Lab Members

Dr Rafael G da Silva – Principal Investigator

I’m a native of Porto Alegre, a city in the south of Brazil. I received a BSc degree in Biology (2002) from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, and MSc (2005) and PhD (2008) degrees in Biochemistry from the same university, under the supervision of Dr Luiz Basso. After post-doctoral training (2008-2012) with Dr Vern Schramm at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, I worked at Pfizer in Connecticut, first as Senior Scientist, then as Principal Scientist (2012-2014). In 2015, I moved to Scotland as a research group leader at the University of St Andrews.


Dr Suneeta Devi – Post-doctoral Fellow

I am from the historical city of Benaras, India. I was fascinated by the abilities of scientific research to alleviate human life throughout my school days, which led me to pursue my undergraduate degree in biology and master’s in biotechnology. My evolving scientific curiosities led me to pursue my PhD with Prof. S Gourinath in structural biology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. During my doctoral training,  I investigated the structure-function relationship of sulfur metabolic enzymes using pathogenic bacteria as a model. Recently, I joined the da Silva lab at the University of St Andrews to investigate the underlying mechanism of the human DNPH1 enzyme and to develop biocatalytic routes to isotope-labelled nucleotides, funded by IBioIC.


Ben Read – Biology (EASTBIO) PhD Student

Originally from the south-east of England, I came to the University of St Andrews where I completed my BSc in Biochemistry. I have continued at St Andrews to undertake a PhD in the da Silva lab as part of the EATBIO Doctoral Training Partnership. My project aims to elucidate the mechanism behind allosteric inhibition/activation of Acinetobacter baumannii ATP phosphoribosyltransferase, which has untapped antimicrobial potential.



Anna Carberry – Biology PhD Student

I am originally from Bangor in Northern Ireland. I completed a BSc in Joint Honours Biology and Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, where I have stayed to undertake a PhD in the da Silva lab group. My project is sponsored jointly by NuCana and the School of Biology, and aims to elucidate the mechanism human DNPH1 enzyme, whose upregulation has been proposed to grant resistance to PARP-inhibitor chemotherapy in BRCA-negative cancers.



Erin Laing – Biology MSc(Res) Student

I am from the Scottish Borders and came to the University of St Andrews where I completed my Bsc in Biochemistry. I stayed on at the University of St Andrews to undertake a MSc by Research in the da Silva lab. My project aims to elucidate the mechanism of inhibition of the Staphylococcus aureus enzyme m1A22-tRNA methyltransferase (TrmK), a potential drug target to treat MRSA infections.



Ennio Pecaver – Biology PhD Student

I am from Selce, a small coastal town in Croatia. I completed a BSc Biochemistry degree in St Andrews and stayed in town to pursue a PhD in the da Silva group. My project is based on functional and structural characterisation of two human tRNA methyltransferases: METTL1 and NSUN2. These enzymes are implicated in reduced chemotherapeutic efficacy of 5-fluorouracil – therefore, characterising them can inform drug discovery and potentially improve cancer treatment. My work is funded by a Cunningham Trust grant.






Lab Alumni

Name – Position in the Lab – Period – Current Post:

Dr Gemma Fisher – PhD Student – 2017 – 2022 – Scientist at Hammersmith Medicines Research (London)

Dr Teresa Machado – PhD Student – 2016 – 2021 – Postdoc at the Francis Crick Institute (London)

Dr Pamela Sweeney – Postdoc – 2018-2021 – Scientist at Crescendo Biologics (Cambridge)

Dr Catherine Thomson – PhD student – 2015-2019 – Consultant at Deloitte (Edinburgh)