(Dear former lab members - this is very much a work in progress. If you would like to appear here, please send a picture plus a couple of lines and links)



Ramón Hurtado Guerrero

I was a postdoctoral researcher at Prof. van Aalten´s laboratory from 2005 to 2009. I worked in the biophysical characterization and elucidation of several crystal structures of glycosyl hydrolases, glycosyltransferases and enzymes involved in the synthesis of UDP-GlcNAc. During this time I mainly gained interests on how glycosyltransferases modifying proteins achieve recognition and catalysis on protein substrates.  Examples of this work involve the enzymes OGT and Legionella pneumophila glucosyltransfera

Then, I moved to my current position as ARAID researcher at University of Zaragoza, where I decided to go on working with glycosyltransferases and in particular focused in the exciting field of Protein O-fucosilation and Protein O-GalNAcylation. My major achievements as Independent Investigator illustrate how POFUT2 in collaboration with networks of water molecules achieve multiple-substrates recognition or how the lectin and catalytic domains of GalNAc-Ts are coupled to perform glycosylation on glycopeptides.

Elton Zeqiraj

Elton was a PhD student from 2005 to 2009. During his time in Dundee, Elton focused on the structural biology of the LKB1 tumour suppressor complex and provided the first snapshot of a pseudokinase—kinase pair in action. 

After leaving the DVA lab, Elton went on to do postdoctoral work in the lab of Dr. Frank Sicheri at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, supported by an HFSP Long Term Fellowship and a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2016, Elton started up his lab at the University of Leeds to study ubiquitin signalling. His current research is funded by a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and The Royal Society and a University Academic Fellowship from the University of Leeds. Lab website:     

Helge Dorfmueller

Helge was a PhD student (2006-2010) and postdoctoral Sir Henry Dale Fellow in the laboratory (2010-2013). During this time he worked on mechanistic and structural insights into the O-GlcNAc hydrolase and transferase, as well as on chitin biosynthesis. Furthermore, Helge was involved with the design, development and characterisation of cell-penetrant, selective and potent transition-state inhibitors of the human O-GlcNAcase. Helge also developed and established novel enzyme assays of glycosyltransferases and screened for novel inhibitors targeting these important enzyme classes. Examples of his work are highlighted in References 88, 107, 116 and 146.

Helge moved with his Sir Henry Dale Fellowship to the laboratory of Prof So Iwata and Dr Konstantinos Beis in 2013. In 2015, Helge was recruited as an Independent Investigator in the Division of Molecular Microbiology ( In April 2016, Helge became a Royal Society and Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow. As principal investogator, Helge and his lab study carbohydrate active enzymes involved in the nucleotide sugar and cell wall biogenesis in Streptococci (

Francesco (Frank) Rao

Francesco (Frank) joined the the DVA lab in 2002 as a Masters student. During this time Frank worked on enzymes involved in carbohydrate synthesis and degradation and helped establish the molecular biology and enzymology capabilities in the lab. Frank stayed with the lab as an Industrial CASE (Syngenta) PhD student (2003-2006) investigating the structure and function of a number of glycosidases including initial studies into the mechanism and inhibition of eukaryotic O-GlcNAc hydrolysis. Examples of Frank’s work can be found in references 49, 55, 68, 74, 80, 84, 123, 132.

Supported by an EMBO Long Term Fellowship and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Science Fellowship, Frank left Scotland to work in the lab of Prof. Stephen Withers and Prof. Natalie Strynadka at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. In 2010, Frank returned back to Scotland with a Marie Curie International Reintegration grant and a FEBS Return-to-Europe Fellowship. Examples of Frank’s work during this time can be found in references 138 and 142.

In 2012, Frank joined a DVA lab spin-out (GlycoBioChem Ltd) as the managing director ( In 2013, Frank was recruited as the CSO of DC Biosciences Ltd, a contract research organisation (CRO) specialising in quantitative proteomics ( 


Adam Ostrowski

I was a post-doc in the group of Prof. Daan van Aalten between 2013 and 2014 when I was studying hypothetical protein O-GlcNAcylation in a thermophilic bacterium Thermobaculum terrenum (published in JBC). After my time with in the DvA lab I moved to the group of Dr Sarah Coulthurst at the University of Dundee to study bacterial cell-cell competition by Type VI Secretion System. Currently I work in a biotechnology company APS Biocontrol Ltd where I develop bacteriophage-based approaches for crop protection and produce preservation.


  Ritchie Williamson

I joined the DVA lab in September 2011 to work on neuronal protein O-GlcNAcylation. Prior to going the DVA lab my research area centred on understanding molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Building on past research experience I worked on a number of projects investigation protein O-GlcNAcylation in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease as well as investigating the potential of OGA inhibitors as novel therapeutics for neurodegeneration. As part of this, I also worked on developing the O-GlcNAcase mutant as a substrate trap for enriching O-GlcNAcylated proteins. In 2013 I moved to the University of Bradford to take up the position of Lecturer in Therapeutics in the School of Pharmacy and Medicals Sciences. Research in my  lab continues to focus on molecular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s and motor neuron diseases

Alexander Striebeck

As a PhD student in Daan’s lab, I was working on the characterisation of a glycosyltransferase complex involved in the formation of the mannan layer of the fungal cell wall. The work included recombinant gene expression, X-ray crystallography and enzyme assays.

Afterwards I became a post-doc at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory (CRL, Copenhagen, Denmark) where I studied enzymes involved in the synthesis and degradation of starch in barley. Since 2016 I am a Scientist at CRL working on an accelerated project.

Riccardo Trapannone

I was a Wellcome Trust PhD student in the DVA laboratory between 2013 and 2016. My project was focused on the role the mitochondrial O-GlcNAc transferase isoform (mOGT) and its contribution to the generation of the mitochondrial O-GlcNAc proteome. I was also involved in a collaborative project aimed at designing and testing a novel OGT inhibitor. I'm currently working as a postdoc at the Max Perutz Laboratories (Vienna) where I am studying the molecular mechanisms of autophagy in stem cells.

Helen Woodroof

I first joined the DVA lab in 2009 as a summer student studying an enzyme involved in biofilm synthesis in E. coli, and continued this work for my final year Honours project. I then rejoined the lab in 2010 as a PhD student jointly supervised by Daan, Miratul Muqit and Dario Alessi. I established the first in vitro enzyme assay for the Parkinson's disease-associated protein kinase PINK1, and begun the initial work on the structural characterisation of this enzyme. I now work as a medical writer in Glasgow.

Ole Andersen

I was a Post-Doc in Professor Daan van Aalten’s lab in the period from 2004 to 2007. My work included expression, purification, crystallisation, structure solution and analysis, and biochemical assays on chitinases from human pathogens as well as for human acidic chitinase. I have since worked in the protein crystallography group at Evotec (U.K.) Ltd (

Dr. Deborah E. A. Lockhart, BSc(DentSci) BDS(Hons) MFDS RCSEd FRCPath PhD

MRC Clinical Research Fellow (2011 to 2014)

As a clinician, Deborah was so frustrated by the difficulties in diagnosing and managing patients with life-threatening fungal infections, she took time out of her Specialist training in microbiology to pursue a PhD in Daan van Aalten’s group investigating novel cell wall antifungal targets in Aspergillus fumigatus supported by a prestigious MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship.

During her time in the lab Deborah was awarded a European Confederation for Medical Mycology Young Investigator Award (2013) and was shortlisted for the Sir Howard Dalton Young Microbiologist of the Year (2014). She was also successful in obtaining another highly competitive Fellowship to enable her to consolidate her skills, explore new areas and lay the foundations for establishing her own group in the new MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Aberdeen, UK. See

Although primarily based at the University of Aberdeen where she is currently a Wellcome Trust Clinical Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Honorary Consultant Microbiologist, Deborah retains a close affiliation with the Cell Wall theme of the group.

Michaela Fenckova

I joined the lab in July 2016. Combining the insights of Daan's lab in molecular functioning of OGT and my expertise in modeling of human cognitive disorders in Drosophila, I investigated the underlying mechanisms of recently discovered mutations in OGT causing Intellectual Disability. My major goal was the translation of my own findings in Drosophila to the benefit of the human patients, in a from of improved diagnostics, or treatment strategies. In my future research I want to focus on establishment of complementary cognitive outcome measures between Drosophila and humans and use Drosophila as an efficient platform for investigating of treatment targets and testing of novel drugs.  

Wenxia Fang 

During my PhD I worked on functional analysis of glycosylation enzymes in opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. In December 2009, I obtained my PhD from institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Then in March 2010 I moved to Dundee as a PDRA in DvA lab to establish fungal genetics system. Being in a “big” but friendly lab with broad research interests I have also learned crystallography, structural biology and fragment-based small molecule screening. Now I am pursuing a career as a PI in China. 

David Wei

My name is Wenfan (David) Wei. I got my undergraduate degree in Bioengineering from Anhui Polytechnic University in 2010. After that, i joined Prof. Ling Lu's lab in Nanjing Normal University for my master degree to study fungal genetics. In September 2013, i came to join Daan's lab for a four years program funded by Chinese Scholarship Council. My project is focusing on targeting the Rho1 GTPase signalling pathway in the pathogenic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. In my spare time, i enjoy playing basketball and driving my car all across the beautiful Scotland. 

Yuanwei Zhang

I obtained my bachelor degree in 2011 from Anhui Normal University, then I studied in Prof. Ling Lu’s lab at Nanjing Normal University (2011-2015) to investigate the relationship between palmitoylation and calcium signalling in Aspergillus nidulans. In Aug 2015, I joined Daan’s lab as a Joint PhD student sponsored by China Scholarship Council. My current project focused on is identifying potential fungal cell wall targets of the opportunistic pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus by using genetic and structural biology techniques.

Mehmet Gundogdu

I joined the van Aalten lab as a PhD student in September 2013. My interests lie in the unusual cytoplasmic glycosylation machineries, including O-GlcNAc cycling enzymes OGT and OGA. My main project focuses on characterisation of recently identified OGT disease mutants. To that end, I use enzymology, protein crystallography, cell biology and fly genetics. Before joining van Aalten lab, I obtained my BSc in Biochemistry (Hons) from the University of Dundee. 

Karim Rafie

I studied at the TU Dortmund University/Germany receiving both my Bachelor’s (2010) and Master’s (2013) degree in Chemical Biology. I joined the lab as an exchange student in 2012 to work on my Master’s thesis project for up to a year before joining the lab as a PhD student in October of 2013. From the beginning, I was interested in understanding the mechanism by which OGT, a conserved eukaryotic nucleocytoplasmic glycosyltransferase, modifies its substrates and what role its activity plays in development. One of my projects is focused on designing / identifying a potent and selective OGT inhibitor to probe OGT activity in physiological systems. In my second project, I utilise biochemical and structural methods to identify and characterise the binding modes by which OGT recognises its substrates.

Daniel Mariyappa

My doctoral research on mammalian gamete biology was completed at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. Wanting to look at signalling mechanisms operative during embryonic development, I moved to Dr. Arno Mueller’s laboratory at University of Dundee for my first postdoctoral position trying to understand how mesodermal cells migrate in the Drosophila embryo. Subsequently, I joined Prof. Daan van Aalten and am exploring the role of O-GlcNAc in Drosophila development.

Villo Muha 


I am interested in the intricate networks and molecular mechanisms that orchestrate eukaryotic life. I graduated with B.Sc in Biology and M.Sc in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (2006, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest) and obtained my PhD in Molecular Cell Biology for investigating DNA repair mechanism and dUTP metabolism in Drosophila (2010, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest). Afterwards, I joined the Muller lab (Division of Cell and Developmental Biology, SLS, Dundee) where I developed a strong toolset in Drosophila genetics and imaging. From February 2014, I have been a PDRA in Daan van Aalten‘s group, where my research focuses on the biological role of protein O-GlcNAcylation using Drosophila and transgenic mouse model systems. 

Andrii Gorelik

I got my Bachelor's degree in Industrial Biotechnology from Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (Kyiv, Ukraine). Having worked on carbohydrate active enzymes during two summer internships at the John Innes Centre (Norwich, UK), I decided to continue work in the field of glycobiology and joined Daan's lab in 2015 as a PhD student funded by the Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD programme. My project is about developing tools to study O-GlcNAc on individual proteins.

Christina Rush
Faculty Department of Life Sciences 

Montana State University, Bozeman Microbiology B.S. 2001
University of Tennessee, Memphis Molecular Science/ M.S. 2007 Structural Biology
University of Dundee, Scotland Molecular Microbiology Ph.D. 2012
Instructor and Research Advisor, Department of Life Sciences, Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana 2011-present
Collaborative Researcher, Aquapharm Biodiscovery Ltd. Oban, Scotland Summer 2010
Editorial Internship, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Publishing Group, New York, New York, 2006-2007
Faculty Effectiveness:
Student surveys of teaching are positive and research students are pleased with progress (assessment by presentations and publication)
Service to College and Community:
SKC committees include: General education committee, Technology advisory committee.
Community includes: Outreach tours for high school

Supervision of MSc/PhD students:

  1. Francesco Rao, M.Sc. : "Structural studies of human chitotriosidase and C. elegans glucosamine 6-phosphate N-acetyl transferase", 04/2002-01/2003. Now: CEO of Dundee Cell Products
  2. Christine Milburn, Ph.D. : "Structural Studies of Novel Pleckstrin Homology Domains and MO25", 10/2000-09/2003. Now: University of Dundee’s Principal’s Office
  3. Douglas Houston, Ph.D., "Structures and inhibitors of the Serratia marcescens chitinolytic system and related proteins", 10/2001-04/2004. Now: Lecturer at Edinburgh University
  4. David Komander, Ph.D., "Structural studies of 3-phosphoinositide dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1)", 05/2002-01/2005. Now: Head of the Department and Group Leader at WEHI (Melbourne, Australia)
  5. Fabrizio Villa, Ph.D., "Structural studies of the PTPL1, MAK2 and OSR1 signalling molecules", 10/2002 - 7/2006. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Dundee
  6. David Blair, Ph.D., "Structural and mechanistic studies on family 4 carbohydrate esterases", 10/2002-11/2006. Now: unknown
  7. Francesco Rao, Ph.D., "Structural studies of family 18 and 84 glycoside hydrolases", 02/2003 - 12/2006. Now: CEO of Dundee Cell Products
  8. Vincent Rao, M.Sc., "Structural studies of peptidoglycan deacetylases", 10/2004 - 04/2008. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher in Newcastle
  9. Helge Dorfmueller, Ph.D., "Structural and mechanistic exploration of inhibitors that modulate cellular O-GlcNAc levels", 09/2005 - 09/2009. Now: Group Leader at the University of Dundee
  10. Elton Zeqiraj, Ph.D., "Molecular mechanism of LKB1 signalling", 09/2005 - 08/2009. Now: Group Leader at Leeds University
  11. Olawale Raimi, Ph.D., "Structures, mechanisms and inhibitors of Aspergillus fumigatus UDP-GlcNAc biosynthetic enzymes", 10/2006 - 10/2009. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Dundee
  12. Andrew Clarke, M.Sc., "Structure of Xanthomonas campestris O-GlcNAc transferase", 10/2007 - 10/2008. Now: Patent Lawyer in Melbourne, Australia.
  13. Marianne Schimpl, Ph.D., "Molecular mechanisms and inhibitors of human O-GlcNAcase", 09/2007 - 11/2010. Now: Staff Scientist at Astra Zeneca
  14. Christina Rush, Ph.D., "Structural and mechanistic exploration of chitinases, chilectin and novel inhibitors of fungal chitinases", 10/2007 - 12/2011. Now: Faculty at Salish Kootenai College, Pablo MT, USA.
  15. Alexander Striebeck, Ph.D., “Structural and biochemical characterisation of enzymes involved in mannan biosynthesis“, 01/2009 – 12/2012. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher at the Carlsberg Institute, Copenhagen
  16. Xiaowei Zheng, Ph.D., “Molecular Characterisation of O-GlcNAc Transferase”, 03/2009 – 02/2013. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher at Oxford University
  17. Helen Woodroof, Ph.D., 09/2010 – 11/2015. Now: Medical Writer in Glasgow
  18. Deborah Lockhart, Ph.D., 09/2011 – 09/2014. Now: WT Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow in Dundee/Aberdeen
  19. Nithya Selvan, Ph.D., “Reductionist animal models to probe protein O-GlcNAcylation”, 09/2011 – 09/2015. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher at the CCRC, Athens GA, USA.
  20. Riccardo Trappanone, Ph.D., “Function and inhibition
 of the mitochondrial O-GlcNAc transferase isoform”, Ph.D., 09/2012 – 09/2015. Now: Postdoctoral Researcher at Vienna University.
Master's students
Susann Krüger
Kristina Kozusko

Former post-docs:

Jana Alonso Lorenzo - University of Oxford
Shalini Pathak - (PD with Prof. Doreen Cantrell) University of Dundee
Helen Attrill - University of Cambridge
Ole Andersen - Evotec
Jon Urch - University of Dundee
Edmond Wong - Adaptimmune
Marta Garrido-Franco - Boehringer Ingelheim  
Osama Albarbarawi
Swati Arya
Kelly Sanders
David Blair (former PhD student)
Alexandra Lo
Lindsey Gray
Laurie Gay
Alexander Schüttelkopf (former PhD student)
Marianne Schimpl (former PhD student) - AstraZeneca (Cambridge, UK)
Michaela Fenckova
Atul Kumar 

Undergraduate students

Stewart Morton
Louise Thom
Satoko Orihashi
Michal Zielinski
Daniel Squair
Hannah Lawson-Maclean
Jennifer Milligan
Caroline Faessler
Amber McWhirter
Karim Hussain
Dominic Gurvic

Research technicians

George Penman
Sharon Shepard - University of Dundee
Duncan McNulty 
Nadine Sommer
Vasudha Vandadi
Ariane Wilmes