Messel Travel Bursary report - Karen Chan

06 January 2017

6 Jan 2017 

Karen Chan was awarded the Messel Travel Bursary to attend the John Innes/Rudjer Bošković Summer School in Dubrovnik, Croatia in September 2016. Here, she reports on how attending the Summer School allowed her to share ideas with scientists from diverse backgrounds on a range of topics, including public engagement.

‘I am a third year PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge. My work focuses on how soil bacteria make structurally and functionally diverse antibiotics; and how these antibiotic-producing bacteria may be exploited (via genetic engineering and genome mining) for the search of new drugs to combat the rapidly emerging antibiotic resistance.

‘With the generous support of the SCI Messel Travel Bursary, I was able to attend and present my work at the John Innes/Rudjer Bošković Summer School on Microbial Diversity and Specialised Metabolites, which took place at the Inter University Centre (IUC), Dubrovnik, Croatia last September.

‘The summer school was very well organised. We had an opening lecture on the history and future of antibiotic discovery, followed by 14 other lectures and guest seminars throughout the rest of the programme that covered a wide range of topics including microbial diversity and ecology, industrial fermentation and strain improvement for metabolite production, and the enzymology and manipulation of natural product biosynthesis. My favourite feature of the summer school was the hands-on computer workshop where we annotated genomes and analysed gene clusters governing antibiotics with interesting chemical architecture. Moreover, in between lectures and workshops, we were being divided into small groups of approximately 6-8 people to talk about career options after graduating from a PhD in sciences and heterologous expression of large biosynthetic pathways.

‘All participants at the summer school brought a poster and the poster sessions facilitated the exchange between students and with the faculty. I received some very useful feedback regarding experimental design and the presentation of my poster.

‘On the penultimate evening, we had a debate on ‘whether or not all research scientists should be obliged to engage with the public’. Two students presented each side of the argument and I really enjoyed the lively discussion afterwards involving all participants. It was interesting to know what other scientists think about public engagement.

‘As a PhD student working on natural product biosynthesis and considering an academic career in the field, having attended this summer school was an invaluable experience for me to meet and share ideas with people coming from diverse backgrounds. I would like to again thank SCI for supporting my trip to this incredible summer school.’

Karen H Chan, PhD Student
Leadlay Group, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge

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