Dr. Gerben van Ooijen - Reader

After receiving a PhD for his work at the Molecular Plant Pathology group at the University of Amsterdam in 2008, Gerben joined Andrew Millar's lab at the Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh, where he contributed to the discovery of purely non-transcriptional circadian rhythms across eukaryotes. He then secured a University Research Fellowship from the Royal Society, London, to continue to study cellular timekeeping. Gerben's lab employ the model plant Arabidopsis and the unicellular alga Ostreococcus tauri. The latter is used as a starting point for comparative biology of clocks across all eukaryotes, in various collaborations.

Outside the lab, Gerben is a keen home brewer, plays the drums, enjoys running and spending time with his family.

Tel.: 0131 6 513 314 or


Holly Kay

Holly obtained her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of York, during which time she completed a placement year in the Más lab in Barcelona. It was there that she realised she wanted to pursue a career in circadian research. A subsequent summer internship working with Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in the Mackinder lab in York revealed to her the wealth of possibilities that come with using algae as model organisms, and a PhD in circadian biology using Ostreococcus tauri seemed the perfect next step. She started in August 2018 and is funded by the Royal Society.

In her spare time Holly enjoys hiking and spending obscene amounts of money in cafes. She also hopes to take up tap dancing again.

Sergio Gil

After spending most of his life in a small town of the Costa Brava, Sergio started his career by graduating in Biology in 2013 at the University of Barcelona. He continued with a Masters degree in plant biology in 2014 at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Marc Valls' group. He obtained his PhD working on circadian rhythms and DNA damage in plants, with Paloma Más at the Center for Research in Agrigenomics (CRAG). After several years working with Arabidopis thaliana, he decided to explore circadian rhythms in other eukaryotic organisms. Nowadays, Sergio aims to find new and efficient methods to monitor circadian magnesium rhythms in vivo in the microalga Ostreococcus tauri. Sergio is funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Outside the lab, Sergio enjoys any kind of sport, especially hiking, and when not possible, he loves spending time playing online videogames or board games with friends.

Olivia Fraser

Olivia completed her BSc in Biology at the University of Edinburgh, where her interest in plant biology first began and developed. Her fascination of plants was confirmed after her summer internship with the Halliday Lab in 2019 and continued throughout the completion of her honours project in the McCormick Lab (both at the University of Edinburgh). Experiencing the wealth of scientific possibilities exercised in these labs led Olivia to pursue further study via PhD. She is currently focusing to the intricacies of the plant circadian clock and its interaction with the immune system. Olivia began her PhD research in 2020 and is funded by the BBSRC EASTBIO studentship.

Outside of the lab, Olivia enjoys tending to her own personal plant collection, playing sports, running, hiking and reading – when she’s got time!

Haomiao (Hermi) Cheng

Haomiao spent her early years in China before moving to Edinburgh to meet a different world. She started her PhD in 2021 and is funded by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh. She is a microalgae enthusiast, and studied Chlorella physiology and diatom genetics during her undergraduate and masters research. She enjoys fundamental aspects of cellular life, and likes to study it in cells with minimal biological complexity. Naturally, when she read our PhD project, she couldn't resist!
When not at work, she loves exploring the city, traveling, and home cooking. 


Past members

Helen Feord

Helen was funded by a BBSRC EASTBIO studentship, and worked on magnesium transport in Ostreococcus. She is waiting the examination of her thesis, Circadian magnesium transport in eukaryotic cells. In the meantime she started a postdoc job in the Benning lab in Potsdam, working on algae-dominated microbial communities in glacial environments in Greenland. Glaciers! Greenland!


Samantha Cargill

Samantha completed her PhD in 2021, following a first year at the Scottish Rural College and 2.5 years in our lab. Her thesis was named Crosstalk between the plant circadian clock and immunity, and Sam is currently re-training to be a financial adviser. 



Babette Vlieger - Babatte joined us on an 8-month Erasmus+ studentship in 2019/2020. She worked with Holly on characterising the effects of methylation inhibition on the clock in Ostreococcus, and lend a helping hand on long proteomics timeseries. She is currently a PhD student at the Molecular Plant Pathology group of the University of Amsterdam. 



Ellen Grünewald - Ellen joined the lab as a postdoc to identify regulators of cellular circadian timekeeping using proteomics approaches. Her experience with mammalian cell biology helped her to develop very useful research tools for Ostreococcus. Ellen now has her own highly successful Medical Writing company, Articulife. 



Ísarr Nikulás Gunnarsson - Ísarr joined the lab for his Biotechnology Honours project in 2019. Supervised by Helen, he investigated proteins involved in circadian magnesium rhythms in Ostreococcus




Dr. Louise Hansen - Louise came to our lab as our first PhD student in 2013, and after that stayed on as a post-doc. Louise was very successful in our lab and was involved in setting up many of the methodologies we employ. As a PhD student Louise identified a role for SUMOylation in the circadian system of Arabidopsis, resulting in her three first-author papers. As a post-doc she worked on cellular rhythms in Ostreococcus, generating a number of leads for new projects and contributing to the 2016 paper on magnesium rhythms. Louise is now back in her home town of Copenhagen, working for the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

Annabel Summerfield - Annabel joined our lab on a Sainsbury Undergraduate Studentship, funded by the Gatsby foundation in 2017. She made excellent progress on identifying a link between circadian potassium rhythms and plant growth. After finishing up her degree in plant biology at Bristol, she was accepted onto the Civil Service Fast Stream Programme. 


Freddie Dear - Freddie joined our lab for his Biochemistry Honours project. He was working on the role of transmembrane ion transporters in the Ostreococcus clock. He is very talented on a skittles alley. After his degree Freddie joined the Wellcome Trust trainee scheme and is now a partner in the Trust's scientific investment management company, Syncona. 


Sjoerd Smit - Sjoerd joined our lab on an Erasmus studentship, studying SUMOylation in the plant circadian clock in 2015. His brewing made a lasting impression. After finishing his degree, Sjoerd started a traineeship for young academics combining government and industrial placements with gaining teaching accreditation. He is also teaching biology in a college for adult students.