As a student of Artificial Intelligence & Mathematics with multiple previous bioinformatics research experiences, I have always been interested in biology research and, especially, the use of artificial intelligence and mathematics in developmental biology. Therefore, I was looking for a research project that would help me to apply statistics and machine learning in the research area of interest as well as help me to decide on my honours courses before going into my third year. I am happy that I had a chance to work at Institut Pasteur in Paris.
My research aimed to investigate apoptosis which is a form of programmed cell death – “a cell suicide” – which occurs in most, if not all life forms. It plays a vital role in many areas of biology, from the removal of the infected or pre-cancerous cells with damaged DNA from the organism (immunology and cancer research) to the carving of embryo’s hand into fingers by carefully controlled apoptosis in between the developing fingers (developmental biology). Coordination of cell apoptosis in time and space is presumably required to maintain impermeability of epithelium where an occurrence of many neighbouring cell deaths would create harmful holes. To investigate the biological mechanisms that organise apoptosis locally, such as signalling or mechanical forces between cells as opposed to global genetical effects, we tracked the cell extrusion in a single layer epithelium of the Drosophila pupal to assess how does the apoptosis of one cell affect apoptosis in the neighbouring cells. I presented my results and a research poster at the University of Cambridge.
As I am planning to pursue PhD and career in academia, probably the most important area how I developed this summer is gaining research and enquiry skills for my future career. I was lucky that Institut Pasteur was organising many events which focused on developing research skills of young researchers. I have gone to seminars a few times a week, where I have heard choose a research area, how to choose a PhD, make a poster presentation, etc. I have also gone to lectures with 2 Nobel Prize Winners who gave advice on being productive in the academic career and gave inspiration to me to reach my goals. But perhaps most of the learning was done while being in a lab with my supervisors, who were constantly giving me feedback on how I work, my working habits and tips on biological research, such as which animal models to use for different research questions, which have certainly given me a good understanding of research in biology.
Finally, I also had a chance to experience a French and Parisian culture. I have improved my French skills significantly and experienced so many things culturally (mostly, because museums and educational events were for free). I have also met people from all around the world by living in a university city (Cite Universitaire) as well as working in a highly-international team at Institut Pasteur. And I had a great leisure time – with great food, great wine and great weather – things that I will miss certainly while being in Edinburgh.