Current Newman Fellows

Newman Fellows are appointed on an ongoing basis, as funding becomes available.  Current Newman Fellows include:

Susan Aherne 0001

Dr Susan Aherne completed her undergraduate degree in medicine at UCC in 2000 and has since then gained extensive clinical experience in histopathology.

The extent of tumour budding is one of the most promising biomarkers for detecting early tumours in people with colorectal cancer. However, there is a lack of standardisation in the scoring of tumour budding, as well as significant intra- and interobserver variability. Susan will use her Fellowship to participate in a collaborative effort to develop a standardised, digital method for scoring and reporting of tumour budding that can be adopted into routine clinical practice to improve treatment decisions in colorectal cancer.

Susan is mentored by Professor Kieran Sheahan.

Dr Mei Yap

Dr Mei Yap studied medicine at UCC, and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland in 2014. Since then she has gained extensive clinical experience, most recently as Neurology Registrar in Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin.

About 65% of people with multiple sclerosis develop secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) approximately 15 years after diagnosis. It is characterised by a gradual progression of the condition and an incomplete recovery from relapses. Mei is using her Fellowship to work on the development of a therapy for patients with SPMS, to reduce the rate of accumulation of progressive disability and cognitive loss. She is conducting a proof-of-concept study of the effects of high-dose simvastatin, high-dose vitamin D, fingolimod (individually and in combination) and placebo on cerebrospinal neurofilament levels in SPMS patients.

Mei is supervised by Dr Glen Doherty and based in the St Vincent’s University Hospital Education & Research Centre. Her Fellowship is supported by Novartis.

Dr Stephen Duff graduated with a degree in medicine from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 2013.

Stephen is using his fellowship to investigate novel biomarkers of acute kidney injury. He is focusing on the development of new markers for doctors to diagnose kidney injury, and as early as possible, in critically ill patients and in patients after having major surgery. Currently these conditions are very hard to treat as they are detected by doctors often after the main injury has occurred. These new markers will allow earlier treatment of these illnesses and will help develop new treatments. Using a well-established collection of samples from patients with acute kidney injury, Stephen will measure the presence of proteins that will inform about the health of the kidney.  New ways that tell us earlier and more reliably if a patient’s kidneys are failing will be identified. This will mean that doctors will have better read-outs and can more accurately predict patient outcomes. This programme builds on existing strengths in acute kidney injury treatment, in biobanking and in biomarker discovery, analysis and validation.

Stephen is mentored by Patrick Murray, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at UCD, and is based in the UCD School of Medicine and the UCD Clinical Research Centre. This Fellowship is supported by Abbott Diagnostics, a global healthcare company that conducts innovative research and manufactures products for human health through every life stage.

Dr Amina Jouida received a PhD in biology from INSERM, France, in 2017.

About 2,200 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year, and more Irish men and women die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Lung cancer cases can be divided into two types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Most lung cancers are of the non-small cell type. NSCLCs can be further divided into adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma. Researchers are currently examining many mutations that occur in lung cells, which can contribute to the development of lung cancer. Two proteins can become involved in cancerous mutations: epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). Amina aims to determine the frequency of EGFR and ALK mutations in an Irish population, and correlate this with clinical outcome, cancer stage and smoking status. This translational medicine project aims to use exosome biology to identify potential biomarkers to allow the potential development of targeted therapies defined by the patient’s tumour profile. The ultimate aim is to improve patient care.

Amina is mentored by Professor Michael Keane and based at the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

Dr Vanessa Bittencourt received a BA in pharmacy from UEPG (Brazil) in 2009, an MSc in biotechnology from NCKU (Taiwan) in 2013, and a PhD in biochemistry and immunology from Trinity College Dublin in 2018. She has a strong background in immunometabolism and immunology and has a great interest in studying inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Members of her own family have been diagnosed with IBD, so she knows how life can be particularly challenging for people with this disease.

There is no cure for IBD but the symptoms can be reduced, mainly with anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. One important treatment is the injection of anti-TNF antibodies; however, this is ineffective in 40% of patients. During her Fellowship, Vanessa will characterise molecular mechanisms associated with this therapy resistance. She will recruit IBD patients receiving anti-TNF and monitor their clinical response, and will work with peripheral blood and tissue samples from patients. This research will focus on IL-12p40 and IL-23 signalling pathways and the role of monocytes (the main producers of these cytokines) in the pathogenesis of IBD.

Vanessa is mentored by Professor Glen Doherty and is based at the Centre for Colorectal Disease, St Vincent’s University Hospital. This Fellowship is supported by AbbVie.

Dr Julie Morrissy is an Irish poet, academic, critic, and activist. She is a recipient of the Next Generation Artist Award from the Arts Council. Her first collection ‘Where, the Mile End’ is published by Book*hug (Canada) and tall-lighthouse (UK & Ireland). Her debut poetry pamphlet I Am Where (Eyewear, 2015) was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the Saboteur Awards 2016.

Julie holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Ulster University, and degrees in Literature, and Law. Her creative and critical work has been published in Ireland, Canada, the US, and the UK, and she has represented Ireland at O, Miami Festival, and the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Morrissy lives and works in Dublin.

Dr Kieran Murray graduated from UCD School of Medicine in 2010. He worked as a specialist registrar in the Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases and previously worked in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital, Beaumont Hospital and University College Hospital Galway. His main research interest is improving outcomes in inflammatory arthritis, through analysing biomarkers, infection risk and management in pregnancy.

Kieran will use his Fellowship to assist in the identification of new disease markers, drug targets and drug candidates for the treatment of patients at different stages of rheumatoid arthritis progression and possibly other autoimmune diseases. He is mentored by Professor Doug Veale and based in the UCD School of Medicine and the Education and Research Centre in St Vincent’s University Hospital. His Fellowship is supported by AbbVie.

Dr Viviana Marzaioli graduated from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, in Italy, with a BSc in Health Biotechnology and an MSc in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, before completing her PhD in rheumatoid arthritis in UCD. She has carried out postdoctoral research in Germany and France, and most recently at Trinity College Dublin.

Active arthritis in pregnancy is associated with a number of potential problems for both mother and baby, and managing reproductive health in patients with rheumatic disease is becoming increasingly complex, with an expanding range of therapies for the disease along with advances in assisted reproductive technology. Viviana is using her Fellowship to develop a healthcare model for women with rheumatic disease – from pregnancy planning to breastfeeding and beyond – to optimise their reproductive health and ensure the best outcomes for mothers and their babies.

Viviana is mentored by Professor Douglas Veale and co-supervised by Professor Ursula Fearon. She is based in the Department of Rheumatology at St. Vincent’s University Hospital. Her Fellowship is supported by UCB Pharma.

Dr Mags Liddy received a PhD in Education from the University of Limerick in 2016. Her research interests lie broadly in international development, activism and social change, and she has focused in particular on the impact of overseas volunteering on volunteers’ professional lives and identity.

Through her Fellowship, Mags is investigating the higher education and training needs of a sample of female educators in India and Pakistan. She aims to identify how female teachers can be supported effectively to attain leadership positions in their communities, and this research will address social inequalities and contribute to global efforts to achieve gender equality.

Mags is mentored by Professor Deirdre Raftery and co-supervised by Professor Marie Clarke. She is based at UCD School of Education. Her Fellowship is supported by PBVM.

Dr Peter Hession received a PhD in Modern Irish History from the University of Cambridge. He has since carried out postdoctoral research at the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool.

Peter is using his Fellowship to explore the role of technology during the Great Irish Famine (1845–1852). By examining new and innovative technologies of exchange (rail, steam, road infrastructure) and relief (vats, mills, scales), he is investigating how the crisis of scarcity experienced in Ireland can be explained as much in terms of technical competence as ecological breakdown.

Peter is mentored by Professor John McCafferty and is based in the School of History at UCD.

Dr Fiona Jones completed her undergraduate degree in medicine at UCD, and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 2012. She has worked as a Gastroenterology Registrar in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, and as a Gastroenterology Specialist Registrar in St Vincent’s University Hospital and Beaumont Hospital.

Fiona is using her Fellowship to investigate how existing medications can be repurposed for the treatment of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the large bowel. In particular, she is focusing on the way these drugs enhance the activity of the chemical messenger Hypoxia Inducible Factor 1 alpha (HIF1-alpha), which is naturally produced in greater quantities when bowel tissue senses low oxygen levels, and has a protective effect on the bowel.

Fiona is mentored by Professor Glen Doherty, and co-supervised by Professor Cormac Taylor. She is based in the UCD School of Medicine. Her Fellowship is supported by Pfizer.

Dr Felipe Guth received a BSc in information systems and an MSc in computer engineering in Brazil before moving to Ireland to study for a PhD in biosystems engineering at UCD, which he completed in 2019.

Grassland is Ireland’s main agricultural crop, underpinning Ireland’s beef, sheep and dairy sectors. It requires very careful management to achieve efficient production with minimal environmental impacts. While the science of grassland management is well developed, there is considerable potential to improve system efficiency. Digital Agriculture provides the opportunity to harvest data on a vast scale and at a level of precision not previously possible. Felipe is using his Fellowship to work on a project known as GrassLogic. He will capture and analyse large volumes of high-quality data from farms across Ireland, and develop algorithms to optimise grass production systems. He will work in close collaboration with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland.

Felipe is mentored by Professor Jimmy Burke, and co-supervised by Professor Shane Ward. He is based at the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. His Fellowship is supported by Origin Enterprises.

Dr Timothy Ryan graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in 2014 and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 2018. He has worked as a Gastroenterology/Infectious Disease Registrar in St Vincent’s University Hospital and a Gastroenterology Research Registrar in The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

Timothy will use his Fellowship to evaluate the current approach to the management of familial colorectal cancer in Ireland, which has one of the highest mortality rates for this disease in Europe. He will establish an evidence base for a national strategy for screening and surveillance of high-risk patients.

Timothy is mentored by Professor Padraic MacMathúna and is based at the UCD School of Medicine. His Fellowship is supported by AbbVie/BowelScreen.

Dr Yasmine Jnaid received a PhD in plant biotechnology from Damascus University. During her PhD she developed innovative techniques for micropropagation and the synthesis of effective compounds found in medicinal plants.

The anti-inflammatory molecule astaxanthin is used as a health supplement for human consumption, as well as an important feedstuff for farmed salmon. During her Fellowship, Yasmine aims to show that cell suspension cultures can be used to grow astaxanthin cells in large volumes, with identical chemical and biological characteristics to that of astaxanthin produced naturally by algae. This project may establish a framework for future studies using similar technology for the production of other commercially and medically important proteins.

Yasmine is mentored by Associate Professor Paul McCabe and is based at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science. Her Fellowship is supported by CARA.

Dr Darragh Storan received his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from UCC in 2012, and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 2015. He has completed training in Gastroenterology in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, University Hospital Galway and St Vincent’s University Hospital.

Darragh is using his Fellowship to conduct research into psychological disability in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a chronic condition that affects over 20,000 people in Ireland. Current treatments for the disease include immune modulators, biologic agents, and steroids, all of which have known side effects. Steroids can result in many physical changes, including hair loss, acne, facial hair growth, and weight gain, which can give rise to stress, anxiety, and negative body image in patients. Darragh is investigating the effect of steroid medications, as well as the effect of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), on psychological disability in IBD patients.

Darragh is mentored by Professor Hugh Mulcahy in the UCD School of Medicine. His Fellowship is supported by Boston Scientific.

Dr Shane Comer received a BSc in physiology from UCD and an MSc in immunology from TCD. He returned to UCD to study for his PhD in molecular haemostasis, which he completed at the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research in 2019.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg (deep vein thrombosis) and travels through the circulatory system to lodge in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). The condition affects millions of individuals worldwide every year and is the third most common cause of death from cardiovascular disease, after heart attack and stroke. Enoxaparin is one of the most widely used anticoagulants for the prevention of VTE, and Shane is using his Fellowship to investigate how various factors related to obesity – including changes in coagulation, inflammation, and renal and hepatic function – influence the response to enoxaparin in obese individuals.

Shane is mentored by Professor Patricia Maguire and co-supervised by Professor Fionnuala Ní Áinle and Dr Kate O’Reilly. He is based at the UCD Conway Institute and UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. His Fellowship is supported by Sanofi.

To get involved in the Newman Fellowship Programme please contact:
Órfhlaith Ford
Newman Fellowship Programme Coordinator
Tel: +353 1 7161287
Email: orfhlaith.ford@ucdfoundation.ie