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Ulster University Postgraduate Student of the Year, Katie Christie, graduates today with a PhD in Molecular Medicine. In January, she follows in the footsteps of her supervisor Professor Tara Moore, taking up a five-year post-doctoral position at the prestigious Harvard University in Boston, a world-leading university for biomedical science and biotechnology.

Katie’s PhD research has made a significant contribution to the emerging field of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, focusing on the development of novel treatments for genetic eye disease. This type of disease is inherited, passed from parent to child through the generations. Katie’s PhD research focused on eliminating the faulty genetic cause passed down through generations to cure the disease.

Katie says completing the PhD has changed her life. It provided her with an extensive skill set in the very exciting and emerging field of molecular medicine, alongside the opportunity to travel extensively to enhance her knowledge and disseminate the world-leading research conducted at Ulster University.

“Completing my PhD has been challenging but the most rewarding experience, I’m a different person now as I am confident and assured as a subject specialist. My PhD research has also taken me all over the world, presenting at conferences and meeting collaborators. I have also spent time working in many laboratories worldwide creating and trialling novel treatments for inherited blinding eye disease."

Growing up on a farm in the country in County Tyrone instilled the value of hard work in Katie and this work ethic has helped her to achieve her dream job at the renowned scientific hub at Harvard University.

“I knew upon commencing my postgraduate studies at Ulster that I would have to work hard. If you are driven and not afraid of hard work you can achieve anything. It was a very rewarding experience to see my results have an impact on the wider literature and help progress towards developing a potential cure of genetic diseases. I am really excited about expanding upon the state-of-the-art technologies I learnt at Ulster University when I join the laboratories of renowned scientist Dr Benjamin Kleinstiver at Harvard University in January 2019. I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it is happening. My family are thrilled for me and Christmas at home this year will be very special.”

Tara Moore, Professor of Personalised Medicine at Ulster University said:

“Katie is one of the most dedicated, hardworking and exceptional students I have had the pleasure of having as part of my team. My Ulster University laboratories are spearheading a novel personalised medicine approach to treat eye disease with our state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. We are proud to be developing excellent postgraduate researchers who are becoming leaders in their chosen fields. Most importantly, the research outcomes achieved during Katie’s PhD will strengthen our path to a ‘first in human’ clinical trial for innovative gene editing for a corneal eye disease, which would otherwise blind people. This impact on patients’ lives and saving sight is very rewarding for all of the team involved at Ulster.”