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Seyyed Shah

q- what proteins does a human need to be healthy. A- Most of the proteins in our body are required for us to remain healthy. The reason is that we are such complex living things that most proteins are needed for us to work properly. I am sorry I am having to answer like this, I am unable to use the normal method any more. Hope this has answered your question.

Favourite Thing: Make an experiment work, and find out something new and exciting.

My CV

Education:

1997-2000: University of Birmingham, 2000:2005: University of Sheffield

Qualifications:

2000: BSc Biochemistry, 2005: PhD in Gene Regulation

Work History:

2005-2008: University of Sheffield, 2008-2009: University of Texas (Houston)

Current Job:

Postdoctoral Research – looking at protein structure

Employer:

University of Leicester

Me and my work

Working out the structure of proteins

I study the structure of proteins in humans. These are very specialised molecules of different shapes and sizes, and they perform many different functions in a cell. Our genetic material, DNA, contains all the information to make up the Human body. DNA is organised into units called genes. Each gene contains information to make one protein. Each cell in our body contains a complete set of genes, and these are exactly the same in different cells belonging to the same person!

The information in a gene is read, and this is used to make one protein. This process can be regulated, so in some cells some genes are not read at all (switched off), and others are more actively read (switched on). This control of gene reading can be fine tuned for the type of cell and the role it is going to play. For example, in skin cells, certain types of proteins will need to be produced so that the skin can grow. Other types of proteins, such as those found in muscle, are not important in skin cells so they will be switched off. So, only the genes containing information relevant to skin cells will be switched on.

Interestingly, genes are controlled by proteins called transcription regulators. These proteins switch genes on or off. Transcription is a way of reading the information stored in a gene and copying it to make protein. I study the structure of these transcription regulators. First, I grow crystals of a single protein that has been purified from cells. Crystals are small, shiny shaped solids made from many copies of the same protein arranged together in a certain order. Then, X-rays are passed through the crystal. X-rays are a little like light rays. When you pass light through a prism or glass, the rays are bent (or diffracted). In the same way, X-rays can be diffracted by protein crystals. The diffraction can be measured, and we can use this information to work out where each atom is positioned in the protein.

Once we have the positions of the atoms, this means that we have worked out the protein structure. This can tell us many valuable things. It can tell scientists more about how a protein works, and what medicines might be used to help a protein work properly when things go wrong.

My Typical Day

Wake up, travel to work, check my emails, do my experiments, have lunch, more experiments, go home after a hard day’s work

I have to wake up early in the morning, and catch a train to work. It takes me 1 hour on the train. I reach my workplace, where I begin the day by checking my emails.

I start doing my experiments. Sometimes these last the whole day.

I have my lunch in the afternoon. Sometimes, I also like to read papers which describe the latest developments in my field. This helps me to design experiments and get new ideas for my research.

There are a few people like me in our research group who are working as Postdocs. This means that we have done a PhD degree, and now we are working in a group for a senior scientist and working our way up to having our own group. We also have a few students in the group who are doing their PhD degrees. Once a week, we have meetings where one member of the group presents results from their experiments to the rest of the group. We help each other by giving ideas and discussing the results.

Work times are very flexible. As long as I do 40 hours in a week, I can work at times that suit me. It really depends on the experiment I am doing. As we are a research group, sometimes we can do fun activities together like playing football in the afternoon.

At the end of the day, I plan experiments for the next day, or a few days ahead. Then its time to go home.

When an experiment works, it really boosts my confidence and makes me very pleased. When it doesn’t work, I often have a re-think to overcome the problem.

What I'd do with the money

Help to fund a regular summer school for secondary children at the University of Leicester

The GENIE project at the University of Leicester organises a number of public outreach events. One of these is the summer school where 15-16 year old children take part in a Genetics masterclass over 1 week. They learn about what it’s like working in Genetics, and also about life at University.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Determined, persevering and curious

Who is your favourite singer or band?

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Went canoeing on a lake with alligators.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes – but perhaps I can tell you about that later.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Teach students and make a difference in their education.

Tell us a joke.

Other stuff

Work photos: