Daniel Hurdiss

Talking about
Researching structural characterisation of viral pathogens using cryo-electron microscopy

I’m in my final year on a Wellcome Trust-funded PhD programme, working in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University. I’m biased but I think the Wellcome Trust programmes are the best in the UK.

In my research I use very powerful microscopes to take pictures of viruses. The microscopes in the Astbury Centre are amongst the best in the world. I’ve been working on a virus which can cause kidney transplants to be rejected. By assembling the pictures into a 3D model, we can better understand how viruses work. 

The Astbury Centre brings together researchers from across the University to create interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the molecular basis of life. It’s a really good way of working. We've got chemists, biologists and physicists working with one another. I can work in other labs and do research there, and vice versa. 

One of the huge advantages at Leeds is that everything is on your doorstep, you only have to walk to another building to go and use a different technique. By collaborating, you can accumulate data a lot more quickly than you could do on your own. Putting different experiments together can help you paint a better picture.

I’ve had two fantastic supervisors who gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do. I was fortunate enough to publish very early in my PhD, and because of that paper our group were contacted by a research group in Germany. They were working on the same area, so we decided to collaborate. International collaboration isn’t something I expected to do when I started my PhD!

We published a paper with different researchers from all across Europe. Each research group contributed a part of the paper. Our equipment and expertise at Leeds allowed us to contribute a previously missing and quite important part.

From this collaboration, I've now got a job lined up in the Netherlands. I’ll be bringing my skills in structural biology to their research group.