On Monday 13 February Grace defended her DPhil thesis. She wrote a blog all about the challenges and celebrations of her PhD journey.
I began my PhD in Oxford as an Oxford-GSK-Crick Chemical Biology CDT student, with 9 months training in chemical biology through taught courses and two 12-week lab placements. The lab placements were particularly helpful for broadening my skill set, allowing me to try two completely different projects. For one project I spent time at GSK working on photoreactive cyclic peptide probes, and for the other I was studying the effect of tissue stiffness on (myo)fibroblast biology using immortal and primary cell lines. I chose to work in the Kawamura Lab for my main PhD project and started in July 2018.
In Oxford I spent time synthesising azide cyclic peptides and optimised methodology for synthesis of a peptide containing two backbone N-methyl groups. A high yielding CuAAC click reaction was also developed as a general method for the synthesis of multifunctional peptide conjugates. A few tangents to my main project were pursued, including a collaboration with the Davis lab to test KDM4A zinc ejection by a histone H3K9 bromohomonorleucine variant which resulted in my first paper (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2733-7).
My PhD has spanned turbulent times, including the lab move from Oxford to Newcastle and the Covid19 pandemic. I spent approximately 6 months with no access (or very restricted access) to a lab before I restarted in the Newcastle labs in September 2020. There were several obstacles learning to get around a new building/university during a pandemic, but I definitely learnt a lot through the experience! In Newcastle I tested affinity probes developed in Oxford on cell lysates and worked with Valeria Cobiltean (an MChem/visiting student) to apply the methodology developed to other epigenetic targets. I also built a small library of potential protein degraders and pursued one of the hits in greater detail.
Akane has been extremely supportive through the many lows and all the highs within my PhD, thank you so much! I have also been fortunate to collaborate with GSK during my PhD and am very grateful to my industrial supervisor Dr Albert Isidro Llobet for fantastic advice and encouragement.