30 Nov In conversation with Lister Fellow Stephan Uphoff
Stephan took a break from setting up for undergraduate admissions to speak to us about his experience of winning the 2020 Lister Prize.
Stephan is currently Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry, Oxford University. His research group explores how bacteria sense and respond to changes in their environment. They especially want to find out how bacteria are able to survive attack by immune defences and antibiotic treatments.
The lab takes an interdisciplinary approach that involves the development of microscopy methods to visualise stress responses in live cells at a single-molecule level. This allows them to track the fates of individual cells over time and understand the molecular processes underlying stress adaptation.
Stephan’s application to the Lister Institute Fellowship focused in particular on the response of bacteria to oxidative stress. He was one of four Fellows awarded the Prize in 2020, from a total of 114 applicants.
Stephan says that the flexibility of the Lister funding will help his team to explore new research directions of medical relevance, “such as studying pathogenic bacteria, which we otherwise might not have the resources to do.”
So often, we find that our Fellows have been encouraged to apply for the Prize by a colleague. This was also the case for Stephan, to whom the Lister Prize was mentioned just after he started his own research group. Although his first application was unsuccessful – another common theme! – he won the following year, after his lab had established itself more firmly.
Due to the recent onset of the Covid pandemic, the interviews that year were conducted over Zoom, with eleven finalists meeting the Scientific Advisory Group.
“Receiving the news about the Lister award during the first Covid lockdown in May 2020 was a very nice surprise,” recalls Stephan. “Unfortunately, it then took a bit of time before we could return to the lab and begin the research.”
Attending the Lister’s Annual Fellows Meeting has been a highlight of his time since winning the Prize: