Sarah obtained her first degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh in 2000. She then went to UCL for her PhD, studying on the MRC LMCB four-year PhD programme and carrying out her thesis work in the laboratory of Paul Martin. Sarah moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006 for her first postdoctoral position in the laboratory of Bill Bement. In 2008, Sarah was awarded a Beit Memorial Fellowship to undertake a postdoctoral project in the laboratory of Nancy Papalopulu at the University of Manchester. To develop her own independent research project, Sarah was awarded a Stepping Stones Fellowship by the University of Manchester in March 2012. In July 2012, Sarah was awarded a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship to establish her own lab in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research at the University of Manchester.
The tissues of our bodies are extremely complicated at the cellular level, comprising different types of cells arranged with precise geometry. Within this complex system, the direction in which a cell divides is a crucial tool used to shape tissues and determine cell fate. Defects in division orientation have lethal consequences: they cause failures in embryonic development and are associated with cancer.
To coordinate cell division across a tissue, cells must be able to “read” their external cellular environment and orient their division accordingly. The mechanisms that control this remain unclear, but we know that cues from the extracellular matrix play a vital role. These cues must be fed to a cellular structure called the mitotic spindle, the positioning of which determines cell division orientation. Understanding the mechanisms used by the cell to correctly position the spindle is a key focus of our lab. In particular, we are investigating how molecular forces are balanced inside the cell to position the mitotic spindle and how these internal mechanisms are linked to the external cellular environment in order to coordinate spindle orientation across a tissue.