Postdoc Richard Wheeler awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship

Postdoc Richard Wheeler awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship

Richard Wheeler, a postdoctoral researcher in the Gull lab, has received the Sir Henry Dale Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust. This prestigious award will provide funding for him to set up his own research group in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, starting in October 2018.

Richard studies the flagellum, a tail-like appendage primarily used for locomotion that protrudes from many bacterial and eukaryotic cells. More specifically, Richard researches on how the flagellum restructures its molecular composition to regulate its movement and functions. He addresses this scientific question in Leishmania, a parasite species that causes leishmaniasis, which affects millions of people in the developing world.

The focus of Richard’s research group will be on the flagellum of Leishmania. He will investigate how the parasite controls its flagellum beat and whether this is important for the organism. He aims to dissect flagellum biology at different levels, starting from its molecular architecture to how it propels organismal swimming. To this end, he plans to apply advanced imaging technologies and integrate biophysics into his research. Furthermore, he wishes to connect with his new colleagues’ expertise in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. Understanding flagellum biology will not only contribute to the understanding of the parasite’s lifecycle but also to basic cell biology.

When asked about his reaction to receiving the award, he said: “I was extremely excited to hear I got the award! I actually went to Turf Tavern where I celebrated handing in my thesis six years ago, bought a celebratory beer, sent about a thousand excited texts and a lot of ‘thank you for the help’ emails!”. Richard also added: “I have had some great help and support from people throughout the Dunn School, from Keith Gull, other members of the lab and from other PIs, getting my first independent grant application together and helping me with practice interviews.” He also thanked the Dunn School Departmental Head Matthew Freeman for his support in ensuring a smooth transition to his new lab space without any disruptions of his work.

Apart from flagellum biology, Richard also works on several side projects: he is involved in TrypTag, a project aiming to determine the subcellular localisation of every protein in trypanosome (another parasite, which causes sleeping sickness). He also spent some of his postdoctoral training with Tony Hyman in Dresden, Germany, where he used phase separation to modulate formation of organelles in the context of neurodegenerative diseases.

To learn more about the Sir Henry Dale Fellowship:

The Wheeler lab website:

Written by Sheng Kai Pong

Friday, October 5, 2018 - 10