and to examine population trends and changes in distribution in a variety of species, they have not been used to assess changes in fungal community structure. Zhiru will utilise published foray records to assess changes in the species richness and cooccurrence of ectomycorrhizal fungi in Yorkshire woodlands over a 150-year period.


Fungal succession in Sycamore heartrot decay

Dr Sarah Christofides (Cardiff University) will supervise Daisy Yiangou:

"I currently attend Oxford university where I am in my second year studying Biology. Although the course has taught me many skills, the lack of mycology means that I continue to try and pursue the subject independently outside of my degree to improve my skills as an aspiring mycologist."

Forest gaps created by the loss of ash trees due to ash dieback are likely to be filled by sycamore. However, the fungi associated with mature sycamore - for instance in heartrot decay - have not been studied.  Veteran sycamore trees have been identified at several of the field sites in southern England and south-east Wales that are already being sampled for veteran ash trees. Fungal cultures isolated from radial core samples taken from the sycamores will be identified by standard DNA barcoding and the data from culturing work will be correlated with the results of eDNA analyses. eDNA metabarcoding will be undertaken at the Mycology Lab in Aberystwyth University.


ARID - Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for developing Resilient crops with Improved Drought Tolerance

Dr Jeongmin Choi (University of Cambridge) will supervise Teddy Henderson:

"This research project [will] be an invaluable opportunity for me to explore this topic further and increase my exposure to a research environment involving fungi. It would also improve key research skillsets, demonstrate my drive to pursue an academic career and develop my network."

Jeongmin's lab is investigating how beneficial soil fungi can improve crop resilience to drought. In particular, they study how arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, belonging to subphylum Glomeromycotina, improve drought tolerance in rice.  Exactly how this occurs remains largely unknown; recently, there have been several reports demonstrating the involvement of nitrogen signalling. Working with the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis and rice seedlingsTeddy will investigate whether nitrate sensors are important for 1) establishing AM fungal colonisation; 2) plant growth promotion; 3) drought tolerance.