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Post Nominals BSc PhD FLS FRSB CBiol
Biography I studied at Edinburgh University gaining a BSc in Biological Sciences with Honours in Genetics. I did my PhD in the Institute of Animal Genetics at Edinburgh University where I became interested in molecular and genetic approaches to the epidemiology of parasites.

I went on to do postdoctoral research at the Wellcome Unit (now Centre) of Molecular Parasitology at the University of Glasgow to work on both molecular epidemiology and cell signalling in parasites. Whilst there, I wrote the first review paper on the “Molecular Epidemiology of Parasites”.

I was appointed Lecturer, University of Salford in 1998, Reader in 2001 and Professor in August 2004 where I have been able to develop an exciting research portfolio. I have also been an Honorary Professor at Gulu University, Uganda. I have been elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society (1997), Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (2002), Chartered Biologist (2002) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (2008).

I have held several posts in the leadership of research and teaching at the University of Salford including Director of the Centre of Parasitology and Disease, 2000 - 2007, Director of the Biomedical Research Institute, 2006 - 2009, Member of the University Management Group and Senate, 2006 - 2010, and Associate Head of School (Research), 2006- 2011, Academic lead for Biology and Wildlife programmes 2014- 2019 and Director of Human and Natural Sciences (2019 - 2024).

I am Editor-in-Chief of a new scientific journal, Parasitologia (2021 onwards) and I am on the Editorial Boards of a number of other journals including: "Parasitology" (2003 onwards), "Parasites and Vectors" (2008 onwards) and Pathogens (2019 onwards). I have ongoing research collaborations with scientists in the UK and internationally including China. I have a particularly fruitful collaboration with Professor Zhao-Rong Lun at Zhongshan Medical School at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. Prof Lun is also an Honorary Visiting Professor at Salford University. I have been invited to China for plenary lectures on several occasions. I was on the Council of the British Society of Parasitology (2001 – 2004) and responsible for editing and production of their newsletter.

I am a keen scuba diver and a British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) National Instructor and First Class Diver. In 2008 I was awarded the annual BSAC Cousteau Award for my contribution to the BSAC over many years. I am author of "The Expedition Manual" (BSAC, 2010). I have been a BSAC Director for 9 years (2011-2020) and was most recently Vice-Chair (2019-2020). I currently lead the module “Diving for Marine Conservation”, available to Salford University Marine Biology students, which has a field course in Honduras.

In 2014, I was awarded “Best Teacher” in the Student Led Teaching Awards 2014 run by the University of Salford Student’s Union.

Areas of research
Infectious diseases, Parasitology, Molecular epidemiology, Toxoplasma, Trypanosomes, Schistosomes, Host parasite interactions, Epidemiology, Wildlife parasitic infectionsd

Areas of supervision
Toxoplasma and lung cancer, Detection of Toxoplasma in human and animal samples, Investigations of host genes involved in resistance or sensitivity to Toxoplasma, Molecular epidemiology of trypanosome infections
Research Interests My main research interests are in the molecular epidemiology of parasites where I have projects including a long term interest in trypanosomes. In this research, we have developed molecular tools for tracking trypanosomes and shown the importance of cattle reservoir hosts on the generation of human sleeping sickness epidemics. We have been developing and evaluating tools for determining prevalences of trypanosomiasis in African cattle and exploring cattle blood infections using Next Generation Sequencing. Projects in this area are also based around developing a detailed understanding of mobile genetic elements as tools for epidemiology and on using molecular approaches to investigate host-parasite interactions (specifically immune genes like toll-like receptors) in relation to the health of African cattle. I conduct this work in collaboration with scientists at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Another principal area of my research has been to investigate the role of vertical transmission as a means by which the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is spread. This parasite is a parasite specifically of the cat but is highly successful. It infects all warm blooded animals, including infecting some 30% of the human population globally! My interest is in understanding how this parasite can be so successful. We have been principally interested in the role of mother to offspring (congenital/vertical transmission) as a mode of parasite spread.

I have other ongoing projects which are focused around the epidemiology of Toxoplasma, the related parasite Neospora and other parasites in natural populations such as woodmice, rabbits, rats, british bats, badgers and urban pests. As part of this, I was included in a Salford team that discovered a new species of parasite, Notocotylus malhamensis. Our recent work is focussed on investigating DNA sequence variation, epigenetic variation and expression of genes of the innate immune system in animal and human hosts.

I have ongoing research collaborations with Professor Zhao-Rong Lun in Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou in China. We are interested in the cellular mechanisms that determine the virulence of Toxoplasma gondii in mammalian hosts. We have published some exciting research that shows that the balance of expression of two enzymes, Arginase 1 (Arg) and inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase (iNOS), can determine virulence. We have shown that in mice, a species highly susceptible to Toxoplasma infection, have high Arg and low iNOS levels, while rats, that are resistant to the parasite, have low Arg and high iNOS. We have also shown the involvement of the P2Y2 receptor and guanylate binding proteins in host-parasite interactions with Toxoplasma – these are published in two papers in PNAS. As part of this collaboration, we have also been collating data on the prevalence of the parasite in China and we published on infection prevalence in pregnant women in China. We have recently investigated the possible role of Toxoplasma infection in causing post-partum depression. Fortunately, our study demonstrated that there was no link between these conditions. Our current collaborations revolve around the use of an iNOS knockout rat system to investigate the role of this enzyme in resistance of rats to Schistosomes, Leishmania and Toxoplasma.

In a recent ongoing study, in collaboration with colleagues at Manchester University, we have made some exciting findings on Toxoplasma infection in lung cancer patients. This study showed that all of the patients in our sample (72) all had evidence of Toxoplasma infection in their lungs. This is a potentially very important discovery as it may influence the effectiveness of anticancer treatments. We are currently exploring this further.

I have been fortunate to supervise 23 PhD students and 3 MSc students who have successfully completed. After a partial break, working as Director of Human and Natural Sciences, I am currently rebuilding my research team and have 2 PhD students at the moment.
Teaching and Learning Genetics
Genes to Ecosystems
Biodiversity
Molecular Genetics
Clinical Molecular Genetics
Ocean Challenges
Introduction to Parasitology and Infectious Diseases
Biology of Parasites
Veterinary and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
Evolution Development and Adaptation
Human Genetics
Diving for Marine Conservation
PhD Supervision Availability Yes
PhD Topics Toxoplasma epidemiology and cell biology