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Originally graduating in Physiology at the University of Birmingham, SF-W carried out her PhD and post-doc on “Central neuronal control of the autonomic nervous system”. Moving to Edinburgh to join Ainslie Iggo FRS, working on neuronal pain mechanisms, SF-W quickly set up an independent lab supported by Wellcome Trust funding, undertaking innovative studies on the pharmacology of receptors mediating analgesia. Recent studies have involved collaborations with clinicians and veterinarians, new models and molecular techniques, transgenic animals and drug discovery campaigns to develop new analgesics based on our ground-breaking scientific discoveries on molecular mechanisms in chronic pain. Major funding has been obtained from the Wellcome Trust, pharmaceutical companies, the BBSRC Animal Welfare Initiative and Scottish Enterprise.  


BSc (Hons) Physiology, University of Birmingham, 1973-76

PhD, Neurophysiology, University of Birmingham, 1976-79

Research Interests

We work with clinicians, veterinary scientists and chemists with a strategic goal of translational medicine studies that can identify new molecular targets for analgesia and begin to develop new drugs to treat the problem of intractable chronic pain. We use a wide range of techniques to address this, including pharmacological, biomarker, proteomic, protein:protein interaction, cell signalling and behavioural analysis methods, with a focus on the neurotransmitter receptors and intracellular signalling pathways responsible. We have developed new models and an innovative fluorescence technique to assess synaptic function at a microscale level.  Major progress has been made in identifying a new endogenous analgesic system that can gate-out pain inputs.

My research in a nutshell

Our research is focused on understanding the molecular changes that occur in chronic hypersensitive pain states, so that we can design new effective analgesics for this unmet need.



Year 2:

Biomedical Sciences 2 (lecturer and in-course assessor).

Year 3:

Biomedical Sciences 3 (tutor and assessor).

Applied Pharmacology 3 (lecturer and assessor).

Year 4:

Honours core programmes:

Honours Pharmacology (deputy course organiser, Exam Board member, lecturer, tutor, project supervisor).

Honours Neuroscience (in-course assessor).

Honours electives:

Receptors, Signalling and Regulation of Cell Responsiveness (co-organiser and lecturer).


Postgraduate (MSc)

Taught or Research MSc:

MSc by Research Integrative Neuroscience (lecturer and project supervisor).

Research students

1)    PhD: (1982-1985): Philippa J Hope: "Antinociceptive actions of descending catecholamine tracts in dorsal horn somatosensory neurons".

2)    DPhil: (1987-1990):  Graham N Wood: "Stress and welfare in the new-born lamb".

3)    PhD: (1985-1988): Nada El-Yassir: "Serotonergic mechanisms in the dorsal horn".

4)    PhD: (1991-1994): Rachel MC Parker: "The role of tachykinins in acute nociceptive responses and in long term changes within spinal neurons during inflammation".

5)    PhD: (1991-1995): Fiona E Munro: "The role of tachykinins in acute and sustained responses of dorsal horn neurons".

6)    PhD: (1993-1996): Marie R Young: "The role of metabotropic glutamate receptors and their intracellular signalling mechanisms in nociception and hyperalgesia        

7)    PhD: (1994-1997): David Marshall:Cloning and expression of a Novel Neural Gene”.

8)    PhD: (1994-1998): Paul Heppenstall: "Mechanisms of neurokinin1 receptor action in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord".       

9)    PhD: (1995-1998): Tracy Dickinson: "The role of VIP/PACAP receptor subtypes in spinal somatosensory processing in rats with an experimental peripheral mononeuropathy".      

10) PhD: (1994-1998): Lesley A Colvin (MBChB): "The role of galanin and neuropeptide Y in a rat model of neuropathic pain".

11) PhD: (1998-2001): Andrew Moss: "The role of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) in the mediation of nociceptive inputs in rat spinal cord after chronic constriction injury (CCI) to the sciatic nerve".

12) MSc, PhD: (1997-1998; 1998-2001): Emer M Garry: "The involvement of the ionotropic glutamate receptors in nociceptive pathways of the central nervous system". 

13) PhD: (1999-2002): Victoria C Wallace:The role of demyelination in neuropathic pain states”.        

14) MSc; PhD: (2000-2001; 2001-2004):  Francis E O’Neill (BDS): “Molecular mechanisms of the genesis and resolution of trigeminal and spinal neuropathic pain”.

15) PhD: (2001-2004): Mark Rockett (MBChB): “Functional interactions of glutamate and other receptors”.

16) MD: (2002-2004): John A Wilson (MBChB): “The role of glutamate receptors in the development of neuropathic pain”.

17) PhD: (2002-2005): Ada Delaney: “Intracellular mechanisms in neuropathic pain“.

18) PhD: (2003-2006): Clare J Proudfoot: “The role of glutamate receptor subunits and their docking proteins in neuropathic pain”.

17) PhD: (2005-2008): Anisha Patel: The role of 5-HT in neuropathic pain”.

19) PhD: (2005-2009): Hayley L Gooding:Long term effects of early life pain and stress”.

20) PhD: (2008-2011): Ignacio Vinuela-Fernandez (MVetSci): “Spinal mechanisms of chronic pain and animal welfare”.

21) PhD: (2007-2011): Gillian L Currie:Spinal mechanisms of cancer-induced bone pain”.

22) MSc: (2010-2011): Bashak Tas:The effects of stress and ageing on central pain processing”.

23) PhD: (2009-2012): Liting Sun:Investigation of Plasticity in Somatosensory Processing Following Early Life Adverse Events or Nerve Injury”.

24) MSc: (2013-14): Veny Lukito:Assessment of the role of NMDA receptor subtypes in hypersensitivity during chronic pain”.


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