James is a member of the Neuroscience Research Group within the School of Biological Sciences. His research outputs demonstrate a track record in the use of the invertebrate C. elegans as a model to understand complex neuropsychiatric disorders at different levels of biological organisation ranging from genes, through to cells, circuits and systems.
James is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and teaches across all levels in the School of Biological Sciences, in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. He is the programme lead and co-admissions tutor for the postgraduate taught MSc Neuroscience programme. James is committed to widening participation at the University of Southampton and is a member of Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences access and participation committee.
Over 1000 genes have been identified as being associated with autism. Many have been identified from genome wide association studies and there is relatively little understanding of how changes in a large proportion of these identified genes bring about dysfunction within the nervous system to cause autism.
James’ current research seeks to address this knowledge gap using the invertebrate model organism C. elegans. This simple nematode offers a powerful genetic system for the introduction of precise genomic edits into orthologous genes identified as being associated with autism, using CRISPR-Cas9 based approaches. James’ research has developed a pipeline for the investigation of genes associated with autism and has revealed interesting candidates that function within epigenetic and lipid signalling pathways. These candidates are currently being investigated combining approaches in C. elegans with biochemical and imaging approaches in neuronal cell culture lines.
Another branch of James’ current research is a collaboration with the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples to characterise the molecular and cellular components of the nociception and pain pathways in Octopus Vulgaris. The research will take a model hopping approach to functionally validate candidate nociceptor genes identified form Octopus Vulgaris using transgenic approaches in C. elegans.
James’ other research interests include alcohol addiction. His research has combined pharmacological, electrophysiological and molecular genetic approaches in C. elegans to further understands the neural substrates of alcohol addiction and this has involved interdisciplinary collaborations with engineering and computer sciences at the University of Southampton.
Current PhD Students
I teach across a range of different topics within the school of biological sciences, spanning neuroscience, pharmacology, biomedical sciences and molecular genetics. Topics include genetic engineering, neuroscience of sensory systems and context-dependent behaviour, neuropharmacology of nociception, pain and psychiatric disorders. Undergraduate and postgraduate (MSc) research projects I have supervised investigated the genes associated with neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism and schizophrenia, using the model organism C. elegans. I have supervised Summer internships funded by the Pharmacological Society, Genetics Society and the John W Caddick Vacation Scholarship.
Module lead for Biol1027 and Biol6092.
Module co-lead for Biol2051, Biol2052 and Biol3034.
MSc Neuroscience programme lead and co-admissions tutor
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences Access and Participation committee member
PGCAP Modules 1-3
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
I demonstrate the use of optogenetics in C. elegans for the Marine Biological Association workshop, 'Microelectrode, Patch Clamp and Optical Techniques for Cell physiology,' Plymouth, UK.