Current Group Members

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Dr. Rachel Cochrane (Jan 2019-present)

Rachel grew up in Portadown, Northern Ireland, and obtained a BSc. (Hons) in Medicinal Chemistry from Queen's University Belfast in 2010. Later that year she began her PhD in Organic Chemistry under the supervision of Prof. John C. Vederas at the University of Alberta, Canada. There, her research focused on the use of biochemical tools to study iterative polyketide synthase enzymes that produce important biologically active molecules. Since joining the Cochrane lab in early 2019, Rachel has been working on the synthesis of labelled bacterial glycolipids to study the mechanism of action of bacterial glycolipid-processing enzymes. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out with her two kids and maintaining her collection of cacti and succulent plants.




Dr Ross Ballantine (Jan 2021-present)

Ross Ballantine grew up in Moira, Co. Down and graduated with a Master’s degree in Chemistry from Queen’s University Belfast in 2017. For his final year project, he studied the mechanochemical synthesis of hybrid nanocages, that had not previously been reported, with important applications in drug delivery and catalysis as part of the James Group. Following graduation, he re-joined the James Group and continued carrying out research on hybrid nanocage synthesis before beginning his post-graduate studies. His current research in the Cochrane Lab focuses on making new analogues of antimicrobial peptides and studying how this affects antimicrobial activity and receptor binding. Outside of the lab, Ross enjoys playing the piano, reading, painting and spending time with his dog Alfie!


PhD students

Samantha Bann (Oct 2019-present)

Samantha grew up in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, and started her Masters degree in Medicinal Chemistry in 2015. In her final year of undergraduate study, she worked in the Cochrane lab on the synthesis of new tridecaptin analogues to overcome antimicrobial resistance. Sam loved the lab so much, she decided to return as a PhD student in Sept 2019, continuing her research into novel antimicrobial peptides. Outside of the lab Sam spends most of her spare time with her friends (and cats, Annie and Ivy) or playing hockey.





Brad Baker (Jan 2020-present)

Brad Baker grew up in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland and began his undergraduate chemistry degree in 2015 at Queen’s University Belfast. After his 3rd year of study Brad undertook an industrial placement at GlaxoSmithKline, Medicinal Chemistry Research and Development, focusing on epigenetic drug design. Brad joined the Cochrane lab in September 2019 and started his PhD in January 2020. His current research focuses on the synthesis of fluorescent probes and the development of high throughput screening methods for the identification of novel antimicrobial targets. Brads interests outside the lab include cycling, true crime documentaries and spending time with his cat, Ralph.




Eilidh Matheson (Oct 2020-present)

Eilidh is from Aberdeen, Scotland and graduated with a Masters in chemistry from the University of Edinburgh in 2020. In her 4th year she studied abroad at the University of Hong Kong, synthesising cyclic antimicrobial peptides, supervised by Professor Xuechen Li. She also completed a final year project with Professor Andrew Lawrence, developing an enantioselective para-Claisen rearrangement. She started her PhD in October 2020, working on bacterial glycolipid synthesis methodologies and glycolipid biosynthesis as a potential antibiotic target. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, hiking and a good pub quiz.




Visiting Researchers

John Deering (2021)

John is from Dublin, Ireland and completed his undergraduate degree in Medicinal Chemistry in Trinity College Dublin in 2018. He then moved to England where he graduated with an MSc in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research in 2019 from the University of Warwick. John is now in his 2nd year of his PhD at Warwick researching inhibitors of glycosyltransferase enzymes in Staph aureus under the supervision of Prof. David RoperHe is currently spending 4 weeks in the Cochrane lab who are helping him isolate and modify polyprenyl lipids! In his spare time John likes to cycle, read and practice yoga. 




MSc Pharma Students

Fatimah Alao (2021)

Fatimah grew up in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. She graduated in 2019 with a BSc. (Hons) in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal science from Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Donegal, before moving to Belfast to pursue a Masters in Pharmaceutical Analysis at Queens University Belfast to expand her repertoire of analytical techniques. Her Master’s thesis involves developing a novel AMP which may have activity against Gram-negative bacteria. During her free time, she loves trying to attempt anything Gordan Ramsey has made on his YouTube channel, writing morbid poetry, and cycling around Belfast.



Varada Olappamanna Mana (2021)

Varada O.M. is from India. She completed her Integrated MSc. in Chemistry from Amrita University, India in 2019. After her masters in chemistry, she was working as a content writer in Chemistry in Acadecraft private limited. She is curious in knowing the depth of science and its applications. She moved to Belfast to pursue a masters in pharmaceutical analysis at Queens University. Her masters project focuses on the development of antimicrobial peptides and the study of its antimicrobial properties. Her other interests are dancing, travelling and swimming.





Summer Students

Katharine Aston (2021)

Katharine is from Larne, Co. Antrim, and studying for an MSci in Chemistry with Professional Studies. During her 3rd year, she completed a placement at Randox Laboratories, where she worked within the Toxicology department on the development of immunoassays. In her spare time she likes playing hockey for Queen’s University, painting, baking and enjoying a good cup of coffee. We are grateful to the EPSRC for funding Katy's summer placement.







Lorcan Rooney (2021)

Lorcan grew up in Belfast and is currently between his 4th and 5th year of his Medicinal Chemistry MSci. His 4th year involved a placement as part of the Mass Spectrometry team at Almac before joining the Cochrane Lab in Summer 2021 where he is working towards the synthesis of β-Hydroxylated amino acids. In his spare time, he enjoys uploading piano covers to his YouTube channel, playing golf, and watching his favourite football team, Manchester United. We are grateful to the EPSRC for funding Lorcan's summer placement.





Jasmine Ross (2021)

Jasmine is from Greenisland, Co. Antrim and is studying for an MSci in Biology and Chemistry at Durham University. She will be staying with us for 8 weeks to complete a summer research project funded by the RSC. Her MSci project will focus on the antibacterial effect of metal chelators. Outside of the lab, she enjoys mini golf, going for late night drives and playing guitar.