PubhD Dublin #40: Immunogenetics & English Literature

Our 40th Dublin event will take place on Wednesday 6th March at 7:00 pm downstairs in the J.T.Pim’s (4 South Great Georges Street · Dublin 2). As usual, we will have two speakers explaining their research.

Megan O’Brien is a 3rd year Ph.D. student with Trinity College Dublin and Teagasc. Her project is a combination of immunology and genetics (Immunogenetics!) in dairy calves. I’m looking at two versions (named H1 and H2) of a gene called IL-8 which is important in recruiting neutrophils (white blood cells) to sites of infection. She has been looking at differences in calves who have either the H1 or H2 version and how they respond to bacteria and viruses. She has also discovered that these animals have different levels of vitamin D depending on which version of the gene they have and this may be affecting how they respond to infection.

Marie Egan is a part-time Ph.D. student and a retired teacher of English. Her passion is to study and read English Literature especially from the long 18th Century. She is currently researching the life and work of a fascinating and prolific English writer called Frances Burney whose journals, letters, novels and plays not only offer diverse and interesting views of the century in which she wrote but are marked by themes and concerns that we continue to grapple with-namelessness, marginality, powerlessness and the negotiations necessary to survive in a society which does not value the particular female experience. Her research examines how Burney negotiated both for herself and her heroines a voice and an agency that was often deemed not to be theirs by right.

Looking forward to seeing you all there. And as always, if you are interested in taking part in future events as a speaker, which usually take place on the first Wednesday of the month, please contact us at dublin@pubhd.ie!

PubhD Dublin #39: Sexual Assault and Neuro-Diagnostics

Our 39th event will take place on Wednesday 6th February at 7:00 pm downstairs in the J.T.Pim’s (4 South Great Georges Street · Dublin 2). As usual, we will have two speakers explaining their research.

Catherine Walshe is a Ph.D. fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Ulster and currently a visiting fellow in Dublin. Her research is investigating the barriers and facilitators to accessing sexual assault services in Ireland.

Aidan Kenny is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics at RCSI. His research focuses on the changes of microRNA molecules occurring in neurodegenerative diseases and their influence over disease progression and how these changes can be utilized in diagnostic tests for the early detection of Alzheimer’s from non-invasive bodily fluids (Blood/Tear-fluid). The development of a cheap and practical diagnostic tool, capable of diagnosing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is a critical challenge hindering the search for effective treatments.

Looking forward to seeing you all there. And as always, if you are interested in taking part in future events as a speaker, which usually take place on the first Wednesday of the month, please contact us at dublin@pubhd.ie!

PubhD Cork 10: Naturalism, Machiavelli, and Milton

We’re back after an extended Christmas and New Year’s break.

February’s guest speakers are the wonderful Sarah McCreedy (UCC) and Andrea di Carlo (UCC). If you’re interested in naturalism, 21st Century American Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Machiavelli, or Milton then be sure to drop by!

If you’re only interested in a sociable few then you’re still more than welcome!

The Development of Peer Support: A service for supporting Irish Sign Language/English Interpreters. A Grounded Theory.

When I started to work as a Sign Language Support Service Coordinator within a sign language interpreting agency, my main professional role was to implement and develop a support service mainly designed for Irish Sign Language (ISL)/English interpreters working in several different settings in Ireland. After exploring the area in depth, in order to understand the needs interpreters have, how to meet those needs and also the types of services to make available, I decided to conduct this research study including interpreters as the professionals in the field.

The intent of this study is to develop a theory for ISL/English interpreters working in the field. After completing formal education, the transition from college to work life is recognised as a considerable change which may have a further impact should the target career involve freelancing. Life in the field is always different for any profession, students leave college theory-based and enter the real world of work on their own.

The learning journey begins as soon as you start your new career. At the beginning of each career, it is a learning journey as soon as you step in. The transition entails going from a comfort zone to a more solitary journey where there is a need for initial ongoing support for new and experienced interpreters. Once entering the field, the next step is into a life-long career of constant experiential learning and development of a successful business.

After conducting intensive interviews and going through an in-depth analysis of the data, there are certainly several challenges interpreters have to face when working in the field. In order to understand the professional life experiences of ISL/English interpreters and their perspective on a potential support service designed to meet their needs, it was necessary to investigate the substantive area, giving a voice to the people in the field.

Based on the nature of my study, I invited the interpreters to take part in this research by interviewing them. During the interviews, I asked the interpreters to address their everyday work-life experiences and concerns and give them the opportunity to identify any issues relevant to the company and to them.

By using Grounded Theory methodology, I aim at developing a theory grounded on the data collected directly from my participants. The purpose of this research is to allow participants to share their experiences, challenges, and stories with regards to their profession. The development of a theory could be an instrument that will explain what occurs in a specific area and this emergent theory could then be applied to other areas and organizations.

This research study has been conducted within Bridge Interpreting Ltd with the University of Dublin, Trinity College funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC).

Controlling hamster cells, the workhorse of the biopharmaceutical industry

Hamster Cells are key for the biopharmaceutical industry as they can be grown in a bioreactor to produce biopharmaceutical drugs. Those cells can be genetically modified to enhance their productive characteristics thus potentially lowering the cost of manufacturing advanced drugs.

Chinese hamsters can be credited with saving thousands of lives per year because of the ability of their contribution to producing therapeutic proteins that can be used in the treatment of cancer, anemia, and multiple sclerosis amongst other conditions. Most people will never have heard of Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells but these are one of the main cell factories used by the biopharmaceutical industry to produce these important protein drugs.

Over the last 40 years, Chinese Hamster Ovary cells have been successfully used to produce some ground-breaking therapies such as anti-blood clotting factors (tissue plasminogen activator or tPA) antibodies for cancer therapy. Research on the field has thrived to obtain fast growing and highly productive cells, but there is still little understanding of the basic mechanisms that make cells be that way, leading to a bottleneck in terms of further improving them.

Therapeutic proteins are very complex molecules that cannot be man-made. That’s why, we use cells to make them for us, using them as factories. Inside the cells, genes contain the information as a sort of coded instructions manual, that guides every single process happening in a cell. This code can be translated into proteins, which are responsible for most of the cellular functions, including energy production, cell division, and cell death.

Therefore, gaining the ability to switch ON and OFF genes in these cells implies being able to control when and how particular processes are happening in it, and would represent a major step forward towards being able to create high-performing cell-factories, ultimately bringing down the therapies’ costs and making them more accessible to patients all around the world.

My research as part of the Mammalian Cell Engineering Group at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB) in Dublin City University aims to develop novel ways to control gene expression in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells. One of the major challenges in the field is the lack of molecular tools to effectively manipulate the way genes are expressed. Currently available systems rely on the addition of chemicals such as antibiotics, which are a no-go in large-scale production processes, mainly due to costs, safety and regulatory issues.

My proposed novel approach to tackle this problem involves the use of microRNAs, which are small molecules responsible to regulate gene expression, as triggers to control the expression a particular gene in response to a specific factor that we can control, for instance, the temperature at which cells are grown.

In the last decade, a variety of genetic tools have been developed in the field of synthetic biology and are available. Transferring those to Chinese Hamster Ovary cells, and adapting them to react to internal cellular regulatory signals are the challenges we have ahead of us.

As part of the eCHO Systems Innovative Training Network, a collaborative EU-wide project set up by a wonderful group of CHO researchers from four academic institutions and one industrial partner, and funded by the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions from the European Commission, it is very exciting to be adding my two cents towards developing more advanced CHO cell factories.

REMEDIATE the solution to soil pollution?

Increased industrialisation and production is linked to higher levels of pollution, and still society continues its industrial and urban growth, producing more greenhouse gases and hazardous waste year after year.

Environmental regulations are becoming more demanding, and now planning permission and zoning laws will not permit development or use of land where the land is above contamination limits.

These improved regulations combined with contaminated land often being centred near valuable urban areas, make contaminated land management and remediation an important emerging industry.

When toxic substances enter the soil, they can enter the food supply and drinking water via groundwater pathways, causing symptoms ranging from mild headaches and fatigue to seizures and cancer.

Bioremediation is a green science approach whereby bacteria are used to clean up and destroy hazardous chemicals. Incredibly, different strains of bacteria have evolved to destroy and reduce many toxic and man-made pollutants, including the plastic used for soda bottles and even uranium.

A lot of current environmental sciences focus on discovering, stimulating, and monitoring these bacteria. That’s where REMEDIATE comes in.

REMEDIATE is a Marie Curie Actions EU funded training network of 13 PhD students across Ireland, UK, Denmark, Germany and Italy. Each student is researching innovative methods for detection, removal, and management of pollution. REMEDIATE focuses on how to improve contaminated land management to remediate pollution in soil from a diversity of perspectives including engineering, biology, and chemical approaches.

REMEDIATE Members

Based in the Organic Geochemistry Research Lab (OGRe) in DCU, some students are developing underground sensors powered by electricity-generating bacteria to monitor pollution and nutrient concentrations.

These remarkable bacteria use natural nutrients from soil or wastewater to generate electricity in systems called Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC). Foster’s, the beer company, aided one of the largest pilot studies of MFCs to reduce their nutrient rich brewery water, generating almost a kilowatt of electricity, just enough for a dozen light bulbs. These fuel cell sensors will never produce enough power to boil a cup of tea but they can stay alive for years without replacing the batteries.

Coren Pulleyblank, a member of REMEDIATE and OGRe, is feeding bacteria present in polluted soils nutrients to stimulate degradation of key carcinogenic pollutants on site, removing the necessity of transporting soil for treatment, and improving options for remote areas.

There are a lot of other important projects happening through REMEDIATE and the OGRe lab.

At DCU, Aisling Cunningham is mapping pollution of carcinogens in Dublin Bay, and Anthony Grey is studying how bacteria capture carbon dioxide in soil. In Queens University Belfast (QUB), Ricardo Costeira uses DNA sequencing to investigate biological solutions to widespread pollution events, and Tatiana Cocerva examines what happens when metals enter the digestive system.

In the University of Copenhagen, Yi Zhao and Stacie Tardif, are making DNA chips, like microchips, and other tools to rapidly detect genes associated with pollution. With their research, farmers could quickly detect and control pollution in their fields. Researchers in England, Germany, and Italy are also contributing these projects.