Katerina Johnson

Personal photo - Katerina Johnson
Doctoral Student at the

Rex Richards Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU


I am a young ambitious scientist, motivated both by the quest for knowledge and the potential benefits our findings can bring to some of society’s greatest challenges. I thrive under pressure and relish the excitement and challenges of research. My curiosity and love of learning has naturally led me to pursue a PhD.


Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership
University of Oxford (Pembroke Graduate Scholarship), 2014 – 2018

BA (Hons), Biological Sciences, First Class Honours with Prize
University of Oxford (Pembroke Undergraduate Scholarship), 2011 – 2014

A Levels in Biology (A*), Chemistry (A*), Mathematics (A*) & Geography (A*)
School of St Helen & St Katharine (Academic Scholarship), 2004 – 2011

DPhil Research

Exploring connections between the microbiome, brain and behaviour

I am conducting my DPhil research between the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry (supervised by Professor Robin Dunbar and Dr Phil Burnet). As a biologist, I am fascinated by the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies and in particular the ways in which they may interact with our brain to influence behaviour. Bidirectional communication between our gut microbiota (community of microorganisms living in the gut) and central nervous system may be mediated via neural, endocrine or immune mechanisms. This microbiome-gut-brain axis is an exciting frontier in neuroscience and my current research focuses on its potential to provide novel insights into individual variation in social behaviour and personality.

I am also interested in the animal microbiome from an evolutionary and ecological perspective, for example the role that social relationships and behaviours may play in shaping an individual’s microbiome composition. My research spans the fields of microbiology, metagenomics, molecular genetics, neuroscience, behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology.

Research Projects

12 week project supervised by Professor Robin Dunbar (Dept of Experimental Psychology) exploring the neurochemical basis of human social behaviour.

12 week project supervised by Professor Ben Sheldon (Dept of Zoology) conducting social network analysis to reveal the structuring of a bird population in relation to individual behavioural differences.

12 week undergraduate research project supervised by Dr Aziz Aboobaker (Dept of Zoology) exploring the molecular basis of morphological evolution in planarians.

Research Interests

Primary interests include the application of genetics and molecular biology to understand the interactions between the microbiome, the brain and behaviour. My interests are wide-ranging, extending to areas such as evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology, cognition, health and ageing.


Laboratory PCR, gel electrophoresis, DNA cloning, microscopy, in situ hybridisation, western blotting, spectrophotometry, dissection.
Bioinformatics Geneious, BLAST, BioEdit, ImageJ, social network analysis.
Programming R and basic knowledge of MATLAB, Python and C.
Statistics JMP, SPSS, PAST.
Communication Public speaking, good French language and ICT skills.


Gibbs Prize for meritorious work in Biological Sciences, University of Oxford 2014.

Finals Prize, Master of Pembroke College 2014.

Governor’s Prize, Pembroke College 2012.

Silver medal, British Biology Olympiad 2011.

National prize winner for best A Level practical chemistry investigation, Salter’s Institute 2011.

Best Biology Student of the Year in Oxfordshire, 2010.

Work Experience

Oxford Scientific Films, London, Aug 2014
Liaised with Production Coordinator and assisted Edit Producer with scientific research for BBC TV series ‘Plant Odysseys’ and also spent a day with the filming crew on shoot.

Syngenta, Jealott's Hill International Research Centre, Sept 2012
Crop Science induction programme covering identification and development of chemicals for sustainable agriculture.

Google, London, Sept 2012
Participated in the BOLD Immersion Programme (Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development) and selected for their follow-on Mentorship Scheme.

Gatsby Plant Science Summer School, York, July 2012
Learnt about cutting-edge developments in plant research and developed a wide variety of skills, notably confocal laser scanning microscopy, diagnosis of plant pathology (including lateral flow device and on site real-time PCR), species identification and computational methods to model plant development.

Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens, Burford, June/Dec 2009
Learnt about animal husbandry and maintenance of biodiversity through ex situ conservation programmes. Interacted with the public and shadowed veterinary doctor.

Pets As Therapy Charity, 2007-2009
Regular volunteer work visiting a local dementia care home with a PAT dog on a weekly basis.


Oxford University Biological Society, Vice President 2012-2013.

Netball, athletics, science communication, graphic design, entrepreneurship, cooking!


LinkedIn profile

ResearchGate profile

Loop profile

Favourite Quotes

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” – Charles Darwin

“We are the cosmos made conscious. Life is the means by which the universe understands itself. And for me, our true significance lies in our ability and our desire to understand and explore this beautiful universe.” – Professor Brian Cox