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Peter Watson

Professor Peter Watson


Director for Postgraduate Education, Professor, Academic lead of imaging facilities, Postgraduate Research Teaching Co-ordinator

School of Biosciences

Available for postgraduate supervision


Research overview

How mammalian cells regulate and spatially co-ordinate the process of moving cellular cargo, while ensuring that organelle homeostasis, is maintained and cargos are delivered correctly, is the focus of my research. Using small molecule inhibitors, toxins, and classical cell biology, and utilising both fluorescence and non-linear optical approaches, I study the pathways with which mammalian cells are able to move proteins,lipids and nanoparticles between cellular compartments.

Current lab members

  • Dr Iwan Palmer (CALIN)
  • Rhodri Thomas (GSK CASE PhD Studentship)
  • Nicole Slesiona (MUSIQ ESR)
  • Jan Majer (Musiq ESR)
  • Carwyn Hughes (PhD student with Professor Arwyn Jones)

Previous lab members

  • Dr Edward Sayers (CALIN)
  • Dr Elena Koudouna (GSK PDRA)
  • Dr Anika Offergeld (KTP associate)
  • Dale Boorman (BBSRC Industrial CASE scholarship with Glaxosmithkline as industrial sponsor)(Now working with the BBSRC)
  • Sam Jones (PDRA) (now working in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • Pamela Riester (Now working at GSK)
  • Dr Iestyn Pope (Microscopy Development)
  • Lin He (Welsh School of Pharmacy PhD scholarship)
  • Claudia Di Napoli (President's PhD Scholarship)
  • Dr Jonathan Wood (Now working for InnovateUK)
  • Claire Gibson (PhD in association with Q-chip)
  • Bethan Goodwin (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Moses Tutesigensi (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Rebecca Gundy (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Jihua Xue (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Katie Davis (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Choonhoe Lum (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Kirsty Lewis (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • James Thomas (Undergraduate Research Project)
  • Zoe Bassett (Biophotonics Research Project)
  • Michael Garhard (Biophotonics Research Project)
  • Ian Yekhlef  (Biophotonics Research Project)
  • Louise Barker (CUROP student)
  • Izzati Yussof (Summer student)
  • Chris Towers (Wellcome Trust Summer studentship)























Book sections




The compartmentalisation of mammalian cells allows the organisation of internal structures that have specific and distinct identity and function. Movement of components (proteins, lipids and solutes) between these structures is an ordered process, and occurs by the shuttling of membrane bound transport vesicles. Cargo is selectively incorporated into forming vesicles and targeted to their destination, where they fuse membranes with the acceptor compartment and deliver their cargo.

The machinery responsible for this targeted delivery needs to be returned to the original compartment to balance organelle homeostasis, and so these proteins are retrieved through a process of retrograde transport. Individual compartments are continually in a state of flux, and compartmental proteins and lipids are maintained through a balance of targeting, retention and retrieval. Components are continually moving between compartments, and it is the balance of traffic between them that defines the steady-state localisation of a molecule.

How mammalian cells regulate and spatially co-ordinate this process, to ensure that organelle homeostasis is maintained and cargo's are delivered correctly, is the focus of my research. I am also interested in developing novel microscopy techniques to allow the visualisation and quantification of intracellular structures.

CARS microscopy

In collaboration with Dr Paola Borri and Professor Wolfgang Langbein, we are utilising coherent anti-stokes Raman scattering microscopy to study lipid homeostasis within eukaryotic cells. CARS microscopy joins the chemical sensitivity and label-free noninvasiveness offered by vibrational spectroscopy with the inherent 3D sectioning capability of multiphoton microscopy. We have recently published our work on a method to perform frequency differential CARS (D-CARS) in Optics Letters.

Four Wave mixing imaging (FWM)

In collaboration with Dr Paola Borri and Professor Wolfgang Langbein, we have demonstrated a novel multiphoton microscope based on the detection of four wave mixing emitted from gold nanoparticles. This allows us to perform background free imaging of single gold labels of small sizes (down to 5nm) with sub-micrometer resolution. We have recently published this work in Optics Letters and are now investigating the applicability of this technique to the life sciences.


We have a number of microscopes within the lab available for use:

  • Bernard: Widefield fast timelapse configured for DAPI/FITC/TRITC and CFP/YFP/RFP fluorescence imaging and phase contrast for brightfield imaging.
  • Clarissa: Widefield fast timelapse configured for DAPI/FITC/TRITC/Cy5 fluorescence imaging and DIC for brightfield imaging
  • Floyd: Zeiss LSM410 confocal system, currently being reconditioned. Still in use for TRITC/Cy5 fluorescence imaging.

We also have an eppendorf microinjection system that will fit on each of these microscopes to allow the microinjection, or microdelivery of material to the cell, or its local environment.


Cardiff University

  • Arwyn Jones
  • Paola Borri
  • Wolfgang Langbein
  • Dafydd Jones
  • Mark Gumbleton

COMPACT consortium

University of Bristol

  • David Stephens

University of Nottingham

  • Cameron Alexander
  • Jonathan Aylott

University of Warwick

  • Mike Lord
  • Lynne Roberts
  • Robert Spooner



Module Lead for BI3253 - Advanced Cell Biology and Imaging. The aim of this module is to develop an advanced understanding of Cell Biology and the imaging methods utilised within the scientific field. It will address the major processes occurring within the cell (including membrane structure, function and transport, the endomembrane system, apoptosis, and cell death), and also expand into specialised cell biology systems (stem cells, diseased cells). The theory and application of advanced imaging technique will be addressed and students will develop an understanding of state of the art light and electron microscopy techniques. 

Contributor to BI4002 - Advanced Research Methods

Contributor to BIT002 - Research Techniques in Bioscience

Positions available


If you are interested in the fields of membrane trafficking, microscope development or drug delivery, and would like to be considered for a project within the lab send me an email with your background, research interests and current CV, or search for Cardiff projects on

Other positions

We are always interested in hosting self-funded positions within our research group, and there are a number of projects available in the fields of protein/lipid trafficking, drug delivery and microscope development. To discuss any of these projects, just get in touch.


I attained my first degree in Medical Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham, and gained my PhD under the supervision of Professor John Davey at the University of Warwick, studying the pheromone communication pathway of fission yeast. Staying at the University of Warwick, in 2000 I started studying toxin trafficking within the labs of Professors Mike Lord and Lynne Roberts, and during this time I was lucky enough to be trained in light microscopy by Dr. Jez Simpson and Dr. Rainer Pepperkok at EMBL in Heidelberg.

Towards the end of 2003 I moved to the lab of Dr. David Stephens at the University of Bristol, where I used both light and electron microscopy to look at how proteins exit the ER and are moved throughout the cell in membranous transport carriers.

In February 2007 I moved to the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University to take up an RCUK Fellowship in Translational Research in Experimental Medicine.


Current supervision

Rhod Thomas

Rhod Thomas

Research student

Jan Majer

Jan Majer

Research student

Carwyn Hughes

Carwyn Hughes

Graduate Demonstrator

Nicole Slesiona

Nicole Slesiona

Research student


  • Biochemistry and cell biology
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Drug delivery
  • Drug Trafficking
Life-saving limpets?

Life-saving limpets?

02 November 2017