Rochelle Hockney: Graduate Tutor

Hello HumBugs,

I would like to introduce myself, my name is Rochelle Hockney and I am a Graduate Tutor studying for a PhD in Microbiology, alongside completing a higher education teaching qualification at Teesside University. I am eight months into my PhD and I am enjoying the daily challenges and achievements gained from the Graduate Tutor role.
I must be honest, blogging is new to me. However, I am driven by stimulating challenges and I have realised that this is certainly what I have signed up for in my role at Teesside University.

Five years ago, I did not imagine myself being here. Starting out in my first year as a BSc Biology student, I did not know which career path I would chose (or would chose me!). However, in my second year I selected a ‘Developmental Biology’ module which sparked my interest into reproduction and the challenges facing the body during this time. From this, I created my final year project discussing the social and ethical challenges impeding the development of a male contraceptive pill. I then went onto study an MSc in Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, with my dissertation focusing on the expression of antimicrobial peptides from endocervical epithelial cells when induced with bacterial endotoxins.

Back to present day, I am now undertaking my PhD research project on ‘The role of the placental microbiome in chorioamnionitis’. Chorioamnionitis is inflammation of the placental membranes, and is linked to adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes such as preterm birth. However, the role of the placental microbiome in chorioamnionitis is poorly understood, so the aim of my project is to determine if there is a distinct placental microbiome in patients diagnosed with chorioamnionitis and investigate the causal mechanism of the inflammatory response. This will hopefully aid to improve diagnostic testing for the condition, decrease the occurrence of preterm birth, plus improve the associated morbidity and mortality rates.
To date, I have completed DNA extractions and quantification in the laboratory on both fresh frozen placental tissues and FFPE (Formalin Fixed Paraffin Embedded) tissues. I have recently completed the Next Generation Sequencing of the FFPE samples and currently working with (sometimes against!) R data analysis package to explore the sequencing data. I am eagerly awaiting the sequencing of the frozen samples to determine if a distinct microbiome is detectable in the placental membranes and what this may tell us about chorioamnionitis.

I am privileged to be involved in the exciting dynamics of the department and looking forward to working further with the varied and supportive team here at Teesside University, plus with collaborators at Northumbria University and Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle.

Here I am presenting my research at the annual School of Science and Engineering Research Day (May 2017).
Stay tuned for more updates,
Rochelle