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Dr Colin-York completed his DPhil with Prof Christian Eggeling and Marco Fritzsche (IMD-WIMM), investigating biophysical forces in immune cells by combining force measuring techniques with super-resolution microscopy. He was awarded the Prize for developing a methodology which may lead to changes in the field and establishing a valuable collaboration within the field.

HuwCollinYork.jpgHaving studied physics at the University of Manchester, completing my master’s degree in 2011, I was awarded an EPSRC studentship to undertake my DPhil at the Life Science Interface doctoral training centre at the University of Oxford. This program was specifically designed for graduates of the physical and mathematical sciences who wanted to tackle biological questions.

During my graduate studies, I became interested in the biophysics of cells, with a particular focus on cell mechanics – how cells generate and respond to mechanical forces. At the same time, I was exposed to the great potential of super-resolution microscopy – techniques that allow visualisation of biological structures down to the nanoscale. Prof Christian Eggeling, an expert in super-resolution techniques, having worked with Stefan Hell (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry), was a recent arrival in Oxford, and provided the perfect environment in which to undertake my DPhil in the MRC Human Immunology Unit (HIU) at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. During my DPhil and Postdoc, I was fortunate to be able to visit the laboratory of Eric Betzig (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014) at the HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, to undertake experiments using a number of novel microscopy techniques to support my work here in Oxford. This visit initiated an extremely important strategic collaboration.

My work has focused on the development of novel force probing methods that combine traditional force measuring techniques with super-resolution microscopy, allowing the mechanical forces generated by immune cells to be measured at unprecedented accuracy and spatial resolution. This work has resulted in two high-impact publications in the peer-reviewed journals Nano Letters and Nature Protocols. As a further recognition of the importance and broad impact of this work, the technique I developed was recently invited to join the prestigious Eurobioimaging Initiative. Applying these new tools to measure the forces generated by activating T cells has provided us with new insights into how T cells may control molecular events during their activation. Consequently, our work adds to the growing consensus that mechanical transitions such as those that occur during T-cell activation can influence molecular events via intimate feedback mechanisms to facilitate physiological function.

Since completing my DPhil, I have continued my research in Oxford as a Postdoctoral researcher in the Biophysical Immunology laboratory with Dr Marco Fritzsche at the WIMM and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology.