Zahra Maqsood’s Profile

I was born in Pakistan and completed my Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in Medical Genetics from University of Huddersfield (UK), with a research project based on investigating the structure, function and homology of klotho protein in C. elegans for its role in ageing, using in silico proteomic modelling and docking experiments, multiple sequence alignment and phylogenetic analysis. Inspired by the unique way of combining experimental biology and computational modelling during my bachelor’s thesis, I decided to further enhance my skills in this direction with a specialised degree in computational biology. I received my Master of Science degree in Applied Bioinformatics from Cranfield University (UK) where I was introduced to multiple programming languages. My thesis project was based on developing an application that used Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) data to automate the process of performing bulk segregant analysis by mapping SNPs and InDels, employing a statistical approach for optimisation of this process. Due to my educational background I have developed a strong interest in data science, NGS informatics and computational biology. I have always aspired for a career in science and research where I would be able to learn and help to understand the molecular mechanisms of disease for improving chances of better diagnosis and treatment of patients. Therefore, I decided to pursue a PhD to further enhance my skillset in the field of life science closely related to medical and applied research.

I have been fortunate to be given the opportunity to be an Early Stage Researcher in a European Joint Doctorate program in the TAPAS consortium, a Marie-Sklodowska Curie Innovative Training Network aimed at investigating the role of platelet adhesion receptors in thrombosis and inflammation. One of the two important ITAM receptors in platelet activation is CLEC2, playing a role in thrombosis, hemostasis and vascular integrity. In Project 9, I will be investigating the mechanism of CLEC2 clustering and signalling using a systems biology and computational modelling approach in the development, experimental validation and optimisation of a mechanistic model in an iterative approach in order to identify novel targets that impact on platelet regulation controlled by CLEC2, for subsequent screening of small molecule inhibitors.

I am hosted by Alacris Theranostics under the supervision of Dr Bodo Lange and Dr Christoph Wierling, a private company in Berlin (Germany) specialising in developing in silico signalling models. During the first 6 months, I will be conducting a literature review, developing a model prototype and a pipeline for automating experimental simulations at Alacris. My PhD is expected to be awarded jointly by University of Birmingham and University of Würzburg. I will be spending the next 11 months at University of Birmingham under the supervision of Prof Steve Watson and Dr Natalie Poulter, focusing on systemic expansion and parameterisation, quality control and experimental validation of the predictions of the model prototype in order to successfully convert it to a larger, full-fledged model. In Year 2, I will return to Alacris for 11 months with experimental results which will be used for model optimisation and refinement. In Year 3, I will move to University of Würzburg for 8 months, where I will be under the supervision of Dr David Stegner in order to experimentally validate the model predictions.