Case Study: Shamma Rattan
Shamma studied Biology at Oxford Brookes University for her undergraduate degree and quickly became fascinated by evolutionary and developmental biology, in particular the evolution of signalling molecules. She developed an interest in understanding what makes a signalling protein specific for its function, and the idea of redundant signalling molecules fascinated her. She pursued this interest through her undergraduate dissertation project, in which she worked on the Wnt signalling pathway. The project led her to consider research as a possible postgraduate option. She gained additional; experience through working at the Centre for Neural circuits and behaviour at the University of Oxford and via her summer placement at the Sainsbury laboratory in Norwich. Shamma then decided to apply for the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP as it allowed her to progress into higher education with the opportunity to train specifically in certain modules and also to complete rotations to gain further experience in preparation to pursue a PhD.
The first year of the DTP allowed Shamma to develop a number of skills that would become relevant and applicable to her research interests. This included a term of courses including bioinformatics, programming and statistics. Shamma then undertook two three month rotation projects which included a collaborative project supervised by Maike Kittelmann (Oxford Brookes University) an expert microscopist specialising in electron microscopy and serial block face microscopy, with a period of time spent in the lab of Alison Woollard, (Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford). This was a great opportunity to work with different institutions that are part of the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP. Through the first rotation Shamma was able to spend time with an expert in the field developing her microscopy skills through imaging the nematode gut ultrastructure. This was a great opportunity to develop a specific skill, which may not have been possible if she was not part of the DTP. For her second rotation she was based in the McGregor lab working on the evolution of Wnt ligands.
Shamma then chose to continue the rest of her doctoral research with the McGregor lab (Oxford Brookes University) working on the function and evolution of the Wnt signalling ligands in Drosophila melanogaster. This research involves understanding what makes the Wnt ligands specific to their function. This research requires cloning specific rescue constructs to test in Drosophila in certain developmental contexts such as eye and wing development, as well as reconstructing the ancestral form of the protein to model and compare to extant Wnt ligands within Drosophila as well among the rest of the metazoan.
Shamma has gained an interest in science policy while completing her PhD and has since worked as the charity officer at Linacre College, become an organiser for the Oxford Brookes Biological and Medical sciences seminar series as well as a member of the MPLS seminar series organisation. She has also taken part in the voice of young scientist stand up to science workshops. The BBSRC DTP course has a compulsory requirement for students to complete a 3 month professional internship during the course of the PhD. Shamma hopes to use this opportunity to further explore her growing interests in science policy and hopes to apply to work with Sense about Science or the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in London.