Elephants rarely get cancer: less than 5% of captive elephants die of cancer, compared to 20% of humans. Elephant genomes have at least 20 copies of the tumour suppressor, p53, which may explain their low cancer rates relative to humans, who have only one copy.
Waking up to experiments with plants and algae.
My name’s Liat and I’m currently in my fourth year studying for a masters in Biochemistry. I started out at Murray Edwards doing natural sciences which begins very broad and then allows you to specialise every year as you find what interests you most. After studying topics like pharmacology, maths and material sciences, I eventually settled on Biochemistry - as it allowed to me to explore the way living things function in a great deal of depth, without becoming so hung up on the chemistry and physics that you lose sight of the bigger picture.
Although my masters will be in biochemistry, my research project is based in the Plant Sciences Department where I am working on automating the assembly of DNA constructs and creation of genetically modified plants. The ultimate aim for me is help develop the molecular tools that will allow scientists and industries to improve energy sustainability through transgenic plants. With the right modifications, photosynthetic organisms can produce biofuels, essential oils for our diet, or even produce electricity directly!
Plants and algae are of particular interest to me for a few reasons. They don’t suffer as a consequence of my work and they have so much potential to change the world for the better .(They are also a lovely green colour which makes a nice change for a biochemist!) Synthetic Biology is an exciting, fast moving field which I am privileged to be a part of.
I am lucky that I have found something which I am motivated to do when I wake up in the morning – I never thought I would be excitedly cycling to the lab at 8:30 am to see if the experiment I had set up overnight has worked or not! However, when I started my degree I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I almost applied for medicine instead. Thankfully, doing my first three years I was able to explore numerous different areas of science and discovered that not all science is the same, even within biochemistry there are 30 different labs and they all do something different. If you have an interest in science then you will undoubtedly find something that you want to find the answers for – even if you don’t know what that is yet!
If you are considering studying science then from my own personal experience I can’t recommend it enough. It is an engaging and rewarding area to be in. The biochemistry and plant departments are incredibly friendly and stimulating places to be – so much so that I have chosen to spend the past two summers working in labs here!