Mr Aitor Casas-Sanchez

Marie Curie Research Training PhD Fellow

Aitor obtained a BSc in Molecular Biotechnology from the University of Barcelona (Spain) in 2013. During his studies (2010-2012), he was awarded with a CTT grant to work for 3 years at the Technology Transfer Centre, Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Barcelona, Spain). He also spent one year (2012) at the Bacterial Genetics group, Microbiology Department (University of Barcelona). His BSc thesis was carried out at the Nanomaterials group, Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) under the supervision of Professor Yurii Gun’ko (2013). In 2014, he got a PhD student position at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK) funded by the EU-FP7 Marie Curie GlycoPar ITN grant.

Research

PhD Thesis: Structural and functional characterization of surface glycans from Trypanosoma brucei metacyclics. Supervised by Dr Alvaro Acosta-Serrano (primary) and Dr Rob Harrison 

My project is part of the EU-FP7 Marie Curie Glycopar ITN Network and will investigate the surface N-glycans of the mammalian-infectious life stage of T. brucei for the potential development of a glyco-vaccine against trypanosomiasis. The surface of T. brucei metacyclics is mainly coated by variant surface glycoproteins (VSG). While the VSG protein backbone varies, their attached N-glycans remain unchangeable, which may be exploitable to develop novel immunization approaches. Glycan structure determination is achieved through standard glycobiology techniques, including mass spectrometry. I am also investigating the roles of N-glycosylation regarding host-parasite interaction and transmission by creating a series of mutant trypanosomes defective in N-glycosylation. Ultimately, the project pursues the characterization of novel invariable metacyclic surface glycoproteins.

Immunofluorescence showing images of a transgenic Trypanosoma brucei procyclic cell expressing a GFP (green-) and HA epitope (red-) tagged trypanosome surface glycoprotein. The kinetoplast and the nucleus are stained with DAPI (blue).

Immunofluorescence showing images of a transgenic Trypanosoma brucei procyclic cell expressing a GFP (green-) and HA epitope (red-) tagged trypanosome surface glycoprotein. The kinetoplast and the nucleus are stained with DAPI (blue).

BSc Thesis: New chiral quantum dots for biomedical applications. This project aimed the development of a new type of chiral semiconductor nanoparticles (quantum dots) to study chirality phenomena and to treat human cancer cells in vitro.

Undergraduate research: Genetic regulation of virulence factors in Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli pathogenic strainsThe worked aimed the study of plasmidic (R27) and chromosomal-encoded H-NS and Hha proteins involved in this regulation. 

TEACHING EXPERIENCE 

Postgraduate Demonstrator (2014-2016)

Lecturer at the “TROP970 Applied Bioinformatics” module, MSc in Molecular Biology of Parasites and Vectors, LSTM (2016).

STUDENT MENTORSHIP: Supervision of two BSc. students (University of Liverpool), one Erasmus internship BSc. (University of Barcelona) and one LSTM MSc. student; including training, supervision in the lab and experiment design (2014 – 2016).

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: Open day at LSTM – 2016

AWARDS
PhD fellowship from GlycoPar Marie Curie ITN (2014 - 2018)
General University studentship, Ministry of Education Spain (2008 – 2013)
Erasmus studentship, EU (2013).

RELEVANT COURSES
2014 - Writing in the Sciences, Stanford University (Online).

2014 - Computer Science and Programming in Python, MIT (Online).
2014 - Bioinformatics Algorithms & Rosalind Project, UC San Diego (Online).

CONFERENCES
2016 – LSTM Postgraduate Research Day (Talk), Liverpool (UK).
2015 – GlycoPar Second Workshop (Talk), Hannover (Germany).
2015 – GlycoPharm Inter-ITN Summer School, Braga (Portugal).
2015 – LSTM 2015 - British Society for Parasitology Meeting (Talk), Liverpool (UK).
2015 – Postgraduate Research Day (Poster), Liverpool (UK).
2015 – Kinetoplastid Molecular Cell Biology Meeting (Talk), Woods Hole, MA (USA).
2014 – GlycoPar First Workshop (Talk), Lisbon (Portugal).

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
British Society for Parasitology: 2014 - current