Dr Harry Warner

Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Membrane Trafficking in Immune Cells Laboratory, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Inside the OCRB looking into the Lecture Theatre

Dr Harry Warner

PhD Title: RhoA Signalling in Ovarian Cancer

Research Group: Cell-matrix Biology and Cancer Research

Lead Supervisor: Dr Patrick Caswell

Graduation: July 2019

Harry Warner image


I completed Bachelors and Master’s degrees at the University of Bristol, before moving to Manchester to begin a PhD with Dr Patrick Caswell.

My PhD project used mass spectrometry-based proteomics to characterise the Rho- family GTPase RhoA in ovarian cancer cells. Specifically, my PhD focussed on identifying both general RhoA interactors as well as RhoA interactors that drive invasive migration in response to the up-regulated endocytic recycling of the α5β1 integrin. This RhoA signalling is thought to be critical in vivo, as overexpression of the α5β1 integrin is correlated with a poor prognostic outcome in patients. I identified numerous novel RhoA interactors, which may drive epithelial ovarian cancer metastasis.

Career Development

During the third year of my PhD, I attended a national Cancer Research UK meeting for postgraduate researchers. Here, the speakers recommended that I contact group leaders that I wanted to work with as a postdoc, rather than waiting for advertised roles. This proved invaluable to job hunting and during the final year of my PhD, I contacted various group leaders.

The majority didn’t currently have funding but those that did were willing to interview me, as they knew I wanted to work with them directly, rather than only contacting them about a specific post.

Dr Patrick Caswell encouraged me to give a departmental talk in the final year of my PhD which involved practicing giving a presentation and delivering this to an audience who weren’t already familiar with my work. This meant that by the time I got to my postdoctoral interview, I was confident presenting my work to my current group.

As a PhD researcher, I learnt a lot of lab techniques that are useful to cancer but aren’t usually applied to immune biology, so being able to bring these to the lab has been an asset.

Dr Harry Warner

Working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate

I now work in Professor Geert van den Bogaart’s Membrane Trafficking in Immune Cells Lab at the Department of Molecular Immunology and Microbiology, University of Groningen, where I’ve been based since January 2019. I am using a range of proteomic, imaging and biophysical techniques to understand the trafficking and cytoskeletal processes that underpin dendritic cell activation. Dendritic cells are the interface between the innate and adaptive immune system, thus it is essential to improve their function in persistent infections and dampen their activity in auto-immune diseases.

Specifically, I am trying to understand how dendritic cell endosomes regulate cytokine secretion and how dendritic cells interact with the extracellular matrix.

Our lab is primarily funded by the European Research Council (ERC). My work is also supported by an EPIC XS grant, which funds our collaboration with Jesper Olsen’s group (University of Copenhagen).

As a PhD researcher, I learnt a lot of lab techniques that are useful to cancer but aren’t usually applied to immune biology, so being able to bring these to the lab has been an asset.

My work here involves researching mechanisms of dendritic cell activation and combines my PhD and postdoctoral interests in allowing me to investigate similar cellular systems but in different contexts. I will be trying to get various projects published during my postdoc.

During my PhD, I used to try and setup elaborate experiments, with lots of different aspects, only to find that simpler experiments work better. Now I work with primary cells, I have learned to set up smaller projects and begin to scale these up once I’ve tested that they actually work.

Dr Harry Warner

The Netherlands isn’t culturally that different from the UK, but the scientific culture is, and often involves planning more experiments much further in advance, with numerous collaborators. I’ve been trying to learn Dutch, as I’ve found that whilst my lab will communicate in English, joining peripheral conversations often involves being able to understand their language.

Professor van den Bogaart is open to letting me work on things that are outside of his core interests, which has enabled me to develop research independence. My postdoctoral position is funded until at least the end of 2022 and I’d love to establish my own research group in the future, hopefully remaining in the Netherlands.

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