Top: Merged Confocal image of mature Bd zoosporangia (green) encysted onto the skin of infected zebrafish larvae, surrounded by an accumulation of f-actin (red).

Bottom: Frogs dead from cardiac arrest as a result of Chitridiomycosis infection. Photo taken by Matthew Fisher in Madagascar.

Right: Merged Confocal images of different life cycle stages of Bd (in green), observed encysting on zebrafish larvae skin in a manner consistent with Bd’s natural host: amphibians. On the right is a corresponding cartoon for each stage.

Nicole Liew

I joined the Davis Lab in October 2018 for my first DPhil rotation, for which I will be working on how mRNA stability effects synaptic plasticity.  A major mystery in neuroscience is how the genetic information in the nucleus can be used to direct synaptic strengthening at distant sites, which can be over a meter away for the longest human neurons. Therefore, synaptic strengthening must rely upon pre-existing local RNA molecules, which may be selected by their ability to survive long distance transit. My project centres on investigating the stability of several candidate genes in the Drosophila nervous system.

Scientific Background

Prior to my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to work on a long term project in Imperial College London with Dr. Serge Mostowy and Prof. Matthew Fisher. The project involved establishing a zebrafish (Danio rerio) infection model for the emerging pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Bd is the causative pathogen of Chitridiomycosis, an infectious disease that parasitizes ~700 species of amphibians and is emerging as a global extinction threat. The zebrafish model adds to the limited toolkit available to understand the pathology of this disease as well as expanding Bd host range.

I did my undergraduate degree in Homerton College, Cambridge, reading Biological Natural Sciences. Here, I worked with Dr. Folma Buss in the CIMR on the role of Myosin VI in the context-dependent phagocytosis role of astrocytes following astrogliosis. The clearance of cellular debris by these activated cells is incredibly important for neural regeneration to occur. I investigated specific binding partners of Myosin VI that were known to be involved in this process, namely cargo adaptor GIPC and phagocytosis adaptor GULP1. The project involved classic biochemistry experiments in combination with microscopy.

Personal History

I was born and raised in Malaysia and flew over to the UK alone to pursue my studies at the age of 16. The Bd zebrafish project started when I was 18 on my gap year after A-levels, and continued into my second year in university, where I would study for exams whilst writing review rebuttals for our manuscript. This project solidified my choice to continue in academia after I graduated and for the foreseeable future. Outside of science, I enjoy amateur bartending and creative writing.

Liew, N., Mazon Moya, M. J., Wierzbicki, C. J., Hollinshead, M., Dillon, M., Thronton, C. R., Ellison, A., Cable, J., Fisher, M. C., Mostowy, S., (2017). Chytrid fungus infection in zebrafish demonstrates that the pathogen can parasitize non-amphibian vertebrate hosts. Nature Communications. 8, 15048.




Tel: 01865 613271