PhD student profiles


Oliver Martin
MRC Interdisciplinary PhD Programme 'Macromolecular machines of biomedical significance' beginning in Autumn 2012

Project title
Deciphering and modeling interactions between Chlamydia trachomatis and mammalian host cells

Principle investigator: Dr Richard Hayward, ISMB, Birkbeck and UCL
Co-investigator: Dr Maya Topf, ISMB, Birkbeck

Before starting my PhD, I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham in 2012. As an undergraduate I studied the relationship between the extracellular Nm23-H1 protein as a driver for acute myeloid leukaemia progression in the group of Professor Chris Bunce. With this experience in cell and molecular biology, I joined the initial intake of the ISMB interdisciplinary MRC PhD programme where I have learned new and diverse techniques from computational to structural biology.
PhD Project
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen that remains the leading bacterial cause of sexually transmitted disease worldwide and causes preventable blindness (trachoma) in developing nations. Chlamydiae induce their own uptake into mammalian host cells where they survive and replicate within a specialised membrane-bound compartment termed an 'inclusion'. The inclusion remains segregated from the host endocytic pathway but selectively intercepts secretory traffic and interacts with intracellular organelles including the rough endoplasmic reticulum and lipid droplets. Bacterial virulence factors also subvert host cell functions including cytokinesis, host gene expression and antigen presentation.

My project applies biochemical, cell biology and imaging approaches to probe the mechanisms of inclusion biogenesis and the action of bacterial virulence factors. Additionally I am utilising computational approaches to identify potential chlamydial effector proteins based on molecular mimicry of host proteins.

Prizes and awards

Best poster at the inaugural London Postgraduate Research Symposium on Bacterial Pathogenesis and Host Response 2014.

MRC funding for FEBS course in “Advanced imaging of molecular complexes inside living cells” at the University of Amsterdam.




Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, University of London
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