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Department of Pharmacology


Current lab members     Lab occasions      Lab alumni


Our lab, October 2022!


As the map below shows, people from all over the world have been part of the Smith Lab: diversity is a wonderful thing! If you are interested in working in the Smith Lab then please contact Ewan.





Current lab members

Dr Luke Pattison (MRC Postdoctoral Scientist). Luke studied Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Bath. During his undergraduate degree he undertook a placement at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Melbourne, Australia, where he studied the compartmentalised signalling of a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) implicated in inflammatory pain. Luke undertook his doctoral research in the Smith lab, submitting his thesis in 2021, which explored the contributions of proton-sensing GPCRs to inflammatory pain. Luke is continuing in the Smith lab as a postdoctoral researcher working on the Advanced Discovery of Visceral Analgesics via Neuroimmune Targets and the Genetics of Extreme human phenotypes (ADVANTAGE) consortium as part of the MRC Advanced Pain Discovery Platform. Luke also supervises pre-clinical medicine students on the MoDA course.





Becky Rickman (MPhil Student) - Becky obtained her B.Sc in biochemistry from Imperial College London, UK. During her third year undergraduate she undertook a year placement at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, where she used high content live single cell imaging and analysis to study the dynamics of signalling networks during cytokinesis. She joined the Smith Lab in 2018, and she is investigating the role of GABA and cannabinoid signalling in mouse and naked mole-rat sensory neurons during inflammation.








Dr Paulina Urriola (Dunhill Medical Trust Postdoctoral scientist). Paulina obtained her PhD in Physiology in 2015 from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, in which studied how some plastic contaminants, also known as xenostrogens, induce male germ cell apoptosis through the activation of the extracellular metalloproteases ADAMs. After completing her PhD, she got a postdoctoral FONDECYT grant form the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso, in which she continued working with ADAM proteins activation pathway in several reproductive models. She joined the Smith lab in February 2020 to further understand the participation of ADAMs proteins in CD44 and HA signaling in the naked mole-rat, before moving on to explore mechanisms of neural resistance to ageing.






Helen Hilton (SBS DTP / GSK iCASE PhD Student) – Helen obtained her BSc in Neuroscience at the University of St. Andrews and her MSc in Pharmacology at the University of Oxford where she began to define subpopulations of neurons within the mammillary bodies of rodents and primates before investigating which are perhaps most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s related pathology and potential reasons for this sensitivity. She joined the Smith Lab in 2021 and is investigating the role of interleukins in joint pain, with a specific focus on rheumatoid arthritis.







Luke Paine (AstraZeneca/Pharmacology PhD student) – Luke recently completed his Master’s in Pharmacology at the University of Oxford, where he investigated the role of histamine in brain development. Prior to this he studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Southampton, where his research project focused on the functional importance of cholinergic signalling in maintaining circadian rhythmicity. Luke joined the Smith Lab in 2021 (co-supervised with David Bulmer) and his project focuses on the role of cytokine signalling in visceral pain.



Dr Javier Aguilera-Lizarraga (MRC Postdoctoral Scientist). Javi obtained his BSc and MSc in Biotechnology in Health Sciences at the University of Lleida, in Spain, and then moved to Belgium to perform his doctoral studies at the KU Leuven under the supervision of Guy Boeckxstaens. In 2019, he completed his PhD in Biomedical Sciences supported by an FWO PhD fellowship and then obtained an FWO junior postdoctoral fellowship, which allowed him to continue his research in the same lab in Belgium. During his PhD and first postdoc, he investigated the impact of immune mediators on afferent nerves as a mechanism underlying the development of visceral pain. In June 2022, Javi joined the group as a Postdoctoral Scientist to work on the Advanced Discovery of Visceral Analgesics via Neuroimmune Targets and the Genetics of Extreme human phenotypes (ADVANTAGE) consortium as part of the MRC Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP).





Dr Tony Lim (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Scientist) - Tony obtained his BSc at the University of British Columbia, where he studied mechanisms of local anaesthetics. He then obtained an MSc at McGill University and characterized biomarkers of painful disc degeneration in human cerebrospinal fluid using proteomic methods. For his PhD work, also at McGill, he characterized mechanisms of vascular dysfunction in neuropathic pain. He then gained experience in multiphoton microscopy and computer vision in the Xenopus laevis neurodevelopmental model. Following this, he took some time away from the lab bench to develop a machine learning model of peptide expressibility. In September 2022 he joined the Smith lab to investigate the potential utility of expressible analgesic spider venom peptides as a treatment for arthritis pain.






Anne Ritoux (AstraZeneca funded PhD student) – Anne obtained her integrated MSci in Cell Biology from University College London, UK. In the final year of her undergraduate degree, she investigated the involvement of ventral hippocampus circuitry in feeding behaviours in mice. She then went on to work as a research assistant where her work focused on the development of a new method for in situ RNA sequencing, coppaFISH. Anne joined the Smith lab in 2022 as part of the ADVANTAGE visceral pain consortium and her project focuses on characterizing cellular and molecular mechanisms of visceral pain and nociception.





Lanhui (Monica) Qiu (Pharmacology PhD student) - Monica obtained her BSc in pharmacology, neuroscience and statistics from the University of Toronto, Canada. During her undergraduate years, she completed several research projects, investigating (i) the role of ERM proteins in macrophage phagocytosis (SickKids, Toronto), (ii) pathway-specific effects of insulin in endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells in restenosis (Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, Toronto), and (iii) impacts of pre-and perinatal exposure to parental IBD on the incidence of Crohn’s disease by meta-analysis (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto). She joined the Smith Lab in 2022 and is investigating how mesenchymal stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles (MSC-EVs) regulate sensory neurone function.




Dr Laura Grundy (Research Assistant/Lab manager), Laura Obtained her PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge UK, under the supervision of William Schafer.  Her research focused on the automatic tracking of Caenorhabditis elegans locomotion and the use of novel Ca2+ indicators in C. elegans neurons. She was also involved in a project investigating the sensitivity of C. elegans GPCRs, heterologously expressed in Xenopus oocytes, to various monoamines. She joined the Smith lab in May 2023 to support the Wellcome Trust funded ENDASCOP (Establishing Neuronal Drivers And the Spinal Circuitry of Osteoarthritis Pain) project, which aims to elucidate the roles of sensory neuron subpopulations in a mouse model of osteoarthritis.  







Lab occasions

In March 2023, several members of the Bulmer and Smith labs took part in the Cambridge Half Marathon to raise funds for Bowel Research UK and Doctors Without Borders. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we raised over £1300!


Our Lab, October 2021

Group photo via Zoom during the spring 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, backgrounds provide a hint of what everyone does in the lab!

Lab 210519

Our Lab May 2019 - the hut in the background was the makeshift seminar space during renovation works.



Sam, Gerard and Ewan all attended SfN's 2019 Annual Meeting in Chicago, presenting posters and meeting lots of other pain people!



Congratulations to Sam for winning the best talk prize at the 2019 Pharmacology Away Day!


An August afternoon pint to celebrate publication of Sam's paper in Rheumatology!






At the 2019 Cambridge Science Festival, a film made by Ewan and Jim with DragonLight Films was premiered at the Cambridge Science Festival. Following the film, there was a panel discussion with audience Q&A, compered by Dr Dervila Glynn of Cambridge Neuroscience, and on the panel alongside Ewan and Jim were Rob Heuschkel (Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist) and Deborah Gilbert (Chief Executive of Bowel and Cancer Research). The film can be seen here.




On November 4th 2018, members of the Smith Lab (with some special guests, the jumping Mar and Lučka) ran the BonfireBurn 10 km run to raise money for Versus Arthritis (until recently called Arthritis Research UK and hence the 'wrong' shirts) and Bowel and Cancer Research. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we raised over £500, some of which was generated at a charity cocktail night at Corpus Christ College, organised by Luke and preceded by a talk from Ewan about what pain is and what can go wrong in the joints and gut.


Our lab in November 2018

Punting 4aPunting 2b

Punting 3aPunting 5a

A summer punt with the Harper and Bulmer Labs


Lab October 2017

Our Lab on a windy day in October 2017

Saying goodbye to our summer student Eva, August 2017


A summer punt to celebrate Sin Lih’s PhD defence.



At the 2017 Cambridge Neuroscience BRAINFest, members of the Smith lab teamed up with Michael Lee’s team from the Cambridge Pain Clinic to explain how chilli causes pain! Ewan also gave a talk on the wonders of the naked mole-rat.



Our lab had a strong presence at the 2017 Cambridge Neuroscience Seminar: The Inflamed Brain. Jim was selected to present his poster in a 2 minute data blitz session, and Jim, Sam and Toni all presented posters.


 Welcoming new members to the lab: Sam, Toni and Yavuz, October 2016


Our lab, June 2016

Celebrating Zoé being awarded an EMBO Long Term Fellowship



Punting Punting 4
Punting Punting 6

Punting with the JAS and RML labs


Lab alumni



Alex Cloake (Versus Arthritis Postdoctoral Scientist). Alex studied Biochemistry at the University of Oxford and stayed to complete a MRC funded DPhil during which he worked on VHH antibody modulation of K2P channels. As part of his DPhil he undertook an industry placement at Genentech where he worked on understanding the structural basis of alpha-scorpion toxin modulation of Nav channels. Alex joined the Smith lab in 2021 and his project involved trying to understand the role of voltage-gated sodium channel beta subunits in nociception and pain.



Hendrik Mießner (Beiersdorf PhD Student) – Hendrik obtained both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University/Medical School of Hanover, Germany. During his Master's thesis in the field of Neurophysiology, he studied synaptic plasticity with regard to signaling-mediated functions of the protein Neuregulin-1. While working as a research assistant on cortical development, he visited Cambridge in 2017 before and then returned to join the Smith group in 2019 for his PhD on the role of the peripheral nervous system in atopic dermatitis.






Daniel Frankel (MPhil student) is an engineer by training and undertook an MPhil in the Smith Lab to train in the biology of the naked mole-rat and pharmacology in general. His project focused on the role of reactive oxygen species in modulating ion channel function in the naked mole-rat nervous system, looking for the pharmacological explanations for neuroprotective mechanisms as well as exploring mechanisms of delayed ageing. After his MPhil, Daniel returned to the University of Newcastle to continue running his research group.



Jas #2




Jasdip Singh Dulai (PhD Student). Jasdip studied obtained his Master's in Pharmacy at Durham University and is a registered Pharmacist. His master’s project looked at the effect of acidity on epithelial sodium channels. His interest in cellular physiology transitioned to look at acid sensing ion channels (ASIC) using in-silico and in-vitro methods to modulate inflammatory derived pain, in particular ASIC3, which Jas wrote a review on. Jasdip was co-supervised by Ewan and Taufiq, and after his PhD, Jas moved on to become a Clinical Trials Pharmacist.





Katie Barker (AZ/Pharmacology PhD Student) – Katie studied Pharmacology at Newcastle University. During her undergraduate degree she completed a research project at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, investigating the role of the homeobox genes Dlx5&6. She obtained her masters degree at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, examining the role of replication stress in ovarian cancer. Katie joined the Smith lab in 2018 (co-supervised with David Bulmer) and her project focused on the role of growth factors in visceral pain, some of which was published in the Journal of Physiology. Katie left the lab to join the NHS Scientist Training Programme.






Maya Dannawi (PhD student) - Maya holds an MSc in Physiology from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where she worked on in vitro and in vivo models of prediabetes-induced neuropathy. She started her PhD in 2019 at the Université Libre de Bruxelles under the supervision of Eric Bellefroid, supported by the FRIA fellowship. In 2020, she was awarded the Wiener-Anspach foundation grant to join the Smith lab under a collaborative project that centers on nociception. She is focusing on the role of Prdm12, an epigenetic regulator that is essential for nociceptor survival and pain perception.








Minji Ai (PhD student) — Minji obtained BSc. in Biotechnology at Sichuan University (China) and an MRes in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Manchester where she looked at the anti-inflammatory properties of infra-patellar fat pad derived stem cells in osteoarthritis. She started her PhD in April 2019 at Department of Veterinary Medicine under the supervision of Dr Frances Henson with co-supervision from Ewan. Her PhD project ooked at the pain alleviation effects of mesenchymal stem cells in osteoarthritis, which was published in Arthritis and Rheumatology. She has gone on to a postdoctoral position at the Mayo Clinic.









Ken To (MPhil student) - Ken read Medicine at Cambridge and after qualifying, he trained as a junior doctor in Cambridge. He was supervised by Ewan Smith and Eleftheria Zeggini (Munich) for an MPhil within the group where he focused on the statistical genetics of osteoarthritis pain. Ken has since moved on to take up an MRC clinical research training fellowship at the Sanger Institute.











Dr Toni Taylor (BBSRC postdoctoral scientist). Toni read Biomedical Science with Professional Experience at Brunel University London, including a year-long placement at Pfizer. Joining the Smith Lab in 2016 with a Vice Chancellor's PhD Scholarship, she investigated the role of the neuropeptide galanin in colonic sensory neurones as part of her PhD. Her current project is to further understand the role of Piezo2 in colonic sensory neurones.










Dr Gerard Callejo (Versus Arthritis Postdoctoral Scientist). Gerard read Biology and Biochemistry in the Autonomous University of Barcelona, before completing his PhD in Neuroscience in 2015 also at the University of Barcelona, which focused on understanding the role of acid-sensing ion channels in inflammation and ocular pain. He joined the lab in March 2016 and his project is to further understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying pain perception in rheumatoid arthritis. In 2020 Gerard left to take up the position of Assistant Professor at the University of Barcelona in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.









Sam received a BSc from the University of Buffalo and then was awarded a Gates Cambridge PhD studentship where she pursued a variety of projects in the lab looking at mechanisms of joint pain. Her research included demonstrating that synovial fluid from humans with osteoarthritis can mouse sensitise knee-innervating neurones, laying the groundwork for future projects examining what drivers for pain are contained within synovial fluid present in arthritic joints. Lay summaries of some of her work are published here and here. Sam moved on to postdoctoral work in Prof. Gary Lewin's lab at the MDC in Berlin in 2020 and was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship.








Angelo Da Rosa (BBRSC Research Associate). He obtained his MSc in Neuroscience from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil) and his PhD in Pharmacology from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.  Angelo has worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institutes on Aging (NIH, USA), Medical University of South Carolina (USA), University of Plymouth (UK) and University of Leeds (UK) having used a variety of techniques to explore numerous aspects of physiology.  Angelo joined the Smith lab in 2019 and his project aimed to functionally characterise putative mechanoreceptive neurones in the colorectum. Angelo moved on in 2019 to work for Generon.






Yavuz kulaberoglu (CRUK Postdoctoral Scientist). Yavuz was awarded Master of science degree in Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Research at King`s College London. In 2016, he completed his PhD in UCL Cancer Institute at University College London. His PhD focused on deciphering complex protein-protein interaction networks of the tumour suppressor MOB1 in Hippo signalling. He joined the Smith Lab in 2016 and his project focused on understanding molecular mechanism of how the naked mole-rat is resistance to tumour development. Yavuz moved on to a postdoc at UCL in 2019.







Dr Jim Hockley (BBSRC Postdoctoral Scientist). Jim holds a Master of Biochemistry degree from the University of Bath and completed his PhD on voltage gated sodium channel NaV1.9 in visceral nociception at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London. He worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Neuroscience and Pain Research Unit in Pfizer before joining the lab in 2016. He worked on a variety of projects in the lab to understand the molecular constituents of visceral nociception in the gastrointestinal tract, including the first single-cell RNA-seq paper to be published on identified sensory neurones to establish a molecular fingerprint for colonic sensory neurone function, before moving on as an Investigator at GSK in 2019.








Murali (BCR Postdoctoral Scientist) obtained a masters degree in Biochemistry from Bharathidasan University (India) followed by a PhD in Biophysics/Physiology at the University of Kiel (Germany). Murali studied the structure function relationship and the gating mechanisms of potassium (Kir & K2P) channels. He then joined the University of Cambridge (Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience) where he investigated the role of TRP channels in invertebrate phototransduction. Murali worked on a project to understand the role of 5-HT3 receptor expressing neurons in visceral nociception and left the lab in 2019 to join Cambrex as a Market Intelligence Associate.






Jiwon Yi - (Downing Scholar MPhil Student). Jiwon obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, USA. Her undergraduate research examined hippocampal LTP, learning and memory in rodent models of depression and ADHD. She joined the Smith Lab in 2017, and examined cellular mechanisms underlying pain sensitization in naked mole rats throughout development. In 2018 she started a PhD at Washington University in St. Louis.







Dr Zoé Husson (EMBO Long Term Fellowship Postdoctoral Scientist). Zoe was awarded her PhD in 2014 from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and joined the lab in 2015, working a bit on pain, but mainly on neuronal function in the naked mole-rat brain. Zoé moved on to a postdoc at the University of Bordeaux in 2018.







Sin Lih Tan (Cambridge International Trust/Yousef Jameel PhD Student). Sin Lih studied Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield before starting her PhD in 2013. She worked on the synergistic effect of P2X4 and P2X7 receptors in lysosome function. Sin Lih first moved on to do a postdoc at the University of Oxford and then the University of Bristol.







Laura patching



Laura Schuhmacher (BBSRC DTP PhD Student 2013-16). Laura submitted her thesis entitled, "Characterisation of Acid Sensitive Proteins Involved in Nociception and the Regulation of Breathing" in September 2016, which resulted in publications examining differences in acid-sensing ion channel structure function in mouse and naked mole-rat. She moved on initially to postdoctoral work at UCL/Crick Institute before moving to Germany for a career in patent law.





Summer Students



Helen Blake (summer student 2019)

Eva    Parvesh           Grace Zhao

Evangelia Andreopoulou            Parvesh Konda                           Grace Zhao
(summer student 2017)            (summer student 2018)              (summer student 2018)




Jonny Raby, Physiological Society Studentship, 2013