Andrew McDowell

Dr

  • Cromore Road, Coleraine Campus

    BT52 1SA Coleraine

    United Kingdom

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20002022

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Personal profile

Biography

Dr Andrew McDowell has a PhD in Biochemistry from Queen’s University, Belfast (QUB). After completing his doctorate, he held a number of positions including Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Microbiology within the Centre for Experimental Medicine QUB, and Visiting Scholar, Biological Research Centre, Szeged (European Centre for Excellence).  

Dr McDowell has a general interest in opportunistic human infections, and has developed a number of research themes related to the role played by our resident microbiota in conditions ranging from cystic fibrosis to prosthetic joint and bone infections, skin disease, mental health and cancer (prostate, skin & cervical). His microbiological studies in the latter has been greatly aided by completion of an MRes in Cancer Biology.  

His early work with The Freeman Hospital, Newcastle-upon Tyne and Newcastle University, on the role of Burkholderia cepacia complex pathogens in cystic fibrosis pulmonary transplant outcomes was a ‘game changer’ in terms of patient risk-stratification, directly resulting in changes to the International Society for Heart and Lung transplantation guidelines for CF patients.

He is now most well-known as a leading authority on the role played by human anaerobic cutibacteria in skin health and disease, and conditions beyond the skin. He was the first to describe the population structure and intra-species diversity of the bacterium Cutibacterium acnes, and to identify distinct genetic groupings or phylotypes that differed in pathogenicity and disease associations. This opened up many new research opportunities, and a plethora of studies and publications influenced by his work subsequently followed. At Ulster, he has especially focused on the potential role of this bacterium in prostate cancer by leading an oncology work package within the Centre for Stratified Medicine. This work, which brought together clinical and academic teams, has led to successful PhD completions and invention disclosures with publications pending. He is also interested in improving the detection and managment of HPV-positive woman with a number of papers in this area. 

Over his career, Dr McDowell has won a number of awards in recognition of his work, and been invited to speak at national and international conferences. His international reach is signifiant, with active, as well as previous, collaborations with world-renowned institutions. He has also carried out research with industry and acted as a consultant.  

Dr McDowell joined Ulster as a Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology in 2013, where he is Principal Investigator within the School of Biomedical Sciences, Coleraine campus. On joining Ulster, he completed his PgCHEP and was awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in 2016.

Research Interests

Current research:

1. Project PEE (Prostate Cancer Microbiome)

2. Project MOOD (Microbiome Shifts in Schizophrenia and Depression)

3. Project PLANET (Plastic Eating Bacteria from Wastewater)

Current and Recent Grants

National Charities and Reseach Council:

Wellcome Trust

British Skin Foundation

Prostate Cancer, UK

Cystic Fibrosis

Big Lottery Trust

Western Health & Social Care Trust R&D Discretionary Fund. 

Industry

GlaxoSmithKline

Galderma

Sanofi

Unilever

Medi-ShowerTM

Teaching Interests

Dr McDowell is the Associate Course Director on the BSc (Hon) degree programme at Ulster. This encompasses three degree pathways covering approximately 300 students, including BSc (Hon) Applied Biomedical Science that facilitates HCPC registration. He teaches across on-campus and distance learning undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Personalised Medicine, Biomedical Science and Biology. He has always had an interest in technology-enhanced learning and the potential for digital tools to aid pedagogy. In particular, he has been very active in using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, as 'familiar' virtual platforms to enhance student learning experiences in selected modules.  

His experience in commercialisation and knowledge transfer has also been very beneficial for students in the module, Healthcare Economics & Innovation in Personalised Medicine which he coordinates. To improve student retention and progression rates, he has introduced and coordinated Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) in the UG Biomedical Science degree for year 1 students.

Dr McDowell is a STEM ambassador and has been passionate about improving the public’s awareness of science, education and career opportunities through engagement with the NI Science Festival, as well as talks and workshops at schools and colleges. He has also been working with Widening Access at Ulster in the development of a free interactive online course on human microbes and their role in disease, as part of the Ulster University Outreach Academy.

PhD Researcher Profile

Current PhD students:

Ailis Stevenson.

Ailis who graduated with a 1st Class Hon degree in Stratified Medicine is currently working on the role of oral and blood microbiome shifts in depression and schizophrenia with myself and Dr Elaine Murray.

Dr Joseph McLaughlin (2017-2021)

Joseph who was funded through a British Skin Foundation grant graduated in 2022 after significant COVID disruption to his work and patient recruitment.

Thesis title: Development of DNA-based tools to study cutibacteria in skin health and disease. 

Joseph is now working as a PDRA on a COVID-related project. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Master, Queens University Belfast

PhD, Queens University, Belfast

External positions

Editor Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (Biofilms section)

2022 → …

Co-Founder ECM Biologics, Inc

2020 → …

BREATH (Border & Regions Airways Training Hub) project affiliate PI, Queen's University

2018 → …

Editor BMC Microbiology (Clinical Microbiology & Vaccines section)

2014 → …

Member College of Reviewers, Canada Research Chairs Program, Canada Research Chairs

2014 → …

Editor PLOSONE

2013 → …

Editor Microorganisms

2013 → …

UK Cystic Fibrosis Microbiology Consortium steering committee

20052008

International Burkholderia cepacia Working Group

19992009

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