Departmental Annual Meeting showcases outstanding research
Researchers from across the department caught up with the latest research from their colleagues at the departmental annual meeting on the 22 and 23 April.
Departmental members at the Annual Meeting
Around 300 people gathered at St Catherine's College for 21 talks over the one and a half days, with topics ranging from biophysics to modeling disease states.
In his opening remarks, departmental head Mark Sansom said that the talks provided a snapshot of the basic medical research going on in the department. Recognising that the emphasis at the meeting should be on young researchers, almost all the speakers were either postdocs or DPhil students, a change from previous meetings.
Professor Sansom gave a special welcome to members of the department's Scientific Advisory Board, world-leading scientists from the University of Oxford and elsewhere. They would have the chance to hear about the quality and breadth of research going on, directly from those carrying out the work.
He also took the opportunity to congratulate researchers on the department's recent success at REF 2014 and on their continued success in bringing in grants.
Neil Blackledge taking questions, with Neil Brockdorff chairing the session
Talks were divided into six sessions which were chaired by selected group leaders: Membrane and structural biology; Mechanisms of differentiation and development; Chromosome structure and segregation; Regulation of gene expression; DNA damage sensing and repair; and, Disease states and pathogens.
Speakers gave excellent talks and presented interesting and current research in an accessible way. Their youth, combined with that of their colleagues asking questions after the talks, contributed to a lively atmosphere.
The audience heard about many different systems and approaches, with the power of live cell imaging apparent in a number of the talks.
Postdoc Patrice Rassam in Colin Kleanthous' lab gave the first talk of the meeting. He described work uncovering a new mechanism in E.coli for the fast turnover of outer membrane proteins - some of the most stable proteins in biology - enabling the bacteria to adapt to changing conditions.
In the same session, postdoc Heidi Koldsoe from Mark Sansom's lab talked about lipid interactions in simulations of complex membranes. She and colleagues are exploring how lipids contribute to curvature, and in trying to get closer to in vivo membranes, are looking at the impact of the cytoskeleton and how it can restrain movement of lipids and proteins.
DPhil student Sophie Gilbert from Alison Woollard's lab spoke about the molecular players responsible for migration of seam cell descendants during nematode worm development. She brought along a giant plasticine model of a worm to help the audience visualise the process.
Lu Yang speaking about the role of RNA-binding proteins during neural development
She was followed by two speakers tackling the molecular mechanisms underlying different aspects of neural development. Lu Yang from the Davis lab talked about the role of RNA-binding proteins in maintaining a balance between proliferation and differentiation. Elena Seiradake described her work on the Eph receptors and FLRT and Unc5 proteins that are part of the cell guidance network directing migrating cells.
Talks in sessions later that day covered topics such as genome-wide identification of RNA-binding proteins and phosphatase regulation of mitotic exit.
On the following day, Stephan Uphoff, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in David Sherratt's lab, spoke about the consequences of stochasticity in single DNA repair events. His work raises intriguing questions about the evolutionary significance of generating a subpopulation of cells with increased mutation rate.
Jonny Brooks-Bartlett, a DPhil student in Elspeth Garman's lab, energetically tackled the problem of radiation damage in X-ray crystallography. Starting with an introduction to X-ray crystallography, he went on to describe how the damaging effects of X-rays can limit the amount of useful data researchers can collect. Jonny presented approaches to help researchers address this problem, including the use of Raddose, a programme developed in the Garman lab, which can calculate the dose absorbed by a crystal.
Colin Kleanthous, one of the organisers of the meeting, commented that the quality of presentations and work described was excellent. He added: 'This is a great forum for young researchers to hone their presentation skills, in front of an audience of about 300 attendees representing the full spectrum of research in Oxford Biochemistry.'
The meeting programme is available here