PhD Student – Katarzyna Niemiec

Update: Katarzyna has successfully submitted her final thesis in February 2018.

Katarzyna Niemiec is a final-year PhD student at Queen Mary University of London. Her project, supervised by Prof Ahmad Waseem and Dr Muy-Teck Teh, focuses on human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

What is your project about?

Over the last decades, HPV16 has emerged as an important cause of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; a type of cancer characterised by high incidence and high mortality. Crucially, these HPV16-positive cases are regarded to have a unique clinical identity and have been associated with markedly improved outcomes. With constantly emerging evidence, there is an escalating expectation for obligatory routine HPV testing and accurate diagnosis of the HPV16 status. As the currently used diagnostic tests suffer from multiple limitations, there is a pressing need for a method of HPV16 detection that is accurate, reproducible and practical for universal application in the clinical settings. Hence, using a variety of molecular and cell biology techniques, I have been investigating the effect of HPV16 on keratinocytes, the natural host cells for HPV16 infection, with the aim to identify any specific changes caused by the viral activity. The ultimate goal of my project is to provide a basis for developing a novel method of identifying HPV16-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinomas, which would permit HPV16-positive patients to be reliably identified and to receive less intensive treatment regimens that still achieve excellent outcomes.


I have presented my findings at numerous internal and international conferences including the PhD Dentistry Day 2014 – 2017, William Harvey Day 2014 – 2016, European Cytoskeletal Forum 2015 and Gordon Research Seminar on Epithelial Differentiation & Keratinization 2017. To attend the latter two, I was awarded with SMD, PGRF and Biochemical Society travel grants.