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Tweets and Postdocs celebrated during #NPAW21

For National Postdoc Appreciation Week #NPAW21 we celebrated some of our amazing postdocs. Below we introduce a few these outstanding Postdocs and share a snapshot of their fascinating work as well as a little of what makes them so special to us.

Dr. Stacey Aston

Following a PhD at Newcastle University, Stacey is now a postdoc working with Prof. Marko Nardini in the Department of Psychology. Her work centres on understanding how the human brain combines sensory information, asking if novel sensory inputs can be fused with native sensations to optimise perception and decision-making. A recent publication in Behavior Research Methods 2021 advanced this field with the development of an new analysis technique showing that Central tendency biases must be accounted for to consistently capture Bayesian cue combination in continuous response data. As well as research, Stacey a co-founder of Palace of Science, a non-profit, volunteer-run organisation that hosts fun and fascinating science-themed events in the North East of England. Get in touch on Twitter: @StaceyAston or visit:


Dr. Penelope Lawton

Penny works with Prof. John Girkin, and is based in the Department of Physics. She is currently working on the EPSRC Proteus IRC which aims to develop new technology for the diagnosis and management of lung diseases. As part of this project she is applying her expertise to the development of new technology to study neutrophil interactions based on a combination of several cutting edge techniques. Her most recent work on VasoTracker, a low-cost and open source pressure myograph system for vascular physiology was published in Frontiers of Physiology 2019. Get in touch on Twitter: @pflawton or visit:  


Dr. Stefanie Freitag-Pohl.

Stefanie is based in the Wolfson Laboratories, an embedded laboratory on the top floor of the Chemistry Department. She studied Chemistry in Göttingen, before taking a postdoc in Seattle, where she focussed on protein crystallography. Returning to Europe she worked and lived in Germany, Switzerland before finally settling in the UK as a researcher at Durham University, where she received a Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship 2009-2011. She is one of our most expert and esteemed postdocs. Stefanie now works on the GCRF-funded Neglected Tropical Diseases project where her research focusses of the biophysical and structural characterisation of parasitic drug target proteins. Stefanie’s role in this project is to clone, produce and biophysically analyse these novel proteins and identify their three-dimensional structure using X-ray crystallography. Stefanie’s most recent publication is from her work with the Virus-X consortium: Going to extremes - A metagenomic journey into the dark matter of life, and was published in FEMS Microbiology Letters 2021. Get in touch on Twitter: @stfp16 or visit:


Dr. Moumita Srivastava

Moumita is based in the Department of Biosciences, working with Prof. Ari Sadanandom to understanding the role of SUMOylation in the adaptation of plants. Small ubiquitin-like modifiers (SUMO) are polypeptide tags that are very important in the regulation of stress signalling in plants and animals. Her work establishes SUMO conjugation as an important mechanism to turn environmental cues into cellular signaling. The research, which has been recently published in Current Biology, 2020, reveals that SUMOylation stabilizes the transcription factor BZR1 promoting growth under non-stressed conditions. Whereas salinity stimulates BZR1 deSUMOylation to suppress growth. This is Moumita’s first postdoc following her PhD which was from the National Institute of Technology, India. Get in touch with her on Twitter: @Mouanj.    


Dr. William Trewby

William is based in the Department of Physics, working with Prof. Kislon Voitchovsky, investigating the dynamics and organisation at cell membrane interfaces using atomic force microscopy (AFM). This is his first postdoc position following his PhD, also at Durham, and a “brief dabble” with data science. William’s work sheds light on fundamental aspects of bio-lubrication, small molecule transport and exosome formation. These have exciting implications for lab-on-chip diagnostics as well as “green” lubricants for use in industrial settings. His most recent work on ionic nano-domains that alter the stiffness of soft membranes was published in Nanoscale in 2019. Get in touch on Twitter: @wjaytrewby.


Dr. Jiayun (Estelle) Zhu

Estelle is based in the Chemistry Department where she completed her PhD with Prof. AnnMarie O'Donoghue, and is now a highly esteemed PDRA in her group. Her work focusses on bicyclic triazolium salt organocatalysts, in particular the study of their synthesis and kinetic behaviour in more sustainable solvents such as water. This work helps to better understand the catalytic cycles of triazolium salts, which are a widely-applied class of biomimetic organocatalyst. Estelle’s most recent publication in Catalysts (2021) Triazolium Salt Organocatalysis: Mechanistic Evaluation of Unusual Ortho-Substituent Effects on Deprotonation provides a mechanistic rationale for the superior catalytic ability of certain ortho-substituted triazolium catalysts.