Nicole Robb

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Nicole Robb

Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society Fellow

I completed a BSc. in Microbiology at Imperial College London before doing a D.Phil under the supervision of Prof. Ervin Fodor at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, where I specialised in the field of influenza virology. In 2011 I joined the laboratory of Prof. Achillefs Kapanidis in Biological Physics, where I worked as a post-doctoral research associate, using single-molecule techniques to study how viruses and bacteria replicate. In October 2017 I was awarded a Royal Society Fellowship to use fluorescent microscopy techniques to visualise, study and detect RNA viruses at the single-molecule level.

I teach regular virology seminars for second and third year medical students.

The diverse grouping of RNA viruses includes multiple human, animal and plant pathogens; the diseases caused by these viruses result in substantial mortality in humans and have severe economic impact. My research focuses on the use of traditional biochemical and virology approaches, combined with novel single-molecule fluorescent spectroscopy techniques, to study RNA viruses and to develop methods for their diagnosis and treatment. My work can be divided into three categories:

a) Using in-vitro single-molecule assays like FRET to investigate the conserved mechanisms of replication of RNA viruses.These techniques can be used to identify rate-limiting steps in replication that can be targeted with anti-viral inhibitors.
b) Studying the morphology and cellular interactions of influenza viruses using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, providing novel information on their size and structure, as well as the interactions between viruses and the infected cell which is vital to combating viral disease.
c) Development of rapid and sensitive fluorescence-based diagnostic assays to identify RNA viruses in complex biological samples. These assays have the potential for medical impact as the advantages over traditional diagnostic tests include specificity, sensitivity, speed and ease-of-use.