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Twelve CAP doctoral students connect and learn during the summer meeting on “Frontier Bioscience”

Written by Lucka Bibic.

It was a warm Thursday morning, and the toasty smell of coffee was spreading out over the OPEN venue in Norwich along with floating bits of chaff - this is how I remember walking in the room full of Norwich Research Park Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) doctoral candidates.

“Welcome to adult life, Lucka, when strong coffee needs to happen as quickly and painlessly as possible,” one of the organizers amusingly welcomed me at the front desk.  Mindful this is not a coffee meeting, I made my way towards my colleagues from the School of Chemistry and Pharmacy (CAP) who were already holding their cup and chewing their biscuits. We gathered here for an annual NRPDTP summer meeting on a topic called “Frontier Bioscience.”

As soon as we all had our morning dose of caffeine, and checked our seating arrangements, Dr. Rosemary Dyson (University of Birmingham) kicked off the meeting, telling us how she applies mathematical modelling to solve problems brought by plant scientists. Her talk was followed up by Prof Neil Ranson (University of Leeds) whose insights on how cryo-electron microscopy determined the structures of the large macromolecular assemblies (like viruses) helped us to gather ideas around some particular RNA & DNA viruses’ assemblies.

Soon after another caffeine intake, Prof Anne-Kathrin Duhme-Klair (University of York) told us about how essential metal ions play a role in catalysis and how tuning their reactivity helps the field to understand better reactions underpinning some biological reactions. The scientific part of the meeting rounded up with Prof Nick Talbot (TSL, Norwich Research Park) who spoke on how fungi can cause disease in plants, specifically in one of the world’s most devastating disease called rice blast.

The meeting also saw the inspirational speech by recent Order of the British Empire (OBE) awardee Prof Tom Welton (Imperial College London), who won us over with the importance of diversity in education, and his passion and care for inclusivity in science.  His motivational talk was followed by a workshop, facilitated by Peter Moore Fuller (Infohackit, Norwich), on “Designing Visual Abstracts” where we learned how to simplify complex and often abstract ideas to communicate new scientific findings.

Four students from CAP - Nursabah Atli, Valeria Gabrielli, Samuel Piper, and Philip Spence presented their posters which topics ranged from flavonoid metabolism, molecular recognition of ligands by receptors as seen by NMR spectroscopy, biohybrid nanoreactors, and intriguing DNA iMotifs. Some fresh new ideas were put forward, and exciting plot twists revealed.

From left, Nursabah Atli (Sinem), Elizabeth Allum, and Greg Hughes in front of Sinem’s poster.

From left, Chris Marriott, Valeria Gabrielli, Lucka Bibic, Philip Spence, Adam Lee, Philip Schuler, Summer Rosonovski, Samuel Piper and Jenny Hall in front of the poster exhibition.

Or, to paraphrase the expression of Phillip Spence (fourth from the left): it was priceless.  And the beverages later, other than coffees, as well!