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Current Postgraduate Research Students

Mick Urbaniak supervises 3 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Mick Urbaniak

Senior Lecturer

Mick Urbaniak

Furness Building

LA1 4YG

Lancaster

Tel: +44 1524 593104

Research overview

My laboratory uses a combination of genetics, cell biology and proteomics approaches to understand biological systems at the molecular level. Our research is focused on tropical infectious diseases, primarily the clinically relevant parasite Trypanosoma brucei and related species such as Leishmania. We are studying how the parasites are able to sense and respond to their host environment, and aim to translate the results of this basic research into early-stage drug discovery.

PhD supervision

We are pleased to be able to offer a part-funded Masters by Research project starting in October 2021 examining the regulation of cytokinesis Trypanosoma brucei by Polo like kinase. Please email m.urbaniak@lancaster.ac.uk for further details. My laboratory is also able to offer self-funded PhD and MRes projects to students interested in exploring the biology of the parasites Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania species, which are the causative agents of both human and animal diseases in many developing countries. We can offer projects studying i. how the parasites sense and adapt to their host environment, ii. regulation of the cell division cycle, and iii. the link between parasite infection and behavioral changes in the host. Please contact me for further details.

Current Research

Current projects in my laboratory include:-

  • Mechanisms by which Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma congolense sense and respond to iron availability in the mammalian host, funded by the BBSRC (BB/T012781/1)
  • Heat shock siganlling and response in Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma congolense, funded by the BBSRC (BB/V004085/1)
  • Probing dynamic phosphorylation in the post-transcriptional regulation of the Trypanosoma brucei cell cycle, funded by the BBSRC (BB/M009556/1)
  • Investigating the origin of psychotic distrubances in stage II human African trypanosomiasis
  • Stable isotope labelling for quantitative proteomics in the trypansomatids

Research Interests

Work in my laboratory is focused on the clinically relevant trypanosomatid parasites, primarily the African trypanosomes Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma congolense, and the closely related American trypanosome Trypanosoma cruzi, and Leishmania species. These parasites are the causative agents of neglected tropical diseases that produce a substantial health and economic burden in endemic areas, and improved therapeutics are urgently needed. By examining the biology of these parasites we may uncover differences between the host and parasite biology that can be exploited to develop therapeutic treatments.

We are particularly interested in how African trypanosomes are able to sense and respond to its host environment, which is essential for their survival and virulence. The African trypanosome has a complex lifecycle requiring transmission by the insect vector the tsetse fly, propagation in a mammalian host, and reinfection of the tsetse fly. Trypanosomes are evolutionarily divergent eukaryotes and use exclusively post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression, making them an excellent model system to examine this process.

The laboratory uses a combination of genetics, cell biology and proteomics approaches to answer our research questions. We have pioneered stable isotopic labelling (SILAC) in T. brucei to enable global quantitative proteomic analysis, and established robust methods for quantifying changes in the phosphorylation state of the cell.

Current Teaching

I am the Faculty Deputy Director for Natural Sciences, and teach on several modules within the Department of Biomedical and Life Sciences. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Currently I teach on the following modules:-

  • BIOL115 Protein Biochemistry: Regulation of enzyme activity, post-translationa modifications
  • BIOL272 Biochemical Techniques: Protein isolation and electrophoresis, combining theory with practical labs.
  • BIOL301 Cell Signalling: Module Organiser, covering the Insulin signalling pathway.
  • BIOL313 Protein Biochemistry: Protein structure determination; identifaction of proteins and post-translational modifications by mass spectrometry.
  • BIOL314 Molecular & Biochemical Parasitology: Parasite glycobiology; drug discovery for Neglected Diseases.

Additional Information

I was appointed as a Lecturer within the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences in September 2013, and promoted to Senior Lecture in 2018. My background is in Chemistry (BSc. and PhD.), but my subsequent postdoctoral research at the University of Dundee focussed on the biology of the trypanosomatids. I have a track record of successfully translating my basic research into early stage drug discovery with academic and industrial partners. I am a registered STEM ambassador, enabling me to engage in outreach activities to promote science in schools.

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