My summer studentship at the Institute of Integrative Biology

Third year genetics undergraduate, Andy Clark, has spent the summer doing a studentship with Professor Sonia Rocha at the Institute of Integrative Biology.

Here we ask him about his current research project and his experience of the studentship:

Let’s start with your current research project. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

The intention of the project is to assess the effectiveness of VH298 as a chemical probe to induce a cellular increase in Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) and subsequent hypoxic response under normoxic conditions.

To achieve this we are transfecting multiple cell lines with chemical probe VH298 and recording levels of HIF in relation to the untreated control. 

When do you aim to complete the research by?

We have finished three replicates and this has led to a secondary question around which molecule within the HIF1a degradation pathway is most important.

Once the project is complete, what will happen with the research?

I’m hoping that my data will be used in a paper being written by the post docs within the lab or used in relation to their follow up experiments.

Tell us about how you secured the studentship

After speaking to Professor Sonia Rocha during my second year of study and showing an interest in her area of study, I was able to sit down and discuss potential summer projects and then obtain funding. 

How did you feel when you found out you had secured the studentship?

I was very happy! Experience is important for finding future opportunities within the field, so I’m pleased that I will now be in a stronger position when applying for my PhD. 

How have you found the project so far? What has been the highlight?

The project has been fantastic! Working with Sonia and the team has provided great insight into post-graduation life and improved my laboratory and theoretical knowledge.

The lab team have been outstanding in assisting me to overcome any obstacles during my internship. Learning in a supportive environment has ensured I’ve maximized my time and taken as much as possible away from my time in the labs. 

The highlight for me was achieving my first successful siRNA knockdown of VHL (von Hippel–Lindau protein) and PHD (Proline Hydroxylation Domain) with subsequent data generated supporting my hypothesis relating to VHLs importance within the HIF degradation pathway. 

Has anything surprised you about the project?

How hands on it has been. I was expecting a more reserved role shadowing within the lab but the trust shown in me by Sonia and the team allowed me to really take ownership of my experiments and enabled a supported yet self-directed approach which has really increased my confidence. 

Have you seen the University in a different light as a researcher, compared to being at the University as a student?

Yes, the research side of the University is fascinating. Actually participating in active research and bringing to life what you’ve previously only seen on lecture slides really makes the content and knowledge stick and will no doubt assist me in future studies.  

What would your advice be to other students who are interested in undertaking a studentship like yours?

Start looking for opportunities early, speak to the lecturers and find out what area of research they’re involved in and if they have summer places available. 

Has the research project changed your expectations of the future?

It’s definitely solidified my intentions to enter postgraduate study. Speaking to the post docs has allowed me to fully understand the pathways available after I finish my undergraduate degree. 

If you were to describe the experience in 3 words, what words would you choose?

Rewarding, worthwhile, enjoyable 

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