Emma Dempster

 Emma DempsterLecturer


I graduated with an honors degree in Genetics from Cardiff University in 1998 and subsequently spent two years in industry. In 2000 I was awarded an MRC predoctoral studentship to undertake a PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London (KCL) where I focused on identifying genetic variation associated with schizophrenia. After my PhD I moved to Canada and was awarded a University of Toronto Postdoctoral Fellowship to examine functional variation in genes related to stress in the aetiology of depression. I joined psychiatric epigenetics group in KCL in 2007 and then moved to Exeter in 2012. My primary research interest is examining the epigenetic changes observed in monozygotic twins discordant for disease.

PhD studentship opportunity:



Eilis Hannon

Senior Research Fellow in Bioinformatics

Email E.J.Hannon@exeter.ac.uk


Eilis’ research career to date has looked at how genetic risk factors lead to the development of schizophrenia in young adulthood. Eilis graduated with a degree in Mathematics in 2010 and went on to complete a PhD in the department of Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University. She used statistical techniques to characterise the developmental trajectory of gene expression for genes associated with schizophrenia. As a student of both the Medical School and the School of Computer Science, she developed a knowledge of genetics, particularly that of psychiatric disorders, and bioinformatics skills. The results of her PhD indicated an enrichment of schizophrenia risk genes in epigenetic pathways, and she was keen to pursue this area of research. To this end, she joined the group in Exeter at the end of 2013 as a Bioinformatician. She works across projects and phenotypes but has a particular focus on developing and applying methods to integrate multiple ‘omics data with the aim of improving our understanding of the molecular consequences and biological processes affected by genetic variants associated with schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders. This work will be developed further as part of her recently awarded 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Award by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation (USA). She is a certified Software and Data Carpentry Instructor and at the University of Exeter, she leads a number of bioinformatic training workshops (e.g. Introduction to R). In 2016, she was awarded a fellowship from the Software Sustainability Institute, to act as an ambassador for their ethos of improving the quality and reproducibility of research software. In 2017 she took part in the GW4 Crucible programme designed to support the development of future research leaders and provide opportunities to establish collaborations.

Aaron Jeffries

Aaron JeffriesResearch Fellow
University of Exeter & King’s College London

A.R.Jeffries@exeter.ac.uk / Aaron.R.Jeffries@kcl.ac.uk
+44(0)1392-406754 (Exeter)

Aaron Jeffries is a Research Fellow working at the University of Exeter Medical school and King’s College London. Aaron studied obtained an Honours degree in Genetics from Cardiff University and completed his PhD in King’s College London in 2004. Aaron’s PhD involved mapping and sequencing of t(6;11) translocation associated with schizophrenia like psychosis in a three generation pedigree, leading to the identification of a potential candidate gene explaining the psychosis and the winning publication for the Lilly Molecular Psychiatry award 2003. He also undertook the largest genotype/phenotype study of ring chromosome 22 to date. Aaron joined a developmental neurobiology group at King’s College London in 2005. While his initial work was around signaling pathways, he moved into studying allele specific heterogeneity observed in clonal cells, known as Random Monoallelic Expression. Working with clonal stem cells, and later epigenetic reprogramming techniques, he has furthered this work using stem cells as model systems. Aaron joined the Complex Disease Epigenetics group in January 2014 to further his research in single cell heterogeneity and its relation to disease. He was awarded a prestigious 2014 NARSAD Young Investigator Award ($65,000) by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation (USA) to carry out such a study.


Therese Murphy




Therese graduated with an Honours Degree in Genetics from Trinity College Dublin in 2005 and subsequently completed a Health Research Board Ph.D. scholarship in Molecular Medicine in 2009. The main focus of Therese’s Ph.D. was investigating the role of DNA methylation in prostate cancer development, with a hope to identify potential markers of the disease. In addition to Therese’s PhD, she completed and was awarded a postgraduate diploma in statistics from Trinity College Dublin in 2007. In 2010, Therese was awarded a Craig Dobbins Newman Postdoctoral Fellowship in Mental Health Research by University College Dublin based on her scientific proposal to examine how epigenetic mechanisms may contribute to suicide risk. In May 2013, Therese joined the Complex Disease Epigenetics Group in the University of Exeter, as a Research Fellow investigating epigenetic changes in depression and other complex diseases. In September 2015, Dr Murphy was appointed Lecturer in the Complex Disease Epigenetics Group. Therese has successfully obtained a number of internationally competitive fellowships/grants and most recently was awarded a prestigious 2014 NARSAD Young Investigator Award ($65,000) by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation (USA).


Rebecca Smith

Rebecca SmithResearch Fellow

+44(0) 1392406794

Rebecca completed her BSc in Genetics from the University of Leeds in 2005. In 2007, she began working at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre as a research assistant under Prof Ian Craig, Dr Katherine Aitchison and Prof Peter McGuffin on the GENDEP project. In 2009 she started a PhD at the SGDP in psychiatric genetics with Prof Jonathan Mill and Prof Ian Craig working on her thesis investigating behavioural and molecular changes associated with advanced paternal age. After her PhD, she started a post-doctoral research position at the SGDP with Prof Mill investigating epigenetic changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease followed by a position investigating epigenetic changed associated with conduct disorder in a subset of the ALSPAC sample with Prof Mill and Dr Edward Barker. She is currently working as a research fellow with Dr Katie Lunnon at the University of Exeter investigating the contribution of epigenetic phenomena to AD.

Please click here to see Rebecca’s CV.


Isabel Castanho

Isabel_newphoto-234x300Research Fellow



Isabel originally graduated in Biomedical Laboratory Sciences in the Polytechnic Institute of Porto (2006-2010), where she integrated the degree programme in Biomedical Laboratory Science of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki (2010). Isabel took a second degree in Applied Biology in the University of Minho (First Class Honours, 2010-2013) where she continued for a Master’s degree in Health Sciences (2013-2015), having developed her thesis in the Neuroscience Research Domain of the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute, with a particular interest on the role of lipid signalling pathways in hippocampus functioning. She moved from Portugal to the United Kingdom in September of 2015 to join the Complex Disease Epigenetics Group as a PhD student (University of Exeter Medical School, Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre), under supervision of Professor Jonathan Mill and Dr Katie Lunnon. Her PhD focused on evaluating functional genomics of rodent models of Alzheimer’s Disease and integrating these findings with previously obtained human data from the group, in order to understand its relevance to human dementia.

Isabel is now working as a research fellow within the group, expanding on her findings from her PhD thesis.

Matthew Devall

Matthew Devall
Postdoctoral researcher
University Medical Centre of Utrecht

Since leaving the complex disease epigentics group after graduating his PhD, Matthew moved to the University Medical Centre of Utrecht where he works as a postdoctoral researcher. Through the analysis and integration of transcriptomic and methylomic data, Matthew has since worked on whether such data layers can be used to predict treatment response to TNF-alpha, the most commonly used drug in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Jennifer Imm

Jennifer ImmPhD Student


Jennifer Imm undertook her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Bath and graduated in the summer of 2015. She is now a PhD student at the University of Exeter as a part of the complex disease epigenetics group under the supervision of Katie Lunnon and Aaron Jeffries. Her research involves characterising iPSC’s with a view to using these as a model to study the effects of high and low genetic loading for Alzheimer’s disease on neural cells.



Sarah Marzi

Postdoctoral Researcher
Queen Mary University of London

Sarah completed her PhD in the Complex Disease Epigenetics group under the supervision of Jonathan Mill, Leonard Schalkwyk and Chloe Wong in 2017, studying epigenetic correlates of neuropsychiatric health and disease. She has since joined Vardhman Rakyan’s lab at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London and is currently working on epigenetic and genetic factors linked to obesity, diabetes and ageing using both computational and experimental approaches.

Adam Smith

Adam SmithPhD Student


Functional characterization of ANK1, a novel gene implicated in Alzheimer’s disease

Adam Smith is a PhD student at the University of Exeter Medical School, under the supervision of Dr Katie Lunnon and Professor Jonathan Mill. He graduated with a degree in Medical Science from Exeter University in 2014, where he had particular interests in genetics and neurology. Adam spent a year as an associate genetic technician for the Royal Devon and Exeter Genetic NHS service. His PhD now focuses on exploring the epigenetic changes in the ANK1 gene, and how these could lead to disease. The project aims to refine the extent of various epigenetic changes in the ANK1 gene in Alzheimer’s disease, relating this information to both levels of gene expression and characteristic measures of disease stage.