skip to content

Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Amy Wilkinson,

  United Kingdom

  Biological Science, St Catharine's College

  PhD thesis title: Investigating the epigenetic regulation of early human embryo development

  Research interests:
  1. Developmental biology
  2. Reproductive biology
                                3. Epigenetics

During the earliest stages of human development, the cells of the embryo have the capacity to generate any cell type. Shortly after the embryo implants into the uterus, the cells differentiate into early progenitor cell types and begin to lay out the body plan. Despite the importance of this for pregnancy success, mechanistic understanding of the processes occurring is lacking since the embryo is inaccessible to study. However, recently developed in vitro models of implantation and stem cell-based embryo models now allow us to study this elusive stage of development. During my PhD, I will use these models to investigate how epigenetic modifications (modifications to DNA and its associated proteins) regulate gene expression in post-implantation stages and the role these play in human embryo development. The knowledge gained may improve our understanding of certain pregnancy complications and lead to better treatments and preventative measures in the future.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?
I first became interested in reproductive and developmental biology during my undergraduate studies. However, my interest in epigenetics and human reproduction was really cemented by undertaking exciting research projects in the labs of Professor Graham Burton, Dr Erica Watson, and Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn. These introduced me to cutting edge technologies and concepts that I want to continue discovering more about. I am also a member of Cambridge Reproduction SRI, a multidisciplinary community of people studying reproduction in Cambridge. This has inspired me to explore different areas of the field from many perspectives, not only scientific perspectives.