We spoke to MSci Biochemistry Student, Jannath Akhtar who undertook a summer internship at Queen Mary, which was an initiative from the SBBS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to boost the employability and research skills of students from underrepresented backgrounds.
In her internship with Dr Guy Hanke, Jannath looked at how the interaction between two key proteins in photosynthesis, TROL and FNR is regulated and how that impacts electron transport.
I have always had a passion for science. But, biochemistry was my chosen field within science because I felt like biochemistry sort of underlies every other important type of research. Understanding the biochemistry of a number of processes can be the first step to solving a number of problems in science whether that’s understanding the biochemistry leading to a disease and trying to create treatments against it, or understanding the biochemistry of a process in a plant in order to improve its growth. For this reason, I was deeply interested to study this subject further as part of my undergraduate degree.
I was informed of this opportunity by my academic advisor. They also informed me of the type of techniques I could become familiar with and the topic of research and it of course intrigued me so I was very interested to take part in this project.
I completed my internship under the supervision of Dr. Guy Hanke. It lasted a duration of 6 weeks, from the beginning of June up until mid-July.
The focus of my research was gaining further insight into the interaction between two proteins involved in electron transport in photosynthesis (FNR and its membrane tether TROL).
One part of my project was harvesting pure forms of the FNR and TROL protein from E.coli cultures which had been transformed with expression vectors containing the genes for these proteins. Once I’d obtained the purified protein, I was able to use a method known as isothermal titration calorimetry to study the interaction of these two proteins further and gain some new information on it.
I was quite pleased with the amount of proteins harvested in the end, and how pure it was. The process of obtaining them was rather long so the result was rather satisfying and impressive.
I think I gained a really well-rounded experience of what it’s like to work in a lab. Furthermore, I felt as though the work that I did was very valuable as it will be contributing to current and new research into this specific topic. I think this will boost my employability greatly as I’ve gained a number of transferable skills from this experience, such as writing and presentation skills through the production of my final report of my findings. But also, I’ve gained great analytical skills and a sense of independence which will no doubt be recognised by future employers.
I enjoyed learning new techniques in science and new protocols as due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions I didn’t get much of a chance to be in the lab during my undergraduate studies. So being able to carry out procedures in the lab independently from start to finish was a really exciting aspect of this project for me.
I found it extremely useful to not only boost my confidence in the lab but to better understand concepts I’d previously learnt in my studies to a deeper level. I think this internship is an invaluable opportunity for students and will definitely be a project which will be thoroughly enjoyed and valued by future participants.
I would love to continue to work in scientific research. This experience has helped me realise that this area of work is something I’d be interested in pursuing further as it is a career that allows you to continue learning something new every day and I really relish the idea of being to do that.