Biography

Biography

illg_winter

I am currently a Lecturer in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at University College London (UCL), where I am part of both the Biological Physics and AMOPP groups. I joined UCL in May 2013 as a Senior Research Fellow funded by a UCL Excellence Fellowship award. The aim of this fellowship was primarily to carry out physics-biomedical multidisciplinary research and to contribute to the development of effective research links between UCL and the Francis Crick Institute, a new biomedical research institute inaugurated in London in late 2016. I have been awarded a Sabbatical attachment at the Francis Crick Institute to carry out research work with Dr. Pavel Tolar in 2016-2017.

My current research is at the interface of physics, engineering and biology and aims at developing and applying physics-based techniques to the study of interactions relevant to the function of biological systems. We are interested in cell-cell interactions and molecular interactions near cell surfaces, particularly those involving cell-surface receptor proteins. We make use of optical, magnetic and electrical methods to manipulate microparticles that we use as probes to detect interactions in biological systems in their natural liquid environment. For instance, we can combine ultrasensitive fluorescence microscopy detection with optical tweezers for force-sensing and manipulation for the purpose of investigating interactions between individual macromolecular complexes in living cells.

There is a growing interest amongst life scientists in strengthening the use of quantitative approaches applied to biomedical research problems through interactions and collaborations with physicists. Hence, the interface of physics and biology is a growing field of research. I am interested in applying my physics background to contributing towards solving unanswered questions in biology and medicine, with particular emphasis on problems related to mechanisms that govern cellular functions at the single-molecule level, with the ultimate goal of contributing to informing medicine and, in the long term, to improving human health.

Before joining UCL, I worked as a postdoctoral research associate in the Physics Department at the University of Oxford with Prof. M. C. Leake (2011-2013). I carried out work related to single-molecule fluorescence microscopy and optical tweezers, image processing algorithms and studies of respiratory proteins in bacteria, of the Vipp1 protein in cyanobacteria and of cell-surface receptors (EGFR) in live human cancer cells.

Prior to that, I spent a year (April 2010 – May 2011) working in the Renewable Energy Dept. at the energy engineering company Initec-Energía in Madrid, Spain, in charge of research and development activities. Amongst other tasks, I developed a performance model for solar thermal concentration power plants and validated it against actual data from an operating plant in Spain.

Between 2004 and 2010 I did my PhD followed by a post-doctoral position with Prof FRS Ed A. Hinds at the Centre for Cold Matter, Quantum Optics and Laser Science Group, Imperial College London, UK, working in experimental atomic physics in the field of atom chips for ultra-cold rubidium atoms and Bose-Einstein condensates. I currently make use of my experience in magnetic and optical trapping for bringing new perspectives into biological physics research.

My first research experiences were at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University, UK, working in experimental biophysics with Dr. Richard M. Berry in the summer of 2002; at Universidad Complutense Madrid, Spain, working in a theoretical biophysics project with Dr. R. Brito over the academic year 2002-2003; and at  COMPASS experiment at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, first joining the CERN Summer Student Programme in 2003 and later taking a summer research placement in 2004.

I enjoy communicating and explaining science and like to participate in outreach activities. In July 2012, I volunteered to take part in the “Minimotors” Oxford Biophysics stand at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London.

I have a degree in Classical Ballet Dancing by the Royal Conservatory of Dance, Madrid, Spain, and have danced professionally with Vienna Festival Ballet, touring the UK to perform Swan Lake and Coppelia in January-June 2004, and La Sylphide in April 2001.
I have occasionally taught intermediate ballet classes in Oxford (2011-2012).

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