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Meet The Team


Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad

Group Leader

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Mehdi obtained his PhD in Experimental Medicine from The University of British Columbia in Vancouver (2008-2012), working on dysregulated mechanisms of gene expression during melanoma metastasis.

This was followed by a postdoctoral training stint at Nahum Sonenberg’s lab at McGill University in Montreal (2013-2018). His highly collaborative research during this period involved discovery of coordinated networks of transcription, splicing and translation, which maintains stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency, revealing the mechanism whereby microRNAs repress translation of target mRNAs and showing that this mechanism is critical in regulation of cancer cells resistance to apoptosis as well as the regulation of the cellular innate immune response to viral infection. In addition, his work led to the discovery of a novel nucleic-acid-based surveillance mechanism of mRNA translation.

Mehdi joined the Patrick Johnston Centre for Cancer Research at Queen’s University Belfast in 2019 as a Principal Investigator. His group currently focuses on mechanisms of regulation of mRNA translation and decay, the role of these mechanisms in cellular antiviral response and alterations in these mechanisms induced by chemotherapeutic drugs, and how these mechanisms contribute to therapy-resistance in cancer.


Angela Hackett

Research Technician

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Angela completed her PhD in Translational Medicine (2012-2016) at the University of Liverpool's Department of Child Health, investigating the pathogenesis of reflux-aspiration in children with severe neurodisability. She then went on to work as a postdoctoral research associate in the field of neutrophil biology, first at the University of Liverpool's Institute for Ageing and Chronic Disease (2016-2017) and then at the Wellcome-Wolfson Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen's University Belfast (2017-2019). In July 2019, Angela joined the Patrick Johnston Centre for Cancer Research as a research technician and lab manager for the RNA Biology Group. 

Angela's research is focused on ribosomal quality control and it's importance in cancer development and treatment.


Parisa Naeli

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Parisa acquired her PhD in Molecular Genetics from Tarbiat Modares University (2014-2018) where she investigated the targeting mechanism of microRNAs and its involvement in diseases. Parisa followed her interests by joining the RNA Biology Lab as a postdoctoral research associate. Her research is mainly focused on deducing the role of RNA binding proteins in regulation of microRNA-induced mRNA decay and translational silencing and its importance in tumourigenesis.


Susanta Chatterjee

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Postdoctoral Research Associate

Susanta obtained his PhD from CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (2015-2022) in the field of RNA Biology. He has mainly focused on deciphering the coordinated biogenesis of miRNAs in mammalian cells. Along with this, he has also explored the importance of different cellular organelle in miRNA trafficking and activity. At RNA Biology Group, Susanta will be continuing his interest in RNA Biology by investigating the effects of different anti-cancer treatments on mRNA translation and decay machinery and try to elucidate the effect of this machinery in anti-cancer drug resistance.


Lilas Alboushi

PhD student; Cancer Medicine Programme


Patric Harris Snell

PhD student; Cancer Medicine Programme

Patric studied his Masters in Biochemistry at Cardiff University (2017-2021), which focused on epigenetic mechanisms being used to regulate gene expression at the transcriptional level. He was involved in studies that examined alternative transcription machinery in Drosophila to ensure tissue-specific gene expression, tested the design of novel epigenetic editors in HEK293 cells and collected data on the interactions between specific epigenetic marks in the chromatin structure and the impact this had on local gene transcription.

As a part of the RNA biology group, Patric is currently studying how glioblastoma cells may utilise post-transcriptional epigenetic mechanisms to resist chemotherapy treatments.

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Tom McGirr

PhD student; Cancer Medicine Programme

During his Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry at the University of Glasgow, Tom investigated posttranslational modification of the muscarinic receptor in mammalian cell lines and mouse models of neurodegenerative disease. He is now researching the role of the translational machinery in glioblastoma, to elucidate novel mechanisms of tumourigenesis and treatment resistance.


Yumna Azam

MSc student; Cancer Medicine Programme

Yumna  joined us following her Bachelors in Dental Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences (2018-2022). Her research interests encompass the intersection of dentistry and cancer medicine. As a part of the RNA biology lab, she is working to investigate the role on mRNA translation in glioblastoma cells' response to anti-cancer treatments.

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Melanie Irvine

Undergraduate; Biomedical Science Programme

Melanie is a third year Biomedical Science student at Queen’s University Belfast. As part of her final year research project, Melanie investigates the role of RNA binding proteins in glioblastoma tumorigenesis and its resistance to Temozolomide.

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