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Biochemistry (w year in industry) BSc

I completed a Biochemistry (with year in industry) BSc with York in the Summer of 2007, gaining a first.

During this BSc I gained a thorough grounding in experimental aspects of modern molecular biology and biochemistry, as well as an interest in gene expression and cell biology.

Between my first and second years I joined the lab of one of my tutors (Dr M E Pownall) for a short research placement performing in situ hybridisation experiments on Xenopus laevis embryos. These experiments were looking at the localisation of proteins that possibly participate in gamma-secretase complex (APP processing in Alzheimer's) in a whole-embryo complex. I was involved in nearly all aspects of embryo processing (everything except dissection, due to licensing constraints) and performed several experiments on subunits of the gamma-secretase complexes as well as one using an EST (for presenillin-2) that I found, ordered, processed and cloned myself. This was my first time in a real lab setting and gave me vital experience necessary to get the full benefit out of the following years of the course.

For my year in industry, I worked with a medical products company called Smith&Nephew who make prosthetic hips and knees, surgical tools and the next generation of active bandages. I was employed to produce research in support of a planned innovation on a current line of surgical tool used in meniscal repair operations. The meniscus consists of two half moon-shaped fibrocartilagenous discs in each knee. They act as shock absorbers and allow smooth mechanical motion of the knee joint. Injuries (typically manifesting as tears or perforations) can occur for a variety of reasons including direct mechanical stress or as a result of generalised degradation. Injuries to the outer, more vascularised portion of the meniscus usually heal easily, whilst injuries to the inner, non-vascularised portion of the meniscus typically do not heal. Previous treatments for meniscal injuries in the inner portion of the meniscus involved resection of the damaged area or even total meniscectomies, both of which have been associated with premature arthritis of the affect knee joint due to removal of the shock-absorbing functionality of the meniscal disc. The surgical tool previously developed by S&N was of a key-hole type and utilised degradable sutures to stitch and hold the injured meniscus, thus allowing the normal healing process to occur whilst halving the number of operation required. My research concerned investigating potential chemical actives that might be also incorporated in the suture to further facilitate the healing process. During the project I performed many cell biology experiments as well as biochemical/molecular biological ones (including ELISAs, Western blots, realtime-PCR, protein arrays). From the year out I gained an appriciation for how research is performed in industry, useful experience in performing core techniques that I had learnt about in lectures and an interest in the molecular biology of gene regulation, which informed my module choices for my final year back in University.

For my final year project involved cloning domain combinations of two metal ion transporters found in Arabidopsis thaliana into yeast and testing functionality of the novel protein constructs by yeast drop assay. The two metal ion transporters (MTP1 and MTP11) were both from the metal transport protein (MTP) family and transport zinc and manganese respectively, across the vesicle and tonoplast membranes, respectively. Each gene was cloned into E. coli, where each gene was split into three parts and then recombined. The final products of these procedure were constructs that had, for instance the coding sequence for the 1st part of MTP1 attached to the 2nd and 3rd parts of MTP11. Of 9 possible recombinations, 6 were created. Each of these genetic constructs was then cloned into yeast, the principle zinc or manganese transporters of which had been inactivated by mutation. The ability of each gene to complement the mutant phenotypes (poor growth on agar plates laced with either zinc or manganese) was then tested by the yeast drop assay. This project gave me experience of working in a molecular biology lab performing genetic cloning and engineering experiments that I had learnt about in lectures. The project split into sequential two parts; cloning/engineering and the drop assay. The fact that all 6 constructs were created in sufficient time for the drop assays to be run indicates that first part was performed with due diligence. One outcome of the drop assays was sufficiently interesting for a post-doc working in the same lab to repeat some of my experiments from scratch. The fact that this outcome was duplicated is testament to the accuracy of my work.

In summary, from my bachelors degree I have gained a wide-ranging, first-hand experience of performing many different molecular biological and biochemical experiments and of the theoretical understanding behind them.